President Obama Can’t Neglect Great Britain

In 2012, Dr. Lamont Colucci was approached by U.S. News and World Report to write a weekly column on foreign policy and national security. This is under the aegis of World Report – Insights, perspectives, and commentary on foreign affairs. View the article on

The issue of American allies is often neglected. The mainstream media has propagated a myth that during the George W. Bush years American alliances were hurt and dwindling. They continued the fable by promoting the idea that the current administration has “repaired” the relationship with our allies. Neither of these propositions is true. Not only has the current administration not bolstered the number of American allies, it has actually neglected and hurt the most important ones. In the next few months this column will focus on those alliances: Great Britain, Japan, Israel, Taiwan, Australia, and NATO. We have spent so much of our energy and effort focusing on America’s enemies, we have forgotten that it takes much greater effort to support and bolster our friends; we have spent so much time complaining about America’s burden, we have forgotten that American allies want American leadership, strong and steadfast. However, just as in any friendship, this requires sacrifice and sincerity.

If there is a real version of “American Foreign Policy 101” it would have a simple subtitle: “Be friends with the British.” There is simply nothing more fundamental to the present or future of the United States than solidarity, friendship, and support for the United Kingdom. The antics by the current administration surrounding our relationship with the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland are legion. It began with former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s 2009 visit and the removal of the bust of Prime Minister Winston Churchill from the Oval Office. These genesis events illustrated either a deep vein of naïveté or a gross miscalculation. This is why the removal of Churchill’s bust from the White House was no mere act of whim, but either a calculated snub or incredible incompetence. The bust, given to the White House following the 9/11 attacks was a token of Anglo-American unity, and was a physical symbol of Churchill’s rhetoric. Before leaving on his trip to America, Prime Minister Brown stated, “There is no international partnership in recent history that has served the world better than the special relationship between Britain and the United States.” Here is the key point: “served the world better,” not merely the two aforementioned nations. The entire system of international stability and order is predicated on this special relationship.

The dust up regarding Prime Minister Brown’s visit concerning the ill-conceived DVD gifts from the Obama’s, the lack of a Camp David invitation, and the curtailment of the regular, important, and symbolic Star Spangled-Union Jack press conference, were all small indicators of the same problem that the return of the bust represented. Two explanations were hastily concocted. The first was that President Obama’s aides were “unfamiliar” with the expectations of a visit by the most important American ally; the second explanation was that the White House had been too “overwhelmed” by the economic crisis to attend to foreign policy. Is either of these credible or possible? If we cannot get it right with the Brits, how can we dream of it anywhere else? The most disturbing piece to come out of this affair was the comment, reported by the Sunday Telegraph, of an unnamed State Department official involved with planning the prime minister’s visit who was quoted as saying, “There is nothing special about Britain. You’re just the same as the other 190 countries in the world. You shouldn’t expect special treatment.” Hope for a better relationship was frittered away when the administration presented Queen Elizabeth an iPod as a gift containing audio files of President Obama’s speeches. This occurred while the first lady broke protocol by touching the queen, an act from an administration who enjoys lecturing the previous one on cultural sensitivities. In 2011 the president continued to speak at Buckingham Palace while the British national anthem was playing. These might all be brushed off as the actions of an inexperienced administration that fails to understand the basics of American foreign affairs. However, there is a darker, more pragmatic side as well. Currently, the anti-British attitude of the Obama administration most difficult to understand was and is over the Falkland Islands. The Falkland Islands are British; they re-established their sovereignty by force in 1982 with the help of the Reagan administration. The Obama administration is now pushing for Great Britain to enter into United Nations sponsored negotiations with Argentina to discuss the issue of sovereignty. If this is not an example of national security tone deafness, then there isn’t one. There were 46,000 British troops fighting alongside the United States in Iraq and there are 9,000 British soldiers in Afghanistan. They have consistently been the second largest force fighting the global war on terror. More than any other country, they have faced the greatest threat of Islamic extremism inside of their own country. Many Americans and British take the relationship for granted. We have all heard the derision of the pseudo intellectuals with phrases such as “all the United States has is the British.” If there is a book of phrases for ignoramuses, this should be in the top five.

