chapter  3
40 Pages

The Bush Doctrine and prevention: evident in twentieth- century US foreign policy–case studies

The core theor et ical thrust underpinning the Bush Doctrine, and specifically, the preventive mo tiva tion for war, has long been an intrinsic stra tegic thought of policy-makers, officials, and milit ary planners at the highest levels of the US gov ern ment. While it has often been depicted as a distinct and markedly new National Security Strategy, the Bush Doctrine was, in fact, neither new nor eradefining. As Peter Lavoy contended, the Bush Administration’s “new” strat egy read much like “old wine in a new bottle” and hardly repres ented the fundamental pol icy shift that many portend.1 As this chapter will argue, since the dawning of the nuclear era in 1945, at least three other US Presidents (Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, and William J. Clinton) have faced the potential threat of nuclear tech no logy in the hands of states hostile to their respective Administrations and each dealt with the same de cision faced by President Bush in 2003: whether to use preventive milit ary force as a means to counter the proliferation of such nuclear weapons tech no logy. Each was forced to make their de cision re gard ing the preventive use of force in the face of un certainty. Each had to weigh the costs-many of them unknown-of preventively striking an adversarial state perceived to be de veloping nuclear weapons against the costs of refraining from preventive inter ven tion and employing more con servat ive diplomatic methods, even while the threat of future milit ary conflict hovered. Indeed, the his tor ical record of the last half century is replete with examples of high-level US decision-makers who ser iously con sidered the undertaking of major unilateral preventive milit ary actions as a means to thwart the proliferation of nuclear weapons by rogue states. As early as Janu ary 1946, in a foreboding memorandum on the milit ary im plica tions of the de velopment of nuclear weapons, US General Leslie Groves, then wartime commander of the Manhattan Project, expressed the simple but compelling temptation of preventive war thinking: “If we were ruthlessly realistic, we would not permit any foreign power with which we are not family allied and in which we do not have abso lute confidence, to make or possess nuclear weapons. If such a coun try started to make nuclear weapons we would destroy its capa city to make them before it had pro gressed far enough to threaten us.”2 Prior to the invasion of Iraq in 2003, the US had con sidered preventive options against no less than three additional rogue

proliferators: the Union of Soviet Socialist Repub lics (Soviet Union) from 1945 to 1954; the People’s Repub lic of China (China) from 1960 to 1964; and the Democratic People’s Repub lic of North Korea (North Korea) from 1993 to 1994. This chapter will investigate these case studies as a means to appraise the extent to which the US ser iously con sidered executing preventive war against these states, and in the final ana lysis, will reveal that what Bush ad voc ated in 2002/2003, was not “new,” “rad ical,” and certainly not “revolutionary.” According to Schneider, for any leader to order a preventive counterproliferation strike a “very special set of circumstances” was required. As stated:

The nuclear aspirant would have to be approaching the nuclear weapons threshold and be led by a hostile gov ern ment that appears ready to take extreme risks. Such a gov ern ment is unlikely to be deterred from future warlike actions. Moreover, the de veloping scen ario would have to directly and imme diately threaten a vital inter est of the coun try con sidering the preemptive strike. It would require in forma tion on im port ant nuclear target locations of the adversary and the abil ity to achieve tactical surprise. Moreover, the adversary should not be able to threaten the pre-emptor with nuclear arms or other weapons of mass destruction or have a strong ally who is likely to do so on its behalf. All other reason able options should have been exhausted before such a strike is undertaken. The head of state should have adequate do mestic and inter na tional polit ical sup port for the action and for bringing any milit ary cam paign to a successful conclusion before choosing this type of non proliferation activity.3