Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Bush Doctrine

I'm less than impressed with what I've seen of Sarah Palin so far, but I do have to defend her somewhat against this particular charge. Here's the panel of Bill Maher's latest show, with everyone but the token Republican slamming the hell out of her for not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is:

Now then, do any of you know what the Bush Doctrine is? Maher and Garafelo act like it's patently obvious what it is to anyone who reads the newspapers. Here's the first paragraph of Wikipedia's entry on the Bush Doctrine:

The Bush Doctrine is a term used to describe the foreign policy doctrine of United States president George W. Bush, enunciated in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks. It may be viewed as a set of several related foreign policy principles, including stress on ending terrorism, spreading democracy, increased unilateralism in foreign policy and an expanded view of American national security interests. Foreign policy experts argue over the meaning of the term "Bush Doctrine," and some scholars have suggested that there is no one unified theory underlying Bush's foreign policy. Jacob Weisberg identifies six successive "Bush Doctrines" in his book The Bush Tragedy, while former Bush staffer Peter D. Feaver has counted seven. Other foreign policy experts have taken the term to mean Bush's doctrine of preventive war, first articulated in 2002, which holds that the United States government should depose foreign regimes that represent a threat to the security of the United States, even if such threats are not immediate and no attack is imminent. This policy was used to justify the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

(emphasis mine)

Palin was asked if she agreed with the Bush Doctrine. According to this article, there is no universal agreement on what the Bush Doctrine actually is. Garafelo says that it refers to the use of preemptive force, but as the article points out, it could refer to increased unilateralism. Basically it's a crappy question. If she asks a clarifying question, she looks stupid. A better question would have been more specific, e.g. "Do you agree with Bush's approach to foreign policy?" If Gibson had wanted to ask her opinion of specific aspects of Bush's foreign policy, he could ask those, e.g. "Do you agree with the use of preemptive force?" Or "Do you think that the US should sometime act without or against the will of the international community?"

I agree with Maher that in general she did look like someone who had been cramming for an exam, and that she didn't do a very good job in the interview. Gibson did a pretty good job of asking reasonably tough initial questions...not so much with the follow-up. I think she'd get slaughtered on Meet the Press, and it will be interesting to see the extent to which she makes herself available for interviews over the next two months, or whether they just roll her out for speeches and luncheons and otherwise hide her in a bunker until election day.


Kenny Wyland said...

Search for "Bush Doctrine" on Google and you'll be bombarded with the phrase in all sorts of locations through time over the last 6 years.

Do I know what the Bush Doctrine is? Yes. Does my sister? No. Do a lot of people? No.... but those people are also not ready to be President.

The part that you emphasized in the quote from wikipedia makes it sound like people don't really know what it is... but if you had emphasized the next line it would be closer to reality. People know what the Bush Doctrine is, the room for debate comes in because it has evolved over time.

Even with the small changes over time, wikipedia also says that the Sept 20th, 2002 National Security Strategy is "often cited as the definitive statement of the doctrine."

It is an enduring American principle that this duty obligates the government to anticipate and counter threats, using all elements of national power, before the threats can do grave damage. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction – and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack. There are few greater threats than a terrorist attack with WMD. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively in exercising our inherent right of self-defense.

When Palin dropped the question and didn't know what the Bush Doctrine was, Gibson reiterated and specifically mentioned the Bush Doctrine as described on Sept 20th, 2002. So, even if you want to quibble about different perspectives on the Bush Doctrine over time, he gave her a specific version of it to which he wanted her to respond.

The phrase "Bush Doctrine" isn't a new one. The term "<insert President here> Doctrine" isn't a new one. If Obama or Biden dropped the ball on a question like this, you wouldn't be so kind. Why do you give Palin so much leeway?

Derek James said...

I'm not giving her leeway. I still hold that it was a crappy question, but I did point out that even though it was a crappy question, she didn't handle it well.