To commemorate COMMENTARY's 60th anniversary, and in an effort to advance discussion of the present American position in the world,…
To commemorate Commentary’s sixtieth anniversary, and in an effort to advance discussion of the present American position in the world, the editors addressed the following statement and questions to a group of leading thinkers:
IN RESPONSE to a radically changed world situation since the Islamist attacks of 9/11, the United States under George W. Bush has adopted a broad new approach to national security. The Bush Doctrine, as this policy has come to be known, emphasizes the need for preemption in order to “confront the worst threats before they emerge.” It also stresses the need to transform the cultures that breed hatred and fanaticism by—in a historically stunning move—actively promoting democracy and liberty in the Middle East and beyond. In the President’s words, “We live in a time when the defense of freedom requires the advance of freedom.”
This sweeping redirection of policy has provoked intense controversy, especially but not only over its practicality, and especially but not only over its application to Iraq. At issue as well are the precise nature of the threats faced by the United States and the West, the specific tactics adopted by the Bush administration in meeting them, American capabilities and staying power, relations with traditional allies, the larger intentions and moral bona fides of U.S. foreign policy, and much else besides. Opinion on these matters is divided not only between the Left and the Right in political and intellectual life but, quite sharply, among American conservatives themselves.
1. Where have you stood, and where do you now stand, in relation to the Bush Doctrine? Do you agree with the President’s diagnosis of the threat we face and his prescription for dealing with it?
2. How would you rate the progress of the Bush Doctrine so far in making the U.S. more secure and in working toward a safer world environment? What about the policy’s longer-range prospects?
3. Are there particular aspects of American policy, or of the administration’s handling or explanation of it, that you would change immediately?
4. Apart from your view of the way the Bush Doctrine has been defined or implemented, do you agree with its expansive vision of America’s world role and the moral responsibilities of American power?
The responses, 36 in all, appear below in alphabetical order.
This symposium is sponsored by the Edwin Morris Gale Memorial Fund.
The Bush Doctrine contains two strands of analysis that, pushing in opposite directions, have produced gigantic failures in American policy. The doctrine’s first strand affirms that the United States and the world are threatened by rogue states and some dangerous non-state actors, whose motivations are, at bottom, self-interested. These enemies ought to be brought to heel by swift military action, keeping the power of command in American hands and relying on the latest gizmos of high-tech weaponry. The Bush Doctrine’s second strand asserts that the United States and the world are threatened by full-scale ideological movements calling for aggressive violence and random slaughter, and resembling in some ways the classic totalitarian ideologies of the past. These movements, being popular, will never be defeated by armies alone. They will be defeated, instead, by countermovements that will engage the totalitarians in argument and that will secure their triumphs only by constructing the kinds of institutions that favor liberal and rationalist ideas. The countermovements will have to build, in short, a new political culture in key regions. Military force might well be required to give the anti-totalitarians a boost—to lift them into power, in certain cases, and to help them stay there. But ultimately the victories will have to be political and ideological. The champions of the Bush Doctrine, to my knowledge, have never laid out the principles of this second strand of thought in much detail. President Bush has delivered some intelligent speeches about totalitarianism and “ideologies of hate,” but when he has spoken off the cuff he has sometimes recast the ideological battle in terms that might seem appropriate to a rustic Christian preacher, all of which suggests a somewhat casual or non-committal attitude.
In any fight against mass movements that are animated by mad ideological beliefs, the first thing to do is to mount a campaign of ideas—a campaign to identify the totalitarian doctrines and expose their flaws. The Bush administration has never managed to mount anything of the sort, at least not on the eye-catching and ambitious scale that our current predicament would seem to require (though I’m aware that, here and there within the government, some people are doing their best). Instead, the administration has launched public-relations programs in the Muslim world, which have been laughable—reinforcing the impression that the Bush Doctrine’s second strand has been conceived as an afterthought and is valued mainly for its oratorical opportunities. The second strand does have military implications, and these are easy to identify, even to a military non-expert like me. The main purpose of military action, from this viewpoint, ought to be to support the political development and popular strength of the anti-totalitarian movements. Toward this end, military action ought to be designed to promote liberal and rationalist goals—and therefore ought to be consistent, as much as possible, with liberal principles. There is an obvious way to go about launching military actions that deploy large numbers of troops and observe liberal principles and encourage a new political culture, and this obvious way is to make use of the elephantine mechanisms of law and multilateral institutions. The first strand of the Bush Doctrine emphasizes the military value of being sleek, agile, and indifferent to world opinion, but the second emphasizes the military value of actions that are plodding, punctilious, and popular. President Bush has tried to meld these strands together. It can’t be done. He has described the enemy every which way, and in so doing has left most of the world, including our own part of it, fatefully confused. It is shocking to me that, four years after 9/11, the White House has generated no consensus, none at all, about the general nature of the enemies we face. We invaded Iraq on the military basis of the first strand, only to discover our urgent need for the military qualities implied in the second. And disasters have followed. The first Bush administration, back in 1991, badly underestimated the Baathists and ended up allowing Saddam to achieve a victory, if only by allowing him to remain in power. The administration thereby betrayed the Kurds and Shiites of Iraq, who were slaughtered in droves. The second Bush administration has committed precisely the same error. Thus the United States has for the second time created a situation in which huge masses of Iraqis, our own allies, have been slaughtered by their and our enemies. This is surely one of the worst things the U.S. has ever done in modern times—something disgraceful yet somewhat understandable the first time, and beyond disgraceful the second time. If I had my druthers, I would love to see President Bush fire every one of his top advisers, and keep on firing them, the way that Lincoln did during the Civil War, until a new Ulysses Grant, or several of them, civilian and military, somehow emerged. I would love to see the President reach out to those people within the European Left, not to mention the American Democrats, who share the values of the second strand. Okay, I’m dreaming. This administration is much too sectarian to do anything of the sort. Besides, the administration radiates an air of “what, me worry?” incompetence, which will inhibit any effort to undo the disasters of the past.
Is there something to be said, at least, for the Bush Doctrine’s expansive vision of American responsibility? In my view, it is a mistake to bang too heavily on an American drum. The administration has managed to reduce the gigantic question of resisting the totalitarian and fascist movements of our time to a simple question of American hegemony. We should be emphasizing something else—the need for liberal and democratic societies of many kinds to establish a hegemony of principles of human decency and mutual respect. We ought to rid ourselves of every single aspect of what is called the Bush Doctrine, except for those aspects that could just as well be called the Franklin Roosevelt Doctrine of the Four Freedoms. The United States with its wealth and power and military capabilities should certainly make outsized contributions to the foreign-policy programs of the future, but these programs ought to be conceived in a light of practical internationalism instead of incoherent nationalism.
Paul Berman, a writer in residence at New York University, is the author of Terror and Liberalism and, most recently, Power and the Idealists: Or, the Passion of Joschka Fischer and Its Aftermath.
I applaud the Bush Doctrine. I think it was the right response—the only possible response—to the horror of 9/11. In light of the very real prospect that millions of Americans may be killed by biological or nuclear weapons, it would be madness to sit back and rely on the law-enforcement approach that failed on 9/11. While President Bush has improved the effectiveness of homeland-security efforts, he has correctly placed the emphasis on a forward defense strategy. This means killing or detaining terrorists even before they attack; denying them sanctuary; and trying to dry up their sources of support by promoting a constructive alternative for the Muslim world—namely, liberal democracy.
This policy has been largely successful. Who would have dreamed in September 2001 that we would soon see the fall of the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Baathists in Iraq, or the establishment of nascent democracies in their place; the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon; the renunciation by Libya of its WMD program; the breakup of the biggest nuclear-smuggling ring in history, run by Pakistan’s A.Q. Khan; the establishment of pro-Western democracies in Ukraine and Georgia; and, perhaps most importantly of all, not a single major terrorist attack on U.S. soil? Not all of these facts can be ascribed solely or even mainly to American action; some might even be due to sheer, temporary luck. But even if we are hit again tomorrow, a four-year respite is pretty good—and more than almost everyone (myself included) expected.
That said, I think there are major problems with the way the Bush Doctrine has been implemented—or, more accurately, not implemented. After 9/11, the President vowed that “you are either with us or against us.” Pakistan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia appear not to have gotten the message. In all three of these supposed American allies, the news media—which remain under the thumb of the state—continue to spew anti-American rhetoric of startling virulence and breathtaking falsity. Pakistan is allowing Islamist extremist groups to use its soil as a base for attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan. Egypt has responded to U.S. demands for democracy with sham elections in which Hosni Mubarak won a Saddam-style 88 percent of the vote. And, despite some efforts to curtail terrorist financing, Saudi Arabia continues to bankroll madrassas and mosques around the world that remain breeding grounds of fanaticism. What consequences have they suffered? None that I’m aware of. Admittedly these are hard problems; in all three cases there is reason to fear that any alternative regime might be even worse. But what about Syria? Bashar Assad—the world’s sole remaining Baathist dictator—allows jihadist killers to use his country as a transit point into Iraq, where they murder many Americans and even more Iraqis. Syria has been warned for more than two years to shape up or face the consequences. Yet none has been forthcoming. This cannot be for fear of bringing to power a Syrian government even more inimical to U.S. interests than the current one; it is hard to imagine such a regime. The failure better to police the Iraq-Syria border—which would probably necessitate military action in Syria itself—has been one of the biggest problems with the U.S. liberation of Iraq, but it is far from the only one. The lack of pre-invasion diplomacy, the lack of post-invasion planning, the lack of ground troops, the lack of intelligence, the lack of coordination and oversight, the lack of armor, the lack of electricity—all these errors have been noted ad nauseam. There has been some exaggeration of them by the President’s political opponents, along with an implausible attempt to dump the blame on a handful of “neocon” appointees while ignoring the culpability of senior military officers and non-neocon civilians. But in essence most of the charges are true. There is no question that the war has been bungled in many respects. And yet, that doesn’t make the Iraq war very different from any other—including World War II, where many blunders (Anzio, Dieppe, Iwo Jima) killed more Allied troops in a single day than died during the first two years of fighting in Iraq. If we win in Iraq—and, despite everything that has gone wrong, victory is still the most likely outcome—the missteps along the way will be forgotten.
To his credit, President Bush has not made the most serious mistake of all, which would be to lose his nerve. His steely determination to stay the course, notwithstanding the baying of the press and the Democrats (forgive the redundancy), is giving Iraqis the breathing room they need to build political and security institutions that might be able to survive a drawdown (though not a total pullout) of U.S. forces.
We’re finally on the right course in Iraq, though it has taken a while to get there. I am not so sure we’re on any course at all in dealing with the looming threat of the Iranian and North Korean nuclear-weapons programs. In both cases, the administration has so far been satisfied with toothless multilateral diplomacy that has merely bought time for atomic assembly lines to ramp up. There are no easy answers here, and military action is not a terribly palatable option. But why hasn’t the U.S. done more to try to bring about peaceful regime change? The President has talked eloquently about the “non-negotiable demands of human dignity.” I wish he had done more to promote those demands in the two remaining members of the “axis of evil.” Lest I end on a sour note, some perspective is in order. No President can achieve everything or please everyone. Even as Bush’s poll ratings go south for the winter, it helps to remember how reviled Harry Truman was when he left office in 1953. His reputation revived in subsequent years when it became clear that he had set in place the containment policies that ultimately won the cold war. So, too, I suspect George W. Bush will one day be seen as the President who set us on the long road to winning the war on Islamist terror.
Max Boot is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, a contributing editor of the Weekly Standard, and a weekly foreign-affairs columnist for the Los Angeles Times.
William F. Buckley, Jr.
I do not count myself a supporter of the Bush Doctrine, though I count myself a supporter of Bush. The President’s “diagnosis” of the threat we faced—or were facing—or continue to face— requires more parsing than I think the editors of Commentary would wish from me. The threat he singled out in 2002 focused on the accumulation of weapons of mass destruction by an enemy of freedom. Here was a dictator who had succeeded, in his own country, in ending freedom, and was putatively determined to succeed beyond his shores, reaching, perhaps, to our own. I do not think that the President, since the invasion, established retrospectively either the capability of Saddam Hussein to extend his threat or his determination to attempt to do so. I think the President acted on the intelligence at hand. But even if he acted as we’d wished he had, his actions did not bring about the termination of a prior foreign-policy doctrine for the United States or any doctrinal prescription for dealing with such threats in the future. Bush’s success has to be weighed by—there is no other way—the success of the Iraqi venture. Something that very much needed doing, after 9/11, was a demonstration of U.S. resolve and capability. We demonstrated both in Afghanistan. The undertaking was decisive, rapid, and exemplary in other aspects as well. The ensuing campaign, against Iraq, has required for its justification a kind of empirical success we have not yet achieved. We have not defeated the insurgency or united the Iraqi nation. If we do achieve those ends, and if they bring on a step forward in the direction of Iraqi security and constitutional government, the President will rightly be acclaimed for having dared to undertake something that vastly reorders life and hope in a critical part of the world. If the venture fails, he will justly be held accountable for imprudence. Are there aspects of our policy that I would change? This is a tough question. As the costs increase, so also should the scale of our visionary purpose. It is inappropriate for the President to abbreviate, let alone abandon, a rhetoric that underwrites a great enterprise. If the Iraq venture were merely one more great-power gymnastic exercise, he would find the ongoing costs hard to justify. As these costs mount, the purpose of expending the necessary funds and other resources cannot be undermined. As we have come this far, and done what has been done, I do not see anything of a military character to be done differently from what we are doing, and I cannot see any prospect of a substantial geostrategic modification of the thinking that brought us to where we are. But, to address the final question, I do not believe that Bush’s expanded view of the U.S. role is wise. Our goals, as pronounced once by Woodrow Wilson and now by George Bush, remain organically commendable as free societies are themselves commendable. In the nature of things, however, rescue missions to tormented nations of the world have to be selective—a geostrategic art form. This is so obviously the case that it is embarrassing to undertake to remake it. “What do you call dictators of countries that have nuclear bombs?” the saw began, decades ago. Answer: “Sir.” We are not about to extend the President’s concern for freedom to an energetic concern for freedom in mainland China. We cannot even rev up the political energy to do anything about the genocide in Sudan. Every now and then the stars arrange themselves to give us an ideological mission we can handle, as in Grenada under Reagan—and before that, on an entirely different scale, the war against Hitler. But accompanying doctrines are to be reserved for political oratory. In days and decades ahead, the U.S. will do good for other countries and for humankind, but not, I think, as a doctrinal exercise traceable to a “Bush Doctrine.”
William F. Buckley, Jr., editor-at-large of National Review, is the author most recently of Last Call for Blackford Oakes, a novel (Harcourt).
Eliot A. Cohen
I have never understood the supposed novelty of the Bush Doctrine. The right to preemption is inherent in the functioning of a more or less anarchical society of states. Were the French to face a probable attack from, say, Tunisia, and if they thought they could do something about it in advance, they would. So would any other state not run by cowards or fools. Nor is it a matter of great novelty that the path to security from Islamic terror lies in some liberalization of the Middle East—the spread, not so much of democracy in the sense of plebiscites or even regular elections, but of limited government, free press, the rule of law, and a regular rotation of leaders who can be evicted from power by something other than illness, death, or coup. What are the alternatives, really? To wall off the Middle East from all contact with the developed world? To turn the rule of turbulent societies over to reliable thugs? To accept Islamic fanatics in their rise to power, with the hope that its exercise would moderate them? The first is impossible, the second and third have been tried and failed, and even in the most appeasement-prone capitals of Old Europe or Asia, you will not find anyone who seriously believes in them. Indeed, only a handful of American academics, intoxicated with theories that deny the importance of religion as a force in the life of humanity, believe that we have the option of sitting pat, and waiting for the forces of political realism to work their inexorable and presumably beneficent will.
In the short term, doctrines do not change the world: action does. The much underrated removal of al Qaeda’s base in Afghanistan and the killing or arrest of most of its pre-9/11 leadership (and the scattering of the rest) did not remove the fundamental problem, but it did severely weaken an exceptionally dangerous organization. To be sure, the ideology of al Qaeda lives, and numerous cells remain dormant or have sprouted up around the world. But smashing and dispersing the core hierarchy probably prevented more mega-terrorist events; while dealing with loosely networked terrorists is difficult, counteracting a well-organized and coordinated enemy of this kind would be even more difficult.
About the long term we simply do not know. The liberation of Iraq was a good thing in and of itself; the language of freedom that accompanied it has had a salutary effect in Lebanon, Egypt, and elsewhere in the Arab world; and American military prowess, and our demonstrated will to use it, produced good results in Libya. But it is no doubt true that the war increased antipathy to the United States in the Arab world, and in the short run has stimulated the recruitment of terrorists inflamed by the lies of al Jazeera as well as a bitterly anti-American Arab, and in some cases European and Asian, intelligentsia. Launching a war is like rolling a giant stone down a mountain slope strewn with rocks: we cannot predict where the avalanche will go. Whether Iraq is a success or a failure (and what success and failure mean is open to debate), the consequences will be prodigious, for good or for ill. This is a bold and determined administration; the war was a bold stroke, and boldness has both risks and rewards.
There are three things the administration could do, in ascending order of difficulty and descending order of likelihood, to make its doctrine effective. The first is to speak plainly about the nature of the enemy—Islamic extremism—and to do so in ways that do not misstate its argument, its appeal, or its roots. Administration spokesmen shrink from using the word “Islam,” for fear of being accused of bigotry. Anodyne formulations like “a perversion of a great religion” or “a few extremists” do not capture the power of this movement. There is a great need for a sober, detailed, and educational rhetoric about whom we are fighting. Happy talk to the Muslim world about what nice people Americans are is not only no substitute—it fools only those who utter it.
Second, the administration wrongly steered away from asking the American people to sacrifice anything in this war. Lowering taxes, it hampered its own ability to raise defense budgets. More importantly, it allowed the spirit of patriotism and resolve that flooded the country after 9/11 to dissipate over time. If you do not ask people to lend their money or their children to a fight, they will not think that they are at war. Nor was the administration willing to accept the political pain of a serious effort to undermine the grip of oil on the economy—a grip that indirectly feeds the infrastructure of terror—by imposing taxes that would reduce consumption and stimulate alternative fuels or thriftier uses of those we have. If this is war—and it is—then it demands sacrifice and an appeal for service.
Finally, the administration has suffered from its insularity, its overwhelming emphasis on loyalty to the exclusion of all other virtues, its suspicion of those with whom it could have made common cause, its refusal to admit missteps or failure, its inability to fire the incompetent (as opposed to the merely disgruntled). Huddled now in its bunker, assaulted not only for a botched war abroad but for a bumbling reaction to natural catastrophe at home, it is unlikely to open itself up; but it would be better if it could.
The expansive vision of the Bush administration seems to me broadly right, and I admire unreservedly the courage and determination with which it has pressed the fight. But how I wish that the spine of steel had found its match in an eloquence suitable to the moment; how I would have desired as great a stress on talent as on fidelity; how much better if the commitment to a vision of freedom abroad were matched with an equal and effective commitment to greatness at home; how ironic and sad that competence—the quality upon which this administration prided itself when it came to office—has, for too long, been in such short supply.
Eliot A. Cohen is Robert E. Osgood professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins and the author of, among other books, Supreme Command: Soldiers, Statesmen, and Leadership in Wartime.
In my book Colossus: The Rise and Fall of the American Empire (2004), I argued that the Bush Doctrine was less radical as a doctrine than was widely thought when it was promulgated. The administration’s key document, the September 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States, argued that because “deliverable weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terror network or murderous dictator . . . constitute as grave a threat as can be imagined,” the President should, at his discretion, act preemptively to forestall any such threat, even if the threat was not imminent in the traditional sense of armies massing on borders. Many critics seized upon this as a dangerous new departure. Yet the idea of preemption had been asserted by more than one President during the cold war, and had been assumed by them all. The radical aspect of the Bush Doctrine was not so much the theory as the practice.
Even before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, it became clear that the White House intended to use the doctrine of preemption to justify violating the national sovereignty of certain “rogue regimes” and using military means to neutralize perceived future threats, preferably by changing those regimes. In Empire: The Rise and Fall of the British World Order and the Lessons for Global Power (2003), I had expressed some doubts as to whether the United States had the economic, military, and political capabilities to make a success of what was, in all but name, an imperial undertaking. Unlike many critics of the Bush administration, I did not dismiss the project as morally wrong. On the contrary, I argued that there were a number of regimes around the world that were likely to cease sponsoring terrorism, acquiring nuclear weapons, or murdering their own people only as a result of effective foreign intervention. My qualms have all along related to the ability of the United States successfully to execute such interventions. I have no doubt that the 2002 National Security Strategy was right in its diagnosis of the dangers posed to the United States. Nor do I doubt that a preemptive strike to avert the use of weapons of mass destruction against American targets would be legitimate. But I would add two qualifications.
First, terror networks are a proven threat even when they do not have WMD. Second, it now seems clear that Saddam Hussein did not pose even a distant threat to the United States in 2003, though it was impossible to be sure of that at the time. As I contend in Colossus, the claims made by the American and British governments in connection with Iraq’s WMD capability and links to al Qaeda lacked credibility. There were good reasons for overthrowing Saddam, but these were not among them. Is, then, the United States more secure today than in 2000? From the point of view of U.S. military personnel, it is less secure, in the sense that they are much more likely to be killed or wounded by hostile action than during the 1990’s. How far this increased risk is outweighed by the reduced threat from a jailed Saddam is not clear.
On the other hand, we cannot know the degree to which actions taken by the Bush administration in Afghanistan, Iraq, and—perhaps more importantly—in the American homeland have reduced the ability of organizations like al Qaeda to attack the United States. My hunch is that another 9/11-type attack could happen even while this President is still in the White House; there are too many ways for terrorists to enter the country and operate undetected, and too many targets to protect. There is also good reason to think that the disruption of al Qaeda’s leadership structures has been compensated for by the formation of new cells and the recruitment of new operatives, notably in Europe. This may turn out to be one of the most important unintended consequences of the invasion of Iraq.
The longer-range prospects of the Bush Doctrine are bleak. The next President will need to come up with a national-security strategy that commands much greater legitimacy abroad. It might make more sense in the future to keep the doctrine of preemption tacit.
