ABSTRACT

The Bush Doctrine like any grand strategy is an attempt to set out a response to a fundamentally new and consequential set of national security challenges. And what could be more distinctive than the fact that the United States was now a, if not the, chief target of terrorists with the intention, capacity, and determination to inflict catastrophic damage? It is a basic strategic fact the Obama Administration would do well to keep in mind. Moreover, like any grand strategy addressing a new set of strategic circum-

stances the Bush Doctrine had to accomplish three things. It had to accurately diagnose the problem. Second, it had to develop new conceptual and strategic tools to address novel strategic circumstances. It did this by developing what Tony Smith calls “a presidential proclamation of purpose likely to rank in historical significance with any of its predecessors save the farewell address.”1

Lastly, the doctrine had to assess just how these strategic tools, both old and new, should be applied to the range of circumstances that the new critical national security issues raise. It would have been foolish of the Bush Administration to rely on just one strategic tool, like preventive war, and it didn’t. General grand strategies begin with general questions. Presidential doctrines

try to answer them.2 Thus, Barry Posen and Andrew Ross for example, ask four questions of grand strategy: “What are U.S. interests and objectives? What are the threats to whose interests? What are the appropriate strategic responses to those threats? What principles should guide the development of U.S. policy and strategy?”3 This is a reasonable and useful set of questions for general grand strategies, like “selective engagement,” or “offshore balancing.” However, at least with regard to the novel circumstances of post-9/11 security issues, these questions put the cart before the horse. Before we consider which general grand strategies, if any, are best suited to post-9/11 circumstances, it is first necessary to be clear about the nature of the new security issues and the critical questions that they raise. In response to the shattering 9/11 attacks, the Bush Administration was

faced with questions of how it could avoid another, perhaps more devastating attack, what new strategies had to be developed and old strategies refined, how the United States could balance new national security needs with the sometimes different perspectives of its allies, how it could retain

international legitimacy while adapting an assertive strategic stance, and how it might combat the appeal of a fervent and necessarily aggressive religious ideology, some of whose elements are potentially attractive to millions of followers worldwide.