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The dangerous Bush Doctrine
published: Sunday | February 23, 2003


Ian Boyne

"All of us have heard this term 'preventive war' since the earliest days of Hitler. I recall that is about the first time I heard it. In this day and time ­ I don't believe there is such a thing; and, frankly, I wouldn't even listen to anyone seriously that came in and talked about such a thing."

NO, THAT was not said by some anti-American opponent of the proposed attack on Iraq. It was not said by any European politician opposed to the Bush Doctrine, which sanctions the use of pre-emptive force and "preventive attack" against any state deemed a threat to the United States. That statement was made by none other than former American President Dwight Eisenhower in 1953 when he was presented with plans to launch a pre-emptive strike against Stalin's Soviet Union. Eisenhower wisely rejected that madness.

Two months after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, General Leslie F. Groves, Pentagon overseer of the Manhattan Project, expressed views on controlling nuclear proliferation similar to the Bush Doctrine. "If we are truly realistic instead of idealistic, as we appear to be, we would not permit any foreign power with which we are not firmly allied and in which we do not have absolute confidence, to make or possess atomic weapons. If such a country started to make atomic weapons we would destroy its capacity to make them before it has progressed far enough to threaten."

President Harry Truman rejected the proposal out of hand. In 1961, during the Berlin Crisis, some of President Kennedy's key advisers discovered that the Soviet Union's nuclear forces were far weaker and more vulnerable than they had previously thought. They proposed a pre-emptive strike. Theodore Sorenson, Chief White House Counsel and speechwriter to the President, was told of the plan and reportedly shouted, "You're crazy! We shouldn't have guys like you around here."

George Bush has reached into the rubbish heap of history to rehabilitate an old, discarded, discredited and dishonourable doctrine to make his own. It is a most dangerous doctrine and one which threatens to plunge the world into chaos and anarchy, and is a doctrine which repudiates every principle of international law and civilised behaviour.

THE RIGHT TO
PRE-EMPTIVE STRIKE

You can't understand the most massive anti-war protests since the Vietnam War, which brought millions in the streets of 600 cities last weekend and which has split the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) and the Security Council, without understanding the reprehensible nature of the Bush Doctrine. Don't pay attention to the many peripheral issues on the Iraqi situation. Understand the background to the Bush Doctrine and its implications, and work your way from there.

This Doctrine, which proclaims the right of the United States to intervene in any country it deems a threat, is one which can be used by any country to intervene in the sovereign affairs of any other state it subjectively deems a threat. No recourse to the United Nations or any external authority ­ just the enforcement of the principle that might is right. When Israel made its pre-emptive strike in the past, the United States publicly condemned it despite Israel's pleas that it was acting out of national security interests and perceived threats. If the US were to unilaterally wage a war on Iraq, then what moral authority would America have for reprimanding North Korea, for attacking South Korea, or for India attacking Pakistan, or for Israel attacking any of its neighbours pre-emptively again?

We would be back to the law of the jungle and all the progress we have made over the years would be wiped out by this pernicious Bush Doctrine. The anti-war activists are not just waging war to protect the innocent civilians in Iraq and innocent American soldiers. They are waging war against an official policy of arbitrariness and for global order and stability.

The Bush Doctrine actually made its appearance at the end of the first Bush Administration in a leaked Pentagon memorandum written by the superhawk Paul Wolfowitz. In that memo, he said plainly that the US should act to prevent the emergence of peer competitors in Europe and Asia. Richard Haass, Policy Planning Director at the State Department, explains the thinking behind the Bush Doctrine in a blunt and frank article in The New Yorker late last year.

Let him explain the doctrine: "What you are seeing in this administration is the emergence of a new principle or body of ideas about what you might call the limits of sovereignty. Sovereignty entails obligations. One is not to massacre your own people. Another is not to support terrorism in any way. If a Government fails to meet these obligations, then it forfeits some of the normal advantages of sovereignty, including the right to be left alone inside your own territory. Other Governments, including the United States, gain the right to intervene."

Yet, when black people were being massacred in Rwanda, did the United States respond promptly, for humanitarian reasons, to stop the genocide? Let's go on with this remarkably frank admission.

"In the case of terrorism," explains the State Department Policy Planning Director, "this can even lead to a right of preventive ­ self-defence. You essentially can act in anticipation if you have grounds to think it's a question of when, not if, you're going to be attacked."

The arrogance and presumption of this statement notwithstanding, Administration officials are on record as saying that they are free to act even when there are many "unknowns".

Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld made his now famous statement: "There are things we know that we know and there are things that we know we don't know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know that we don't know." So you don't take any chance with those things; you act pre-emptively! This is the twisted logic of these hegemonists.

