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September 13, 2008

Palin, Krauthammer, Bush and Barry Bonds
Posted by Ilan Goldenberg

So the new too cute by half clever argument about Palin's lack of understanding of the Bush doctrine is that the Bush administration has had a number of doctrines over the past eight years so asking for clarification was technically correct.  At least that's what Peter Feaver, Charles Krauthammer, and Michael Gordon are all saying. 

Here's the problem: while technically they are correct that the Bush Doctrine has shifted over time in common parlance the Bush doctrine clearly refers to the doctrine of preventive war that was used to justify the Iraq War.  That much is obvious to anyone who has followed the issue.  None of the elements of of President's Bush' foreign policy philosophy ever got the same level of attention as that doctrine, which was really seen as a massive shift when it was announced in 2002.  Thousands of pages of ink were spilled on this question and it was the central foreign policy debate of the 2004 campaign.  If someone were to ask Feaver, Krauthammer or Gordon what their thoughts on the Bush doctrine were, they would know exactly what the person was asking.

To think of this in another way, if I were to ask someone, "Do you think that Barry Bonds' record should have an asterisk on it?", I would expect them to know which record I was talking about.  If they were to answer, "Which record?", my assumption would be that they didn't know all that much about baseball.  I obviously would not be referring to Barry Bonds the all time leader in base on balls or record holder for most league MVPs.  No.  I'd be talking about his 762 Home runs.  Because that is the record that is so controversial.  The one that has elicited so much debate and the one that is the main source of controversy.  To assume anything else would be technically correct, but also incredibly stupid.

People can make all the excuses they want.  But the reality is that if Sarah Palin had been paying attention to the huge foreign policy debate going on in this country over the past few years she would have known exactly what Charlie Gibson was talking about.


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You guys are just digging yourself a deeper hole here with your strange obsession with this question. The point is to find out what Sarah Palin knows about the world and the US position in it, not to find out how much she knows about the way IR academics describe the world. If I could give a half hour oral exam to Palin, here are some of the things I would ask her to test her knowledge.

1. Where is North Ossetia located?

2. Which two African countries have the greatest proven oil reserves on the African continent?

3. How many US soldiers are stationed in South Korea?

4. Of which of the following International Organizations is the US a member?

a. The Gulf Cooperation Council
b. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations
c. The Organization of American States
d. The Group of Eight
e. The Shanghai Cooperation Council
f. The African Union

5. Where is Camp Bondsteel located? Which private US company played a large role in its construction?

6. Where is the Incirlik Air Base located?

7. Name a US military base in Japan.

8. Name a US military base in Italy.

9. The Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline flows runs through Tbilisi in Georgia. In which countries are Baku and Ceyhan located? Does the oil flow from Baku to Ceyhan or from Ceyhan to Baku?

10. Where is Kashmir, and why is it a significant place?

11. Where is the planned Nord Stream natural gas pipeline to be located? What major body of water will it cross? What effect will this pipeline have on Eastern European countries such as Ukraine, Poland and Belarus? Explain your answer.

12. How many countries are in NATO? When was NATO formed? How many founding countries were in NATO when it was originally formed? How many countries have been admitted since the collapse of the Soviet Union?

13. How many permanent members are there of the UN security council? Name them.

14. Describe some of the changes that have occurred to the map of Eastern Europe since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

15. Which country currently has sovereignty over the Suez canal? Over the Panama canal?

16. Which countries are known to possess nuclear weapons?

17. What is the subject of UN Security Council Resolution 242? When was it passed?

18. Where is the headquarters of the Russian Pacific Fleet?

19. What is the responsibility of the US Central Command (CENTCOM)? Where is CENTCOM headquartered?

20. Where is the US European Command Headquartered?

21. Which Middle East country is closest to the African nation of Djibouti?

22. Explain the difference between the roles of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank?

23. Approximately how many active or operational nuclear warheads are in the US nuclear arsenal? About many of these are on land based strategic nuclear missiles? About how many are on submarines?

24. Approximately how much US debt is held by Chinese financial institutions?

25. Which countries share a border with Iran?

26. How many active aircraft carriers does the US have in the Kitty-Hawk class, Enterprise class and Nimitz class combined?

27. Which of these countries have a Caspian Sea coastline:

a. Tajikstan
b. Kazakhstan
d. Turkmenistan
e. Uzbekistan

28. What is the most commonly spoken language in Brazil?

29. What is the most prominent religion in India?

30. Which country had the higher Gross Domestic Product in 2007, the US or China? How much higher is it?

a. 1 1/4 times
b. 1 1/2 times
c. 2 times
d. 3 times
e. 4 times
f. 5 times
g. 6 times
h. More than 6 times.

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You're missing the real damage here. Gibson has mis-described Bush's pre-emption doctrine so that it sounds reasonable.

Democrats who oppose the so-described Bush Doctrine believe that if the US thinks a country or terrorist group is about to attack us, the US must not preemptively attack? That's a great way to let the GOP be considered the party of national security for another 4 years.

c.l. ball is quite right. And when Gibson did "clarify" the question for Palin, and mis-describe the Bush doctrine as asserting only the by no means radical belief in the right of pre-emption, a right generally acknowledged under international law, she ended up endorsing only that more reasonable doctrine.

This site is usually known for serious foreign policy discussion, and the authors know better than to play fast and loose with these issues. The hasty and incoherent pouncing upon this particular part of the Gibson-Palin exchange in search of a cheap and quick "gotcha" reeks of desperation and dishonesty.

You analogy with Barry Bonds records is incongruous. Just because everyone has the same idea of what Barry Bonds did doesn't inherently mean everyone one has the same idea of what "Bush Doctrine" means. No offense, but that logic is about as illogical as a fish on a bicycle.

Among supporters I'm sure the Bush Doctrine is well understood to mean Bush thinks he can bomb anyone he wants without provocation, and they use that 2002 document as proof. 2 things:

1) Not everyone is a supporter. In fact you'll find that most people are not, and so what they've heard about the Bush Doctrine is a little more mainstream. Of course, since Charlie and all liberal pundits have made a big deal that everyone knows it's about preemptive strikes everyone now agrees ... I mean who's a big enough fool to admit the emperor is really naked?!

2) It's a patently false claim to say the Bush Doctrine even involves the right to pre-emptively strike any nation it deems as a threat. I challenge you to read the original 2002 document and show me where it is referring to "any" state (as opposed to a rogue state engaging in terrorism activities):

Don't hurt yourself looking for it, because it isn't there. In fact, as you can see, the whole document is with reference only to rogue states that are engaged in and openly threaten to target civilians and non-combatants with the intent to kill them and incite terror into the general populace.

That's a far cry from what Charlie Gibson indicated the Bush Doctrine was.

In fact, if you read the whole document ( you'll see that Palin was more correct than Gibson. The document is about protecting us from terrorists (at the time specifically it was Islamic terrorists), and mentioned a number of strategies including "enhanced diplomacy" and "building coalitions" among many other things.

But I'd have to say Gibson's main gaffe (and I'm departing somewhat from Krauthammer here) was not in just suggesting a less popular definition as the main definition, but that the definition that Bush advocates pre-emptive strikes to ANY nation that might be threatening. The 2002 document makes it clear that only rogue terrorist-friendly states fit the criteria of pre-emptive strike criteria. What's more such a doctrine against terrorism should be so intuitively intrinsic to any peace loving state that the mere mention seems unnecessary to me.

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