Feature

Is the U.S. Readying Another ‘Preventive War’?

The Bush administration specifically mentioned Iran in its recently updated ‘preventive war’ doctrine, leaving many to question the plans of the U.S.

Has the U.S. learned nothing from the Iraq debacle? asked Belgium's De Standaard in an editorial. The Bush administration just updated its national security strategy for the first time in four years, and it actually reaffirmed the doctrine of 'œpreventive war.' Under the doctrine, the U.S. reserves the right to invade any country if it has 'œsuspicions, however vague, that the country poses a possible threat.' Adopting this illegal policy back in 2002 was indefensible, but at least it was somewhat understandable. It was just a year after the 9/11 attacks, and the U.S. was jittery. But now the U.S. has the experience of the Iraq war, a war of 'œpre-emption' on an enemy that, it turns out, had no weapons of mass destruction. It is 'œmind-boggling' that the Americans still believe in a strategy that so flagrantly failed them.

Amazingly, American leaders don't see it as a failure, said Pablo Pardo in Spain's El Mundo. They argue that the point of pre-emption was to make sure that Saddam Hussein would never attack them with weapons of mass destruction. And now he never can! That he couldn't have done so in the first place is apparently beside the point, because he made them fear he could. The doctrine specifically notes that 'œlies and bluffs are a dangerous game that dictators play at their peril.' That sentence is both an excuse for the Iraq war and a warning about the coming showdown with Iran. Indeed, threats against Iran permeate the entire 49-page strategy document. Where the 2002 doctrine mentioned Iraq only once, the 2006 doctrine 'œnames Iran 16 times.' It calls Iran the world's leading supporter of terrorism, and threatens 'œconfrontation' if diplomatic efforts to halt Iran's nuclear weapons programs are not successful.

Still, this doctrine is actually less bellicose than its predecessor, said Philippe Gélie in France's Le Figaro. There's much more 'œemphasis on international alliances' than before. And it includes page after page on 'œspreading democracy,' saying that the safety of Americans depends to a great extent on freedom and democracy for oppressed peoples. The preventive war option is treated as a policy of last resort.

A. Rüesch

Neue Zürcher Zeitung

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