Listen to this admission by Vice President Dick Cheney: "We have a tendency to say 'well, we'll sit down and we'll evaluate the evidence. We'll draw a conclusion ­ Here we don't have all the evidence. We have 10 per cent, 20 per cent, 30 per cent. We don't know how much. We know we have part of the picture." Despite this admission, America wants to drag the whole world along with it into a war with Iraq to destroy weapons of mass destruction that they are not sure about, and threats that they can't convince the world that need a pre-emptive strike. But when you are an hegemonic power, you can do as you like.

MORE EVIDENCE AGAINST NORTH KOREA

The US has far more information about North Korea, and that state is more arrogant, yet the first priority is not to strike North Korea.

"By any measure, totalitarian North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons is more dangerous than the mere possibility that Iraq is trying to develop them," says Jonathan Schell in the March 3, 2003 edition of the respected The Nation magazine published in the United States. But North Korea has an army of one million, 11,000 artillery pieces capable of striking South Korea's capital Seoul, where US has substantial investments.

As the head of the International Atomic Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, said cynically, "If you really want to defend yourself, develop nuclear weapons because then you get negotiations, and not military action". The US never attacked Stalin though, as Paul Schroeder recently reminded in The American Conservative, "Stalin had nuclear weapons, was a worse sociopath than Hussein - and his record of atrocities against his own people was far worse than Hussein's".

There was a time, too, when Communist China's Chairman Mao was dreaded as a madman and a tyrant. In 1968 William Van Cleave, who later served for years as head of Reagan's Pentagon transition team, published a lengthy rationale for pre-emptive strikes against China's nuclear facilities in The National Review magazine. His ideas were not given the time of day by the Administration of the day.

In a 1995 scholarly paper, "Radical Responses to radical Regimes," Dr Barry Schneider, Director of US Air Force Counter Proliferation Centre, proposes the idea of a pre-emptive, preventative strike under certain clearly defined, extreme circumstances. "Ill-considered pre-emptive strikes could backfire catastrophically", Schneider warns in the paper. A key guideline is that "The enemy would have to be considered erratic, unpredictable and quite possibly non-deterrable -" for this to be considered. Saddam has proven to be quite deterrable and just last weekend outlawed the production and imports of weapons of mass destruction and has been co-operating with the UN inspectors and open to dialogue, and not behaving like the North Koreans who are flouting the Bush Doctrine with aplomb.

Rumsfeld sent a letter to Saddam after the US attack on that country in 1991 that the US would not tolerate the use of chemical and biological weapons "or else you and your country will pay a terrible price". Saddam was deterred and never used them, though he possesses those weapons. Schneider says pre-emptive strike should be "the very last resort" and then only in a situation where it's either you kill or be killed. "To do otherwise," he says, "would be immoral, set a dangerous precedent, undermine international law and could ruin the good reputation of the United States".

The esteemed Oxford Research Group, in an October 2002 paper on "Iraq: Consequences of a War," written by Professor Paul Rogers, does a detailed, methodical, and dispassionate analysis of the pros and cons of the war and the likely consequences. The paper shows that the war is likely to result, conservatively in 10,000 civilian deaths, and lead to further instability in the region and an estrangement of the United States.

A war with Iraq would lead to "the greatest risk of escalation to the use of weapons of mass destruction since the Cuba missile crisis of 40 years ago. Its aftermath, even if apparently 'successful' from Washington's perspective, would entail the development of further opposition across the Middle East to what would be seen as foreign control. It would be directly counterproductive not only for the region but for the United States itself. The fractured make-up of Iraq, with Kurdish, Sunni, Shi'ite and Christian elements would make it unlikely that a stable Government would form with ease, particularly one that ensured that the US had full access to Iraqi oil supplies".

Time magazine in February said that Iraq's proven oil reserves are conservatively estimated at 112 billion barrels-five times those of the United States, which is dependent on imports for 60 per cent of its energy needs. Only Saudi Arabia has more oil than Iraq. "Iraqi oil reserves could cover current US imports for almost a century and Iraq has an additional 220 billion barrels in portable deposits yet to be explored". Hence the "No blood for Oil" placards all over the world.

The Bush Administration's rhetoric is that it can go it alone, and that it is unconcerned about the massive protests against its war plans but the Administration should heed the message of one of America's foremost political scientists, Harvard's Joseph Nye Jr., who in his much-discussed 2002 book, "The Paradox of American Power: Why the World's Only Superpower Can't Go it Alone", warns against using hard power as opposed to soft power. Also, the scholarly journal "Policy Review" has an enlightening article in the its August/ September 2002 issue on, "How America Should Lead: By Attracting followers, not Compelling them". The arrogance of American unilateralism, buttressed by the unipolarity of the world, has already done damage to its relationship with its NATO allies.

Warns the Director of the Centre on the United States and France at the Brookings Institution, Phillip Gordon, in an article "Bridging the Atlantic Divide" in the January-February issue of Foreign Affairs: "Even an all-powerful America will need Europe's political support, military bases, co-operation in international organisations peacekeepers - money, diplomatic help with others and general good will."

The American people themselves must ensure that the right-wing fringe which has captured power in Washington does not obliterate their own hard-won gains.

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