The Anglo-American special relationship is not just a set of realist shared interests, magnified exponentially by the war on terror, but also a shared cultural and political destiny rooted in Anglo-American ideas of natural law, liberty under law, and Western civilization. It was Winston Churchill in Fulton, Mo., who first made the phrase famous when he said, “Neither the sure prevention of war, nor the continuous rise of world organization will be gained without what I have called the fraternal association of the English-speaking peoples. This means a special relationship between the British Commonwealth and Empire and the United States. This is no time for generalities, and I will venture to be precise.” This salient concept has guided American foreign policy and national security as the anchor for more than 50 years. The Obama administration’s perceived coolness towards the British, if true, is a colossal misunderstanding of American history, culture, and politics and is, hopefully, not be an indicator of the new term or a new direction in American foreign policy, as this is not reminiscent of “hope” and “change,” but of coarseness and childishness. The destiny of the English speaking peoples is only true and good if it is a shared destiny. The United States and the United Kingdom share that destiny more than any other. This will take all the blood, toil, tears, and sweat that both sides can muster. America Must Retake Lead in Space Exploration

In 2012, Dr. Lamont Colucci was approached by U.S. News and World Report to write a weekly column on foreign policy and national security. This is under the aegis of World Report – Insights, perspectives, and commentary on foreign affairs. View the article on

Space… the final frontier. These are the voyages of the American people. Its permanent mission: to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilizations; to boldly go where no American has gone before.

The above homage to the opening lines of the real Star Trek, the one where an American from Iowa was the captain, may seem odd at a time when the majority of the country is concerned about gas prices and mortgages, and those that are paying attention to events outside their hometown are focused on Afghanistan and the Iranian nuclear program. However, it is precisely at this time that a call for American primacy in space must be made.

Last Friday, December 7, marked two anniversaries that are locked together by fate and destiny. It was the 40th anniversary of the last manned mission to the Moon and the 71st anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Should we neglect the space race, the threat of another such attack looms large. Much was made in 2009 when America went back into space with the Ares I-X rocket. However, unless the United States is serious about being a space-faring people, this will be a mere sideshow experiment.

In January of 2004, President Bush called for a “renewed spirit of discovery” where America would again take the lead as the primary space-faring people. “We will build new ships to carry man forward into the universe, to gain a new foothold on the moon, and to prepare for new journeys to worlds beyond our own.” This sentence hearkened back to the 1962 when Americans were challenged by President Kennedy to take their civilization and values to the stars. The fundamental piece of President Bush’s speech was the American commitment to manned space exploration, with a near term goal of a manned mission to Mars. This may have been missed by the media or popular culture, but it is the salient point. America needs not only to lead technologically; it needs to lead by example through a robust space exploration program with astronauts.

The 10 member Augustine Commission reported in 2009 a pessimistic scenario of the space program, being limited to near earth asteroid exploration and to “gravitationally significant” points in space, known as Lagrange points. This will do nothing to inspire the generations of Americans alive now and in the future.

It is time for President Obama to call for Americans to rise up to the challenge posed by President Kennedy. This cannot be done on the budget of $18.7 billion dollars, equating to a paltry .48 percent of the federal budget. We are spending less on the most essential aspect of America’s future than we did on the automobile industry bailout. This fiscal absurdity occurs while we are forced to hitchhike into space on Russian rockets. The spending on the space program will determine whether or not America will lead in space, create the next advances in medicine, receive the benefits from space technology and be able to dominate the next battlefield. Whether we like it or not, the militarization of space is inevitable. The question is not if, but when. The civilization that is first past the post here will be first past the post permanently. There is nothing short of American superpower status at stake. The country that dominates space and space exploration will also have the most vibrant and dynamic economy, the most advanced, high-paying jobs, and a technological edge that is second to none. It is a national security and economic imperative, where anything else palls in comparison. It is up to the president to explain to the American people how the need is more than ever, not less. It is up to the president to place it squarely and fully in the context of the economic crisis, not shy from it.

The president should make both an ideological and practical case for the space program. On the ideological side he needs to hearken back to President Kennedy demanding that America and Americans must lead this human endeavor, that the banner of freedom and democracy must be at the forefront, and that it is not only our challenge, but our duty and responsibility. If not us, who? If not now, when? On the practical side he needs to make the national security and economic case in stark and clear terms. The cost of both, for another power to supersede us, would be catastrophic at every level. The one presidential candidate who understood this concept, Newt Gingrich, and was serious about space and its ultimate role in national security, technology, and economics, was unjustly mocked.

There are specifics that should be stressed. First, NASA must be given the flagship duty again. It must be NASA, not the private sector, as an arm of the American government, representing the American people, that explores the final frontier. NASA needs to have the resources, backing, and support of the White House. This needs to be public and overt. The first manned exploration beyond the Moon must be under a NASA aegis. Second, a firmer commitment to manned exploration must be made. The dalliance with probes and robotics is fine for the purpose to advance manned exploration, not the other way around. Third, there must be real commitment to build the space elevator, the result of which would be to reduce the cost of putting weight into space from $10,000 dollars per pound to $100.00. This could be operational within 15 years with a cost of $10 billion. It is the linchpin to future space exploration, a permanent lunar base of operations, future space mining concepts, and a fully comprehensive space based missile defense. Fourth, promote the development of a real starship (perhaps based on fusion technology) instead of single use rockets, or limited use shuttles. Although the technology is not there yet, the promotion of this in a “Kennedy-esque” manner might generate new ideas and concepts that could advance our understanding. Fifth, inspire the American people to promote the space program, the heroism of NASA, the necessity of space exploration, and tie our future to it.

