The Bush Doctrine

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 United States from enemies not bound by conventional restraints. A new enemy prompts a new way of thinking about the threshold against which we measure the appropriateness of bringing violence to our enemies.  The gravest danger from this new enemy is its willingness to attack in unconventional ways, with weapons that can be easily concealed, covertly delivered and used with little advance warning. In response, the President of the United States has proclaimed the Bush Doctrine.

 

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 United States.

 

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 West Point on June 1, 2002. This speech presented the backbone for what ultimately has been codified in the Bush Administration's first National Security Strategy issued in September 2002.

 

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 West Point, 'If we wait for threats to materialize, we will have waited too long.'

 

The basic outlines of the Bush Doctrine are:

(1)    the United States will combat terror wherever it can be found using all means at its disposal including preemptive force;

(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 United States with weapons of mass destruction.

 

The key sentence in the National Security Strategy for many critics has been, 'To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively'

 

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 United States is on weak ground in pursuing a course of preemptive use of military force. They argue The Bush Doctrine has no real historic foundation in the practice of the United States. Senator Robert Byrd in his pre—Iraqi war resolution address to Congress quoted from a Congressional Research Service September 18, 2002 report that said, 'The historical record indicates that the United States has never, to date, engaged in a 'preemptive military' attack against another nation.  Nor has the United States ever attacked another nation militarily prior to its first having been attacked or prior to U.S. citizens or interests first having been attacked, with the singular exception of the Spanish—American War.'

 

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 United States citizens and property but many were launched before such attacks occurred.'

 

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.'

The United States has long recognized preemptive action to be sometimes justified, even, in at least one instance, when used against itself. Secretary of State Daniel Webster accepted preemptive violence as justifiable in the Caroline case of 1842.  The attack by British forces on the U.S. Steamboat Caroline, which had been carrying supplies to a group of Canadian rebels likely to be used to support an anti—British insurrection, almost sparked a war between the U.S. and Britain.  Secretary Webster accepted the British explanation of self—defense for the attack but in doing so, wrote that for this to be valid there must be shown 'A necessity of self—defense . . . instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.' The concept has come to be known as 'anticipatory self—defense,' almost a reflex response to an attack perceived as approaching.

 

In contrast, during World War I, Germany continuously provoked the United States, most notoriously sending a telegram to Mexico, which U.S. intelligence intercepted, proposing an alliance against America. In the face of provocation, the U.S. cut—off diplomatic ties with Germany. Germany viewed this as a hostile act and responded by sinking three U.S. Merchant ships. This then triggered the U.S. entry into The Great War.

 

Could the U.S. have gone to war with Germany on the basis of the intercepted telegram alone? An argument could have been made that preemption was justifiable, given the hostility and apparent imminent action by Germany against the U.S. as shown in the telegram. But Woodrow Wilson had campaigned for election on the basis of keeping the United States out of war. Instead of preemptively attacking, he escalated the conflict diplomatically. Rather than maintaining the peace, this led to an actual attack from the enemy, with its attendant human and material consequences. Absorbing the first blow allowed President Wilson to enter war with a greater measure of public support and legitimacy in the world's eyes than if he had used military means first.

 

On the other hand, The United States did use preemption in the Cuban Missile Crisis. The deployment of ships to blockade Cuba, preventing the delivery of Soviet missiles that could target the United States, was an act of war. Missiles deployed to a hostile island nation less than 100 miles from the U.S. mainland warranted the aggressive measures taken. To jump ahead linguistically, Weapons of Mass Destruction, combined with the means of delivering them without warning, were considered intolerable by President Kennedy.

 

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 U.S. discovered that Iraq had developed more extensive weapons of mass destruction capability than previously thought, the U.S. took steps to develop preemptive weapons designed specifically to punch through underground bunkers and incinerate chemical and biological weapons before they could be used. The very purpose of these weapons was to preempt an enemy force.

 

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 St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas and basically requires a righteous intention  It is an attempt to balance the Christian concern for non—violence with recognition that the protection of innocent human life requires a willingness to use force and violence.

 

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 bello.

 

Congressional Concerns

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 U.S. forces in to combat without explicit congressional approval.  However, no President has ever recognized the law and conceded he was subject to it.  Each has instead merely informed the Congress 'consistent with' the Act of the military action he was taking, effectively rendering the Act without meaning.

 

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 China may use the Bush Doctrine to publicly justify forcible reunification with Taiwan. Or, India may cite it as a justification for preemptively striking Pakistan.  Such actions have been available to these countries long before preemption was explicitly recognized as a matter of strategic U.S. policy. Every country will always make calculations on their use of the military instrument of power based upon their own national interest and the relationships of international power.

