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The Failed Bush Doctrine - Fanatasy or the Madness of King George the W

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Ezra Klein ran a piece today on the Bush doctrine in regards to the following http://lefarkins.blogspot.com/2006/07/precedent.html">article:

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.

Ezra wonders, reasonably, if this was ever a serious policy. Emphatically, the answer is 'yes'. The Bush Doctrine was, and still is, a very serious policy initiative through which the neoconservatives have attempted to reshape military distribution throughout the globe.

Working in a Peace Studies department as I do, you spend a great deal of time reviewing essays critiquing the Bush Doctrine. In fact, perhaps no other U.S. foreign policy transition has initiated greater analyses since the post-Soviet era. In the academic world, we're primarily occupying our already fragile psyches attempting to construct rationales behind this policy while trying to find ever more creative ways of making any sense of it in the realms of Just War, ethics, the morality of warfare, international law, and so on. That this policy represents a dramatic shift from just about every convention on warfare to date is in little doubt. But in practice, what renders this discussion so fraught with complexity is that the tertiary effects of this doctrine bear little resemblance to its stated intentions.

Perhaps the primary difficulty is such analyses is that the Bush Doctrine, from the beginning, represents a reasonable policy exclusively in terms of American Exceptionalism. If you take the time to read the Project for a New American Century's report, "Rebuilding America's defenses," you will note that unchallenged military global supremacy and absolute (permanent) hegemony is the unapologetic goal:

At present the United States faces no global rival. America's grand strategy should aim to preserve and extend this advantageous position as far into the future as possible. There are, however, potentially powerful states dissatisfied with the current situation and eager to change it, if they can, in directions that endanger the relatively peaceful, prosperous and free condition the world enjoys today. Up to now, they have been deterred from doing so by the capability and global presence of American military power. But, as that power declines, relatively and absolutely, the happy conditions that follow from it will be inevitably undermined.

Essentially, this document represents a 'wish list' of U.S. military deployment under the assumption of a virtually limitless defense budget. The stated goal is unabashedly the ability to conduct simultaneous theater wars in an effort to maintain geopolitical eminence within each realm of the planet. Within this doctrine, U.S. actions are considered infallible towards this end and such actions are restricted entirely to U.S. domain.

The authors of this doctrine, though perhaps paranoid, were not stupid and were well aware of the precedent such a course would set. However, they were also operating under a supreme delusion that our military power had become so massive that it really didn't matter what the rest of the world did. However, such a doctrine fails to account for intangible factors in conducting a successful war. Iraq emerges as a shining example of this. It may surprise many that the PNAC's stated goal with regards to the region was not oil (though this was certainly an expected and desired tertiary benefit), but rather to free our military for redeployment to the Pacific in order to curb the rise of a nuclear powered China.

As the past few years have made abundantly clear, we have in fact accomplished the exact opposite through an irresponsible and irreversible full-scale commitment to the volatile region. Although military victory should have been all but assured, pre-war cost-analyses were only able to account for 'hard' factors such as comparative mass and material preponderance. As we now know all too clearly, post-war insurgencies do not fall so neatly into this category relying as they do upon morale and will - characteristics nearly impossible to tabulate in advance.

In fact, such failure ought to have proved fairly predictable. Stephen Biddle, for example, has written an interesting book on the subject of military overconfidence in material inequities. Through an analysis of the Correlates of War database, Biddle compiles an empirical database of all wars in the past century and determined that, historically, material preponderance as an indicator of victory has proved less reliable than simply flipping a coin - a lesson the Bush Doctrine has yet to grasp, much less assimilate.

Essentially, the Bush Doctrine has fallen victim to the same flawed tabulations of asset-power as any imperial regime in the past. Their mathematical reliance upon mass and material preponderance rendered victory a virtual assurance. This explains the administrations stubborn reliance upon staying the course. Yet the practice of warfare, as always, has proven a great deal more complicated than simple numbers and, as Helmuth von Moltke once said, no plan survives contact with the enemy.

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Dr. Daverth is an International Relations scholar who writes extensively on global security and postmodern political theory. His daily rants can be found at The Hindsight Factor
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