In the wake of 9/11, President George W. Bush issued a new doctrine in U.S. security policy. Its main elements: The U.S. government assumes the responsibility for world policing and, accordingly, will maintain military budgets, forces and international bases sufficient to the task. It will also ignore the traditional sovereignty of nation states and confront threats to U.S. security with force wherever they are deemed to exist.
This radical doctrine was announced by the State Department a year after 9/11. It received little notice in major media.
At the president’s request, a panicky Congress, swept along by the public’s passion for a decisive military response to 9/11, endowed him with unprecedented powers, the authority to order pre-emptive acts of war, violate fundamental principles of international law, and ignore cherished constitutional guarantees.
This was an about-face from legislation enacted in the post-Vietnam period when, as a Republican U.S. representative, I helped override President Richard Nixon’s veto of the War Powers Resolution. My colleagues and I hoped it would make presidential wars, like the Vietnam conflict, less likely in the future.
In seeking support for the resolution, I often quoted Abraham Lincoln’s warning, issued in 1848 during his term as a U.S. representative, that “no one man should hold the power” to make war. In a letter explaining his position, Lincoln warned: “Allow the president to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary….Study to see if you can fix any limit to his power.”
In supporting Barack Obama for president, I had high hopes that he would quickly and clearly rescind this radical doctrine and end the wars that Bush launched in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as Bush’s ill-conceived international military assault called the War on Terrorism. Late in his presidency, U.S. acts of war widened to northern Pakistan.
Despite the towering economic challenge Obama faces, terminating these conflicts deserves highest priority. At high cost, they tarnish the good name of America worldwide and, still worse, squander precious lives, not just money. In Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, Obama must overcome the mindset of the powerful U.S. military-industrial complex that has immense influence on Capitol Hill, is committed to the broad use of acts of war, and traditionally resists withdrawal from any territory it occupies.
Over many years, these nations have experienced the indignity and violence of foreign occupation by imperial Western powers. They have reason to be troubled by recent statements and actions by the Obama administration that suggest that U.S. acts of war will continue indefinitely on their soil. We should have learned long ago that the war measures of occupying forces are almost always counterproductive. They promote terrorism instead of diminishing it. The best antidote to terrorism is justice.
It is high time for President Obama to “turn the page” on the Bush doctrine. He should clearly rescind it and immediately limit our presence in these countries to a non-combat role that is supportive of peaceful endeavors by local leaders. To that end, his best first step is to order an immediate end to all U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan.
Reprinted with permission from the Washington Report on Middle East Affairs (WRMEA)