The space program, and manned space exploration in specific, are the keys to America’s future, not only as a global superpower, but as the leading economy. The two cannot be separated, and neither of them will have a future without America leading the way, now, not in some murky future. It is precisely because of the economic downturn, the threats posed by other great powers and rogue states, that this is the time for such a clarion call. This time needs to be capitalized on, to advance the real need for a renewed American commitment to space. The country that makes this commitment will be the country with a secure future.

We should all take the words of the last American on the moon, Eugene Cernan, to heart : “America’s challenge of today has forged man’s destiny of tomorrow. And, as we leave the Moon at Taurus-Littrow, we leave as we came and, God willing, as we shall return, with peace and hope for all mankind.” Replace the United Nations

In 2012, Dr. Lamont Colucci was approached by U.S. News and World Report to write a weekly column on foreign policy and national security. This is under the aegis of World Report – Insights, perspectives, and commentary on foreign affairs. View the article on

Living in a city like Vienna, one feels as if one is in a living museum. Vienna was not only the final redoubt for European civilization in 1683, but was the heart of the system that governed international relations from 1815 to 1914, known as the Congress of Vienna. The Vienna of today, exemplifies much of what ails European foreign policy and trans-Atlantic relations: the lack of a dynamic goal and a failure to build upon roots that made the civilization great. The European Union is in disarray, and NATO is searching for a redefinition. This is happening while the United States has made no clear signal as to the future of Atlanticism, NATO, or leading the West.

The world has emerged from the so called post-Cold War era transitioning through three phases of American leadership. Phase I under the Bill Clinton presidency illustrated national security and foreign policy drift. Phase II under President George W. Bush exemplified clear national and global goals driven by events in the Middle East and Central Asia. Phase III under the Barack Obama administration is similar to Phase I, but has embraced a policy of “leading from behind.” Meanwhile, the world’s geopolitical situation has shown signs of three major threats that will require a new international order. These threats are a resurgent Russia, a rising China, and the waning and waxing fortunes of Islamic extremism. This does not count the numerous middle level and low level threats that dot the international landscape. The successful Pax Romana and Pax Britannica were much more triumphant than the multipolar order making attempts such as the Congress of Vienna or Versailles Treaty. The most successful international order maker has consistently been the United States and the Pax Americana. In order to ensure the continuance of international stability many strategic decisions must be made. One of these decisions concerns the future of American international leadership: A dynamic international system must rise to meet these challenges, a system where the United States spearheads the creation of an amplification of NATO by fostering the D.A.N—Democratic Alliance of Nations.

The United Nations, an attempt by leaders like President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to inject some realism into the failed League of Nations by creating five policemen has failed. It has failed to create stability and order except in those instances backed by the use or threat of American force. The current situation in the United States is one of war weariness and fear of over extension. The president will need to gain electoral support for America’s preeminence in world affairs. A new organization, one that has credibility with the American people, could go a long way to solving all of these issues. This new dynamic organization could go by many monikers; the one used here is the D.A.N. The Democratic Alliance of Nations would model itself on NATO, and if successful could replace NATO and cease the endless bickering about the future of that historically critical organization. The basic essence of NATO would remain; this would include a supreme commander that would be an American, a rotating political head, and Article 5 would serve as a similar trigger for action. However, there would be some drastic differences as well. Only nations that were willing to employ proportional military force (not token support) would be allowed membership. The Article 5 style trigger of “an attack on one is an attack on all” would be broadened. These triggers would have to include preemptive and preventative threats, as well as a mechanism to deal with genocide, massive human rights abuses, regional despotism, rogue states, and failed states. Further, there would have to be a clear mandate that military force would and could be used under these trigger conditions. This does not mean that military force would be the first or only option; but unlike the Security Council, it would be a viable coalition response. Critical to the composition of the Democratic Alliance of Nations would be that membership be reserved for only true democracies. This would be subject to scrutiny of the founding members and include such benchmarks as working democratic constitutions; the real rule of law; a vibrant civil society; the full protection of private property; and obedience to natural law. The foundation of the organization would have to start in the Anglo sphere (United States/United Kingdom/Canada/Australia/New Zealand) which would bring in elements of both NATO and ANZUS. Membership would hopefully be expanded to states such as (but not only) those in Western and Central Europe, Israel, South Korea, and Japan. Obviously, it goes without saying that some of these nations would need to make fundamental changes in their foreign policy legal mechanisms and even political culture.

It would therefore be through the Democratic Alliance of Nations that the United States could lead the free world in a dynamic 21st century, as it had through the tribulations of the 20th. It would further the security of the United States and the American people, and would serve as a way to illustrate to the electorate that the United States is not forced to act alone nor bear the only burden. It would further enhance the political and economic connections of members for stronger ties and bonds.

