Academic journal article Parameters

The Bush Doctrine and War with Iraq

Academic journal article Parameters

The Bush Doctrine and War with Iraq

Article excerpt

The Bush Administration issued its first National Security Strategy in September 2002, a year after the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States by al Qaeda. The document's Chapter V summarizes the Administration's approach to using force, known as the Bush Doctrine. It essentially reiterates, in four pages, presidential statements made over the months following 9/11, including the President's speeches before a Joint Session of Congress on 20 September 2001, before the Warsaw Conference on Combating Terrorism on 6 November, his State of the Union Address on 29 January 2002, his remarks before the student body of the Virginia Military Institute on 17 April, and his address to the graduating class at the US Military Academy at West Point on 1 June. The Bush Administration now has in place a clear, declaratory use-of-force policy whose objective is stated in Chapter V's title: "Prevent Our Enemies from Threatening Us, Our Allies, and Our Friends with Weapons of Mass Destruction."

This article identifies and examines the Bush Doctrine's major tenets, and then assesses the doctrine's strengths and weaknesses within the context of the Administration's prospective attack on Iraq.

The Threat

The Bush Doctrine rests on a definition of the threat based upon what it sees as the combination of "radicalism and technology"--specifically, political and religious extremism joined by the availability of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). In his West Point speech, President Bush declared:

The gravest danger to freedom lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology. When the spread of chemical and biological and nuclear weapons, along with ballistic missile technology--when that occurs, even weak states and small groups could attain a catastrophic power to strike great nations. Our enemies have declared this very intention, and have been caught seeking these terrible weapons. (1)

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has subsequently and repeatedly spoken of the emergence of a "nexus between terrorist networks, terrorist states, and weapons of mass destruction... that can make mighty adversaries of small or impoverished states and even relatively small groups of individuals." (2)

The Bush Doctrine identifies three threat agents: terrorist organizations with global reach, weak states that harbor and assist such terrorist organizations, and rogue states. Al Qaeda and the Taliban's Afghanistan embody the first two agents. Rogue states are defined as states that:

...brutalize their own people and squander their national resources for the personal gain of the rulers; display no regard for international law, threaten their neighbors, and callously violate international treaties to which they are party; are determined to acquire weapons of mass destruction, along with other advanced military technology, to be used as threats or offensively to achieve the aggressive designs of these regimes; sponsor terrorism around the globe; and reject human values and hate the United States and everything it stands for. (3)

The key attributes are regime aggressiveness and the search for WMD, especially nuclear weapons, which are far more efficient engines of mass slaughter than chemical and biological weapons. (4)

This definition of rogue states seems to be modeled on Iraq, although Iran is a much greater purveyor of international terrorism, and North Korea, the third "axis of evil" state, is believed to have already acquired nuclear weapons capacity. North Korea has, however, pursued a foreign policy of moderation in recent years, at least until its October 2002 confession that it had resumed its nuclear weapons program in contravention of a 1994 agreement to suspend it. The Bush Administration has nonetheless sought a diplomatic solution via the enlistment of pressure from Tokyo and Beijing on Pyongyang. There has been no talk of war against North Korea, even though Pyongyang has a far more advanced nuclear program than Iraq's, and even though Kim Jong Il is, if anything, more unpredictable than Saddam Hussein. …

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