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The Bush Doctrine

Ben Wattenberg: Hello, Iím Ben Wattenberg. The conventional wisdom used to be that the best defense is a good offense. But in the War Against Terrorism the new thinking is that the only defense is offense. President Bush is advocating a new strategic doctrine emphasizing preemptive strikes against our enemies. What does this change mean for America and for the world? To find out ďThink TankĒ is joined by Max Boot, editorial features editor of the Wall Street Journal and author of The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power; Adam Garfinkle, editor of The National Interest; and Samantha Power, founder of The Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvardís Kennedy School of Government and author of ďA Problem from HellĒ: America and the Age of Genocide. The topic before the house, The Bush Doctrine. This week on ďThink Tank.Ē
Throughout the Cold War America relied on containment and deterrence to counter the Soviet threat. Strategic alliances like NATO combined with the fear of nuclear war maintained a tenuous balance of global power. Now after the fall of the Soviet Union, rogue states and stateless actors threaten to upset that balance. Countries like Iraq and groups like al Qaeda do not play by the old rules. To counter these new threats, the Bush Administration is hammering out new rules that are coming to be known as The Bush Doctrine. The President has been flushing out this new strategy in his major foreign policy addresses since September eleventh. President Bush signaled the clearest break with the Cold War approach in his West Point commencement address.
George W. Bush:
The use of preemptive action suggests the beginning of a new attitude toward Americaís threats and interests. What principles should guide the use of American power? When should we act alone? Should the U.S. attempt to spread democracy all over the world? Is America in danger of overreach? What are the limits of American power?
Lady, gentlemen, thank you so much for joining us. Letís cut right to the chase. This Bush Doctrine is what people are talking about. You each come from a specific school of foreign policy thought. Beginning with you, Max, letís go around the room once. Where do your views fit into the Presidentís views?
Max Boot: Well I largely agree with the Presidentís views. I mean I think heís exactly right to say we canít sit back and wait for the next terrorist strike on Manhattan. We have to go out and stop the terrorists overseas. We have to play the role of the global policeman. And thatís a role weíve played before as I argue in my book. But I also argue that we ought to go further, perhaps, than the President had first intended, which is that we canít think of this simply in terms of attacking a nuclear weapons complex overseas or taking out a terrorist training base. I think we have to shape the global environment so that these countries are not conducive to building nuclear power plants or nuclear weapons facilities or terrorist training bases. I think we have to shape the world much more in our own image, and we have to be much more aggressive about that even acting as a quote, unquote great empire should.
Ben Wattenberg: That phrase, because Iím a little bit older than you, global policeman, globo-cop, took on a very difficult meanings during the Vietnam War. They said, what are we trying to be, Americaís policemen?
Max Boot: Well Vietnam was the one great exception where we failed in our global policing role and it was a very traumatic exception. But what I suggest in my book is that we had a long history of interventions before Vietnam and indeed since Vietnam that were much more successful, and we ought to focus on those successes and not get so traumatized by this one failure, which we had in the nineteen sixties.
Ben Wattenberg: All right. Samantha, you donít think weíve been so successful in these small wars or that weíve ducked and ran for cover?
Samantha Power: Well, Iíve looked at American responses to genocide in the twentieth century so I wouldnít even call it small war. Iíd call it systematic murder. And systematic murder has never been enough to get American policymakers out of their chairs and American soldiers onto the battlefield. The United States has actually, up until the Kosovo intervention, which you could argue was a preemptive intervention, to prevent the occurrence of genocide, but prior to that the United States had never intervened militarily to stop genocide and indeed had rarely even condemned it when it occurred. And the trouble with that, not only is it trouble for the victims of genocide but it was also true again and again and I think Max makes this point as well that places where genocide happen inevitably come back to haunt the United States. And I think the lesson of the last century is really that the way a government treats its own people is a decent indicator, in fact a very good indicator, of the way itís going to treat the United Statesí interest long term.
Ben Wattenberg: So youíre in once sense youíre with Max that we ought to be more involved in more places at more times?
Samantha Power: But with a set of principles undergirding that involvement. I mean, I think the temptation in The Bush Doctrine right now is preemption, thinking strictly in terms of military preemption.
Ben Wattenberg: Against terror?
