1. Skip to navigation
  2. Skip to content
  3. Skip to sidebar

The Ludwig von Mises Institute

Advancing Austrian Economics, Liberty, and Peace

Advancing the scholarship of liberty in the tradition of the Austrian School

Search Mises.org

The Bushnev Doctrine

Mises Daily: Monday, September 30, 2002 by

A
A

'Bushnev'The statement given by the Bush administration to Congress and now available online, entitled "The National Security Strategy of the United States," must be read to be believed. Its historical points are dubious, its economics misleading, and its social theory a heap of dangerous half- or third-truths.

The overriding theme is an arrogant presumption and a near-hysterical assertion of "world mission." This great mission is rooted in a peculiarly American religious heresy, whose language has been taken over by interested power-seekers and state-connected economic interests, who give many signs of actually believing their own propaganda.

Any attempt to come to grips with this intellectual production must involve translation as well as commentary. The memo moves in its own closed-thought world. Every ungrounded abstraction and every argumentative turn therein presupposes peculiar meanings for common words, meanings internal to the text. It is, I suppose, a postmodern imperialist manifesto awaiting its deconstruction.

As befits a manifesto, the structure of the essay is fairly straightforward. The murk is all in the content. The writers proclaim big abstractions allegedly embodied by America. Dangers to those are mooted. There follow long lists of things that sundry U.S. bureaucracies "must" do, though the heavens fall.

The argument is not joined, and the whole thing reads like a campaign tract for a candidate for World President. A strong undertow of amateur Hegelianism runs through the manifesto. Both halves of blatant contradictions are affirmed and then aufgehoben ("overcome") by way of blind faith strengthened by a truckload of "musts."

There is also the matter of language. The manifesto comes burdened with the clotted phraseology and clichés that result from the collision of an immovable Pentagon with an irresistible social science. There are also problems with pronoun reference; "we" and "our" abound, meaning at different times all (decent) Americans, America plus allies and friends, or all enlightened persons in the world. Were it not that compulsory inclusion is the order of the day, many of us might well say, "Include me out." Nonetheless, some translation is possible.

I. Ideology

In the Bushnev manifesto, what C. Wright Mills called "the American Celebration" is back. We learn that the last century saw "a decisive victory for the forces of freedom" and the triumph of "a single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy, and free enterprise." As result, the world's people "want to say what they think; choose who will govern them; worship as they please; educate their children--male and female; own property; and enjoy the benefits of their labor." Such values are universally valid and "the duty of protecting these values against their enemies is the common calling of freedom-loving people across the globe and across the ages."

The "single model" is of course the United States under its permanent regime, the welfare-warfare state. We defeated "totalitarianism" decisively, even if we adopted many of its methods in the process. We stand alone on the Stage of History.

Happily, the thrice-blessed U.S. holds unprecedented, asymmetrical power but does "not use our strength to press for unilateral advantage. We seek instead to create a balance of power that favors human freedom: conditions in which all nations and all societies can choose for themselves the rewards and challenges of political and economic liberty. By making the world safer, we allow the people of the world to make their own lives better."

The U.S. "will defend this just peace against threats from terrorists and tyrants." This reiterates Harry Truman's famous pronouncement that the U.S. would help people who want to live the way we do, go on living the way they want to. But the aspirations of the present management put Truman in the shade.

The Bushnev manifesto is a call for global democratic crusading, as we soon see.

The U.S. wishes to "build a world that trades in freedom and therefore grows in prosperity." Further, "Freedom is the non-negotiable demand of human dignity; the birthright of every person--in every civilization.... The United States welcomes our responsibility to lead in this great mission"--hitting, here, just the right note of modesty. That we stand for a non-negotiable demand probably explains why U.S. "negotiations" always seem to be a mere prelude to bombing.

And since when has freedom been "a mission" rather than a state of affairs?

We soon hear that "Today, the distinction between domestic and foreign affairs is diminishing." Well, whose doing is that? Blind, impersonal forces, perhaps? Moreover: "In a globalized world, events beyond America's borders have a greater impact inside them. Our society must be open to people, ideas, and goods from across the globe" [my emphasis].  Why is that, one might well ask, since the selfsame document tells us that our very "openness" is a danger?

