The Bush Doctrine
Trouble At Home And Abroad
(Swans - February 2, 2004) The ongoing debate in the United States regarding George W. Bush's handling of the Iraq war, particularly the record of lies and distortion of intelligence reports, the mounting deaths of US soldiers, and the rising cost of the war to the tune of $87 billion requested by Mr. Bush in September 2003, and approved by Congress, must be considered as a debate of the Bush Doctrine of preventive military intervention. The most interesting reality of this debate is that the striking opposition is coming from unlikely sources -- the US foreign policy establishment, congressional circles, and the mainstream media. The current issue of the quarterly journal, Foreign Affairs (2003), organ of the American Council of Foreign Relations, has one article after another by establishment figures, including James Rubin, former assistant secretary of state ("Stumbling into War"), expressing concern about Mr. Bush's deviation from the traditional parameters of US foreign policy.
Likewise, Senator Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts said in an interview with the Associated Press on September 18, 2003 that the case for going to war against Iraq was "a fraud made up in Texas," to give Republicans a political boost. He charged that the Bush administration has failed to account for nearly half of the $4 billion the war is costing each month. (1) The senior senator said he believed much of the unaccounted-for money was being used to bribe foreign leaders to send in troops, and described the administration's current Iraq policy as "adrift." He expressed doubts about how serious a threat Saddam Hussein posed to the United States in its battle against terrorism, and charged administration officials of relying on "distortion, misrepresentation, a selection of intelligence" to justify their case for war.
Criticism of Mr. Bush's foreign policy is also coming from a number of foreign policy establishment writers, such as John Newhouse. His new book, Imperial America: the Bush Assault on the World Order, represents an indictment of unilateralism, diktat through the use of force, and disregard for diplomacy. H.D.S. Greenway, of The Boston Globe, admired the substance and the tone of the book, which speaks of the "administration's missed opportunities since September 11, 2001, when . . . even countries that might not have traditionally loved us offered their hand." (2) According to Greenway:
Newhouse argues that a lasting coalition against terror could have been built to this country's advantage. Instead, President Bush, in stark contrast to his father, adopted the attitudes, prejudices, and strategies of America's far right, which for the first time has gained ascendancy in foreign policy to the detriment of this country's long-term security. (3)
On the Middle East, Greenway added that, "One dream of the new right radicals is a wave of democracy sweeping over the Middle East that would destabilize the old monarchies and regimes. The influence of Israel's right-wing Likud party over many in the Bush administration is a Newhouse theme." (4) Remarkably, Newhouse ventured into a hostile terrain, which has been giving Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean nightmares, and which may also be costly to Newhouse himself:
A cohort in the Pentagon has operated, in effect, like an extension of the Likud leadership and has scared other governments with talk of redrawing the political map of the Middle East and implicitly turning the region into a US-Israeli co-management sphere. (5)
As for the establishment press, the coverage during the period leading to war, during and after, was rather supportive and some of the cable television media acted as cheerleaders for the administration. The phenomenon of the "embedded media" left much to be desired in a society that prides itself on free press and free expression. Lately, however, we began to see a critical tone, and an interrogative attitude. Professor Immanuel Wallerstein wrote the following about the new critical spirit in the establishment media:
The fact is that the Establishment press in the United States is and always has been solidly centrist. For a year after 9/11, indeed up until three months ago, this centrist press sounded like they simply took the press releases from the White House and endorsed them. Now suddenly, this is no longer true. Indeed far from true. One only needs to take a look at the four main TV channels (ABC, NBC, CBS, and CNN) or read the main news magazines (Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report) or the principal newspapers (New York Times, Washington Post, L.A. Times, Boston Globe). What one sees is article after article -- news stories, opinion pieces, and editorials -- quite critical of the Bush administration -- of its policies in Iraq, or rather of its "failures" in Iraq, and of its inability to counter the persistent and growing recession and unemployment in the United States. (6)
One example of the scathing criticism of Mr. Bush by the establishment media comes from Paul Krugman, the Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times. He accused him of having lied more than any other president in the past and having disabused people's patriotism after September 11. He said the following in an interview late on Monday September 15, 2003, before a party to launch his latest book, The Great Unraveling:
Bush is a leader of a movement that wants to smash the system as we know it, the social contract, the safety net that was built up since Franklin Roosevelt ... no U.S. president has lied as much as Bush ... [who] has fibbed on everything from taxes to the case for war against Iraq ... Certainly there is nothing in modern American history that resembles this. (7)
The London Financial Times has also been equally critical of US foreign policy under George Bush, placing the blame for the discord in US-European relations not only on some of the European nations but on Washington as well:
The Bush administration must bear much of the blame, with its prickly unilateralism and fundamentalist division of the world into good and evil. Its insistence on trying to run the world with "coalitions of the willing" has caused extraordinary bitterness among old allies. But the EU is also at fault, because its leading governments have been so divided, although their voters were far more united.
