Oct 01, 2023
Oct 01, 2023
'The issue of Soviet-American relations is in essence a test of the overall worth of the United States as a nation among nations. To avoid destruction the United States need only measure up to its own best traditions and prove itself worthy of preservation as a great nation.'
'In the light of these circumstances, the thoughtful observer of Russian-American relations will experience a certain gratitude for a Providence which, by providing the American people with this implacable challenge, has made their entire security as a nation dependent on their pulling themselves together and accepting the responsibilities of moral and political leadership that history plainly intended them to bear."
-George F. Kennan, writing under the pseudonym 'X' in 1947, at the outbreak of Cold War (WW III)
Substitute 'Islamic terrorism' to Russian-American relations and we can transpose ourselves to the 21st century when America is faced with a challenge of even greater danger and magnitude. We did not seek this war but how we conduct ourselves in this time of crisis is crucial. 'It is our responsibility and privilege to fight freedom's fight' said George W. Bush. 'Having been sought by the terrorists, we have responded and we are trying to meet the great demands that history has placed on our country.'
In a brilliant essay, 'World War IV: How it started, what it means, and why we have to win it', author Norman Podhoretz enumerates what has happened since September 11 in the world and opines that the current course is the only safe course that America can take. Surely there will be criticism as to the methodology and the conduct of the war but the principle is unshakable and the only course that can save lives not only at home but abroad in the long run. He compares the current dilemma to the Cold War that he prefers to call WW III. Another contemporary student of military affairs, Eliot A. Cohen, agrees with this and points out that the Cold War that lasted 42 years also claimed 100,000 American lives in far-off battles (Korea and Viet Nam) and many more lives of allies. Similarly the current war on terrorism is 'global in its reach, requiring both violent and non violent efforts; will require mobilization of skill, expertise and resources, if not of vast numbers of soldiers; that it may go on for a long time; and that it has ideological roots.' It should be called WW IV rather than war on terrorism.
Both WW III and WW IV were declared as enunciation of presidential doctrine. The first one was called the Truman Doctrine. The current one is the Bush Doctrine.
The Truman Doctrine
The Truman Doctrine unfolded slowly. Truman in 1947 announced, "It must be the policy of the United States to support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressure." He began with assistance to Greece and Turkey and later expanded it to the war torn Western Europe (that came to be known as the ambitious Marshall Plan). The economic reconstruction of the European countries was undertaken with the hope combating the possibility of feeble economies falling victims to Communism and thus under the influence of the Soviet Empire.
Then came the communist coup in Czechoslovakia and the rest of Eastern Europe had puppet regimes posted by the Soviet Union. It was then realized that mere economic assistance was not going to be enough. Thus the North Atlantic Treat Organization (NATO) was created as a military option to oppose the onset of communism in Europe. The economic, political and military containment were now in place and WW III lasted 42 years, until 1989, when the Soviet Empire could not sustain itself and crumbled under its own weight.
These years were not smooth sailing for America. Right from the time when the doctrine was announced by Truman, his contemporaries were startled and throughout the ensuing years criticisms and opposition to the conduct of the Cold War had been plenty. South Korea was saved but South Viet Nam was lost. Cuban missile crisis brought the world to the brink of nuclear war. Reagan's tough stance against the 'evil empire' was ridiculed and was billed as a fool's invitation to disaster and Armageddon. But America and its leaders never lost sight of the enemy, namely Communism as perpetrated by the Soviet Union. In the end the WW III was won. The Truman Doctrine at last came to fruition.
Post Cold War Decade
Following the dismantling of the Soviet Empire, George H W Bush and Bill Clinton tried to maintain peace by maintaining stability. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, he mobilized forces to oust him out of Kuwait but did not want to remove him from power because of the possibility of instability it could bring to the region, making Iran stronger. Maintenance of status quo in the post-Cold War era seemed to the prudent course to take. Bill Clinton continued this policy despite attacks by terrorists with increasing frequency and impunity. This led to the terrorists attack on the twin towers of New York on September 11 in the first few months of George W Bush's presidency.
George W Bush until then seemed to be content with following the same policies of maintenance of stability of his father and Bill Clinton. But the magnitude of the bold attack in New York and Washington called for tough measures. Bush enumerated the concept of the Bush Doctrine in his speech on September 20th to the joint session of Congress. Later he clarified it in three major speeches he made in the following months. Until the attacks, George W Bush had not shown a propensity to the Reagan ideologies (changing the world) or to the Wilson's ideology of making it safe around the world for the spread of democracy. Then nine days after the September 11 attacks, Bush declared war on terrorism in his bold speech, thus surprising everyone. The Bush Doctrine emerged. The president who was content to be a realist and follow in the footsteps of his father was transformed into the passionate democratic ideologies of the mold of Ronald Reagan.
The Bush Doctrine
Unlike the Truman Doctrine that evolved over a number of years, the tenets of Bush Doctrine were laid down in rapid succession. In his eloquent speeches, George W Bush spoke of the resolve of the country in the defense of freedom and liberty.
'The advance of human freedom, the great achievement of our time and the great hope of every time, now depends on us. Our nation, this generation, will lift the dark threat of violence from our people and our future. We will rally the world to this cause by our efforts, by our courage. We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail.'
In his peroration he pledged,
'I will not forget the wound to our country and those who inflicted it. I will not yield, I will not rest, I will not relent in waging this struggle for freedom and security for the American people. The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is certain. Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them.'
Like Reagan and even more boldly, Bush declared that the oppression in the Middle East was the root cause for terrorism and unrest. He vowed to fight to change that. He would make it possible for the oppressed Middle East people to embrace democracy. Bush was also practical and repeated many times that the task was going to be arduous and would take much sacrifice. He also said that the fight for freedom will go beyond his presidency, just as the fight that Truman began took several decades to play itself out.