Here we meet with one of the grosser contradictions of present U.S. policy: coercive domestic openness combined with a fixed policy of making unnecessary enemies through imperial rule. The problem can be solved by an act of will. Clearly, we can have open borders and make numerous overseas enemies at the same time, provided that we rule the whole world.

Achieving planetary hegemony is so much easier on our rulers than consulting the American people, who have never signed on for literally open borders. And what is a "globalized world" anyway? Is it a world that is more worldlike than usual? Is it a globe that is more spherical than it used to be?

We must not worry, though. The present leadership will turn "this moment of [U.S.] influence into decades of peace, prosperity, and liberty" via "a distinctly American internationalism that reflects the union of our values and our national interests." We (the rulers) will "help make the world not just safer but better." U.S. bureaucrats and bombs--this is implicit--"must stand firmly for…the rule of law; limits on the absolute power of the state; free speech; freedom of worship; equal justice; respect for women; religious and ethnic tolerance; and respect for private property."

"History has not been kind to those nations which ignored or flouted the rights and aspirations of their people," say the manifesto writers. For us, on the other hand, things are different: "America's constitution has served us well," they say, and now, presumably, the Constitution can return to its museum case. For now, we are "fighting for our democratic values and way of life. Freedom and fear are at war."

We are meeting the challenge: "Every agency of the United States Government shares the challenge." This gladdened my heart no end, as I had feared that the Small Business Administration was not "on the team," as they say.

II. Political-Military Matters 

Having set out sundry high principles, the manifesto alludes to "irrefutable proof that Iraq's designs were not limited to the chemical weapons it had used against Iran." This seems to be less than true, despite Mr. Tony Blair's recent manifesto. None of this matters, however, since the important thing is that the world's moral leader, assisted by the "willing," is thought to have leave to attack the immoral at will. In a revealing sentence, the U.S. writers note that "[i]t has taken almost a decade for us to comprehend the true nature of this new threat." Translated, this seems to mean that it has taken the war party 10 years of endless propaganda and maneuver to wheel things into place for a campaign they want, whatever the facts.

To prevail in the proposed struggle, the U.S. "must make use of every tool in our arsenal." Those who aren't with us are against us, and indeed are "the enemies of civilization." In this crisis, "the only path to safety is the path of action." We have heard all this before.

In the usual Wilsonian paradox, all military action undertaken by the U.S. will be done to "defend the peace" and "to preserve the peace." In a bit of deep thinking, the manifesto asserts that under US leadership "the international community has the best chance since the rise of the nation-state in the seventeenth century to build a world where great powers compete in peace instead of continually prepare for war."  Translated, this seems to mean that all nations that quit being fussy about their several sovereignty may rely on the U.S. for protection against all violence and sin. Those who don't cooperate will have their windows broken.

In parts of the manifesto, there is so much discussion of "action" that one wonders if it was written by Futurist artists and national syndicalists. We shall have "innovation in the use of military forces, modern technologies, including the development of an effective missile defense system, and increased emphasis on intelligence collection and analysis." We shall have "[p]roactive counterproliferation efforts." We shall have "[e]ffective consequence management to respond to the effects of WMD use, whether by terrorists or hostile states."

This seems to mean that if serious "blowback" arises, U.S. bureaucracies will call 911 for us.        

Clearly on a roll, the manifestoists write: "We will identify and block the sources of funding for terrorism, freeze the assets of terrorists and those who support them, deny terrorists access to the international financial system, protect legitimate charities from being abused by terrorists, and prevent the movement of terrorists' assets through alternative financial networks." You can kiss banking privacy goodbye. I am sure we shall get it back, sometime, in the radiant future.

Even more reassuring, "we must also ensure the proper fusion of information between intelligence and law enforcement." More power and money for the CIA and its allied postconstitutional agencies will keep us safe and warm. On their record, who could doubt it?

All these actions are directed at stopping some "specific threat to the United States," which sounds pretty good, until the sentence continues: "or our allies and friends." That gives the game away. Even these writers could not justify war with Iraq under a "specific threat to the United States," but the added words save the day.

In a bit of Athenian hubris, they continue: "The reasons for our actions will be clear, the force measured, and the cause just" [my emphasis]. This is very economical. There is no need to waste future historians' time in going through evidence, when these fellows can anticipate the judgment of history for them.

