Still More Confusion about the Bush Doctrine (Or, Krauthammer is Wrong)

The recent exchange between Sarah Palin and Charles Gibson on the topic of the Bush Doctrine has incited a spirited discussion in the MSM and the blogosphere about what exactly the "Bush Doctrine" means.

On the one hand, the critics of Palin are utterly dismayed that she appeared to fumble when asked something that even your average  preschooler should know. On the other hand, defenders of Palin have been criticizing what they take to be a  Gibson's own misunderstanding of the issue. According to Gibson, the Bush Doctrine asserted the right to launch pre-emptive military strikes.

Some of Gibson's critics have been pointing out that the right to launch preemptive strikes is only one aspect or, to use Norman Podhoretz's term, "pillar" of the Bush Doctrine  Others have been pointing out that, in the final analysis, there really is no one agreed upon meaning to the Bush Doctrine.

Today, in his Washington Post piece "Charlie Gibson's Gaffe" Charles Krauthammer entered the fray and sought to put the issue to rest once and for all. Krauthammer thought he was in a special position to do so because, according to Wikipedia, he was the person who first used the term. He writes,

I know something about the subject because, as the Wikipedia entry on the Bush doctrine notes, I was the first to use the term. In the cover essay of the June 4, 2001, issue of the Weekly Standard entitled, "The Bush Doctrine: ABM, Kyoto, and the New American Unilateralism," I suggested that the Bush administration policies of unilaterally withdrawing from the ABM treaty and rejecting the Kyoto protocol, together with others, amounted to a radical change in foreign policy that should be called the Bush doctrine.

There is only one problem: Wikipedia is wrong.  The "Bush Doctrine" was in fact first introduced in a White House press briefing on October 8, 2001 by Karen Hughes, who was then Counselor to the President.

Karen Hughes: On Tuesday of last week, Tuesday, October 2nd, after his National Security Council meeting, he called me to the Oval Office and told me that he was preparing to launch a military operation and asked me to start thinking about an address to the nation. He was very aware that he would need to define the goals of the operation to the nation. ...And I have a quote here. He [President Bush] said, "The Bush administration will enforce its doctrine." And that's what he told me as part of explaining that the military operation would be part of a long and broad effort on a lot of fronts and that its goal would be to help disrupt the terrorist network in Afghanistan and clear the ground there for sustained operations.

The journalist then asked Hughes to elaborate.
Q: Can you define the Bush doctrine, which you said he would enforce? And, secondly, did the President ever try to -- did you ever hear him try to understand the motivation or explain the motivation, the character of bin Laden? Did he ever discuss bin Laden in those terms?

Karen Hughes: I'll leave the second half of that to Condi. The doctrine which he was referencing, Randy, was the statement he made very clearly in his joint session of Congress, that the countries who harbored terrorists would deliver the terrorists or share in their fate. That was what he was referring to in that.

In Bush’s own words, in the speech he delivered on September 20, 2001:


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.

This is the core of the Bush doctrine.   States or nations that sponsor terrorism would not be treated any differently from stateless terrorist organizations (e.g., Al-Qaeda).
In my view, there are two main reasons for the confusion about the substance of the Bush Doctrine. First, most people are probably not aware that the Bush Doctrine amounted to a radical change in the way the United States dealt with states that  sponsored acts of terrorism. The US had always targeted the organizations that carried out the acts, not the states that supported them. Second, one tends to conflate 1. the means of enforcing the Bush doctrine with2. the doctrine itself. Reserving the right to launch pre-emptive strikes against a nation that sponsors terrorism would, for example, be one way of enforcing the Bush Doctrine. But reserving that right already presupposes the principle that the Bush doctrine articulates.

So, Gibson is wrong and someone ought to update Wikipedia.
The recent exchange between Sarah Palin and Charles Gibson on the topic of the Bush Doctrine has incited a spirited discussion in the MSM and the blogosphere about what exactly the "Bush Doctrine" means.

On the one hand, the critics of Palin are utterly dismayed that she appeared to fumble when asked something that even your average  preschooler should know. On the other hand, defenders of Palin have been criticizing what they take to be a  Gibson's own misunderstanding of the issue. According to Gibson, the Bush Doctrine asserted the right to launch pre-emptive military strikes.

Some of Gibson's critics have been pointing out that the right to launch preemptive strikes is only one aspect or, to use Norman Podhoretz's term, "pillar" of the Bush Doctrine  Others have been pointing out that, in the final analysis, there really is no one agreed upon meaning to the Bush Doctrine.

Today, in his Washington Post piece "Charlie Gibson's Gaffe" Charles Krauthammer entered the fray and sought to put the issue to rest once and for all. Krauthammer thought he was in a special position to do so because, according to Wikipedia, he was the person who first used the term. He writes,

I know something about the subject because, as the Wikipedia entry on the Bush doctrine notes, I was the first to use the term. In the cover essay of the June 4, 2001, issue of the Weekly Standard entitled, "The Bush Doctrine: ABM, Kyoto, and the New American Unilateralism," I suggested that the Bush administration policies of unilaterally withdrawing from the ABM treaty and rejecting the Kyoto protocol, together with others, amounted to a radical change in foreign policy that should be called the Bush doctrine.

There is only one problem: Wikipedia is wrong.  The "Bush Doctrine" was in fact first introduced in a White House press briefing on October 8, 2001 by Karen Hughes, who was then Counselor to the President.

Karen Hughes: On Tuesday of last week, Tuesday, October 2nd, after his National Security Council meeting, he called me to the Oval Office and told me that he was preparing to launch a military operation and asked me to start thinking about an address to the nation. He was very aware that he would need to define the goals of the operation to the nation. ...And I have a quote here. He [President Bush] said, "The Bush administration will enforce its doctrine." And that's what he told me as part of explaining that the military operation would be part of a long and broad effort on a lot of fronts and that its goal would be to help disrupt the terrorist network in Afghanistan and clear the ground there for sustained operations.

The journalist then asked Hughes to elaborate.
Q: Can you define the Bush doctrine, which you said he would enforce? And, secondly, did the President ever try to -- did you ever hear him try to understand the motivation or explain the motivation, the character of bin Laden? Did he ever discuss bin Laden in those terms?

Karen Hughes: I'll leave the second half of that to Condi. The doctrine which he was referencing, Randy, was the statement he made very clearly in his joint session of Congress, that the countries who harbored terrorists would deliver the terrorists or share in their fate. That was what he was referring to in that.

In Bush’s own words, in the speech he delivered on September 20, 2001:


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.

This is the core of the Bush doctrine.   States or nations that sponsor terrorism would not be treated any differently from stateless terrorist organizations (e.g., Al-Qaeda).
In my view, there are two main reasons for the confusion about the substance of the Bush Doctrine. First, most people are probably not aware that the Bush Doctrine amounted to a radical change in the way the United States dealt with states that  sponsored acts of terrorism. The US had always targeted the organizations that carried out the acts, not the states that supported them. Second, one tends to conflate 1. the means of enforcing the Bush doctrine with2. the doctrine itself. Reserving the right to launch pre-emptive strikes against a nation that sponsors terrorism would, for example, be one way of enforcing the Bush Doctrine. But reserving that right already presupposes the principle that the Bush doctrine articulates.

So, Gibson is wrong and someone ought to update Wikipedia.