Thursday, March 01, 2007

Rescind the Bush Doctrine

Andrew J. Bacevich, a professor of history and international relations at Boston University, argues in the Boston Globe (the article is linked above) that Democrats in Congress should pass a legislative rebuke of the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive strikes.

In 2003, Saddam Hussein posed no immediate threat to the United States; arguing that he might one day do so, the administration depicted the invasion of Iraq as an act of anticipatory self-defense. To their everlasting shame, a majority of members in both the House and the Senate went along, passing a resolution that "authorized" the president to do what he was clearly intent on doing anyway. Implicitly, the Bush Doctrine received congressional endorsement.

Events since have affirmed the wisdom of seeing preventive war as immoral, illicit, and imprudent. The Bush administration expected a quick, economical, and decisive victory in Iraq. Advertising the war as an effort to topple a brutal dictator and liberate an oppressed people, it no doubt counted on battlefield success to endow the enterprise with a certain ex post facto legitimacy. Elated Iraqis showering American soldiers with flowers and candies would silence critics who condemned the war as morally unjustified and patently illegal.

None of these expectations has come to pass. In its trial run, the Bush Doctrine has been found wanting.

Today, Iraq teeters on the brink of disintegration. The war's costs, already staggering, continue to mount. Violence triggered by the US invasion has killed thousands of Iraqi civilians. We cannot fully absolve ourselves of responsibility for those deaths.

Our folly has alienated friends and emboldened enemies. Rather than nipping in the bud an ostensibly emerging threat, the Iraq war has diverted attention from existing dangers (such as Al Qaeda) while encouraging potential adversaries (like Iran) to see us as weak

While Harry Reid has thrown his support by a proposal by Jim Webb to deny the administration funding for an attack on Iran without Congressional authorization, and Joe Biden has said indicated he'd even move to impeach Bush should he attack Iran regardless, I'd like to see Democrats take legislative action to foreswear such action in general, as proposed here.

Democratic leaders should offer a binding resolution that makes the following three points: First, the United States categorically renounces preventive war. Second, the United States will henceforth consider armed force to be an instrument of last resort. Third, except in response to a direct attack on the United States, any future use of force will require prior Congressional authorization, as required by the Constitution.

The legislation should state plainly our determination to defend ourselves and our allies. But it should indicate no less plainly that the United States no longer claims the prerogative of using "preemptive, unilateral military force when and where it chooses."

Declaring the Bush Doctrine defunct will not solve the problems posed by Iraq, but it will reduce the likelihood that we will see more Iraqs in our future. By taking such action, Congress will restore its relevance, its badly tarnished honor, and its standing in the eyes of the American people.

One could only hope.

1 comment:

Xanthippas said...

The Bush doctrine of preemptive war is one of the worst policies ever adopted for American foreign policy. Sadly, there are still many people who think that if we just get the intelligence right, we're still justified in invading countries that pose not true imminent threat to us. This could not be further from the truth. The Bush doctrine extends the doctrine of pre-emption to one of prevention, where we seek to destroy threats before they even manifest themselves. This is accepted as a legitimate use of force under no doctrine of just war or international law (except perhaps in the world of John Yoo) and it is a policy that should be expressly repudiated.