The War Behind Closed Doors
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Bush Administration Documents
National Security Strategy of the United States

Released on Sept. 17, 2002, the Bush administration's first formal statement of its strategy for national security reconsiders the notion of "deterrence," one of the hallmarks of military strategy during the Cold War, in favor of a doctrine of preemption: "We must be prepared to stop rogue states and their terrorist clients before they are able to threaten or use weapons of mass destruction against the United States and our allies and friends."

Sept. 11, 2001 Address to the Nation

In his address to the nation on the night of the Sept. 11 attacks, the president outlined the beginnings of what would soon become known as the "Bush Doctrine." He announced that the U.S. would "make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them."

Sept. 20, 2001 Address to Joint Session of Congress

In this speech, Bush echoed and further elaborated upon his statement on the night of Sept. 11. "We will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime."

State of the Union 2002

In this State of the Union address, in which he introduced the idea of an "axis of evil" consisting of Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, the president outlined the administration's "two great objectives" in the war on terrorism. "First, we will shut down terrorist camps, disrupt terrorist plans, and bring terrorists to justice," he said. "And, second, we must prevent the terrorists and regimes who seek chemical, biological or nuclear weapons from threatening the United States and the world."

West Point Commencement Address

In his speech to graduating West Point cadets, the president first outlined the shift from a national security strategy of containment and deterrence to preemption. "If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long," he said. "Our security will require all Americans to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives."

Transforming the Military

This essay by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld offers a strategic overview of the Bush administration's defense policies. Rumsfeld details the lessons his department learned from Sept. 11 and the subsequent conflict in Afghanistan, and he explains the Pentagon's changing priorities. He also writes that "defending the United States requires prevention and sometimes preemption. ... Defending against terrorism and other emerging threats requires that we take the war to the enemy. The best -- and, in some cases, the only -- defense is a good offense." [Foreign Affairs, May/June 2002]

Gunning for Saddam
(broadcast Nov. 8, 2001)

FRONTLINE investigates the intense debate inside the Bush administration over what should be the next front in the war on terrorism. The Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States re-energized Saddam Hussein's strongest opponents in Washington. This report examines the litany of allegations against Iraq's leader, including the Iraqi regime's efforts to stockpile weapons of mass destruction, its attempt to assassinate former president George H.W. Bush in 1993, and recent allegations by two Iraqi military defectors that a secret camp inside Iraq has been used for the training of Islamic terrorists.

The Survival of Saddam
(broadcast Jan. 25, 2000)

This report presents an intimate portrait of Saddam Hussein's life, examining what has made him a master survivor -- from his days as a young hit man in the Ba'ath party to his rise to power with CIA help; from his successful exploitation of superpower rivalry in the 1970s to his miscalculations in invading Kuwait 20 years later; from CIA-backed coup attempts and internal rebellions against him throughout the 1990s to his successful standoff with U.N. weapons inspectors.

Spying on Saddam
(broadcast April 27, 1999)

In this report, FRONTLINE chronicles the dramatic, and ultimately thwarted, eight-year effort by the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) to find and dismantle Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. Tracing the history of UNSCOM -- from its birth at the end of the Gulf War, to its daring inspections and confrontations with the Iraqi military during the 1990s, to the final events leading up to the U.N.'s withdrawal of weapons inspectors in 1998 -- FRONTLINE tracks how politics, quarrels, and turf wars involving the U.N., the State Department, the CIA, and Israel effectively undermined and ended UNSCOM's mission.

The Gulf War
(broadcast Jan. 9, 1996)

This is FRONTLINE's acclaimed in-depth report on the planning and execution of the Gulf War. Examine the extensive oral-history archive, including interviews with Gulf War experts Bernard Trainor and Rick Atkinson, who analyze Iraq's strategy during the war, describe the West's view of Saddam Hussein at the time, and detail Saddam's strategic miscalculations in the war.