Modern parallel to ‘Valkyrie’

Lamont Colucci Foreign Policy Article in the Washington TimesLamont Colucci

Moviegoers are experiencing a heavy dose of history by watching the recently released film, “Valkyrie,” starring Tom Cruise. A more poignant and important film (perhaps entitled “The Beck Gambit”) would have been one that focused not on the dramatic events of July 1944, but on the potential titanic possibilities in fall, 1938. This is even more important as a new administration takes office while international relations are not on the front burner for most Americans. If the message of “Valkyrie” is about the nobility of self sacrifice, even in defeat, the message of “The Beck Gambit” would be about the price paid for the moral cowardice of appeasement.

While much has been written about appeasement increasing Hitler’s appetite for conquest, little is discussed about the true price of appeasement as a cause for the continuance of the Nazi regime, genocide and destruction.

By May, 1938 a group of Germans within the Army, Foreign Office and intelligence services had come to the decision that Hitler and the Nazi regime must be overthrown. This part of the German resistance was not the dissenters, protestors, student activists, or religious figures that often had great qualms against violence. This group, which we can call the “sword resistance,” was primarily made up of Christian conservative nationalists who differentiated between treason against the government, which they knew they were committing, versus treason against Germany and the German people; the loyalty they had to Germany justified treason against the Nazis. In an amazing memorandum, Chief of the General Staff, General Ludwig Beck, wrote in 1938, “Your military duty to obey [orders] ends where your knowledge, your conscience and your responsibility forbids the execution of an order.”We might remember that the American revolutionaries made parallel arguments in the Declaration of Independence. There is a higher duty to God and righteousness than any manmade construct. These men, motivated by honor, duty, and obligation, created a plan to dismantle the Nazi regime by using the German army to take over the country and neutralize the SS.

This anti-Nazi opposition made numerous attempts to inform the British and French governments of their plans, asking only that they take a strong stance with Hitler over the issue of Czechoslovakia. The success of the coup was based entirely on the threat of war that the officers thought would come from the West. This would prove that Hitler had overplayed his hand, plunging Germany into a foreign-policy disaster. Hitler had assumed the West’s surrender and their profound weakness caused by a psychology of victimization, fear, and an inward focus on their own economies. This had all been paved by a drumbeat of bloodless victories by Hitler starting with the withdrawal from the League of Nations in 1933 (akin to withdrawal or ignoring of U.N. or other international agreements today), the unilateral rejection of the disarmament in 1935 (similar to the research, development or sale of WMD today), the remilitarization of the Rhineland in 1936 (likened to spending on military modernization when other aspects of your country are in poverty), and the annexation of Austria in 1938.

We have witnessed the same pathway for the West regarding Iraq in the late 1980s, Al Qaeda throughout the 1990s and Iran and North Korea today. Hitler, like modern-day tyrants, played both the belligerent and the peacemaker when it served his interests. Similar to the 1930s, today’s leaders in the West question their own systems, values and civilization. The prospect of war was a greater horror than the prospect of evil or the protection of innocent lives. The arguments about saving lives in the short run ended up costing the lives of millions in the long run. It was perhaps, one of the most colossal failures in all of human history.

The debate of whether or not the British and the French governments believed that the opposition could pull it off is irrelevant to the systemic policy of appeasement that was conducted. The Western acceptance of the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia ensured the abject failure of the one attempt that had the greatest amount of success to rid the world of Hitler and Nazism. Had the allies stood up to Hitler, the resistance would have removed him from power. The result of this is beyond calculation, but it is not without credibility to suggest that there would have been no Second World War, no Holocaust and no Soviet enslavement of Eastern Europe.

As we usher in a new chapter for American foreign policy, the new policy makers should take a long hard look at the consequences for weakness.

Dr. Lamont Colucci, a former diplomat with the State Department, is assistant professor of politics and government at Ripon College.

The Bush Doctrine

Lamont Colucci Foreign Policy Article in the Washington Times

Everyone has it wrong, there has been, and there is a clear and distinct Bush Doctrine. There has been much made of the interview between ABC’s Charlie Gibson and Gov. Sarah Palin where Mr. Gibson defines the Bush Doctrine as “anticipatory self defense.” The Huffington Post calls it a “six year old U.S. policy of military preemption.” These are at best sophomoric answers to complex policy. In an article in the Washington Post, defender of the doctrine Charles Krauthammer retorted that although “there is no single meaning” it evolved into four distinct meanings. This ignores the very heart and soul of the doctrine.

The Bush Doctrine has a very clear set of principles that are bound to each other like a strong rope. Take one strand away, and the whole thing falls apart. However, the bedrock of the Doctrine rests on the president’s firm commitment to natural law, the very foundation of this republic.