A recent opinion poll by the German Marshall Fund shows that the war has had a disastrous effect on European attitudes towards US leadership. Every single European country polled, except Poland, showed a large majority disapproving of US foreign policy. In Germany and France more than 80 per cent disapproved. In Britain it was 57 per cent. (8)
Another Financial Times article refers to bureaucratic inertia and fragmentation of the decision-making process at the level of the National Security council in Washington on matters of national security in ways that compromise the integrity of foreign policy and impede rationality and sound coordination:
As the human and financial toll rises in Iraq, as the Bush administration returns cap in hand to the UN, as a videotape surfaces of sprightly Osama bin Laden, as hope is swamped in blood in the Middle East and as North Korea issues ever more shrill nuclear threats, the White House's handling of foreign policy has gone from political asset to something akin to a liability. Ms. Rice's reputation is having to weather a harsh reassessment. (9)
Most astonishing was the criticism launched by the normally tame UN Secretary-General, Kofi Anan, who warned President Bush on September 23, 2003 that his doctrine of preventive military intervention posed a fundamental challenge to the United Nations and could lead to the law of the jungle. In a speech shortly before Mr. Bush addressed the UN General Assembly, Anan said:
My concern is that, if it were to be adopted, it could set precedents that resulted in a proliferation of the unilateral and lawless use of force, with or without credible justification. (10)
According to Anan, who also berated UN members for not having increased the members of the Security Council for 58 years, sidestepping the United Nations in waging war against Iraq or elsewhere called into question the entire structure of collective action forged when the United Nations was created out of the ashes of World War II.
All of this criticism coming from the traditional foreign policy establishment and mainstream press does not augur well for George W. Bush's unilateralism and preventive action. If the economy remains in the doldrums, the helicopters continue to fall in Iraq, and the body bags continue to arrive home during the forthcoming presidential campaign, the entire global strategy of the neo-conservative cabal in Washington may be subjected to public scrutiny. Yet, it is far from certain whether a Democratic administration would scale down America's adventures overseas to a significant degree.
The real question, in the end, is whether America's imperial wars would prove to be a stopgap measure to slow down the dwindling American competitive advantage, and prolong the life of unilateralism, or will they prove too costly and counter-productive that a major reassessment would be acclaimed as enlightened self-interest? (11) Would the silent rational voices in America finally react and move to protect the republic from the empire, to re-energize international law, and arrest the moral corrosion of an otherwise vibrant society? Would these voices be raised to reclaim the Constitution, and to insure that the civil rights of dissidents and ethnic minorities, particularly those of Arab and Muslim Americans are duly protected? Today, the abuse is reserved for Arab and Muslim Americans, but tomorrow, different minorities could be the victims, just as in the past, Japanese Americans, Afro-Americans and Native Americans, among other minorities, were the culprits, the scapegoats, and the targets of permissible prejudice.
