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Jewish World Review Sept. 25, 2002 / 19 Tishrei, 5763

Michael Ledeen

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The Dubya Doctrine | There is a lot of good news in President Bush's strategic vision, which, one must say up front, is entirely worthy of the world's lone superpower.

First and foremost, it defines America's national interest in dramatically political terms: Security, both for the United States and for those who want to be our friends and allies, depends on the spread of political freedom. Over and over again, the president stresses that we seek friendship and alliance with free countries, and that we must use our great power and influence to expand the zone of freedom throughout the world.

It has been a long time - perhaps since John F. Kennedy's finest oratory - since we heard an American president enunciate our core values so clearly, and proclaim the unbreakable commitment of an American administration to a global democratic revolution.

Not for Bush the doubletalk of "peace processes" and "negotiated settlements" that has dominated so much of the discussion of our foreign policy, nor the silly pidgin Marxist theory that redistributing wealth will eliminate war or terrorism.

Not at all. He insists, rightly and refreshingly, that poverty is not the "root cause" of war or terrorism, and that freedom is the best guarantee of peace.

Best of all, the president fully and proudly accepts America's dominant position in the world, and, unlike many of his predecessors, views it as an opportunity for leadership instead of an occasion for remorse and apology.

He sees the uniqueness of the moment, proclaiming that this is "the best chance since the rise of the nation-state in the 17th century to build a world where great powers compete in peace instead of continually prepare for war."

History students, please take note: Peace is not the normal condition of mankind. War is the norm; peace is rare, and depends on great leadership.

Finally, in what is likely to be the least-noticed part of Bush's strategy, he firmly rejects the misguided populist call for redistributing wealth from the rich to the poor nations. He accepts the obligation to improve the lot of those living in misery, but rather than hand out money to corrupt governments he instead insists that the United States will work with the poor countries - calling for doubling their wealth within a decade - to give their people the freedom to improve their lot.

And he's even good on the details: grants linked to performance rather than loans that will never be repaid, and, as always, the primacy of freedom in the workplace, in the press, in places of prayer and at the ballot box.

That's the core of Bush's ambitious vision. The rest is footnotes, mostly excellent, only occasionally disappointing.

The best footnotes concern terrorism in general and the Middle East in particular. By now, we all know the antiterrorist litany by heart: unrelenting war against the terrorists, their organizations and their sponsors, most definitely including "nations that are compromised by terror . . . because the allies of terror are the enemies of civilization."

Since the greatest danger "lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology," we no longer have the luxury of waiting until the bad guys are proven to have weapons of mass destruction, and thus we are fully entitled to launch preemptive attacks. Call it the Saddam Rule.

And Bush reiterates his policy for the Israel/Palestinian question: When there is a democratic Palestinian leadership committed to real peace - not before, and not otherwise - we'll insist on a Palestinian state.

It's probably inevitable, but nonetheless a little disconcerting, to see terrorism dealt with as if it were a purely Middle Eastern disease, and from time to time the president lapses into language that makes it sound like terrorism is a poor man's war tactic. In fact, terrorism is a tyrant's tactic against free societies, and terrorism has occurred all over the world, mostly in well-off democratic countries like Uruguay in the '60s and Italy and Germany in the '70s.

The president is prematurely enthusiastic about his ambitious program to reorganize the government (yet to be approved by Congress), and he remains inexplicably cheerful about the abilities of the intelligence community, calling for a great increase in the powers of the director of Central Intelligence.

This sounds alarmingly like the foolish scheme proposed by the hapless Brent Scowcroft some time back, and somebody really must challenge it. The intelligence community desperately needs more internal competition, not greater centralization, and it needs better leadership than it has gotten since the passing of William Casey.

There is also a slight excess of optimism concerning the People's Republic of China, about which the president notes that Chinese leaders are learning that "economic freedom is the only source of national wealth. In time, they will find that social and political freedom is the only source of national greatness."

This is surely too much. We may hope that the Chinese decide to introduce political freedom, but there is no particular reason to expect they will, and it is quite wrong to say that freedom is the only source of greatness. At best, one can argue, as did Machiavelli, that free societies are more stable than tyrannies, but history does not lack for examples of glorious tyrannies, from Alexander to the Caesars to the Sun King and beyond.

The other disconcerting theme in the president's strategy is the notion that great power conflicts are a thing of the past, and we must build a military capable of dealing with the smaller and more shadowy battles we will have to fight against the likes of Hezbollah and al Qaeda. He says that we are less menaced by "conquering states than we are by failing ones. We are menaced less by fleets and armies than by catastrophic technologies in the hands of the embittered few."

