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Sunday, February 01, 2004

The Bush Doctrine is Dead

On "Fox News Sunday" today, David Kay declared that the Bush Doctrine of preemptive war is dead.

Specifically, Kay said that a preemption strategy depends upon strong intelligence and the US obviously didn't have that in Iraq. AP ran this story (and I got it from yahoo):
Flawed intelligence undermines the Bush administration's policy of striking first if U.S. interests are threatened, the former chief U.S. weapons inspector in Iraq said Sunday.

"If you cannot rely on good, accurate intelligence that is credible to the American people and to others abroad, you certainly cannot have a policy of pre-emption," David Kay said. While the United States always has reserved the right of a first strike, President Bush has elevated the strategy of pre-emption to a central part of his foreign policy doctrine.

"Pristine intelligence, good accurate intelligence is a fundamental bedstone of any sort of policy of pre-emption to be even thought about," Kay told "Fox News Sunday."

Kay said that until it is clear how prewar intelligence about Iraq's cache of banned weapons ended up being off the mark, the public will be dubious of claims by the government that Iran, North Korea (news - web sites) or Syria, for instance, pose grave dangers.

"I think most of us would have greater doubts," Kay said. "I would hope even the president would have greater doubts until we understand the fundamental causes" of the flawed intelligence.
The National Security Strategy document from September 2002 acknowledges that preemption relies upon "timely, accurate information on threats, wherever they may emerge." NSS 2002 even says the US must "coordinate closely with allies to form a common assessment of the most dangerous threats."

This has profound implications for policy. As the authors of NSS 2002 wrote:
"Legal scholars and international jurists often conditioned the legitimacy of preemption on the existence of an imminent threat—most often a visible mobilization of armies, navies, and air forces preparing to attack."
The French were right. Domestic anti-war activists were right -- and the Bush Doctrine is dead.

Update: I found a transcript excerpt on the Fox News website. Kay was even more critical of the Bush administration than I first thought. Look at this Q&A with Chris Wallace:
WALLACE: Let's look at the other side of it, though, the second part. Did the president and his top officials hype the intelligence that they were told?

I have read the parts of the National Intelligence Estimate that were declassified in October of 2002. And let's take a look at part of it.

The State Department said it could not find a compelling case that Iraq was developing nuclear weapons. And yet, we were never told that by the administration.

KAY: Well, I think that's true. There are caveats that clearly dropped out, dissenting opinions that clearly dropped out, as you moved higher up and people read the headline summaries.
But Kay attempts to explain away the State Department's (people like Greg Thielmann) correct reading -- Iraq had no nukes, and was not a serious WMD threat.
WALLACE: But explain that. If, in fact, there was a dissenting opinion in this particular case about whether Saddam Hussein was developing nuclear weapons. Here was the State Department coming out in the National Intelligence Estimate and saying, "You know, we can't make a case for this." Why was it that it was dropped out?

That's a fairly serious thing, if there was a difference of opinion at the analyst level, but at the top officials level there wasn't that reflection.

KAY: Well, I think what you will find, as we walk back through that process, is the State Department, after all, has no operatives in the field. It's an analysis shop. That, in fact, the bulk, the CIA, DIA analyst, who actually have direct contact with collection, thought, in fact, there was a program there.

I think we've got two things to look at: How did the bulk of the analysts come to a conclusion that turns out to be wrong? And what is the process for feeding to top-level decisionmakers both the majority opinion and caveats, minority opinions, as they exist? Clearly there were failures on both.

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