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News Bush Doctrine.

  1. Sep 15, 2008 #1
    Since this is in the news, it should make for an interesting discussion
    Is this doctrine reasonable? If country A considers that country B is a threat and therefore should be attacked, isn't country B justified to attack country A preemptively according to the same doctrine? If so, doesn't it provide easy justification for widespread war?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 15, 2008 #2


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    This part is very reasonable.

    With traditional armies, a country amassing troops on your border would be a good reason to bomb and strafe the troops on the border. It would be pretty stupid to wait until they had completed preparations and were already destroying your country.

    It's a little tougher call once you start talking about nuclear powers. The US and USSR were capable of completely destroying each other's countries in less than an hour. The only method of deterence was to ensure that the other country's attack would be detected in time to launch your own attack. In that sense, the US stationing missiles in Turkey where the USSR wouldn't have time to detect and respond could be considered a reason to make a preemptive strike (except for the annoying detail that the USSR's missiles would take over half an hour to arrive and the US would have launched all of their missiles by then). The USSR stationing missiles in Cuba would be a similar provocative measure. Obviously, the preemptive strike either side staged would have to be limited to taking out the offending missiles. Neither side could be given the capability to launch a successful nuclear strike. Preemptively nuking the other country would result in both countries being destroyed.

    This part is a lot more controversial. The uncertainty as to the time and place he's talking about isn't a matter of minutes or days. It's a matter of years. For example, if Iran had nuclear missiles capable of reaching the US, you'd have another situation similar to the US-USSR. Bush's revision to preemptive strategy is to prevent a country from ever attaining the capability to attack the US.
  4. Sep 18, 2008 #3
    Thanks for sounding out Bob.

    ...but I did expect more interest in this topic. I feel like I either touched on a taboo, or really few people are concerned about the justification for war. Oh well.
  5. Sep 19, 2008 #4

    Ivan Seeking

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    Given that we invaded a country for no reason, one would think that the logical fallacy of the Bush Doctrine would be apparent. There are plenty of countries with the means to produce WMDs, and it is clear that the intent and ability to attack the US are not sufficient motives for the US to respond with maximum force.

    The Bush doctrine was revised, and I assume that this is the latest revision.

    Also, the sentence after the quote above reads:
    Too bad Bush didn't read that part, but I believe this was added as part of a later revision. And we still have no clear defintion as to when we attack. It is essentially arbitrary.

    We have always reserved the right to defend ourselves when faced with an imminent threat - this is the first responsiblity of the Federal Government. But this doctrine abandons the requirement of an "imminent threat" for a less rigorous requirement of a potentially imminent threat that might attack someday. Classic Bush double-talk.
  6. Sep 19, 2008 #5


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    I imagine the purpose of the revision was to tell the rest of the world 'don't do as we do'. And so others' actions would still be judged against the pre-Bush doctrine standards. Condees recent rant against Russia being a good example. Her criticisms of Russia and it's breach of another country's sovereignty positively dripped with hypocrisy not least because even as she spoke American special forces were breaching Pakistan's sovereignty.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 19, 2008
  7. Sep 19, 2008 #6


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    It may have something to do with the title: There is no such thing as the "Bush Doctrine", as in one coherent piece of foreign policy (unlike the Monroe Doctrine). It is a conglomorate of various interpretations of various foreign policy actions.

    Plus, the questions you ask just seem like you are missing the logic to me, so they don't work well as follow-ups to the initial question of if it is reasonable.

    Bob answered the first question, though. For the others:
    No. There is nothing inherrently symmetrical about threats. If country A lines tanks up on the border of country B, that constitutes a one-sided threat. Country B may be justified in responding: see, the six day war.
    In the heat of the moment, there can be arguments over who the aggressor is when both sides start ratcheting up the rhetoric and military movement. I think history generally sorts them out and gets them right.