Analyzing the Bush Doctrine
A Grand Strategy of Transformation

The Bush administration's National Security Strategy, says historian John Lewis Gaddis, "comes across as more forceful, more carefully crafted and -- unexpectedly -- more multilateral than its immediate predecessor. It's a tip-off that there [are] interesting things going on here." He also addresses what the NSS doesn't explicitly state: that the war in Afghanistan proved U.S. values "were transportable, even to the remotest and most alien parts of the earth," and he suggests that "Iraq is the most feasible place where we can strike the next blow." [Foreign Policy, November/December 2002]

The Next World Order

The New Yorker's Nicholas Lemann examines the roots of a national security strategy of preemption in the Bush administration and how Sept. 11 served as "a transformative moment" for some members of George W. Bush's foreign policy team. "Some questions," he writes, "that don't appear to be settled yet, but are obviously being asked, are how much the United States is willing to operate alone in foreign affairs, and how much change it is willing to try to engender inside other countires -- and to what end and with what means." [The New Yorker, April 1, 2002]

The War on What?

Nicholas Lemann looks at the debates both within and outside of the Bush administration over how the U.S. should continue the war on terror after the fall of the Taliban. "To the extent that the supremely confident hawks take seriously anyone who disagrees with them," he writes, "it wouldn't be the multilateralists, whom they regard as sentimental and naïve, but old-fashioned foreign-policy realists, people who think of themselves as being hardheaded enough to conduct their discussion of American foreign policy on the ground of practical matters like national interest and balance of power." [The New Yorker, Sept. 16, 2002]

George Bush & the World

Frances FitzGerald critiques the Bush administration's foreign policy in The New York Review of Books, citing its break with "the internationalist premises that have been accepted by every other administration since World War II -- with the exception of Reagan's first." She writes that the "lack of debate over foreign policy since September 11 has obscured the rift, but to recall Bush senior's approach to foreign policy is to see just how radical the change is -- and to raise the question of how it came about only eight years later." [The New York Review of Books, Sept. 26, 2002]

The Obsolescense of Deterrence

Charles Krauthammer responds to critics of the Bush preemption strategy in The Weekly Standard. "Yes, deterrence worked in the past," he writes. "But in the past it was a play with very few actors. And even under those circumstances, the best of circumstances, deterrence was psychologically debilitating, inherently unstable, and highly dangerous. To voluntarily choose it as the principle on which to rest our safety in this age of weapons of mass destruction is sheer folly." [The Weekly Standard, Dec. 9, 2002]

The High and the Mighty

Describing what he calls America's "new exceptionalism" in foreign policy, Harvard professor Stanley Hoffmann writes, "A discerning reader might object that many of my new exceptionalists are no more than realists drunk with America's new might as the only superpower. This is true, but that headiness makes all the difference. Whereas the hallmark of past realists -- theorists and diplomats such as Reinhold Niebuhr, Hans Morgenthau, George Kennan, even Henry Kissinger -- was the kind of discerning prudence and moderation that Thucydides once praised, the new voices are nothing if not excessive and triumphalist." [The American Prospect, Jan. 13, 2003]

Iraq & the Middle East
Iraq and the Arabs' Future

Fouad Ajami argues in Foreign Affairs that beyond the removal of Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, U.S. motives should include "modernizing the Arab world." He warns, "Any fallout of war is certain to be dwarfed by the terrible consequences of America's walking right up to the edge of war and then stepping back, letting the Iraqi dictator work out the terms of another reprieve. It is the fate of great powers that provide order to do so against the background of a world that takes the protection while it bemoans the heavy hand of the protector. This new expedition to Mesopotamia would be no exception to that rule." [Foreign Affairs, January/February 2003]

The Burden

Michael Ignatieff writes in The New York Times Magazine, "Radical Islam would never have succeeded in winning adherents if the Muslim countries that won independence from the European empires had been able to convert dreams of self-determination into the reality of competent, rule-abiding states. America has inherited this crisis of self-determination from the empires of the past. Its solution -- to create democracy in Iraq, then hopefully roll out the same happy experiment throughout the Middle East -- is both noble and dangerous: noble because, if successful, it will finally give these peoples the self-determination they vainly fought for against the empires of the past; dangerous because, if it fails, there will be nobody left to blame but the Americans." [The New York Times Magazine, Jan. 5, 2003]

The Struggles of Democracy and Empire

Journalist Mark Danner, in this op-ed from The New York Times, describes the Bush administration's vision of a democratic Iraq that would change the balance of power in the Middle East. He warns, however, that "grand projects have not been treated kindly in the Middle East." "Before Sept. 11," Danner argues, "the Islamist radicals had been on the run, their project flagging. They had turned their talents on the United States -- the distant power that lay behind the thrones in Riyadh and Cairo -- only after suffering defeat on the primary battlegrounds of Algeria and Egypt and Saudi Arabia. By invading and occupying Iraq and using it as a base to remake the region, the United States risks revitalizing the political project embodied by Osama bin Laden." [The New York Times, Oct. 8, 2002]

