Sunday, July 16, 2006

The Verdict on the Bush Doctrine

You all remember that, right? The foreign policy that said states who harbor terrorists are as bad as the terrorists themselves, and deserve nothing less than unilateral, pre-emptive war?

Unsurprisingly, it turns out that this policy was a bad idea.

It would hardly be unreasonable, under a doctrine of preventative war, for the Indians to view an attack on Pakistan as wholly legitimate and even required by the circumstances. Given the relatively close relationship between Pakistan and the United States, India could also reasonably assert that the "international community" is unlikely to do anything productive about Pakistani sponsored terrorism.

...The neocon is left, I think, with only a modified "good for me, but not for thee" argument, maintaining that as world hegemon the United States ought to have special leadership rights on intervention decisions. Again, this argument is unlikely to satisfy the world's largest democracy.

The only argument we're left with is a realist one; the United States should restrain India because an attack on Pakistan would be against our interests. Naked self-interest does not require the giving of reasons or explanations to countries like India. But this position leaves the notion of preventative war as reasonable act of internationalist policy in tatters; there seems no way to convincingly argue that the US ought to be capable of launching whatever preventative wars it fancies while India should be restrained from advancing its own interests.

It's interesting that the Bush Doctrine - just like all of Bush's abortion of a foreign policy - is now seen as inoperative, when not too long ago it was seen as the wisdom of Solomon. So here's the question: Was the Bush Doctrine ever a serious policy? By that I mean, was it ever supposed to be a serious, long-term policy of the United States government, like containment?

It's hard for me to believe that. Rather, I think it was a one-off designed to help justify the war in Iraq. Even if Iraq hadn't gone balls-up, I really don't think we'd have seen too much of the Bush Doctrine post-2003.

That said, I don't think the argument advanced by the Bush Administration was ever that other nations had the right of preemption, just the US. Given that, I wonder why anyone ever took it as anything other than opportunistic bullshit on the part of those who, while attempting to entrench the American Imperium, have made America the dispensable nation.

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