Father of the Bush Doctrine: George Shultz on pre-emption and the Revolt of the Generals. (DANIEL HENNINGER, April 29, 2006, Opinion Journal)

[George Shultz] recently sent me a speech on terrorism that he gave last month at the Woodrow Wilson International Center at Princeton. There is a quote in it from a speech he gave back in 1984, which of course is also the title of George Orwell’s predictive novel. What Mr. Shultz had on his mind in 1984 was also eerily predictive. It was dealing with terrorism: “We must reach a consensus in this country,” he said 22 years ago, “that our responses [to terrorism] should go beyond passive defense to consider means of active prevention, pre-emption and retaliation.”

Arguably, this makes George Shultz the father of the Bush Doctrine, or at least its most controversial tenet–pre-emption. I asked how he arrived at the idea. “Being a Marine [1942-45, Pacific theater], probably my worst day in office was when the Marine barracks were bombed in Beirut.” On the morning of Oct. 23, 1983, a suicide bomber drove an explosives-filled truck into the barracks and killed 220 Marines and 21 other U.S. service personnel. […]

“I worried a lot about terrorism,” Mr. Shultz told me, “and I didn’t think we had an adequate strategy.” So in that 1984 speech, the next sentence says this: “The question posed by terrorism involves our intelligence capability, the doctrine under which we would employ force, and most important of all our public’s attitude toward this challenge.”

I wonder out loud whether this view made people nervous back then. GS: “President Reagan thought it was OK, but there were a lot of people that didn’t.” DH: “Now it’s part of the Bush doctrine.” GS: “I think the idea that you would do everything you can to prevent what is coming at you by way of something very disruptive–a 9/11–it’s a no-brainer.”

Was a no-brainer. President Bush’s approval rating is in the dumpster, and much of the public is discomfited by the violent reports out of Iraq, which ironically are the product of the same mentality that killed the Marines in 1983. The Iraq war may or may not turn out well, but clearly now it is in a dark moment. When I put this to the former secretary of state, his response, characteristically, is optimism: “I think this is the most promising moment, almost, in the history of the world–a time when the information age has made it clear to people what it takes for them to get ahead in their lives and succeed, to have prosperity, to have growth, and it’s a critical matter not to have that great opportunity aborted by a wave of radically inspired terrorists. So we have to confront this, and we have to do it on a sustainable basis because it’s going to take a long time.”

So what, then, would he say to the people who’ve come to feel that because of the constant bombings and the struggles of the new Iraqi government that we’re not going to make it? “We don’t want to give up. The more you talk about not making it, the more you encourage the people who are trying to be sure the Iraqis don’t make it. You encourage them to keep doing what they’re doing.”

Mr. Shultz associated himself with the Bush presidency early on, introducing the Texas governor to Condoleezza Rice at the Hoover Institution in 1998. In light of that, I asked what Mr. Shultz made of the idea that the Bush foreign policy and Iraq war were sprung from a coven of neoconservatives.

“I don’t know how you define ‘neoconservatism,’ ” he replied, “but I think it’s associated with trying to spread open political systems and democracy. I recall President Reagan’s Westminster speech in 1982–that communism would be consigned to ‘the ash heap of history’ and that freedom was the path ahead. And what happened? Between 1980 and 1990, the number of countries that were classified as ‘free’ or ‘mostly free’ increased by about 50%. Open political and economic systems have been gaining ground and there’s a good reason for it. They work better. I don’t know whether that’s neoconservative or what it is, but I think it’s what has been happening. I’m for it.”

Though the Right viewed Mr. Schultz wth suspicion, as a crypto-dove, and trusted Cap Weinberger, as an uber-hawk, the reality was that the Secretary of Defense served his institution–ladling on more money and opposing deployments–while it was Mr Schultz who was willing to utilize the military in foreign affairs. The current “revolt of the generals” is merely a function of a SecDef who isn’t a captive of his own bureaucracy.

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