THE IMMEDIATE RESPONSE of President Bush and his administration to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States was superb, both purposeful and principled -- a military, political, and diplomatic success. But what comes next? In his State of the Union address, Bush suggested specific targets of future phases of the war -- the "axis of evil" of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. But what has been missing in the discussion of the second stage (and perhaps the third, fourth, and fifth stages) of the war on terrorism is an articulation of the general principles that will guide policy in difficult times ahead. The new threat to American national security and the American way of life is no less threatening than such earlier challenges as the defeat of fascism in Europe and imperialism in Japan during World War II, or the containment and ultimate destruction of world communism during the Cold War. A grand vision of the purposes of American power is needed not only to shape strategy, but also to susta in support from the American people and America's allies.
During the twentieth century, the central purpose of American power was to defend against and when possible to destroy tyranny. American presidents have been at their best when they have embraced the mission of defending liberty at home and spreading liberty abroad. This was the task during World War II, and it was again our objective (or should have been the mission) during the Cold War. It must be our mission again. In fact, the war on terrorism is a new variation of the old war against the anti-democratic "isms" of the previous century.
Adherence to a liberty doctrine as a guide to American foreign policy means pushing to the top of the agenda the promotion of individual freedoms abroad. The expansion of individual liberty in economic and political affairs in turn stimulates the development and consolidation of democratic regimes. To promote liberty requires first the containment and then the elimination, of those forces opposed to liberty, be they individuals, movements, or regimes. Next comes the construction of pro-liberty forces, be they democrats, democratic movements, or democratic institutions. Finally comes the establishment of governments that value and protect the liberty of their own people as the United States does. Obviously, the United States does not have the means to deliver liberty to all subjugated people around the world at the same time. And the spread of liberty and democracy will not always be simultaneous. In some places, the promotion of the individual freedoms must come first, democratization second. Nonetheless, the spread of liberty should be the lofty and broad goal that organizes American foreign policy for the coming decades.
By defining the purposes of American power in these terms, American foreign policymakers achieve several objectives not attainable by narrower or less normative doctrines. First, the liberty doctrine, like containment during the Cold War, is useful in clarifying the relationship between often very different policies. Toppling Saddam Hussein does in fact have something in common with providing education to Afghan women, and a liberty doctrine allows us to see it clearly. Second, the liberty doctrine properly defines our new struggle in terms of ideas, individuals, and regimes -- not in terms of states. Allies of liberty exist everywhere, most certainly in Iran and even in Iraq. Likewise, not all the enemies of liberty are states; they also include non-governmental organizations like al Qaeda. Third, the liberty doctrine provides a cause that others -- allies of the United States as well as states, movements, and individuals not necessarily supportive of all U.S. strategic interests -- can support. For example, the Iraqi regime constitutes an immediate threat to American national security but does not pose the same threat to France or Russia. A campaign against Iraq defined in terms of "national interests" means that we will go it alone. A credible campaign for liberty in Iraq, however, may attract a wider coalition. Fourth, the liberty doctrine underscores two phases of engagement with enemy regimes -- the destructive phase and the constructive phase. To demonstrate real commitment to this mission of promoting liberty abroad, the United States must also devote substantial rhetorical attention and concrete resources to the constructive phase of the promotion of liberty. If not, we will be waging military campaigns against new tyrannical regimes over and over again.
Moments for redefining America's place in the world are rare. Pearl Harbor was one. The communist coup in Czechoslovakia in 1948 was another, as the Western response helped to crystallize the need for a vigorous containment strategy in Europe, including the creation of NATO the following year. The invasion of South Korea in 1950 was a critically important moment, prompting the quick adoption of NSC-68 as the strategic blueprint for containing communist aggression worldwide. The September attacks against innocent Americans on U.S. soil can be another seminal event in refocusing the American mission. The task, however, requires conceptual framing, choices, and articulation. It will not happen naturally and organically as the result of events. The end of the Gulf War and the end of the Cold War could have been pivotal moments in the redefinition of American foreign policy and the international system, but they were not. (1) Bush has stated correctly that "we're in a fight for civilization itself." But to underta ke such a colossal task, we must clearly define the enemies of civilization and freedom, map a strategy for defeating those enemies, and then commit to a plan that expands civilization and freedom.
Knowing the enemy
SINCE SEPTEMBER 11, many policymakers and commentators have noted the uniqueness and newness of our current era. They are wrong. The intellectual challenge of defining the enemy may not be as difficult as it first looks. During World War II and again during the Cold War, the enemy was clearly those fascist, imperialist, and communist forces that abhorred liberty and aimed to destroy democracy. America's new enemy is cut from the same anti-Western, anti-democratic, anti-liberal cloth.
The decade after the Cold War, like the shorter interregnum between World War II and the Cold War, created at times the illusion of "mission accomplished." For some, the end of communism was the end of history. For others, the collapse of the Soviet Union marked the extinction of the only major threat to American security. Obviously, the euphoria and complacency of the 1990S were misplaced. The absence of communism did not translate automatically and smoothly into the presence of democracy. On the contrary, a decade after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union, democratic regimes are still a minority in the post-communist world. Although democratic victories in the former communist world did reverberate well beyond Europe, the so-called third wave of democracy failed to splash in whole regions, including the Middle East and many other parts of the Muslim world. Nor did the weakening of the Soviet Union and then of Russia enhance U.S. security (American territory was never attacked during the Cold Wa r). The hegemony of balance-of-power theories among American strategic thinkers fueled a false sense of security once the United States became the world's sole superpower.
Using labels such as "enlargement" and "neo-Reaganism," some statesmen and intellectuals tried in the 1990S to continue or reestablish the normative agenda of spreading liberty as the primary focus of American foreign policy. (2) In part and at times, they succeeded. NATO expansion and the successful military campaign against Serbia are achievements of the 1990S that both Ronald Reagan and Woodrow Wilson would celebrate. Most of the time in the past decade, however, these promoters of a muscular policy of spreading liberty were derided as either quixotic imperialists or international social workers because most Americans, including many American leaders, believed that real threats to American security had vanished. Medicaid reform and liaisons with interns were the burning issues of that time.
In the long run, the 1990s should look like the interregnum, while history after September 11 should mark the return of a United States engaged in the world with both a moral and self-interested purpose -- the purpose of defending and spreading liberty. Defining our international mission in these terms is the best way to frame, sustain support for, and ultimately win the war on terrorism.
As in previous struggles, the essence of the …