This morning on Radio 4 a speaker said that the American policy of pre-emptive action has now been replaced by economic pragmatism. American columnist Jerry Seib writes: “It’s harder to confront China on human rights, for instance, when relying on Beijing to finance America’s ballooning debt, or to face down Iran alone when the U.S. military is stretched thin.”
James Lindsay and Ivo Daalder referred in 2004 to a speech to cadets at West Point in which President Bush set out the doctrine of preemption first formulated in 1999, as formal strategy: “The war on terror will not be won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans and confront the worst threats before they emerge. In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action. And this nation will act.”
Polls show that a majority of Americans now believe that the war in Iraq was not worth fighting.
Daalder and Lindsay ended: “all doctrines must eventually be measured against experience. And for that reason, Bush’s doctrine of preemption is, for all intents and purposes, dead”.
Late in 2009, James Lindsay went further: “That doctrine was always at odds with international law and norms.”
On May 26th this year at West Point President Obama unveiled a new national security strategy, saying armed conflict should be a last resort when diplomacy is exhausted. It is seen by many as implicitly repudiating the “Bush Doctrine” asserting the right to wage pre-emptive war against countries and terrorist groups deemed a threat to the United States.
If acted on, this policy would reduce loss of life in armed conflict and would be welcomed as a substantial step towards a more civilised world.