Bush Jumps the Gun With Preemptive Strikes

Bush Jumps the Gun With Preemptive Strikes

Bush Jumps the Gun With Preemptive Strikes

President Bush’s recently announced strategic global doctrine, which for the first time justifies a preemptive US strike against any regime thought to possess weapons of mass destruction, makes a


President Bush’s recently announced strategic global doctrine, which for the first time justifies a preemptive US strike against any regime thought to possess weapons of mass destruction, makes a mockery of the war on terrorism. A preemptive strike against Home Depot, where box cutters can be bought for a few bucks, would seem more relevant to disarming future terrorists.

After all, those tools were deadly enough when used to commandeer the four airplanes that caused the destruction of Sept. 11. And the big-box store sells fertilizer, too, and we all know now how deadly that stuff can be.

Convenient oversights like this are all part of that sleight of hand this administration specializes in to pursue its aims. Whether it’s a giant tax cut or the dethroning of Saddam Hussein, Bush can always find a rationale in the day’s headlines for what he wanted to do all along.

Just in time, Bush’s formal National Security Strategy released last week attempts to justify such “anticipatory” military attacks by the U.S. to “forestall or prevent hostile acts by our adversaries” even if “uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack.”

The doctrine also says we will not tolerate any nation that seeks military parity with the United States.

This posture will only encourage aggression by other nations such as India, which has every reason to be panicked about the nuclear arsenal, unstable government and aggressive rhetoric of its neighbor Pakistan. Instead of saber-rattling, Bush should welcome the return of UN disarmament inspectors to Iraq.

Bush’s haste to make war on Iraq is understandable only as a ploy to avoid dealing with the struggling US economy, a still-shadowy Al Qaeda leadership that has not been brought to heel yet and the alarming disintegration of the Mideast peace process.

There simply is no evidence that Iraq had anything to do with the tragedy that has so traumatized this nation. Why then a sudden policy shift threatening preemptive strikes against any nation producing weapons of mass destruction when advanced weaponry played no role in our troubles?

Weapons of mass destruction are certainly a threat to the world. But for all the talk of smallpox, the apparently homebred anthrax attacks and Hussein’s own use of nerve gas on Kurdish children, the true weapons of mass destruction that threaten human existence are nuclear.

Yet the United States is still opposed to the abolishment of nuclear weapons, and this administration has even beefed up efforts to refine and develop our massive H-bomb arsenal. At a time when an alarming number of nations have nuclear weapons–and Iraq’s wobbly nuke program is not yet on that list–it ill behooves the one nation that has dropped nuclear bombs on civilians to continue to treat them as acceptable military weapons.

The Bush administration’s continued emphasis on developing a Star Wars missile defense system basically endorses a nuclear war-fighting strategy.

Instead of renouncing nuclear weapons as inherently barbaric, as we have done with chemical and biological weapons, this administration is making a shambles of the antiballistic missile and other arms control treaties so we can make better nukes.

If there is an area in which Bush is truly untutored, it is not on the subject of grammar but rather on the historical risk of moral hubris.

Consequently, his administration’s answer to all criticisms of his aggressive unilateralism is that the United States is unique, empowered to engage in “a unique American internationalism”–formerly known as imperialism.

The man seems simply incapable of countenancing the notion that this nation can ever do wrong.

This was the assumption of imperial emperors throughout history who took it for granted they were improving the lot of their colonies. We have only to look at the untenable map of the Mideast, imposed by France and Britain, to see that this was patently untrue.

Good intentions are often the most damaging. And history teaches us to beware the firepower of the angels of death, for they are never restrained by uncertainty of purpose.

In this way, the Bush doctrine is a supremely dangerous cocktail, an explosive blend of the arrogance of our uniquely powerful post-cold war military strength laced with a mind-numbing fear of box-cutter-wielding maniacs.

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Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

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