Rethinking the Bush Doctrine

Christopher Ruddy, the editor of and a pro-Bush, pro-national defense conservative, is amplifying the thoughtful doubts he has previously raised about President Bush’s policy toward Iraq. For one thing, if Hussein is such an imminent threat, why didn’t actions to isolate and eliminate him begin a year ago? Instead of letting him continue to develop his weapons of mass destruction, it would have made more sense to have bombed all of his suspected weapons sites (using powerful bombs the U.S. possesses that can destroy underground targets), and to have embargoed all of Iraq’s oil, which would have deprived Saddam of the money he needs to keep his war machine running. Such actions would have been far less controversial and divisive than the current planned invasion of Iraq, and far less costly in human lives.

Ruddy is also troubled by President Bush’s disconcerting habit of announcing his Iraqi war plans to the entire world. “When dealing with a mass murderer like Saddam, it seems to me that the last thing you want to do is to let him know in advance that you are coming after him, giving him both the motive and opportunity to ready his own devastating attacks on Israel and America.” (I have expressed the same concern ever since Bush’s overwrought “axis of evil” speech last January. I have also felt it was extremely bad judgment for the leader of world’s greatest power virtually to declare war on several countries, while in fact any actual war was many months away and perhaps would never occur at all, in which case the President would have destroyed his own credibility.)

In the article, entitled “Rethinking the Bush Doctrine,” Ruddy also notes correctly that it has made no sense for Bush to court support of other nations and of the United Nations for war on Iraq. “Now, it looks like these nations and the U.N. will only seek to stymie our war plans, and necessitate the U.S. flouting their opinion. This seems to me doubly worse than simply acting independently.”

Finally, Ruddy is very concerned that a pre-emptive attack would establish a dangerous, not to mention un-American, precedent that could get America involved in wars throughout the world, provoking much greater hostility against us and also justifying other countries, such as India and Pakistan, in launching pre-emptive strikes against each other.

Considering the fact that Ruddy is both a conservative and an outspoken advocate of a strong U.S. military, his article offers a model of how conservatives can engage in responsible debate on the proposed war by focusing in a rational and non-ideological way on the objective problem at hand, rather than, like all too many on the paleoconservative right, merely issuing diatribes against evil neocons and the “War Party.”
Posted by Lawrence Auster at September 29, 2002 01:40 PM | Send


Wow good for him!

Posted by: Jake on September 29, 2002 6:48 PM

I’m leaning toward non interventionism. I think every reasonable person agrees that Saddam shouldn’t have free reign to develop WMD. However, after reading Podhoretz latest piece in Commentary, neocons getting their way would be a much worse fate. They want nothing less than to start WWIV, a code word for a regional war in which th US would attack Pakistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Jordan, Palestine, and Egypt without any provacation on their part. Not only is this plan highly likely to be costly in terms of human life and finances, it would also lead to a possible direct confrontation with Russia and China. I don’t like our chances in that scenario. Mr. Auster protests aside, warmongering and evil are indeed fitting descriptions for the Podhoretz plan and its advocates.

The real question for me is to what extent a war with Iraq would devolve into the neocon dream of WWIV. I’d say it’s a strong possibility given that people like Wolfowitz (sp?) and Perle have G.W. Bush’s ear. I’d rather Saddam have WMD and a strong military than the neocons. Saddam strikes me as much more reasonable then they do.

Posted by: Jason Eubanks on September 30, 2002 10:58 AM

Whether such a project is evil or not depends on what the objective reality is. If the current regimes of the Muslim Mideast really do represent the virulent uncontrollable threat to the West and the rest of the world that many intelligent people believe they do, then the idea of toppling and reconstituting those regimes is not inherently evil. Now, it may not be practicable, indeed it may lead to disaster, but that’s a separate question from the question of whether it’s evil.

