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On Friday, President Obama addressed the graduates of the U.S. Naval Academy.  In promising to "maintain America's military dominance," Obama also signaled a clear break with his predecessor's Manichean worldview and the Bush doctrine of preemptive war.  As it turns out, George W. Bush debuted those discredited concepts seven years ago during a service academy commencement address of his own, his speech to the West Point class of 2002.

Obama's repudiation of Bush's aggressive unilateralism was evident in a pledge he made to the midshipmen and their families in Annapolis:

"And today, this is the promise I make to you. It's a promise that as long as I am your Commander-in-Chief, I will only send you into harm's way when it is absolutely necessary, and with the strategy and the well-defined goals, the equipment and the support that you need to get the job done). This includes the job of bringing the Iraq war to a responsible end and pursuing a new comprehensive strategy to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al Qaeda and its allies in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

And to get you the support you need, we're enlisting all elements of our national power -- our diplomacy and development, our economic might and our moral suasion -- so that you and the rest of our military do not bear the burden of our security alone."

The contrast with the 43rd president could not have been more stark.  In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, President Bush introduced the first of the three pillars of his Bush Doctrine, namely no safe havens for terrorists.  Later, as the myriad rationales for war in Iraq evaporated, Bush turned to democracy promotion as a central tenet of his foreign policy.  But on June 1, 2002, Bush used his speech at West Point to crystallize his vision of preemption by the United States:

"We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best. We cannot put our faith in the word of tyrants, who solemnly sign non-proliferation treaties, and then systemically break them. If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long - Our security will require transforming the military you will lead -- a military that must be ready to strike at a moment's notice in any dark corner of the world. And our security will require all Americans to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives."

But Bush was not content to stop there.  Four months after he famously proclaimed an "Axis of Evil" and just weeks after American interrogators began waterboarding Abu Zubaydah with the blessing of White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, President Bush articulated a good versus evil worldview which would come to excuse any atrocity committed in its name:

"Some worry that it is somehow undiplomatic or impolite to speak the language of right and wrong. I disagree. Different circumstances require different methods but not different moralities. Moral truth is the same in every culture, in every time and in every place. Targeting innocent civilians for murder is always and everywhere wrong. Brutality against women is always and everywhere wrong.

There can be no neutrality between justice and cruelty, between the innocent and the guilty. We are in a conflict between good and evil. And America will call evil by its name.

By confronting evil and lawless regimes we do not create a problem, we reveal a problem. And we will lead the world in opposing it."

Speaking one day after former Vice President Dick Cheney mocked "lecturing on the theme of being consistent with American values," President Obama reminded the Annapolis graduates that they, too, "swear a similar oath, not only to protect and defend the American people, but the Constitution of the United States."  That oath, Obama suggested, required them as Americans both to obey the Constitution and to decry evil supposedly perpetated in its defense:

"Yesterday I visited the National Archives and the halls that holds our Constitution, our Declaration of Independence, and our Bill of Rights. I went there because, as our national debate on how to deal with the security challenge that we face proceeds, we must remember this enduring truth: The values and ideals in those documents are not simply words written into aging parchment, they are the bedrock of our liberty and our security. We uphold our fundamental principles and values not just because we choose to, but because we swear to; not because they feel good, but because they help keep us safe and keep us true to who we are.

Because when America strays from our values, it not only undermines the rule of law, it alienates us from our allies, it energizes our adversaries, and it endangers our national security and the lives of our troops. So as Americans, we reject the false choice between our security and our ideals. We can and we must and we will protect both."

To his great credit, George W. Bush declared in March that President Obama "deserves my silence."  As for the Bush Doctrine that bears his name, it is similarly little spoken of now.  But just in case there was any doubt, President Obama in Annapolis today brought down the curtain on that sad chapter President Bush wrote at West Point seven years ago.

** Crossposted at Perrspectives **

Originally posted to Jon Perr on Sat May 23, 2009 at 08:19 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I don't see it. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Avenging Angel, BigAlinWashSt

    But then I didn't read the whole thing, because why should I. It doesn't take 6-8 paragraphs to repudiate pre-emptive war. It takes one sentence. If Obama actually said that one sentence, please highlight it for your readers. I'm guessing that he did not.

  •  Good piece (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    mrblifil, vcmvo2, PinHole, eOz, Jantman

    Links the lies about Iraq, lies to the troops, and the lies about torture.

    And we all deserve Bush's silence.

    Cheney's too.

    Torture good, Marijuana bad.
    Doc in the Twitterverse

    by xxdr zombiexx on Sat May 23, 2009 at 08:30:07 AM PDT

  •  B.S. The GWOT is still going and we are (0+ / 0-)

    preemptively in Pakistan now.

    "Peace cannot be achieved by force. It can only be achieved by understanding" Albert Einstein

    by BigAlinWashSt on Sat May 23, 2009 at 08:40:54 AM PDT

    •  Pakistan (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      wilderness voice, Jantman

      is in danger of being overrun by the Taliban. What do you suggest?

