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Emerging Bush Doctrine
by Contamine
26 February 2002 02:01 UTC
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Emerging Bush Doctrine Reshaping U.S. Strategy


Although the Bush administration has seemed to be without a clear
strategy for fighting groups like al Qaeda, a doctrine is slowly
emerging that will reshape the global U.S. strategy. The defense
of the United States is Washington's top priority, with all other
foreign policy interests taking a back seat. Any nation that does
not act against terror groups within its borders will be in a
virtual state of war with Washington.


Since the fall of the Taliban last year, the United States
appears to have become rudderless in its war against terrorism.
Washington's strategy has consisted of chasing down rumors about
the location of al Qaeda and making vague threats about Iraq and
insinuations about Iran and North Korea. It looks like the United
States doesn't really know what to do next. But looks can be
deceiving. If you examine carefully, you can see both a doctrine
and a strategy emerging.

This is all framed by the Bush administration's view of the
situation. From where it sits, there is every reason to believe
that the United States will be attacked by al Qaeda again. Even
more important, the possibility that al Qaeda or some other anti-
U.S. organization has obtained weapons of mass destruction cannot
be excluded. If that turns out to be true, then millions of
Americans may possibly be killed in the coming months or years.

The most important goal for Washington must be to make absolutely
certain that no further attacks, especially nuclear, chemical or
biological, can be launched on the United States. There is no
other comparable interest. The Bush Doctrine is based on the
notion that the defense of the homeland from attacks represents
an interest so fundamental that all other foreign policy
interests must be completely subordinated.

We might summarize the Bush Doctrine this way: The United States
faces an extraordinary danger. Washington is therefore prepared
to take any action anywhere in the world to defend itself from
this threat.

The defense of the homeland cannot be reduced to only defeating
al Qaeda. The Bush administration has studied the lessons of the
Israeli wars on Black September and other Palestinian groups and
has drawn this conclusion: the defeat of any single group can
disrupt and delay future attacks, but it cannot by itself
eliminate them. Even if the United States were to utterly destroy
al Qaeda, a new group would likely emerge. Therefore, the United
States has three strategic goals:

1. Disrupt and defeat al Qaeda in order to buy time for a more
thorough solution.
2. Prevent the emergence of follow-on groups by denying them
sanctuaries in states where they can organize, train and plan.
3. Limit the threat posed by al Qaeda and follow-on groups by
systematically eliminating weapons of mass destruction being held
or developed by regimes that are favorably inclined toward them
or in states where there is substantial sympathy for them.

Beginning with the last goal, there are a finite number of
nations that have intensive programs underway to develop weapons
of mass destruction and delivery systems and that also might be
prepared to aid al Qaeda. Three were named by U.S. President
George W. Bush during the State of the Union: Iraq, Iran and
North Korea. Another unnamed nation is Pakistan.

It must be assumed by the United States that the first three of
these countries are developing WMD and/or delivery systems. It
cannot be ruled out that either their governments or powerful
factions within their borders might be inclined to provide al
Qaeda or other groups with these weapons for use against the
United States.

Washington requires that these and other nations that are
identified demonstrably and verifiably abandon all attempts to
build weapons of mass destruction and delivery systems. They
should also convince the United States that they will under no
circumstances transfer any technology to al Qaeda or any other
group that intends covert action against the United States.

In the case of Iraq, for example, no assurances that might be
made by Baghdad could possibly carry any weight. It would
therefore follow that it is the intention of the United States to
identify and directly attack any Iraqi facilities that might be
developing WMD. The recent announcement that the United States
reserves the right to use nuclear weapons if needed fits clearly
into this strategy. If it is determined that there are facilities
that cannot be destroyed by conventional means, Washington is
prepared to use nuclear weapons on them.

Intelligence is always imperfect. It is possible that sites will
be hit that do not produce WMD. This is something the United
States is prepared to accept. More serious is the possibility
that all WMD sites are not identified. So in order to minimize
the risk the United States intends to destroy the Iraqi regime by
overthrowing its leadership through a variety of military means,
obviously including air strikes and special operations.

If Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is in a hardened facility, even
the use of nuclear weapons is not out of the question. A
secondary and highly desirable outcome will be replacing the
Hussein regime with one that is prepared to both abandon the
development of WMD and deny sanctuary to groups planning to
attack the United States. All other considerations, both
humanitarian and geopolitical, are completely secondary to the
primary goal.

Iran, North Korea and Pakistan are all in a different class from
Iraq, but still represent fundamental threats to the United
States either because their governments' actions are
unpredictable or because the governments' control over WMD
facilities are uncertain. Assurances from these various regimes
cannot be taken at face value.

Therefore Iran and North Korea have been publicly warned, and we
assume that Pakistan has been privately warned, that the threat
presented to the United States by the diffusion of weapons of
mass destruction, delivery systems or partial technologies is
intolerable. Each country is being given opportunities to
convince Washington that it is either not developing such weapons
or that it is prepared to put into place inspection protocols
that will guarantee non-diffusion. Barring a satisfactory
solution, the United States is prepared to take extreme military
measures in each of these countries to guarantee the elimination
of threats.