We also see in Mr. Eubank’s comment about Norman Podhoretz an intesting parallel between the antiwar left and the antiwar right. As one of his reasons for leaving The Nation, Christopher Hitchens said that its editors see John Ashcroft as more dangerous than Osama bin Ladin. And now Mr. Eubanks, speaking from the right, declares the neoconservatives more dangerous than Saddam Hussein.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on September 30, 2002 11:32 AM

In response to this post, a Jewish friend writes:

There is a lot of wisdom in what you and Ruddy say. The problem with Bush is that he is too nice, too Christian (too much love) and too political. He should have just attacked Iraq without asking, as part of the response to 9/11, because you can always tie Al Qaeda with Iraq, even distantly. This way, he would not have Congress and Europe meddling into the commander-in-chief’s secret military affairs. I trust Bush’s judgment and I would even trust Clinton in the same situation, if either took action on their own!

The trouble is that Bush is a sweet, nice “loving” Christian guy. Frankly, I think America needs a vengeful, angry Jew or something similar, to run the country right now. We need to put fear into the minds of the dictators, and for that matter into the French and Russians.

Best regards,
The Angry Jew

I replied:

Yes, liberalism has “de-natured” the Christians even more than it has the Jews. Because many Jews still have some sense of particularity, of “us” and “them,” they are alive and have the will to defend themselves from enemies. But in the case of the Christians, the sense of “us” has been more thoroughly drained away. This has been due in no small part to the cultural demolition work of liberal Jews who kept telling the Christians that to have a sense of “us” is tantamount to Nazism. And this problem is not going away. Even the neocons have been saying that Christianity is inherently anti-Semitic. For example, in the spring of 2001 Commentary had an approving review of James Carroll’s “Constantine’s Sword,” the theme of which is that the Christian church, by the very fact of having formed itself as a distinct religion from Judaism, was anti-Semitic and had led to the Holocaust. When both Christians and Jews are telling Christians that a distinct Christian religion is a bad thing, the only religion left for Christians is liberal tolerance. And—with ironic or poetic justice—the immediate practical consequence of that is that the Christian President of the U.S. seems unable to act with true decisiveness against certain parties who are, apart from being extremely dangerous to America, the most dangerous enemies the Jews have faced since Hitler.

But let’s give Bush credit. He did finally put the kabosh to the “peace process,” saying there is no peace process unless the Palestinians radically change their behavior.


Posted by: Lawrence Auster on September 30, 2002 1:00 PM

Mr. Auster,
When I said evil, I meant evil in the sense that neocons show wanton disregard for the consequences of their actions and policies. Merely driving a bulldozer isn’t inherently evil either, but driving one at full speed through Times Square during the New Year’s Eve festivities would certainly qualify as such.

Saddam doesn’t have the economic and military resources of the world’s wealthiest nation at his disposal like the neocons. The neocons psychotic advocacy of World War and inclination to use nuclear weapons in mass punitive strikes against not only the perpetrators but anyone who also happens to be Muslim should disturb anyone. Saddam has absolutely declared similiar intentions toward the West. The difference between the two is that Saddam Hussein fundementally lacks the means to carry out his intentions. Do you worry more about the murderous schizophrenic locked in the insane asylum that croons about death and destruction or the a rational anarchist that has 100lbs of TNT at his disposal?

Yes, Islam is a menace to Western Civ. but mass murder by engaging in World War and NBC warfare is something I’m not willing to support. When you oppose something strongly, there is an inherent danger of becoming a mirror image of your enemies. The neocons have erred in this direction.

Posted by: Jason Eubanks on September 30, 2002 1:23 PM

(Is Vincente Fox more dangerous than Saddam Hussein?)

Posted by: Alex Sleighback on September 30, 2002 1:51 PM

Goint Point Alex!

Mexican nationals have killed more Americans though crime than Saddam and Bin Laden combined! Why aren’t the neocons rattling the sabre in their direction?