Without the American Founders’ conception of natural law, our Revolution would be nothing more than part of a laundry list of petty rebellions and insurgencies that changed one government for another. Without the same concept of natural law, our foreign policy would be nothing more than part of the cynical realism that dominates all other great powers. This is what differentiates Americans, American foreign policy, and our reaction to 9/11. This Americanism is the core of the Bush Doctrine and is the ultimate legacy that will dominate American discussion of foreign policy for this entire century. It is easy to suggest, and convenient to believe, that president Bush’s adherence to natural law principles in foreign policy is merely an expedient fig leaf to pursue cold hard realism and national interests. It is easier to merely caricature them.

The overwhelming evidence points to a complete national security strategy that grounds itself in the founding of the republic and uses as its touchstone the values of the American Revolution. The four precepts of the Bush Doctrine — preemption, prevention, primacy and democracy promotion — all rest on the legitimacy of that foundational event. Rooted in beliefs of American exceptionalism, manifest destiny, liberation, rollback, and fervent anti-communism, the Bush Doctrine anchors all of these concepts in a belief in the absolute values of liberty. President Bush posed a clear choice to the world between tyranny and the “non-negotiable demand of human dignity” for all people, which is the Bush Doctrine’s favorite theme.

It is at this crossroads that America finds itself. The Bush Doctrine created a zero-hour in American foreign policy, liberating us from the chains of scornful realism and fantasy liberalism. The ultimate legacy of the Bush administration rests here.

It is at this crucial juncture in American history that liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans can forge common ground. It is the clarion call not to turn back from the strong melding of American values and American foreign policy forged into the sword and shield of universal natural law. It is the American belief in the inherent dignity of the human spirit, where all humankind are to be allowed the freedom to practice their God-given liberties of life, liberty, and estate free from the fear created by the tyranny of extremist groups like al Qaeda or from rogue regimes like Iran.

The rising star of American independence rested on the foundation that liberty under law was the natural extension of the creator’s wishes, and that those who oppose liberty, oppose the natural order itself. This is the view that America represents a universal nation the actual manifestation of natural law and natural rights of freedom under the law. This legacy of the Bush Doctrine, fundamentally resting on the beliefs of the Declaration of Independence, can and should be the basis of American foreign policy in perpetuity.

Lamont Colucci is a former foreign service officer at the State Department and is an assistant professor of politics and government at Ripon College.

U.S. and Japan Free Trade Agreement

Lamont Colucci Foreign Policy Article in the Washington Times

Lamont Colucci

In 1853, an American naval squadron with lead ships Susquehanna and Mississippi steamed into Tokyo Bay and anchored off of Uraga. This event, set into motion by a never remembered president, Millard Fillmore, and led by a famous American naval officer, Matthew Perry, created the terms for a complex and symbiotic relationship that no other two countries share. The intellectual cry of the Japanese reformers of the 19th century, a direct result of this American opening, was bunmei kaika (civilization and enlightenment), whose central tenet was the westernization and modernization of Japan, the mania of which almost replaced the Japanese language with English.

If we fast forward to 1990, former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski advocated the creation of “Amerippon” to create a special strategic and economic partnership between the United States and Japan whose economic clout, based on control of 40 percent of the world’s GDP, could be fully realized. The new American administration can make all of this a needed reality.

In light of the media obsession with the economic downturn, the war in Iraq and the flavor of the month, we often forget that the stability of the international system is determined on longstanding relationships and strategic planning. One way we can address this economic crisis is to use this opportunity to push for a U.S./Japan Free Trade Agreement (FTA) – lost in an election dominated by domestic economics was any real discussion of trade and its interdependence with diplomacy.

President-elect Barack Obama can explode the fear among world leaders that he is a closet protectionist by making his flagship foray into international trade waters the U.S./Japan FTA. He can further reassure a critical ally that the United States is ever more committed to the U.S./Japan military and political alliance by demonstrating leadership in this area of economic diplomacy. No country has been more open to American culture and soft power outside of Europe and Canada than Japan (perhaps more so). America has 11 FTAs with 17 countries (two of them Pacific Rim countries, Australia and Singapore) and a recently negotiated agreement with South Korea. Japan has pursued most of her FTAs with Asian countries, but the recently negotiated agreement between the U.S. and South Korea sent a jolt throughout Japan similar to the shock they received over NAFTA.

These fears cut to the heart of Japanese trepidation, especially regarding the United States and isolationism, neglect and abandonment. If Japan wishes to avoid this, and in particular if she wants to compete with China for political and economic influence, she will encourage the creation of “Amerippon.” Her most difficult constraints are her xenophobic agricultural lobby, lack of consistency from government ministries, and a deficiency of transparency. The U.S. can only commit to an FTA if it is comprehensive. However, it will take political leadership in Washington for the Japanese to create the political will to overcome their obstacles. The incoming Obama administration can make this a top priority, especially in light of the world economic crisis. Studies indicate that the current trade between the U.S. and Japan of $200 billion would be exponentially enhanced. If 10 percent of the service sectors were liberalized, Japan would gain $130 billion and the U.S. $150 billion. If 30 percent were liberalized, the total enhancement would be $350 billion.