    Both Hitler and Johnson manufactured claims of agression by the opposing side when starting their wars. History notes the incidents, but the incidents themselves don't play a larger role in history's overall judgement of the wars. Ie, if Hitler hadn't claimed Poland attacked before he did, would it really make him seem any worse? If Johnson had just said 'we're going in to fix France's mess and keep the Sovs at bay' (and had succeeded in getting the support he needed), would it change history's view of the Vietnam war?
  8. Sep 19, 2008 #7


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    A war fought for "no reason" does not provide a test for the logic of the doctrine. The doctrine starts with the assumption that there is a real threat - a real reason.

    History provides numerous examples of instances where the doctrine has or could have been applied as it is stated, from which to judge it's utility/ethics. I gave a few examples (WWII actually provides several separate examples on its own).

    If there is a flaw in that doctrine, it is in the need for the threat to be serious: what does "serious" mean? But that flaw is the same as the potential flaw in most justifications for war: does the threat warrant the response?

    There is a much more interesting (IMO) doctrine that has been developed over the past decade and a half that I think is worthy of attention in the same thread: the doctrine of protective action. Historically, wars were fought between party A and party B, but party C stayed out of it unless it had a clear mutual defense pact with one of the other parties. No longer. The global community has decided that certain types of wars (mostly wars of imperialistic intent) are unacceptable in modern times and has lept to the defense of the weak from imperialistic aggressors, despite the lack of a personal threat or mutual defense pact. The first Gulf War is one example. Yugoslavia is another.
  9. Sep 19, 2008 #8


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    That's the part I have trouble with too. The degree of uncertainty over time and place may be closely related to the degree of the threat itself. It seems to be attempting to redefine the term "clear and imminent danger," to include a lot less clear and a lot less imminent.

    When you're talking about a threat that is minutes to maybe a few weeks away, that's much more of a threat than one that is somewhere from 1 to 10 years away...a lot can happen in between to reduce the threat before a preemptive strike is needed.

    So, yeah, I think it is more important to be clear that a high level of threat justifying a preemptive strike would mean troops are being deployed and/or the weapons pointed your way are being armed.
  10. Sep 19, 2008 #9
    On top of that, the text quoted in the OP isn't even one of said interpretations. It's simply a restatement of long-standing, uncontroversial thought on preemptive action. Just look at the first setence "The United States has long maintained..." Pre-emption is a vanilla, millenia-old piece of universal military doctrine, not some innovation that Bush introduced. You'll have to look very far to find a country that doesn't view preemptive actions as legitimate.

    The "Bush Doctrine" in question is not preemption, but prevention. The key to this is contained in the link in the OP:

    "We must be prepared to stop rogue states and their terrorist clients before they are able to threaten or use weapons of mass destruction against the United States and our allies and friends. "

    (Emphasis mine). Note the difference between this and preemption: in preemption, you have someone who is willing and able to attack you; the only question is when and where their attack will come. In prevention, you have an enemy that is known to be unable to attack you, and you attack them to keep it that way. Recall that the justification for the invasion of Iraq was not "we must stop Saddam from attacking us," but rather "we must stop Saddam from developing the capability to attack us."
  11. Sep 19, 2008 #10


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    Good point. Moonbear/Bob's too. I said "serious", but serious an imminent go hand in hand.
  12. Sep 21, 2008 #11
    What is considered reasonable should apply universally. If you can justify attacking me because you are following a given principle, I can use that same principle as justification to attack you.

    Well, this would be clear and present danger. In a western, it's a cowboy pulling his gun out of its holster. Everyone else in the bar can see clear and present danger as well as you do. I wasn't talking about that scene.

    There is no visible gun in the scenario I presented. Instead, you don't like the other cowboy's attitude or how he's looking at you. But you don't have the benefit of anyone else confirming that you are actually in danger. You may be right, but you may be wrong and the other guy may be unarmed. Despite this doubt, you think he is likely to attack you so you attack him preemptively. Is this a reasonable approach, something any reasonable man should do?

    If the approach is acceptable then both cowboys are equally justified to attack the other one based on the assumption that the other one intends to.
    Alright, prevention then. In my western scene, you would break the guy's arm today to ensure he won't shoot you down in the coming months. Is this any more reasonable than the previous scenario?
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