Bush Expands His Unilateral Warfare Doctrine

11/28/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011
  • Jacob Heilbrunn Author, "They Knew They Were Right: the Rise of the Neocons"

Thought that the Bush administration was going to go quietly into the night? Think again. With his unilateral military strike this weekend four miles inside Syrian territory against an Iraqi insurgent leader, landing boots on the ground and thumbing his nose at the notion of Syrian sovereignty, Bush made it abundantly clear that he is expanding the notion, known in the parlance of international law as "anticipatory self-defense," which helped served as the fig-leaf of justification for his war against Iraq. Now, in a speech today at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Defense Secretary Robert Gates spelled out Bush's message even more explicitly, which appears to be anything but peaceful. According to Gates,

"Today we also make clear that the United States will hold any state, terrorist group or other non-state actor or individual fully accountable for supporting or enabling terrorist efforts to obtain or use weapons of mass destruction -- whether by facilitating, financing or providing expertise or safe haven for such efforts."

Yikes! Them's fightin' words, if I ever heard them.

Now, obviously, the U.S. would act if it has firm information to stop terrorists, which is what Barack Obama was saying when he declared that he would take out Osama bin-Laden were Pakistan was unable to carry out the job. But the problem with the Bush administration's definition of preemptive action is that it's phrased so vaguely and broadly as to legitimize just about any military action, whenever and wherever it pleases. In other words, it means that the U.S. can run roughshod over any country it pleases by announcing that it has discovered that country A or B is supporting or enabling terrorists.

So the bottom line is this: the administration continues to attempt to expand relentlessly the powers of the presidency in the most important sphere of the presidency -- waging war. Congress doesn't even figure in this scheme except as a passive bystander, compliantly cheering on the commander-in-chief. So much for the Constitution. If you thought Bush was bad, just imagine what John "we are all Georgians now" McCain would do with this kind of untrammeled, monarchical power.