In the coming election George W. Bush will be billed as the national security candidate.  His image in a jumpsuit on the Lincoln will be burned in America's retinas.  Polls have consistently shown that much of the public has already accepted this characterization, and many have argued that this will be an insurmountable problem for any Democrat, perhaps with the exception of General Wesley Clark.  However, the test run of the Bush Doctrine is only now unfolding in its vast implications and consequences, and a handful of extremely significant problems remain with little hint of how they will be resolved.  Several of these problems have gone largely unmentioned in both the media and on the Hill, but they may arise as serious questions if Americans are forced to decide whether the Bush Doctrine is a tenable and effective national security strategy.

      1)WMD: The recent controversy concerning the forged documents relating to Niger has elevated the question of credibility to the level of a potential disaster for the administration, whose explanations have met with much skepticism as well as outright denial from critical individuals.  The possibility that the administration not only manipulated intelligence but proceeded to issue what appear to be cover stories, has many discussing the possibility of resignations in the highest levels of the administration, up to and including Dick Cheney.  The issue has crystallized many suspicions from Bush's opponents about the intelligence case at large, and a prospective Democratic inquiry would likely conclude that the claims about Iraq's nuclear weapons program and Al Qaeda connection were based on little or no credible evidence.  Both claims have been refuted by international watchdog groups and intelligence agencies, including Britain's.  These investigations are important not so much for the sake of assessing blame for deeds that are already done, but rather for assessing the competence and integrity of intelligence for the further advancement of Bush's foreign policy agenda.   As George Will has argued, a policy of preemption relies on impeccable intelligence assessments of potential threats, and cannot operate on intelligence as flawed as that which the CIA and Rumsfeld's Office of Special Plans have produced.

                  But the greater problem for the Bush Doctrine may be the possibility that Saddam did possess chemical or biological weapons.  If such weapons do still exist and are usable, then they are either in the hands of terrorists already, or remain hidden some place where they could be collected by anybody who knows where they are, and that person could do with them as they pleased.  The one man who certainly knows where they are, and who has an unquenchable desire for revenge on the U.S., Saddam Hussein, is still at large.   It is distinctly possible that a war fought to eliminate the threat of Saddam's weapons has instead precipitated it directly.  Worse still, the CIA warned of that exact possibility in the fall of 2002.  If the Bush Doctrine, which is ostensibly motivated by a desire to aggressively eliminate threatening WMD does not have a method to contain those weapons once action is taken, the policy becomes a reckless endangerment of America's citizens and interests, rather than a staunch defense of them.

      2)Troops Stretched Thin:  The President has recently felt pressure to intervene in Liberia.  The move would presumably require a modest number of troops and an even more modest number of casualties.  It would draw wide support across the world, and would serve to quiet critics at home and abroad who have charged that Bush's rhetoric about "liberation" was purely a cover for ulterior motives in Iraq.   The problem that has emerged, however, is that American troops are already stretched to thin to cover even such a minor operation.  News coverage in Iraq and testimonials from troops stationed there reveal that America's administration of the country is dangerously understaffed, with only a few dozen troops being placed in charge of entire towns who grant them no legitimacy in their rule.  In such a position, America is extremely vulnerable.  Any major war that erupts during the Iraq occupation, planned to be at least 4-5 years, would quickly drain U.S. military capabilities, and would immediately bring the resurrection of the draft.  The question of whether making such an enormous and debilitating commitment of troops to eliminate a threat from Iraq, which now seems hazy at best, is one that national security experts cannot ignore.  Afghanistan has already fallen back into a largely anarchic state, and without more troops to secure the country from Warlords and terrorist organizations, there is very little the U.S. can do.  Most importantly, the Bush Doctrine continues to maintain a stance that it would rather go to war than make concessions to lesser powers.  While this posture may play well to American pride, America will be ill-prepared if any country takes Bush up on the offer.

      3)International Opinion:  It is nearly universally acknowledged that much of Bush's success in capturing terrorists and preventing planned attacks is owed to international cooperation.  The vast majority of captures have occurred abroad in Europe and Pakistan.  If America continues to assert itself as unchallenged hegemon, there can be little doubt that it will hurt this cooperation.  In Europe, aggressive law enforcement efforts against terrorism depend on funding, and at that critical time of crafting budgets, Bush's policies and attitudes will not be forgotten.  In Pakistan, Bush has created such animosity that continued support from Musharraf increasingly puts his rule at risk, and there may be limits to how much Musharraf can do while maintaining the minimal support necessary for his regime to survive.

