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Notice: U.S. WMD Retaliation Doctrine Has Changed

By See-Dubya  •  April 10, 2008 11:02 AM

See-Dubya’s foreign policy roundup:

There’s a very important catch in the Weekly Standard by spy-dude Elbridge Colby, who notes a crucial change in our plans to respond to terrorist use of WMD’s. We’ve long held that states which assist in WMD terror would be held accountable. But February 8, we expanded our potential retribution schedule:

Instead of merely threatening that states that support terror attacks will be held responsible–already a staple of U.S. policy–Hadley goes further, threatening non-state actors who “enabl[e]” terrorists to strike with WMD. This careful choice of words would seem to expand our retaliatory standard to encompass complicity and perhaps even negligence. Not only states, but groups and individuals as well, should now be on notice that they will be held accountable for participation in, support for, complicity in, or even negligence in the face of WMD strikes against the United States or its allies. This strategy makes a great deal of sense; catastrophic terrorism is a threat that both justifies and requires a more exacting standard of behavior.

Individuals? Whoever could they mean?

But an ounce of prevention beats a megaton of retaliation. McCain was asked yesterday whether “he would reject ‘the Bush doctrine of pre-emptive war,'” and his answer was a good one:

“If someone is about to launch a weapon that would devastate America, or have the capability to do so, obviously, you would have to act immediately in defense of this nation’s national security interests.”

It’s pretty much a softball for a Republican nominee, or at least it ought to be. I’d really like to hear this question pitched to Hillary and Obama as well. Do they believe the bad guys ought to get a free shot at us before we could do anything to them? Would they hear the words “Bush Doctrine” and reflexively repudiate a sound policy?

Finally, the New York Times has a surprisingly good and thorough look at the battle between two foreign policy camps over “John McCain’s soul”. It’s pitched as a battle between “neocons” and “pragmatists”, but those terms are fairly meaningless. The supposedly idealistic neocons are the ones laughing at the United Nations, and the “pragmatists” are all about going along with it. John Bolton isn’t usually considered a neocon, but using those anti-UN criteria he certainly qualifies. And Max Boot, whom I discussed here as being burned out on NATO, is listed as one of the neos as well. On the other side:

The worry about Mr. McCain is centered among a group of foreign policy realists who have long been close to him and who lost out to the hawks in the intense ideological battles of the first term of the current White House. The group includes former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, former Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage and Brent Scowcroft, the national security adviser to the first President Bush.

I wouldn’t lightly send you over to the New York Times, but this is a good road map to who’s who in McCainland and what they think.

UPDATE: One of the players on the neocon side mentioned in the NY Times article is Robert Kagan. Right now I’m reading through a new essay by Kagan on neoconservatism, what it means, and what it doesn’t–and the influence it had on the decision to fight in Iraq. It’s long and thinky so far, but not dull, and I’d rather hear what he says neoconservatism means than what the New York Times says it does. Good one to print out and read on the train home, or while you’re waiting for a flight.

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Categories: John McCain, Politics