Samantha Power: Against would-be terrorists. I would urge something, not a war on terrorism, but a war on terror. And that would involve actually coming down on some of our allies currently who are terrorizing their own people, very, very abusive regimes, whether in Uzbekistan or Saudi Arabia, and actually working with them, investing in the rule of law, in democratization, not thinking strictly in terms of hard power, martial power, but thinking in terms of human rights and democratization.
Ben Wattenberg: And what, the phrase you use in your book is soft power?
Samantha Power: Soft power, indeed.
Ben Wattenberg: Which we will come back to in a moment. Adam.
Adam Garfinkle: The United States, especially before September eleventh of last year, but even still I would say, the United States is the most successful, the most liberal, the most benign, and the most powerful democracy in the history of the world. Itís sad, again before September eleventh, in the most secure security situation of any great power since the beginning of the Westphalian system in sixteen forty-eight and yet the Bush Administration in its major public pronouncements by the President, by the Secretary of Defense. They were about missile defense, they were about the expansion of the military alliance, NATO. The rest of the world I think would be excused for wondering when the United States in sitting in this benign security situation was going to pronounce a vision of what it wanted this planet to look like in the next twenty-five years. What were the positive aspects of the world that we wanted to create? Finally, on June first at West Point the President began that process. As far as the preemption piece, I agree, itísÖ
Max Boot: Well I think what we all agree on is that you donít want to get to the point where you have to hit first. You want to get to the pointóyou want to stop these things at an early stage. And I think you want to be involved in a country like Afghanistan, for example, so that it doesnít once again turn into a breeding ground of terrorism as it did in the nineteen nineties. And I think we made a huge mistake in not being more involved in shaping the future of a country like Afghanistan, and that really came back to haunt us on September eleventh. And I think thatís a mistake that weóI think weíre all agreed on, that we shouldnít commit elsewhere in the world.
Ben Wattenberg: But there are more than two hundred nations in the world today. I mean we have a big State Department but we canít keep track on every border war or how many warís going on in the world? Now fifty? Something like that?
Adam Garfinkle: The State Department isnít big enough. I thought Iíd never say that. But one of the ways that one deals with field states and weak state problems is that one tries to do a better job of diplomatic preemption. You try to head off these problems, both internally and among states, before they metastasize to a level of insipid mass war. We canít do that.
Ben Wattenberg: We are not all wise and omnipotent to know that this little country here is gonna end up harboring a few terrorists who are gonna go hit a building and keepóI mean, I never dreamed that I who was a big interventionist would be saying this but itís becoming a little overwhelming now.
Samantha Power: One of the things we havenít talked about at all is an aspect of The Bush Doctrine, which is assertive unilateralism. Very little investment in the kind of international order, international institutions, the United Nations, weíve all sort of given up on United Nations peacekeeping after the debacles of the nineteen nineties. I think weíve given up sort of justifiably. They werenít given the resources or the means. But nowís a time to look at that and to say, whoís going to be the follow on force in Afghanistan? How are we actually going to maintain security in a place that we already know has posed a threat to U.S. interests, that will be a breeding ground again?
Ben Wattenberg: But we already won the war in Afghanistan if you view in a way thatís gonna be the major nexus of an al Qaeda type terrorist global threat thatís able to programÖ
Samantha Power: I donít think you can say that at all. I think the test of that will be ten years from now as to whether Afghanistan will again be a breeding ground for al Qaeda networks. And thereís no evidence yet that we have won the peace or that weíre anywhere near winning the peace because weíre not prepared to nation build or to state build, as Max writes about. We want to do things on the cheap, to get at the symptoms while theyíre ripe, to send them into neighboring countries, if thatís what it takes. But we donít want to invest in international order. And what that would require is not American unilateral action in Afghanistan but working with our partners in the international community and burden sharing, because thatís what itís gonna take to stabilize the world order.
Max Boot: Just picking up on a point that Samantha just made. I mean I think I agree with a lot of what you said although Iím more comfortable with unilateralism than she is, but I think we have to be more ambitious in our conceptions and we have to realize that military victory is not enough. In nineteen ninety-one we won a stunning military victory against Iraq but we allowed political victory to slip away as a result of which Saddam Hussein is still there ten years later. And in Afghanistan weíve won a stunning military victory but the question is are we going to build a long-term viable state in Afghanistan that will allow us to transform that military victory into a political victory. And I think it that test is not only in Afghanistan now but itís in Iraq. Itís not only do we get rid of Saddam Hussein, but what comes after Saddam Hussein. I donít want another Baathist colonel taking charge in Iraq, which is what a lot of people in the Administration would be comfortable with. I want to create the first Arab democracy on Iraqi soil. And that ought to be our goal. That ought to be our ambition. We need to think big in this new world order.