Are there particular aspects of American policy that I would change immediately? Secretary of State Rice has already made the single most important change that I would have recommended to the administration last year, namely, to revive the art of diplomacy. The United States came perilously close to less-than-splendid isolation in 2004, not least because the administration came to believe its own rhetoric about the viability of “acting alone” (another component of the National Security Strategy). But success in Iraq cannot be achieved with the support of Tony Blair alone. The resources needed to contain the burgeoning civil war in Iraq must come from outside as well as inside the English-speaking world. As for what the editors call the Bush Doctrine’s “expansive vision of America’s world role and the moral responsibilities of American power,” I revert once more to the wording of the National Security Strategy. I am all for “actively work[ing] to bring the hope of democracy, development, free markets, and free trade to every corner of the world.” The same goes for promoting “the rule of law; limits on the absolute power of the state; free speech; freedom of worship; equal justice; respect for women; religious and ethnic tolerance; and respect for private property.” But a further defect of the National Security Strategy was its assumption that doing these things would necessarily enhance American national security. On the contrary: the more the United States represents itself as a messianic force spreading freedom around the world, the more resentment it will arouse; see the history of the British empire, passim.
Niall Ferguson is a professor of history at Harvard, a senior research fellow at Jesus College, Oxford, and a senior fellow of the Hoover Institution at Stanford.
Aaron L. Friedberg
Since 9/11, the “Bush Doctrine” label has been applied to various aspects of administration policy, from the President’s initial “with us or against us” warning to state sponsors of terrorism, to his declared willingness to act preemptively (and, if need be, unilaterally) to head off the danger of covert WMD attack, to his assertion that final victory in the global war on terror depends on the spread of liberty across the Middle East and throughout the Islamic world. I will focus on this final usage, which is likely to prove the most lasting.
Is a campaign aimed at the political transformation of the “broader Middle East” essential to the defeat of terrorism? If so, how can it be carried forward to a successful conclusion at an acceptable cost? The first of these questions is easier to answer than the second.
I believe the administration’s assessment of the Islamist threat is fundamentally correct. In al Qaeda and its affiliates, we confront an enemy who aims to inflict as much pain on us and our allies as possible, thereby dividing the West, forcing a retraction of American power, and clearing the way for the overthrow of local “apostate” regimes and their absorption into a transnational caliphate. Having concocted quasi-theological justifications for their actions, the terrorists put no limit on the numbers they are willing to kill to achieve their goals; all that stands in their way is, for the moment, an apparent lack of means. The menace we face may not be “existential,” in the same sense as the cold-war threat from the Soviet Union. Al Qaeda cannot rain down tens of thousands of nuclear warheads on American cities. But, with a few well-placed dirty bombs or vials of anthrax, it could impose terrible human and financial costs and radically alter, perhaps for a generation or more, the character of our open society and the extent of our integration into the global economy. The passage of time since 9/11, and the absence thus far of a follow-on attack on American soil, have caused some observers to lose sight of these dangers and even to argue that they have been grossly exaggerated. I know of no one involved in the conduct of the war on terror who shares this sense of complacency.
The ideology that motivates the jihadists has now metastasized and spread, so that it finds adherents even in free societies. But it sprang to life first in the diverse despotisms of the broader Middle East, and these are the sources from which it still feeds and which continue, either deliberately or indirectly, to sustain it. Even if it were possible to wave a wand and transform these societies overnight into functioning liberal democracies, the jihadist movement would likely live on, at least for a time. But unless and until progress is made in this direction, it seems certain to survive, and to thrive. The absence of liberty fuels frustration and extremism by cutting off avenues for more moderate forms of political expression, reinforcing social and economic stagnation, and feeding a sense of collective weakness, shame, and rage. The other key elements of U.S. strategy—stronger homeland defenses and a relentless global offensive against Islamist terror networks—are necessary to keep the enemy off balance and reduce the risk of future attack; but they will not be sufficient, in themselves, to achieve a lasting peace. Jihadism cannot be defeated on the defensive, or even by cutting back its visible offshoots. It must be pulled up by the roots.
There are alternatives to a strategy that has transformation as its ultimate goal. If pressed, most liberal critics of the Bush Doctrine would say they agree with its ends but differ over means (more “soft” power and less “hard,” more multilateralism and less unilateralism). While the differences are in some respects overstated, there is a serious debate to be had here and a consensus to be hammered out, though controversies over Iraq have made this all but impossible for the moment.
More distinct are the options offered by advocates of what can only be called a policy of appeasement, on the one hand, and the self-described “realists,” on the other. The first group asserts that by leaving Iraq, cutting support for Israel, and perhaps withdrawing altogether from the Middle East, we may be able eventually to deprive the jihadists of their base of support. Despite the evident moral and strategic bankruptcy of these arguments, they have begun to gain ground recently in academic circles, where books “bravely” questioning our ties to Israel and “proving” that suicide terrorists are motivated solely by a desire to free their homes from occupation are currently the rage. Fortunately, such ideas seem unlikely for now to exert much influence on practical policy. It is the “realists” who most stand to gain if American policy in Iraq comes to be seen as a costly failure. Such an outcome would be taken as proof that the pursuit of liberalization in the broader Middle East is a fool’s errand and that, instead of criticizing “friendly” local regimes and pressuring them to reform, we should be content to make common cause in wiping out the jihadists. What is needed, in this view, is a more effective and if need be a more ruthless version of the policy that existed before 9/11. The fact that this approach has already proved its ineffectiveness may not lessen its appeal, at least for a while. In the long run, and whatever happens in Iraq, some variant of the Bush Doctrine will remain an essential part of overall U.S. strategy for defeating Islamist terrorism. The questions facing this administration as it enters its final quarter are more practical than theoretical. How to tailor the right mix of pressures and inducements to move “friendly” regimes toward meaningful reforms, and how to deal with openly hostile holdouts? How to minimize the inevitable risks of transition (the “one man, one vote, one time” problem)? How to institutionalize the “forward strategy of freedom” within the U.S. government and the Western alliance? And how to ensure continuing domestic political support for a goal that is both necessary and just?
Aaron L. Friedberg, professor of politics and international affairs at Princeton, served in the office of the Vice President from 2003 to 2005 as deputy assistant for national-security affairs and director of policy planning.
I believe that the Bush Doctrine’s central assumption—that the United States had to transform the politics of the Middle East as a means of solving the post-9/11 terrorist threat—was misguided, and that the problem was greatly compounded by extremely poor policy execution before and after the Iraq war. For the record, I made up my mind that the war was a bad idea by the fall of 2002, i.e., before the war began, when I was asked to lead part of a Pentagon study on strategy in the war on terrorism, and not in response to events as they unfolded after the war. There is no question that the 9/11 attacks exposed a very new kind of threat, and that the usual tools of the cold war—containment and deterrence—would not work against suicide terrorists armed with weapons of mass destruction. The Afghan war was a fully justified exercise in prevention, where we dismantled terrorist networks that were clearly of danger to us.
The problem was that the Bush administration merged the terrorist/WMD problem with the problem of Iraq and rogue-state proliferators more generally. The latter was and continues to be a very serious issue, but it was never clear that a rogue state—which (unlike stateless terrorists) has a return address—would go to all the trouble of developing nuclear weapons only to give them to a terrorist organization. The bigger problem lay with the diagnosis of the root causes of the terrorism, and the prescription for fixing it. Radical Islamism is in no way an assertion of traditional Muslim values or religiosity. Olivier Roy has argued persuasively in Globalized Islam that it needs to be seen as an essentially modern phenomenon driven by the deterritorialization of Islam, primarily in Western Europe, and by the forces of globalization and modernization that we otherwise celebrate. In a traditional Muslim society, your identity is fixed by the society into which you are born; only when you live in a non-Muslim environment does it occur to you to ask who you are. The profound alienation that results makes poorly assimilated second- and third-generation Muslims susceptible to a pure, universalistic ideology like that of Osama bin Laden. Mohammed Atta and the other organizers of 9/11, the Madrid and London conspirators, and Mohammed Bouyeri, murderer of the Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh, all fall into this category.
This means that more democracy and more modernization will not solve our near-term terrorism problem, but may well exacerbate it. I believe that both democracy and modernization are good things and should be promoted in the Middle East for their own sake. But we will continue to have a serious terrorist problem in democratic Western Europe, regardless of what happens in Egypt or Lebanon. Even if one accepted the view that the Middle East needed to be “fixed,” it was hard to understand what made us think that we were capable of fixing it. So much of what neoconservatives have written over the past decades has concerned the unanticipated consequences of overly ambitious social engineering, and how the effort to get at root causes of social problems is a feckless task. If this has been true of efforts to combat crime or poverty in U.S. cities, why should anyone have believed we could get at the root causes of alienation and terrorism in a part of the world that we didn’t understand particularly well, and where our policy instruments were very limited? The other constraint is very specific to the United States. We have gotten involved in nation-building efforts in many places over the years: Reconstruction of the South after the Civil War, occupation of the Philippines and the various Monroe Doctrine interventions, Japan, Germany, South Korea, and South Vietnam, and finally the humanitarian interventions of the post-cold-war era in Somalia, Haiti, the Balkans, and other places. Of these, only Japan, Germany, and South Korea were clear successes, and these were places where U.S. occupation forces came and basically never left.
Americans have a habit of starting such projects enthusiastically and then losing interest after things go bad, usually at about the five-year mark; this is what happened with Reconstruction, in Nicaragua between 1927 and 1932, in South Vietnam, and in many other places. We sign up local allies, make a stab at giving them modern institutions, and then pull the plug. I was fearful that we would repeat this pattern in Iraq prior to the war, and nothing that has happened since then has alleviated that concern. We need to win militarily in Afghanistan and Iraq. It is extremely important that we resist pressures to reduce numbers of American forces prematurely. But we also need to conceive of the broader war on terrorism as a classic counterinsurgency campaign fought out on a global scale. In that campaign, winning hearts and minds is as important as neutralizing the hard-core terrorists. I strongly believe in the need for an expansive foreign policy that shapes the insides of states and not just their external behavior. But it is American soft power, not hard, that will be the primary instrument for promoting democracy and development around the world, and we need thoroughly to re-think the structure and funding of the instruments we have for doing this. After the first four years of the Bush Doctrine, the United States has created a new terrorist haven in Iraq and a power vacuum that will destabilize regional politics for some time to come. While allies may seek to restore good relations with Washington at an elite level, at a popular level there has been a seismic shift in the way that much of the world perceives the United States. Our image, fairly or not, is no longer the Statue of Liberty but the hooded prisoner at Abu Ghraib. Fixing this problem is a project that will preoccupy us for many years to come.
Francis Fukuyama is Bernard Schwartz professor of international political economy and director of the international development program at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University.
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr.
I heartily agree with the Bush Doctrine as described by the editors and as outlined in the 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States. We are once again engaged in a global conflict imposed upon us by a dangerous, totalitarian ideology that has properly come to be known as Islamofascism. Its adherents seek to implement their vision of a global caliphate governed by a Taliban-style repressive version of shari’a law. They will employ all available means to accomplish that goal. In a world in which Islamofascists and their state sponsors and allies can reasonably be expected to have access to weapons of mass destruction, a proactive, offensive, and, where necessary, preemptive American strategy is indispensable. Nothing less is at stake than our survival as a free, democratic, and secular nation. If we are to defeat the Islamofascists, however, we are going to need something more: the help of non-Islamist Muslims, who are as much at risk from this intolerant ideology as are those in the non-Muslim world. We must legitimate and empower our natural allies in this war. The President is right that one means of doing so is to help them establish governments that are representative, accountable, and conducive to economic growth—in stark contrast to the repression and privation associated with Islamist misrule. All that said, I am happier with the Bush Doctrine conceptually than with its implementation. In defining the enemy in this war, the administration has largely refused to go beyond euphemisms like “terror” and “an evil ideology.” The unwillingness to declare Islamofascism the force that drives our foes has made problematic the devising—let alone the successful implementation—of strategies for defeating them.
This failure has had negative consequences for the war effort abroad and at home. The President’s bold assertion that “you are either with us or against us” has been undermined by the administration’s practice of certifying as “with us” the nation that is arguably most responsible for the worldwide spread of Islamofascism: Saudi Arabia. Despite the President’s admirable rhetoric about spreading freedom, two other nations demonstrably not “with us”—Iran and North Korea—have moved from being members of the “axis of evil” to being negotiating partners. At the insistence of putative friends like China and Russia and the connivance of sometime allies like France and Germany, these odious regimes are being assured of our willingness to support their continued misrule in exchange for still more fraudulent promises of non-proliferation.
The administration is also confusing elections with the establishment of institutions essential to functioning and enduring democracies. Elections in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Gaza have helped to empower Islamofascists. Even in Turkey, with its well-established secular democracy, an elected Islamist regime is mounting a classic takeover of the institutions of civil society. Ignoring these realities is a formula for still greater setbacks down the road.
Unfortunately, the same disconnect between rhetoric and practice is evident in the administration’s outreach to the Muslim community here at home. While it talks of rooting out domestic support cells, charities, and front organizations that enable terrorists here and abroad, it has repeatedly embraced many who have been leaders of and sympathizers with such efforts. This has afforded Islamists access and influence and added to the incoherence of U.S. war policies, while demoralizing truly non- or anti-Islamist Muslims. Unless promptly corrected, such practices augur ill for needed security improvements over both the short and long terms. The most urgent change, apart from clarifying the nature of the enemy, is to put the country on a war footing. Four years after the attacks of 9/11, too many Americans have come to believe that the conflict in which we are engaged is the problem of the U.S. military, the President, our allies, or somebody else. That this sentiment is widely held owes much to the fact that the public has been encouraged to think of its job in this conflict as nothing more than going shopping. There are many ways in which the American people can be asked to assist the war effort. Here are three of the most important. First, stopping the underwriting of terror. Unbeknownst to most American investors, significant portions of their public-pension funds, mutual funds, life insurance, and private portfolios include stocks of privately held companies that partner with state sponsors of terror. Were that money to be divested, it could have a profound effect on the ability of terror-sponsoring states to underwrite the war the Islamofascists and their friends are waging against us.
Next, enhancing energy security. The public can help deny financial succor to our enemies by reducing our dependence on foreign oil—much of which is purchased from the same nations that are supporting Islamofascism and its allies. There are various ways this can begin to be accomplished. The least painful near-term approach would be to enable domestically produced alcohol-based fuels and electricity to be used on a greatly expanded basis as means of powering the transportation sector.
Third, securing the homeland. Perhaps the most basic step in protecting against future attacks requires the American people to increase their vigilance in monitoring domestic threats. In addition, the nation needs to involve its citizens much more fully in planning for and preparing against future attacks. As Hurricane Katrina reminds us, such capabilities may prove to be of great value in future emergencies, whether natural or man-made.
As for “America’s world role and the moral responsibilities of American power,” I subscribe to an expansive presidential vision that predated and underpins the Bush Doctrine: namely, President Reagan’s conviction that America is “the last best hope of mankind.” From this flows the belief that we should be engaged in the world, not out of some sense of noblesse oblige, but rather because it is essential to our own survival in the face of enemies who wish to destroy us and everything we stand for. Reagan’s philosophy recognized that international peace is best preserved through American strength. In practice, this requires a robust presence across the globe—one able to respond to the full spectrum of threats, ideally by nipping them in the bud, but in any event confronting them in whatever way is most efficacious before they endanger our lives and freedoms.
Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. is the founder and president of the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C.
Reuel Marc Gerecht
Although President George W. Bush didn’t invade Iraq in order to bring democracy to the Middle East—and neoconservatives, with exceptions, didn’t advocate war with that in mind—building democracy now defines U.S. policy in the entire region. If democracy succeeds in Iraq, then America, regardless of who sits in the White House, will certainly become more active in promoting representative government. If democracy fails there, then we will become much more timid in encouraging political reform. Despite the numerous, serious mistakes of the Bush administration in the occupation of Iraq, democracy’s chances there remain decent so long as the Shiite political center behind Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani holds. But failure in Iraq may not necessarily dim the prospects of democracy elsewhere in the Muslim world. The fall of Saddam Hussein has already accelerated convulsive democratic debates in Arab lands and in their more combative and open expatriate media. The region’s dictators and kings may have a difficult time stuffing this discontent and dissent back into the tried-and-true shibboleths—principally anti-Zionism and anti-Americanism—that have consumed the intellectual energy of so many and offered the autocrats a safety valve for popular dissatisfaction with the regimes in place. Arab left-wing intellectuals seem today less domesticated than they were just a few years back, when they eagerly turned most of their venom toward Israel and Ariel Sharon. Muslim fundamentalists, especially in Egypt, still the lodestone among Arab nations, seem much less likely to play along, and are increasingly backing the popular push for more open political systems. Failure in Iraq would mean a civil war between Sunni and Shiite Arabs that would allow for the rise of a Shiite strongman in Baghdad. Even so, however, this might not at all be seen by Egyptians as a sufficient reason to keep President Hosni Mubarak’s family in power. The rest of the Arab world is, like Egypt, overwhelmingly Sunni. With the exceptions of Syria, tiny Bahrain, and Lebanon, democracy in the Arab world would be an intra-Sunni squabble. Which brings us to a series of important questions for the Bush administration and its successor. Let us suppose that, regardless of what happens in Iraq, the democratic movement among Arabs pushes forward, but, as is probable, with Muslim fundamentalists in the lead. Will the administration shy away from democracy promotion if and when it becomes clear that Muslim fundamentalists will initially do very well in most Arab lands where free elections are allowed? I myself would argue that the political and cultural evolution of Sunni fundamentalism is central to the death of bin Ladenism, and that democratic politics are an essential part of that evolution. This means that democracy’s advance in the Middle East is likely to be a very anti-American process. (Think Latin American anti-Yanquism on speed.) To my mind, this is a painful but necessary step in the evolution of Islamic activism. Has the Bush administration thought this through? Has it tried to explain to itself, let alone to the American people, how democracy may unfold in the Muslim Middle East? Has the President, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, or Karen Hughes, the new public-diplomacy czarina, called a conclave to figure out what the administration actually believes? It would not appear so.
As for those in the administration who believe that Muslim liberals, progressives, and moderates are the real key to democracy’s future in the region—a view that I find in error, but certainly an estimable aspiration—have they troubled to explain how we are going to locate and support such individuals over the heads of the present dictators and kings? Will we endorse open elections where fundamentalists can compete with liberals and others, or will we advocate banning fundamentalists from the election process even when liberals in these countries tell us that doing so will undermine them and us? Should we treat Muslim fundamentalists as beyond the pale, or even as Nazis, as some have argued? (Given that Iran is full of fallen hard-core fundamentalists who now sincerely advocate democracy, the parallel seems strained.) Another question is useful in considering this complex of issues: are Muslim democracies that restrict women’s social rights in practice morally superior to Muslim dictatorships that advance them in theory? I think the answer is an emphatic yes, but the administration has so far shown little desire to argue this possibility, thereby allowing the New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd to suggest that Saddam Hussein, who was the first Middle Eastern dictator to institute rape as an official means of mind control, was more pro-woman than the democratically sanctioned constituent assembly that drafted Iraq’s proposed constitution. Women’s rights are a hot-button issue in the United States. It would be wise for the administration to explain how it intends to handle this issue in the socially conservative Middle East.
George W. Bush is one of our most revolutionary Presidents, but regrettably his administration shows little more intellectual ferment than his father’s. That is in part because many inside the critical institutions of foreign policy—the State Department, the National Security Council, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the Pentagon—don’t really believe in expanding democracy, at least not in the Muslim Middle East. And even among those who share the President’s commitment to expanding representative government, and who understand that democracy is an essential component in the big-picture fight against Islamic extremism, there is enormous nervousness about significant change in the status quo. Truth be told, the Bush administration was not that upset when Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak stole his reelection.
Four years after 9/11, it is still possible to see the United States wavering in its commitment to democracy more than in its commitment to the rulers of the Middle East. It is not hard to imagine Washington’s bureaucracies trying hard, once again, to cast the fight against Islamic extremism as essentially a police and intelligence action, which would mean drawing closer to the dictators and kings who run the Middle East’s security and intelligence services. If the President isn’t vigilant, we could soon be living again in a pre-9/11 world, in which democracy seemed a premature idea for people more suited to prayer and despotism.
Reuel Marc Gerecht is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a contributing editor of the Weekly Standard.
Victor Davis Hanson
According to opinion polls, most Americans are now critical of the President’s foreign policy. They are uncertain not merely over the daily fare of explosions in Iraq. Rather, the sustained public attack on American action abroad, emanating from both the Left and the hard Right, has led to bipartisan and broadly-shared condemnation. Even some who once were adherents of preemption have bailed out, claiming that although they supported the removal of Saddam Hussein, they are appalled by what followed. Or, translated, “In hindsight I remain in favor of my near-perfect military campaign, but not your messy reconstruction”—as if America’s past wars were not fraught with tragic lapses and muddled operations.
But for all the media hysteria and the indisputable errors of implementation, the Bush Doctrine is, in fact, moving ahead. Soon it will bear long-term advantage. Despite our inability to articulate the dangers and stakes of the war against radical Islam and our failure to muster the full military potential of the United States, and despite the fact that our own southern border remains vulnerable to terrorist infiltration, there has been enormous progress in the past four years.
We have removed both the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. Those efforts have cost us over 2,000 American combat deaths, a hard loss and to be mourned, but still two-thirds of the number of American civilians killed on September 11, 2001, the first day of the war. Thanks to our forward policy of hitting rogue regimes abroad and staying on to help the reconstruction, coupled with increased vigilance at home, the United States has not been struck since then.
Inside Iraq there is a constitutional government grinding ahead, and a series of elections slated for ratification and/or amendment. Much is rightly made of Sunni intransigence, yet this minority population, with no oil and with a disreputable past of support for either Saddam or the Zarqawi terrorists, or both, has been put in an untenable position. Its clerics call for Iraqi Sunnis to vote no on the constitution even as Sunni radicals like Zarqawi threaten to kill any who would vote at all. There has also been a radical transformation in regional mentalities. The elections in Egypt, though boycotted and rigged, were an unprecedented event, and the irregularities quickly ignited popular demonstrations. Events elsewhere are no less significant, as Libya and Pakistan have renounced their nuclear commerce, Syrians are out of Lebanon, and rudimentary parliaments are forming in the Gulf. Even on the Palestinian question, the death of Arafat, Israel’s building of a protective fence and its withdrawal from Gaza, and the removal of Saddam have strengthened the hand of beleaguered reformers in the West Bank and beyond. The onus for policing their miscreants is gradually shifting to the Palestinians themselves, which is where it belongs.
There are, of course, no Swiss cantons arising in the Middle East. Rather, we see the initial tremors of massive tectonic shifts, as the old plates of Islamic radicalism or secular autocracy give way to something new and more democratic. The United States is the primary catalyst of this dangerous but long-overdue upheaval. It has taken the risk almost alone; the ultimate reward will be a more stable world for all.
