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Drumbeat of the Bush Doctrine

10/11/02 12:00AM By Olin Robison
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(Olin Robison) The president's national security advisor, Dr. Condeleeza Rice, some time ago took to referring to the fall of the Berlin Wall in November of 1989 and September 11 of last year as "bookend" events which, she says, mark the beginning and end of a period of drift in American foreign policy. Now, she says, that is over.

And so, about two weeks ago, with considerable fanfare, the White House delivered to the Congress and published a new National Security Strategy, a 33-page document you can access and read on the White House web site. This is not an everyday event. The last one, in fact, at least the last one that sought to be this comprehensive, was way back in the Truman administration.

For history buffs, that document was known as NSC 68. It really did define the principles of American foreign policy for a long generation. It can legititimately be said to have enunciated policies that shape the modern world. NSC 68 articulated concepts of defense and deterrence that led to the defining "containment of communism" doctrine.

This new National Security Strategy, on the other hand, seeks to shift U.S. defense doctrine away from "deterrence" to "pre-emption." It is based on the assertion, "America is now threatened less by conquering states than by failed ones. We are menaced less by fleets and armies than by catastrophic technologies in the hands of the embittered few." This new strategy commits the country to a level of defense spending so great as to dissuade, by its very size and capability, any attempt by any country to compete. It is a new and very expensive form of deterrence. It then anticipates what are called "asymmetric threats." "Asymmetric" is a trendy word in foreign policy circles these days. It seems to mean any threat that is non-traditional in nature, which of course includes non-state-sponsored terrorism.

Some of the document at least tries to rise above partisanship, and some of it is blatantly political. Above all, it is a document devoted to justifying an expanded military both in size and in its roles. Which brings us to what is already being called the Bush Doctrine of Pre-Emption. This is the part of the document that is meant to explain and justify any pre-emptive military strike against Iraq. This may be careful strategic planning, but it is also part of the effort to keep public attention focused on Iraq instead of the economy in the run up to the November 5 elections.

In this it is succeeding brilliantly. The Democrats have been pretty much outflanked, outmaneuvered, and silenced on the economy, on corporate malfeasance, and on all other issues where the Republicans are weak. If this document turns out over time to be the bellwether that NSC 68 was, then we probably are headed for a different world than what we have known.

This is Olin Robison.

Olin Robison is president of the Salzburg Seminar, located in Middlebury, Vermont and Salzburg, Austria.
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