Politics Mondays: The Bush Doctrine Can’t Survive Global Hostage Taking [Black Electorate Communications, January 2002]
[Editor's Note: In the light of recent events we are running a previously unpublished BEC Analytical Commentary, written for clients, back in January 2002]
The tests continue to come for the now internationally infamous “Bush Doctrine”. First there was Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s reported direct comparison, during a White House meeting with President Bush, of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, which left 3,000 dead with an attack on Israeli citizens that left 25 of its citizens dead. Then there was the Indian government’s use of the Bush Doctrine as justification for any potential retaliation against Pakistani militants in Kashmir. Why not, India figured, after all, isn’t Pakistan “harboring” terrorists? And now we have a test that is not rhetorical in nature. Those who have reportedly taken a Wall Street Journal reporter hostage have posed the greatest challenge to the world’s most famous political proposition, that is still not even 4 months old.
In grabbing an American who lives abroad, the suspected Muslim militants have opened up a pandora’s box that may take the war on terrorism into a totally different direction than most of those who are covering down in an effort to protect airports and nuclear reactors initially imagined. While the government is hunkering down to ward off attacks on what now look like obvious domestic targets, we think that it is more likely that militants, extremists and terrorists of all stripes are gathering dossiers on Americans reporting, politicking and doing business abroad. And if our hunch is correct we expect 2002 to be a year that looks more like 1979 than 2001, in terms of international terrorism. That year, 1979, of course, was when numerous Americans were taken hostage from the U.S. embassy in Iran. Hostage-taking, we think the prospective and present terrorists have realized, is a much more cost-effective, dramatic and even easier way to not only disrupt U.S. interests and foreign policy objectives, but also of inflicting damage on the American psyche, as the mainstream media outlets would be tempted to publicize picture after picture of Americans, possibly their own media outlets, as captives to individuals that the vast majority of Americans has never heard of. And what is the appropriate response under the Bush Doctrine?
That’s right, in concept, the Bush Doctrine would require that the U.S. not only go after the guilty parties but also the countries where the terrorist kidnappings took place, if those nations permit a the peaceful co-existence with the terrorist groups. Conceivably, that could mean, in just a few months the United States could be hunting down terrorist groups in Saudi Arabia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Kuwait, Israel, Colombia, and Pakistan. Some of those governments would be held responsible while others wouldn’t, setting up a double-standard that the rest of the world will point to as further signs of American imperialism and wicked moral equivalence formulations. Not wanting to back down the U.S. would then be forced to up the ante, fulfill its ‘obligations” and fully engage the culprits and suspected friendly-hosts.
Unlike airplane hijackings and terrorist bombings, global hostage-taking reaps the greatest return for the terrorist’s investment and risk-taking; and it hits the Bush Doctrine where it is most vulnerable – its unilateral nature that requires that the U.S. go it alone, if it has to, in any scenario that qualifies. That the old Atlanticists – America and England, and their little Brother – Israel are the only nations that are committed to the doctrine makes the prospects of the doctrine’s survival sketchy. We can’t see how it survives in the face of multiple hostage-taking in several continents, especially when one considers that the U.S. has already admitted it can barely fight a two-front war. And what if tensions flare up again with China or if a Central or South American country turns toward socialism or communism or radical populism, even, as a result of the global slowdown, which in some regions of the world reads and feels more like a depression than a recession? We hardly think that the U.S., even with all of the $48 billion in defense spending that President Bush is asking for, is prepared to really carry out the details required by President Bush’s bold paradigm for fighting terrorism. As a result, the paradigm will be tested and will have to shift, if the U.S. is to be feared and respected as the most powerful nation in the world. The best paradigm shift would be on the diplomatic front where the United States would work out a carefully thought out policy of military withdrawals, sanction eliminations, trade and monetary policy reviews and foreign aid reductions and increases, where appropriate.
If there is no Plan B to the Bush Doctrine, America will lurch forward into World War III and Armageddon, quicker than anyone other than scriptural scientists could have imagined.
Note: This analysis was written in January of 2002 by Black Electorate Communications
Monday, April 12, 2004