This kind of agreement is real diplomacy with a real ally. It bolsters the Mutual Security system, cross-cultural relations, and widens the door for military, political, and technological cooperation and partership. One cannot divorce political from economic diplomacy, and the majority of advocates for the FTA ignore these other factors.

If the United States wishes to combat the rise of an aggressive China and a renewed expansionist Russia, a solidification of the partnership with Japan is an absolute necessity. There are national security issues at stake here, not merely economic ones. Further, if the U.S. wishes to truly pursue the creation of a League of Democracies, what better springboard to do this from than a series of free trade agreements with our democratic allies. The liberalization of trade is a fundamental of the free market system, making it a bedrock of political democracy.

The Free Trade Agreement with Japan can serve our economic, military, diplomatic and core values in one fell swoop. The new administration’s push for “Amerippon” can demonstrate the kind of foreign policy dynamism this president will sorely need.

Dr. Lamont Colucci, a former diplomat with the U.S. Department of State, is an assistant professor of politics and Government at Ripon College.

U.S. Foreign Policy and the Legacy of the Bush Doctrine

Lamont Colucci Foreign Policy Article in the Henry Jackson Society

Lamont Colucci

By kind invitation of David Gauke MP, the Henry Jackson Society hosted a discussion with Dr. Lamont Colucci, author of ‘Crusading Realism: The Bush Doctrine and American Core Values After 9/11’ and National Security Studies Co-ordinator at Ripon College, in the House of Commons on 20th October. Dr. Colucci addressed the society on the Bush Doctrine in foreign policy during the Bush years, its historic roots in the United States, and the prospects for American foreign policy beyond the next election.

‘A city upon a hill’

It is an honour for me to be here today and I would like to thank the Henry Jackson Society for organising this. Much of this talk is based on my recent book, Crusading Realism.

I would like to begin by asking you to picture yourself aboard a ship in the year 1630, sailing from Yarmouth, England to the colonies in America. On board the ship is John Winthrop and he delivered a sermon: ‘For we must consider that we shall be as a city upon a hill. The eyes of all people are upon us. So that if we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a byword throughout the world.’ This passage encapsulates my argument about the Bush doctrine. It is perhaps an odd beginning point for a discussion about national security policy; but it is the beginning point I make.

Through interviews with key figures in the Clinton administration and both Bush administrations, I tried to set out an architecture displaying the roots of the Bush doctrine. I would like to read you two quotes: ‘So it is the policy of the United States to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.’ The second quote: ‘But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government.’

The first quote is George W. Bush in his second inaugural speech and the second quote is from the Declaration of Independence. My fundamental argument is that the goal of the Bush doctrine is to return American foreign policy back to its roots. The United States’ foundational roots are to be found in natural law. The Bush doctrine creates a ‘zero-hour’ in American foreign policy, as it liberates the United States from past paradigms in American foreign policy. It argues that deterrence and containment cannot work against a transnational enemy that in effect represents a culture of death. In fact, containment and deterrence may well play into the hands of such a philosophy.

International relations theory

To understand the roots of the Bush doctrine, we must talk briefly about international relations theory. There are three basic schools of thought: realism, liberalism and Marxism. For US foreign policy, the third one is not very relevant. The former two, however, represent the titanic battle in American foreign policy between so-called realists and liberals. Realism refers to foreign policy based on amorality. Liberalism takes the reverse view; that foreign policy should be driven by ethics and democracy promotion. Realists are comfortable with the use of force in the pursuit of national interests; liberalism shies away from the use of force unless it is a last resort. Looking at the Bush doctrine, it is clear it does not fit definitively into either category. The question is, therefore, ‘what is it’?

Crusading realism

I believe it should be categorised as a ‘crusading realism’. I believe that crusading realism deals with the moral bankruptcy of realism and the moral cowardice of liberalism. To understand the Bush doctrine, we must understand the Bush administration’s pre-9/11 policy. Was there a foreign policy philosophy that guided the Bush administration prior to the terrorist attacks? The answer, of course, is yes: it was guided by realists from the school of Henry Kissinger. Bush’s pre-9/11 foreign policy was often glibly characterised as ABC (Anything But Clinton); and Anything But Clinton was good. Although Bush’s pre-9/11 policy was predominantly realist in outlook, we did see glimmers of the Bush doctrine. In March 2001 at an NSC meeting, Bush stated that he wanted to ‘play offense’ with regard to al-Qaeda. In May 2001, Bush issued NSPD-5, where he ordered a broad review of American intelligence. On September 4, 2001, Bush ordered NSPD-9, which stated that the United States must seek to eliminate al-Qaeda. In 100 years, historians will wonder if 9/11 could have been prevented had NSPD-9 been issued earlier. The answer is that I do not know, but I doubt it. President Bush would have had to ask the American public in January or February of 2001, following a disputed election, to support a preventative war against a country that few Americans could find on a map, against a group few Americans had heard of, led by a man few Americans knew anything about. This would have been an impossibility. Could 9/11 have been prevented? Not during the beginning of the Bush administration, possibly during the Clinton administration.

