The first term of the George W. Bush presidency and what has come to be known as the “Bush Doctrine” were marked by a profound and forceful reaction to September 11, 2001. Determined to prevent further, murderous attacks on the United States, Mr. Bush and his national security team were determined to “drain the swamps” from whence terrorists received safe havens and other forms of support. Out went the sort of “stability” born of accommodations with totalitarians and favored by the foreign policy establishment’s so-called “realists.” In came a U.S. commitment to bringing down the “axis of evil,” in favor of a world ordered by liberty and democracy.
Today, we are seeing the emergence of what might be described as “Bush Doctrine 2.0.” It bears no similarity to the first edition. In fact, it pretty much repudiates everything Mr. Bush stood for during his first four years in office. Worse yet, it threatens to render his legacy not simply one of unrealized goals but of betrayed principles, abandoned friends and unscrupulous deals with tyrants sure to perpetuate their odious regimes.
Herewith a sampling of the unraveling of Mr. Bush’s policies:
Appeasing North Korea: Early in the first Bush administration, the President to his credit candidly revealed to Bob Woodward that he loathed Kim Jong Il’s brutally repressive police state. After the North Koreans acknowledged lying about their nuclear weapons program, he strove to intensify Kim’s isolation in the hope of neutralizing the threat thus posed and, with luck, to bring him down.
Mr. Bush was subsequently induced to believe that this goal could be advanced best by enlisting the North’s regional neighbors – including its enablers, China, Russia and South Korea – in so-called “six-party talks.” Even as it became ever more apparent that Pyongyang’s allies were using those negotiations to thwart the original Bush Doctrine, not advance it, the President clung to this approach and eschewed bilateral talks with, to say nothing of appeasement of, the North.
Now, however, the U.S. envoy to those talks, Assistant Secretary of State Christopher Hill, has eviscerated the original Bush policy. In the name of obtaining still more vacuous promises of nuclear disarmament from Kim Jong-Il, Hill is not only negotiating directly and bilaterally with Pyongyang. He has promised to remove North Korea from the list of state-sponsors of terrorism, despite mounting evidence that the North is actively engaged in the ultimate support for terrorism: proliferating nuclear weapons technology to the likes of two others on that infamous list: Syria and Iran.
A Palestinian state, no matter what: In June 2002, Mr. Bush declared that he would be willing to work towards a homeland for the Palestinian people only if certain conditions were satisfied. These included their rejection of terrorism, the elimination of its infrastructure and the emergence of a new generation of leaders unsullied by ties to terror.
Now, Mr. Bush’s Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice is frantically pursuing the creation of a Palestinian state she hopes will be run by a man with lifelong ties to terror – Yasir Arafat’s crony and right-hand man, Mahmood Abbas. In the process, she is: whitewashing his record and current conduct; euchring Israel into surrendering more territory to its enemies; and ignoring the virtual certainty that any land thus yielded will become yet another safe-haven for terror (as with South Lebanon and Gaza before it).
Closing "Gitmo": For years, President Bush has recognized the need for a U.S.-controlled facility outside the United States capable of securely incarcerating international terrorists. He refused to capitulate to the often-hysterical calls, both at home and abroad, for the closure of the irreplaceable prison complex used for this purpose and located Guantanamo Bay.
Now, according to the New York Times, Mr. Bush’s administration is poised to shut down Gitmo, transfer its remaining occupants to U.S. territory and extend to them expanded rights to counsel and consideration of their cases in civilian courts. It is unlikely that this action will earn “W.” any kudos from his critics. It will, however, make it more difficult and vastly more expensive to keep such detainees off the actual or propaganda battlefields of this war.
Farewells to sovereignty: During his first term, Mr. Bush recognized the threat to U.S. sovereignty posed by unaccountable and generally hostile multinational organizations like the International Criminal Court. He went so far as to “unsign” the treaty that established that tribunal, rather than allow Americans to be subject to its prosecutions.
Now, President Bush is arguing in a case pending before the Supreme Court that the dictates of such tribunals must trump domestic law. He is also pressing the Senate to allow the U.S. to be subjected to a host of new tribunals authorized by yet another sovereignty-sapping multinational accord, the UN Law of the Sea Treaty (LOST).
With the notable exception of Iraq – where George W. Bush has largely held firm in the face of relentless criticism, with ever-more-promising results – virtually every aspect, principle and objective of his security policy is being eviscerated on his watch. The problem is not merely that those adulterating his original Bush Doctrine by supplanting it with a 2.0 version will obliterate the common-sense and courageous approach made necessary in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. He will bequeath to his successor and his people a world made vastly more dangerous, not more stable, for his administration’s embrace of appeasement dressed up as “realism.”