The Klein Doctrine

Matthew Hoy
By Matthew Hoy on September 16, 2008

Time magazine's Joe Klein needs to have a doctrine named after him. Something along the lines of "No punditry shall be used against the author if it is more than six months old."

Klein, most famous for writing the book "Primary Colors," is an Obama supporter and he's chosen to stick his neck out and take on Sarah Palin for not knowing what the "Bush Doctrine" is.

There was only one Bush Doctrine. It was enunciated in this speech, delivered by the President, at the West Point graduation in 2002. It was a conscious effort to step beyond the Cold War doctrine of containment and announce a new strategic posture appropriate for the War on Terrorism. Here's the relevant section, the bold-face highlights are mine:

For much of the last century, America's defense relied on the Cold War doctrines of deterrence and containment. In some cases, those strategies still apply. But new threats also require new thinking. Deterrence -- the promise of massive retaliation against nations -- means nothing against shadowy terrorist networks with no nation or citizens to defend. Containment is not possible when unbalanced dictators with weapons of mass destruction can deliver those weapons on missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist allies.

We cannot defend America and our friends by hoping for the best. We cannot put our faith in the word of tyrants, who solemnly sign non-proliferation treaties, and then systemically break them. If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long. (Applause.)

Homeland defense and missile defense are part of stronger security, and they're essential priorities for America. Yet the war on terror will not be won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge. (Applause.) In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path of action. And this nation will act. (Applause.)

Our security will require the best intelligence, to reveal threats hidden in caves and growing in laboratories. Our security will require modernizing domestic agencies such as the FBI, so they're prepared to act, and act quickly, against danger. Our security will require transforming the military you will lead -- a military that must be ready to strike at a moment's notice in any dark corner of the world. And our security will require all Americans to be forward-looking and resolute, to be ready for preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and to defend our lives. (Applause.)

That is the Bush Doctrine. Sarah Palin had no idea that it even existed. Any attempts to divert attention from her ignorance should be rejected for what they are--disinformation.

Having thus stuck his neck out, Pete Wehner chops it off.

That silly and unfair claim by Klein makes this March 21, 2005 column worth noting. In it, Klein writes this:

One can only imagine the Republican wrath and utter ridicule-the Rush Limbaugh fulminations-if, say, John Kerry had proposed a similar policy: Let’s pin our Middle East hopes on the statesmanship of Hizballah and Hamas. But that is where the democratic idealism of the Bush Doctrine has led us. If the President turns out to be right-and let’s hope he is-a century’s worth of woolly-headed liberal dreamers will be vindicated. And he will surely deserve that woolliest of all peace prizes, the Nobel. [emphasis added]

Now aren’t those words unfortunate for Joe? After all, here he is in 2005 using the Bush Doctrine in the context of championing liberty in the Arab Middle East, not in the context of preemption. So Krauthammer (who explains this whole issue with typical precision and intelligence here) and Feaver were clearly right, and Klein was clearly wrong.

There's a word for commentary like Klein's: Dishonest.


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September 2008



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