Much is made of global anti-Americanism and hatred of George Bush. But under closer examination, the furor is mostly confined to Western Europe, the autocratic Middle East, and our own elites here at home. In Europe, our most vocal critics, Jacques Chirac in France and Gerhard Schroeder in Germany, have lost considerable domestic support, and are under challenge by realists worried about their own unassimilated minorities and appreciative of American consistency in the war against radical Islam. In the meantime, Eastern Europeans, Japanese, Australians, and Indians have never been closer to the United States. Russia and China have little beef with our war on terror. Here at home, the relative lack of bipartisan support is due partly to the media culture of the Left, partly to the turmoil and resentment of an out-of-power Democratic party, partly to uncertainty as to how it will all turn out. On the far Right, some see only too much money being spent, too much proliferation of government, and too much Israel in the background. What lies ahead? We must continue to navigate the dangerous narrows between the two unacceptable alternatives of secular dictatorship and rule by Islamic law, even as we prod recipients of American aid or military support like Mubarak, Musharraf, and the Saudi royal family to reform. At home, unless we come up with a viable policy combining increased oil production, conservation, and alternative fuels, our ability to protect ourselves from international blackmail will soon begin to erode. Most forbiddingly, nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran or any other non-democratic Middle Eastern country could destroy much if not all of what has been accomplished. What would have happened in the late 1930’s had America found itself dependent on Romanian oil or German coal, or learned that Hitler, Mussolini, or Franco was close to obtaining atomic weapons?
I continue without reserve to support our efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq, and our pressure for reform in the Middle East at large. Not because the Bush doctrine follows some predetermined neoconservative agenda—I thought the January 28, 1998 letter by the Project for the New American Century, urging the removal of Saddam Hussein, was ill-conceived at the time—but rather because, in a post 9/11 age, muscular idealism is the new American realism, the one antidote to Islamic radicalism and its appendages of terror.
Rather than seeking empire or economic advantage, or being recklessly utopian, our present policy promotes democracy abroad even as we downsize in Germany and South Korea and withdraw all of our troops from Saudi Arabia. This is striking, and admirable. What are we to make of this tough new doctrine that is neither wide-eyed Wilsonian idealism nor cold-war realpolitik? Call it something like enlightened Jacksonianism—a determination to undertake needed military action and to promote political reform consistent with our democratic values when, and only when, a continuation of the status quo abroad first threatens the security of the United States.
Victor Davis Hanson is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the author most recently of A War Like No Other (Random House).
THE BUSH DOCTRINE was the product of three interacting conditions: American hegemony, American exceptionalism, and American outrage.
The first encouraged the belief that anything the United States willed was achievable. The second insisted that what should be willed was the remaking of the world in America’s own image. The third created an enormously powerful pressure for immediate and drastic action.
Taken together, these three conditions constituted a combustible mixture, one not conducive to calm deliberation, the careful weighing of options, or alertness to the danger of unintended consequences. A mature and experienced President might have been able to resist, modify, or deflect the pressure. President Bush not only yielded to it but gave it authoritative voice, reducing the complexity of the international situation to simple and dangerous Manichean terms: “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.” (Can you imagine Churchill ever uttering such words, even in the infinitely more drastic conditions of 1940?)
Thus was the Bush Doctrine born. My basic objection to it has been its utter lack of balance. There is nothing wrong with including the promotion of democracy and its associated values as one goal among many in the foreign policy of the United States, one to be pursued with care and modest expectations when it does not conflict with more demanding goals, and when the conditions for its implementation are favorable. There is everything wrong with pretending (or, even worse, genuinely believing) that it can and should be the overriding purpose of policy, one that must be achieved in quick time and by the application of American force.
Nothing demonstrates the imbalance more clearly than the language used in the President’s three-page introduction to the National Security Strategy document of September 2002. In this first authoritative statement of the doctrine, the President uses the words “liberty” and “freedom,” or some variation of them, 28 times; the word “interest” occurs only twice. This, in a document purporting to set out the nation’s security strategy.
The defenders of the doctrine insist that this criticism wrongly assumes a conflict between American interests and American values, that the two are in fact mutually reinforcing, if not identical. Indeed, the President claimed as much in his Second Inaugural: “America’s vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one.” This being so, no hard choices, no setting of priorities, are deemed necessary.
Samuel Huntington long ago suggested that the “pleasant conjuncture of blessings” in their history inclined Americans to believe in “the unity of goodness: to assume that all good things go together.” Unfortunately this is not the case. Desirable goals can, and often do, conflict and collide. Hard choices do have to be made and priorities established. And the most inspirational goals are not always the most important ones.
The Bush Doctrine links the promotion of freedom and democracy to the active use of American military might. The danger of such a linking has often been spelled out by both realists and liberals.
Here is the late Robert Osgood, a much respected realist, on the subject:[M]ilitary force is not only ineffective as an in- strument for achieving transcendent moral ends: it is morally dangerous as well. The use of force with a view to such grandiose ends tends to become an end in itself, no longer subject to either moral or practical restrictions, but merely to the intoxication with abstract ideals.
And for those allergic to realism, here is John Stuart Mill, on the same subject:
To go to war for an idea, if the war is aggressive, not defensive, is as criminal as to go to war for territory or revenue; for it is as little justified to force our ideas on other people as it is to compel them to submit to our will in other respects.
What of the record of the doctrine in action? It has to its credit the removal of Saddam Hussein and the Taliban, which is not inconsiderable. As against that, tens of thousands of innocent people, and 2,000 American servicemen, have been killed, and both countries remain in a state of violence and turmoil. While some kind of democratic apparatus has been set up in both countries, the prospect of genuine and viable democracy in either remains remote.
The American military, which three years ago seemed an irresistible force, has had its limitations exposed. While its power to crush and destroy is great, its capacity to control and maintain order, to administer honestly and efficiently, is very limited. Eliot A. Cohen, an expert on the subject and a supporter of the war, believes the U.S. Army and Marine Corps have been strained “to the breaking point” by the first implementation of the doctrine. The international standing and influence of the United States are much lower than they were four years ago. The country itself is more deeply divided than at any time since the early 1970’s.
Precedents have been set that will come back to haunt us and our children: among them, a ready resort to preventive and preemptive wars, the setting-aside of the Geneva Convention and habeas corpus, the blatant insistence on the right to double standards, and exceptionally low standards of truth-telling on vital questions of policy.
The application of the doctrine has also served to highlight the contradiction between a conservative domestic policy that seeks to reduce the power of government and a conservative foreign policy that must greatly increase it.
All that said, America has great powers of self- correction, a historically proven capacity to re- bound from adversity and error. Indeed, I believe that the first great test of the Bush Doctrine in Iraq is also likely to be its last. Failure there will restore balance and prudence to American foreign policy. With reasonable luck, it will lead to the conclusion that the smartest way of being a hegemon is to be content with appearing to be primus inter pares in a concert of powers.
The greater disaster in America’s Iraq venture would have been something plausibly resembling a quick and decisive success. What dangerous ex- cesses would that have led us to by now?
Owen Harries, formerly the editor of the quarterly National Interest, is a senior fellow at the Centre for Independent Studies and a visiting fellow at the Lowy Institute for International Policy, both in Sydney, Australia.
The present foreign policy of the United States rests heavily upon three fundamental errors, the consequences of which we are likely to escape only via divine intervention.
The first error is that of being in thrall to the most pressing and immediate. Because of their inability to sense the long term, chess players who focus on their pawns rather than their position usually lose, and bulls that are mesmerized by a matador’s cape fall victim to his sword. In bulls it may be expected. In a politician it is the result of a dim intellectual horizon that cannot be brightened even in conversations with experts.
As if history had ended with the cold war, we reduced our military power so that the order of battle now stands at approximately a third or less of what it had been, this despite the continuing and remarkable military and technical evolution used by both the Clinton and Bush administrations as a cover for their neglect of other strategic essentials. Perhaps we would not have experienced the boom of the 90’s or recovered from its bursting bubble had it not been for the “peace dividend.” But, with the grossest negligence, we continued to draw upon the “peace dividend” even after September 11, when, in the full blush of hubris the administration decided, first, that we would from now on
fight mainly terrorism, and would need not prepare for or deter major opponents; and, second, that terrorism can be fought successfully with only lightened forces.
But history, which has yet to end, will not spare the leading—though not dominant—power in the international system a challenge from nations in ascension. China has modeled itself after Meiji Japan, with the specific intent to forge economic growth and the rise in per-capita incomes into effective military power. As it succeeds brilliantly, our answer, rather than confronting it with a gap that it would never be able to close, building the navy to exploit America’s natural advantages at sea, and responding to its every move with an appropriate countermove, has been to cede the field, to shrink our military sector as China builds its own, and to convert our armed forces into a steroidal version of the French Foreign Legion.
Thus, we forswear mass, heavy formations, heavy weapons, and heavy lift. We scatter and commit ever diminishing forces and fewer bases worldwide in the terrorist mouse hunt, something that should be the successful activity of the left hand only. And in planning to leave in Europe merely special forces, two brigade combat teams, and no heavy armor, we are gratuitously providing Russia with confirmation that its military revival is not hopeless, an error that may assume grand proportions in the years to come. Terrorism must be defeated, but beyond terrorism are great and persistent dangers that by ignoring we stimulate and court.
The second error is in our choice of objective, in this instance forsaking the purely defensive aim of soliciting or coercing the cooperation of various Arab and Muslim regimes, without regard to their purity, in eradicating terrorists and their infrastructures. Instead, we have embarked upon the messianic task of changing the political culture of 1.2 billion Arabs and Muslims from Morocco to the Philippines, from the Volga to Nigeria.
Learning nothing from the flagrant errors of believing that no resistance would follow the invasion of Iraq, and that the Turks, despite their Islamic tilt and their overwhelming desire to please Europe, would allow a northern front, we continue to misjudge the nature and motives of the insurgency and the Arabs’ support for it. Iraq is the march land of the Middle East, once threatened by Persians and Mongols, and now by the Shiites and “Crusaders.” Those who see themselves as defending it (that is, most of the Arab world) have a long historical pedigree. That their tactics are bestial and psychotic does not speak to the depth of their motivation or perseverance. We have undertaken to transform a deeply rooted absolutist political regime of kings, dictators, and military juntas that is based upon a strong and famously uncompromising culture, that is in turn based upon a proudly absolutist and uncompromising religion, that itself arose amid a tribal nomadic society whose standards have carried forward into a world in which mothers offer their sons as suicide bombers and fathers murder their daughters for even a hint of promiscuity. And other than by military means (which alone are insufficient), to turn all this around in heart and mind, against some of the strongest forces known to history or man, we have deployed . . . Karen Hughes.
The third error is that of scale in military operations. For martial control of the areas in question to be effective either in directly suppressing terrorism or in the stated goal of transforming political cultures, martial control must first be firmly established. And yet, in odd counterbalance to the manic expansiveness of the objective is the nearly inexplicable limitation of the effort.
We have in Iraq 140,000 troops. They stand in roughly the same proportion to the citizenry as do the police in the City of New York. But in Iraq they do not speak the language and are at the end of an 8,000-mile supply line, and they are tasked with controlling a heavily armed population of 26 million people efficiently organized into indelible ethnicities, semi-professional militias, and criminal gangs, and supported from without over borders we cannot seal. And with characteristic impatience, we diverted these troops from combat to nation building even before they had pacified the nation they were supposed to build.
Just as NATO signed its death warrant as a cohesive and effective military alliance when upon the fall of the Soviet Union it reduced its powers in direct proportion to the expansion of its responsibilities, we now beg for failure, by limiting, compressing, and starving the military while assigning to it a grandiose task as rich with intention as it is likely to be bereft of result.
Mark Helprin is a senior fellow of the Claremont Institute and distinguished visiting fellow at Hillsdale College. His most recent book is Freddy and Fredericka, a novel (Penguin).
W e hold elections to affirm or reject political ideas, and in 2004 George Bush put the Bush Doctrine and its exercise in Iraq before the American people. In their collective wisdom, the people chose the Bush Doctrine over the Kerry Doctrine, whose messenger over several months gave voice to virtually all available criticisms of the Bush Doctrine. Bush won, and the mandarins of foreign policy need to acknowledge that the Bush Doctrine has earned no small measure of political
The Bush Doctrine describes, more accurately
than do its critics, the world as it exists in our time—the political and economic world amenable to diplomacy, and the threat, which requires military capacity. The doctrine’s critics err primarily in not addressing the realities of the 21st century’s political economy and its most obvious threat, weapons of mass destruction.
Threat first, because it can kill us.
September 11 changed a lot, but what truly “changed everything” was the revelation of A.Q. Khan’s production network for nuclear-bomb know-how. The implications of the Khan network haven’t been fully internalized; one can read critiques of the Bush Doctrine heavy on “how we’re seen by the world” but light on WMD. Backwater nations (Pakistan, North Korea, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Venezuela) can—or soon will—produce sufficient cash f low, infrastructure, and technical prowess to build WMD and missile-delivery systems. North Korea, whose income per capita is too small to measure, can reach Japan with ballistic-missile technology
Mass murder is going mass market. That is the basis for preemption doctrine. Preemption is not directed at suicide bombers with 25 killed or even at planes flown into buildings, ships, and embassies. The trade in WMD technology, flowing through the canals of legitimate commerce, aims at producing civilian death on a massive scale. In the Wall Street Journal recently, Fred Iklé described how such an event overnight would transform the world’s politics: “The paroxysm after 9/11 would be a hiccup compared with the reaction the morning after one or more nuclear bombs caused massive devastation.”
Against this reality, a doctrine of preemption is justified.
The WMD trade came to life contemporaneously with the reality of radical, resentful Islam. Either you believe the politics and ideologies of the Middle East are a clear and present danger to our security or you don’t. I do. This product, radical Islam, is now a threat because Arab governments have chosen to export it.
In reply, the Bush Doctrine, premised in preemption, has chosen to export democracy. The criticism of this idea, crudely stated, is: why do we believe that what works for us, our system broadly imagined, will work for the Arabs or anyone else? The crude reply is: the United States is already exporting every other, nonpolitical aspect of its system to the world; it isn’t possible over time to prevent our political values from sweeping into their systems along with the rest of it.
Like it or not, the nations of the 21st century are being absorbed into an American system historically rooted in freedom, broadly defined. The movement of traded goods, of labor, the discovery and exchange of technical and scientific ideas, financial transactions, opinion: the worldwide trend now is to ensure that all this activity is minimally fettered and largely frictionless—free.
Though often slighted in discussions of foreign-policy doctrine, economic growth—annual GDP— is the real oxygen of world affairs. When it declines, stressed nations, as in the past, often seek to compensate with belligerence. Politics is a daily activity, and democracies—even flawed democracies—are more likely to spend their energies on policies affecting mundane matters of commerce than on belligerence. Indonesia and South Korea are examples of the former, Iran and North Korea of the latter.
Some critics of the Bush Doctrine prefer an America in which these “idealistic” impulses are submerged beneath a pragmatic realism appropriate to a hostile, amoral world; one might call it neo-cynicism. They are seeking an America that is not possible. The world of politics is centrifugal now; no major nation’s policies or values can stay inside its borders; ours haven’t, and China’s won’t. The Bush Doctrine attempts to join America’s superpower preeminence to the centrifugal reality of who we unavoidably are and represent. The Bush Doctrine is both morally attractive and pragmatic. Choosing Paul Wolfowitz to run the World Bank was a wise extension of the Bush Doctrine.
It hasn’t been easy. The structure of cold-war alliances is dead. After 9/11, there was no time to formalize a new alliance system that would recognize the treacherous decision by France and Germany (misnamed “Europe”) to opt out. Part-time coalitions of the willing are insufficient to the Bush Doctrine’s ambitions. The U.S. needs identifiable allies. Foreign policy cannot be unipolar while economic life is omnipolar. A new alliance of like- minded systems might begin with Britain, Japan, Australia, India, Poland, Israel, and Iraq.
As for China, the presidencies of both Bushes and Bill Clinton have confused us about that country. The Defense Department should measure and publish China’s military progress formally, as it did during the cold war in its yearly report, Soviet Military Power—until China democratizes.
My primary criticism of the Bush Doctrine is a familiar one: fantastically, it abjures public diplomacy. The Bush team appears to be paranoiac about the media. However justified the feeling, ceding control of the public debate or fact-set, as in Iraq, to the opposition ill serves the voters who legitimized this doctrine and, more, the military fighting and dying on the doctrine’s behalf.
It also puts the doctrine at risk. The U.S. and Western European media are together the most potent driver of doctrinaire pacifism since that idea emerged with force in the 20th century. President Bush’s resolve is admirable; but what comes after him is likely to be a politician who, having watched the way the Iraq war was represented to the public, concludes that the political upside of any such future engagement is minimal. The principle of preemption may die the day Mr. Bush leaves office.
The future of the President’s foreign-policy idea turns of course on the outcome of the test in Iraq. For the Bush Doctrine itself, this test is pass/fail. But a lot more than the Bush Doctrine is riding on the result.
Daniel Henninger is deputy editor of the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal.
If by the Bush Doctrine is meant the primacy of the war against terrorism, the move from deterrence to preventive war, the promotion of democracy across the world, and a willingness to resort to unilateral action in many circumstances, I find myself in profound disagreement with it.
Terrorism is one threat among many and, while it needs to be opposed, prevented, and fought, the struggle against it is not a war but a combination of good intelligence, coordinated police action, infiltration, moves to eliminate financial support for terrorist operations, and policies aimed at address- ing the diverse causes of hostility and suspicion of the U.S. The term “war” suggests military operations leading to victory, and that is not a formula for success.
As for preventive military action, this is justified only when enemy attacks are imminent. Otherwise, it is illegal under international law, and is a form of aggression. Since our military operations and the struggle against terrorism require broad cooperation from allies and from other threatened countries, unilateral prevention would be counter-productive, and encourage other actors to strike whenever they want. The result would be chaos.
The promotion of democracy is a worthy goal, but it cannot normally be imposed by force (Germany and Japan after 1945 were exceptional cases)—the beneficiaries of our interventions would sooner or later turn against us, or else their compatriots would. Nor is it at all obvious that democratic revolutions would necessarily be moderate, lead to greater stability, or turn out friendly to American values and interests. This is an area in which the primary instruments should be secret public support and open private help for “freedom fighters,” and in which it is in America’s interest to act with other democratic countries.
Has the Bush Doctrine made for “a safer world environment,” as the editors ask? Such an environment requires not only a long-term struggle against terrorism but also:
(a) the recognition that terror—the dreadful weapon of the weak—often results from the denial of the right to self-determination or autonomy in places like Chechnya, Kosovo, or Palestine;
(b) coordinated measures by the U.S. and its allies against nuclear proliferation, as long as they do not deny the right of other states to use nuclear power for peaceful purposes. These measures require diplomacy rather than threats, deals rather than diktats;
(c) the acceptance by the U.S. of international criminal jurisdiction and of the principle of universal jurisdiction for crimes against humanity;
(d) the acceptance by the U.S. and its allies of an obligation to intervene against acts of genocide;
(e) a much bigger and more sustained effort at promoting economic and social development in order to reduce and gradually eliminate world poverty and to enhance the capabilities of the people in underprivileged countries;
(f ) a willingness to work on a concerted policy of state-building, focusing on failed states, aimed at
fighting corruption as well as at establishing viable institutions (including a free judiciary and free media). The UN should play a central role in such an effort;
(g) a responsible environmental policy, in which all states would be asked to participate (i.e., going beyond Kyoto) and in which the greatest damagers of the environment would be asked to revise their policies and might need to be compensated for their sacrif ices in certain instances.
Toward these ends, some aspects of current American policy in particular need to be eliminated. They include the hectoring and threatening tone that the leaders of this administration seem to have gotten used to, and that infuriates far more than it intimidates; the tendency, explicit or implicit, to reduce American power to its military dimension, to discount what Joseph Nye calls soft power, and to celebrate our unique status as the superpower; and an American cultural policy that often seems little more than a celebration of American achievements and virtues rather than an invitation to cooperation aimed at benefiting others.
In all these matters, the self-celebration is counterproductive as long as the contrast between our boasts, on the one hand, and our actual policies and results at home, on the other hand, remains often so obvious.
Finally, the editors ask about the Bush Doctrine’s “expansive vision of America’s world role and the moral responsibilities of American power.” An expansive vision is certainly necessary, but it should not amount to what I would call a conception of leadership as domination or imposition. The moral responsibilities of any powerful country are often tarnished or undermined by hubris and by an excessive faith in one’s own goodness, or by a mistaken conviction that our good intentions must be visible to all except the propagators of evil. Leadership means not only consulting others and listening to others, but forging ententes or alliances toward commonly defined and accepted goals—leadership as consensus-building.
Stanley Hoffmann is the Buttenwieser university professor at Harvard. His most recent books are Gulliver Unbound (2004) and the forthcoming Violence and Anarchy.
Adeep ideological strain runs through American foreign policy. Making the world safe through democracy, it might be called. A German, Immanuel Kant, invented the idea of “democratic peace,” and a Frenchman, Alexis de Tocqueville, embellished it. Both argued that democracies (“republics”) are inherently more pacific than autocracies. Yet it took Americans to turn a noble idea into a national interest. The latest is George W. Bush, but the ancestry reads like a Who’s Who of American history: from Thomas Paine to James Madison, from Woodrow Wilson to Bill Clinton (yes, him in particular).
The dissenting school known as realism has always remained in the minority, Henry Kissinger and Brent Scowcroft notwithstanding. If Kantians proclaim that only good states make good foreign policy, realists insist that the best guarantee of peace is a solid balance of power, never mind how our rivals are governed. Let us not confuse politics with pedagogy, they argue, or go to war to make the world safe through or for democracy. Fight only in the name of necessity—to stave off threats to our security and our vital interests.
The Iraq war, a war of choice if ever there was one, delivers an instructive test case. Post-9/11, regime change seemed an exhilarating idea (which I shared, against my nagging better instincts). Make an example of the world’s most evil regime. Replace Saddamism with democracy, and Iraq will be a “light unto the nations,” to misappropriate a phrase. Other despots will quake and reform, or falter and fall. Either way, the threats without—terrorism, expansionism, weapons of mass destruction—will haunt us no more.
What is wrong with this? In ascending order of importance, here are three answers. One is the intractability of present-day Arab culture and politics. It is a safe bet that “one man, one vote” will segue into “one time,” that removing the Abdullahs and Hosnis will bring on a new tyranny under the green flag of the Prophet, and that we will have exchanged “our bastards” for declared enemies of the West.
