On June 1, 2002, in an address at West Point, U.S. President George W. Bush announced a new set of foreign policy principles that has come to be known as the “Bush Doctrine.” The doctrine consists of three basic elements. First, the United States would no longer rely solely on “Cold War doctrines of containment and deterrence,” but would instead pursue a strategy of preemptive intervention in order to “take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans and confront the worst threats before they emerge.” Second, the United States would concentrate on exporting democracy, since “the requirements of freedom apply fully to Africa, Latin America, and the entire Islamic world.” Finally, the United States would maintain its military supremacy beyond challenge, “thereby making the destabilizing arms races of other eras pointless, and limiting rivalries to trade and other pursuits of peace.” In September 2002, the Bush administration released the National Security Strategy of the United States, which formalized these three elements of the Bush Doctrine: preemptive strike, promotion of democracy, and military supremacy.
It was widely reported in the Western press that the Bush Doctrine had strong roots in the neoconservative school of thought in the United States. Early drafts of former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz’s report Defense Planning Guidance contained the three basic elements of the Bush Doctrine as early as 1992. In 1997, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, William Kristol, and Robert Kagan founded the Project for the New American Century. In August 18, 1997, Irving Kristol, the father of William Kristol and U.S. neoconservatism, predicted the rise of the neoconservative ideology in a Wall Street Journal article entitled “The Emerging American Imperium”:
One of these days, the American people are going to awaken to the fact that we have become an imperial nation, even though public opinion and all of our political traditions are hostile to the idea. It is no overweening ambition on our part that has deaned our destiny in this way, nor is it any kind of conspiracy by a foreign policy elite. It happened because the world wanted it to happen, needed it to happen, and signaled this need by a long series of relatively minor crises that could not be resolved except by some American involvement.
In light of the similarity of their views, it does not seem surprising that George W. Bush awarded Irving Kristol the Presidential Medal of Freedom on July 9, 2002.
The preemptive strategy articulated by the Bush administration is not a recent creation. Rather it has ancient roots reaching as far back as the Roman Empire and was a key Roman Imperial tactic that Cicero forcefully advocated:
How can you believe that the man who has lived so licentiously up to the present time will not proceed to every extreme of insolence, if he shall also secure the authority given by arms? Do not, then, wait until you have suffered some such treatment and then rue it, but be on your guard before you suffer; for it is rash to allow dangers to come upon you and then to repent of it, when you might have anticipated them . . .
The similarity between the sentiments expressed by Cicero in the above passage and the Bush administration’s recent rhetoric allude to the idea that there are some Classical scholars among the neoconservatives.
Many scholars have since explored the far-reaching implications of the Bush doctrine, but few have addressed the doctrine from a Chinese perspective. How have Chinese intellectuals perceived and responded to the Bush Doctrine? Naturally, there are many divergent viewpoints, but the main perspective can be easily identified. Chinese scholars have emphasized the continuity of the Bush Doctrine with President Clinton’s foreign policy, and consider the Bush Doctrine as the culmination and maturation of the United States’ post–Cold War grand strategy.