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Bush doctrine

The Bush Doctrine refers to the set of new foreign policies adopted by President of the United States George W. Bush in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Table of contents
1 Initial formulation: No distinction between terrorists and those who harbor them
2 Broader formulation: The new role of the US as sole superpower
3 Roots of the Bush Doctrine
4 Comparison with previous US foreign policy
5 Criticisms of the Bush Doctrine
6 See also:
7 External links

Initial formulation: No distinction between terrorists and those who harbor them

The term initially referred to the policy formulation stated by President Bush immediatly after the attacks that the U.S. would "make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them". The immediate application of this policy was the invasion of Afghanistan in early October 2001 after the Taliban-controlled government of Afghanistan refused to hand over al-Qaida terrorist leader Osama bin Laden.

Broader formulation: The new role of the US as sole superpower

The term now generally refers to the much broader set of policies unveiled by Bush in a June 1, 2002, speech to the graduating class of West Point. Unlike the initial "harboring terrorist" formulation (which represented a clarification of intent but not a major change in policy), these new statements signaled a major shift in US foreign policy.

The salient elements of the Bush Doctrine may be summarized as:



Strength Beyond Challenge

Extending Democracy, Liberty, and Security to All Regions

The new policy was fully delineated in a
National Security Council text entitled the National Security Strategy of the United States issued on September 17, 2002 [1].

Roots of the Bush Doctrine

Paul Wolfowitz and the Defense Planning Guidance text of 1992

Tracing the history of the doctrine back through the Department of Defense it appears the first full explication of the doctrine was the initial revision of the internal Defense Planning Guidance guidelines written by Paul Wolfowitz, then in the role of Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, in 1992. When the guidelines were leaked to the press and a controversy arose, the George H. W. Bush White House ordered it re-written. The revised version did not mention pre-emption or unilateralism.

The debate in the Bush administration

In the months following September 11th two distinct schools of thought arose in the Bush Administration regarding the critical policy question of how to handle potentially dangerous countries such as Iraq, Iran, and North Korea (the so-called "Axis of Evil" states). Secretary of State Colin Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, as well as US Department of State specialists argued for what was essentially the continuation of existing US foreign policy. These policies, developed during the long years of the Cold War, sought to establish a multi-lateral consensus for action (which would likely take the form of increasingly harsh sanctions against the problem states, summarized as the policy of containment). The opposing view, argued by Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and a number of influential Department of Defense policy makers such as Paul Wolfowitz and Richard Perle, held that direct and unilateral action was both possible and justified and that America should embrace the opportunities for democracy and security offered by its position as sole remaining superpower.

President Bush ultimately sided with the Department of Defense camp (also described as the neoconservatives), and their recommendations form the basis for the Bush Doctrine.

Comparison with previous US foreign policy

A doctrine permitting preemptive strikes against developing threats can be seen as a change from focusing on the doctrine of deterrence (for instance, the Cold War policy of mutually assured destruction) as the primary means of self-defense. There are some who argue that preemptive strikes have long been a part of international practice and indeed of American practice, as exemplified by the unilateral US blockade and boarding of Cuban shipping during the Cuban Missile Crisis[1]. The Bush Administration's view is the legitimacy of preemption hinges on the existence of an imminent threat, a term that it seeks to define in an increasingly broad way.

The Bush Doctrine takes the view that the potential results of the use of a weapon of mass destruction are so grave that preemption is warranted, especially when those weapons could be acquired by hostile armed groups "whose so-called soldiers seek martyrdom in death and whose most potent protection is statelessness".

Criticisms of the Bush Doctrine

There are many who criticize the Bush Doctrine, suspicious of the increasing willingness of the US to use military force unilterally. Critics believe that requiring any country (including the United States) to obtain international support before undertaking military action is a necessary check on the power of a single nation. In addition, many criticisms have arisen around the doctrine's assertion that the United States will never allow any potential adversary -- a term which is unlikely to exclude many states -- to develop the military capability of challenging the US as the world's sole superpower. This doctrine is argued to be contrary to the classical and medieval conceptions of a just war, which states, among other stipulations, that war must only be conducted in self-defense following an attack.

See also:

External links