After Iraq

The New Yorker's Nicholas Lemann interviews Douglas Feith, under secretary of defense for policy, and Stephen Cambone, a Defense Department official in charge of program analysis and evaluation, in order to better understand the administration's grand strategy for the Middle East. "If we do things right, and if we help the Iraqis, and if the Iraqis show an ability to create a humane representative government for themselves -- will that have beneficial spillover effects on the politics of the whole region?" Feith asks. "The answer, I think, is yes." [The New Yorker, Feb. 17, 2003]

Lemann also discusses the various scenarios for a war in Iraq and its aftermath in a Web-exclusive Q&A on the magazine's Web site. [Feb. 17, 2003]

The U.S. & Europe
For Old Friends, Iraq Bares a Deep Rift

Filing from Brussels on the eve of major antiwar demonstrations across Europe, New York Times correspondent Richard Bernstein writes, "What has become clear to many here is that the Bush administration's preparations for a possible war with Iraq have provoked something far beyond the normal disagreements that sometimes take place among allies. ... With turmoil in NATO, divisions on the Security Council and undiplomatically angry words being shouted across the Atlantic, many here have started to worry about the prospect of permanent damage to the very structures on which European peace and prosperity have been based for the past half century and more." [The New York Times, Feb. 14, 2003; free registration required.]

Power and Weakness

In a widely read and discussed article published last June, Robert Kagan, a senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, bluntly declared, "It is time to stop pretending that Europeans and Americans share a common view of the world, or even that they occupy the same world. On the all-important question of power -- the efficacy of power, the morality of power, the desirability of power -- American and European perspectives are diverging." Analyzing what he calls "the psychology of power and weakness," Kagan argues, "Today's transatlantic problem, in short, is not a George Bush problem. It is a power problem." [Policy Review, June 2002]

Anti-Europeanism in America

The British historian Timothy Garton Ash approaches the subject of the U.S.-European rift from the American side of the pond, having recently traveled through the States to get a first-hand look at American anti-Europeanism. "The current stereotype of Europeans is easily summarized. Europeans are wimps. They are weak, petulant, hypocritical, disunited, duplicitous, sometimes anti-Semitic and often anti-American appeasers. ... 'They are not serious' was the lapidary verdict on 'the Europeans' delivered to me by George F. Will over a stately breakfast in a Washington hotel. ... Historically, the tables are turned. For what was Charles de Gaulle's verdict on the Americans? 'Ils ne sont pas sérieux.'" [The New York Review of Books, Feb. 13, 2003]

The End of the West

Examining what he calls "the coming clash between the United States and the European Union" as the EU grows increasingly independent and assertive, political scientist Charles Kupchan warns, "Europe will inevitably rise up as America's principal competitor. Should Washington and Brussels begin to recognize the dangers of the growing gulf between them, they may be able to contain their budding rivalry. Should they fail, however, to prepare for life after Pax Americana, they will ensure that the coming clash of civilizations will not be between the West and the rest but within a West divided against itself." [The Atlantic Monthly, November 2002]

The Case Against Europe

"Americans just don't trust Europe's political judgment," writes the American historian Walter Russel Mead, summing up the views of "populist nationalists," or "Jacksonian Americans." "Appeasement is its second nature. Europeans have never met a ruler -- Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin, Qaddafi, Khomeini, Saddam Hussein -- they didn't think could be softened up by concessions." As Mead explains, "the very things that Europeans think make their political judgment better than Americans' actually make it worse." [The Atlantic Monthly, April 2002]

USA Oui! Bush Non!

Eric Alterman of The Nation, assessing the state of U.S.-European relations in recent months, notes that most Europeans are not anti-American, though they are viscerally opposed to the substance and style of the Bush administration. "To be genuinely anti-American ... is to disapprove of the United States 'for what it is, rather than what it does,'" writes Alterman. "Bush Administration officials and their supporters in the media would like to confuse this point in order to dismiss or delegitimize widespread concern and anger about the course of US foreign policy." [The Nation, Feb. 10, 2003]

 

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