Sunday, March 26, 2006

Democracy and Security

The Bush Doctrine is alive and well.

Sunday, March 26, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST

The publication earlier this month of the Bush Administration's National Security Strategy was greeted with a combination of media indifference and contempt. "Bush clings to pre-emptive force," was one news agency's sum-up of the 49-page document. Readers of these columns might prefer to draw their own conclusions by actually reading it: What they'll find is a strategy that's admirably specific and, in the issues that matter most, broadly right.

This is especially important at a time when countries such as Iran, Syria and Egypt are betting that the Administration's domestic political weakness and its troubles in Iraq will see them safely through the 2008 election and what they hope will be a more pliant U.S. foreign policy. The document may now give those regimes second thoughts. Crucially, it reaffirms the Administration's first-term support of pre-emption: "When the consequences of an attack with [weapons of mass destruction] are potentially so devastating, we cannot afford to stand idly by as grave dangers materialize."

We'll take that to mean that the Bush Doctrine remains alive and well, despite persistent reports that it had been quietly shelved in favor of . . . well, no one has yet made clear what. Critics of the doctrine have argued that America's intelligence failure and difficulties in Iraq demonstrate the perils of pre-emption. Yet it is precisely because U.S. policy makers will never have perfect information about the capabilities and intentions of our enemies that pre-emption is sometimes needed, particularly when the threats are potentially catastrophic.

What distinguishes this document, however, is the emphasis it places on "effective democracy": that is, nations in which the institutions of democracy--regular and honest elections; representative and accountable government--serve as the armature of basic political, religious and economic freedoms.
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