 

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.  Iraq's initial explanation for invading Kuwait was that a new government had taken over power in Kuwait and invited them in. Propaganda uses of the Bush Doctrine, while annoying, are not of primary importance.

 

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 U.S. interests will receive our full attention and confrontation.

 

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 U.S. leads with this strategic policy, but they are likely to respect it.

 

The U.S. has a long history of acting when others have failed to do so.  When Thomas Jefferson became president in 1801 the problem of the Barbary pirates awaited him.  These pirates who were outfitted in Algeria, Morocco, Tripoli and Tunis prowled the seas off the North African coast much as their predecessors had for two centuries.  They attacked British, French and American merchant ships holding their crews for ransom and disrupting trade between nations.  Other nations were ineffective in dealing with this world community threat causing Jefferson to declare 'Since no one is taking care of this, I will.'  U.S. war ships were sent to the Mediterranean and once the pirates were routed he signed a treaty with the Pasha of Tripoli, ending this threat to the world community. 

 

In this same tradition, President Bush has declared 'The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder.'  While adversary reactions will undoubtedly vary, the U.S. willingness to address a problem that has only grown in the last decade and is unlikely to get better, is likely to assist in causing more nations to join the 'coalition of the willing' as it has been called for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

 

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 United States betrays isolationist tendencies.  The U.S. has historically been slow to anger but once angered, has responded with overwhelming force.  The strategic culture of a nation is long—lasting and derives from public values and perceptions, as well as those of the nation's decision—making elites.

 

If the U.S. is to successfully face the asymmetric warfare of the future, where enemy tactics are terrorism, human bombs and targeting civilians with WMD, we must not allow an asymmetry of will.  An asymmetry of will could result when the more—committed antagonist is willing to accept greater cost, risks and actions, which the less—committed nation might reject on moral or legal grounds.  There is no doubt that the evolving American strategic culture, subject to intense political contention, can create military risks or strategic vulnerabilities.

 

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 U.S. must not only maintain the requisite military power to carry it out but must have the political will and popular support necessary to support such strategy.

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.

 

Conclusion

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

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 United States from enemies not bound by conventional restraints. A new enemy prompts a new way of thinking about the threshold against which we measure the appropriateness of bringing violence to our enemies.  The gravest danger from this new enemy is its willingness to attack in unconventional ways, with weapons that can be easily concealed, covertly delivered and used with little advance warning. In response, the President of the United States has proclaimed the Bush Doctrine.

 

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 United States.

 

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 West Point on June 1, 2002. This speech presented the backbone for what ultimately has been codified in the Bush Administration's first National Security Strategy issued in September 2002.

 

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 West Point, 'If we wait for threats to materialize, we will have waited too long.'

 

The basic outlines of the Bush Doctrine are:

(1)    the United States will combat terror wherever it can be found using all means at its disposal including preemptive force;

(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 United States with weapons of mass destruction.

 

The key sentence in the National Security Strategy for many critics has been, 'To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively'

 

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 United States is on weak ground in pursuing a course of preemptive use of military force. They argue The Bush Doctrine has no real historic foundation in the practice of the United States. Senator Robert Byrd in his pre—Iraqi war resolution address to Congress quoted from a Congressional Research Service September 18, 2002 report that said, 'The historical record indicates that the United States has never, to date, engaged in a 'preemptive military' attack against another nation.  Nor has the United States ever attacked another nation militarily prior to its first having been attacked or prior to U.S. citizens or interests first having been attacked, with the singular exception of the Spanish—American War.'

 

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 United States citizens and property but many were launched before such attacks occurred.'

 

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.'

The United States has long recognized preemptive action to be sometimes justified, even, in at least one instance, when used against itself. Secretary of State Daniel Webster accepted preemptive violence as justifiable in the Caroline case of 1842.  The attack by British forces on the U.S. Steamboat Caroline, which had been carrying supplies to a group of Canadian rebels likely to be used to support an anti—British insurrection, almost sparked a war between the U.S. and Britain.  Secretary Webster accepted the British explanation of self—defense for the attack but in doing so, wrote that for this to be valid there must be shown 'A necessity of self—defense . . . instant, overwhelming, leaving no choice of means, and no moment for deliberation.' The concept has come to be known as 'anticipatory self—defense,' almost a reflex response to an attack perceived as approaching.

