Palin and The Bush Doctrine
As the cable news networks parse every word of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s interview with ABC’s Charlie Gibson — with more still to come today — some are debating the fairness of Gibson asking Palin for her views on “the Bush Doctrine.” In short, the Bush Doctrine states that the United States government has the right to launch preventive war against another country to remove a perceived threat to American security.
When Gibson asked the question, Palin clearly did not know what the Bush Doctrine was. I have heard some pundits on TV say it would have been more fair for Gibson to ask simply about pre-emptive war, as many people probably couldn’t define the Bush Doctrine if asked. However, I think Gibson handled it correctly.
The Bush Doctrine is the most controversial foreign policy concept of the 21st century, and it lies at the heart of the debate over the justification of the war in Iraq. Anyone who has followed this debate, or the broader national discussion of American foreign policy over the last eight years should be familiar with the concept and its association with President George W. Bush. The fact that she was not indicates she has not paid much attention to the conversation inside and outside of Washington.
Given that she is a governor of a sparsely-populated state four thousand miles from the nation’s capital, her ignorance would be forgivable — except now she aspires to a higher office. Matt Damon caused a minor stir when he suggested the other day that actuarial tables indicate Sen. John McCain has a “one in three chance, if not more” of not surviving his first term, if elected. Though it may be a morbid thought, the fact is that it’s true. If McCain is elected, there is a significant chance that Palin will become president during that first term. If she has, until this point, failed to show a curiosity — let alone learn — about the basics of foreign relations, that means she has a lot of catching up to do.
The McCain campaign might not like to admit it, but combined with her comments on the Russia-Georgia conflict, Palin’s interview did reveal a lot about Palin’s preparedness to both lead the United States on the world and command its military.
UPDATE: It came to my attention after I wrote this post that The Atlantic’s James Fallows expands on Palin’s lack of intellectual curiosity in foreign policy matters on his blog. I encourage you to check out his take on the subject.