Monday, September 15, 2008

What the Heck is the Bush Doctrine?

Charlie Gibson certainly thinks he knows, and he certainly thinks it's pretty clear. In a recent interview, he ripped into her for not knowing quite what he meant. The left, by golly, is quite relieved: with Obama's poll numbers currently low enough to lose him the presidency, Democrats are rejoicing that they've got a new weakness to pick on.

Nonetheless, after seeing the interview, watching Charlie Gibson very confidently enunciated the finer details of the Bush Doctrine (that it was "anticipatory self-defense"). I listened, and thought, "wait, really?" I know a thing or two about the Bush Doctrine, and I wasn't entirely sure I agreed with Mr. Gibson. But surely, he'd done his research, and sometimes even I am wrong. Now, I do expect the Vice President of the United States to know a bit more about foreign policy than, lo, even I do.

But then I was sent an article written by the guy that first used the term. Mr. Krauthammer gave vindication to my intuition--despite Gibson's arrogance in being smarter than Palin, he was wrong for two reasons. Reason the first is that there are four separate meanings of the Bush doctrine from four different time periods, all of which have been called the "Bush Doctrine" in literature. These are:

1) Pre-9/11 unilateralism, including withdrawing from treaties;
2) Post-9/11 "if you harbor terrorists we will consider you hostile"-ism;
3) March 2002 pre-emptive defense-ism (what Gibson cited);
4) Later "aggressively spread Democracy through the world"-ism.

The last one is the one most cited and most encompassing of all of Bush's doctrinal statements. It's no wonder Governor Palin was confused when Mr. Gibson threw the phrase out there and expected her to pick up exactly what it meant. It's not quite an excuse for the level of Palin's fumbling during the foreign policy section of that particular interview, but (like most things in politics), this is nothing as it seems. And, like most things in politics, the media has again taken the position of impatient sage, and has told you and the Governor what to think.

In truth, all this reveals about the McCain ticket is its failure to market correctly. No, of course Palin is not an expert in foreign policy. No, she hasn't met with world leaders (which Gibson asked about). Why the heck would she? She's a governor, not a diplomat. Unlike Mr.'s McCain, Obama, and Biden, she has not been custom-tailoring her position as governor as a springboard, and so doesn't yet know much about foreign policy. Will she learn? Sure; Governor Clinton did, Governor Carter did (although his foreign policy was admittedly quite naive), Governor Reagan did. And for all the clamoring about John McCain's imminent departure from the earthly world, she doesn't have to be ready to fight the war-on-terror on day one, without any mentoring.

Mr. Obama himself, while running against Clinton, said that "experience is only a proxy for judgment." Those without experience will be wild cards in their decision-making. But for all their experience in foreign policy, Mr.'s Obama, Biden, and McCain lack any executive experience whatsoever. Further, have the foreign policy experiences of Mr.'s Obama and Biden culminated in proof of sound foreign policy judgment and good understanding of how to grace America's diplomatic and military might upon the world stage? More about that, later.
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