 

In contrast, during World War I, Germany continuously provoked the United States, most notoriously sending a telegram to Mexico, which U.S. intelligence intercepted, proposing an alliance against America. In the face of provocation, the U.S. cut—off diplomatic ties with Germany. Germany viewed this as a hostile act and responded by sinking three U.S. Merchant ships. This then triggered the U.S. entry into The Great War.

 

Could the U.S. have gone to war with Germany on the basis of the intercepted telegram alone? An argument could have been made that preemption was justifiable, given the hostility and apparent imminent action by Germany against the U.S. as shown in the telegram. But Woodrow Wilson had campaigned for election on the basis of keeping the United States out of war. Instead of preemptively attacking, he escalated the conflict diplomatically. Rather than maintaining the peace, this led to an actual attack from the enemy, with its attendant human and material consequences. Absorbing the first blow allowed President Wilson to enter war with a greater measure of public support and legitimacy in the world's eyes than if he had used military means first.

 

On the other hand, The United States did use preemption in the Cuban Missile Crisis. The deployment of ships to blockade Cuba, preventing the delivery of Soviet missiles that could target the United States, was an act of war. Missiles deployed to a hostile island nation less than 100 miles from the U.S. mainland warranted the aggressive measures taken. To jump ahead linguistically, Weapons of Mass Destruction, combined with the means of delivering them without warning, were considered intolerable by President Kennedy.

 

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 U.S. discovered that Iraq had developed more extensive weapons of mass destruction capability than previously thought, the U.S. took steps to develop preemptive weapons designed specifically to punch through underground bunkers and incinerate chemical and biological weapons before they could be used. The very purpose of these weapons was to preempt an enemy force.

 

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 St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas and basically requires a righteous intention  It is an attempt to balance the Christian concern for non—violence with recognition that the protection of innocent human life requires a willingness to use force and violence.

 

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 bello.

 

Congressional Concerns

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 U.S. forces in to combat without explicit congressional approval.  However, no President has ever recognized the law and conceded he was subject to it.  Each has instead merely informed the Congress 'consistent with' the Act of the military action he was taking, effectively rendering the Act without meaning.

 

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 China may use the Bush Doctrine to publicly justify forcible reunification with Taiwan. Or, India may cite it as a justification for preemptively striking Pakistan.  Such actions have been available to these countries long before preemption was explicitly recognized as a matter of strategic U.S. policy. Every country will always make calculations on their use of the military instrument of power based upon their own national interest and the relationships of international power.

 

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.  Iraq's initial explanation for invading Kuwait was that a new government had taken over power in Kuwait and invited them in. Propaganda uses of the Bush Doctrine, while annoying, are not of primary importance.

 

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 U.S. interests will receive our full attention and confrontation.

 

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 U.S. leads with this strategic policy, but they are likely to respect it.

 

The U.S. has a long history of acting when others have failed to do so.  When Thomas Jefferson became president in 1801 the problem of the Barbary pirates awaited him.  These pirates who were outfitted in Algeria, Morocco, Tripoli and Tunis prowled the seas off the North African coast much as their predecessors had for two centuries.  They attacked British, French and American merchant ships holding their crews for ransom and disrupting trade between nations.  Other nations were ineffective in dealing with this world community threat causing Jefferson to declare 'Since no one is taking care of this, I will.'  U.S. war ships were sent to the Mediterranean and once the pirates were routed he signed a treaty with the Pasha of Tripoli, ending this threat to the world community. 

 

In this same tradition, President Bush has declared 'The people of the United States and our friends and allies will not live at the mercy of an outlaw regime that threatens the peace with weapons of mass murder.'  While adversary reactions will undoubtedly vary, the U.S. willingness to address a problem that has only grown in the last decade and is unlikely to get better, is likely to assist in causing more nations to join the 'coalition of the willing' as it has been called for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

 

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 United States betrays isolationist tendencies.  The U.S. has historically been slow to anger but once angered, has responded with overwhelming force.  The strategic culture of a nation is long—lasting and derives from public values and perceptions, as well as those of the nation's decision—making elites.

 

If the U.S. is to successfully face the asymmetric warfare of the future, where enemy tactics are terrorism, human bombs and targeting civilians with WMD, we must not allow an asymmetry of will.  An asymmetry of will could result when the more—committed antagonist is willing to accept greater cost, risks and actions, which the less—committed nation might reject on moral or legal grounds.  There is no doubt that the evolving American strategic culture, subject to intense political contention, can create military risks or strategic vulnerabilities.

 

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 U.S. must not only maintain the requisite military power to carry it out but must have the political will and popular support necessary to support such strategy.

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.

 

Conclusion

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