The Bush Doctrine: an unethical agenda in theory and practice
Dr. Jonathan Marks
December 18, 2012
Dr. Jonathan Marks
December 18, 2012
Research Paper: The Bush Doctrine: an unethical agenda in theory and practice
The “Bush Doctrine” represents the foreign policy principles of the United States federal government under the administration of President George W. Bush. Although the phrase was never explicitly referred to or defined as a cohesive plan, political scientists coined the Bush Doctrine in order to package these principles into the agenda of the Bush administration. The Bush Doctrine included the administration’s controversial policies of preventative war, spreading democracy around the world, peacekeeping in foreign regions, and a willingness to unilaterally pursue the United States’ military interests (Jervis 2003). This being said, the purpose of this research paper is to determine whether or not these policies and the agenda of the Bush Doctrine were ethical per the standards established by those who came before the administration. As the paper explains, the evidence overwhelmingly determines that both the intentions and actions contained in the Bush Doctrine are extremely hypocritical on the part of the United States. By this logic, the research proves that the foreign policy decisions made based on the Doctrine were exceedingly unethical.
When determining whether the policies of the Bush administration were unethical, we must first consider the definition of ethical behavior and how that applies to political leaders. Then, we must study the policies in the context of American history and understand how America’s founders foresaw these actions. Finally, we must evaluate the actions of the Bush
administration and determine whether they fit the standard for ethical behavior pursuant to established political theory.
In order to truly grasp the concept of an ethical decision on behalf of a political leader, one must have knowledge of fundamental moral philosophy (i.e., ethics). Nicomachean Ethics is a logical starting point, from which Aristotle asserts that the highest aim of any decision should be universal “happiness”. He argues that happiness should be pursued because what is best for the good of society is overwhelmingly preferred to what is good for an individual (Aristotle, pg. 23, col. 2.1). In his own words, “like actions produce like dispositions,” making it the duty of humans to ensure that their actions promote said happiness (Aristotle, pg. 27, col. 1.2). Immanuel Kant’s philosophies differed significantly from Aristotle’s in Foundations from the Metaphysics of Morals, in which he relates universal happiness to a categorical imperative command - which, unlike a hypothetical imperative, applies to all rational beings regardless of their own desires (i.e., a categorical imperative is a universal law for all rational beings). According to Kant, this categorical imperative is formulated when rational beings act in a way that they wish would be universally accepted. Furthermore, he argues that rational beings must act by “treating humanity as an end and never as a means only,” (i.e., humans must not be “used” solely to achieve an end goal)(Kant, pg. 34, col. 1). What Kant does not consider is that, in some instances as such, the sacrifice of humanity as a means to an end is inherent. Despite the ideological differences in these classic philosophies, we can assume that an ethical decision is one that aims for collective, equal and reciprocal happiness among all rational beings. However, as described in the prompt, deciding what will promote universal happiness can create an ethical dilemma with no clear solution.
This being said, it's important to consider how the classical philosophies apply to political leaders specifically. According to Chinda Tejavanija ‘s article, “Ethics of Political Leaders,”...
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