Posted by: Jason Eubanks on September 30, 2002 1:57 PM

Well, Saddam certainly has a machine shop or two as well as delivery systems (some technological and some in terms of terror network allies). All he is lacking is sufficient weapons-grade fissionable material. As we saw on the news just yesterday he has been within a short drive of such material in the hands of black marketeers, for a paltry cost of about $5 million. Again see

So as a question of fact Mr. Eubanks’ statement that Saddam fundamentally lacks means (as the crucial distinction in his exposition) is simply false. It is only a (short) matter of time before he has the means if he does not already. Perhaps we can convince Mr. Eubanks to perform a thought experiment and suppose that we had intelligence confirmation that a similar shipment had actually reached Iraq rather than having gotten within a short drive before siezure by authorities. How does Mr. Eubanks’ policy recommendation change at that point? Presumably it is not such an outrageous hypothetical, given yesterday’s news, to make it a ridiculous thing to consider.

None of this invalidates the other side of the argument, with which I substantially agree on a point by point basis if not as to conclusions, since I don’t see a Solomonic solution here. If one of us were king and actually had influence or decision authority it would be a question of what is the most imminent and dangerous threat.

Posted by: Matt on September 30, 2002 2:10 PM

Mr. Auster alerted me, in a private communique yesterday, that the enriched uranium in question was less than 100g in mass. I had already jumped to the conclusion that the smugglers had stolen a tactical nuclear weapon from the Turkish arsenal. 33lbs of Uranuim would translate roughly into .1 to .2 Mt warhead which about the size of a tac nuke fitted for some American artillery systems currently possessed by Turkey. It didn’t help me that the shape of the pictured object was very similar to the aforementioned platforms. From what I now understand, the object is a field storage lead case for tube artillery nukes. Where the smugglers obtained an American military case is still an open question.

I do not disagree with the notion of Saddam attempting to obtain enriched uranium for the purpose of developing nuclear weapons. This fact should be dealt with by means other than starting WWIV as the neocons plan to do.

Let’s assume that Saddam has, not one but, four nuclear weapons of less than .2 Megatons. A tremendous disparity in force would still exist between Iraq and the United States. Neither would Saddam be able to start WWIV. Even if he used them right now, the US would launch a devestating nuclear couter strike that could literally kill every Iraqi citizen hundreds of times over. Saddam may be a brutal thug but he isn’t a complete idiot.

Besides, I have a hard time believing this fact is a recent development. If Saddam has always posed such a threat why did the neocons wait for 9/11 to start pressing for war with Iraq? Why weren’t they seeking such an outcome from the first day of GW Bush’s presidency? I’m only left to conclude that neocons have ulterior motives that aren’t in America’s best interests.

Posted by: Jason Eubanks on September 30, 2002 2:52 PM

Mr. Sleighback wrote: “Is Vincente Fox more dangerous than Saddam Hussein?”

Let us stipulate that Fox is certainly hostile and dangerous to America. He wants the U.S. border opened, he wants to Mexicanize this country. But Fox is not potentially in a position to deliver a nuclear bomb to Washington D.C. or New York City. As for the open immigration policy, Fox, as well as the pro-immigration neoconservatives, could not carry it out on their own. That is still something supported and made possible by the entire U.S. establishment. Making Fox or Podhoretz the evil one responsible for a policy, which, in fact, the whole government and the dominant culture of the United States supports is an example of the same fallacious type of argument—demonizing an individual for something that is the work of an entire society—that I critiqued in my FrontPage article on the antiwar right.

Of course I agree that policy intellectuals who see the dangers coming exclusively from Hussein et al, while they completely ignore the dangers coming from our own open borders, are seriously in the wrong and are to be opposed and resisted. But to say that those intellectuals are as dangerous or more dangerous to us than Hussein indicates a loss of perspective that will prevent one’s concerns from being listened to outside a small circle of like-minded people.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on September 30, 2002 2:58 PM

Mr. Eubanks: I have a difficult time connecting with the notion that Saddam Hussein having four 10-times-Hiroshima class nuclear bombs is no big deal, irrespective of overall force disparities.

