Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Bush Doctrine

In an email discussion about whether Bush lied to the nation, Ron Byers produced an important insight about the use of preemptive war in a world of unreliable intelligence. With his permission, I post it here:

[Responding to a Bush defender's statement that "everyone" agreed that Iraq and WMDs before the war] The problem is not that everybody believed Bush and the administration before the war. The existence of WMDs was certainly plausible given what we knew and what we were told, but guys and gals, the President has announced a policy of "preemptive war." That policy presumes that when some country is about to do something bad to us or our friends, we have a right to beat them to the draw. Assuming that is a good policy, the only way it is a good policy is if our intelligence is capable of really identifying clear and present dangers with a high of accuracy. This time (the first time the Bush doctrine was employed) the best that can be said was that the intelligence community got it wrong. It might be ok for you or me or some member of Congress to get the WMD thing wrong. It isn't alright for the President (who presumably has access to all the really good information) to get it wrong. I will give Bush the benefit of the doubt, and concede that we don't have evidence he lied, but it is obvious that his intelligence assessment was so out of date, or so flawed, it was worthless. Under the circumstances, I haven't heard Bush say anything like, "you know that Bush doctrine of preemptive war, well since we can't trust our intelligence community to give us real good information, we are going to be very reluctant to use that doctrine in the future."


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