Ben Wattenberg: Iím very pro democracy myself but the fact is the one real election that we had in the Arab world was in Algeria. And the people who wanted to tear up democracy won the democratically held elections. Is it possible that weíre seeing too much of a panacea in the idea of democracy? I mean the President is saying we have to have democracy in the West Bank among the Palestinians before we can proceed. Is that a sine qua non of any real action?
Adam Garfinkle: No, I donít think it is. The question in Afghanistan is sort of how much is enough kind of question. I think everybody agrees that you know you canít just leave the country to founder around. It might very well in three years or five years or whatever, it might sink again into the sort of weak state that could incubate terrorism. But thatís not to say that you need to build a Western looking democracy in order to secure American interest in Afghanistan.
Samantha Power: Nobody suggested that that was theÖ
Adam Garfinkle: Well I have heard some suggestions that we bring, you know, a centralized state and democracy to Afghanistan. And this reaches a level of cultural ignorance that I think is really quite extreme. Itís not quite as extreme to say that we need to bring democracy to Iraq, but I think itís close in the following sense. The only way that the United States has ever been able to introduce a sustainable democracy in a country is to invasively occupy it for a number of years. We did it in Germany. We did it in Japan. We did it in the Philippines. But the idea, in my mind anyway, of a protracted American occupation of an Arab capital fills me with absolute dread. I doubt that even that could create a viable democracy in a place like Iraq, which is ethnically and religiously riven, not homogenous. And anybody whoís read a nineteen through a twentieth century of the Middle East I think would recognize that the amount of resentment that this kind of an occupation would engender throughout the Arab world would in the end bring us far more problems than we would solve.
Ben Wattenberg: Samantha, are we talking, are you talking about a formal American invasion sitting in Baghdad? Thatís not what Iíve been hearing?
Samantha Power: Hardly. I mean I think the idea is once you preempt and you go in and it does seem inevitable that this is gonna be the chosen U.S. policy, what are the parameters of your subsequent engagement in the country? Are you going to preempt and then run as we have done again and again leaving the people to their own fates whether itís the Kurds in the North or ordinary Iraqi citizens in Baghdad, or are you actually going to try to use your hard power and back to your soft power, your values, to help undergird a new regime and to use the leverage that you have once you have invaded a country to actually try to modernize the country and bring it along because ultimately the kind of regime that youíre talking about is not going to be a regime compatible with American security interests or its values over time.
Ben Wattenberg: In other words go after the immediate threat, the weapons of mass destruction, and give them a good chance on their own with international support from us and others to be a success, but not to sit in the two hundred countries, withÖ
Max Boot: I think we canít sit in two hundred countries but I certainly think that oneÖ
Ben Wattenberg: Or twenty?
Max Boot: Öor well but I think where we win a military victory we have to follow up with a security force, call it whatever you want peacekeeping occupation whatever, thatís what we had in Kosovo and Bosnia, thatís what we have in Afghanistan to some extent now. I think we need more of it there. And I think we need inÖ
Ben Wattenberg: Thatís what we tried to do in Somalia and got egg on our face.
Max Boot: Well in Somalia we werenít willing to apply the level of force necessary to achieve our objectives. And Iím not necessarily saying that we should have because Iím not sure that it was in our interest to run Somalia. But clearly when you look at Iraq which has the second largest oil reserves in the middle of the Middle East the country thatís developing weapons of mass destruction, thatís the big enchilada. We ought to put a lot of resources into transforming in Iraq and itís going to have a tremendous impact on the West and Middle East.
Ben Wattenberg: So that we the United States can in effect run Iraq.
Max Boot: No. I think so we let the people of Iraq run Iraq in cooperation in a friendly way of the United States. The same way Western Europe, much of Asia, Latin America, all those countries that our allies, we donít run them directly but theyíre certainly friendly with us. And if we create a liberal institutions there, I think thatís gonna be the result. Thereís going to be much more congenial to American interests.
