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The Short History of the Bush Doctrine
April 9, 2002
By Eric Munoz

The Bush Doctrine was developed in response to the attacks of September 11th and was based on one simple premise: good vs. evil embodied as ‘us vs. them’. Anyone who supported terrorism by harboring, financing, feeding or being complicit was a terrorist. The time had come where every nation had to choose sides, either you are with us in rooting out terror or you are against us.

The philosophy worked well in Afghanistan and as it related to Al Qaeda. Even nations like Iran and Syria condemned the acts of September 11th and voiced their support for the United States. The Taliban was routed along side of the terrorist network it had harbored.

However, the Bush Doctrine leaves little leeway when the situation is not so black-and-white. No doubt the Israelis and the Palestinians have some claim to being right, but there is also no doubt that both sides have engaged in doing wrong. The murder of innocents at pizzerias, disco clubs or in retaliation is wrong, the expansion into and occupation of Palestinian controlled areas is wrong, using suicide/homicide bombers or trained soldiers to kill civilians is wrong. The Israelis continue to occupy and humiliate while the Palestinians continue to bomb. Sharon sends his troops while Arafat sends his people and both sides claim to be terrorized by the other, thus justified in their actions per the Bush doctrine. Thus, the escalating violence in the Middle East is an exhibition of the Bush Doctrine in full effect.

Fortunately, Bush has finally recognized that the world exists in shades of gray and that the key to a more fundamental understanding of the issues involved lies in understanding the good and the evil in those on both sides of the issue. Unfortunately, Bush is yet to recognize that the good on both sides deserve our attention and assistance while the evil on both sides deserve our condemnation. In his speech, Mr. Bush seemed to justify the actions of Sharon and Arafat, instead of condemning them both.

For example, Mr. Bush has clearly and repeatedly said, ‘either you are with us or you are with the terrorists’ and ‘if you feed, house, harbor or otherwise support the terrorist you are a terrorist.’ In today’s speech, Mr. Bush said Arafat had failed to confront terrorists, and that the PA and other Arab nations needed “to stop inciting violence by glorifying terror in state-owned media or telling suicide bombers they are martyrs.” Yet, he stopped short of calling Arafat a terrorist. Even further, he called for Israel to recognize and abide by UN Resolutions 242 and 338, which call for Israel to withdraw from the occupied territories.

Mr. Bush was even more ambiguous on Israel’s role on the escalating violence. He recognized Israel’s right to defend itself but at the same time asked that Israel pull back from its recent ‘incursions’ and withdraw from cities it has recently occupied. He described Israeli action as efforts to “root out terrorist nests.” While he did not call Israel on its excessive use of force, or the excessive number of civilian casualties, aka collateral damage, he did say, “to lay the foundations of future peace, I ask Israel to halt incursions into Palestinian-controlled areas,” he said. Implicitly, the violence will continue if Israel does not pull back, i.e. it will be Israel’s fault that the bombings continue.

While he chided Arafat for his ineffective leadership and called for Israel to ease up on its use of force, he stopped short of criticizing either. While he asked that the Arab world step forward toward peace while the Israelis stepped back from their occupation, he failed to condemn the tooth for a tooth mentality that permeates the region.

If nothing else, at least we can be thankful that not even George Bush seems to believe in the Bush Doctrine anymore. The Bush Doctrine made for excellent sound bites but not for good foreign policy. The Bush Doctrine works great in spaghetti westerns and kids’ comic books, where the good guys and the bad guys are easy to tell apart. It does not work so well in the real world where the good guys are sometimes bad and the bad guys are sometimes just fighting back.

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