The manifesto stresses the need for jollying allies and friends along, while politely reminding them who is in charge. Their opinions are valued, provided they agree with those of the U.S. leaders. Thus, "[a]lliances and multilateral institutions can multiply the strength of freedom-loving nations.... Coalitions of the willing can augment these permanent institutions."  

Mention is made of Canada, NATO, the EU, and other vassals. NATO, in particular, "must build a capability to field, at short notice, highly mobile, specially trained forces whenever they are needed to respond to a threat against any member of the alliance." This is sensible. One never knows when imperial overstretch might set in, and it would be good to have other parties supply materiel and cannon fodder.

Indeed, NATO, having outlived its advertised purpose, must expand and "develop planning processes." It must be transformed, streamlined, and made more flexible. Loyal Asian allies must be rallied. Australia--Australia is "in Asia" now, you know--is on board via the ANZUS Treaty, and Japan and South Korea will do their part.   

Conscious of "the possible renewal of old patterns of great power competition," the U.S. must get Russia and China in the tent. The former shall enter into the fullness of the WTO and become an adjunct of NATO, if all goes well.

III. Economics 

According to the Bushnev Doctrine, "Free markets and free trade are key priorities of our national security strategy." Translated, this amounts to the three-headed triumph of the Open Door, the "universal New Deal" (in Harry Hopkins's phrase), and a global pork-barrel casino open 24 hours, seven days a week. In a bit of unconscious humor, the manifestarians entitle section VI, "Ignite a New Era of Global Economic Growth through Free Markets and Free Trade." 

These policymakers will ignite many things before they get anywhere near free markets and free trade.

History teaches, they say, that "market economies, not command-and-control economies with the heavy hand of government, are the best way to promote prosperity and reduce poverty." "We will promote economic growth and economic freedom beyond America's shores," they say. Such disembodied free-market nostrums are, however, mere verbal hiccoughs on the road to a full-fledged neomercantilism.

It turns out there is a crying need for "pro-growth legal and regulatory policies…rule of law and intolerance of corruption…strong financial systems…sound fiscal policies to support business activity; investments in health and education that improve the well-being and skills of the labor force and population as a whole;…and ideas that increase productivity and opportunity."

Evidently, the writers are closer to Karl Polanyi--who saw markets as unnatural orders instituted from above by states--than they are to any real free-market economist. And suddenly, quite a lot of "command-and-control" made possible by "the heavy hand of government" is just the thing to create and institute the free markets we are hearing about.

The U.S. will, for example, spend and regulate to control "greenhouse gases." The Bush administration will "increase spending on research and new conservation technologies, to a total of $4.5 billion--the largest sum being spent on climate change by any country in the world and a $700 million increase over last year's budget."

Foreign aid, that bête noire of Old Right Republicans, will keep on pouring down "the foreign rat holes" (to use an insensitive Old Rightism). It is true, they say, that "Decades of massive development assistance have failed to spur economic growth in the poorest countries....." But, never mind, "We propose a 50 percent increase in the core development assistance given by the United States. While continuing our present programs, including humanitarian assistance based on need alone, these billions of new dollars will form a new Millennium Challenge Account for projects in countries whose governments rule justly, invest in their people, and encourage economic freedom."

This will of course be managed on a businesslike basis. These are Republicans, you know. In fact, we shall have outcome-based foreign giveaways, so to speak, and shall "[i]nsist upon measurable results to ensure that development assistance is actually making a difference in the lives of the world's poor...."  

Then, too, we shall "[i]mprove the effectiveness of the World Bank and other development banks in raising living standards...." And how about that "proposed 18 percent increase in the U.S. contributions to the International Development Association (IDA)--the World Bank's fund for the poorest countries--and the African Development Fund"?  In addition, "[e]very project, every loan, every grant must be judged by how much it will increase productivity growth in developing countries" and more aid will be "provided in the form of grants instead of loans."

Economic growth "in Europe and Japan is vital to U.S. national security interests.... European efforts to remove structural barriers in their economies are particularly important in this regard, as are Japan's efforts to end deflation and address the problems of non-performing loans in the Japanese banking system.... International flows of investment capital are needed to expand the productive potential of these economies" [my emphasis].