Ben Wattenberg: You said the magic two words, Western and Europe. Samantha, you just got back from Europe and youíre saying that they think weíre doing it alone. But you take on something like Iraq with the possible exception of Tony Blairís United Kingdom, the word weíre getting back from Europe is they donít want to play. They donít think that we should be messing around with Iraq. And weíre saying it is a threat to humanity and our children and our grandchildren unless we act.
Samantha Power: From the European standpoint the perspective is that the United States comes to its allies when it needs them in the short-term and expects them to go along. The feeling in Europe now and as Europe is coming together more and more, you know, itís not, Henry Kissinger is still right in saying whatís Europeís phone number, but as it comes together it does have a sense of itself as being capable of saying no. Now it may be wrong. And when it turns around and needs the United States, itíll quickly come back and say yes.
Max Boot: I think Europe is running on fumes. Itís running on nostalgia. I think the capabilities gap is huge. And itís hard for me to see what the French or the Germans are going to contribute to the American campaign in Iraq. And I think we do need allies but theyíre not our traditional allies in Western Europe.
Samantha Power: Weíve always had this tendency for American exceptionalism, for thinking that we are exceptional and that our virtues should be apparent to everyone else, to think that what is our view should be a universal view, to exempt ourselves from international frameworks that impede our sovereignty.
Ben Wattenberg: What about the whole idea of national sovereignty vis-ŗ-vis the situation of these growing international institutions. I mean United States has problems with this international criminal court. You talk about genocide and people in Washington say yeah if we sign up on to another one of these UN protocols, one day theyíre gonna say that the death penalty in the United States is genocide and theyíre gonna call us before the international criminal court?
Max Boot: Good point.
Ben Wattenberg: How do you deal with that?
Samantha Power: Well the United States has tremendous influence in choosing the judges and the individuals who comprise these institutions. As one of the five security counsel states, it will be able to choose the judges. It also will be able in the case of the international criminal court to tend to whatever charges are made against Americans. I mean basically the court only kicks in if the U.S. proves unable or unwilling to tend to the charges that are made.
Max Boot: Not so. We have no vetoÖ
Samantha Power: Itís absolutely true.
Max Boot: We have not veto power over the ICC.
Samantha Power: You donít have veto power over who the prosecutor decides to prosecute. Itís true. But you have the opportunity, we have the opportunity in this country to undertake a good faith investigation. If weíve done that the international criminal court doesnít have jurisdiction.
Max Boot: But what determines whatís a good faith investigation?
Samantha Power: The varied judges and the individuals that we have helped put in place in the international criminal court. In any event, the point about international institutions is if you think that you can control them, theyíre not international. Theyíre American.
Ben Wattenberg: I mean the American people, and it wouldnít just be Jessie Helms, the American people are, in my judgment, are not gonna stand by for world government if what you see in the United Nations General Assembly passes for world government. Those people go ballistic at times.
Max Boot: I completely agree with you, Ben. And I think we need to stop talking about unilateralism versus multilateralism. What we need to talk about is whatís a successful strategy. And sometimes weíre gonna have to go it alone. Other times we can draw on allies. But we certainly shouldnít be taking policies that are counterproductive because they go under the rubric of multilateralism. And you mention the landmine treaty, I mean that would be such a disaster when our troops are entrenched in a place like Kandahar and theyíre protecting their base with landmines.
Ben Wattenberg: Or in South Korea.
Max Boot: Or in South Korea. I mean this is committing suicide. And itís easy for countries in Europe to do it because they donít have troops in places like Afghanistan or South Korea. This is basically this feckless moral posturing by these pigmies on the world stage trying to bring down the giant.
Adam Garfinkle: I agree. What the Administration and friends of the Administration in this regard think of many of these multilateral associations is that they are methods by the advent of other means to constrain the United States. We are number one. Itís just natural in history that others gang up on or try to counterbalance the greater power. We are not seeing this happen in the traditional classical military strategic ways. Weíre seeing it happen by the casting of plagues of lawyers upon us instead of other things.
Ben Wattenberg: We are so called the worldís sole super power. I call America the only omni power. Weíre the law west of the Pecos. How, with all the constraints that we donít want to be hemmed in on this and we donít want to be hemmed in on that, how do you get something that seems obviously a good thing and a benign thing and important thing, how do you get some kind of law into these lawless, desperate, murderous situations?