Mr. Eubanks also implies that the fact that Hussein has not initiated a WMD attack outside of his borders yet (that we can confirm) means that anyone who acts like he thinks Saddam will perform such an act does so merely as a deceptive ploy to obtain other political ends. I don’t doubt that such actors exist, but certainly Mr. Eubanks doesn’t imply that one can’t expect Saddam Hussein to use WMD at some time he deems appropriate simply because he hasn’t elected to do so yet, or even more strongly that anyone who so thinks does so out of concealed motives? Isn’t it possible that for some honest folks the timing of 9/11 and third world WMD development (think of recent Pakistani and Indian nuke tests, the disintgeration of the old Soviet states, etc) has brought awareness and technological development simultaneously to the present state without there being any necessary subterfuge or conspiracy involved?

Posted by: Matt on September 30, 2002 5:50 PM

You can’t toss out the question with a wave of your hand. After all, it was the demand for Third World newcomers that allowed al-Queda to set up shop in Flordia, right under our noses.

Until Bill Buckley made the American Right safe for social democracy, conservatives believed internal crises were more important than external conflict.

For example, the Commies in the classroom, the mass media and the Beltway were more directly dangerous than the Rooskies and the Chi-Coms. This was the standard belief of the 50s Right.

Posted by: Alex Sleighback on September 30, 2002 6:54 PM

Matt asks our friends of the antiwar right if it’s possible that the neocons have some honest concerns about terrorism, without conspiracy or subterfuge being involved. From the point of view of the oppressed-oppressor dynamic that Matt has defined as “liberalism,” the answer to his question is No. In the eyes of the oppressed (in this case the antiwar right), the oppressor (in this case the neoconservative establishment) never speaks the truth. The oppressor’s views, opinions, and concerns are never seen as a rational, good-faith response to objective facts in the real world, but only as the expression of some sick or sinister or cynical motive. The oppressed never takes cognizance of the subjectivity of the oppressor, so that the stated concerns of the oppressor are never taken at face value.

Look at any New York Times editorial written from about 1992 to 2002 under the editorship of Howell Raines. Without exception, any view different from that favored by the Times is characterized as “mean,” or “fearful,” or “ungenerous,” or “bigotted,” or “angry,” or “cynical,” and so on. The Times stands for the “oppressed,” all the good people and poor people and so on, in opposition to the forces of exclusion and conservatism and mean-spiritedness, whose words are lies and evil, and who must be effectively silenced. While the details vary from case to case, the essence remains the same: the refusal on the part of the oppressed to acknowledge the human subjectivity of the oppressor and to take his words seriously.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on September 30, 2002 7:06 PM

Mr. Sleighback engages in non sequitir. Even someone who wrongly favors radically open borders and fails to see their radically open status as the path to national suicide (have I heard that before somewhere?) does not thereby renounce his humanity. Such a person might even in good faith have that question entirely wrong from an objective perspective, and at the same time have legitimate concern that we should all share about a nuclear-club Iraq. Even Carl Rowan kept an unregistered handgun for the right reasons. We are all human, as near as I can tell, though that isn’t always a complement.

Mr. Eubanks has apparently embarked upon a strategy of unconditional appeasment; unless perhaps he wants to tell us at what level of confirmed nuclear armament in Iraq we should start to be concerned. How many warheads of how many megatons will suffice, I wonder, to get Mr. Eubanks to join with the War Party? And in any case he has repudiated his own case from earlier in the thread, wherein he claimed that Saddam’s fundamental lack of means to deploy WMD was the keystone in rejecting preemption.

Posted by: Matt on September 30, 2002 8:11 PM

Mr. Auster,

When discussing exactly what motivates the neocons in the war on terror, it’s important to keep in mind events like Kosovo and what they advocated in those events. Advocating global war goes well beyond any reasonable opposition to mid-eastern terrorism.

It’s my firm belief that neocons want to see Francis Fukuyama’s theories played out before their eyes. They appealed excessively to that sentiment during the Kosovo war and continue to do so today. It’s their version of historic determinism that motivates them. That aspect of the neoconservative movement did not change with their supposed conversion from Trotskyism in the ’50s athough the underlying theory changed slightly from Marx’s version.

