The Bush Preventative War Doctrine and Philip Zelikow

This is from
This is part of a much longer article but it shows that the Bush Doctrine is against international law and the United Nations Charter. This has not sunk in to the mainstream press which seems for the most part to think that the doctrine is just a minor extension of the right of self defence! The article also shows the extent to which at time Rice has been more than complicit in the US imperialist agenda but has actually been a leader in developing doctrine. Zelikow was head of the 9/11 Commission a glaring conflict of interest since he is obviously not a neutral disinteresed figure.

The Bush Doctrine
According to international law as reflected in the charter of the United Nations, a preemptive war is legal in only one situation: if a country has certain knowledge that an attack by another country is imminent---too imminent for the matter to be taken to the UN Security Council.
Preemptive war, thus defined, is to be distinguished from “preventive war,” in which a country, fearing that another country may some time in the future become strong enough to attack it, attacks that country in order to prevent that possibility. Such wars are illegal under international law. Preventive wars, in fact, belong under the category of unprovoked wars, which were declared at the Nuremburg trials to constitute the “supreme international crime.”2
This traditional distinction between “preventive” and “preemptive” war creates a terminological problem, because preventive war, being illegal, is worse than preemptive war, and yet to most ears “preemption” sounds worse than “prevention.” As a result, many people speak of “preemptive war” when they really mean preventive war. To avoid any confusion, I employ the term “preemptive-preventive war” for what has traditionally been known as preventive war.3
People known as neoconservatives (or simply neocons), the most powerful member of whom has been Dick Cheney, did not like the idea that America’s use of military power could be constrained by the prohibition against preemptive-preventive war. In 1992, Cheney, in his last year as secretary of defense, had Paul Wolfowitz (the undersecretary of defense for policy) and Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby write the Defense Planning Guidance of 1992, which said that the United States should use force to “preempt” and “preclude threats.”4 In 1997, William Kristol founded a neocon think tank called the Project for the New American Century (PNAC).5 In 1998, a letter signed by 18 members of PNAC---including Kristol, Wolfowitz, John Bolton, Richard Perle, Donald Rumsfeld, and James Woolsey---urged President Clinton to “undertake military action” to eliminate “the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction.”6
Only after 9/11, however, were the neocons able to turn their wish to leave international law behind into official US policy. As Stephen Sniegoski wrote, “it was only the traumatic effects of the 9/11 terrorism that enabled the agenda of the neocons to become the policy of the United States of America.”7 Andrew Bacevich likewise wrote: “The events of 9/11 provided the tailor-made opportunity to break free of the fetters restricting the exercise of American power.”8
The idea of preemptive-preventive war, which came to be known as the “Bush doctrine,” was first clearly expressed in the president’s address at West Point in June 2002, when the administration began preparing the American people for the attack on Iraq. Having stated that, in relation to “new threats,” deterrence “means nothing” and containment is “not possible,” Bush dismissed preemption as traditionally understood, saying: “If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long.” Then, using the language of preemption while meaning preemptive-prevention, he said that America’s security “will require all Americans . . . to be ready for preemptive action.”9
Having been sketched in June 2002, the Bush Doctrine was first fully laid out that September in NSS 2002. This document’s covering letter, speaking of “our enemies’ efforts to acquire dangerous technologies,” declares that America will, in self-defense, “act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed.”10 Then the document itself, saying that “our best defense is a good offense,” states:
“Given the goals of rogue states and terrorists, the United States can no longer rely on a reactive posture as we have in the past. The inability to deter a potential attacker, the immediacy of today's threats, and the magnitude of potential harm that could be caused by our adversaries' choice of weapons, do not permit that option. We cannot let our enemies strike first.”11
In justifying this change of doctrine, NSS 2002 argues that the United States must “adapt” the traditional doctrine of preemption, long recognized as a right, to the new situation, thereby turning it into a right of anticipatory (preventive) preemption:
“For centuries, international law recognized that nations need not suffer an attack before they can lawfully take action to defend themselves against forces that present an imminent danger of attack. . . . We must adapt the concept of imminent threat to the capabilities and objectives of today’s adversaries. . . . The United States has long maintained the option of preemptive actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security. The greater the threat, . . . the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively.”12
With this argument, NSS 2002 tried to suggest that, since this doctrine of preventive preemption simply involved adapting a traditionally recognized right to a new situation, it brought about no great change. But it did. According to the traditional doctrine, one needed certain evidence that an attack from the other country was imminent. According to the Bush Doctrine, by contrast, the United States can attack another country “even if uncertainty remains” and even if the United States knows that the threat from the other country is not yet “fully formed.”