Simultaneously, the United States is putting forces into place
for a direct, global attack on al Qaeda. U.S. intelligence is in
the process of identifying locales in which al Qaeda is
operating, and to the extent possible identifying precise
facilities and individuals. Under the Bush Doctrine and according
to clear statements by the administration, the United States will
at a suitable time attack each of these facilities regardless of
where they are located.

If they have the support of the host government, that will be
welcomed. If the host government cannot provide support but does
not hinder operations, the United States will enter that country
unilaterally. If the host country is actively hostile to the
entry of the United States, that country will be regarded as an
enemy aiding al Qaeda and its military forces will also be
subject to attack.

Washington has been allied with many countries since World War
II. Historical relationships are of significance only to the
extent that the ally is prepared to materially aid the United
States in defending its physical security. If, for example,
European allies cannot countenance an attack on an Iraq, then
what will they support?

If even the destruction of Hussein and his weapons of mass
destruction appear to be too extreme a measure, then clearly the
Europeans don't understand or are indifferent to the threat to
the United States. The Bush administration will question the use
of an ally who opposes steps essential to the physical safety of
the United States.

Thus, embedded in the emerging Bush Doctrine is a fundamental
redefinition of the U.S. alliance. During the Cold War, U.S.
allies were judged on their willingness to stand with the United
States against the Soviets. Now they are judged by their
willingness stand with Washington not only against al Qaeda, but
the range of threats that now physically threaten the United

The strategy that results from this appears to be a massive
onslaught on multiple levels against al Qaeda, against countries
that are intentionally or unintentionally enablers of al Qaeda
and, above all, against countries that might be in the process of
giving al Qaeda access to weapons of mass destruction. The key to
understanding this U.S. strategy is its limitlessness. Embedded
in the Bush Doctrine is the operational principle that there is
no measure too extreme given the threat that exists to the United

The Bush administration thinks that extreme and limitless
responses are what is needed to prevent the emergence of follow-
on organizations. Building an organization like al Qaeda has
taken years, a great deal of resources and above all physical
sanctuary. For al Qaeda, there were several bases of operation,
but Afghanistan was the most recent and best known.

A certain weakness has been identified in Washington's stance on
previous anti-U.S. groups. In the past, the United States and
others treated support for and hosting of such groups as one
strand in a bilateral relationship. It was certainly a black
mark, but it was also not a reason for decisive action.

So in spite of the fact that the Syrians supported and hosted
extremists groups, the United States did not regard this by
itself as a reason to launch military action. Quite the contrary,
Washington maintained a complex and varied relationship with
Syria in which it would fight to undermine these groups while
simultaneously working with the government on other matters. In
short, support for militant groups was not a threshold, but
simply another strand in the relationship.

Clearly, Bush intends to change that. Under the emerging Bush
Doctrine, if a nation supports or hosts a group that intends to
attack the United States, or if it deliberately fails to act
against such a group, then that nation is in a de facto state of
war with the United States. The act of supporting or hosting such
groups is a threshold that renders all other aspects of a
bilateral relationship of no consequence. At a time and place of
its choosing, the United States will act against both the group
and the state.

In order to prevent the emergence of follow-on al Qaedas, the
central feature must be to deny them sanctuary. Ideally, as some
have suggested, the United States could work to abolish the
poverty and misunderstanding that have given rise to al Qaeda.
Unfortunately, even if this were possible, there is no time.

The threat, in the eyes of the Bush administration, is a matter
of months and the abolition of poverty is a matter of
generations. Therefore, if the carrot is impossible, then the
stick will be used.

It is not clear that the Bush Doctrine will ever be formalized.
But it is increasingly apparent that the United States is moving
to adopt this strategy. It is a complete reshaping of U.S. global
strategy based on the assumption that the interests of the United
States have been fundamentally redefined by al Qaeda. An
extraordinary threat has been posed. An extraordinary solution
will be implemented.

In one sense, this seems to play into al Qaeda's hands. The
group's strategy was to force the United States into a war with
the Islamic world, so that its vision of Washington as the
"crusader" enemy of Islam would be validated.

The Bush strategy accepts such a risk for two reasons. First,
there is no choice. If the United States refuses to attack al
Qaeda everywhere out of fear of perceptions, then al Qaeda will
be a perpetual menace. Second, al Qaeda envisioned a series of
broad attacks that were neither devastating nor decisive. The
United States is indeed launching a broad attack, but intends to
make it so stunningly decisive that it will impose a reality that
will render perception immaterial.

The Bush strategy also plays to the core strengths of the United
States. The United States is a global power and this is a global
strategy. It is heavily dependent on military power and not
particularly dependent on complex diplomatic solutions.

The last aspect is critical because, in this mode of thinking,
time is of the essence. Al Qaeda is already deployed and other
attacks will happen. If it does not yet have WMD, it is certainly
trying to get them. Therefore, every day's delay increases the
possibility of catastrophe. It follows then, that there is not an
infinite amount of time available for action.

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