Posted by: Jason Eubanks on September 30, 2002 8:18 PM

While I understand the possible necessity for toppling Saddam because of his likely posession of WMD and means of delivery, Commentary’s idea of launching WW IV is truly dangerous. If President Bush were foolish enough to follow Commentary’s advice, the US would likely be plunged into a war against the entire Islamic world. To somewhat expand Mr. Auster’s point in his response to the “Angry Jew,” the general populace of the Western countries, including the US, has been systematically stripped of any sense of concrete, transcendent culture and identity. Such a nation is in no shape to fight the kind of bloody, entended war that would be required. The public would force the politicians to end any such war once the body bags started coming home in great number. The ramifications of a retreat in the face of a dedicated enemy would be quite disasterous indeed - a united and even more radicalized Islam would stretch from Morocco to Indonesia. Israel’s destruction would probably be the first Western nation to fall - though they would undoubtedly put up a ferocious fight. Europe would collapse with a whimper or simply appease itself out of existence. Meanwhile, with unlimited immigration, the politicians are allowing the creation of a very dangerous fifth column within our own borders.

Posted by: Carl on September 30, 2002 8:27 PM

I’m not sure what Mr. Eubanks means by the neocons wanting to see Fukuyama’s theory play out before their eyes. I suppose he means their desire for a global, U.S.-led, democratic-capitalist order?

Regarding the Kosovo war, I don’t know that the neocons were any more “pro” that disgraceful U.S. action than any other part of the U.S. political scene (unless by “neocons” you just mean those true imperial expansionists William Kristol, Robert Kagan and Sen. McCain). There was almost no one important who opposed it—Dems, GOP, Bush.

Posted by: Lawrence Auster on September 30, 2002 8:47 PM

Mr. Auster,

As I’m sure you already know, Fukuyama holds that liberal democracy is the final outcome of human civilization. The neocons believe the US should do everything within its power to help bring that end into existence. It this regard, neocons are really no different than their political bedfellows, the dispensationalist Christians, who thirst for a mega violent end of the world as we know it (AKA Armeggeddon). Dangerous religious fanatics in terms of foreign policy, the both of them. My gut feeling is that the neocons care far more about advancing their own fatalistic brand of historic determinism instead of rooting out Islamic terrorists. That’s why I posted the comment about the Chechen war in the other thread and the comment about Serbia above. They show no inclination to go after other Muslim terror groups in Chechnya, Kosovo or Bosnia. In fact, they are quite supportive of these particular Islamicist rebels and advocate US intervention in their favor. That’s why I feel that neocons are performing an exercise in duplicity in regards to Iraq.

Correct. When I say neoconservatism, I’m specifically refering to the Podhoretz/Kristol political cliquè as well as Commentary, Weekly Standard and most National Review writers. I’m not talking about various pop-conservatives or others whose political views are hard to categorize. BTW, the only political figure of high stature I can think of that wanted the US not intervene in Kosovo is Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma.

You misunderstand my argument. I brought up that proposition to advance my contention that neocons are more dangerous than Saddam because of the large disparity in force that exists between the two parties. I’m a non-interventionist and I feel that if we withdraw from Middle Eastern affairs we would then cease to become a major target.

You ask me what circumstances I’d be willing to join the “War Party”. I’d have to say never. However, If the following conditions are satified then I’d be willing to discuss a large scale ground invasion of Iraq:

1) Saddam currently possess nuclear weapons of sufficient capability to kill more civilians than the proposed war or he has the means and can likely gather the material to build such within a time frame that would render the proposed attack obsolete. Whether or not he is actually building them or trying to obtain material is irrelevant for my purposes.

2) He has a relatively reliable delivery vehicle to reach the continental US. Smuggling 1/2 to 1 ton nuclear weapons in an airplane isn’t at all reliable or reasonable nor do 400mi range Scuds.

3) It is his intentions to use those weapons against the United States, specifically, in the near future. Neither does an intention to use them in furtherance of a MAD strategem nor mere non military hostility to the US count.