So we must stay, as in Iraq, to ensure that the good guys win not only the first, but also the next elections. This runs into the second trouble: an openended commitment, which democracies do not savor. Listen to the chorus of resentment rising throughout the land: let’s “Iraqize” the war, let no more American boys and girls die for Basra and Baghdad.
To note in response that American troops are still in Germany, Japan, and South Korea six decades after World War II is to succumb to the wrong analogy. During the cold war, America had bigger fish to fry. Reeducating yesterday’s enemies was only a subsidiary interest; the vital interest was to contain the existential threat that was the Soviet Union. Also, nobody ever died in Germany and Japan, nor in Korea once the fighting there was over. American troops are still welcome in all three places as an insurance against Russia and China.
Third, and worst, the democratic impulse has led America to pounce on the wrong enemy. Evil as Saddam was, a threat to the United States he was not, as the case of the vanishing WMD’s shows. For once, Madeleine Albright was right when she insisted that “we have him in a box.” Saddam was a menace to his own people, but only a nuisance to the U.S.
So who was the real foe? From a coldly realist perspective, it was and is Iran. Twenty years ago, the Reaganites had it right: they let strategic interest get the better of democratic ideology by secretly supporting Saddam against Tehran, the more populous and more potent would-be regional hegemon. Driven by a messianic ideology, the Iranians sponsored all kinds of terrorism, from Hizballah to Hamas, from Beirut to Berlin. Even then, they were quietly assembling the many components of nuclear weaponry while developing ever longer-range missiles and sharing the stuff with unsavory regimes around the world. Today, they are within reach of nuclear weapons.
Whence this calamity? Because, after the Reaganite blip, the democratic imperative targeted the lesser evil. When the U.S. marched into Baghdad in 2003, we might have heard the Iranian equivalent of champagne corks popping. “Thank you, America,” the chant might have gone, “for taking out our worst rival.” And then: “Thank you, Allah, for tying down the Great Satan in an insurgency war we can manipulate at will.” Finally: “God is great, for the infidel is now handing to our Shiite brethren the power so long denied them by the Sunni minority.”
As an unintended consequence of America’s regime-changing war, Iran now finds itself in its best strategic position ever. This summer Tehran told the Europeans it would not stop its enrichment of uranium, not for any bribe in the coffers of the EU. And what was the United States going to do about it? Tehran knows full well that Washington will not unleash a second war while the first one is not exactly proceeding as planned. In the meantime, with America stymied in Iraq, its credibility battered, China and Russia will not vote for sanctions in the Security Council. Is it wild-eyed alarmism to suggest that Iran will get the bomb and set off an arms race in the greater Middle East that will damage American interests more than post-Kuwait Saddam ever could?
Against the Bush Doctrine, realists argue: do not go to war unless the noble ideals of this Republic are encased in hard strategic interests that justify the price and legitimize the burden. Though America, spending almost as much on its military as the rest of the world combined, can win battles effortlessly, be forewarned that “network-centric warfare” does better against armies than against those who believe that death will take them to heaven. Make the ends you treasure fit the means you are willing to invest. Husband your strength and credibility so that you can intimidate without having to kill. Cheer democracy’s forward march, but measure threats correctly and target the right enemies—those who can truly hurt you.
The irony of it all is that the Bushies had it right at the very beginning, when they categorically refused any “nation-building.”
Josef Joffe is publisher-editor of Die Zeit (Hamburg) and Abramowitz fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. His new book, Überpower: America’s Imperial Temptation, is being brought out by W.W. Norton.
Although we use the decorative name the “Bush Doctrine,” the guiding principle of American policy today is essentially an updated reassertion of national sovereignty, including the right to take preemptive action in self-defense.
We live in a contracting world, one that has shrunk to the point where national frontiers, vital though they are to preserve national identities, cultures, and valuable systems of politics and law, are of rapidly declining use in defense. Moreover, there are no air or sea frontiers. The United States was born and came to maturity in a world where two vast oceans protected it from external attack, and its approach to global problems was shaped accordingly. That position began to change in the 1940’s, with the development of nuclear weapons and long-range rockets.
The result was a fundamental extension of the American response to danger. NATO was created, with a trip-wire running through Germany, and it succeeded in preserving the U.S. and its allies from the threat of a single great-power enemy. But when that enemy collapsed, and America became the sole superpower, a new threat emerged: terrorist attacks, not capable of annihilating America but able to inflict horrific casualties. The U.S. responded by again reformulating its sovereign and unconditional right of self-defense. This time, it asserted its determination to take measures against any terrorist organization that threatened it, and any sovereign states that supported such an organization.
These measures will inevitably be further extended and strengthened if and when terrorist-supporting states seek to acquire or actually possess nuclear, thermonuclear, or other weapons capable of inflicting grave harm on the American people. The overwhelming need for speed in dealing with such threats, and the calamitous consequences of failure to respond in time, means that the U.S. must act the instant the threat is perceived—if necessary without warning, without consulting its allies, and to the limit of its military power, using only the good judgment of the President and the respect for humanitarian principles built into the system as limits on its freedom of action.
This is not so much a doctrine as an expression of common sense, dictated by the changing logic of events and the contraction of the globe into a single theater of action. It places an enormous burden of decision and responsibility on the President’s shoulders, and confers on America unprecedented global powers and rights. The U.S. is becoming in fact what Thomas Hobbes wrote about in theory: the great Leviathan, “to keep them all in awe.” But it is becoming so not by wish or choice but from unsought necessity.
The fact is that collective security has broken down, as it did when the League of Nations failed in the 1930’s. The United Nations has failed repeatedly to deter or punish aggression or reverse its consequences. NATO, which succeeded in its day, is now in many respects out of date. As the Iraqi aggression against Kuwait showed in the early 1990’s, ad-hoc coalitions have to be slowly and painfully created to deal with aggressive acts of a conventional kind. In dealing with terrorism and terrorist-supporting states, the American Leviathan has acted, and often will act, alone, though naturally it will always carry with it as many active and trustworthy allies as it can.
But there is one transforming and vital moral fact about this unilateralism. America acts for itself, but also for the world. All civilized states under the rule of law, indeed all peoples who long for a world of peace and order, benefit from American unilateralism. The evil organizations that threaten the United States, and the regions that support them, also threaten the entire world, its men, women, and children.
We live in a dangerous and violent time. America is driven, in extremis, to drastic action. But we must ask ourselves this question: how much more fearful and violent would our world be if America did not exist? The truth is, we must thank God that there is a nation strong enough and determined enough to accept the role of Leviathan, and to protect us from the evil forces that roam the world seeking to destroy.
Paul Johnson, the British historian, is the author of Modern Times, A History of the American People, and, most recently, George Washington: The Founding Father (HarperCollins), among many other books.
Is there a Bush Doctrine? It may be too soon to know. There is nothing radically new about preemptive action and the promotion of democracy. The former has long been a part of American strategy, as diverse historians have pointed out, and Americans from the founders onward have calculated that their democratic nation was safer when the world was more liberal and democratic.
In the past century, American leaders have often judged that the undemocratic nature of an enemy was the source of its aggression, whether the adversary was Imperial Japan, Nazi Germany, or the Soviet Union, and that keeping the peace required transforming the enemy regime. The United States has tried to implant democracy in nations it has invaded, from Japan and Germany to Nicaragua, Panama, and the Philippines. Such efforts have produced mixed results, as that list suggests, but the current administration’s efforts hardly constitute a “stunning” departure from the past.
The question is whether the Bush administration’s policies will stand out as defining a new chapter in American foreign policy, characterized by a particular coherent and systematic approach to
the world, or whether they will seem in retrospect to have been only a brief, spasmodic reaction to the attack on 9/11. Is there consistency and coherence to the Bush approach?
Compare the Bush and the Reagan administrations. Reagan, too, declared a policy of promoting democracy around the world. But his approach seems to have been a good deal more extensive and comprehensive and, despite the disorder and confusion that often reigned in that administration, more consistently and systematically implemented.
The Reagan administration provided support to anti-Communist political and guerrilla movements in Afghanistan, Cambodia, Angola, and Nicaragua, as well as to Solidarity in Poland, leading in each case to an eventual change of regime. It abandoned right-wing forces and leaders in Latin America and turned toward supporting centrist and even Left-leaning democratically-elected leaders—against the advice of some conservative and neoconservative commentators at the time. It promoted the transition from dictatorship to democracy in El Salvador and Guatemala, toppled dictators in Haiti and Chile, and began the process of removing another dictator in Panama. In Asia, it engineered the downfall of Marcos in the Philippines and the military dictatorship of South Korea. Most of this took place in the roughly five years following Reagan’s speech to Parliament in 1982, when he first enunciated his pro-democracy approach.
The Reagan administration also made substantial financial investments in its policies, including a historic military build-up and large expenditures for economic assistance and democracy promotion. And despite bureaucratic in fighting, the leadership of the State Department, the Pentagon, and the CIA were all deeply committed to the President’s policies.
The Bush administration, by contrast, has not applied its “doctrine” very broadly or systematically. The circumstances are different, of course, and Bush has had to fight two wars that absorb the bulk of the administration’s energy and resources. But if one surveys the globe, it is not clear that a “Bush Doctrine” is really even the organizing principle of American foreign policy.
No such doctrine has been applied, for instance, to North Korea and Iran, although both were once part of the now never-mentioned “axis of evil.” At the moment, the Bush policy toward North Korea does not seem dramatically different from the Clinton policy. In the case of Iran, applying the Bush Doctrine would seem to call for dramatically
Defending and Advancing Freedom
increased efforts to promote democratization and internal pressures for reform. But this hasn’t happened, either. The current approaches to both countries may be perfectly reasonable, especially in the absence of obvious alternatives. But they hardly reflect a new doctrine, at least not yet.
The administration can take some credit for the triumph of democracy in Ukraine, and it supported the opposition in Lebanon following the assassination of Rafiq Hariri. But elsewhere in the Middle East? In Egypt, after setting forth a list of demands for Mubarak in the recent presidential elections, the administration did not even object very strongly when he ignored them. It has no known strategy for promoting democracy in Saudi Arabia or Syria, or even in Jordan. One suspects many in the administration fear that the product of democratic elections in some of these countries will be a victory of radical Islamic groups. Perhaps they are right to be worried. But if so, what is new?
Meanwhile, the administration has almost entirely ignored the quashing of what little democracy remains in Russia, and it no longer makes more than the barest pretense of caring about the lack of democratic reform in China. Again, these may or may not be reasonable positions. But they do not fit what has been called the Bush Doctrine.
Then there are Iraq and Afghanistan, where President Bush is clearly committed to a democratic outcome. This, if achieved, could be the signal achievement of a Bush Doctrine. But is everyone else in the administration equally committed to such an outcome?
There is no longer much argument that insufficient numbers of troops were deployed in Iraq in the immediate aftermath of the invasion, or that forces have been inadequate ever since. The endless stream of statements from Pentagon officials indicating a desire to leave Iraq whether or not the insurgency has been defeated raises questions about their commitment to the Bush Doctrine. The wars in both Iraq and Afghanistan have also raised questions about the nation’s military posture. Has the Pentagon really adjusted its strategy and force structure to enable it to implement a Bush Doctrine, or has it continued roughly along the path it was taking before the President embarked on this course?
It is premature to make any final judgments about policies that are still unfolding. No one in 1984 could have been sure what the Reagan Doctrine would produce. The evolution of the Truman Doctrine was anything but smooth and coherent. It may be that we are still in the early stages in the evolution of this latest, pro-democratic doctrine as well. The editors ask whether I support the Bush Doctrine and an expansive vision of America’s role in the world. I do. The question remains whether there is a Bush Doctrine to support. The answer is still unknown.
Robert Kagan is a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and a Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund.
It sometimes seems, when I’m tired, that I’ve been debating the Bush Doctrine forever. In fact, it’s been only a decade. I spent the late 1990’s, along with a few allies, advocating something more or less like the Bush Doctrine avant la lettre. And I’ve spent the last four years more or less defending the actual Bush Doctrine.
During this period, two vaguely remembered passages have occasionally drifted into my consciousness. I’d read them years before. They were written by men I very much admire, and they have continued to strike a nerve.
The first is the conclusion of Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind:
This is the American moment in world history, the one for which we shall forever be judged. . . . [I]n politics the responsibility for the fate of freedom in the world has devolved upon our regime. . . . The gravity of our given task is great, and it is very much in doubt how the future will judge our stewardship.
Bloom’s statement struck me as true when he wrote it, in 1987. It remained true in the 1990’s, when history had allegedly ended. And it is true today. Liberal democracy has always had, and probably will always have, illiberal enemies. For the foreseeable future, resisting and overcoming those enemies depends on American leadership, and American strength.
From this perspective, the Bush Doctrine is more than defensible. It’s necessary and right. It’s the Bush administration that can be a problem. But what administration isn’t? Real world administrations never fully live up to their doctrines. Sometimes administrations don’t execute policies well, or they lose their way in a certain area, or they fail to rise to a particular challenge.
Much that the Bush administration has done is admirable. At other times there have been startling failures of execution and surprising losses of nerve.
The Bush Doctrine promises that we will confront terrorist groups and the regimes that support them. Removing the Taliban and Saddam were impressive achievements. Tolerating Syrian and Iranian sponsorship of terror is less so.
The Bush Doctrine takes a tough line on the intersection of terror, tyranny, and weapons of mass destruction. Iraq and Libya were dealt with accordingly. But Iran and North Korea are moving ahead with their nuclear programs with minimal military or political interference from us.
The Bush Doctrine argues that regime change toward liberal democracy is the real solution (insofar as the world allows “solutions”) to the dangers confronting us from dictators. Dictators, after all, are tempted to acts of aggression, may seek weapons of mass destruction, and directly or indirectly tend to foster extremism. But despite real and impressive change in parts of the Middle East, we seem to be doing little to promote successful regime change in many places that need it—ranging from Saudi Arabia to China.
September 11, according to the Bush administration, changed everything. But the administration still apparently sees no need to increase the size of our military forces, no case for really overhauling the institutional capabilities of our government, and no urgency in insisting on a serious and coherent policy process. Above all, we are fighting a war in Iraq upon which everything else depends—and the President seems unwilling to overrule the strategic decisions or indecisions of his Secretary of Defense, who treats the war as an odd combination of an annoying distraction from his other work and business as usual.
Still, I trust the future will judge the Bush administration’s stewardship favorably. I would be even more confident if I thought its leaders had been sufficiently attentive to the second passage that has come intermittently to my mind in recent years. It’s the final paragraph of an essay by Leo Strauss on Machiavelli:
Toward the end of the Nicomachean Ethics Aristotle speaks of what one may call the political philosophy of the Sophists. His chief point is that the Sophists identif ied or almost identified politics with rhetoric. In other words, the Sophists believed or tended to believe in the
omnipotence of speech. Machiavelli surely can not be accused of that error. . . . But Xenophon, who was a pupil of Socrates, proved to be a most successful commander. . . . Xenophon, the pupil of Socrates, was under no delusion about the sternness and harshness of politics, about that ingredient of politics which transcends speech. In this important respect Machiavelli and Socrates make a common front against the Sophists.
Our political debates today are full of sophistic arguments. They come in many varieties—sophistic liberal multilateralism, sophistic foreign-policy “realism,” sophistic old-Right conservatism. There are even (a few!) instances of sophistic neoconservatism. What these arguments have in common is that they are not serious about prescribing policies for the real, existing United States of America that would address the real threats confronting us.
The Bush Doctrine is superior to all the varieties of sophism on offer. But sound doctrine is not enough. Politics is the realm of action as well as speech. I would not counsel the U.S. government to act in the spirit of Machiavelli. But perhaps in the spirit of the high-minded but also hard-headed Xenophon?
William Kristol, editor of the Weekly Standard, recently edited The Weekly Standard: A Reader, 1995-2005 ( HarperCollins).
Robert J. Lieber
The Bush Doctrine set a tough-minded and visionary grand strategy for the United States. More than four years after 9/11, the logic and purpose of that doctrine continue to merit support. Though much mischaracterized abroad and at home, it provides an informed diagnosis of the threat to America and prescribes very broad guidelines—preemption, military primacy, a new multilateralism (where possible), the spread of democracy—for confronting that threat. The execution of policy has inevitably been flawed, at times seriously, but the overall strategy rests on a fundamental grasp of contemporary realities that often eludes the administration’s critics.
My own assessment rests on three premises. First, we face an unprecedented threat from the combination of militant Islamist terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. Doctrines of containment and deterrence that served in the cold war do not fit the threat. As a result, we must be prepared to use preemptive and even preventive force when needed. Second, the UN is almost always incapable of acting effectively on the most urgent and deadly problems. Third, because of America’s unique power, others will inevitably look to it for leader- ship. The U.S. can and should seek to collaborate with others, but if we do not lead, no one else is likely to. In coming to grips with the threat of terrorism and WMD, and when values like human rights, the rule of law, and even the prevention of genocide cannot be guaranteed by others, American involvement and even intervention are not something about which to be apologetic.
Although progress has been mixed, American policy has caused or contributed to major accomplishments: the denial of state support and sanctusry to al Qaeda and other terrorist groups in Afghanistan and Iraq, the removal of Saddam’s tyrannical regime and with it a serious strategic and regional threat, the disruption and destruction of at least part of the al-Qaeda network, the thwarting of Islamist ambitions to overthrow existing governments and take control of any Middle Eastern state, the abandonment by Libya of its WMD programs, the exposure and dismantling of the A.Q. Khan nuclear network in Pakistan, the first stirrings of a political “Arab spring,” and the avoidance (so far) of a major post-9/11 terror attack within the United States.
To be sure, these achievements must be weighed against the continuing military campaign in eastern Afghanistan, a bitter and costly insurgency in Iraq that has become a focal point for radical opposition to the United States, the proliferation peril from hardline regimes in North Korea and Iran, long-term risks to the stability of a nuclear Pakistan, the continuing threat from radical Islamists, and the long and difficult road to political liberalization and democratization. In addition, there is a climate of anti-Americanism in much of Europe and the Middle East. Finally, there remains uncertainty on whether the absence of terrorist attack against the U.S. since 9/11 may be only temporary.
This balance sheet provides a portent for the longer term. The global war against Islamist terrorism could well prove to be as protracted as the cold war and involve a struggle waged at least as much with political, economic, ideological, and covert means as through conventional battle.
Not surprisingly, some policy changes or adaptations are needed, as was the case in World War II
and the cold war. One of the great strengths of the United States has been the ability to make timely course corrections. Although it is easier to point to past shortcomings than to set out specific recommendations, a short list of problems would include the following: the failure to prepare effectively for a post-Saddam Iraq and seriously flawed policies in the immediate aftermath of the war; the inability (going back to the Clinton administration) to mount an effective public-diplomacy effort; the tendency (recently pointed up by the Katrina disaster at home) to appoint to key positions people better known for political or personal ties than for competence; the failure to make a sustained case for the war in speaking to the American public, or to call for sacrifices like reducing America’s dangerous dependence on imported oil and insuring that fiscal policy sustains a strong economic base for both domestic prosperity and the war on terror.
The administration’s expansive view of America’s world role and moral responsibilities rests on a justifiable assumption: that the U.S. is likely to remain the world’s leading power for a considerable time to come and that, in Bush’s words, “Sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make us safe.” Unlike the British Empire a century ago, we are not a “weary Titan.” But the ability to use our power to achieve desired outcomes remains a messy and imperfect business. Our best bet is (in Charles Krauthammer’s apt phrase) to intervene where it matters most—namely, the Middle East.
Is the Bush doctrine sustainable? Ultimately this is not a question of money or manpower, but of political will. A key concern is whether the public, focused on the painful loss of American lives (though the numbers remain below those killed in previous conflicts), will weary of a long, ongoing struggle with no definitive end in sight. Another problem is the disproportionate and heavily one-sided views that pass for conventional wisdom, not just among the Chomskys, Michael Moores, and Buchanans but among more serious authors, journalists, and academics. Much of the impetus for the unfavorable verdicts on the Bush Doctrine stems from a deep political and cultural antipathy to the Bush presidency itself.
This aversion would not necessarily matter did it not characterize so many of the policy elites in and around the Democratic party. Sooner or later, the political pendulum will return the Democrats to national office. Although there are Democratic figures and off ice holders who are not so obsessed with political pique or wishful thinking as to lose sight of the stakes and perils of the post-9/11 world, right now they are a distinct minority, and the energy and activism of the party lie elsewhere.
Robert J. Lieber is professor of government and international affairs at Georgetown University. This piece draws in part on his new book, The American Era: Power and Strategy for the 21st Century (Cambridge University Press).
Bush grasped the nettle after 9/11: Islamic terrorism emanates from the Middle East because the region’s politics and religion have been poisoned by radicalism. Only by changing the region can we drain Islamic terrorism of its ideological supports and defeat it at its source.
For me, the Iraq war always made the most sense as a way to advance this ambitious project, and it may well serve that purpose. Already we have seen glimmers, most notably in Lebanon’s “cedar revolution.” But our difficulties in Iraq show how reality does not entirely accord with that signature piece of Bush rhetoric: “Freedom is the desire of every human heart.”
As a speechwriter’s poetic exaggeration this passes muster, but not as a guide to human motivation. If most do not want the boot of tyranny on their neck, the human heart is still a many-faceted, twisted thing. It can desire power more than freedom. It can desire fealty to religious faith more than freedom. It can desire honor, interpreted as resistance to a foreign occupying army, more than freedom. It can desire sexual purity and ethnic pride more than freedom.
These obvious points have sometimes been lost on the administration. When calamitous looting took hold after the fall of Baghdad, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld excused the disorder as the natural exuberance of a newly liberated people. Since the war was conceived as a liberation rather than an occupation, no one thought seriously enough about the need to constrain (and overawe) the Iraqi people rather than simply setting them free.
In a key respect, the theory of the war was flawed. We thought we could cut off the top of the Iraqi regime and there would be a functioning government underneath. There was no such thing. In
addition, the civil society had been devastated by Saddam, who built up the tribes and the Islamists as crutches for his regime. The sophisticated Iraqi society that we told ourselves about prior to the war was mostly chimerical.
This does not mean all is lost in Iraq, the linchpin of Bush’s Middle East and democracy strategy. It does mean that we have had to lower expectations. Creating a somewhat stable, roughly representative government that can keep a persistent insurgency from growing out of control would once have seemed setting the bar too low; now it looks like an achievement to be fervently hoped for.