Translation: Any remaining barriers to the Open Door for U.S. exports (never mind that the door does not always swing both ways) must be battered down. Japan must somehow re-inflate, so that the game of coordinated international inflation through central banking can return to normal. The bankers are counting on us.

There is much more in the manifesto about U.S.-defined "free trade." The discussion is so intertwined with "seizing initiatives," curing AIDS, priming the IMF pump, and flogging the WTO, that I cannot summarize it all here. One item does stand out, however: "Enforce trade agreements and laws against unfair practices. Commerce depends on the rule of law; international trade depends on enforceable agreements."   

Translation: This is mercantilism, you idiots, and the U.S. in its wisdom will license state-supported cartels everywhere in the world, cutting those who cooperate in on the action. No one else may do so. He who lives outside this brave new world is an outlaw.                                             

At this point, one begins to see, off in the distance, John Dewey in a pith helmet, advising a team of defense intellectuals in spiritual communion with Eleanor Roosevelt, Harry Hopkins, and W. W. Rostow. Now we must "[s]ecure public health" and promote education and literacy. Thus "[t]he United States will increase its own funding for education assistance by at least 20 percent with an emphasis on improving basic education and teacher training in Africa." The World Bank, it is implied, will move into this area, too. In our spare time, we shall deal with AIDS and undertake "to aid agricultural development."

There are a few other moments of unintended clarity in the manifesto. "Enhance energy security. We will strengthen our own energy security and the shared prosperity of the global economy by working with our allies, trading partners, and energy producers to expand the sources and types of global energy supplied, especially in the Western Hemisphere, Africa, Central Asia, and the Caspian region" [my emphasis].  Yes: all that oil; it really ought to be in the hands of chaps the chaps can trust. 

It takes a lot of big government, apparently, to bring those free markets into being.

IV. Big Government Conservatism 

To win the rather under-specified war, the U.S. must now take up nation-building, a thing Bush the candidate said would be avoided. This is because "America is now threatened less by conquering states than we are by failing ones." On the face of it, this means that few-to-no states actually threaten us militarily. Absent U.S. meddling, which creates its own monsters, one might think that world rulership is the last thing America ought to take up. It would certainly not be necessary for our very survival.

Since we have meddled and have, unbidden, created enemies, the latter take advantage of weak states on whose soil they can base themselves, so the writers say. Clearly, nothing so boring and bourgeois as giving up meddling would do. Instead, "[o]nce the regional campaign localizes the threat to a particular state, we will help ensure the state has the military, law enforcement, political, and financial tools necessary to finish the task."

We, and our loyal European footmen, "must help strengthen Africa's fragile states, help build indigenous capability to secure porous borders, and help build up the law enforcement and intelligence infrastructure to deny havens for terrorists." Yes, "porous borders" are very, very bad in Africa, just as they are very, very good in the American southwest.

There is much pro forma belligerence in the manifesto. Thus, the U.S. will "disrupt and destroy terrorist organizations" via "direct and continuous action," "identifying and destroying the threat before it reaches our borders."  Further, the U.S. "will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively against such terrorists," thereby "denying further sponsorship, support, and sanctuary to terrorists by convincing or compelling states to accept their sovereign responsibilities" [my emphasis].

I have underscored "compelling," above, to alert readers that this is a new buzzword especially favored in Air Force journals. It sounds so much nicer than "coercion" or "bombing," don't you think? Of course, "compelling states to accept their sovereign responsibilities," as defined for them by a third party--no matter how historically exceptional and noble that party is--suggests that the compelled states are not "sovereign" after all.

But then how could anyone or anything be even fictitiously sovereign without license from the Great Khan in Worldville-on-the-Potomac?

The manifesto brags that "[t]his Administration has proposed the largest government reorganization since the Truman Administration created the National Security Council and the Department of Defense.... [E]mergency management systems will be better able to cope not just with terrorism but with all hazards."

Along with the pro forma belligerence comes some pro forma realism. Thus, the manifesto authors agree, "No doctrine can anticipate every circumstance in which U.S. action--direct or indirect--is warranted. We have finite political, economic, and military resources to meet our global priorities." Further: "The United States should be realistic about its ability to help those who are unwilling or unready to help themselves."

Yes, it is always a hard thing to have boundless, noble objectives and limited resources.

