Some months ago, I wrote an essay analyzing and defending the basic tenets of what is known as The Bush Doctrine, comparing it favorably to the realist school of foreign policy it replaced. Sadly, the Churchilian fortitude and visionary leadership heretofore provided by President Bush that is required to successfully implement this new paradigm was dealt a potentially fatal blow by the election results of November 7, 2006. Already, many troubling signs point to a dilution if not an outright repudiation of this policy by the Administration in the wake of the electoral disaster. However, before we rush headlong into a realist revival and betray, once again, those people we have encouraged to grasp the fleeting chance at freedom this new policy has provided, it is vital that we first analyze the reasons for the seeming failure of the Bush Doctrine to bear acceptable short-term results and the possible long-term ramifications of the change of course now being considered.
The Bush Doctrine, implemented in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the United States has three main prongs: 1) The linkage of terrorist groups to their state sponsors and the promise to hold both equally responsible for acts of terrorism against U.S. interests; 2) The right retained by the United States to act preemptively to eliminate threats to U.S. security before they fully materialize; and 3) The commitment by the administration to encourage the spread of free, moderate, and democratic governments in the Middle East – particularly in those countries where the U.S. has acted to topple a regime deemed a threat to U.S. interests.
To date the Bush Doctrine has seen many successes including the toppling of the barbaric and repressive regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq and the emergence of moderate and democratically elected governments there; the unconditional renunciation of terrorism and the pursuit Weapons of Mass Destruction by Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi and the concomitant restoration of diplomatic relations with the U.S.; the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon; the modest thaw in relations between rival nuclear powers Pakistan and India, both of whom seek to curry favor with the United States; and the very modest moves towards representative government in Palestine, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the Gulf Emirates.
There have, of course been setbacks including the increasing intransigence of the Iranian regime, their quest to obtain nuclear weapons and promise to “wipe Israel off the map”; the electoral victory of the Hamas terrorist group in the Palestinian occupied territories; the re-emergence of the Hezbollah terrorist group in southern Lebanon; the continued bloodletting by insurgent and militia groups in Iraq; and the stubborn tenacity of the remnants of the deposed Taliban regime in Afghanistan. These disappointments however do not invalidate the Bush Doctrine so much as demonstrate our enemy’s resistance to it.
Having acknowledged the setbacks we’ve encountered in this global war on Islamic fascism, it is important to keep these events in their proper historical context as wartime setbacks are hardly unique to our current struggle. For example, late in 1944 after driving the German forces across Europe, the prevailing wisdom among American civilian and military leaders was that they were no longer capable of mounting offensive operations against the allied forces. In December of 1944, however the Germans unleashed a vicious counter-attack which took the Allies completely by surprise. This surprise thrust of Hitler’s desperate army into the Ardennes, known to history as the Battle of the Bulge, was pushed back at great cost in American lives. Likewise, the Pacific war did not end until, in the wake of the bloodbaths of Iwo Jima and Okinawa, the U.S. employed the use of the atomic bomb to end the Japanese will to fight. Incidentally, the U.S. lost more men during the first three days of the battle for Iwo Jima than she’s lost during five full years of war with Islamic fascists – including Iraq.
Despite these bloody and unexpected setbacks when victory seemed imminent, the “greatest generation” did not lose its nerve and sue for peace, leaving the Nazi party and Japanese Imperialists alive to lick their wounds and fight another day. Rather they would accept nothing short of complete and final victory; as a result Germany and Japan are among our strongest allies today.
Now contrast that sort of steely determination with later generations: In 1968 the Tet offensive was launched by the North Vietnamese communists against targets throughout South Vietnam. The goal of this offensive was threefold: 1) to win a series of tactical military victories deep in South Vietnam; 2) to instigate a general uprising of the people in support of the communists; and 3) to affect U.S. public opinion, turning the American people against the war effort. They failed miserably in their first two goals as the U.S. and allied forces decisively prevailed, virtually eliminating the Viet Cong as an effective fighting force. And the freedom loving people of South Vietnam rejected the communists by choosing to stand by their elected government and their American sponsors. They did, however succeed beyond their wildest expectations in their last objective. Despite the fact that this action was a strategic disaster for the communists, the U.S. media, anti-war activists, and elected Democrats declared the war “un-winnable,” and as a result public opinion turned sharply against the war. Anti-war Democrat’s would subsequently take control of Congress and withhold funding for the war, effectively handing victory to a largely beaten enemy and ensuring the slaughter of millions by the victorious Communists.
The fact is the U.S. military does not lose wars; they have not even lost a significant battle since the early days of WWII. This is why the enemy we face in Iraq refuses to take on our troops in a pitched battle. The only way the U.S. loses is by a lack of will on the part of the civilian leadership – itself usually a byproduct of media driven public opposition. Our enemies know this. And as such, they seek not to win battlefield victories, but to manipulate a gullible and nervous Western media establishment.
It is the reason the insurgent’s campaigns seem random and without strategic value. It is also the reason there is an increase in violence and mayhem in the months leading up to each U.S. election cycle. And the Democrats, as always heedless of the consequences of their actions, have, since the very beginning of the war on terror, given our enemies hope that their strategy may ultimately work by endlessly criticizing the mission, the troops, and the Commander-in-Chief and thus showing division and a lack of resolve instead of unity of purpose and steadfast determination to our enemies.