This scaled-down ambition and the Bush administration’s increasingly open acknowledgment of it have prompted murmurs of betrayal from some hawks. But not from unhyphenated conservatives like me. We exist in the space between paleoconservative pessimists who maintain against all evidence that countries and cultures never change and neoconservative idealists who believe most of the world consists of closeted Western liberals. We realize that forging a new Iraq in keeping even with downward-adjusted expectations would be a victory, a step on the long path—alas, longer than it takes to hold one inspiring election—toward reform in the Middle East.
Sometimes it has seemed the last true realists in America are the military commanders in Iraq, at least the best of them. There is no endeavor quite like counterinsurgency to strip away ideological grandiosity. It requires a keen appreciation of local conditions, a willingness to compromise, and a sense of the limits of military power. Successful counterinsurgencies usually involve giving the political process primacy over, or equal footing with, the military f ight, and undertaking negotiations with the enemy.
The irony of the Iraq war, born of an overwhelming sense of American power, is that it has demonstrated our limits. I believe in a robust American role in the world. But we now know—if we didn’t already—how hard it is to attempt to build nations anew. We should undertake interventions like Iraq only when there is a strong national interest at stake, and never as willy-nilly do-good- ism. The American public would never support such an indiscriminate international role in any case. The price the public is willing to pay for any endeavor that it isn’t convinced is directly connected to our security is low—a constant disappointment to Wilsonians, but a fact.
Most of the shifts in Bush policy that I would have favored have taken place, coinciding with Condoleezza Rice’s rise to Secretary of State. In Lebanon the administration helped the Lebanese chase out the occupying Syrian military by using those tools—moral suasion and international pressure—that it seemed to underappreciate in the first term. Such bottom-up regime change, when possible, is much preferable to the Iraq-war variety. Administration officials have also finally said to them- selves, “We have these things called ‘embassies.’ How can we use them?”
These differences in emphasis have almost all been in the service of a broader reorientation of American foreign policy to which Bush has been surprisingly true. I was one of those who asked, after Bush’s second inaugural address, “What is he going to do? Move out of our Uzbek bases? Push Egypt to have elections?” Well, yes.
But it is Iraq that is the proving ground of the Bush Doctrine. In the war on terror, we are fighting a global insurgency of Islamic militants. Insurgencies are rarely won by killing all the enemy fighters but rather by undermining their support so that they quit or so that potential recruits don’t take up arms. For this to happen, Islamism must be discredited, and it is the Muslims who have to do the discrediting.
In Iraq, we see the struggle over the nature of Islam starkly in the competition for the country’s future between Ayatollah Sistani, who believes his religion is compatible with democracy, and Abu Zar- qawi, who believes it is synonymous with violence. It is imperative that Sistani’s vision prevail, but it never would have had a chance if Saddam were still in power. Nor would we have had the January 30 elections, with their stirring glimpse of a better Middle Eastern future. Nor would we see King Abdul- lah of Jordan—whose father famously kowtowed to Saddam—promoting a reformed Islam.
The Bush Doctrine stands or falls with the Iraq war, as does his presidency. Success or failure will be the difference between being remembered as a Jimmy Carter, a well-meaning bungler who presided over catastrophe, or a Ronald Reagan, a visionary whose leadership transformed the world.
Richard Lowry is the editor of National Review and the author of Legacy: Paying the Price for the Clinton Years (2004).
Edward N. Luttwak
The idea of actively spreading democracy among the Arabs and beyond is very tempting—I was once tempted myself. With a co-author of Arab Shiite origin, a talented woman who went on to better things, I set out to write a policy paper advocating the vigorous promotion of democracy by the United States in the Middle East, even at the expense of stability. As we started, it seemed it would not be too difficult to argue persuasively that interim turmoil, and even electoral victories by Islamists in the democratic aftermath, were preferable in the long run to persisting in the colossal anomaly of protecting the grotesque Saudi family, lesser Arabian wastrels, and assorted authoritarian potentates like Mubarak and Hussein of Jordan. That was a year or so before September 11, 2001.
What changed my mind was not, I fear, more concentrated thought but rather the distraction of a visit to Sicily with my brothers to revisit the scene of our childhood in Palermo and its environs.
Despite an abundance of world-class attractions, there are scarcely any good hotels—all development in Sicily is strangled by poor public services and infrastructures, traceable most immediately to hugely costly and stupendously inefficient local and regional bureaucracies. With 6 million inhabitants, Sicily is more populous than many UN member states, but its governance is so haphazard that traffic in Palermo is a nightmare of unpoliced congestion—many traffic cops on the payroll, but few on duty—while in western Sicily many towns, including Agrigento of the famous Greek temples, do not have drinking water in the summer, let alone swimming pools, crippling tourist development.
Nor is there any disagreement as to the ultimate causes of this spectacular misgovernment, perpetuated decade after decade ever since the Bourbon Kingdom of the Two Sicilies was overthrown by Garibaldi in 1860. The essentially political phenomena known collectively as the mafia subvert and preempt government and directly attack free enterprise by imposing unofficial taxes and protecting local monopolies.
This is not the Hollywood mafia of violent common criminals with or without socio-cultural pretensions. It is the actually existing mafia of medical doctors, lawyers, and engineers—indeed mainly doctors, for the simple reason that health care delivered by Italy’s version of a national heath service is by far the largest item in the regional budget, providing billions of euros that can be diverted (as opposed to the mere millions that local drug-dealing can earn). As for the second largest budget item, it is in the domain of engineers: the public works usually left somehow incomplete to justify further contracts, even unto the bridge that stops in mid-span.
As hundreds of trials have shown, the professional criminals of Sicily’s local mafias, i.e., those who live off petty extortion and the like, operate under the patronage of the lawyers, doctors, and engineers of the mafia superstructure who pay for their legal defense and maintain their families while they are in prison in order to keep local control and faithful troops. As a result, the accountants, auditors, government employees, or journalists who might be tempted to denounce fraudulent billings or crooked contracts remain silent, and in- vestigations by national police forces usually fail because of the lack of willing witnesses.
That is the situation in Sicily some 145 years after the overthrow of the Bourbons and after countless free elections. Because the Sicilians did not liberate themselves but were instead liberated by northerners, while they themselves remained passive or hostile, their sense of identity is still today defined by opposition to everything that the liberal kingdom of Italy tried to impose on them, starting with legality itself.
It is the same in Iraq today, except much worse. At least the Piedmontese and Sicilians were nomi- nally of the same nationality and religion, and the invasion of Sicily was preceded by decades of pro- paganda for a united Italy that had reached Sicily as well. In Iraq, by contrast, it is widely assumed that the un-Islamic liberators/invaders are there primarily to subvert Islam—for example by propa- gating women’s rights—while Iraqi Arabs who may or may not believe this do believe that the primary purpose of the invasion was to destroy the power of the strongest Arab state. Almost all Iraqis— Kurds included—also agree that control of the oil fields was another prime motive. (Because they themselves would never dream of invading another country except for loot, they exclude the possibili- ty that Americans and British are expending blood and treasure to establish a democratic and prosper- ous Iraq.)
Further embittering the Iraqis has been the in- creasing mayhem. Many Shiites now assert that the Americans are secretly organizing the attacks against them, in order to weaken both the Arabs and Islam by provoking a Sunni-Shiite civil war; for their part, many Arab Sunnis claim that U.S.- Iran tensions are a sham and that the two want to capture and divide Iraq and the Arabian peninsula.
And these are only the simplest explanations on offer; more complete conspiracy theories usually include an Israeli and Jewish angle, which is why fatwas have been issued forbidding the sale of land to Jews.
The overall result parallels the Sicilian syn- drome: having been liberated instead of liberating themselves, Iraqis now construct their sense of identity by rejecting all that the liberators stand for and embracing radicalized versions of their own cultures, with the leaders that go with them. These include the hopelessly ignorant and xenophobic clerics whom the Shiites now obey more blindly than ever and who favor elections only because they will assure Shiite rule; the clan and tribal lead- ers of the Arab Sunnis; the Baath holdouts; and the Islamist killers.
Left to its own devices, Iraq might have evolved over time in a natural and organic fashion toward better forms of governance than Saddam Hussein’s. As things stand, it will first have to overcome the effects of its liberation, adding generations if not centuries to the process.
It is the same in all the other places of the Arab world and beyond that are so different from Ger- many and Japan in 1945, where aborted prewar democracies only had to be rehabilitated, where there was no Islam standing in the way, and where years of bloody warfare had extirpated the enemies of democratic advancement and utterly discredited their ideologies.
Edward N. Luttwak is a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.
The perpetual overarching issue of U.S. foreign policy is the choice between an expansive and a constrictive approach, between the legacy of Woodrow Wilson and the legacy of George Washington. For reasons both moral and pragmatic, Wilson was right.
The “Washingtonian” view holds that moral considerations should carry less weight in the calculus of states than in that of individuals. But the actions of a democracy reduce to the choices of its citizens. Are we released from moral obligation when we act as a collectivity?
As for pragmatic considerations, the fact is that every war America fought in the 20th century was a war we had earlier decided to avoid. We resisted entry into both world wars. The Korean war followed official declarations that Korea lay outside our “defense perimeter.” The Vietnam war came to us a decade after we had rebuffed the appeals of the French to rescue them there. In the first Gulf war we drove Saddam Hussein from Kuwait, but earlier our ambassador had suggested we would not intervene. One might add that the cold war began only after the death of our illusions about an enduring partnership with Stalin, and that the present war against terror was preceded by a long period of denial.
The implication? America is so central to the political and economic life of the planet that deadly problems will always find us if we do not find them first. There is no option to remain above the fray, only the options of entering it early on our own terms or late on the terms of our enemies. Our best hope for remaining at peace is to shape a more peaceful world.
Therefore, I applaud President Bush’s reaction to 9/11, and specifically his declaration of a war against terrorism. The terrorists had long since declared war on us. Over decades, they had murdered Americans by the ones, tens, or hundreds. On 9/11 they killed thousands, hoping next to try for more. It was high time to fight back against them and their sponsors.
I am also enthusiastic about Bush’s grand strategy, namely, to transform the political psychology of the Middle East in order to eliminate the environment that breeds so many young men imbued with the ambition to kill themselves along with as many of us as they can. They are so numerous not because of “poverty,” as the cliché has it, but because such murderous acts are widely approved in their societies, which celebrate terrorists as freedom-fighters and “martyrs.”
We hope that the rise of democratic norms will make terrorism cease to seem heroic to Middle Easterners, that it will come to appear as despicable to them as it does to us. Admittedly, this theory is untested, drawing its force principally from an extrapolation. We know that democracy makes societies less warlike; we hope it will make them less conducive to terrorism.
As for Iraq, I supported and support the war there, albeit without knowing if it was the right
move. It was not self-evident that Iraq was the next front once the Taliban had been overthrown. A case could have been made for tackling, say, Iran or Syria. But undoubtedly the war on terror required military measures as well as non-military ones. Since I was in no position to judge where it would be best to fight, or when, I supported the choices made by our commanders. The real issue was not where to fight but whether. I do not know of any opponents of the war in Iraq who contend that we should have fought elsewhere instead—apart from the argument, of dubious ingenuousness, that we should have left lots more troops chasing Osama bin Laden around Afghanistan.
How can we judge the progress “so far” in mak- ing the U.S. more secure? We are in the midst of a war. If we win, we will be more secure. If we lose, we will be less.
True, we have provoked rage among Muslims. Will that create more terrorists, or harm us in other ways? Perhaps. But was there any way to vanquish the terrorists without compounding the Muslim world’s sense of humiliation? Opinion surveys in Muslim-majority countries before the war in Iraq revealed overwhelming hostility to the U.S., fanned by the war in Afghanistan. The pronouncements of bin Laden and company suggest that what inspires them is less their hatred of us, bottomless though it is, than the conviction that they will defeat us. The key psychological variable determining the level of our insecurity, therefore, is not their anger but their optimism.
This makes the outcome in Iraq all-important, but I am not able to judge how we are faring there. I am better equipped to assess our democratization project, which is advancing surprisingly well. Although the administration has stressed that this project will require a generation-long commitment, we have already stirred unprecedented democratic ferment in the region. Democracy has largely been restored in Lebanon. Meaningful elections have been held in Iraq and among the Palestinians. Elections in Egypt were less honest, but still the conviction is wide-spread there that a five-year transition to democracy, culminating in presidential and legislative elections scheduled for 2010 and 2011, has begun. Liberalization proceeds in Morocco and Jordan. Long-term dictatorships in Syria and Libya are visibly weaken-ing. There are even stirrings in the Gulf monarchies. The one discouraging note comes from London. The subway bombers were mostly native Britons, casting a certain doubt on the theory that democratic societies do not give rise to terrorists.
What to change? There is a crying need to renew American public diplomacy. This will not cure our unpopularity but can make a dent in it. Traditional diplomacy connects us to foreign gov- ernments, and augmented broadcasting aims at Middle Eastern masses. What is missing is any sustained engagement with the shapers of public opinion: journalists, scholars, intellectuals, business- men, students, even clerics. This is not hard to do. But we are not doing much of it at all.
Joshua Muravchik, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and the author of Exporting Democracy, is working on a book about Arab reformers.
Preemption and the democracy project are both better than they sound. That is partly because both have been described and justified in overly ambitious, unqualified, and extravagant terms.
Preemption, for instance, is the unspoken policy of every great power. Great powers typically face several potential threats at any one time. If one of those threats is judged to be mortal, a state will take steps to counter it, in the last resort by waging war.
A prudent state, however, will not usually declare this as a principle. After all, the original threat may fade away. The declaration may push the preemptor into some imprudent action, lest he seem to back down. Either a declaration or a preemptive action may alarm neighboring states and recruit a coalition against oneself. Above all, there is the risk of miscalculation. Germany began the 1914-18 war to defeat a rising but still weaker Russia. It ruined itself, Russia, and Europe as a result.
What is feared and resented by other powers when advanced as a principle may nonetheless be accepted as a legitimate response to a particular threat. The U.S. war in Afghanistan was accepted as a proportionate response to the threat that the Taliban’s terrorist state might spawn future 9/11 attacks. The invasion of Iraq was not—in part because the Bush administration, believing it would be justified in retrospect by the discovery of weapons of mass destruction, made plain its determination to invade irrespective of the opposition of other powers. In the aftermath of Iraq, if the U.S. were to emphasize the limited, prudent, and last-resort character of preemption, international opposition to it might soften. And why not? It is, after all, a last resort.
The democracy project presents a slightly different problem. A world of liberal democratic states would no doubt be both more stable and more friendly to U.S. policies. As in our own history, however, the progress of democracy in the Middle East is likely to be gradual, fitful, imperfect, reflective of religious custom, and mainly the work of locals. America’s role is to be around for perhaps many years to encourage them to keep the democratic rules while accepting that the rules must be of their own devising.
Yet our ambitions outrun our willingness to commit resources. We constantly talk about leaving Iraq soon, while demanding that passionately religious societies install secularist constitutions no army could enforce. Fortunately, the Iraqis at least have had the common sense to reject this secular fundamentalism—though their acceptance of the post-democratic nonsense of sexual quotas for parliamentary representation may yet derail the constitution.
Has the Bush Doctrine made us safer? Well, the capitulation of Libya, the withdrawal of Syria from Lebanon, and the success of the administration’s Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) have all advanced our security in modest but real ways. The PSI is especially significant. It is both a quiet form of preemption and an example of practical multilateralism. It has none of the trappings thought essential by UN bodies—headquarters, international conferences, staffs of lawyers—but it works because governments voluntarily devote real resources to it. It is the acceptable face of preemption internationally. If the Bush Doctrine is to succeed ultimately, this should be its model.
Of course, we cannot say for certain whether the Bush Doctrine has made us safer overall until we know the final outcome in Iraq. A victory for the insurgency, a collapse into civil war, the spread of chaos à la Lebanon in the 1970’s would all signify that the Iraq invasion has been an unmitigated disaster. They would create an Afghan-style national base for Islamist terrorism and make us distinctly less safe. By contrast, the establishment of a united democratic Iraq would both deprive terrorists of an occasional sponsor, greatly encourage democratic forces in the Arab and Islamic worlds to imitate Lebanon’s return to genuine democracy, and thereby increase our security twice over.
Realists like James Kurth persuasively suggest that the best available outcome in Iraq would be an elected Shiite-Kurdish condominium that behind a democratic façade ruthlessly crushes the Sunnis.
This would be a moral disappointment but a strategic success. In the first place, it would be a bitter defeat for the terrorists and would weaken them worldwide. It would also leave behind an Iraqi government that, because of its isolation in the Arab world, would have no choice but to be a U.S. ally (though one with an Iranian party at court).
True, any such outcome would reinforce the cynical Arab and European view that the democracy project is a hypocritical mask for cold Yankee interests. But the very isolation of Iraq would give Washington the leverage to push the Shiite-Kurdish government into gradually extending real democratic rights to the entire community. After an interval, that would revive disappointed Arab democrats in neighboring states—and thus again underpin our security.
Whatever form it takes, the process is likely to be a messy one. The President may come to regret the overly dismissive way in which he has condemned his predecessors for not advancing liberty abroad in a more principled and consistent manner. But this brings us to considerations neglected in the current debate.
The U.S. today produces about 25 percent of world GDP. It is likely to be doing so in 50 years— by which time, however, China, India, and the European Union are forecast to be producing 25, 25, and 10 percent respectively. Chinese and Indian political attitudes will therefore carry greater international weight than those of Europe. And since China and India are more attached to national sovereignty than are the Europeans, their emergence as great powers will weaken European transnationalism and strengthen U.S.-style practical multilateralism in dealing with terrorism and international politics generally.
Washington has already responded to these future realities by forging a closer relationship with India. It now needs a more imaginative European policy both to forestall an EU-China axis and to ensure that Europe’s wealth and weight will remain committed to a united West. Otherwise, America’s current superpower status will inevitably decline to one of “first among equals.”
John O’Sullivan is editor-at-large of National Review.
A half-century has passed since the appearance of Oriental Despotism, a majestic study by Karl A. Wittfogel written in the then still common genre of global history. The book is about how pre-industrial societies responded politically to the workings of the heavens and the seas and their caprices. Wittfogel aimed to show that in regions where governments managed irrigation and flood control well, their rule was secure. By contrast, the lack of control of hydraulics put authority in peril. Our own federal government’s interaction with Hurricane Katrina was, as the President himself conceded, nothing less than catastrophic. There was no consolation for him in knowing that a certain dumb and corrupt inanity also characterized the response of the municipal and state authorities. Nor could it be much comfort that the New York Times, self-assured guardian of public good, had several times over the years editorialized against spending money on bolstering the deteriorating bulkheads and embankments that were the only plausible buffers between the people of the delta
and the wild tides.
In any case, it wasn’t science or technology that
failed us. It was the nature of our public policy and public administration. A government that fails to perform its elemental tasks at home—because of ideological rigidity and a certain spoiled self-indulgence—will be hard put to mobilize its people and its friends for more arduous and intricate ventures.
In one domain, then, that of domestic policy, the Bush administration has lost its mandate of heaven. What of its other mandate of heaven—its claim to advance the career of freedom in critical places around the world? Will it, too, now falter? After all, how many Americans would know what to do if there were a biochemical attack on our cities? Would agencies of the city, state, and country behave any more competently and comprehensively in such a situation than they did in New Orleans?
At the moment, the President does not have deep reservoirs of support either for the war in Iraq, which I endorse—and endorse more urgently now than ever, given the unquestionable fact that the Sunni insurgency has become nothing but a helter-skelter rampage of murder against Kurds and remarkably forbearing Shiites—or for his more generally assertive foreign policy, which I also endorse, focusing as it does on the intrinsic democratic illegitimacy of the United Nations, the weight of whose authority is in the hands of tyrants and cynics. I believe Bush is thin in domestic backing because, as Lawrence F. Kaplan has argued in the New Republic (“American Idle,” September 12), he never appealed, even after 9/11, to the people’s desire and perhaps concrete need to participate in some common national purpose and common national sacrifice.
It is true that the administration did not argue its best case for the war with candor. It is also true that the war’s critics were equally dishonest or ignorant in insisting that more multilateral negotiation under UN sponsorship would have persuaded the tyrant to give up his catastrophic weapons. (Remember, the President’s adversaries also believed Saddam had them.) If those adversaries had their way, and we and our allies had not invaded Iraq, Saddam would still be in power, ruling a terror state that was truly a gulag (not the imaginary gulags of Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib), and Kofi Annan’s global UN bureaucracy, national allies, personal cronies, and son would still be draining the oil-for-food exchequer big time.
I cannot estimate whether the world is more secure or America a safer place than it was. Operationally, Katrina magnifies doubt; politically, Afghanistan magnifies hope. Even Iraq has its moral certainties. A robust federalism is the only way to govern a country where ethnicity and sect, across a range of populations, are what define and self-define people. The spoilers, that is to say the killers, are the Sunnis (who themselves, if they were living in the oil-rich areas, would long ago have seceded).
This is the case not only in Iraq. Almost everywhere terror stalks a polity, it is Sunni militants who are the stalkers. Admittedly there are exceptions. Bashar Assad’s small minority of Syrian Alawites, apostates from Shiism, also provide volunteers and passage to the suicide bombings in Iraq. Iran’s Shiite tyranny forgets its grievance against the Sunnis when it helps Palestinian Sunnis kill Jews. (There are always priorities to consider.) And in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, fanatical Sunnis kill Sunnis.
What the Bush Doctrine has not dealt with is the issue that has been forced, albeit very reluctantly, upon Europe. It is not only a matter of sleeper cells. There is the more basic question that faces all Western democracies, some more (France and the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands, Spain, maybe Germany), some less (us, if we are lucky): what are the standards for citizenship in a national community?
This is not an idle question. “Admission and exclusion,” writes Michael Walzer in Spheres of Justice
(1983), “are at the core of communal independence. They suggest the deepest meaning of self-determination. Without them, there could not be . . . historically stable, ongoing associations of men and women with some special commitment to one another and some special sense of their common life.” Such considerations do not dispose of the matter, but they are central to the survival of democratic norms. Does mass immigration of one group or another endanger the rules and the motifs of democratic politics? Does it imperil the habits, so painfully attained over the generations, of social tolerance, sexual equality, achievement through study and work? Does it burden society with the fires of the old country’s hatreds?
