Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A Loss In The Doctrine Column

It came with so much bravado in June of 2002. It was aggressive, it was massive, and it would take all of four years for it to fall over after just one implementation. That speech, delivered before the graduating class at West Point, defined President Bush's vision for American military power projected outward.

Some brief snippets from that speech:
"This war [on terror] will take many turns we cannot predict. Yet I am certain of this: Wherever we carry it, the American flag will stand not only for our power, but for freedom. (Applause.) Our nation's cause has always been larger than our nation's defense. We fight, as we always fight, for a just peace -- a peace that favors human liberty. We will defend the peace against threats from terrorists and tyrants. We will preserve the peace by building good relations among the great powers. And we will extend the peace by encouraging free and open societies on every continent."

"The gravest danger to freedom lies at the perilous 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. They want the capability to blackmail us, or to harm us, or to harm our friends -- and we will oppose them with all our power. (Applause.)"

Many parts of this speech prove to be the jumping off point where the Administration felt obliged to lay the foundation for an attack on Iraq and thereby draw a connected line from the battle against the terrorists who sent their deeds from abroad, to the governments not connected to Al Qaeda.

From this speech a doctrine was born. Possibly still-born, but born nonetheless. In the past few days, several newspapers have written articles expanding on many analysts' takes on said doctrine. The San Francisco Chronicle ran "Iraq war has Bush Doctrine in tatters" and the Christian Science Monitor published "Has the Bush doctrine failed?".

The consensus of those who felt the foreign policy initiatives had failed cite the current struggle of sectarian violence/civil war in Iraq, the perceived heightened tensions of America's allies, and the increased negative opinion of the United States in the Arab world. Those who defend the Bush doctrine state that Iraq has had elections and is growing its defense forces, and may state that Libya gave up its weapons programs making the world safer.

So is the doctrine "dead"? It can only really die if the Administration itself sets a different agenda for foreign policy initiatives and follows through with that change. As can be witnessed in the Israel/Lebanon fighting in August 2006, the President did not see it necessary to ask Israel to stop its thorough attack on Hizbullah and the civilian populations inside Lebanon. Secretary of State Rice went on what appeared to be futile missions to collect a cease fire from both sides to no avail. It even appeared that her mission was against White House wishes.

If there were a central theme to President Bush's foreign policy initiative, it was an ideological mission to further democracy around the globe. In action, it appears that the mission centers on areas where America's interest in resources is most vital, rather than where there is a strict lack of democracy. Furthermore, when Congress voted on delivering democracy to Iraq via armed combat "as a last resort", it was less due to free and fair elections and more to do with nuclear holocaust and chemical weapons. Had the Administration come to the House and the Senate with a single motive of installing a bicameral legislature or parliamentary form of government for Country A, it would have most assuredly been voted down.

The instruments that were used in Iraq are now found to be quite wanting in terms of success. Military occupations of a foreign land don't breed democratic government. The population itself will drive that force, and if that drive is overpowered by a desire to separate from another or a desire for retribution, then no number of men and women in U.S. uniforms can make them adopt what we want. In addition to not founding a stable country, let alone a smoothly functioning democracy, the occupation of Arab lands furthers the goal of radicals in want to either expel the U.S. forces, or even worse, deliver a compensatory blowback by way of terrorism within the borders of America.

It would also appear that public opinion of the United States among the Arab populations in the Middle East has sunk precipitously in the past year. While it is difficult to say what the involvement of American diplomacy meant in the Israel/Hizbullah/Hama conflict to the general public opinion, it is easy to say that the actions of the White House did not bolster the country's image in the region.

If the Bush doctrine had as its goal to increase American security, to broaden democracy, and to strengthen our relationships throughout the world, then by these measures the foreign policy of the past four years has done strictly the opposite of those achievable and agreeable goals. By attaining their ends through militaristic means, each goal becomes stressed to the breaking point. Each next step becomes exponentially more difficult; that is if there are even steps left to take as in the occupation of Iraq.

The doctrine is not dead so long as the President adheres to it; regarding whether or not the policies are winning anything appears to be a closed case. Mark one up for the loss column.

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