The Corner

The “Palin Didn’t Know What the Bush Doctrine Is” Canard

Seeing reports along those lines, like this one.  What a bunch of nonsense.

Peanut gallery denizens like me, who don’t have states to run and who follow this stuff very closely, disagree intensely among ourselves about what the Bush Doctrine is. 

To take just one example, the eminent Norman Podhoretz and I have strongly disagreed about it:  Norman says the promotion of democracy has always been an essential element; I think it’s been at best a subordinate element and that the real Bush Doctrine simply holds that terror sponsoring states will be treated exactly as terrorists (i.e., open themselves up to attack) if they don’t convincingly foreswear terrorism.  Norman may very well be right — he backs his argument up with lots of statements by the president.  But the point is that reasonable, informed minds can differ.

Gibson homed in on preemptive attacks — in the tone of “Oh, you didn’t know the Bush Doctrine was all about the right to attack preemptively.”  I would dispute the premise that the Bush Doctrine is necessarily about preemptive attacks.  The right of preemptive attack is an element of the right of self-defense, which is a natural right of states and was a bedrock of international law before there ever was a Bush Doctrine.  News Flash for you Democrats and media types out there:  About 40 years before there was a Bush Doctrine, JFK was relying on the self-defense right of preemptive attack during the Cuban Missile Crisis. 

The Bush Doctrine, technically, is not asserting a right of preemptive attack.  It is saying that if Country A facilitates terror, it is responsible for that terrorist organization’s strikes, and therefore we can attack Country A.  That is not preemptive; it is retributive.

It was utterly reasonable for Gov. Palin to press Charlie Gibson on what Gibson meant by the Bush Doctrine.  Everyone does not mean the same thing by the term, there is lots of good faith argument about what it means, and — because the administration itself has only half-heartedly adhered to it – there is also the confusion between theory and practice.

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