Time for Barack Obama to choose paranoia or sanity
Paul J. Balles views the various doctrines that have guided US foreign policy since World War II, from the Truman to the Bush doctrine. He says that President Obama will have to decide to keep or scrap the Bush doctrine, which “Israel and its supporters in America desperately want it misused against Iran”.
During the Vietnam War, preemptive thinking was referred to as the domino theory. It held that if one country fell under communist influence or control, its neighbouring countries would soon fall like dominoes.
The theory originated after World War II out of Winston Churchill’s wish to “deter aggression” by communist Russia. The Truman doctrine, the policy of aiding nations defending themselves against communist forces, followed.
The Truman doctrine, to contain communism, fed the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia, as well as Afghanistan. It also sired the police actions in places like Somalia and Central and South America during the Cold War years.
During each of these military escapades, there were those who objected. Often they were told to shut up. Some were dubbed unpatriotic and even traitorous for questioning American war policies. Derogatory name-calling of those who object to militarism has been a regular practice.
Wars and preemptive strikes against countries that might be a future danger have always empowered flag wavers with a sense of righteousness. The Korean conflict saw the rise of Senator Joseph McCarthy and his attacks on the character of political opponents.
McCarthy constantly made claims that there were large numbers of communists and Soviet spies and sympathizers inside the United States federal government and elsewhere.
The senator and his staff subjected Hollywood actors as well as academics to severe attacks. McCarthy called them communists because they opposed the Korean War.
To call someone a communist in those days was as bad as calling citizens terrorists or terrorist supporters today. McCarthy was eventually castigated and ousted for his rampage. Ironically, McCarthy himself did the terrorizing by instilling fear in people of being called anti-American.
Apart from America’s defeat in Vietnam, its containment theory in practice during the Cold War led to the downfall of the Soviet Union. That collapse vindicated Churchill and ushered in a disastrous policy of preemption.
Preemption has in fact been part of American foreign policy for ages. As president, George W. Bush put a new twist of “preventive” war on it. That meant taking action well before an attack was imminent – invading a country that was simply believed to be threatening.
Originally, the phrase “Bush doctrine” described a policy that assumed the right to secure the country against terrorists or those who harbour terrorists. One writer has said there were at least six Bush doctrines.
It justified the latest invasion of Afghanistan. Out of that arose the idea that the United States should depose foreign regimes that represented a perceived threat to the security of the United States, even if that threat was not immediate.
At times, Bush used his doctrine to justify America acting alone and contravening treaty obligations. At other times, it excused attacks against countries harbouring terrorists.
The Bush doctrine allowed for pre-mptive attacks against countries or groups that might be a threat to the US or its allies. It supported attacks against those believed to have weapons of mass destruction or that might someday develop them.
It even allowed for American support of “democratic” countries as a strategy to combat terrorism, meaning that the Bush administration would make decisions about “regime change”.
In short, when the threat of weapons of mass destruction wasn’t the rationale for invading Iraq, the need to change the regime from Saddam Hussein to a democracy called for a preemptive strike.
Barack Obama, the preemptive Nobel Prize Winner as New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd referred to him, will eventually have to decide on whether to keep or scrap the Bush doctrine. Israel and its supporters in America desperately want it misused against Iran.
Paul J. Balles is a retired American university professor and freelance writer who has lived in the Middle East for many years. For more information, see http://www.pballes.com.