The “Obama Doctrine” is the Bush Doctrine, Version 2.0

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obama-bush2-460_1111545cTime for a pop quiz!  “For make no mistake: Evil does exist in the world.” Who said it?  Was it (a) President George W. Bush or (b) President Barack Obama?

If you said Bush, you’re very close, but no cigar.  Bush did say, “We’ve come to know truths that we will never question: Evil is real, and it must be opposed,” in his State of the Union Speech in 2002–the same speech where he coined the unforgettable phrase “Axis of Evil.”

But if you said Obama, DING! DING! DING! You’re correct!

In President Obama’s remarks upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize today, he echoed many of the moral imperatives of the Bush administration’s foreign policy as part of his public–and to some degree, personal–justification for accepting the award.

Now, I’m one of those people who believes that President George W. Bush will, in the decades to come, be vindicated from much of the partisan attacks he endured over the years.

So far, that’s slowly proving true.

With his poised, deep-thinker mantle on full force, Obama balanced out his receipt of the award with his recent decisions as Commander-in-Chief:

But perhaps the most profound issue surrounding my receipt of this prize is the fact that I am the Commander-in-Chief of the military of a nation in the midst of two wars.  One of these wars is winding down.  The other is a conflict that America did not seek; one in which we are joined by 42 other countries — including Norway — in an effort to defend ourselves and all nations from further attacks.

He then invokes elements of just war theory, and acknowledges the “imperfectability” of humanity insofar as war has always been and will continue to be a part of the human experience:

But as a head of state sworn to protect and defend my nation, I cannot be guided by their examples alone.  I face the world as it is, and cannot stand idle in the face of threats to the American people.  For make no mistake:  Evil does exist in the world.  A non-violent movement could not have halted Hitler’s armies.  Negotiations cannot convince al Qaeda’s leaders to lay down their arms.  To say that force may sometimes be necessary is not a call to cynicism — it is a recognition of history; the imperfections of man and the limits of reason.

If someone were counting, I bet the use of paper fans were at an all-time high today around the country as anti-war lefties and undergraduate college professors swooned at the sight of their candidate pronouncing their cause of “no war for any reason” dead on arrival.  Meanwhile, I’m sure the rest of America applauded the President’s verbal acknowledgement of what the rest of humanity recognizes as simple reality, especially when Obama got to the biggest invocation of the Bush administration’s philosophy:

…For some countries, the failure to uphold human rights is excused by the false suggestion that these are somehow Western principles, foreign to local cultures or stages of a nation’s development.  And within America, there has long been a tension between those who describe themselves as realists or idealists — a tension that suggests a stark choice between the narrow pursuit of interests or an endless campaign to impose our values around the world.

I reject these choices.  I believe that peace is unstable where citizens are denied the right to speak freely or worship as they please; choose their own leaders or assemble without fear.  Pent-up grievances fester, and the suppression of tribal and religious identity can lead to violence.  We also know that the opposite is true.  Only when Europe became free did it finally find peace…No matter how callously defined, neither America’s interests — nor the world’s — are served by the denial of human aspirations.

Sound really familiar?  Check out a similar paragraph from Bush’s 2002 State of the Union speech:

America will lead by defending liberty and justice because they are right and true and unchanging for all people everywhere. No nation owns these aspirations, and no nation is exempt from them. We have no intention of imposing our culture — but America will always stand firm for the non-negotiable demands of human dignity: the rule of law … limits on the power of the state … respect for women … private property … free speech … equal justice … and religious tolerance.

So, for those of you who don’t remember the whole flap about Sarah Palin not knowing what policy the media arbitrarily coined as the “Bush Doctrine”, the Bush Doctrine has been specifically defined as a policy of unilateral interventionism, including pre-emptive military action if necessary.

But taking the media’s own bias out of the definition, I think it’s safe to call the Bush Doctrine a pro-active policy that firmly engages the moral and military threats of people who are “evil” and hate the fundamental principles of human dignity that America and the West represent.  And why wouldn’t most dictators and extremists hate those principles?  If they can’t control their populations with Western values, then they serve no useful purpose, if they don’t serve as a direct threat.

In the wake of 9/11, Americans were outraged, distraught, saddened, and resolved.  To hear our President say anything other than, “We’re gonna get ’em for this!” would have been a disaster.  For better or for worse, this defined the tone of the entire Bush administration’s tenure.

Almost 9 years later, Americans are still outraged, and anyone who meditates for 30 seconds to recall what life was like on 9/11 won’t be hard pressed to conjure up the same feelings they had when Bush made that historic address to a Joint Session of Congress days after 9/11.

Americans also have had time to let the dust settle and figure out the best next moves for our country in the pursuit of defeating terrorism.  As much as we made fun of the French for their anti-Americanism during the Iraq War, we also–secretly–wanted notre amis to warmly shout Bonjour! when we walked into the room. As much as political and military necessity prompted us to take immediate, decisive action to assume control of our circumstances–with many nations supporting us in doing so, mind you–this kind of approach only works for so long and will get you so far in accomplishing your objective.

Obama’s speech is probably demonstrative of a sobering of the American people who no longer just want to see the destruction of terrorists and their allies but also want to move forward in a world that achieves a practical, peaceful and internationally cooperative conclusion to all of this as well.

To accommodate for this changing mood, Obama places a tremendous emphasis on international cooperation, using non-violent means to achieve some of these objectives.  More importantly, Obama makes it clear that in the pursuit of human rights, there will be a three step process: engagement, diplomacy, and then armed intervention–and yes, military intervention is very much so still on the table.  (He mentions Darfur, the Congo, and Burma–and I hope he means what he says specifically with regard to these situations.)  Nevertheless, he cautions, “The closer we stand together, the less likely we will be faced with the choice between armed intervention and complicity in oppression.”

Taking Obama’s speech in its entirety and comparing it to the so-called Bush Doctrine, it continues many of the principles by which Bush governed, but nuances Bush policy by emphasizing that force is not always the solution to every problem. Even if we have always known that, apparently the world still needs to hear it from our country.  For Obama and for America, this upgrading of the Bush Doctrine–a version 2.0 if you will–is fitting for the times in which we currently live.

Inevitably, opponents will try to find fault with this speech, although it has received much praise from Sarah Palin and Newt Gingrich for starters. (You may recall they did not see eye-to-eye on the New York 23rd Congressional District special election earlier this year when Gingrich backed Republican Scozzafava and Palin backed Conservative Doug Hoffman).

Of course, I caution that it is merely a speech; until it is followed by action, it is nothing more than ink on paper. For the sake of America and the interest of people worldwide who share our common objectives, I do hope that Obama’s rhetoric and actions continue to change for the better.

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