These questions were raised, some only inferentially, on Dream 2 TV, an Arabic channel, by Khaled Abu al-Fadhl of UCLA law school. He didn’t evade the central issue: “Is the Muslim who is an American citizen . . . really an American citizen who loves America, or does he belong to a fifth column, with loyalties that lie elsewhere?” I do not know the answer to this question, and there are many impediments to seeking it, including the legitimate desire to keep xenophobia out of the discussion. But I am glad the issue has been put into the public arena.
Martin Peretz is editor-in-chief of the New Republic.
Despite a history of terrorist attacks on our ships and embassies and despite evidence that al Qaeda was recruiting, training, and organizing for even more murderous attacks on Americans around the world, the United States, under Clinton and then under Bush, did nothing. While we could have dealt a devastating blow to al Qaeda’s terrorist base in Afghanistan, we chose instead to help sustain, with substantial “humanitarian” assistance, the Taliban regime that sheltered it. We left Osama bin Laden unmolested; and we waited. On September 11, we knew we had waited too long.
We had waited too long not only to deal with a visible threat but to revise our complacent notion, influenced by Clinton-era faith in international laws and institutions, of what it was appropriate to do, at home and abroad, to protect ourselves from Islamist fanatics who had long since declared war on the United States.
So the ancient wisdom of acting first in self-defense, discarded by leaders who had gravely under-estimated our vulnerability to—and, even more, the consequences of—an attack on the scale of 9/11, was recognized anew by President Bush on the very day the World Trade Center and part of the Pentagon were destroyed.
Bush was right to insist that we would no longer wait until we were attacked. And he was right to give notice to governments supporting and sheltering terrorists that we would no longer distinguish between them and the terrorists who operated from their territory. Finally, he was right to reject the failed policy he had inherited, according to which terrorists were to be dealt with only by the instruments of law enforcement, and the governments backing them by diplomacy alone.
Notwithstanding the caricature of the Bush Doctrine, portrayed by its critics as a menacing unilateralism serving a crusade to impose democracy by force, Bush has correctly understood that the dictatorships and autocracies of the Middle East are the soil in which lethal extremism and the passion for holy war have taken root and spread. He is under no illusion that democratic reform will come quickly or easily, or that it can be imposed from outside by military means. In pressing for reform, he has stood up against the counsel of inaction, self-designated as sophistication, from foreign offices around the world—including those of our European and “moderate” Arab allies—and rather too often even from our own diplomatic establishment. Such counsel would leave the dictators in place for as long as they can cling to power or, worse still, have us collaborate with them and their secret services, or negotiate for their voluntary restraint, in the vain and by now discredited hope that we can thereby purchase safety for our citizens.
It is early days for the Bush Doctrine, but for those who can see beyond the last suicide bombing in Baghdad, there is progress. Millions in Afghanistan and Iraq risked death to vote, bravely affirming the democratic opportunity given them by the destruction of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein regimes. Millions in Lebanon have been emboldened to demand their country back from Syrian domination. Qaddafi has thrown in the towel. Four years after 9/11, al Qaeda has been unable to mount an attack in the United States that could satisfy its political requirement for ever more spectacular acts of destruction. And in coffeehouses and at backgammon tables throughout the Middle East, there is open discussion of the once-dreaded “D” word. That’s the good news. Of course, there’s bad news, too. Not everything has gone well. There have been serious mistakes, both tactical (in Iraq) and strategic (policy toward Iran and Syria). In Iraq, the vindictive State Department /CIA disparagement of Saddam Hussein’s opponents—especially the Iraqi National Congress and its talented and effective leader Ahmad Chalabi—made it impossible to launch Iraqi self-governance immediately after Baghdad fell. Instead, we allowed the liberation to subside into a politically inept occupation that was neither necessary nor wise.
The attempt to govern Iraq from Foggy Bottom and the Baghdad “green zone” by thousands of American civil servants who knew nothing of Iraq’s history, language, culture, or politics was a catastrophic mistake. This foolish occupation allowed the deposed Baathists from Saddam’s regime to regroup, import jihadists from abroad, and mount the insurgency from which we, and even more the Iraqis, continue to suffer. With rare exceptions, the intelligence and advice (and often the policy instructions) flowing between Washington and Baghdad continue to be an amalgam of the incompetence of the CIA and the clapped-out conventional wisdom of the State Department. Administration strategy with respect to Iran and Syria is simple: there is none. While Tehran and Damascus work hard to undermine the fledgling Iraqi democracy and American influence in the region, the administration dithers. The President’s shrewd intuitive grasp of the way forward with these two main enemies of success in Iraq has been sidetracked again and again into the cul-de-sac of bad intelligence and even worse policy advice. While the President can define issues, adopt bold strategies, and lay out broad visions, he cannot practically manage the thousands of policy matters that arise every day and whose consistency and integration profoundly affect the success of his strategy. Nor can he free himself from dependence on the bureaucratic institutions that are responsible for informing and executing his policies. Partly because the Bush Doctrine has encountered massive resistance from the government departments charged with implementing it, desperately needed change has often been slow and halting: two steps forward, one step back.
Soliciting cooperation from duplicitous Iraqi Baathists, making deals with Kim Jong Il, indecision on Iran, seemingly limitless patience with Syria’s support for the insurgency in Iraq, pretending the Saudis are our friends (they may not be out to destroy us but they are quite content to let others try)—these are products of your tax dollars at work. A cast of thousands of bureaucrats has been blunting or deflecting the President’s best instincts and encouraging him to return to the policies he once expressed the vision to change. The launch of the Bush Doctrine required a new understanding of the threat of Islamist terror, and, even more, the courage to confront it. Sustaining the Bush Doctrine will require more of the same.
Richard Perle, a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and a former assistant secretary of defense for international security policy, is the co-author, with David Frum, of An End to Evil: How to Win the War on Terror (2003).
As the editors note, the Bush Doctrine consists of two parts, preemption and democracy, both of them far-reaching in their implications. Yet their scope is different. Preemption specifically concerns the most aggressive tyrannies and radical groups. Democracy primarily concerns one region, the Middle East. The two require separate consideration.
The United States and other democratic governments have historically relied not on preemption but on deterrence to stave off enemies. Deterrence signals, “Don’t harm us, or you will pay dearly.” It has many successes to its credit, notably in the cold war. But deterrence also has significant drawbacks; it is slow, passive, and expensive. Worst, if it fails, war follows. That happens when a tyrant is not intimidated (Hitler) or when the deterrent threat is not clearly enough articulated (Kim Il Sung, Saddam Hussein).
Several recent changes render deterrence less adequate than in the past. For one thing, the demise of the Soviet Union means that no preeminent enemy power exists to restrain the hotheads, for example in North Korea. For another, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction raises the stakes; a U.S. President cannot afford to wait for American cities to be destroyed. And for a third, the spread of Islamist terror networks renders deterrence ineffectual, there being no way to retaliate against al Qaeda.
Responding to these changes, President Bush in June 2002 added a second policy option, that of preemption. Americans, he announced, are not prepared to wait for deterrence to fail and war to start. “We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge.” U.S. security, Bush said, requires Americans “to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for pre-emptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives.”
Preemption is to be deployed in unusual cases, against enemies of a particularly vicious and ephemeral sort. According to a draft Pentagon document, “Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations,” the military is preparing guidelines for commanders to receive presidential approval to use nuclear weapons to preempt a WMD attack or to destroy enemy stockpiles of WMD.
To date, preemption has been used only once: in the March 2003 war against Saddam Hussein. It most likely would be brought into service a second time against Iran or North Korea.
I have endorsed preemption, both in the abstract and as applied to the Iraqi dictator. But in doing so, I am aware of its special difficulties: error is likely, and uncertainty is inescapable. That three Arab states tightened a noose around Israel in 1967 did not prove they intended to attack it. That Saddam Hussein had a WMD infrastructure still left his plans ambiguous.
These difficulties place special responsibility on a government that preempts. It must act in as transparent a manner as possible, without guile. It must first establish the validity of its actions to its own citizenry. Second, because Americans heed so much what others think, the opinion of the targeted country’s population also matters, as does the opinion of other key countries.
In this regard, the Bush administration has fared poorly, convincing only half of Americans and far fewer among most other peoples, including Iraqis and Britons. Should preemption be invoked against Iran or North Korea, public diplomacy would need to be a far higher priority.
When it comes to spreading democracy, the Bush administration breaks no conceptual ground. Since its own war of independence, the United States has inspired others by its example, and its government has consciously promoted democracy since World War I. What is novel today is the interventionist quality of this policy and its application to the Middle East.
Concerning the latter, it is notable that in November 2003, the President referred to what had been an enduring, consensual, bipartisan policy as “sixty years of Western nations excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East.” In fact, that emphasis on stability resulted from a recognition of Middle East exceptionalism—that, unlike elsewhere in the world, popular attitudes in this region were deep anti-American, and distinctly more so than the attitudes of the region’s emirs, kings, and presidents. I Such a situation naturally led Washington to conclude it had best work with dictators, lest democracy bring radicalized governments to power.
This fear was entirely reasonable, as the 1978 revolution in Iran established and as the Algerian elections of 1991 confirmed. But, setting aside such apprehensions, Bush now insisted that Middle Easterners would, no less than other peoples, benefit from democracy and mature through it. He drew direct comparisons with American success in sponsoring democracy in Europe and Asia.
I cheered this change in direction when it was announced, and still do. But here, too, I find the implementation flawed. The administration is trying to build democracy much too quickly. A mere 22 months, for example, passed between the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and elections for the prime minister of Iraq; in my view, the interval should have been closer to 22 years.
Haste ignores the historical record. Democracy has everywhere taken time, and especially so when it builds on a foundation of totalitarian tyranny, as in Iraq. As I wrote in April 2003:
Democracy is a learned habit, not instinct. The infrastructure of a civil society—such as freedom of speech, freedom of movement, freedom of assembly, the rule of law, minority rights, and an independent judiciary—needs to be established before holding elections. Deep attitudinal changes must take place as well: a culture of restraint, a commonality of values, a respect for differences of view and a sense of civic responsibility.
As for the editors’ final question, although Americans have no moral obligation to sponsor freedom and prosperity in the rest of the world, it does make for an excellent foreign-policy goal. The more the world enjoys democracy, the safer are Americans; as other free peoples prosper, so do we. The bold aim of showing the way, however, requires a cautious, slow, and tempered policy. The Bush administration has a visionary boldness but not the requisite operational caution.
Daniel Pipes is director of the Middle East Forum, a columnist, and the author most recently of Miniatures (Transaction).
I do not recall a period in modern history when United States foreign policy has been under such relentless attack both from abroad and at home as in the administration of George W. Bush. In the case of foreign opinion, the primary motive seems to be envy of U.S. power and America’s ability to act unilaterally on a global scale. At home, the criticism is mainly inspired by Democratic frustration over Republican electoral triumphs and the feeling that the Republicans’ aggressive foreign policy is what makes them vulnerable. But it encompasses much of the intellectual community, regardless of party affiliation.
To cite but one example: the September-October 2005 issue of Foreign Affairs has four essays on this subject, all written by American academics, each critical of U.S. foreign policy. One blames the Bush administration for its misplaced faith in democracy as a means of stopping terrorism. A second wants Washington to realize that economic liberalization does not necessarily undermine repressive regimes. A third accuses the U.S. of lacking a coherent strategy in Iraq. And the fourth charges Bush with using power in an “arrogant” fashion. One can only wonder: can we do nothing right?
The “Bush Doctrine” that provokes so much dissent is, to say the least, revolutionary, because it shifts the thrust of U.S. foreign policy from its original isolationism and subsequent defensive interventionism to a pugnacious strategy of prevention. It calls for aggressive actions intended to deter rather than punish assaults on U.S. lives and interests. As such, it provokes uneasiness among large numbers of Americans who find it difficult to perceive threats unless they are as direct as Pearl Harbor or 9/11, and who have little patience for protracted military operations on foreign soil.
Yet, in my judgment, this policy, prudently implemented, makes a great deal of sense.
A century ago, world order was maintained by a half-dozen great powers. To be sure, their domination was undemocratic, but, while it lasted, it did ensure a considerable degree of peace and legality. This order broke down as a consequence of two world wars and the emergence in Russia of a regime committed to overthrowing the global status quo.
Today, the collapse of empires and decolonization have produced scores of new countries that, for all their appearance of traditional statehood, are in many cases unable effectively to govern their territories. Vast regions of nominally sovereign regimes are today controlled by armed dissidents with their own agendas. Furthermore, we have rogue states, like Iran, North Korea, or Venezuela, that have international ambitions vastly exceeding their capabilities and are able to gain credibility only by virtue of nuclear blackmail or the threat of revolution. All of which makes for great instability.
The United States is the only country in the world capable of confronting these unprecedented problems. And not only because it has the military power to do so. It alone has a global perspective developed during the years of the cold war when Western Europe, Japan, and the rest of the non-Communist world lived under its protection. The U.S. thinks globally and perceives threats far from its shores—which is not the case with its allies, who tend to reason regionally. Whether the U.S. wishes it or not, circumstances have made it into the world’s gendarme.
I have no problem with America’s assuming the right to decide when and where it faces danger, and acting to avert it. A country’s security is not the subject of discussion by others. The United Nations has no inherent right to decide whether the U.S. is threatened and how it is to react to the threat. Sovereignty implies both the right and the duty to protect one’s citizens.
As for President Bush’s notion that the country’s security is best protected by the spread of democracy, that strikes me as both right and wrong. It is right in the sense that it encourages the inhabitants of despotic regimes to take the law into their own hands. We have seen the positive results of this idea in Georgia and Ukraine, where illegitimate rulers have been peacefully removed. In Central Asia, inhabitants have for the first time challenged their post-Soviet dictators. In Lebanon, the Syrians have been compelled by popular outrage to end their occupation. President Mubarak of Egypt has had to hold elections. These and similar events—most notably, of course, the unprecedented elections in Afghanistan and Iraq—have occurred under the direct pressure of the ideological influence of the United States. They surely are a force for the good.
At the same time, I doubt whether it is realistic to expect third-world countries to produce genuine democracies. Democracy is an individualistic doctrine, which assumes that the citizen stands in direct and immediate relationship to his government. But many if not most third-world countries are organized along tribal lines, under which the tribe and its leaders protect the members. In such societies, the individual is part of a group that exercises effective political authority over him.
It is difficult to see how democracy can triumph where there exist such intermediate political bodies. The best, therefore, that one can expect from a policy promoting democracy is the removal of dictators and some sort of compromise under which tribal chieftains reach a modus vivendi ensuring a modicum of order and self-government.
As these remarks convey, by and large I am satisfied with President Bush’s conduct of foreign policy. I approve of its principles, and I admire his determination in pursuing it in the face of unprecedented criticism: this is what true leadership is all about.
Richard Pipes is professor of history emeritus at Harvard and the author most recently of Russian Conservatism and Its Critics, to be published in January by Yale University Press.
In the beginning I was an enthusiastic supporter of the Bush Doctrine, and I still am. Let me, then, recount the ways.
On 9/11 Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda succeeded in doing what neither Hitler’s Germany nor Tojo’s Japan nor Stalin’s Soviet Union ever managed to accomplish: an attack on the continental United States. The most novel element of George W. Bush’s response to this aggression was a strategy designed to “drain the swamps” of religio-political despotism throughout the Middle East in which, he asserted, the new enemy was bred and nurtured.
The first testing ground of Bush’s strategy was naturally Afghanistan, whose Islamofascist Taliban rulers were harboring the al-Qaeda terrorists who had attacked us. Militarily, the campaign to topple the Taliban was brilliantly successful, and so were the subsequent political developments in Afghanistan. Within three short years, the first free election in its history was held, and Hamid Karzai, who has rightly been described as civilized, modern, and pro-American, was sworn in as president.
It was natural, too, that the next target would be Iraq. For if the Taliban best represented the religious or “Islamo-” face of the new two-headed totalitarian monster ranged against us, Iraq under Saddam Hussein was the leading avatar of its secular or “fascist” component.
The military campaign against Saddam also turned out to be a brilliant success. And so has the political aftermath, notwithstanding an “insurgency” whose
Defending and Advancing Freedom
terrorist tactics have been maddeningly hard to counter. But three things need to be noticed:
First, in operating through an alliance between Islamist “holy warriors” and diehard Baathist fascists, the “insurgency” demonstrated that our enemy was—just as the Bush diagnosis posited—a monster with two heads, one religious and one secular.
Second, in its declared aim of preventing Iraq from moving toward democratization, the Islamo-fascist alliance also demonstrated its agreement with Bush that democratization was indeed the right prescription for killing off the two forces it embodied and represented.
Finally, in the Islamofascist coalition’s failure to prevent the stunning political progress the Iraqis were making even while it was murdering so many of them, it demonstrated that Bush was right in contending that “the peoples of the Islamic nations want . . . the same freedoms . . . as people in every nation.”
Thus, as if out of nowhere, some 8 million Iraqis turned up to vote in a free election; then, and again in defiance of the two-headed monster, a constitution was hammered out that will, sooner rather than later, transform Iraq into a federal republic where Islamic principles will formally serve as “a main source of legislation” but where “No law that constricts democratic principles shall be issued.”
To these achievements of the Bush Doctrine in Afghanistan and Iraq we can add the spillover effect it has had throughout the region, including the suspension by Libya of its WMD program, the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon, and (probably most consequential of all) the emergence of increasingly bold reformist voices within Islam.
Now, I cannot for the life of me understand how anyone could deny that all this—purchased at an astonishingly low cost in American blood when measured by the standards of every other war we have ever fought—is “making the U.S. more secure.”
But beyond security, what the United States has been doing in the Middle East is so charged with greatness and so redolent of nobility that I have lost all patience with its outright opponents. I find the haters of America among them to be morally contemptible and intellectually cretinous; and as for their more moderate fellow opponents, all they have to offer is either a long-since discredited isolationism or the risible insistence that we be guided by the political wisdom of France and the moral authority of the UN.
Yet I must confess that my patience has worn thin even with those supporters of the Bush Doctrine who spend most of their time complaining that (in the columnist Mark Steyn’s inimitable
paraphrase) “we shouldda done this, and we shouldda done that,” as though it were self-evident that “this” and “that” would have worked out better than the close calls which, under prevailing circumstances, were reasonably made.
Blessed with so much confident criticism from so many besserwissers, the Bush administration hardly needs any more from me. Nevertheless, because I am convinced that if we are eventually beaten back, it will not be by the terrorist insurgency over there but by the political insurgency here at home, I believe it has become vitally necessary to re-concentrate the American mind on (so to speak) the threat of hanging that we face. I also believe that the best way for the administration to do this is to start openly identifying the enemy as Islamofascism and the struggle against it as World War IV.
I think I understand the administration’s reluctance to go this rhetorical route, but too big a price in the coin of clarity and focus is now being paid for its resort to euphemism and indirection. More specifically, the failure to call the enemy and the struggle by their proper names has allowed the opposition to rip Iraq out of its proper context as only one front in a much broader conflict, and to portray our campaign there as a self-contained war with no connection to 9/11.
Thanks largely to this loss of clarity and focus, there has been a dangerous decline in popular support for the President’s policy; and this, more than any other factor, threatens its “longer-range prospects” and its magnificently “expansive vision of America’s world role.” To put a brake on and perhaps even reverse the decline, the President will have to begin and then keep on reminding the American people that what we are fighting is indeed a world war against another totalitarian aggressor, and that the stakes are at least as great as they were in World War II and in World War III (otherwise known as the cold war).
God knows that we as a nation need just such a reminder, and God help us if it should come in the form of another attack on American soil, only this time with weapons infinitely more devastating than a few hijacked airplanes.
Norman Podhoretz is the editor-at-large of Commentary. His “World War IV: How It Started, What It Means, and Why We Have to Win” appeared in the September 2004 issue.
Plenty of men in public life in Muslim countries regularly and openly call on their audiences to mobilize for war against the West in general and the United States in particular. Here is a sheikh of Cairo’s al-Azhar mosque, supposedly a great center of Islamic learning, who writes: “Christians are like a malignant and contagious disease. Muslims should be unjust to them, they should despise them, treat them roughly, and boycott them to force them to convert to Islam.” A Hamas spokesman predicts a decisive battle that will end only when “Americans have returned to their roots, as the Qur’an promised us, that is to humiliation and poverty.” Tehran mounts demonstrations in which the crowds shout “Death to the Great Satan.”
The leaders and the led are unfortunate people, of course, to be pitied because fantasy is agitating them, and the root cause of this is intellectual poverty. But their words, their fantasies, led to 9/11, and bombings in London, Madrid, and a score of other cities as well—so that pity goes only so far. Intellectual poverty is a plight from which all can escape by their own efforts. And if that proves beyond the wish or the capacity of these men, then others will have to help them.
The Bush Doctrine is fundamentally a reality check. Surely, few Christians see themselves as suffering from a disease whose cure is forcible conversion to Islam. The Qur’an, written down a thousand years before the United States had a name, does not promise to return Americans to roots of humiliation and poverty. The United States protected Iranian independence throughout the cold war, and has taken in innumerable Iranian immigrants. Americans defending themselves in Afghanistan and Iraq are establishing that an example on the ground has priority over fantasy. Preemption is a tactic of surprise, and one to which all manner of powers, great or small, have resorted in the past. It also sounds an alarm to any country that has not declared war but nonetheless permits terrorists to operate with impunity within its borders.
Preemption is, furthermore, a timely response to the post-cold-war stampede for power by local and regional warlords suddenly released from Great Power bondage. The likes of Milosevic, Saddam Hussein, Arafat, and Khomeini calculated that violence was now a paying proposition, and they could safely indulge in it. Typical of the flux and hesitation of that period, the Dayton accords and the Oslo peace process were tentative attempts by the West to apply democratic procedures to situations in which such procedures were inapplicable and therefore stood no chance of success.
To bring democracy to people who have known nothing but tribalism, absolutism, and a religious identity that admits no compromise is certainly a tall order. But President Bush is surely right to assert that everyone is able to recognize freedom. To suppose that those trapped by intellectual poverty are actually incapable of democracy smacks of racism pure and simple. What is happening in Afghanistan and Iraq is necessarily experimental. The local populations are invited to create a polity that allows them to take responsibility for themselves.
There is indeed a sense in which Westerners have no business to be participating in any such thing, but they are doing so only because in the fraught historical evolution of their relationship with the West, Muslims have fallen behind woefully, and the knowledge of this is humiliating and fuels a corresponding rage. But the liberation of long frustrated creative energies is also happening, as witnessed by the political ferment in so many Muslim countries. When someone like Abu Musab al-Zarqawi boasts that “We have declared a fierce war on this evil principle of democracy and those who follow this evil ideology,” he is conceding the dynamism of the principle. Should the Bush Doctrine fail, and Afghanistan and Iraq lapse into their old ways, a historic marker will nonetheless have been put down for the Muslim future.
