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 Advisor,
Zbigniew Bzrzinski, claimed that in 1979 he had set in train a policy aimed
at delegitimating the USSR. 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 towards the Soviet Union as part of his larger effort to destroy the
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 Advisor; Edwin Meese, former
Counselor to the President and Attorney General; Jeane Kirkpatrick, former
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations; John Herrington, former Secretary of
Energy; 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.
Christopher Cox, U.S. Represenative from California 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 Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld affirming that
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 that 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 Muamar Quadafi, 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 treating them as
peers and worthy interlocutors), we have a chance of forging international
conditions that offer real hope for that the future will indeed belong to