During her much anticipated interview with ABC’s Charles Gibson, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin had a “deer-in-headlights moment” when Gibson asked her if she agreed with the Bush Doctrine. Surprised at the question, Palin asked Gibson what he meant. When Gibson asked, “Well, what do you interpret it to be?” Palin replied inquisitively, “His worldview?” Gibson then explained his understanding of the Bush Doctrine and asked if Palin agreed:
GIBSON: The Bush doctrine as I understand it is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense and we have the right of preemptive strike against any country we think is going to attack us. Do you agree with that?
PALIN: Charlie, if there is legitimate and enough intelligence that tells us that a strike is imminent against American people, we have every right to defend our country.
While Gibson did not get the Bush Doctrine wholly correct, he was at least on the right track. In fact, the Bush Doctrine is predicated on “preventive war” not “preemptive war” — a sharp distinction in which the former justifies launching war in an attempt to “prevent” a threat from emerging (i.e. the Iraq war), while in the latter case, the threat has already materialized.
“Preemptive war” is, as Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-MA) once observed, something “the global community is generally tolerant of,” while “preventive attacks” — a policy that Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) has not rejected — “have generally been condemned.”
Indeed, as Matt Yglesias notes, Bush and McCain agree that the U.S. has “the right to use military force unilaterally even where there isn’t an imminent threat” and that “Palin’s view is sensible, so it would be interesting to learn her opinion of her running mate’s much less sensible view.”
UPDATE: The Jed Report posted this video of John McCain explaining the Bush Doctrine: