As conservatives grapple with Bush’s foreign policy legacy, a number of writers have lamented Bush’s retreat from the democracy promotion aspect of the Bush Doctrine. (I’ve argued that the flaws of Bush’s foreign policy itself have necessitated that retreat.)
In the Washington Times, Daniel Gallington takes a different approach. He argues that democracy promotion has been a waste of time, but that the other part of the Bush Doctrine — the part where America attacks other countries — has been a huge success.
Sad, because part of the doctrine — “preemption” — will continue to be U.S. policy, however it may be described by the Obama administration. Ironically perhaps, it’s the “democracy” part of the Bush Doctrine that has failed under the Bush administration, primarily because of fuzzy thinking and poor execution at the senior policy level.
The idea behind preemption is simple: Because our free (and soft-target) society is so vulnerable to Sept. 11-style sneak attacks from terrorists, we have adopted a policy to attack the attackers before they attack us.[...]
No American political administration, Republican, Democrat, liberal or conservative — anything short of a pacifist one — would stand by and do nothing if it were convinced that an attack on America was about to take place.
The reason none of this seems very controversial is that it has nothing to do with the Bush Doctrine, which asserted not the right of preemption, but of prevention, the right of the United States to attack any country that it determined may pose a threat in the future.
The careless confusion of these two terms has been a common problem in discussions of Bush’s foreign policy, as it’s enabled supporters of the Bush Doctrine to pretend that it’s less radical than it actually is.
Just as do all nation states, America under an Obama administration will continue to assert the right of preemption. But it will also hopefully abjure the right of prevention, which in its single application — Iraq — has proven completely calamitous.
As for the U.S.’s “‘democracy’ policy in Iraq”, Gallington is not having it:
Come on, the various religious and tribal factions there don’t want anything to do with democracy because it requires compromise – and they can’t do that any more than anyone else in the region. These aren’t Republicans and Democrats; these are people (mostly poorly educated and highly indoctrinated men) who have long sworn to kill each other for various sins and atrocities of the past – and have taken turns doing it over the past few thousand years.
Meanwhile, while all this killing was going on, we in the glorious civilized West were sitting around in libraries writing constitutions. No, that’s a joke. The truth is that, in terms of raw numbers, Europe probably engaged in more mass murder in the twentieth century alone than the previous thousand years in the Middle East.
I’m always grateful when conservatives engage in this sort of naked, ignorant bigotry, though. It’s good to let readers know where they, and we, really stand.