      •  Letting Pakistan deal with it. It's their (0+ / 0-)

        country.  Besides the Pakistans ISI helped create the Taliban, so they should know how to deal with them.

        "Peace cannot be achieved by force. It can only be achieved by understanding" Albert Einstein

        by BigAlinWashSt on Sat May 23, 2009 at 09:32:56 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  they have nuclear weapons (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          wilderness voice

          If those weapons fall into the hands of the Taliban, it will certainly be the problem of the whole world.

          •  Granted. But I've read where there is almost (0+ / 0-)

            zero chance the Taliban could get their hands on the nukes and even then wouldn't be able to use them.  There's always more to the story we're fed.

            "Peace cannot be achieved by force. It can only be achieved by understanding" Albert Einstein

            by BigAlinWashSt on Sat May 23, 2009 at 10:12:10 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

              •  That's a tough one. I can't pinpoint it but I (0+ / 0-)

                read it within the last few days on antiwar.com, or common dreams.

                "Peace cannot be achieved by force. It can only be achieved by understanding" Albert Einstein

                by BigAlinWashSt on Sat May 23, 2009 at 10:29:09 AM PDT

                [ Parent ]

                •  I ask (0+ / 0-)

                  because I've not heard that anywhere before. I had read that there were fundamentalist elements in the military, so the idea that a fundamentalist government would not be able to use the nation's nuclear weapons seems on the surface to be unlikely.

                  In any event, that's a pretty dangerous gamble.

                •  try some reality (0+ / 0-)

                  Bin laden has tried hard to get nukes and has received "approval" to use them:

                  "We had found that he [Bin Laden] and al Qaeda were involved in an extraordinarily sophisticated and professional effort to acquire weapons of mass destruction. In this case, nuclear material, so by the end of 1996, it was clear that this was an organization unlike any other one we had ever seen,"[76]

                             "The ... trial of Bin Laden and others for the August 7, 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies ... has shed new light on the efforts of Bin Laden and... Al-Qaida  to acquire weapons of mass destruction. Prosecution witness Jamal Ahmad al-Fadl detailed his efforts to assist Bin Laden in an attempt to acquire uranium, presumably for the development of nuclear weapons, from a source in Khartoum, Sudan, in late 1993 or early 1994"[77]

                             In 1998 Israeli military intelligence sources reported that Bin Laden paid over 2 million pounds sterling to a middle-man in Kazakhstan, who promised to deliver a "suitcase" bomb to Bin Laden within two years.[78]

                             Arabic news magazine Al-Watan Al-Arabi reported that Bin Laden was engaged in a comprehensive plan to acquire nuclear weapons. From information reportedly provided by sources that included the Russian intelligence agency the report stated that Bin Laden had forged links with organized crime members in the former Soviet republics in Central Asia and the Caucasus.[79]
                             [snip]
                            In a 1998 interview with Time Magazine, Bin Laden asserted that acquiring weapons of any type was a Muslim "religious duty." When asked whether he was seeking to obtain chemical or nuclear weapons, Bin Laden replied, "Acquiring weapons for the defense of Muslims is a religious duty. If I have indeed acquired these weapons, then I thank God for enabling me to do so."[82] He responded similarly to the same question in an ABC News interview two days later, stating, "If I seek to acquire such weapons, this is a religious duty. How we use them is up to us."[83]

                  and

                  Bin Laden was criticized in some Muslim circles because he failed to provide advance warning of the September 11 attacks and, according to some interpretations of Islamic law, should first have offered to help convert his victims to Islam. Subsequently, Osama Bin Laden approached a prominent Saudi Arabian theologian to obtain religious approval for the use of a nuclear weapon against the United States. The theologian provided a "rather long treatise" that concluded Bin Laden was entitled to use the weapon because America was responsible for "millions of dead Muslims around the world"[90]  It wouldn't do to kill massive numbers of people without proper religious authorization first, would it?

                  •  That is straight from Bush's playbook there. (0+ / 0-)

                    "Peace cannot be achieved by force. It can only be achieved by understanding" Albert Einstein

                    by BigAlinWashSt on Sun May 24, 2009 at 07:08:48 AM PDT

                    [ Parent ]

                    •  guess again (0+ / 0-)

                      When warned of the impending 9/11 Bush chose to ignore it. It is you who are operating straight from Bush's playbook.

                      Sure, what harm could possibly come from allowing the Taliban to take over Pakistan and its nuclear weapons.

                      •  I'm just refusing to run scared any longer. I (0+ / 0-)

                        grew up during the Cold war, served in the Vietnam war, and have heard about these dangers my entire life.  It is not worth killing innocent people over these supposed threats.  They want the populace fearful of an enemy.  I'm not playing that game.