The Bushie manifesto also hands out a few warnings. A word to the wise is said to be sufficient. Thus, the problems between the Israelis and Palestinians must solve themselves forthwith. There is a carrot alongside the stick, however, in that the U.S. will help "a reformed Palestinian government on economic development, increased humanitarian assistance and a program to establish, finance, and monitor a truly independent judiciary." Do right and get your own state.

Israel, too, gets a warning: "Israel forces need to withdraw fully to positions they held prior to September 28, 2000. And consistent with the recommendations of the Mitchell Committee, Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories must stop." No one should place any substantial bets on how likely it is that Israel will comply with these demands.

After some flattering words in favor of India, the policy paper turns to China. That country must shape up and do it our way, for they will find that "social and political freedom is the only source of that greatness." Right now, China "is following an outdated path that, in the end, will hamper its own pursuit of national greatness"; that is, China is "pursuing advanced military capabilities that can threaten its neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region."

Which is to say: China is behaving like any other large "sovereign" state, but given that the U.S. has ruled local sovereignty and self-defense out of order, any Chinese aspirations for regional power can only be seen as directed at the U.S. The U.S. leaders--pantheists who wish to pervade and subsume the universe--necessarily regard everything not subject to their command-and-control structures as a challenge.

V. Throwing Rocks in Glass Houses

The last item brings us to the unintended hilarities in the manifesto. Some passages fairly leap off the page under pressure of world-historical hypocrisy and internal contradiction. One wonders how official spokesmen for the U.S. government can write such things without wincing. A few samples must suffice.   

"The enemy is terrorism--premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against innocents." Dresden, Hiroshima, Amiriya… ?

"Indonesia took courageous steps to create a working democracy and respect for the rule of law." Indonesia also "took courageous steps" in the mid-1960s to install a military dictatorship, which killed off at least 500,000 so-called "communists," and did so with the support of the U.S. during the High Cold War.

"[U]nrestrained narcotics trafficking could imperil the health and security of the United States...." The U.S. government knows a few things about raising money for special operations in that fashion, but, never mind, that was the Cold War. All is forgiven.

"The United States will make no concessions to terrorist demands and strike no deals with them. We make no distinction between terrorists and those who knowingly harbor or provide aid to them." The U.S. makes concessions to and deals with terrorists every day of the week. The operative distinction is between those who take U.S. orders and those who defy them.

"Today our enemies have seen the results of what civilized nations can, and will, do against regimes that harbor, support, and use terrorism to achieve their political goals. Afghanistan has been liberated...." Yes, of course: "civilized" warfare and "liberation" into the hands of new and different warlords.

"[R]ogue states... brutalize their own people and squander their national resources for the personal gain of the rulers; display no regard for international law, threaten their neighbors, and callously violate international treaties to which they are party; are determined to acquire weapons of mass destruction...  sponsor terrorism around the globe; and reject basic human values and hate the United States and everything for which it stands."

This reads like a description of U.S. policy since 1945 until it comes to the phrase about hating the United States. On the other hand, the U.S. government does seem to find the American people quite unsatisfactory, hence its ongoing efforts to reform and re-educate them. Whether these efforts involve "hate," I do not know.

"The presence of American forces overseas is one of the most profound symbols of the U.S. commitments to allies and friends." No comment is possible.

"To contend with uncertainty and to meet the many security challenges we face, the United States will require bases and stations within and beyond Western Europe and Northeast Asia, as well as temporary access arrangements for the long-distance deployment of U.S. forces."  Yes, but we already have a presence in Japan and South Korea. Are our farsighted leaders setting their sights on Kamchatka, perhaps?

The Bushian gospel is about the U.S. state and elite. It is about the ruling groups' fears and aspirations, as objectified and projected onto the world, with the world held responsible when U.S. wishes and fantasies are not fulfilled. Calvin Coolidge famously said, and is ridiculed by historians for saying, that "the business of America is business."

The business of the present U.S. leadership is empire. Coolidge--a bad president according to most historians--issued no world-improving manifestoes. Between its ideological mania and its material interests, the present U.S. governing class is leading us into some interesting disasters. The manifesto should be a wakeup call.


Joseph R. Stromberg holds the JoAnn B. Rothbard chair in history at the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama. Send him MAIL and see his Mises.org Daily Articles Archive.