February 18, 2004
The Bush DoctrineBy Gerry Warren
Editor's Note: This article was adapted from a research paper prepared at the United States War College. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy of position of the U.S. Government, the Department of Defense, or any of its agencies.
Times have changed. The events of September 11, 2001 were a mere appetizer for the potential buffet of almost unimaginable violence that could befall the
This article reviews the Bush Doctrine in the context of the moral traditions of war and historical practice. It explores the preemptive and preventive warfare arguments and potential adversary reactions to this new security strategy doctrine. Finally, it concludes that the Bush Doctrine is a necessary policy for our times, but that it is critically dependent on public understanding and support. Unfortunately, such support is far from guaranteed, which could lead to serious future strategic vulnerability for the
The Bush Doctrine
As with most presidential doctrines, presidential statements form the basis for the new security doctrine. In this case, we can look to presidential statements made in various speeches following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack, but particularly to President Bush's address to the graduating class at the U.S. Military Academy at
The Bush Doctrine defines the enemy threat as a horrible combination of 'radicalism and technology' that is not vulnerable to Cold War concepts of deterrence and containment. That is, terrorist groups and rogue states, who are unrestrained by the prospect of mutually assured destruction, create a new threat that demands an unprecedented response. To wait until they attack, as we might have historically preferred, is a far greater risk then can be justified. As President Bush warned at
The basic outlines of the Bush Doctrine are:
(2) relationships around the world will be defined in terms of countries that support the war on terrorism and those that do not; and
(3) rogue nations and/or terrorist organizations cannot be allowed to acquire and/or threaten the
The key sentence in the National Security Strategy for many critics has been, 'To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the
Critics of the doctrine argue that it appears to make first strikes the rule rather than the exception and ignores Teddy Roosevelt's caution to 'speak softly and carry a big stick' and instead, substitutes a policy of carrying a big stick with a loud voice.
The loudest critics argue that historically and morally the
However, Max Boot, the author of The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power, says that preemptive military action has a prominent place in our history, especially when superpowers of the day are not involved. 'Between 1800 and 1934 Marines staged 180 landings abroad. Some were in response to attacks on
When dealing with potentially large scale conflict, the history is a bit more complex than simple binary distinctions. Provocations can be exchanged, in a kind of game of chicken, with complex sets of consequences attending the question of who uses military force first. One modern label for this kind of situation is 'brinksmanship.'
In contrast, during
On the other hand, The United States did use preemption in the Cuban Missile Crisis. The deployment of ships to blockade
The Bush Doctrine did not originate the notion of preemptive warfare, even to deal with Middle Eastern WMD threats. In fact, in 1993 when the
The Moral Traditions of Warfare
In religious doctrine, opinions on war range from pacifists who believe deadly force is never justified to those just—warriors who maintain a more permissive view of when military force is prudent. The idea of a Just War derives from Hebrew scripture and the writings of
For the Catholic Church, the concepts are expressed in the Just War Doctrine from The Catechism of the Catholic Church issued by the U.S. Council of Bishops in 1993 with these required elements (in their words):
� The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force requires rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one in the same time:
� Those waging war must have legitimate authority;
� The damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
� All other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
� There must be serious prospects of success;
� The use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evils to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.
Judaic tradition regards as just: (a) wars of conquest ordained by God (requiring an anointed King of Israel); (b) defensive wars; and (c) wars of survival, which is what was offered to justify the 1982 invasion of Lebanon. Israel has long found itself on the brink of destruction surrounded by hostile forces. The greater the threat of catastrophic first attack from the enemy, the greater the likelihood that an enemy must be engaged before an actual attack.
Just War Theory has not only a religious basis, but also an international law basis, found in treaties and customs, and the foundational documents of the United Nations. The international law criteria are designed to protect the sovereignty of nations from acts of aggression. Aggressive war is one of the most serious transgressions in international law. This legalistic paradigm would essentially bar all manner of war except those based on the defense of rights. The standards of going to war, or jus ad bellum tests, are meant to set a high bar to avoid the too easy recourse to force and violence to resolve differences.
Preemptive and Preventive Warfare
Theorists distinguish between preventive war and preemptive war. A preventive war is designed to engage an eventual threat before it fully develops. The calculation is made that now is the moment to strike, since down the road your enemy will be stronger. A preemptive war, in contrast, attacks an enemy because that enemy is on the verge of attacking you. It is an anticipatory self—defense measure.
The Bush Doctrine has been criticized as being more on the preventive side than the preemptive side, as the Bush Administration has argued. But rather than a fixed line between the two types, it is probably more appropriate to posit a conceptual spectrum of anticipation, rather than a fixed line between the two alternatives. Of course, preemptive and preventive wars are not really types of wars at all; rather, they really describe motives for going to war. They are both derived from a better—now—than—later logic justifying military action. But history and international law have frowned upon preventive war, seeing it merely as a disguise for naked aggression.
