- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 20, 2007

Most of us in America know of friends, family members, professors, or press pundits who seem to agree that President George W. Bush is a dunce, an arrogant cowboy and a total disaster. He has, moreover, allegedly squandered the goodwill that America had built up in the world, especially after September 11. The prime example of presidential incompetence is of course the war in Iraq.

The congressional elections in 2006 demonstrated just how much the American people had turned against this once-popular president. Voters and opinion leaders of both major political parties decided that the only way to end the agony of Iraq was to elect Democrats and to demand that our troops be withdrawn within a definite time period. There is every likelihood that the Democrats will win the White House in 2008 and will make sure that the Iraq adventure is at last buried.

While I have often complained that there was a surplus of incompetence in this administration, nevertheless I viewed the popular demand to withdraw from Iraq as itself a disaster, a combination of retreat and appeasement. It pained me that my traditional party, the Democrats, seemed ignorant of history and collectively determined to retreat no matter what the cost. Thus I saw increased — even existential — threats to this nation emanating from my own party.

Thankfully, Robert G. Kaufman, a professor of public policy at Pepperdine University, has just appeared on the national stage talking about his new book, In Defense of the Bush Doctrine. He presents a thoughtful, comprehensive case. It ranks in my mind as the most historically powerful support of Mr. Bush and his doctrine, including the Iraq war, that I have encountered. Mr. Kaufman is also powerful in another way: he is used to answering hostile questions about that support. He does so in a knowing, articulate fashion — in stark contrast to the bumbling ways in which our president and his spokesmen often defend his policies.

The Bush Doctrine is composed of two main elements. First, this nation cannot rely on containment, deterrence, or reaction to attacks after the fact. While such strategies may have worked in the past, they cannot be successful when dealing with fanatical terrorists and the fanatical leaders of rogue regimes in the nuclear age. Accordingly, when more peaceful measures have been attempted and failed, then pre-emptive military action will be implemented. Such action may well be taken unilaterally if the United Nations or other instruments of collective security fail to protect this nation and its people.

Second, an overriding goal of American foreign policy is to spread the ideals of a free society and democracy to other nations. Only in that way will future conflicts be avoided.

Both of these important pillars of the Bush Doctrine have been derided in this country and around the world as being impractical, arrogant, destructive of international morality and in violation of American traditions. Mr. Kaufman answers that the doctrine is consistent with the best in the American tradition and that this country proved it could work in the past, most notably in Germany and Japan. Both nations were vicious, authoritarian dictatorships before we defeated them in World War II at a huge cost in American blood and treasure. Moreover, the predictions of State Department experts saw enormous difficulties in turning them into functioning democracies. They were wrong.

Mr. Kaufman places Mr. Bush in the Truman tradition: a very unpopular president who stayed the course in an equally unpopular war, but whose reputation was rehabilitated by the passage of time. Mr. Kaufman is quite certain that in time he will be rated as a great and courageous leader.

During his recent appearance at the Heritage Foundation on Capitol Hill, I took the audience microphone to explain that I was a recovering liberal Democrat, that I was dismayed at the embrace of appeasement by my old party and that I would definitely consider, for the first time in my life, voting for a Republican president if I could be assured that the candidate adopted his view of the Bush Doctrine. Mr. Kaufman assured me that I could move over to the right side with confidence because he had been contacted by both the campaigns of Sen. John McCain and Rudy Giuliani for advice on this matter. If indeed that advice is taken, perhaps there is some hope for our country yet — although the odds for a Republican presidential victory seem remote, even if some old Democrats decide to defy history and switch parties.

Arnold Trebach, professor emeritus, American University, is the author of numerous books and articles on public policy.

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