                  International polls have shown that international opinion of Bush, and to a lesser extent the U.S., has plummeted.  In the Arab world approval ratings have dropped below 10% in many nations.  It is unfortunate, and few citizens or politicians have been willing to wrestle with the fact openly, but it is probable that the variable of Arab opinion has the single greatest correlation to the seriousness of the threat of terrorism directed at the United States.  Bin Laden's recruiting platform, arguing that America is an aggressive empire, has gained tremendous credence across the Middle East, and most terrorism experts argue that America's vulnerability has increased as a result of Bush's policies.  The administration combats this problem with claims that in the long term the Bush Doctrine will ease tensions with the Middle East, but the poor planning for the Iraq occupation has cast doubt on exactly how careful and reliable such long-term plans might be.

      4)Saudi Arabia:  The subject of Saudi Arabia has been kept quiet in Washington, largely because so much of the Washington power structure is entwined in various ways with the corrupt Saudi Royal family.  But the administration is in fact on a collision course with Saudi Arabia.  To be sure, they are digging in their heels to prevent it, but it appears that it may be inevitable.  The problem begins with the Saudi government's support of terrorism, which has been more a case of issuing protection money to save themselves than subversive aggression towards the U.S.  The family's hold on power is tenuous, and they must give concessions to the fundamentalists to prevent a revolution.  If Islamists were to come into power, either through revolution or democratic reform, it would spell disaster of the worst kind for this administration.  Approximately 35% of the world's oil, on which America and particularly the corporate class is utterly dependent, would fall into the hands of America's declared enemies.  The threat of cutting off or blowing up Saudi Arabia's oil industry would arguably be a deterrent equivalent to a nuclear bomb for this administration, and it would completely undermine Bush's posture of domination without concession. Such a scenario could finally bring Middle East doomsday warnings towards reality.  When Paul Wolfowitz recently stated that amongst many motivations for the war in Iraq, removing bases from Saudi territory was "a big one", he meant that the administration was trying to sustain the rule of the Saudi Royals by lowering Islamist tensions.  The propping up of the family has played no small part in fostering a 3% U.S. approval rating amongst Saudi citizens, and the rage against the corrupt regime is only growing stronger.  The administration will have no stronger urge to preempt a threat than in this case, and a private defense briefing held by Richard Perle in which a RAND Corporation representative advocated regime change in Saudi Arabia and occupation of their oil fields is an indication that the administration is already planning for this eventuality. While the threat might be averted if American foreign policy demonstrated more concern for Arab opinion, the Bush doctrine seems to have put the two nations on an unalterable trajectory towards confrontation.

      5)North Korea:  The public declaration and pursuit of the Bush Doctrine was designed to intimidate foreign nations into submission and disarmament, but in some cases it seems to have had an opposite effect.  North Korea, as well as perhaps Iran, has sprinted towards the nuclear finish line.  Even many hawks now concede that North Korea has by now crossed the threshold of a credible threat of force from America, as America could not initiate a nuclear war.  Kim Jong Il now stands as the truest nuclear threat for America since the fall of the Soviet Union.  Again, the threat could be eliminated if North Korea were given the aid it is requesting, but the Bush Doctrine, which hinges on and is dependent upon a posture of domination without concession, dictates that America must suffer through an open-ended detente with North Korea which will cost a great deal more than the aid Kim Jong Il is requesting.  While it would essentially be succumbing to blackmail, it seems difficult to argue that America should instead allow the North Korean dictator to expand and refine his nuclear program, and live with nuclear weapons pointed at American soil with Kim Jong Il's finger on the trigger for possibly decades on end.  Again, the Bush Doctrine plays well to American pride, but for the next election Americans might have to soul-search in order to decide whether clinging to pride is worth the risk.

                  There are more general questions as well: Since Saddam Hussein did not pose an immanent threat, and "liberation" was clearly an afterthought, what then were the true motivations?  If it comes to choosing between forfeiting control over Iraq, its oil, and military bases on the one hand, and rising American casualties on the other, what will this administration do?   Why has the international community not been allowed to share the burden of reconstruction?  Who forged the uranium documents in the first place (Chalabi's INC is a likely suspect)?  Can America stand like a "colossus straddling the globe" if the nation has no credibility left?

      The Bush Doctrine is revolutionary, and it is easy to forget that as such it is a grand experiment.  Now that the test run is unfolding, these problems loom large, and so far the administration has given no hint of having solutions at hand.  As of now media attention and political criticism remain localized on hot button issues, but by November, 2004 Bush may have to defend his his revolution as a whole.

      Jesse Lee is a recent graduate of Trinity College in Hartford with a degree in Political Science and Philosophy. He works as a paralegal in Washington, D.C. where he was born and raised. He also volunteers with MoveOn and The Education for Peace in Iraq Center (EPIC).  He encourages your comments at This article is copyright by Jesse Lee and  originally published by but permission is granted for reprint in print, email, blog, or web media so long as this credit is attached.