The War Behind Closed Doors
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analyses: america's new approach to the world
Assessing the Bush Doctrine

Released Sept. 17, 2002, twenty months after President Bush took office, the 33-page "National Security Strategy of the United States" (NSS) offers the administration's first comprehensive rationale for a new, aggressive approach to national security. The new strategy calls for pre-emptive action against hostile states and terror groups, and it states that the U.S. "will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting pre-emptively." The NSS also focuses on how diplomacy and foreign aid can and should be used to project American values, including "a battle for the future of the Muslim world."

Here are the views of historian John Lewis Gaddis of Yale; defense policy expert Kenneth Pollack; Mark Danner of The New Yorker; William Kristol of The Weekly Standard; and Karen DeYoung and Barton Gellman of The Washington Post on the significance of this document.


Some within the Bush administration argue that a successful regime change in Iraq could be a test case for a transformed, democratic Middle East, or maybe even a catalyst for free and open societies elsewhere in the world.

Here, defense policy experts Kenneth Pollack and Richard Perle; William Kristol of The Weekly Standard; and historian John Lewis Gaddis of Yale evaluate that thinking.


Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz has been at the center of Pentagon strategic planning in both Bush administrations. A hawk on the use of U.S. military power, Wolfowitz took the lead in drafting the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance on America's military posture toward the world. The draft said that containment was an old idea, a relic of the cold war. It advocated that America should maintain military strength beyond challenge and use it to preempt provocations from rogue states with weapons of mass destruction. And it stated that, if necessary, the U.S. should be prepared to act alone. Leaked to the press, Wolfowitz's draft was rewritten and softened by then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney. Ten years later, many analysts see a strong resemblance between President Bush's 2002 National Security Strategy and Wolfowitz's 1992 draft.

Here, Barton Gellman of The Washington Post; Bill Kristol of The Weekly Standard; historian John Lewis Gaddis of Yale; and Dennis Ross, former State Department official and Mideast envoy, discuss the 1992 Wolfowitz document and its ramifications.


In both the Bush administration's overall foreign policy strategy -- as laid out in its National Security Strategy of September 2002 -- as well as in the campaign to oust Saddam Hussein, the administration has made it clear that in the end, if necessary, the U.S. is prepared to go it alone.

Here, Barton Gellman of The Washington Post; historian John Lewis Gaddis of Yale; defense policy analyst Richard Perle; and former State Department official and Mideast envoy Dennis Ross assess the debate over a multilateral vs. unilateral approach to the world.


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