The country most evidently and persistently working to wreck the Bush Doctrine is Iran. Iranian agents are doing what they can to sabotage a constitutional Iraq and a constitutional Afghanistan. In tandem with North Korea—another founding member of the axis of evil—Iran is progressing toward possession of nuclear weapons on the basis of a strategy of deception and prevarication.
During the cold war, the balance of terror—apart from a blip over Cuba—was rational, therefore predictable. It may be that the ayatollahs will also prove rational, but to date they have shown every sign of acquiring this weaponry with a view to its utility in the fulfillment of their fantasy. Instead of clarifying all the possibilities for preventing Iranian nuclear ambitions, the Bush administration appears to be waiting, eyes shut, for something to turn up and deflect what will be a great danger.
The foreign ministers of Britain, France, and Germany have been trying for some time to devise some sort of bribe that might induce Tehran to interrupt its nuclear program. This Chamberlain-esque exhibition of weakness has served only to buy time for Iran. Nothing more pertinent is to be expected from the Europeans in their present configuration. The political class and the intelligentsia in just about every country of the continent indulge in an anti-Americanism without precedent. Virtually nobody states the case that the United States has every right to defend itself from attack, or that the Bush Doctrine stands a fair chance of bringing Muslims into the modern world on equal terms with everyone else.
European critics of President Bush and his decisions exhibit their own variety of intellectual poverty, a compound of humbug and obtuseness. They are free to enjoy the civilized values of the West only because the United States makes the world safe for them. Kipling once excoriated the ingratitude that critics in his day nurtured toward those with the means and the moral responsibility to keep the peace, and his unforgettable irony about the swift reversal of attitudes in a crisis needs only a little updating: “Oh it’s thank you, Uncle Sam, when the guns begin to shoot.”
David Pryce-Jones, the British novelist and political analyst, is a senior editor of National Review.
In 1972, Freedom House began publishing an annual survey to assess the state of global freedom. The results, back then, made for grim reading: only 44 countries earned the designation of “free.” At the time, freedom was restricted to Western Europe, North America, and a few scattered outposts like Israel, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan.
To compound a bad situation, the direction of global politics seemed to be moving decisively against free societies. Within a few years, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos would fall to Communist insurgencies. Later in the 70’s, Communist or Marxist dictatorships were established in Afghanistan and Grenada, and civil war between the Left and Right ignited throughout Central America. Meanwhile, right-wing or military dictatorships gained supremacy or consolidate their authority in practically every country of South America. In Angola, Mozambique, and other former Portuguese colonies, civil war broke out between
forces of the Marxist Left and non-Communist forces supported by the United States and South Africa’s apartheid regime. Throughout most of Asia, rule of the military strongman prevailed. At the United Nations and other international venues, the very suggestion that Western-style freedoms might make the world a more prosperous and humane place was treated with scorn by a powerful coalition of Communist-bloc states and the non-aligned.
It is worth reminding ourselves of this gloomy condition in light of the changes that have subsequently taken place. Today, 89 countries are rated as free on the Freedom House index, and the number of outright dictatorships and totalitarian regimes has shrunk considerably. Free societies predominate in Latin America and the former Communist countries of Central Europe. Freedom has made significant inroads in Asia, and a number of important countries of sub-Saharan Africa have made progress toward democratic rule as well.
The forces that drove this unprecedented wave of political freedom are many and varied. But clearly American actions, attitudes, and policies played a crucial role. It is thus neither naïve nor utopian to propose that the promotion of freedom should occupy a central place in American foreign policy. In fact, even during times when our policies were shaped by the principles of realism, the U.S. was involved in projects to sustain democratic dissidents, undermine the legitimacy of dictatorships, and communicate with people trapped in unfree societies. During the crucial decade of the 1980’s, a unique and typically American combination of formal diplomacy, public diplomacy, and private initiative proved a potent instrument, and can play the same role again given the support of America’s political leadership.
It is true that countries of the Middle East pose a set of issues far more complex than those America faced during the cold war. The Middle East is the only region to have resisted the contemporary freedom revolution, showing very little progress over the past three decades.
But the administration is right to reject the proposition that the very concept of freedom is alien to these societies, and that therefore American policy should always seek stability over the disruptions that democratic change will inevitably bring. Similar arguments were advanced at various intervals in the past about the Slavic world, Catholic societies, and Asian culture. Even as the Soviet Union was in the process of collapse, important voices warned that catastrophe lay ahead should the Baltic states or Ukraine declare their in- dependence.
The critics were wrong on all counts. The democratic revolution that swept the world over the past quarter-century transformed the political systems of societies as different as Ukraine, Taiwan, and Brazil. Although democracy remains fragile in a number of Latin American nations and in a number of countries from the former Soviet Union, especially Russia, the overall gains exceed the predictions of optimists. The disintegration of the Soviet empire has enhanced global security, especially in Europe, and the spread of democracy elsewhere has been accompanied by a significant reduction in war and civil strife. The threats to peace today emanate from those locales that have rejected democratic change: North Korea, Iran, Sudan, the Arab Middle East. From this standpoint alone, freedom is very much in the national interest.
The dictators who rule over the Middle East and the extreme Islamists who commit acts of terror are locked in a mutually reinforcing relationship. Repression creates the climate in which extremism thrives, and extremism provides a justification for continued repression. Extreme Islam, as the only significant totalitarian movement of the day, stands as the greatest single threat to peace and the most serious obstacle to the spread of freedom. Just as the defeat of Communism opened the door to new democratic possibilities throughout much of the world, so the defeat of violent Islamists would create opportunities for new political options in those regions that have been most resistant to change.
The success of the administration’s ambitious agenda will depend to a large extent on American steadfastness. The specter of the Soviet nuclear arsenal played a key role in ensuring that the United States stayed the course during the cold war. But the spirit of bipartisanship that sustained U.S. policy declined considerably in the post-Vietnam period and is, if anything, in more tattered condition today, despite 9/11. The Bush administration’s effort to broaden the base of support for its Middle East policies has not been impressive. Likewise, the perspective of large segments of the Democratic party remains stuck in the experiences of Vietnam and Central America.
There is no question that the administration has made serious mistakes in the implementation of its strategy. But a bit of perspective is warranted here, too. The history of the cold war is replete with American blunders, missteps, and errors. Nonetheless, the United States prevailed because its leaders remained focused on the central objectives of curbing Soviet influence and, where opportunities presented themselves, expanding freedom’s reach. The history of the past half-century suggests that when the forces of freedom are locked in sustained struggle with freedom’s adversaries, freedom will eventually win out.
If the United States demonstrates the patience and determination that brought victory in the past, it should succeed again, even in so challenging an environment as the Middle East.
Arch Puddington is director of research at Freedom House and the author, most recently, of Lane Kirkland: Champion of American Labor.
If the Bush Doctrine means linking the foreign policy of the United States to the degree of freedom enjoyed by citizens of other countries—as called for by President Bush in his second inaugural address when he declared that America would “encourage reform in other governments by making clear that success in our relations will require the decent treatment of their own people”—then I have been a supporter of the Bush Doctrine for over three decades. It is the policy long championed by Andrei Sakharov, first practiced in the United States by Senator Henry M. Jackson, and used with devastating effect by Ronald Reagan to bring down the Soviet empire, free hundreds of millions of people, and help secure Western civilization.
The Bush Doctrine has been under assault primarily because of the current situation in Iraq. It is hard to recall that only eight months ago, a headline in a paper not known for its sympathies with the American President or with the doctrine that bears his name asked, incredulously, “Was Bush Right?”
That week, Iraqi voters had shocked the world when 60 percent of them turned out to participate in democratic elections. Confronted by millions of purpled fingers, fierce critics of the President and his Iraq policy, and particularly of its stress on promoting democracy in the Middle East, fell largely silent. To many, the elections offered clear evidence that, just like Italians, Germans, Japanese, East Europeans, Russians, Latin Americans, and others before them, Iraqis, too, truly wanted to be free. As for those who had all along argued the merits of helping Iraqis build a free society, they were gripped by a kind of collective euphoria.
The euphoria was understandable enough: these were people whose ideas had been dismissed by critics on both the Left and the Right as nothing but a utopian fiction. Nevertheless, it was misplaced. The Iraqi elections showed that a democratic Iraq was possible, not that it was inevitable.
Still, the President’s critics, now more certain in their skepticism than ever, would be wise to remember those purpled fingers. For if supporters of the Bush Doctrine were wrong to assume eight months ago that the difficult days were behind them, today’s critics are even more wrong to assume that the project to build a democratic Iraq is bound to fail.
Not that the path ahead will be easy. A democratic Iraq is possible because Iraqis want to be free, and because the President of the United States rightly understands, as few leaders of the last century have understood, that his own nation’s security depends on the advance of freedom around the world. An Iraqi people who want to be free and a world leader determined that they will be free make for a powerful combination. Thanks to it, the Iraqi democratic experiment has overcome many a barrier over the last two years, from the horrific carnage in the streets of Baghdad to antiwar sentiment in America. But it is another question whether, given the array of its enemies, the combination will prevail.
Let us be under no illusions. Not a single non-democratic regime in the Middle East, or anywhere else for that matter, wants Iraqis to be free. The regimes that deny freedom to Iranians, Syrians, Saudi Arabians, Egyptians, and so many others know that success in Iraq will help put an end to their own repressive rule. They also know that the vast majority of their nominally loyal subjects, long trained in the arts of doublethink, will lift their eyes toward a free Iraq and ask themselves a simple question: why not here?
To the formidable opposition provided by non-democratic regimes, one must add the determination of Islamist terrorist groups to wreak havoc in Iraq, correctly appreciating as they do that a free Iraq will represent, for them, a monumental defeat in the war they have been waging on the democratic world for more than a quarter-century. Imagine an occupied post-World War II Japan, surrounded by regimes and terror groups willing to do everything possible to undermine the emergence of Japanese democracy, and one
can sense the scale of the challenge in Iraq today. The Bush administration can be faulted for not recognizing the difficulties involved in helping to democratize the Middle East, but certainly not for lacking the wisdom or the courage to try. If anything, the problem has lain in not applying the Bush Doctrine consistently enough. For example, this past June, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice gave a truly remarkable speech in Cairo about the importance of democratic reform in the Middle East. By the end of the summer, however, the administration was doing everything to help keep Hosni Mubarak’s regime in power in Egypt, while extending little help to the democratic opposition in Iran. It also enthusiastically supported an Israeli disengagement plan from Gaza that utterly rejected the centrality of Palestinian democratic reform to the peace process.
Equally unfortunate is the scant attention paid
to the need to turn the Bush Doctrine into a bipartisan policy. No doubt, in a politically polarized climate, this is no simple matter. But if the Bush Doctrine is to succeed in transforming the region and the world, it will have to remain American policy beyond January 20, 2009.
Yet any criticism I may have of the Bush Doctrine’s implementation is tempered by my deep appreciation of the fact that its merits are being discussed at all. For too long, American foreign policy was shaped by the idea that supporting friendly dictators was critical to peace and stability. This illusion collapsed on 9/11, and President Bush was bold enough to chart a different course. For this he deserves nothing but praise and gratitude.
Among the first who owe him gratitude are the millions of Afghans and Iraqis who no longer live under tyranny, the millions of Lebanese who have begun to build a free Lebanon, and the countless democrats now raising their voices throughout a region once characterized only by fear and repression. These are the true beneficiaries of the Bush Doctrine, and I have no doubt that both America and the world are much safer for the bounty that has befallen them.
Natan Sharansky, a former deputy prime minister of Israel, is a distinguished fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem and the author, with Ron Dermer, of The Case for Democracy.
I have supported the Bush Doctrine from the start as an example of enlightened self-interest. As a democracy, the United States has always been threatened by despotic regimes of different colorings. In two world wars, that threat was translated into classical military conflicts. During the cold war, it consisted of a mix of political, diplomatic, and cultural campaigns against the U.S.— supplemented, at times, by low-intensity war waged through surrogates. In the past few decades, the threat has come in the form of terrorism— starting with the seizure of American hostages in Tehran in 1979, passing through the killing of 241 U.S. Marines in Beirut in 1983, and culminating in the 9/11 attacks.
In an ideal world, it would be up to an international body to “confront the worst threats before they emerge.” But we do not live in such a world, and the United Nations is in no position to assume the task. Thus, Bush is right both in his diagnosis and in his prescription. Over the past century or so, the United States has almost always been a force for good. It has helped defend freedom in Europe and Asia, and has invested blood and treasure to defeat fascism around the globe and to see off the Soviet “evil empire.” Fighting to defend and advance freedom is a natural goal for a self-respecting democracy.
The picture, moreover, is encouraging. The U.S. has achieved historic victories by destroying two of the worst despotic regimes in history—the Taliban in Afghanistan and the Baath in Iraq— and liberating more than 50 million people. In Afghanistan and Iraq, democratization is proceeding at a faster pace than I imagined. If the same cannot be said about the process of pacification and stabilization, that is largely because the U.S. and its allies have not committed the necessary forces and because the task of building the new Afghan and Iraqi armies has been hampered by squabbles within NATO, by bureaucratic rivalries in Washington, and by weak leadership in Kabul and Baghdad.
I have no doubt that the removal of the Taliban and the Baath has made the U.S. more secure. Four days before he fled, the Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar told the BBC that his regime had a single aim: no less than the destruction of America. Indeed, Afghanistan had become a haven for terrorists from more than 40 countries, all sharing a hatred of the United States. Iraq under the Baath was no better. Baghdad housed the headquarters of 23 terrorist organizations, while Saddam Hussein was biding his time until the United Nations sanctions would be lifted and he could put his war machine into full gear again.
The Bush Doctrine has produced other positive results. The obnoxious Colonel Quaddafi in Libya has ended more than 25 years as a sponsor of international terrorism and dismantled his programs for weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear warheads. The Sudanese Islamist-militarist regime has signed a U.S.-sponsored peace deal with the southern Christian rebels, accepted a power-sharing scheme, and promised multiparty elections. In Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak has submitted to the “ignominy” of a multi-candidate presidential election after 24 years of one-man rule. Saudi Arabia, which had always rejected the popular vote as a “Western disease,” has held its first, albeit limited, municipal elections. Kuwait has granted women the right to vote and to be elected. The Lebanese, encouraged by U.S. support, have risen against the Syrian occupation and forced the occupier to leave after more than a quarter-century. Afghanistan and Iraq have held their first free elections, and have adopted constitutions that are the most democratic in the Muslim world.
As for the Bush Doctrine’s longer-range prospects, we have to keep our fingers crossed. My fear is that once Bush has left office, his successor will relapse into the reactive torpor that, with brief but signif icant intervals, has marked American foreign policy since Vietnam.
The chief weakness of present American policy is the administration’s failure to develop a coherent approach to the problem of Iran. This has encouraged Tehran to challenge the Bush scenario for reform in the Middle East. In a speech in Tehran last June, Iran’s “Supreme Guide” Ali Khamenei put it starkly: “The Americans have their plan [for the region]. We also have a plan. We will not let the Americans impose theirs.”
The absence of a clear American policy toward Iran is a cause of concern throughout the region, including in Iraq and Afghanistan where politicians wonder what will happen if the next U.S. administration decides to cut and run, leaving Iran, which by then could have nuclear weapons, as the major local power. Similar concerns are aired from Rabat to Riyadh. This is what Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahamdinejad told Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in Tehran in late August: “One day the Americans will leave. But we will always be there!”
Today Iran plays the role that the USSR once played, albeit on a smaller scale. When the USSR collapsed, the global structure of the totalitarian Left fell along with it. Similarly, when the Islamic Republic collapses, the global edifice of Islamofascism is likely to collapse.
There are three options concerning Iran: détente, based on a demarcation of areas of influence; a mini-cold war, which would include hot episodes fought through proxies all over the Middle East and beyond; and regime change through a mixture of political and military pressure. Doing nothing is not an option, if only because Iran is determined to move onto the offensive.
The editors’ final question has two aspects. First, does the U.S. have a world role? Let me quote the British author John Buchan, writing in 1929:
I hate cruelty. I hate using human beings as pawns in games of egotism. I hate all the rotten [totalitarian] creeds. I believe in liberty, though it may be out of fashion, and because America, in her queer way, is on the same side, I’m for America!
The second aspect of the question is whether or not Bush can unite his people behind his doctrine. Again let me quote Buchan:
No power or alliance of powers can defeat America. But suppose she is compelled to quarrel with a group of [rogue states] and that, with her genius for misrepresenting herself, she appears to have a bad cause. Has she many friends on the globe except Britain? Most countries will flatter her. But they hate her like hell. Trust them not to help matters by interpreting her cause sympathetically. Inside her borders she has a dozen [warring factions] which, in a situation like that, when she was forced to act and yet didn’t want to or didn’t know how to, might, if properly manipulated, split her from top to bottom.
Amir Taheri, a native of Iran, is the author of ten books and a frequent contributor to numerous publications in the Middle East and Europe. His work appears regularly in the New York Post.
Two projects are commonly associated with the Bush Doctrine, both of them arising from the major transformations in strategy called for by the post-9/11 world. The first, taking alarm at the new limits of effective deterrence, asks whether at times we may need to take concerted action to keep weapons of mass destruction out of dangerous hands. The second supposes that encouraging steps toward democracy may dampen the fires of nihilist radicalism in the Islamic world, and set Arab societies on a sounder course.
The 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington made plain a new security landscape with catastrophic possibilities. We lost both our oceanic buffer and the assurance of stability provided by nuclear or conventional deterrence. Non-state actors have little to lose when they target civilians, and in the absence of a return address, retaliatory threats against them can sound idle. The threat of “catastrophic consequences” kept Saddam Hussein from using chemical or biological weapons in the first Gulf war; such reticence is lost in a campaign of jihad by terrorists who seek to mimic the destructive capability of states.
International law has taught that any state, even under a bellicose regime, has the right to acquire any weapon it pleases, bounded only by treaty commitments and the political decisions of the UN Security Council. But the danger posed by transfers of WMD to non-state actors, or of indiscriminate sales to a high bidder, does not permit such indifference to the nature of a regime. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty has proved at times to be an attractive nuisance, permitting states to hide behind its parchment and claim the right to develop “peaceful” uses of nuclear energy, no matter how evident their ultimate ambition to build a bomb. One may have a defiant leader like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who shows no inclination to allow international checks on his fuel cycle. Or the unpredictability of North Korea, whose programs, even after the new joint statement in the six-party talks, will be exceedingly hard to monitor and whose offshore sale of components and designs will remain exceedingly dangerous.
A chastened appreciation of the new dangers is not confined to Republicans, or indeed to Americans. In 2004, the UN Secretary General commissioned a “High-Level Panel” to address new threats in the international system; the ensuing encyclical was remarkable, especially in the UN setting. Although predictably deferring to the authority of the UN Security Council, it stated clearly that any group seeking to attack civilians is guilty of terrorism; that the right of self-defense includes thwarting an imminent attack, without waiting for the actual dire event (a state of war announced by fatwa presumably portends such an imminent at- tack); and that reckless regimes should not be entitled to acquire weapons of mass destruction.
To all this one may add Kofi Annan’s warning to the General Assembly in September 1999, reviewing the UN’s failure to act in Kosovo and Rwanda. When the Security Council refuses to meet a threat, said Annan, should we be surprised when nation-states act in their stead?
Thus, admitting in principle that there are situations where the acquisition of WMD capability by irresponsible regimes may need to be addressed through national power is not quite the “branding” event some would suppose. Whatever one calls it, the doctrine that states sponsoring terror groups should not be permitted to develop weapons of mass destruction is inherent in the current security environment; it will survive the difficulties of the Iraq war, and is fundamental to containing the threat posed by Iran and by a commercial proliferator like North Korea. Acknowledging this does not lead to any automatic policy prescription; but it is the first step in devising a more effective cordon sanitaire against non-state actors.
Along with the death of deterrence, there is the competition of culture. The integrated world econ- omy was supposed to enlist new recruits to champi- on growth in poor societies. Homo economicus was slated to lead modernization, in a world of trade without barriers. Atavism was supposed to give way to consumerism. But this future, inevitable as it may still seem to some, has been scorched by Islam’s fe- rocious civil war. The cultists of al Qaeda seek glob- alization of another sort, celebrating the martyrdom of Salafist violence. Playing upon the past failures of Arab nationalism and corrupt economies, they argue an imaginary account of Islam and purity that seeks the reconquest of Europe.
In the midst of this group hypnosis, you can’t beat something with nothing. Democratic change is overdue in Islamic societies. It has electrified other societies, giving a young population some- thing to plan for, buoying a sense of personal en- gagement. The possibility of changing the govern- ment by means other than violence may channel the energy of the “street” into structured methods of choice, and bring voters to consider the sober choices of actual governance rather than the fren- zied choices of the imagination.
Undoubtedly, the Islamic and non-Islamic worlds will have to endure the violence of the Salafist vision for some time to come. But the gam- ble of the Bush administration in seeking demo- cratic change is that a young man who can cast a vote and have it counted in an honest tally has less reason to imperil his family and his future in a tirade of violence. It also says to the world that America’s proudest possession—its democracy—is not an advantage that America wishes to enjoy in isolation.
Again, one takes a lesson from Iraq. The angers and jealousies that dwell below the surface may be unknown to us, and post-colonial states may have been held together with barbed wire and repression rather than any feeling of commonality. The speed of change is not likely to be in our control, and pushing too hard may, as with the Shah of Iran in the late 1970’s, simply create an opening for radical takeover. But the ideal should remain the same—for the principle of reason was permitted by the prophet Muhammad and recognized in Islamic tradition. Democracy is a process of reasoning together, and of thereby constructing a res publica. The social nature of Islam, and its commitment to live by an ethic of charity in a public and visible way, is not so far from this ideal.
Ruth Wedgwood is the Edward B. Burling professor of international law and diplomacy at the School of Advanced International Studies, Johns Hopkins University.
The Bush Doctrine clarified the issues at stake in a moment of new peril for American democracy, and indeed for the democratic project. Despite tremendous difficulties (obtuse Europeans, sclerotic and corrupt international organizations, partisan sniping at home, media carping around the globe), and notwithstanding the hard slog under way in Iraq, the bold application of the Bush Doctrine in Kabul and Baghdad has changed the dynamics of world politics for the better. Vicious dictators deposed; nascent democracies being nurtured; Libya defanged; the Syrian grip on Lebanon loosened and Assad the younger put on notice: these are no mean achievements.