'Some who call themselves realists question whether the spread of democracy in the Middle East should be any concern of ours. But the realists in this case have lost contact with a fundamental reality: America has always been less secure when freedom is in retreat; America is always more secure when freedom is on the march.' And then, 'This conflict will take many turns, with setbacks on the course to victory. Through it all, our confidence comes from one unshakable belief: We believe in Ronald Reagan's words that 'the future belongs to the free.' "
The First Pillar
Bush repudiated moral realism and embraced moral clarity. When he clarified his position in a subsequent speech, his detractors who thought themselves as 'sophisticated elitists' and 'advanced thinkers' were disgusted and dismayed, even more than when they were startled by Reagan's speech about the evil empire or his challenge to Gorabachov to tear down the Berlin wall. Bush was even blunter. He singled out three countries ' Iraq, Iran and North Korea as the axis of evil and accused them of harboring terrorists. He considered these countries as impediments to the advancement of freedom around the world.
The criticism of Bush and an attack of his personal intellect (dumb cowboy, dunce) were reminiscent of Reagan's assessment by the elitists. However, none of this deterred Mr. Bush. In another subsequent speech he said, 'Some worry that it is somehow undiplomatic or impolite to speak the language of right and wrong. I disagree. Different circumstances require different methods, but not different moralities. Moral truth is the same in every culture, in every time, and in every place. . . . We are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its name.'
The Second Pillar
If communism spread in the face of poverty, terrorism was the result of oppression. Rich but oppressive regimes in the Middle East were the breeding grounds for terrorism. Draining the swamps which were the breeding grounds of this plague would instill freedom and liberty on its people who then would be less inclined to cause harm to others.
'When it comes to the common rights and needs of men and women, there is no clash of civilizations. The requirements of freedom apply fully to Africa and Latin America and the entire Islamic world. The peoples of the Islamic nations want and deserve the same freedoms and opportunities as people in every nation. And their governments should listen to their hopes.'
Bush vowed to 'go after the terrorists' wherever they hid. The global reach of terrorism involving some 60 countries was recognized and plans were to set forth to hold them accountable and bring them to justice. The terrorists were to be considered as troops of a military alliance at war with the United States and the rest of the civilized world. They were not to be treated as criminals and tried in courts but were enemy combatants and dealt with in a military court if captured. Bush recognized the futility of economic sanctions in affecting the desired results and only strong military measure that had any hope of victory.
Thus after stern warnings, Taliban of Afghanistan became the casualty. Though Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden were still at large, the threat coming from Iraq could not be ignored. After months of diplomacy, with full support from the Congress of the United States, Iraq was attacked. Saddam Hussein was toppled quickly and then eventually captured. The struggle for freedom in Iraq still continues but the people are already exercising their new found freedom in its government (free elections are scheduled for January) and freedom of press. The deadly possibility that Saddam Hussein was hiding weapons of mass destruction that could be passed on to the terrorists is no longer a problem.
The Third Pillar
The third pillar of the Bush Doctrine is the most controversial. It is the doctrine of pre-emption. In his speech the president warned the rest of the world not to encourage or harbor terrorists by giving them shelter, training or financial support. 'You are with us or against us', he warned. He justified the United States to go to war even without being attacked if terrorism was taking root in any country that could be a threat to us.
'We'll be deliberate, yet time is not on our side. I will not wait on events, while dangers gather. I will not stand by, as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons.'
Later he reiterated,
'For much of the last century, America's defense relied on the Cold War doctrines of deterrence and containment. In some cases, those strategies still apply. But new threats also require new thinking. Deterrence--the promise of massive retaliation against nations--means nothing against shadowy terrorist networks with no nation or citizens to defend.' And then, 'If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long. . . . The war on terror will not be won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge. In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action. And this nation will act.'
Bush has endured much criticism for his decision to go to the pre-emptive war with Iraq. This rose to a feverish pitch after it became apparent that there were no stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. The fact that Saddam could have turned on the program at a short notice because he still had the infrastructure intact was drowned in the din of the election year politics. The process of fighting war against terrorism had hit a snag, reminiscent of many criticisms during the long years of the Cold War. Everyone from Cheney and Halliburton (in their thirst for oil) or the neoconservatives with Jewish sounding names (in their quest to help Israel) have been blamed and effectively 'brainwashing' the Bush administration into going to war when it was 'unnecessary' to do so. The left is blocking its memory of September 11 and losing sight of the objective to fight terrorism wherever it exists.
The Fourth Pillar
Creation of a Palestinian State and its independence from Israel is the last doctrine. A peaceful Palestinian State would renounce terrorism and the ensuing freedom and liberty could transform the region. Bush had planned on announcing this to the world even before the attacks on the American soil by terrorists. With a slight delay after the attacks Bush did reiterate his support for the Palestinian State (the only president to do so). However, it became more and more apparent that the Palestinians had failed to choose a credible leader and under Arafat the chances of a peaceful State as a neighbor seemed remote. Again Bush called for bold steps in Palestine and called for a new leadership, other than Arafat. The process is taking long and Arafat and his terrorist group do not want to relinquish power. However, the debate in Palestine has changed dramatically. There is more and more opposition to Arafat and some newspapers and politicians are openly calling for his ouster. If a new leadership emerges, with its willingness to exist peacefully with Israel as its neighbor, and renounce suicide bombings and other terrorist activities against Israel, there is still hope for Palestinians.
More by : Dr. Neria H. Hebbar