Surprise, Security, and the American Experience

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After the twin towers fell and condensed to rubble on September 11, 2001, the Bush administration quickly formulated a plan to maintain the nation’s sense of national safety and security. John Lewis Gaddis summarized the administration’s directions to the public when he wrote, “Bush requested, and only partially received, what amounted to a global police action against terrorism, combined with a call for vigilance at home and abroad, combined with the suggestion that, despite what had happened, Americans should carry on with their ordinary lives” (Gaddis at 37). The citizens were to follow the example of former British politician Sir Winston Churchill; Bush believed the nation would best react to the crisis by applying Churchill’s words to their lives- the nation need to “keep calm and carry on” (Gale Biography In Context) while the administration began gathering intelligence and plotting their retaliation. In contrast to average citizens, Bush outlined what was later named The Bush Doctrine which said, “that the United States will identify and eliminate terrorists wherever they are, together with the regimes that sustain them” (Gaddis at 86). This meant the focus of the nation now weighed equally on the defensive and offensive sides of the scale. The Bush Doctrine outlines three core principles: preemption, unilateralism, and hegemony (Gaddis at 16, 22, 16). The United States has historically maintained defense for its people by eliminating or containing possible threats and if a threat becomes a reality, the nation retaliates, as it did following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. After 9/11, the government gained the authority to use surveillance and monitor communication through phones and the internet in order to avoid any other attacks of the same nature. In addition, “The administration also detained more than 600 possible suspects and announced it might use military tribunals to try alleged foreign terrorists” (Masci and Marshall). Despite the numerous positive points in the Bush Doctrine, there are hidden flaws that expose themselves only in times of indefinite crisis, such as our invasion of Iraq after 9/11 despite insufficient factual evidence to justify doing so (Gaddis at 86). Barack Obama should work to overcome weaknesses of the doctrine when America acts unilaterally too frequently or acts preemptively when no substantial evidence of an imminent threat is present. The best option for the nation is President Obama favoring a multilateral foreign policy, yet maintaining preemption when extremely plausible threats against the United States surface.

Unilateralism is a foreign policy of a country acting by itself. In the past, America has preformed unilateral actions supported by other nations and actions that disregarded what other countries thought (Gaddis at 22). An example of unilateralism with support is the Monroe doctrine, a policy that secured our borders from virtually all angles and deferred European and Southern intervention in America. The British, who had the most powerful navy in the world at that time, backed this policy. An example of Unilateralism where America has acted almost entirely alone was the invasion of Iraq because many of America’s allies, except the United Kingdom and a few smaller countries, did not support us. Unilateralism is not to be confused with isolationism, the policy of staying completely alone (Gaddis at 26). For example, the United States pursues active trade with many countries; therefore, it does not practice isolationism.

Preemption is an attempt to remove or defeat a coming attack, or to gain an advantage in an inevitable conflict (Gaddis at16). America has tried to act preemptively when defending itself against Native Americans and the British to the North and the Spanish to the South, like it did during the War of 1812 (Gaddis at 27). In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, there have been several cases where the United States has underestimated...
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