The novelty here, to be sure, involves doctrine more than practice. The United States has in fact attacked several countries that presented no imminent military threat. But it always portrayed these attacks in such a way that they could appear to comport with international law---for example, by claiming, before attacking North Vietnam, that it had attacked a US ship in the Tonkin Gulf. “Never before,” however---point out Stefan Halper and Jonathan Clarke, who call themselves Reagan conservatives---“had any president set out a formal national strategy doctrine that included [preventive] preemption.”13
This unprecedented doctrine was, as we have seen, one that neocons had long desired. Indeed, neocon Max Boot described NSS 2002 as a “quintessentially neo-conservative document.”14 And, as we have also seen, the adoption of this doctrine was first made possible by the 9/11 attacks. Halper and Clarke themselves say, in fact, that 9/11 allowed the “preexisting ideological agenda” of the neoconservatives to be “taken off the shelf . . . and relabeled as the response to terror.”15
Zelikow and NSS 2002
The 9/11 attacks, we have seen, allowed the Bush-Cheney administration to adopt the doctrine of preemptive-preventive war, which the neocons in the administration---most prominently Cheney himself---had long desired. One would assume, therefore, that the 9/11 Commission would not have been run by someone who helped formulate this doctrine, because the Commission should have investigated, among other things, whether the Bush-Cheney administration might have had anything to gain from 9/11 attacks---whether they, in other words, might have had a motive for orchestrating or at least deliberately allowing the attacks. Amazing as it may seem, however, Philip Zelikow, who directed the 9/11 Commission and was the primary author of its final report, had also been the primary author of NSS 2002.
Lying behind Zelikow’s authorship of NSS 2002 was the fact that he was close, both personally and ideologically, to Condoleezza Rice, who as National Security Advisor to President Bush had the task of creating this document. Zelikow had worked with Rice in the National Security Council during the Bush I presidency. Then, when the Republicans were out of power during the Clinton years, Zelikow and Rice co-authored a book together. Finally, when she was appointed National Security Advisor to Bush II, she brought on Zelikow to help with the transition to the new National Security Council. Given that long relationship, Zelikow evidently came to mind when Rice found the first draft of NSS unsatisfactory.
According to James Mann in Rise of the Vulcans: The History of Bush’s War Cabinet, this first draft had been produced by Richard Haass, who was the director of policy planning under Colin Powell in the State Department.16 Although this draft by Haass is evidently not publicly available, an insight into what it contained might be provided by an address Haass had given in 2000 entitled “Imperial America.”
While Haass called on Americans to “re-conceive their global role from one of a traditional nation-state to an imperial power,” his foreign policy suggestions were very different from those of the neocons. Saying that “primacy is not to be confused with hegemony” and that “[a]n effort to assert U.S. hegemony is . . . bound to fail,” he called for acceptance of the fact that the world in coming decades “will be a world more multipolar than the present one.” Also, insisting that “[a]n imperial foreign policy is not to be confused with imperialism,” which involves exploitation, he stated that “imperial America is not to be confused with either hegemonic America or unilateral America.” In the new world order that he envisaged, “The United States would need to relinquish some freedom of action,” which would mean that it “would be more difficult to carry out preventive or preemptive strikes on suspect military facilities.” He suggested, moreover, that “[c]oercion and the use of force would normally be a last resort.” The United States would instead rely primarily on “persuasion,” “consultation,” and “global institutions,” especially the UN Security Council.17
In any case, whatever the exact nature of the draft for NSS 2002 that Haass produced, Rice, after seeing it, wanted “something bolder,” Mann reports. Deciding that the document should be “completely rewritten,” she “turned the writing over to her old colleague . . . Philip Zelikow.”18
Given the hawkish tone of the resulting NSS 2002, we might assume that Zelikow was simply taking dictation from Cheney, Rumsfeld, or Wolfowitz. According to Mann, however, “the hawks in the Pentagon and in Vice President Cheney’s office hadn’t been closely involved, even though the document incorporated many of their key ideas. They had left the details and the drafting in the hands of Rice and Zelikow, along with Rice’s deputy, Stephen Hadley.”19
It would seem, therefore, that we can take this “quintessentially neo-conservative document,” which used 9/11 to justify exempting the United States from international law, as reflecting Zelikow’s own thinking. This means that, besides being aligned with the Bush-Cheney White House personally (by virtue primarily of his friendship with Rice) and structurally (by virtue of helping her set up the new NSC), he was also closely aligned ideologically with Cheney and other neocons in the administration.
Such a person obviously should not have been put in charge of the 9/11 Commission, given the fact that one of the main questions it should have investigated was whether the Bush-Cheney administration had any responsibility for the 9/11 attacks, whether through incompetence or complicity. Pursuing the possibility of complicity in particular would have required the Commission to ask whether the administration would have had motives for wanting the attacks. Given the fact that Zelikow had authored the document that provided the doctrine of preemptive-preventive warfare desired by leading members of this administration, he would have been one of the worst possible choices to lead such an investigation.


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