- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 13, 2001

With less than sixty days in office, it may seem premature to declare that President George W. Bush has established an approach to foreign policy that friends around the world, potential adversaries and historians will perceive as a "Bush Doctrine."

This is especially true insofar as there has been some notable shaking-out over the past few weeks and, in the process, a number of mixed signals have been sent some of which have markedly conflicted with the new president's emerging policy vision.

Taken altogether, however, Mr. Bush appears to be charting a course for our nation in the 21st century that has far-reaching, perhaps even decisive implications. The evolving Bush Doctrine might be summarized by the following lines from the address the president gave on March 4 on the occasion of the christening of the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan:

"America, by nature, stands for freedom. And we must always remember, we benefit when it expands. So we will stand by those nations moving toward freedom. We'll stand up to those nations who deny freedom and threaten [their] neighbors or our vital interests. And we will assert emphatically that the future will belong to the free."

It is particularly fitting that these words were uttered in connection with Mr. Reagan's national security legacy. After all, the "Reagan Doctrine" sought to spread freedom by aiding those who were prepared to resist the tyranny of their oppressive governments (as in Sandinista-controlled Nicaragua) or the predations of those who were inflicting violence and suffering across international borders (as in the case of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and Nicaragua's guerrilla war against El Salvador).

The early indications are that Mr. Bush intends to make a main feature of his administration the use of American power and influence to challenge and delegitimize the governments of those nations who are enemies of freedom. Although this approach has not been a prominent part of U.S. government policy for most of the past decade, it has been used in the past to powerful effect.

In fact, at a Cold War retrospective conference held over the weekend in New Jersey, President Carter's former national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, claimed that in 1979 he had set in train a policy aimed at delegitimating the Soviet Union. Whether this program amounted during the last year of the Carter administration to much more than blocking U.S. participation in the Moscow Olympics is debatable. But it certainly gives a bipartisan coloration to the campaign of deligitimization that Ronald Reagan pursued toward the Soviet Union as part of his larger effort to destroy the "Evil Empire."

Just how purposeful was this presidential vision became evident in an extraordinary event convened by the Center for Security Policy on the margins of the christening of the magnificent aircraft carrier, Ronald Reagan. The participants were a number of those who had worked most closely with President Reagan in crafting and implementing his approach to national security based on "Peace Through Strength" the U.S.S. Reagan's motto: William P. Clark, former national security adviser; Edwin Meese, former counselor to the president and former attorney general; Jeane Kirkpatrick, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; John Herrington, former energy secretary; and John Lehman, former secretary of the Navy. Each, in turn, underscored the commitment to freedom that animated Mr. Reagan's purposeful and ultimately successful "take-down" of the nation that posed the greatest international threat to liberty during his day: the Soviet Union.

Importantly, the Center's symposium also offered cause for hope that the Reagan national security legacy is truly a living one, epitomized by the new carrier that should serve this nation for the next four decades. Rep. Christopher Cox, California Republican, and a former associate counselor to President Reagan, described the ways in which the 40th president's security policy torch is being carried forward in the principles and policies being articulated by the new Bush-Cheney administration. Mr. Cox read a statement by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld affirming he and his colleagues intended to be keepers of the flame of freedom.

This does not appear to be mere rhetoric. Mr. Bush's actions to date suggest he intends to deny enemies of freedom the legitimacy to which they invariably aspire and the international influence that flows from it. For example, last week he served notice on South Korean President Kim Dae-jung that the latter's so-called "Sunshine Policy" of detente with North Korea could not be safely pursued with a regime in Pyongyang that was an unreliable partner in disarmament and other agreements. He pointedly contradicted Communist China's lies concerning the involvement of its nationals in beefing up Saddam's air defense network so as to make it a more lethal threat to American personnel patrolling Iraq's skies. And he has explicitly condemned the genocide-, terrorist- and slavery-sponsoring regime in Sudan.

More to the point, President Bush is appointing experienced individuals to key Defense and State Department posts who have for three years urged the United States to recognize a provisional government of Free Iraq and strip Saddam's regime of the trappings of international legitimacy. While the messages sent by various statements about "smart sanctions" and renewing international inspections of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction programs have been confusing, to say the least, the sorts of steps long advocated by senior members of the new Bush team would if adopted as part of a comprehensive effort have the greatest chance of undermining and ultimately bringing an end to the Iraqi despot's hold on power.

Other enemies of freedom around the world are also worthy targets of a Bush Doctrine challenging their legitimacy. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Russia's Vladimir Putin, Libya's Moammar Gadhafi, Cuba's Fidel Castro and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez come to mind. By "standing with" fellow democracies and those most at risk from such autocrats and by standing against the latter (notably by refusing to give them financial assistance, access to U.S. capital markets, and, most especially, by refusing to treat them as peers and worthy interlocutors), we have a chance of forging international conditions that offer real hope that the future will indeed belong to the free.

Frank J. Gaffney Jr. is president of the Center for Security Policy and a columnist for The Washington Times.

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