                        "Peace cannot be achieved by force. It can only be achieved by understanding" Albert Einstein

                        by BigAlinWashSt on Sun May 24, 2009 at 07:57:05 AM PDT

                        [ Parent ]

                        •  discernment (0+ / 0-)

                          I too remember the "domino theory", not to mention being lied into war in Iraq.  It is true that the Rethugs make it their business to appeal to the lowest of human emotions, fear, particularly. Just because they are liars, fearmongers and warmongers does not mean that Bin Laden is not out to get us. His crew have attacked us on a least three separate occasions. He has been quite thrilled at the results. Can there be any doubt he would use nukes if he had them?

  •  Bush Doctrine? (0+ / 0-)

    in what respect?....now what was that again?  ---Sara

  •  Collin Powell perplexes me. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wilderness voice

    He's a decorated solider. Somebody I respect. He's fair minded (and to be honest I can't tell why he is a Republican), but his complicity in the War in Iraq ruined him.

    It really is a shame that he allowed it to happen.

    If anything, he's most to blame, because he was a validator and gave them the credibility necessary.

    "The most important environmental issue is one that is rarely mentioned, and that is the lack of a conservation ethic in our culture".-Gaylord Nelson

    by WorkingClassHero on Sat May 23, 2009 at 09:53:49 AM PDT

    •  Mebbe... (0+ / 0-)

      It really is a shame that he allowed it to happen.

      If anything, he's most to blame, because he was a validator and gave them the credibility necessary.

      You assume that if he'd stood up and said something, it wouldn't have happened. Why not?

  •  Almost, but not quite (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    princesspat, Jantman

    I can see why you take Obama's return to the sensible foreign policies of the past -- as more and more of his statements reaffirm the Powell Doctrine, diplomacy by real professionals in foreign service, pressure on leaders throughout the region to make at least symbolic gestures to curry our favor in things they need or want -- to be full-throated repudiation.

    But he has not directly repudiated the Bush Doctrine that we can attack across national borders to stop a threat we reasonably believe is imminent.  I really don't know if Obama will want to go there, but my sense is that he does.  Even if he does, the best he could hope for is his second term.

    The reason is that he can't change the strategy too much too fast.  Obama is a master at patient engagement of the whole problem and leadership to motivate others to wholeheartedly attack them.  But we are still using drones in Pakistan.  We still want to be able to deploy specialized troops for military actions in nations against which we are not ready to declare war or mount a ground invasion.  

    These actions are still beyond the pale, but it will take a lot of incremental moves to get there -- and our confidence in diplomatic power must be given time to prove itself enough to lean national security on it.  We must keep the pressure on the Obama Administration to get our nation to the point where he can declare, directly and without shades of meaning, that the doctrine of pre-emptive military action is forbidden.

    I sincerely believe Obama would like to get there.  I pray he has the patience and stamina and opportunities to get us there before he leaves office.  I hope he gets eight years, because this shift is so entrenched and entangled now that it will take time to untangle them.  

    By weaning the military off independent contractors and disentangling the State Department from using them as bodyguards, we gain a solidarity among public servants and a trust in them which will give them the opportunity to rise to the challenge.  By shifting diplomacy to Asia and moving toward recognition of Iran as a Persian equal to the Arab nations, we trigger thousands of political and economic shifts in which our diplomats and corporations can see opportunities to exploit.

    By getting our major allies really willing and able to get involved again with us in multinational coalitions with teeth, we can withdraw military power as we gain political and economic power.  By really denting the flow of oil into our economy and beginning the hard work of transforming all our infrastructure at once, we can create anxiety in those who supply us, if we wish or need to.

    Obama has grazed many edges of the repudiation of the Bush Doctine, but he has not stuck at the heart of it yet.  We are not ready.  I believe he is going to gain control of enough aspects of the military industrial complex with his appointees to begin to really make these kinds of changes, but he is not there yet.  It hasn't been a year yet.

    Great diary with hope expressed we all share.  But we must keep up the pressure to take this reversal all the way into action and, eventually, normalicy, again.  I take this speech as a great sign we are incrementally setting the context for that speech when it can be delivered.  It may already be written.

    Wouldn't surprise me with such a master chess player on the job.

  •  Words... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Free Spirit

    mean nothing when they are contradicted by actions.  

    According to Gates, Obama has asked that the "Iran Attack Plan" be updated.  Gates has explicitly said that "no options are off the table" while Clinton is saying that she doesn't think diplomacy is going to work.  Does that sound like the Bush doctrine has been abandoned to you?  It doesn't sound like it has to the rest of the world.

  •  I'm not understanding (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    wilderness voice

    how the voices of moderation & a cautious optimism that we are a making a major shift away from the disastrous policies of the previous administration are being held in such low regard here. Well written diary. No magic wands here to move us instantaneously from where we are to where we need to be. Slow incremental shifts with strategic objectives in focus.

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