3) All other reasonable means of dealing with him are exhausted. No, you needn’t offer him Iran and half of Siberia or $500bil of guaranteed loans.

Posted by: Jason Eubanks on September 30, 2002 9:47 PM

I agree that neoconservatism and other forms of liberalism are more dangerous long-term threats than Arabs who don’t live in the US. They are threats we have been living with for two centuries or more, though, and I do see them as different in kind from Hussein. Like Mr. Eubanks I am fundamentally a non-interventionist.

In a sense this whole thing is academic, since we don’t have any authority in the matter anyway. But suppose there were some sort of traditionalist coup at the level of national government (ignoring for a moment the self contradiction). Suppose further that that traditionalist government initiated a responsible pullback from all of the overseas deployments that are none of our business, and the world takes us seriously in our newfound non-interventionist intentions. We deport several million Muslims, which really pisses some of them off. They get WMD’s from their friend Saddam Hussein, who is our enemy perhaps partially through our own fault but who is nonetheless our sworn enemy. Nuclear bombs sail into our harbors in sheilded containers and are detonated. Millions of Americans are murdered. The ousted neocons clamor “I told you so” and the possibility of any sort of viable traditionalism is wiped out for a century or more.

Now in a sense this whole scenario is a fantasy. But it is only the first bit about the installment of a traditionalist government that is a fantasy.

So in a way, perhaps in the short term we are better off that liberalism will be left in a position to reap what it has sown.

Posted by: Matt on September 30, 2002 10:29 PM

I’ll reiterate once again that although I agree that the liberalism within is more likely to utterly destroy the West than Arabs without, Arabs without nevertheless represent a genuine clear and present danger. They have demonstrated their willingness and ability to kill American civilians on American soil, an ability that will only increase with time and neglect, and I have no fundamental moral problem with efforts to cut off their oxygen. Destroying Hussein will in fact cut off one supply chain, and attitudes about Iraq’s supposed soveriegnity (despite the fact that it gets its nationhood by recent arbitrary Western fiat) plays into the enemy’s hand. There is no sense in denying Iraq’s pivotal place: doing so is just playing the fool.

Whether or not destroying Hussein will increase the power of the liberalism within depends on many factors. If we end up having to pay a high enough price then the imperialistic tendencies of the neocons may be muted or at least other more reasonable and adult voices may get a hearing (though more likely it will be the antiwar left that benefits since by the standards of most liberals we do not exist, or at best are voiceless subhuman racist sexist homophobic bigots). If victory comes cheaply then I think the imperialism will continue until a high price is paid. I think that is true in general, independent of the Iraq/WMD question: the imperialism will continue until it has to reap what it has sown.

There isn’t a hell of a lot that we can do about it now, though, except to act like adults in the hope that in some future circumstance the surviving West will come to traditionalists for answers as to what went wrong and how to repent and sin no more. Adopting fundamentally liberal postures like our own forms of political correctness and oppressor-victimism won’t help.

Posted by: Matt on October 1, 2002 12:15 PM

When Western powers try to dump modernity on Third World countries, the result is usually collectivism mixed with bursts of famine, genocide and bloody civil war. We tried modernizing Iran and you know how that turned out.

Does anybody here seriously want to drop Howard Stern, Ozzy Osbourne and Britney Spears on Baghdad?

Posted by: Alex Sleighback on October 1, 2002 2:37 PM

Which would be more cruel, that or more overt forms of annihilation?

Posted by: Matt on October 1, 2002 4:21 PM

Which would be better, avoiding foreign entanglements or annihilating whole nations?

Posted by: Alex Sleighback on October 1, 2002 7:39 PM

Apparently my levity wasn’t obvious to Mr. Sleighback. (Britney Spears! No! Please please use the nukes instead!) My bad, I should have put a smiley on my comment.

I will say though that I don’t view “annihilating whole nations” and “avoiding foreign entanglements” as well-defined alternatives, let alone as the only possibilities for an intellectually honest person to consider.

Posted by: Matt on October 1, 2002 8:01 PM
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