So as the Pentagon prepares for its Quadrennial Defense Review, leftists are getting a chance to demonize the previous administration once more (see, "Bush Preemptive Strike Doctrine Under Review, May Be Discarded"). While it's almost comical that this strategic assessment is being framed as a way to revise U.S. doctrine on preemptive war (since President Obama is the personification of exactly the opposite), you've got to love how Daily Kos represents the Bush administration's foreign policy:
Preemption, that is, initiating a first strike against another nation that appears to be preparing an imminent attack or is already in the process of launching one is not particularly controversial. It's self-defense. And every nation has the right to it. Supporters of preventive war, on the other hand, argue for strategically attacking nations which may, someday, pose a military threat. Preventive war cannot, therefore, be distinguished from a war of aggression, a violation of the most fundamental international law ....Of course, President Bush didn't lie. Virtually all of the major European defense ministries claimed similar intelligence on Iraqi WMD. There was a consensus on the reality of threat, just not what to do about -- especially among countries like France and Russia who were loathe to forfeit their massive oil concessions in Saddam's Iraq should the U.S. fight to uphold the 17 United Nations resolutions the Baghdad regime had long abrogated.
It's this kind of thinking which says it's not only OK but downright prudent to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities to prevent that country from ever building its own nuclear weapons. Moral issues aside, from a strictly utilitarian point of view, such thinking is no different from saying that torturing an enemy soldier is OK: It lets that enemy or a future enemy justify the torture of one's own soldiers. If it's all right for the U.S. to strike preventively at Iran, why isn't it all right for the same to be done by Iran - which during the Cheney-Bush administration had good reason to believe it was under threat of attack?
Despite all the theoretical justifications of preventive war, the neoconservative Cheney-Bush administration made every effort to present the Iraq war as pre-emptive. That was what all those exaggerations and fabrications were about in the run-up to March 2003. Just days before the Bush Doctrine itself was made public, Bush at the United Nations told the lie that the Iraq "regime is a grave and gathering danger."
Ending the Bush Doctrine and the associated policy spin-offs, would not, of course, mean an end to all the perniciousness of American exceptionalism. But it would be a major step in the right direction. Although it would elicit an extended round of shrieks against Obama from the crowd which claims no war America fights can be called aggression, taking that step would improve our national security instead of weakening it as the Bush Doctrine has done.
In any case, checking that link at Daily Kos leads to President Bush's speech to the World Body on September 12, 2002: "President's Remarks at the United Nations General Assembly." This passage is especially noteworthy:
Also, see Arthur Borden, "Iraq War's Valid Origins":
The United States has no quarrel with the Iraqi people; they've suffered too long in silent captivity. Liberty for the Iraqi people is a great moral cause, and a great strategic goal. The people of Iraq deserve it; the security of all nations requires it. Free societies do not intimidate through cruelty and conquest, and open societies do not threaten the world with mass murder. The United States supports political and economic liberty in a unified Iraq.
We can harbor no illusions -- and that's important today to remember. Saddam Hussein attacked Iran in 1980 and Kuwait in 1990. He's fired ballistic missiles at Iran and Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Israel. His regime once ordered the killing of every person between the ages of 15 and 70 in certain Kurdish villages in northern Iraq. He has gassed many Iranians, and 40 Iraqi villages.
My nation will work with the U.N. Security Council to meet our common challenge. If Iraq's regime defies us again, the world must move deliberately, decisively to hold Iraq to account. We will work with the U.N. Security Council for the necessary resolutions. But the purposes of the United States should not be doubted. The Security Council resolutions will be enforced -- the just demands of peace and security will be met -- or action will be unavoidable. And a regime that has lost its legitimacy will also lose its power.
President Bush has often invoked the memory of Sept. 11, 2001, to justify the war in Iraq. This is understandable, but the war is widely misunderstood as a result. The conflict was based not solely on the terrorist attacks of 2001 but also on decades of bipartisan consensus on foreign policy.This discussion shows that -- from President Bush's own words, to those of military experts on the origins of war in 2003 -- U.S. policy was not only predicated on larger strategic rationales of both human rights and deterrence, but that the administration was indeed working from a longstanding tradition in American foreign policy as well.
As President Jimmy Carter phrased it in 1980, "An attempt by any outside force to gain control of the Persian Gulf region will be regarded as an assault on the vital interests of the United States of America, and such an assault will be repelled by any means necessary, including military force." Since that time, every U.S. president has been prepared to protect American interests in the Middle East. Recognizing the risks of Saddam Hussein, President Bill Clinton considered attacking Iraq doubtless for the same reasons as George W. Bush - concluding however that such a war would lack popular support.
The long-term challenge of the Iraqi dictator was his desire to control the vast resources of the Persian Gulf. He rightly saw that the acquisition of a nuclear capability would give him a free hand throughout the region, and a dominant role in the global economy.
But what's especially bothersome is the Daily Kos passage above suggesting "the perniciousness of American exceptionalism." This concept is fundamentally at issue in leftist foreign policy in Washington, and it's the current administration's abandonment of America's foundational uniqueness that is placing Americans and citizens of the world at greater risk than in other other time in decades.
As I've said many times before, it won't be too soon when American voters reject Barack Neville Hussein and his Democratic (Socialist) Party at the ballot box. In the meanwhile, conservatives can gather strength in the increasing indicators showing that the current administration's days are indeed numbered.
Added: See also Common Sense Political Thought, "The Difference Between Theory and Practice."