Somewhere between Secretary Webster's reflexive self—defense justification and the pure preventive war against merely potential enemies, is where the line is drawn between justified and unjustified attacks. Michael Walzer, in his book Just and Unjust Wars, says, 'We move along the anticipation spectrum in search of enemies: not possible or potential enemies or merely present ill—wishers, but states and nations that are already engaged in harming us.' But Walzer notes that it is at the point of sufficient threat where the line between legitimate and illegitimate first strike force will be recognized. In his opinion, the analysis should cover three things:
(1) a manifest intent to injure;
(2) a degree of participation that makes intent a positive danger; and
(3) a general situation where waiting, or doing anything but fighting, magnifies risk.
Walzer observed, 'War is always judged twice, first with reference to the reasons states have for fighting (jus ad bellum), secondly with reference to the means they adopt (jus in bello).' The initial judgment is about aggression and self—defense, while the latter is about whether the combatants observe or violate customary and positive rules of engagement. Setting aside Vietnam's My Lai tragedy and other notorious individual atrocities, the United States has conducted, and will continue, even under an explicit preemptive strategy, to conduct itself consistent with the law of armed conflict. If anything, where the reasons or motives for going to war are closer to the preventive end of the spectrum and away from preemption, the U.S., as a moral nation founded on universal principles, is more likely to want to conduct the war in a manner that garners world support rather than alienates it.
Critics of the Bush Doctrine argue that it fails to detail any rules of engagement. But the Bush Doctrine does not change the manner of the conduct of war, other than that the enemy will be sought out wherever he resides. As shown in the recent Iraqi war, precision—guided weapons have astonishingly limited non—combatant casualties and property damage. Military targets located next to civilian facilities have been destroyed with little damage to the adjacent facilities. There is no reason to conclude that lowering the threshold for jus ad bellum will have any negative impact on jus in
The doctrine of preemption is causing many in Congress to be uneasy because it represents a further erosion of Congressional ability to influence when the military instrument of power will be utilized. Under Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, Congress alone is granted the power to declare war. But under Article II, Section 2, the President is designated as the Commander in Chief. This historical tension in the Constitution is the natural by—product of a checks—and—balances system of government.
In 1973, Congress passed the War Powers Act (PL 93—148) in an effort to limit a President's ability to commit
In the new security environment, this tension is likely to get worse rather than better, since the enemy we seek will be fought often in a stealth manner below the threshold of public scrutiny. The enemy to be engaged will hardly allow for months of Congressional debate on the advisability of using force. As Congress loses influence in this area, the free nature of our political system virtually ensures such that some politicians will present this to the public as executive overreaching, instead of a policy driven by strategic concerns. A policy of active preemption must therefore keep the public fully informed. However, intelligence considerations and other factors do not always allow information to be shared with the public. This creates potentially important problems.
Potential Adversary Reactions
Some argue that
While propaganda points may be scored if a decision is made on grounds of strategic calculation, the Bush Doctrine is unlikely to seriously change other countries' calculus of their own interests. Throughout history, countries have publicly offered reasons for their military interventions that could not withstand rational examination.
Potential adversaries already hide their weapons development programs, so it is hard to argue there will be any change in that behavior due to the Bush Doctrine. However, they will know that trading in these weapons in a manner that threatens
Adversaries should not regard the Bush Doctrine as meaning we will only be acting alone. A preemptive strategy does not have to mean a unilateral strategy. Charles Krauthammer has characterized the American policy as 'soft unilateralism.' Dr. Krauthammer argues that it is not an 'in—your—face' policy and is not defiant, but merely deliberate and determined. He argues that in world affairs multilateralism usually follows unilateralism and gives the example of President Bush (41) making it clear to the world in 1990 that the U.S. was prepared to fight for Kuwait even if we had to do it alone —— and the world followed. Adversaries may not always like where the
In this same tradition, President Bush has declared 'The people of the
A Viable Policy for Our Times?
If the Bush Doctrine is going to work, the public will have to support it. The historic strategic culture of the
Under Clausewitz's theory of war, a nation's ability to successfully wage war is dependent upon the synergistic relationship among the people, the military and the government. If a preemptive strategy is to be viable, the
Prior to September 11, 2001, few Americans would likely have supported a movement along the spectrum of anticipation from self—defense toward preventive war. The challenge for maintaining a supportive public will be that as we achieve success through preemptive application of military force, defining events such as 9/11 will become less likely. As they do and the public feels safer, the popular support for this strategy could diminish.
The Bush Doctrine confronts a strategic reality that can no longer be ignored. For more than a decade prior to its announcement, there were many signs of shadowy enemies who were committing acts of war against us, for which we had no clearly stated policy by which we could respond. The Bush Doctrine attempts to close this strategic vulnerability. The American public understands the need for it now, but will it in the years ahead? We view terrorism as reprehensible and uncivilized. Unfortunately, some others view it as their only recourse. This environment is unlikely to change.
In a democratic society, Just War Theory provides only some of the necessary guides to military intervention. The domestic political process, with all its messy complications, is the agent by which the public's understanding and support will be shaped and measured.
The Bush Doctrine is not a radical departure, as some would argue. Only time will tell if the political will to enforce it will remain strong enough to keep it viable.
Gerry Warren is a Colonel, United States Army, Oregon Army National Guard