No doubt we need such (call them special operations) forces, but there is also no doubt that we will inevitably face another challenge from another big enemy. The president promises to maintain unchangeable military power, suggesting that he is aware of the potential of another major conflict, but he would have done better to avoid the implication that all big wars are behind us.

But these are small nits, and (faced with the overall grandeur and courage of the president's vision) relatively insignificant. This is a first-class piece of work, and like so much of George W. Bush's foreign-policy declarations, is as gratifying as it is surprising.

It is also another stern rebuttal of the conceits of the intellectual class, because it shows once again that a fine president does not need advanced degrees or high standing in the salons to understand what's important. For the third time since the Second World War we have a president without intellectual pretensions, and for the third time we've been fortunate to find a man with sound instincts and an inspiring vision.

Harry Truman, Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush.

Maybe there's a lesson there?

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JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of, most recently, The War Against the Terror Masters. Comment by clicking here.


09/23/02: Intelligence? What intelligence?
09/12/02: America's revenge: To turn tyrannies into democracies
09/10/02: Iran & Afghanistan & Us: We'll have to deal with the mullahcracy, sooner or later
09/04/02: Iran, according to the Times: All the nonsense that's fit to print
08/21/02: Life and death of Abu Nidal tells us a great deal about our enemies
08/08/02: Can You Keep a Secret?: The media silence on Iran
08/06/02: Fantasy Reporting: The latest disinformation from the Washington Post
08/02/02: Propping Up the Terror Masters: Europe's Solana on tour
07/16/02: Bush vs. the Mullahs: Getting on the side of the Iranian freedom fighters
07/12/02: The State Department Goes Mute: It's official: State has no message
07/09/02: History being made, but the West appears clueless
06/05/02: Is George Tenet endangering peace in Israel?
06/03/02: Ridiculous, even for a journalist
05/20/02: So how come nobody's been fired yet?
05/14/02: Open doors for thugs
04/20/02: Iran on the Brink … and the U.S. does nothing
04/16/02: It’s the war, stupid … someone remind Colin Powell
04/08/02: Gulled: In the Middle East, Arafat doesn't matter
04/02/02: Faster, Please: The war falters
03/26/02: The Revolution Continues: What's brewing in Iran
03/18/02: Iran simmers still: Where's the press?
03/05/02: We can't lose any more ground in Iran
02/14/02: The Great Iranian Hoax
02/12/02: Unnoticed Bombshell: Key information in a new book
01/31/02: The truth behind the Powell play
01/29/02: My past with "Johnny Jihad's" lawyer
01/21/02: It's Munich, all over again
01/08/02: What's the Holdup?: It's time for the next battles in the war against terrorism
12/11/01: We must be imperious, ruthless, and relentless
12/06/01: Remembering my family friend, Walt Disney
11/28/01: The Barbara Olson Bomb: Understanding the war
11/13/01: How We're Doing: The Angleton Files, IV
11/06/01: A great revolutionary war is coming
10/25/01: How to talk to a terrorist
10/23/01: Creative Reporting: Learning to appreciate press briefings
10/19/01: Not the Emmys: A Beltway award presentation
10/15/01: Rediscovering American character
10/11/01: Somehow, I've missed Arafat's praise of the first stage of our war on terrorism
10/04/01: What do we not know?
09/28/01: Machiavelli On Our War: Some advice for our leaders
09/25/01: No Room for the U.N.: Keeping Annan & co. out of the picture
09/21/01: Creative destruction
09/14/01: Who Killed Barbara Olson?
08/22/01: How Israel will win this war
08/15/01: Bracing for war
08/09/01: More Dithering Democrats
08/02/01: Delirious Dems
07/31/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit, cont'd
07/19/01: Be careful what you wish for
07/17/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit
07/05/01: Let Slobo Go
05/30/01: Anybody out there afraid of the Republicans?
05/09/01: The bad guys to the rescue
05/07/01: Bye-bye, Blumenthal
04/20/01: Handling China
04/11/01: EXAM TIME!
04/05/01: Chinese over-water torture
03/27/01: Fighting AIDS in Africa is a losing proposition
03/14/01: Big Bird, Oscar, and other threats
03/09/01: Time for a good, old-fashioned purge
03/06/01: Powell’s great (mis)adventure
02/26/01: The Clinton Sopranos
02/20/01: Unity Schmoonity: Sharon is defying the will of the people
01/30/01: The Rest of the Rich Story
01/22/01: Ashcroft the Jew
01/11/01: A fitting close to the Clinton years
12/26/00: Continuing Clinton's shameful legacy
12/21/00: Clinton’s gift for Bush

© 2001, Michael Ledeen