Before George W Bush, the titanic battle in American foreign policy was between so-called realists and liberals. But the Bush doctrine does not fit definitively into either category.
I believe it should be categorised as a “crusading realism” that deals with the moral bankruptcy of realism and the moral cowardice of liberalism. There are four pillars to that doctrine: prevention, pre-emption, primacy and democracy promotion. Pre-emption is nothing new: every state has used it and will continue to use it. It is the least controversial aspect of the four.
The next pillar is prevention and refers to the eradication of a threat that is not immediate: that is, WMD, and al-Qa’ida’s attempts to access a nuclear weapon.
The third pillar is primacy, which dictates that if the US is to pursue the other three pillars of the Bush doctrine, it must uphold its status as the world’s only superpower. This is also translated into the military strategy which states that the United States must be able to fight multiple wars at the same time.
The most radical and interesting pillar of the Bush doctrine is that of democracy promotion. The key question is: does President Bush really believe in it? In interviewing key administration figures, it became clear that he does. His belief in the universal nature of democratic values is heartfelt. He believes in the “non-negotiable demands of human liberty and human dignity”. This returns the US to the natural law of the 17th and 18th centuries.
I would argue that if the Bush doctrine was called the American doctrine, it would be entirely acceptable. The ideals of liberty and democracy are core values in America. If it was repackaged as the American doctrine, it would receive an entirely different reaction.
The possibility that the next American president will go against the Bush doctrine is fantastical. Tactics may change, but the overall strategy will remain. The philosophical foundations of the doctrine will inform American national security policy into the future. The belief that allowing people a civil society with elections will drain the swamps of extremism in the Middle East will endure beyond 2008.
From a speech by Dr Lamont Colucci, a former foreign service officer at the US State Department, to the Henry Jackson Society on Monday