The phases of the Bush doctrine

The Bush doctrine is divided into phases. The first phase is the reaction to 9/11 where Bush looks to deal with al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. This stage is characterised by rhetoric suggesting a black-and-white view of international politics – either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.

The first dispute over the Bush doctrine within the administration was between two groups in the NSC: the serialists and the parallelists. The former group argued that the US should go after al-Qaeda solely in Afghanistan and then assess whether to intervene elsewhere; the latter argued that the US should pursue al-Qaeda in multiple places simultaneously. Richard Armitage and Colin Powell were both serialists, while Paul Wolfowitz and Donald Rumsfeld were both parallelists. Condi Rice played the role of umpire and the president ultimately makes the decision. As we know, he decided to support the parallelists. In October, the US began operations in Afghanistan.

The second phase is the formalisation of the Bush doctrine, which occurred during the late period of 2001 and early period of 2002. It began with a reassessment of the Nuclear Posture Review and the 2002 State of the Union speech where Bush made use of the term ‘axis of evil’. The 2002 West Point speech emphasised pre-emption and in September 2002 the national security strategy was published, which discussed issues of democracy promotion and primacy.

9/11 signalled the emergence of a new security situation. Other writers have referred to this as the ‘toxic nexus’ involving rogue states, terrorist groups and WMD proliferation. This triumvirate presents a nightmare scenario for the United States. The potential interaction between these three factors is influential in the practical development of the Bush doctrine.

Four pillars of the Bush doctrine

There are four pillars to the Bush doctrine: prevention, pre-emption, primacy and democracy promotion. Pre-emption is nothing new: every state has used it and will continue to use it. The bold part to this is the decision to formally state it as a part of American strategy. However, this 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. Prevention is fuelled by the threat of WMD. Al-Qaeda has been trying to access a nuclear weapon since 1993. George Tenet believes that this is the number one threat faced by the West – nuclear weapons in the hands of al-Qaeda. He believes that this is an inevitable scenario. This fear provides the rationale for a policy of prevention.

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 goes back to the DPG written by Paul Wolfowitz in 1992 and the 1998 letter by PNAC. It is also translated into the 1421 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 roots of democracy promotion go back to the beginning of the country. One can talk of the Puritans and the Founding Fathers. A key question is does President Bush really believe in this pillar of the Bush doctrine and in interviewing key administration figures it became clear that he does. Those who hate the Bush doctrine do not argue that Bush does not believe this. Brent Scowcroft, for example, would argue that this is the problem; that Bush believes in it so much. Natan Sharansky and his book, The Case for Democracy, influenced Bush’s views on democracy promotion. Bush’s 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.

Barack Obama and the Bush doctrine

It would be problematic for the next American president, whether it is Barack Obama or John McCain, to go against the philosophy of the Republic. Certainly they could alter the implementation of policies. During the third presidential debate both candidates danced around the subject of the Colombian free trade agreement. Not only economics, but also security and foreign policy issues are at stake over the Colombia free trade agreement. If it were abandoned, it would be disastrous for the United States. Is there a way to sabotage the Bush doctrine through implementing specific policies? I definitively think so. The rhetoric will remain the same, but certain policies may change.


The problem ultimately in Iran is that democracy and civil society in that country are a window dressing. Iran is a mullocracy in which Ayatollah Khomeini pulls the strings. Iran is a theocratic, authoritarian society which does not grant its own people its own version of democracy. For the United States to dignify the regime with formal relations would not be proper. The Iranians must make concessions first. It is the Iranian regime that is causing the fundamental problems concerning nuclear weapons and they are the number one sponsor of terrorism. Once they stop their reprehensible behaviour, perhaps we can start low-level talks with the regime.


One of the negative aspects of the American focus on the war on terror has been an ignorance in the electorate and parts of the American government regarding other important strategic issues that have not gone away. The ‘tunnel-vision’ focus on the Middle East has meant that the American electorate was shocked and surprised, for example, by Russia’s recent actions in Georgia. We have spent so much capital and time focusing on the war on terror that we have ignored other areas. If strategic planners are serious about maintaining American primacy, they cannot focus purely on countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq.

