Friday, May 21, 2004

Bush and preemption

Last Sunday, CSPAN's Booknotes interviewed John Lewis Gaddis (the dean of Cold War historians) on his new book. The whole interview can be found here. This excerpt is worth noting:

LAMB: Where do you find yourself, looking at this from your own vantage point, saying -- is this is a good idea, what he`s [i.e. Bush] doing?

GADDIS: I think the strategy itself, which was most clearly laid out in the national strategy statement of September, 2002, makes a lot of sense because I do take very seriously the new kind of danger that confronts us. The fact that just this small gang starting from caves in Afghanistan were able to organize an attack that did so much damage, that killed more people than Pearl Harbor did, indicates a new kind of vulnerability that not just we but the entire world now confronts, whether from weapons of mass destruction or what we saw on September 11, which was just instruments of conventional life used for the purpose of mass destruction -- box cutters and airplanes. I think that`s a new situation which really does require a new strategy. And I think there`s little question that where you confront that kind of danger, preemption is the option that you have to think about.

I don`t think this means a repudiation of containment and deterrence. And the Bush strategy statement has been pretty explicit, that you still want to practice those strategies when you`re dealing with states. But the problem is, states are no longer the only problem we face. Non-state actors, gangs, are the problem, as well. And to try to contain someone who is invisible or to try to deter somebody who is prepared to commit suicide doesn`t make much sense. So something more is needed, and that`s been the argument of the administration.

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