The Bush Doctrine and Just War Theory 121

The Bush Doctrine and Just War Theory
Dale T. Snauwaert
On September 11, 2001 the people of the United States and the world endured a heinous act of terrorism. That act has lead to the “War on Terrorism” and the redefinition of American foreign policy and its national security strategy. Does this new strategy, what is referred to as the Bush Doctrine, constitute a “just”, that is, morally justifiable, response to terrorism? The lens through which this analysis is conducted is the moral calculus offered by the “Just War” ethical tradition. The Bush Administration has crafted an extensively publicized and executed policy response to the events of September 11. The question before us is that response just? This question is complex, for the Bush Administration response integrates principles of justice with a power-based national security strategy. It is a combination of the war on terrorism and a grand strategy of global leadership (perhaps hegemony) and the preclusion of rivals, regional and/or global. This combination constitutes a national security policy that posits the moral justifiability of a radical doctrine: “preemptive action.” The thesis of this paper is that, when linked to the new global strategy, the Bush Doctrine of preemption is not morally justifiable. In what follows, the Bush Doctrine will be summarized and then an ethical analysis of it will be offered in accordance with the principles of Just War Theory.1 This paper concerns an analysis of the moral justifiability of the Bush Doctrine from the perspective of that tradition; it does not portend to address the validity of the Just War tradition itself.2

War on Terrorism, the Bush Doctrine, and Global Strategy
The terrorist attacks on 9/11 were immediately, within a matter of hours, conceived by the Bush administration as an act of war; an alternative conception would have been to understand the action as an international crime against humanity. The...