Friday, September 12, 2008

That's Palin 1, Moose 0

“If you wish to discourse with me,” Voltaire once said, “define your terms.”

Just so Governor Palin refused to let Charlie Gibson plop his loaded question on her about the “Bush Doctrine” without insisting he be very specific about what he had in mind. Naturally, the media has leapt upon her response (not much else to leap on, I guess), calling it proof that she had no idea what Gibson was talking about—which shows she is such a foreign-policy nincompoop that she must never be allowed within 20 kopecks of a Vladimir Putin. Writes the BBC:

“Governor Palin did seem rather hazy when asked whether she agreed with the Bush doctrine.

‘In what respect?’ she asked, without seeming to know that it was a reference to pre-emptive war.”
(“A little of real Palin revealed”).

But that’s the whole point. Who said Gibson’s use of the expression, “the Bush doctrine,” “was a reference to pre-emptive war”? Why not understand it as a reference to other, less loaded aspects of what has been described, with greater or lesser accuracy (usually lesser), as the “Bush doctrine,” aspects such as refusing to “permit the world's most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world's most destructive weapons,” or a commitment to supporting “democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world”?
("What about the Bush Doctrine?")

Or how about, as TIME magazine faintly praised it with faint damnation in 2006, by calling it “the foundation for a grand strategy to fight Islamic terrorists and rogue states by spreading democracy around the world and pre-empting gathering threats before they materialize.”

The official White House statement as to the Bush doctrine, in Spring 2002, summarized its goals as follows:

• champion aspirations for human dignity;
• strengthen alliances to defeat global terrorism and work to prevent attacks against us and our friends;
• work with others to defuse regional conflicts;
• prevent our enemies from threatening us, our allies, and our friends, with weapons of mass destruction;
• ignite a new era of global economic growth through free markets and free trade;
• expand the circle of development by opening societies and building the infrastructure of democracy;
• develop agendas for cooperative action with other main centers of global power; and
• transform America’s national security institutions to meet the challenges and opportunities of the twenty-first century.

So then, these are things we don’t want our Vice President to agree with?

But in the mouths of the Left, and the media they control, the expression “Bush doctrine” has been co-opted to contain everything the Left has ever hated about Bush’s approach to international relations. And of course, everything they hate about that is a whole lot. Behold just some of what Mother Jones managed to squeeze into their explanation of the Bush Doctrine:

“The doctrine goes beyond the preemption theme sounded by President Bush in a West Point speech last June. Read beneath its kitchen-sink rhetoric and you see, in black and white, Bush codifying the unilateral treaty-busting moves of his first months in office -- his rejection of the Kyoto climate-change protocol, his cancellation of the ABM accord, his obstruction of the bioweapons treaty, and his flat withdrawal from participation in the International Criminal Court, to name only the most dramatic.” ("America's Age of Empire").

In the words of, “the Bush doctrine is a supremely dangerous cocktail, an explosive blend of the arrogance of our uniquely powerful post-Cold War military strength laced with a mind-numbing fear of box-cutter-wielding maniacs”.

Then there’s John Edward’s version of the Bush doctrine. You remember Edwards: he was a VP candidate in 2004, and in the four years since then he still hasn't faced a particle of the Klieg light Sarah Palin's had to face in just the past 2 weeks--and that's in spite of his lying, his adultery, and the way he combs his hair. But back when Edwards was still considered a serious moral entity, (at least by the national press, who don't know any better), he airily dismissed not only the Bush doctrine, but the global terror war that led to so much of it, with this explanation:

“This political language has created a frame that is not accurate and that Bush and his gang have used to justify anything they want to do....It's been used to justify a whole series of things that are not justifiable, ranging from the war in Iraq, to torture, to violation of the civil liberties of Americans, to illegal spying on Americans. Anyone who speaks out against these things is treated as unpatriotic. I also think it suggests that there's a fixed enemy that we can defeat with just a military campaign. I just don't think that's true.”

So when Sarah heard the question from Gibson, she thought she'd ask him to be just a teeny bit more precise about just what he had in mind with the phrase “Bush doctrine.” Through gritted teeth, Gibson unpacked it for her, or the small bits of it he misunderstood. The Bush Doctrine, he lectured,

“as I understand it, is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense; that we have the right to a preemptive strike against any other country that we think is going to attack us. Do you agree with that?”

In response, Palin said, “Charlie, if there is legitimate and enough intelligence that tells us that a strike is imminent against American people, we have every right to defend our country. In fact, the president has the obligation, the duty to defend.”

The truth of it is the Left lassoes only the one element of the Bush doctrine, namely the possibility of resort to preemptive war if necessary, as the entire Bush policy, instead of only one contingent part of it. And because the Left construes pre-emptive American military action--especially if it's done without that coveted “permission slip” that only the U.N. can give--as the moral equivalent of what an unprovoked nuclear first-strike on the USSR would have been at the height of the Cold War.

Never mind that after five years of the Bush doctrine we still have not launched nukes against Iran or North Korea, nor sent divisions into Pakistan. Nor that even the wobbliest obstructionist nations of Western Europe have, as time has passed--even France, even Germany--come over to our side--to Bush's side--in foreign policy matters--rendering to a nullity the endless crying about the loss of American prestige in the world. It doesn't matter, because nothing can lessen the unimaginable horror for the Left that, in their minds, is connoted by the phrase, "the Bush Doctrine." Even if Gibson didn’t intend to use the expression in the worst possible way, the wide-open manner he threw it at Governor Palin was the juiciest possible enticement to the wackiest of his anti-Palin viewers to fill in its meaning with all the sinister content they could manage.

Thus, Governor Palin was challenged to answer out loud and on the record an unspoken set of premises that, variously, would have sounded something like this in the entertainment rooms of America's Democrats:

GIBSON: “Governor Palin, do you agree with the Bush doctrine of arrogant, cowboy diplomacy cum warmongering, by which the USA engages in unilateral invasions at the drop of a hat, intending to impose our imperialistic, oil-stealing, racist policies of torture on nations that never did anything to us, while thumbing our nose at a disapproving international community, for the base purposes of enriching Dick Cheney's friends and other oilmen, destroying America’s reputation in the world, and establishing a Third Reich bent on silencing critics who speak truth to power, and all in exchange for not making us any safer than we were before 9/11?”

PALIN: “Why, yes, Charlie. Yes, I do agree with the Bush doctrine.”

Knowing about the trap, or even just sensing it, enabled Governor Palin to do the right thing by forcing Gibson to clarify exactly what he was after. Sure enough, when he did define what he meant by the Bush doctrine, his bias came right through.

So score one more for Palin. Let them write their silly headlines about how “clueless” she is on foreign policy. We already knew when Palin agreed to a sit-down with the MSM that the morning-after press was going to find fault. The only issue was how bad it would be. What Gibson was going for, and didn’t get, were headlines this morning reading something like this:

Palin Promises Four More Years of Bush’s Shoot-First, Go-It-Alone Strategy.

That didn’t happen. That’s one more for the good guys.

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