Sadly, our allies – both current and potential – also see this lack of resolve in the American political establishment and, as a result, are understandably reluctant to risk openly supporting us. And recent history tends to justify this reluctance: They watched as the Korean War ended in stalemate because President Truman refused to take the fight to the Red Chinese. They watched as President Kennedy launched the Bay of Pigs invasion and saw the U.S. sponsored rebels cut down on the beaches without our help. They saw us abandon our missions in Beirut and Somalia after suffering a few casualties. They watched as we abandoned our allies in Vietnam and watched with disinterest as the slaughter raged. They watched us stop short of complete victory in Desert Storm by negotiating a cease-fire with Saddam, rather than accepting his unconditional surrender; and they saw us incite an uprising among the Shiites and Kurds against the regime in Baghdad only to stand idly by as the enraged dictator unleashed his vengeance on those we encouraged, then abandoned. And now, true to form the majority party in the U.S. Congress threatens to “re-deploy” our forces away from the crux of the fighting – once again effectively abandoning those we have encouraged to reject fanaticism and in favor of freedom to their fate under whatever reactionary cabal of Islamists fills the power vacuum we leave behind.
I would submit that this is the primary reason we have failed to secure an acceptable level of post-war peace and stability in Iraq, not because we didn’t adhere to the Powell Doctrine – the concept of bringing overwhelming force to bear – by having too few troops on the ground. Indeed, the war against the regime and the Iraqi military was won in a matter of months; the relative success of the subsequent insurgency in sowing chaos is more likely the result of the understandable reluctance of the Iraqi public to truly believe in the commitment of their liberators to stay until we are no longer needed than a lack of troops on the ground.
The phenomenon of many Iraqis sitting on the fence waiting to see who wins this current battle (the forces of freedom or those of terror) rather than openly supporting their own cause is the inevitable result of the morally bankrupt realist school of foreign policy. The realist’s paradox is that the more we elevate stability over freedom by supporting dictators, monarchs, and oligarchs in the Middle East, the more resentful and suspicious of the U.S. commitment to liberty the people of the region become. It is a self-perpetuating cycle of tyranny which the Bush Doctrine was designed to break once and for all. The post-election re-emergence of the realists from Bush the Elder’s foreign policy team threatens to further undermine the U.S. commitment to the spread of democracy in the Middle East and validates those would-be reformers in Iraq who kept a low profile for fear of being betrayed by a cynical and cowardly U.S political establishment.
After the attacks of September 11, 2001, President Bush announced a new direction for U.S. foreign policy: no longer would the U.S. cynically support pliable dictators – as they oppressed their people – for the sake of regional stability. This new foreign policy was, by definition dependant upon an unwavering commitment to the spread of democracy by the U.S. as freedom movements in places such as Iraq are wholly dependant upon strong support by the West. With the U.S. sending clear signals of its pending departure from the region and the fight, we will see an increasing number of Iraqi’s abandon the concept of democracy and choose, in a desperate bid for self-preservation if not conviction, between the competing sects and militia groups as the nation and inevitably the region descend into chaos. The likely victors in this looming bloodbath will be those most willing and able to sow carnage without conscience: namely the Iranian-backed Shiite-Islamic radicals or the al-queda-backed Sunni-Islamist radicals. This will be a disaster for U.S. national security.
If the history of relations between the West and Islam can teach us anything it is the fact that Islam is a universal and expansionist ideology, and that the rare periods of relative peace between the two cultures are defined by the ascendancy of the West in military terms. That is, when Islam feels weak in relation to the West, jihad enters a period of hibernation until it feels emboldened again by Western weakness.
All of the former Christian lands in the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, and Eastern Europe were conquered by the armies of Islam during expansionist periods. Western Europe, on the other hand was spared on a number of occasions through military victories in such famous battles as Poitiers, where the Franks under Charles Martel defeated the Muslims in 8th century France; at Lepanto, where the combined navies of the “Holy League” routed the Turks in the Ionian Sea; during the Crusades where the Christian West finally brought the fight to the Muslims’ home turf; and the Reconquista, where the Christians armies of Spain finally pushed the forces of Islam across the Straight of Gibraltar and out of Europe.
In the 20th century, the allied victory in WWI destroyed the remnants of the Islamic Ottoman Empire and ushered in a brief historical period of peace between the two cultures. This period ended in the 1970’s when President Carter allowed a motley crew of Radical Islamic students (possibly including the current “President” of Iran) to humiliate the United States by occupying our Embassy in Tehran and holding American hostages for 444 days. This single incident (helped by the above referenced retreats by the West) is responsible for the re-emergence of the expansionist Islamic mindset.
The current threat of retreat from the Middle East by the Democrat’s and their Realist allies in the State Department, Media, and now, sadly, the Pentagon under the new Secretary of Defense (who apparently favors dialogue with the Mullahs of Iran who are responsible for much of the carnage in Iraq) will serve to dramatically embolden the forces of jihad, aid their recruitment efforts, and discourage moderate Muslims from resisting. It will also cause them to be even more aggressive in their attacks on a weak and timid West.
This weakness will be even more pronounced going forward as the President and his Democratic allies in the “open borders” crowd intend to leave the door wide open to infiltrators into the United States and the Democratic majority on Capital Hill will oppose every sensible domestic security measure the law enforcement community requires to keep us safe from attack.
The aggressive forward deployment of U.S. forces and the unwavering commitment to destroying our Islamist enemies while simultaneously building up the institutions of democracy in the Middle East, and defending the territorial integrity of the United States is the only realist-ic formula for victory in the war on terror. The alternative, weakness, retreat, and betrayal embolden our enemies while undermining the very democratic movements required to “drain the swamp” of radical Islamists.
None of the setbacks we have thus far endured are necessarily fatal if the principles of the Bush Doctrine are applied prudently, firmly, and universally. And lest we forget Iran, Syria, North Korea, and China are watching. What message would retreat send to them?