America's "war on terror" is likely to remain a slogan as long as the society refuses to address the question of the root cause, and consider the true definition of terrorism in a manner that no longer exempts the state terrorists in Washington, Tel Aviv, Moscow and countless other world capitals. In the end, the connection between injustice and terror will continue to challenge organized force as a remedy for the scourge of terrorism. Karen Armstrong, a respected authority on Islam, expressed it this way:
Terrorism is wicked and abhorrent, but it has not come out of the blue. If we simply write off these movements as irrational and inexplicable, we will feel no need to examine our own policies and behavior. The shocking nihilism of the suicide killers shows they feel they have nothing to lose. Millennial or fundamentalist extremism has risen in nearly every cultural tradition where there are pronounced inequalities of wealth, power and status. The only way to create a safer world is to ensure that it is more just. (12)
Similarly, Canadian mainstream journalist Anthony Westell posited that George Bush is not winning the war that he launched on terrorism, just as many others before him who failed to understand the grievances of the terrorists did:
From the beginning, Mr. Bush has ignored the lesson of history: Terrorism can be contained but not defeated by armed force, no matter how smart the bombs. The Nazis had total control when they occupied France ... The might of the British army, emergency laws and special courts could not defeat the IRA; an uneasy peace descended only when both sides realized that neither could defeat the other. Israel, with all its tanks and helicopter gunship, cannot stop the Palestinian suicide bombers. Terrorism can only be defeated by political measures that, over time, remove the grievances that breed terrorism. (13)
Extending the so-called "war on terror" to Iraq was disingenuous, if not counter-productive. It may even have been a self-fulfilling prophecy. Secular Iraq which was quite stable, yet dictatorial, was as far removed from terrorism and fundamentalism as most countries in the world. Today, with US forces in occupation, Iraq has suddenly become a haven for fundamentalists, terrorists, as well as resistance forces. Mr. Bush's intractable dilemma is having inflicted on himself the unnecessary task of fighting another Vietnam-type war while preparing to fight a domestic battle for a second presidential term.
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Other Essays in this Special Issue
Or jump to any one author (in alphabetical order): Tanweer Akram || Justin Alexander || Anthony Arnove || Naseer Aruri || Jan Baughman || George Capaccio || Milo Clark || Gregory Elich || Sara Flounders & John Catalinotto || Manuel García || Denis J. Halliday || Edward S. Herman || Rania Masri || Thomas J. Nagy, et al. || Michael Parenti || Louis Proyect || John Sloboda || Gerard Donnelly Smith || Michael W. Stowell
Iraq on Swans (all articles regarding Iraq published on Swans)
Outside Resources on Iraq (Web sites of interest)
Additional Resources (compiled by Tanweer Akram)
7. Mark Egan, "NY Times Columnist Sees Gloom in America's Future," Reuters, September 16, 2003. http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20030917/pl_nm/politics_columnist_dc_5 (last visited, 12/18/03). (back)
11. It has been argued that the war on Iraq is an oil currency war aiming to arrest an OPEC momentum towards the euro as an oil transaction currency standard, thus, in order to pre-empt OPEC, Washington needs to gain geo-strategic control of Iraq along with its 2nd largest proven oil reserves, W. Clark, "The Real Reasons for the upcoming War With Iraq: A Macroeconomic and Geostrategic Analysis of the Unspoken Truth," Independent media Center, January 2003 (www.Indymedia.org). This argument is supported by Immanuel Wallerstein's thesis about the war: "He [Bush] did this in order to demonstrate the overwhelming military superiority of the United States and to accomplish two primary objectives: 1) intimidate all potential nuclear proliferators into abandoning their projects; 2) squash all European ideas of an autonomous political role in the world-system." Immanuel Wallerstein, "Bush Bets All He Has," March 15, 2003. Fernand Braudel Center, Binghamton University (http://fbc.binghamton.edu/commentr.htm). See also Amir Butler, "The Euro and the War on Iraq," ATrueWord.com, 3/29/03 (http://www.rense.com/general36/euro.htm); also Duncan Dubois, "Defending the Dollar," the Natal Witness, April 4, 2003. He sums it up thus: "The war against Iraq [has] four objectives ...: return Iraq's oil reserves to the dollar circle; send a clear message to other oil producers as to what will happen to them if they try to leave the dollar zone; deal a setback to the EU and its euro; use the war as a cover to get Venezuela's oil back into the dollar circle by means of covert CIA action." (back)