I was interested in the president’s brief outline of the emerging Obama Doctrine for the use of force. Namely:
1. The U.S. must go to war with clearly defined goals;
2. The U.S. must weigh the costs of action and communicate them candidly with American people;
3. The U.S. must use all elements of national power; and
4. The U.S. must work closely with friends and allies.
I understand that in the liberal national security milieu each of these points stands as an indictment of what they perceive to be George Bush’s approach to national security, and in particular his execution of the war in Iraq. But that view is factually very selective. Surely the goals of the Iraq war were clearly defined, principally regime change, a national policy adopted under president Clinton and achieved by President Bush. The costs of action were weighed and communicated very openly in the months leading up to the war, and afterward — there is no question of them ever being hidden in any way, and Congress regularly considered and voted on war funding. All elements of national power — diplomacy, intelligence, military, and economic power — were used with respect to Iraq, particularly if one looks at the time period stretching back to the first Gulf War (remember sanctions? Smart sanctions? Oil for food? etc.). And the United States did work closely with friends and allies, those who were willing to send troops or support the effort in other ways. So this represents change? Not as much as President Bush’s critics think.