Samantha Power: There are two hugedanders to the security of mankind and to the security of Americans. One is the failed state and the failing state, which we talked about, on the Afghanistan model and the Bosnia mode. Al Qaeda got into Bosnia, in the 1990s Bin Laden travelled on a Bosnian passport while we let the Muslims die. This is whatís going to happen in quasi-genocidal states, when there is no central structure. But the other kind of danger to American interest is the all-too successful state where you actually have, not only no democracy, but none of the kind of liberal tenants that would check democracy. You mentioned the Algeria example, I donít think voting is a metric of what the United States is trying to advance, voting alone. We are not in favor of tyrannies of the majority persecuting minorities of any kind, whether itís, you know, secular peoples persecuting IslamicÖ
Ben Wattenberg: So we are for not just democracies but liberal democracies.
Samantha Power: Well weíll work for working, you know, in those directions and actually building in the tenants with independent judiciary, with civilian control over the military, these kinds of things. And the problem with the current American approach is that there is a huge gap between the values that people really cherish from afar that we are able to enjoy in this country and that is soft power. That is what makes America so attractive to people around the world.
Ben Wattenberg: And this would include our movies and our books andÖ
Samantha Power: Our, yeah, our culture that people would find it hard toÖ
Ben Wattenberg: Our culture. Our culture for good or for ill.
Samantha Power: Our culture for good but also our values.
Ben Wattenberg: Mostly for good.
Samantha Power: Mostly the fact that we are a bastion of civil and political freedom. And thatís what people want abroad. But then thereís disconnect because our foreign policy doesnít actually always reflect those values. Indeed weíre perfectly prepared to partner with regimes that are utterly antithetical toÖ
Ben Wattenberg: Because we have other fish to fry orÖ
Samantha Power: Because we have other fish to fry and Iím not a utopian who believes that economic and security interests are not to be counted but I am a believer, as I think at least one person here might be as well, that advancing American values abroad is a means to advancing American economic and security interests. And I donít think weíre thinking in those terms because politics operates in the short-term and The Bush Doctrine, whatever its virtues and its sort of nods to foreign aid and to development and so on, is a short-term doctrine that he says will be applied across the long term.
Max Boot: I agree that we have to take action against some of these so-called friendly regimes which are actually extremely tyrannical and we ought to be focusing on regimes like Saudi Arabia which are very antithetical to American interest. But I have to say that I just donít have as much confidence as you do in international institutions. I think unless the United States steps forward itís not gonna get done.
Ben Wattenberg: It seems as if President Bush is going to order a strike against Iraq. Itís been delayed and delayed but thatís what it seems to be in the cards. Briefly, do youówill you approve of that or not?
Adam Garfinkle: Letís put it this way, Iím all for regime change in Iraq. And once the bombs start to fly, I will support this Administration to the hilt. I am, however, very, very concerned about the way that this might be approached. I think there are ways to get rid of the Baath Party without protracted American occupation of an Arab capital which I think would be catastrophic in the long run.
Max Boot: I think itíll concentrate the minds of a few regimes in the Middle East if weíre an occupation of Baghdad. Itíll make them realize how powerful we are and that we are not going to away. I think itíll be a very positiveÖ
Adam Garfinkle: Max, I just donít agree with you. I just donít agree with you. The idea that the United StatesÖ
Ben Wattenberg: But that gives you your answer when he, now you have the final word. Will you approve of a regime change?
Samantha Power: Thereís no evidence that the Bush Administration has the stomach for long term attention to the welfare of the Iraqis. And I think that that is something that would have to accompany a preemptive strike, and that is attention to the situation of the Kurds in the North, of the Shiah in the South. I think that the preference right now would be for another Baath general to centralize the state and I think that would be very dangerous, and that if an intervention is undertaken, that it has to be about looking out for the welfare of the Iraqis as well as looking out for the welfare of Americans.
Ben Wattenberg: Well said. Thank you, Samantha Power. We know you just flew in early from Ireland to make this panel. We appreciate it. Thank you Max Boot for coming down from New York from your haven at the Wall Street Journal. And Adam Garfinkel, from here in Washington. And thank you. Please donít forget to send us your comments via email. For ďThink Tank,Ē Iím Ben Wattenberg.

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