Blogs > Cliopatria > Lee P. Ruddin: Review of Robert G. Kaufman’s In Defense of the Bush Doctrine (University Press of Kentucky, 2007)

Jun 9, 2007 1:22 am

Lee P. Ruddin: Review of Robert G. Kaufman’s In Defense of the Bush Doctrine (University Press of Kentucky, 2007)

Bushites have had to endure five years of wishy-washy, nonsensical, morally-equivalencing pamphlets. From Noam Chomsky through Jimmy Carter—via John Pilger, Tariq Ali and Michael Moore—such dhimmi-like works offer-up little more scholarship than the language stamped across the T-shirts of placard-wielding terrorist-sympathizers (who regard it as their god-given right to hijack all events). Save for Fred Barnes and the magisterial work(s) of Niall Ferguson, Colin Gray, Rob Singh, Tim Lynch and Douglas Murray—all from across the pond mind you—few ripostes have been forthcoming. Robert G. Kaufman—recently courted by presidential wannabes John McCain and Rudy Giuliani—author of In Defense of the Bush Doctrine, is the latest apostle to join this distinguished and coveted (or, very soon to be) coterie of scholars espousing their doctrinal faith. “The grenade lobbed into the cosy tea party of received wisdom,” to quote Max Hastings, in relation to Niall Ferguson’s latest masterpiece—best sums up this title.

Studies into ‘isms’ are not too inviting for they are habitually abstract and incoherent; however, this tome will not disillusion political science students any further. For the record, this is no polemic. Kaufman succeeds in his aim to provide both a theoretical and historical source in defense of the Bush Doctrine. Kaufman’s water-tight case navigates the post-September 11 sea-change in international affairs, course-plotting through the sea-lanes of International Relations theory cruising to geographically diverse ports taking history aboard. All this makes for a memorable voyage.

Edward Said’s is “Orientalism,” Francis Fukuyama’s is “The End of History,” Samuel Huntington’s is “The Clash of Civilizations,” Norman Podhoretz’s is “World War IV”; Robert Kaufman’s will undoubtedly be “moral democratic realism.”

Kaufman distinguishes between moral democratic realism and the three predominant schools of thought subscribed to in what Henry Luce coined, the “American Century”: isolationism, liberal multilateralism and realism (neo and classical). Ever since the days of Woodrow Wilson, foreign policy mandarins have defined the tyranny of their adversary as the root cause of the conflict. Bush is no different. No overview could possibly do justice to Kaufman’s cerebral analysis here. It is unputdownable.

Kaufman chastises amoral Nixonian/Kissingerian realpolitik favoring Trumanian/Reaganite muscular vigilance-cum-messianism; for the latter were triumphant in that they pooled sagacity for power politics with a moral-democratic fixation for ideology and regime dynamic. Presidents who only did one or the other—such as the liberal multilateralist Jimmy Carter or the realist Richard Nixon—were, as Kaufman pens, not only less than successful but presided over a nadir in American foreign policy. Worse still, trawling back further in time, Senator Taft’s philosophy created a world safe for the ilk of Hitler, Mussolini and Tojo; similarly, a Buchanan-like isolationist stance today would embolden the Mullahs in Iran. Let us take a Fergusonian perspective: “Anyone who looks forward eagerly to an American retreat from hegemony should bear in mind that rather than a multipolar world of competing great powers, a world with no hegemon may be the real alternative to U.S. primacy. Apolarity could turn out to mean not the pacifist utopia envisaged in John Lennon’s dirge “Imagine,” but an anarchic new Dark age” (Colossus: p.xxii-iii).

An attention-grabbing parallel leaps out at the reader regarding the Philosopher-King-like relationship (or lack of) between the Ford White House on the one hand and the Bush White House on the other à propos dissidents. Unlike 1975 when President Ford refused to meet with the Soviet dissident and author, Alexander Solzhenitsyn (Gulag Archipelago), George Bush, a generation on, in 2004, met with former Soviet dissident and author, Natan Sharansky (The Case for Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror). Why the policy change you ask? Well, it all comes down to realism and neoconservatism—sorry, mean moral democratic realism (for Kaufman does not adequately distinguish between the two for me: p.90). Both of the titles present a provocative moral case chronicling “the grotesque horrors” of totalitarianism, in all its forms; one discarded to the proverbial dustbin of history (pp.62, 104-105), the latter placed on the Oval Office bookshelf was a leitmotif in both Bush’s Inaugural Address and State of the Union speech (2005).   

Bush is said to be a narrow-minded, arrogant revolutionary. History says otherwise. Bush’s meeting with Sharansky harks all the way back to Plato’s day. Plato claims it is a common fact of life that people seek counsel solely from experts in a particular field. For example, in the Theaetetus, Plato says:
"…wherever human life and work goes on, you find everywhere men seeking teachers and masters…."

After a triumphant Eighties—a “Weightless Decade”—the Noughties are the midwife to a doctrine that will duly survive its brave originator for it is vastly superior to the alternatives (indeed, such a hegemonic foreign policy doctrine ought to repel the sterility of partisan debate); you only need to read this hardback to comprehend why and how history will be kind to Bush, for he has written it. Kaufman’s text illuminates that, as written elsewhere by the precocious essayist, Douglas Murray, “there are still some who are willing to stand between the cowards and the barbarians and plant the flag of reason.”

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Saiful Ullah - 7/19/2007

Does anybody else in an intellectual arena find such language as "dhimmi works" laughable? The article then goes on and cites Chomsky, Ali and Moore as the "strongest" critics of the Bush doctrine with academic works that echo the rhetoric of terrorist sympathisers.

Such intellectual insecurity is rife across the Western world, reinforced with the bogus Jihad vs McWorld notion that there is no alternative to the Bush doctrine in a civilized world.

Believe not the candour of the supporters of this doctrine who'd put conveniences above amelioration.

Righteous Bubba - 7/4/2007

I salute the satirist.

Lorraine Paul - 7/2/2007

I would like to be on a desert island with this reviewer. If he, and the work being reviewed, can present Bush's dangerously pathetic, limping policies, both domestic and foreign, into a 'doctrine', one can only imagine the feast he could make out of a cup of water and a rotten egg!!

Gerald Ford did what every president should harm!!