Has the Bush doctrine failed?
Analysts say conflicts in the Middle East have halted aggressive US policy, and may hint at end of West's military superiority.


(Gold9472: Does a bear shit in the woods?)

By Tom Regan | csmonitor.com

When President Bush unveiled "the Bush Doctrine" in a speech on June 1, 2002, to the graduating class at West Point, it was seen as providing a framework for US foreign policy for years to come. According to Wikipedia, the Bush doctrine "outlined a broad new phase in US policy that would place greater emphasis on military pre-emptive, military superiority ('strength beyond challenge'), unilateral action, and a commitment to 'extending democracy, liberty, and security to all regions.'"

Four years later, the San Francisco Chronicle reports in a news analysis piece that many analysts "across the political spectrum" believe the doctrine has failed — rendered obsolete by the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The United States may find it hard, if not impossible, the analysts say, to again try in the near future to topple a hostile regime. Its military is stretched, its moral standing diminished. Even democracy itself is tarnished, often equated now with car bombs and chaos, rather than peace and prosperity.

"The kind of thing people in the administration prided themselves in understanding, namely the use of power, was actually the very thing they proved not to be able to use effectively," said David Holloway of Stanford University's Center for International Security and Cooperation, which conducts research and training on issues of international security.

But the Chronicle also reports that neither the Democrats nor the "foreign policy elite" have devised an effective alternative for the US in a post-9/11 world. The result is a US foreign policy "adrift."

"We're losing" in Iraq, said Max Boot, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations who supported the war. "The country is sliding into civil war, and the president doesn't seem to be doing very much about it. That has tremendous negative repercussions throughout the region and indeed the world, because it's really a black eye for the United States and a blow to democracy advocates around the region."

In a piece for the July-August issue of Foreign Affairs magazine, Phllip H. Gordon, a Senior Fellow in Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution, writes that while the administration's foreign policy rhetoric hasn't changed, its actual policies have. The Bush doctrine, he writes, has "run up against reality" and can't be sustained. And the return to a more realistic foreign policy, he says, should be "locked in."

The reversal of the Bush revolution is a good thing. By overreaching in Iraq, alienating important allies, and allowing the war on terrorism to overshadow all other national priorities, Bush has gotten the United States bogged down in an unsuccessful war, overstretched the military, and broken the domestic bank. Washington now lacks the reservoir of international legitimacy, resources, and domestic support necessary to pursue other key national interests.

It is not too late to put US foreign policy back on a more sustainable course, and Bush has already begun to do so. But these new, mostly positive trends are no less reversible than the old ones were. Another terrorist attack on the United States, a major challenge from Iran, or a fresh burst of misplaced optimism about Iraq could entice the administration to return to its revolutionary course -- with potentially disastrous consequences.

Coming at the issue from a different angle in July, Andrew C. McCarthy asked in National Review Online "Whither the Bush doctrine?," in regards to the administration's approach to dealings with Iran. "The nuclear negotiations with Iran: All carrot, no stick — and no mention of terror." This, McCarthy writes, is directly contrary to the idea of the Bush doctrine that the US would "make no distinction between terrorists and those who knowingly harbor or provide aid to them."

Not all analysts agree, however, that the Bush Doctrine had failed. In a lengthy piece for Commentary magazine, Norman Podhoretz, one of the fathers of the neoconservative movement, argues that President Bush has not abandoned the principles of the doctrine, nor has it failed in Iraq.

I must confess to being puzzled by the amazing spread of the idea that the Bush Doctrine has indeed failed the test of Iraq. After all, Iraq has been liberated from one of the worst tyrants in the Middle East; three elections have been held; a decent constitution has been written; a government is in place; and previously unimaginable liberties are being enjoyed. By what bizarre calculus does all this add up to failure? And by what even stranger logic is failure to be read into the fact that the forces opposed to democratization are fighting back with all their might?

Surely what makes more sense is the opposite interpretation of the terrible violence being perpetrated by the terrorists of the so-called "insurgency": that it is in itself a tribute to the enormous strides that have been made in democratizing the country. If this murderous collection of diehard Sunni Baathists and vengeful Shiite militias, together with their allies inside the government, agreed that democratization had already failed, would they be waging so desperate a campaign to defeat it? And if democratization in Iraq posed no threat to the other despotisms in the region, would those regimes be sending jihadists and material support to the "insurgency" there?

But other analysts say that it's not just the Bush doctrine that is in trouble, but the whole idea of Western military dominance. Writing Sunday in The Boston Globe, Andrew J. Bacevich, professor of history and international relations at Boston University, argues that after the failure of the US and Israel to achieve decisive victories — in Iraq and Lebanon, respectively — it's time for a new strategy.

Despite a massive American and Israeli technological edge, including nuclear arsenals, mounting evidence suggests that the age of Western military ascendancy is coming to an end. Muslim radicals have evolved an Islamist way of war that is as complex as it is cunning. As a consequence, in and around the Persian Gulf the military balance is shifting. The failures suffered by the United States in Iraq and by Israel in southern Lebanon may well signify a turning point in modern military history, comparable in significance to the development of blitzkrieg in the 1930s or of the atomic bomb a decade later. Although the full implications of this shift are not clear, they promise to be huge, calling into question basic strategic assumptions that have held sway in the United States and Israel.

While this new "Islamist way of war" does not pose any existential threat to the US or its allies, Mr. Bacevich argues, it does have the ability to prevent conventional armies from achieving decisive results.

Resistance is a strategy not of conquest but of denial. Wars undertaken with the expectation that they will be short and conclusive -- on the model of the Six Day War or Operation Desert Storm -- instead become open-ended and inchoate. Politically, the Islamist way of war is demonstrating that the West can no longer impose its will on the Middle East. The inhabitants of that region now have options other than submission or collaboration. Both the United States and Israel must grapple with the implications of this fact. Predictably, the initial reaction of both is to look for ways of tipping the military balance back in the other direction.

Bacevich ends by offering a five-point alternative to the poor results of the quasi-permanent "war on terror," including an orderly exit from Iraq, a modified form of Cold War policies of containment and deterrence, a new Manhattan-style project to develop alternative forms of energy to free us from dependence on foreign oil, and nurturing of "liberalizing tendencies within the Islamic world, not by preaching or threats of regime change, but by demonstrating at home and inviting Muslims abroad to witness, the manifest advantages of freedom and democracy."