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Where is the debate over the Bush Doctrine?

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Glenn Greenwald, Salon

Before it became clear that Sarah Palin had never heard of it, nobody -- including the presidential candidates themselves -- ever had difficulty answering questions about what they believed about the Bush Doctrine, nor ever suggested that this Doctrine was some amorphous, impossible-to-understand, abstract irrelevancy. Quite the contrary, despite some differences over exactly what it means, it was widely understood to constitute a radical departure -- at least in theory -- from our governing foreign policy doctrine, and it is that Doctrine which has unquestionably fueled much of the foreign policy disasters of the last eight years.

In 2003, the American Enterprise Institute's Thomas Donnelly wrote an article entitled "The Underpinnngs of the Bush Doctrine," and argued that "the Bush Doctrine, which is likely to shape U.S. policy for decades to come, reflects the realities of American power as well as the aspirations of American political principles"; that it "represents a reversal of course from Clinton-era policies in regard to the uses of U.S. power and, especially, military force"; and "the Bush Doctrine represents a return to the first principles of American security strategy." Donnelly had no trouble understanding and articulating exactly what the Bush Doctrine meant: namely, a declaration that the U.S. has the right to -- and will -- start wars against countries even if they have not attacked us and are not imminently going to do so:

Taken together, American principles, interests, and systemic responsibilities argue strongly in favor of an active and expansive stance of strategic primacy and a continued willingness to employ military force. Within that context, and given the ways in which nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction can distort normal calculations of international power relationships, there is a compelling need to hold open the option of -- and indeed, to build forces more capable of -- preemptive strike operations.
The United States must take a wider view of the traditional doctrine of "imminent danger,"
considering how such dangers might threaten not only its direct interests, but its allies, the liberal international order, and the opportunities for greater freedom in the world.

Put more simply: " The message of the Bush Doctrine -- "Don't even think about it!" -- rests in part on a logic of preemption that underlies the logic of primacy."

.....

Personally, I'm not particularly bothered by Palin's so-called "lack of experience." I considered the fact that Obama hadn't spent large amounts of time enmeshed in our horrific Washington Establishment to be one of the strengths of his candidacy, and I largely view Palin's lack of Washington experience the same way. The difference isn't their "experience," but the fact that one has had almost two full years to judge Obama's views, positions, approaches, thought-processes and capacity for judgment as he's been subjected to the glaring scrutiny of the campaign, and a complete picture of Obama, for better or worse, has emerged.

By stark contrast, Palin is a blank slate -- not just in terms of what we know about her, but worse, in terms of what her beliefs are. Outside of a few discrete issues of interest to her (drilling for oil and opposition to environmentalism), and aside from some deep religious fervor and trite right-wing slogans that have been implanted in her brain during these last several weeks, she doesn't really appear to have any actual thoughts about most political matters. As John Cole put it: "Sarah Palin is the distilled essence of wingnut. She has it all. She is dishonest. She is a religious nut. She is incurious. She is anti-science. She is inexperienced. She abuses her authority. She hides behind executive privilege. She is a big spender. She works from the gut and places a greater value on instinct than knowledge."

...................

One last point, perhaps the most important one: as the above-excerpted exchanges from the debates make clear, both Obama and McCain understand what "the Bush Doctrine" is and have fundamentally different positions on it, at least as they've expressed those positions during the campaign (whether that would translate into any real differences is a separate question). McCain supports the Bush Doctrine and Obama opposes it. Where is the debate over that fundamental difference? Why isn't the Obama campaign making an issue of John McCain's hair-trigger willingness -- desire -- to start even more wars against countries that haven't attacked us?

McCain was one of the most vocal boosters of the attack on Iraq, which most Americans still believe was a grave mistake. He has sung songs about bombing Iran. His leading foreign policy ally, Joe Lieberman, explicitly advocated a new war against Syria. His Vice Presidential selection openly and blithely mulls the potential need to start a new war against Russia. And in general, McCain advocates the right and need of the U.S. to start wars against any country even if it hasn't attacked us or imminently intends to do so.

That difference affects every last issue. Having the U.S. start new wars that way, occupying and re-building more countries, will almost certainly bankrupt the U.S. It will at least destroy any prospects for domestic investment. It will demolish the military capability of the U.S. It will mire us further and further in a state of endless and permanent war and all of the liberty abridgments that accompany that. Sarah Palin may not have any opinions on the defining Bush foreign policy doctrine, but the voting population has vehemently rejected George Bush and it stands to reason that McCain's expressed embrace of his central foreign policy doctrine and Obama's expressed opposition to it is one of the most important differences in the election -- both politically and substantively. Palin aside, isn't that something that one ought to hear much more about from the Obama campaign?

http://www.salon.com/opinion/greenwald/200...inion/greenwald

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You Democrats are just scared that Palin will be successful just like George Bush would be. The Bush Doctine has made America more safe by allowing the government to wiretap and record everyone's conversations all the time, allowing the government to fly people out of the country the U.S. declared war on so they can perform torture out of the eye of public scrutiny, and of course keep America safe by lowering taxes and drilling for more oil, as the terrorists might be hiding in the oil wells, so we must drill them out of there.

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You Democrats are just scared that Palin will be successful just like George Bush would be. The Bush Doctine has made America more safe by allowing the government to wiretap and record everyone's conversations all the time, allowing the government to fly people out of the country the U.S. declared war on so they can perform torture out of the eye of public scrutiny, and of course keep America safe by lowering taxes and drilling for more oil, as the terrorists might be hiding in the oil wells, so we must drill them out of there.

You know there is no clear definition of the Bush doctrine when people think it's now about oil drilling. :blink: The truth is the Bush doctrine is anything anti-Bush people hate because it includes Bush's name.

I'm not going over it again with wiki entry but nobody knew what the Clinton Doctrine was either. There's really only the Monroe and Truman doctrines which are well known by comparison.


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You know there is no clear definition of the Bush doctrine when people think it's now about oil drilling. :blink: The truth is the Bush doctrine is anything anti-Bush people hate because it includes Bush's name.

I'm not going over it again with wiki entry but nobody knew what the Clinton Doctrine was either. There's really only the Monroe and Truman doctrines which are well known by comparison.

The heart of Greenwald's argument is the stark difference between McCain and Obama's approach to Foreign Policy. He's openly asking why the Obama isn't making this a focal point of his run for President.

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The heart of Greenwald's argument is the stark difference between McCain and Obama's approach to Foreign Policy. He's openly asking why the Obama isn't making this a focal point of his run for President.

Maybe it's because Obama has no confidence in, or no substance to, his "position" when it comes to foreign policy. Seems to me as if Obama is adopting a wait-and-see approach and will back up his foreign policy statements only when questioned about them directly. Expect that o be revealed in the presidential candidates' debates, coming soon to an oversaturated media near you.


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The heart of Greenwald's argument is the stark difference between McCain and Obama's approach to Foreign Policy. He's openly asking why the Obama isn't making this a focal point of his run for President.

Maybe it's because Obama has no confidence in, or no substance to, his "position" when it comes to foreign policy. Seems to me as if Obama is adopting a wait-and-see approach and will back up his foreign policy statements only when questioned about them directly. Expect that o be revealed in the presidential candidates' debates, coming soon to an oversaturated media near you.

If I were to guess, I'd say the reason is there are so many crucial issues - stark differences between both candidates, that Obama must streamline his message. Intellectual arguments seem to turn off a lot of voters even if you're on the winning side of the debate. He's got to keep his message simple and to the point, while not making it sound as if it lacks substance, just detail. For the record, he has argued over the Foreign Policy differences, but he has chosen not to make that central to his message...only one part of it.

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