But there is more, and if ideas really do have consequences, it is no small “more.” For the Bush Doctrine has also posed a sharp challenge to the hegemony of an unexamined, and dangerous, “realism” in the U.S. foreign-policy debate.
In the form asserted by Reinhold Niebuhr in the 1930’s, realism was a necessary antidote to the kind of crackpot idealism that had produced confections like the 1928 Kellogg-Briand pact “outlawing” war—an idealism blind to, or psychologically incapable of coping with, the rise of the fascist threat. Niebuhrian realism will always have a place in any serious thinking about world politics, with its understanding of the inevitable irony, pathos, and tragedy of history; its distinction between the moral reasoning appropriate to domestic politics and the moral reasoning required in world politics; its robust skepticism about all schemes of human perfection; and its critical affirmation of democracy, which stops far short of a worship of democracy.
But this was not the realism on tap in U.S. foreign-policy circles in the immediate aftermath of the cold war. There was always something intellectually strange about this neo-realism, from which virtually all of the Niebuhrian subtleties had disappeared. The neo-realists’ insistence that world politics was a realm of immorality, or at least amorality, was not only implausible at a basic philosophical level—as if moral reasoning, a quintessential characteristic of human beings, could somehow be factored out of politics, a quintessential human activity. Just as urgently, it tended to blind policy-makers to the religious and cultural passions that were shaping the post-cold-war world.
Neo-realism seemed to assume that the determination of the national interest was an exercise in casuistry, in which policy-makers would fix on the best way to achieve something already well known and perfectly understood. That simply isn’t the case. The determination of the national interest is an exercise in the virtue of prudence, a calculus of political judgment and moral judgment in which resources and capabilities, imperatives and commitments, aspirations and traditions are all in play.
The Bush Doctrine has reminded the country and the world that there are options beyond an idealism untethered by reality or a crackpot realism susceptible of premature closure in its thinking about what is possible. Call this (as I once did) “idealism without illusions”—a form of moral reasoning and a method of policy calculus that takes the hard facts of the human condition seriously, but that always remembers what Niebuhr called “the important residual creative factor in human rationality.” In deeds as well as in words, the Bush Doctrine has reminded the country and the world that things can be made to change for the better—and that, sometimes, the only prudent option is to make the effort to make them change.
September 11 made clear that post-cold-war realists had misread the realities. A new reading was required, informed by a larger sense of possibilities. These included the possibility that the first use of military force could be morally justified, because it prevented rogue regimes from wreaking havoc, because it advanced the possibility of a more rational politics in the Middle East, or both. Iraq was and remains a crucial test here; one hopes the doomsayers understand that, and understand that the pre-March 2003 status quo is one to which no realist, in any sense of the term, should want to return.
The administration’s postwar planning was, obviously, not up to the standard of its war planning. Trial-and-error learning seems to be the American way in these situations; Americans ought to remember that the Marshall Plan and NATO weren’t ready for implementation the week after V-E Day. And the situation of post-Saddam Iraq is arguably a tougher problem to solve than post-Hitler Germany, for any number of reasons. Still, even those inclined to give the administration the benefit of the doubt in the implementation of the Bush Doctrine have, I think, a legitimate complaint in the failure of the administration’s public diplomacy.
By “public diplomacy,” I mean at home as well as abroad. In the long-haul war against terrorism, the maintenance of national focus and morale is no easy thing. A monthly, prime-time presidential report to the nation, even if only fifteen minutes in length, would have been a useful tool in maintaining focus—and in challenging, if only indirectly, the unremittingly negative reporting of the mainstream media.
The administration has not, in other words, done a very good job of determining the public narrative in America about the war against terrorism. But it never even got started in Europe, where the initial burst of pro-American sentiment after 9/11 was palpably eroding by late October 2001. U.S. embassies in both “old” and “new” Europe became bunkers when they should have been launching pads from which to carry the argument into Europe’s media, universities, and think tanks. Leading American commentators with European credibility ought to have been deployed throughout the continent, in person and through the electronic media, to challenge the regnant cartoon of American cowboys running riot in the world.
No doubt, the current crisis of civilizational morale that besets Western Europe would have made things difficult in any event; but they didn’t have to be as difficult as they’ve been. Besides, it is a simple matter of self-respect to get into the argument and fight. If the Bush Doctrine is to have staying power, those responsible for implementing it must figure out how to regain control of the storyline, at home and around the world.
George Weigel is a senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and the author, most recently, of The Cube and the Cathedral: Europe, America, and Politics Without God (Basic Books), and God’s Choice: Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church (HarperCollins).
James Q. Wilson
President Bush, in his September 2002 preface to The National Security Strategy of the United States, said that this country will act against emerging terrorist threats “before they are fully formed,” not because we seek unilateral advantage but because we wish “to create a balance of power that favors human freedom.”
I believe that these arguments are correct. To defeat possible Soviet aggression, we built up our military in order to counter an attack. To defeat radical terrorism, we must detect and intercept such plots before they are carried out; acting without armies or national governments, terrorists supply no advance warnings to their victims. This forward policy does not require us to become the world’s policeman. It requires only that we serve the interests of this country by means of good intelligence and counterterrorist acts.
Although the President’s policy clearly favors liberty and democracy, read literally it does not require us to change every unfree nation into a free one. Instead, it declares that we wish to create a “balance of power” that favors freedom. Our goal is to achieve, in the words of the National Strategy document, “the union of our values and our national interests.”
That union was threatened by Afghanistan and Iraq. In the former country, al Qaeda, active in and protected by the Taliban regime, had attacked us. As for Iraq, it did not attack us and may or may not have supported terrorist groups, but its behavior deeply threatened the balance of power in the Middle East. That threat was revealed by its invasions of Iran and Kuwait, by its bloody attacks on its own citizens, and by the financial support it gave to the families of terrorists. If it had been successful in Iran and Kuwait, Iraq would have been able to invade Saudi Arabia and create a monumental threat to democratic Israel.
Much of the debate about our invasion of Iraq involves rival claims about its possession of weapons of mass destruction. That argument is misplaced. The intelligence service of just about every Western nation believed that Iraq had such weapons, and Iraq’s deceitful response to Security Council resolutions suggested that it was trying to conceal them. There is evidence, little reported in the mainstream media, that an effort had been made to create the machinery for producing such weapons.
But even if we had known that Iraq had no WMD’s, it would have made little difference. At issue were the public behavior and manifest intentions of Saddam’s regime: brutality, invasions, the ambition to dominate all of the Middle East, and the death of up to a million Iraqis at the hands of the country’s army and intelligence services.
Maintaining a balance of power abroad has long been the goal of American and British foreign policy. It was at the root of England’s resistance to Napoleon and of America’s Monroe Doctrine; it led Britain to resist Russia during the Crimean war and Germany during both world wars; it helped make America a British ally even though Germany never attacked American territory in either 1914 or 1941. The English-speaking countries, though protected by channels and oceans from European struggles, have long understood that their interests would suffer if some aggressive power dominated Europe. Today, many of them (not only Britain and America but Australia as well) understand that their interests will suffer if some aggressive power dominates the Middle East.
President Bush, like Prime Ministers Tony Blair in England and John Howard in Australia, understands that no nation will aggressively dominate a region if its citizens can control its foreign policy through free and democratic elections. In general, democracies do not make war on one another.
It takes a long time to convert a nation accustomed to authoritarian rule into one that embraces democratic rule. A majority of the Democrats in the Senate opposed our effort to expel Iraq from Kuwait and to replace Saddam with a new government. Opinion polls suggest that Americans who support the Democratic party do not believe our 2003 invasion of Iraq was justified. Many influential leaders are unwilling to support the long, difficult effort to bring some modicum of freedom and
democracy to other nations. “It was completely predictable,” according to John Deutch, a former director of Central Intelligence, “that a rapid transition to a stable and secure coalition government [in Iraq] would not occur.”
As for me, I think it “completely predictable” that critics of the war would imagine a “rapid transition” is ever possible. It has never been possible, or expected. It took many years to create a democratic regime in Germany and Japan, even though we had many more troops on the ground there than in Iraq. Deutch observes, rightly, that there was no credible alternative government or regime in exile waiting to take power in Iraq. But one did not exist in Germany or Japan, either. Under the Deutch doctrine, we should have abandoned Germany and Japan in 1945, just as he wishes us to abandon Iraq right now.
Reasonable criticisms can be made of American policy in Afghanistan and Iraq. In the latter, we disbanded the entire military instead of drawing on the better elements to support domestic security. The Coalition Provisional Authority had no clear plan, in part because the United States, despite having been involved in many nation building efforts in the past, has retained no organizational basis for learning from and improving on our earlier efforts. By contrast, the British had a Colonial Office that managed to recruit and train a cadre of specialists in nation-building who managed to leave a country like India with a legacy of laws that helped it become, over time, the world’s largest democracy.
We are at war in Iraq, and Americans, I think, want us to win that struggle, not to desert it as John Deutch and Ted Kennedy prefer. The gains from our bloody and long struggle are clear: in Lebanon, Libya, among the Kurds and Shiites (and probably most of the Sunnis) in Iraq, and in Pakistan (which no longer supports the Taliban) and Syria (which has learned that overreaching is a bad idea). And about WMD’s: whether or not Iraq ever had them, we know that it does not have them now.
James Q. Wilson is the Ronald Reagan professor of public policy at Pepperdine University in California.
R. James Woolsey
Democracy and the rule of law have gained decisively in the 60 years since World War II. In 1945 there were 20 democracies; today, according to Freedom House, there are 89 operating under the rule of law and another nearly 30 with regular and generally fair elections. Although sometimes democracies backslide into dictatorship (e.g. Venezuela), today over 60 percent of the world’s people and states choose their leaders by democratic processes.
These democracies don’t fight each other. Of the 29 major international wars since 1945, none has been between democracies. And in a number of additional states moving toward democracy, Natan Sharansky’s central question—can there be free debate in the public square?—can be answered in the affirmative.
During these six decades, democracy skeptics have tried several tactics to bolster their losing case. Some define democracy solely in terms of balloting, and then argue that when a dictatorship like Belarus holds a plebiscite but doesn’t become a democracy, democracy has failed. Amartya Sen has effectively destroyed this weak reed—obviously, democracy involves much more than balloting and is not solely a Western idea. There are many versions of what Sen calls “public reason” in different cultures (e.g., the Loya Jirga in Afghanistan)— traditions in which democracy, with balloting in time, can be rooted.
Another tactic of the skeptics has been to ignore Mongolia, Mali, and many other poor democracies and to assert that democracy can come only in the wake of wealth. Morton Halperin and his co-authors have effectively destroyed this line of argument in their superb book, The Democracy Advantage (2004).
The skeptics’ last redoubt has been cultural determinism. Their predecessors lost the argument that Germans, Japanese, Catholics, or Asians could never operate democracies. Today, with over half of the world’s Muslims—in Indonesia, India, Bangladesh, Turkey—living in electoral democracies, it is difficult to contend that Islam in general is inconsistent with democracy. So the skeptics have retreated into angry pessimism about Arab democracy. Ignoring the millions of purple index fingers proudly demonstrated by Iraqi voters last January and the remarkable subsequent events in Lebanon, they chide the U.S. for “imposing” democracy on Arabs—the unarticulated premise being that Arabs would prefer to be ruled by tyrants.
It must be admitted, however, as the UN-sponsored Arab Human Development Reports have stressed, that a number of factors do indeed hinder the development of democracy and the rule of law in the Arab world. In my view, most of the cited influences—treatment of women, intellectual isolation—derive from a principal underlying barrier: the heavy influence, driven by oil wealth, of the Wahhabi sect of Saudi Arabia, particularly on the issue of education. Wahhabism’s fanatical views— anti-Shiite, anti-Sufi, anti-Jewish, anti-Christian, anti-female, anti-democratic—are essentially the same, except on one point, as those of the Salafist jihadists like al Qaeda. As with Stalinists and Trotskyites, true believers in an earlier totalitarian faith, there is a major schism between the Wahhabis and the Salafi jihadists over whether one owes primary allegiance to a single state (the USSR then, Saudi Arabia now) in order to effect world-wide totalitarian rule.
Although no one should doubt the enmity of the opposing camps—the Wahhabi-friendly Saudi interior minister, Prince Nayef, works hard to defeat al Qaeda’s attacks against Saudi Arabia—none of this means that the Wahhabis have given up their own aggressive hostility to democracy, and especially to Arab democracy. Leading Wahhabi clerics urge young Saudis to go to Iraq as suicide bombers in support of the Baathists’ attempt to return to power, and many respond; the majority of Iraq’s suicide bombers are Saudi. So, in another echo of the 1930’s, totalitarian movements that stem from very different intellectual roots—theocratic (Wahhabi-Salafist) and secular (Baathist)—have teamed up in a modern version of the Hitler-Stalin pact.
By supporting autocrats over the years, while putting a reliable supply of oil as our principal objective, we have essentially said to the people of the Arab world: “Your job is to be polite filling-station attendants. Pump the oil for our SUV’s when we ask you to and shut up. Don’t bother us with complaints about your governments.” The Wahhabi-Salafist dream of a world-wide caliphate, like the
dream of a Thousand Year Reich or of World Communism, can be attractive to disaffected young men. We cannot compete with it by offering a quarter-billion Arabs, with their memory of ancient accom- plishments and culture, nothing more than the task of serving as polite f illing-station attendants.
George W. Bush is the first President to have offered the Arab world democracy and the rule of law instead. For this he deserves much credit. But regarding Iraq, implementation of the Bush Doctrine has been scarred by four very poor decisions: (1) not calling on the American people for sacrifice, especially by moving sharply away from our reliance on oil, one of our greatest vulnerabilities and the financial lifeblood of the Arab world’s totalitarians and terrorists; (2) not training Iraqi freedom fighters in protected northern Iraq before March 2003, with the result that we had no Iraqi force in the coalition against Saddam; (3) not providing a substantial share of Iraqi oil revenues immediately to U.S. military commanders to let them employ Iraqi civilians quickly on appropriate reconstruction efforts; and (4) not following a strategy of protecting the people in some regions of Iraq and expanding those regions over time rather than launching search-and-destroy missions. Only the last of these decisions could still be reversed in such a way as to affect the outcome in Iraq over the next year or so.
The Arab world could never have begun to become free without removing Saddam Hussein, as the Clinton administration and, overwhelmingly, Congress recognized in 1998 with the passage of the Iraq Liberation Act. But now much more than the Bush administration’s reputation hangs on Iraq’s progress toward democracy. Success will demoralize the Arab world’s totalitarians and provide a positive model for its youth. Failure will embolden the totalitarians and terrorists to a degree that perilously endangers freedom for all of us.
R. James Woolsey, a former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, is a vice-president of Booz Allen Hamilton and the co-chair of the Committee on the Present Danger.
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Defending and Advancing Freedom
Must-Reads from Magazine
Banality and evil.
A week ago, I wondered what was going on in Sunspot, New Mexico. The FBI had swept into this mountain-top solar observatory, complete with Black Hawk helicopters, evacuated everyone, and closed the place down with no explanation whatever. Local police were politely told to butt out. It was like the first scene in a 1950’s Hollywood sci-fi movie, probably starring Walter Pidgeon.
Well, now we know, at least according to the New York Post.
If you’re hoping for little green men saying, “Take me to your leader,” you’re in for a disappointment. It seems the observatory head had discovered a laptop with child pornography on it that belonged to the janitor. The janitor then made veiled threats and in came the Black Hawks.
In sum, an all-too-earthly explanation with a little law-enforcement overkill thrown in.
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The demands of the politicized life.
John Cheney-Lippold, an associate professor of American Culture at the University of Michigan, has been the subject of withering criticism of late, but I’m grateful to him. Yes, he shouldn’t have refused to write a recommendation for a student merely because the semester abroad program she was applying to was in Israel. But at least he exposed what the boycott movement is about, aspects of which I suspect some of its blither endorsers are unaware.
We are routinely told, as we were by the American Studies Association, that boycott actions against Israel are “limited to institutions and their official representatives.” But Cheney-Lippold reminds us that the boycott, even if read in this narrow way, obligates professors to refuse to assist their own students when those students seek to participate in study abroad programs in Israel. Dan Avnon, an Israeli academic, learned years ago that the same goes for Israel faculty members seeking to participate in exchange programs sponsored by Israeli universities. They, too, must be turned away regardless of their position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
When the American Studies Association boycott of Israel was announced, over two hundred college presidents or provosts properly and publicly rejected it. But even they might not have imagined that the boycott was more than a symbolic gesture. Thanks to Professor Cheney-Lippold, they now know that it involves actions that disserve their students. Yes, Cheney-Lippold now says he was mistaken when he wrote that “many university departments have pledged an academic boycott against Israel.” But he is hardly a lone wolf in hyper-politicized disciplines like American Studies, Asian-American Studies, and Women’s Studies, whose professional associations have taken stands in favor of boycotting Israel. Administrators looking at bids to expand such programs should take note of their admirably open opposition to the exchange of ideas.
Cheney-Lippold, like other boycott defenders, points to the supposed 2005 “call of Palestinian civil society” to justify his singling out of Israel. “I support,” he says in comments to the student newspaper, “communities who organize themselves and ask for international support to achieve equal rights, freedom and to prevent violations of international law.” Set aside the absurdity of this reasoning (“Why am I not boycotting China on behalf of Tibet? Because China has been much more effective in stifling civil society!”). Focus instead on what Cheney- Lippold could have found out by Googling. The first endorser of the call of “civil society” is the Council of National and Islamic Forces (NIF) in Palestine, which includes Hamas, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and other groups that trade not only in violent resistance but in violence that directly targets noncombatants.
That’s remained par for the course for the boycott movement. In October 2015, in the midst of the series of stabbings deemed “the knife intifada,” the U.S. Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel shared a call for an International Day with the “new generation of Palestinians” then “rising up against Israel’s brutal, decades-old system of occupation.” To be sure, they did not directly endorse attacks on civilians, but they did issue their statement of solidarity with “Palestinian popular resistance” one day after four attacks that left three Israelis–all civilians–dead.
The boycott movement, in other words, can sign on to a solidarity movement that includes the targeting of civilians for death, but cannot sign letters of recommendation for their own undergraduates if those undergraduates seek to learn in Israel. That tells us all we need to know about the boycott movement. It was nice of Cheney-Lippold to tell us.
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Convenience, wrote Columbia University law professor Tim Wu, is a tyrant. It makes our lives easier and more enjoyable, but everything comes with a price tag. We may not recognize that which we are sacrificing in the pursuit of convenience, but we are sacrificing nonetheless.
The instant gratification associated with on-demand society has made America’s shared cultural moments a thing of the past. The explosion of online shopping has eliminated the time consumers wasted traveling from store to store, but physical retail is dying as a result. The modern public square and the daily human interactions that it encouraged will disappear along with it. Machine learning has the power to introduce a “more compassionate social contract” and reduce physical risk associated with workplace hazards or lifestyle choices. But risk is just another word for freedom and, in the pursuit of convenience, we risk sacrificing our independence along with our hardships.
“We’re really reinventing the traditional insurance model with our vitality program,” said Marianne Harrison, the CEO of one of North America’s largest life insurers, John Hancock, in a recent appearance on CNBC. The beaming insurance executive boasted of her firm’s effort to marry a “technology-based wellness program” with an “insurance product.” That’s a loaded way of saying that this American insurer is soon going to charge based on the real-time monitoring of your daily activities. Behavior-based insurance will track the health data of policyholders through wearable devices or smartphones and distribute rewards based on individual choices. You don’t have to wear a tracking device to participate in this program—at least, not yet. Harrison assured skeptics that they could also dole out rewards to policyholders who take simple steps like reading preapproved literature, the consumption of which they presumably track.
This innovation is optional today, but the savings it yields for both consumer and insurer guarantee that it will soon become a standard feature of the insurance landscape. Your freedom to eat poorly, use tobacco products, drink alcohol, or perform any number of physical activities that include varying levels of risk are not limited. You’ll just have to pay for them. And if Democratic policymakers succeed in nationalizing the private health insurance industry under the auspices of Medicare-for-all or single-payer or whatever other euphemisms they apply to the public confiscation of private property, these “tools” will only become more pervasive.
A similar rationale—the primacy of collective health—can be applied to any number of activities that invite unnecessary risk that technology can mitigate. Foremost among these is the terribly dangerous American habit of driving a car.
In 2017, there were over 40,000 automobile-related fatalities. This was the second consecutive year in which the roads were that deadly and, if observers who attribute this rate of fatal traffic accidents to an increase in smartphone ownership are correct, there will not be a decline anytime soon. A 2015 study purported to show that replacing manual vehicles with autonomous cars or vehicles with advanced driver-assistance systems could eliminate up to 90 percent of all fatal accidents and save as many as 300,000 American lives each decade. It is perhaps only a matter of time before the option to own a driverless vehicle becomes a mandate with a hefty financial penalty imposed on those who opt out.
“[T]he threat to individual freedom that the driverless car is set to pose is at this stage hard to comprehend,” wrote National Review’s Charles C.W. Cooke. Presently, the car transports its diver to wherever they’d like to go, whether there are roads to facilitate the journey or not. In a driverless world, as Cooke noted, the driver becomes a mere occupant. They must essentially ask the car for permission to transit from point A to point B, and the whole process is monitored and logged by some unseen authorities. Furthermore, that transit could ostensibly be subject to the veto of state or federal authorities with the push of a button. That seems a steep price to pay for a little convenience and the promise of safety.
The pursuit of convenience, as Professor Wu explained, has resulted in remarkable social leveling. We enjoy more time today for “self-cultivation,” once only the province of the wealthy and aristocratic, than at any point in history. And yet, we cannot know true liberty without hardship. “The constellation of inconvenient choices may be all that stands between us and a life of total, efficient conformity,” Wu concluded.
There is more to celebrate in the technological revolutions of the last quarter-century than there is to lament. But in the pursuit of convenience, we’ve begun to make spontaneity irrational. In life, the rewards associated with experience are commensurate with that which is ventured. In a future in which the world’s sharp edges are bubble-wrapped, your life may exceed today’s average statistical length. But can you really call it living?
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Podcast: Christine Rosen on Brett Kavanaugh.
The podcast welcomes COMMENTARY contributor and author Christine Rosen on the program to discuss the allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Have his confirmation hearings have transformed into another chapter in the national cultural reckoning that is the #MeToo moment?