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The Bush Doctrine for Dummies, Sarah Palin Edition

September 11, 2008

No safe havens for terrorists. Preventive war. Democracy expansion. Those are the three central tenets of the Bush Doctrine, the guiding theory of unilateral American foreign and national security policy since 9/11. And today, on the seventh anniversary of the September 11 attacks on the United States, Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin revealed she never heard of it.
Emerging Thursday from her undisclosed location for her first encounter with the press, John McCain's stealth running mate displayed a shocking ignorance of American foreign policy 101. During her initial softball interview with ABC's Charles Gibson, Palin seemed blissfully unaware of the Bush Doctrine:

GIBSON: Do you agree with the Bush doctrine?
PALIN: In what respect, Charlie?
GIBSON: The Bush -- well, what do you -- what do you interpret it to be?
PALIN: His world view.
GIBSON: No, the Bush doctrine, enunciated September 2002, before the Iraq war.
PALIN: I believe that what President Bush has attempted to do is rid this world of Islamic extremism, terrorists who are hell bent on destroying our nation. There have been blunders along the way, though. There have been mistakes made. And with new leadership, and that's the beauty of American elections, of course, and democracy, is with new leadership comes opportunity to do things better.
GIBSON: The Bush doctrine, as I understand it, is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense, that we have the right to a preemptive strike against any other country that we think is going to attack us. Do you agree with that?
PALIN: I agree that a president's job, when they swear in their oath to uphold our Constitution, their top priority is to defend the United States of America.

For his part, Gibson in his hopeless effort to tutor Sarah Palin also came up short. As I wrote in June 2007, preventive war (what Gibson deemed "anticipatory self-defense") is only one leg of the broken stool that is the Bush Doctrine:

That wheezing sound you may have heard this week amid the chaos in Gaza, the carnage in Baghdad and the conflict in Lebanon was the final gasps of the Bush Doctrine in its death throes. Just two years after the President and his neo-conservative allies basked in the glow of their self-proclaimed moment of triumph, the Bush Doctrine of no safe havens for terrorists, American preventive war and democracy promotion is discredited, discarded - and dead.

For more on the evolution of and short-lived conservative crowing over the Bush Doctrine, see:
''The Myth of the Bush Doctrine."
For more on the decline and fall of the Bush Doctrine as an idea whose time never came, see:
"The Death of the Bush Doctrine."
For background on the New York Times revelations today that President Bush belatedly authorized strikes by U.S. special forces against Taliban and Al Qaeda safe havens in Pakistan, see:
"This Just In From Afghanistan: Bush Doctrine Still Dead."
UPDATE: Sarah Palin may not know anything about the Bush Doctrine, but she didn't hesitate to recycle Bush's effort link Iraq to the 9/11 attacks.

5 comments on “The Bush Doctrine for Dummies, Sarah Palin Edition”

  1. Young women are having a fashion craze about Sarah Palin. It's not only her glasses, but her hairstyle. It is just a fad, and has nothing to do with her ability to lead.


Jon Perr
Jon Perr is a technology marketing consultant and product strategist who writes about American politics and public policy.

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