First and Last War of the Bush Doctrine?

by Patrick J. Buchanan – March 12, 2003

As that latter-day Wilsonian Bill Clinton launched his war on a Serbia that did not attack us, George W. Bush intends to launch a war on an Iraq that has never threatened or attacked the United States.

Clinton bombed Serbia for 78 days for refusing his ultimatum to surrender Kosovo, cradle of that nation. But Bush is invading Iraq to validate a new doctrine he declared to the world a year ago, as his predecessor James Monroe declared the doctrine that bears his name.

Under the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, all European colonization of the Western Hemisphere was to end. But the Bush Doctrine is not confined to a hemisphere. It is universal. Its heart may be found in a single sentence in the 2002 State of the Union: “The United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.”

Inherent in the Bush Doctrine is “pre-emption.” America claims an inherent right to initiate preventive wars on nations that do not threaten us or attack us, but may threaten or attack us someday in the future.

In June at West Point, Bush declared U.S. Cold War policy to be dead. “Containment is not possible when unbalanced dictators with weapons of mass destruction can deliver those weapons on missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist allies. … If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long.

“We must take this battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans and confront the worst threats before they emerge.” Thus, in 10 days, America launches her first pre-emptive war.

We are at the Rubicon, and Caesarism has led us here. But an even higher cause beckons us. In George W. Bush’s mind, we are now at Armageddon, fighting for the Lord. “We are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its name,” the president thundered to the cadets at West Point.

As the Iraqis are defenseless against us, they will be crushed – and the Bush Doctrine validated in the eyes of its evangelists.

Yet, if one looks to northeast Asia, another scene is being played out. The Bush Doctrine is being daily exposed as bluster and bluff. Since last fall, when Kim Jong Il brazenly conceded he was operating a secret program to enrich uranium for atom bombs, U.S. policy has seemed stumbling and incoherent.

North Korea has been acting, the United States reacting. After we cut off fuel, Pyongyang kicked U.N. inspectors out, re-fired its plutonium reactor, restarted a processing plant to extract fuel for atom bombs, sent fighters into the DMZ and fired a missile into the Sea of Japan the day South Korea’s new president was sworn in.

Pyongyang then sent MiGs 150 miles offshore to force down a U.S. RC-135 in North Korea. Like the USS Pueblo in 1968, the plane was to be stripped of its secret instruments and codes, and the U.S. crew taken hostage and paraded to humiliate America. Now, North Korea has fired a second missile into the Sea of Japan.

What has been the administration’s response to Kim’s defiance of a doctrine that was to be the cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy? Thus far, it has been conciliation and appeasement. We have politely told the North we are ready for talks, for a renewal of aid, for diplomatic recognition, for a public declaration that we will not attack. Secretary Rumsfeld last week held out the prospect of a total withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Korean peninsula.

No one is declaiming about “good and evil.” No one is clamoring for a pre-emptive strike on the Yongbyon reactor – or to decapitate Kim’s regime. Instead, reports are circulating here that the United States has recognized the reality that North Korea will soon join America, Russia, Britain, France, China, Israel, India and Pakistan as ninth member of the Nuclear Club. If we do, the Bush Doctrine will be dead in Asia, even as Marines are fighting to validate it in Iraq.

Let it be said: America has an inherent right to strike first to prevent imminent attack. Had we sighted that Japanese task force north of Hawaii, before Pearl Harbor, we would have been within our rights to attack it. But to declare a new U.S. strategic doctrine that mandates pre-emptive wars on any rival powers that seek to acquire weapons we already have was an act of hubris.

One day soon, some nation – Iran, North Korea – will defy the Bush Doctrine and test an atomic weapon. When that day comes, the United States will have to go to war or jettison this “doctrine” and restore the foreign policy most consistent with our history, ideals and national interest: peace through strength, and non-intervention in the affairs of nations that do not threaten or attack us.