The election

I have been amazed by the lack of questions on national security in the US election. The US media have almost entirely ignored matters of foreign policy and security strategy. We have two problems: if we want to maintain primacy, we must deal with multiple issues such as Russia and China, as well as the Middle East; at the same time, we must reenergise the American public as to the security threats facing America. The issue of terrorism is essentially playing no role in the US election.

International law and the Bush doctrine

The Bush administration has never stated that it does not want to be in-sync with international law. However, there is a recognition that some aspects of international law are counter-productive to the philosophy of the Bush doctrine. This conflict may produce philosophical and public policy problems if the US continues to pursue certain aspects of the Bush doctrine. The fundamental issue between the Bush doctrine and international law is that of state sovereignty. It is incorrect to accuse the Bush doctrine of being unilateralist: the Bush administration has always attempted to garner international allies and friends. The difference between the Clinton and Bush administrations is that Bush will not allow the coalition to determine the mission; instead, the mission determines the coalition.

The legacy of the Bush doctrine

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 of the next American president to go against the strategy of the Bush doctrine is fantastical. Tactics may change, but the overall strategy will remain. Bush’s main legacy is that the philosophical foundations of the Bush 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 the next election.

I will finish with a quote from President Bush: ‘America’s vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights and dignity and matchless value because they bear the image of the Maker of heaven and earth.’ In this sense the Bush doctrine offers a sense of real hope concerning foreign policy philosophy and foreign policy architecture. Thank you very much.

© 2009 The Henry Jackson Society, Project for Democratic Geopolitics. All rights reserved.

Today, the Bush doctrine may not be popular – but it will endure

Lamont Colucci Foreign Policy Article in The Independent

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

Free trade exigencies

Lamont Colucci

In January, North Korea demanded that the United States normalize relations before the North would abandon its nuclear weapons program.

North Korea since has launched a multistage rocket, quit the six-party talks, restarted its nuclear reprocessing facility at Yongbyon, performed a second nuclear weapon test, test-fired two short-range missiles, announced its own version of the "reset button" by declaring the Korean War armistice over, and now plans to test launch an intercontinental ballistic missile.

In this security context the United States should push for the free-trade agreement with South Korea, known as KORUS-FTA. In a prior column, this author discussed the necessity for a U.S.-Japan free-trade agreement, but that cannot occur while the agreement with our other East Asian ally languishes. The KORUS-FTA is the linchpin for any future Asian free-trade agreements.

The agreement was signed by both nations in June 2007 and would eliminate tariffs on 95 percent of most goods and services. South Korea is the 10th-largest economy, our seventh-largest trading partner and our sixth-largest market for agricultural goods.

A number of independent and government studies indicate that the KORUS-FTA would add $20 billion in bilateral trade, increase U.S. gross domestic product by up to $11.9 billion, and raise U.S. exports by 49 percent.

On average, current American exports face higher tariffs in South Korea than the other way around. Although 70 percent of South Koreans believe it would promote friendly relations with the United States, there is great opposition by forces against free trade and various people in the new Obama administration.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said, as a candidate for president, "While I value the strong relationship the United States enjoys with South Korea, I believe that this agreement is inherently unfair." There have been outstanding issues over items like U.S. beef exports, pharmaceuticals and products produced at Kaesong industrial complex.

However, President Obama must reassure the world of his free-trade credentials. There is consternation in many capitals over perceived protectionist sentiment and its dubious partner, isolationism. This issue is another victim of the lack of media attention to international affairs.

Aside from South Korea and Japan, the other democracy in Asia with which a free-trade agreement is needed is Taiwan. This agreement would seem easier, as Taiwan is not only our ninth-largest trading partner, but it also would provide an overall boost for U.S. manufacturing (Taiwan exports no automobiles), agriculture and especially the high-tech sector. As with South Korea, the stakes are high politically and diplomatically.

Rejection of free-trade agreements with East Asia’s democracies run counter to American values and economic interest. Bolstering free trade with Japan, South Korea and Taiwan sends a message of solidarity, stability and commitment. It is also a warning to potential aggressors. The negative outcomes of a KORUS rejection are legion and would send an ominous statement to Tokyo and Taipei. It will prove the unreliability of American diplomatic commitments to a political and military ally, which has risked much domestically in pushing for the agreement.

Rejection would play into the hands of the expansionists in Moscow and Beijing who seek to diminish our influence in the entire Pacific. There will be a chilling effect with other countries that plan to seek a free-trade agreement with the United States as this entire scene of political theater plays into the hands of the propagandists in Pyongyang.

There is more at stake here than an economic agreement; there is our entire presence in the Pacific.

Lamont Colucci is a former State Department diplomat and is an assistant professor of politics and government at Ripon College in Wisconsin. He recently published a book titled "Crusading Realism: The Bush Doctrine and American Core Values After 9/11," and is a contributing author of "The Day That Changed Everything: Looking at the Impact of 9/11 at the End of the Decade."