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Public Policy Professor Robert G. Kaufman Defends Bush Doctrine in New Book
Robert G. Kaufman, professor of public policy at the Pepperdine School of Public Policy, has written a new book titled In Defense of the Bush Doctrine (University Press of Kentucky). Read on to learn more about the book, why you should read it, and the man behind this provocative argument.
About the Book:
Projecting Bush Foreign Policy Forward
Since September 11, 2001, the United States has been thrust into a new kind of war. This is not only a war fought on the battlefield, but it is also a war of ideology, against people who overtly want to destroy us. This new paradigm has evoked much debate about what the United States’ place should be in regards to the rest of the world. Isolationism has not worked, as was brutally demonstrated when two planes killed over three thousand people in the deadliest terror attack our country has ever faced.
In his new book, In Defense of the Bush Doctrine, Robert G. Kaufman argues that the Bush administration has developed an effective foreign policy, especially in regards to the Middle East. The culture of tyranny of that area necessitates swift, preemptory action. This action is a must in order to promote democracy to an otherwise fanatical and unstable region.
Two key premises shape Kaufman’s case for the Bush Doctrine’s conformity with moral democratic realism. The first premise is the fundamental purpose of American foreign policy since its inception: to ensure the integrity and vitality of a free society “founded upon the dignity and worth of the individual.” The second premise is that the cardinal virtue of prudence (the right reason about things to be done) must be the standard for determining the best practicable American grand strategy.
Intolerance, murder, and repression should not be accepted, and the United States has an obligation to put a stop to these dictatorial regimes, regardless of the popularity of the decision to do so. History has shown that the isolationist policy, first adopted by George Washington in regards to the French Revolution, ceased to be relevant during the Truman administration. The Cold War was looming, and vigilant containment was necessary to wear down and ultimately defeat Soviet totalitarianism.
Continuing into the 21st century, America must keep an eye on the ever growing and competitive Asian continent, primarily Eastern Asia. Most importantly, according to Kaufman, “if winning the war against terror remains the most immediate priority for American foreign policy, then constructively managing the rise of China looms as the largest priority for the near future,” in what the author perceives as a “fragile” liberal democracy with a mighty military and economic presence. In Defense of the Bush Doctrine provides alternative insight into what has been a generally controversial and much debated discussion, justifying the current administrative agendas in order to minimize “the number and gravity of threats the United States faces.”
An Interview with the Author:
What inspired you to write about George W. Bush’s foreign policy?
Several things inspired me to write this book. For one thing, I did a great deal of speaking and public debating on the war since 9/11. I decided to turn what I had done into a book because of the paucity of books that treated the president’s strategy sympathetically, deeply, historically, and seriously. In my browsing at bookstores, I noted literally hundreds of critical books. I wrote this book because of my conviction that the Bush Doctrine has a more compelling logic and historical pedigree than people realize.
Tell us about the process of writing this book.
Originally, I did not intend to write this as a book. When I came to Pepperdine in September 2004, School of Public Policy dean James Wilburn had me doing quite a bit of lecturing in various venues on various aspects of American foreign policy. I decided in the course of this process there were the makings of a book. So I wrote a broader, deeper, defense of what the president has done and the motivation behind it. Critics of President Bush have deluged the bookstores. What Mark Twain said of the composer Wagner is true of President Bush's foreign policy: it is much better than it sounds.
Your book takes a clear position in favor of President Bush's foreign policy. What would you say to Bush's opponents? Should they read this book?
Yes, critics should read the book because it makes a serious case for the Bush Doctrine. Especially for those who disagree, it is important to understand why reasonable people can support this, just as I can understand the case against it. There is some evidence that people who disagree with the book have taken it very seriously, which is gratifying. For the most part, I suspect that those who agree and those uncertain will constitute the bulk of my readers.
A lot of the issues addressed in your book stir up strong opinions. Do you think you'll change any minds?
I hope my book will have an impact in the short term, but even more so in the long term. Whatever happens in Iraq, I believe some variation of the Bush Doctrine will remain the cornerstone of American foreign policy for a long time to come because it is vastly superior to the alternatives to it. One major theme of the book is to explain why. I hope I may change some minds now, convince some of those who are undecided, and bolster the resolve of supporters who have begun to have doubts.
As a longtime professor, how do you see this book fitting into the classroom?
This book fills a gaping hole in the literature on American foreign policy in general, and the current war in particular. There are few books like it.
About the Author:
Robert G. Kaufman is a political scientist specializing in American foreign policy, national security, international relations, and various aspects of American politics. Kaufman received his JD from Georgetown University Law School in Washington, D.C., and his BA, MA, M. Phil., and PhD from Columbia University in the city of New York.
Kaufman has written frequently for scholarly journals and popular publications, including The Weekly Standard, Policy Review, The Washington Times, the Baltimore Sun, The Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He is the author of three books. In 2000, his biography, Henry M Jackson: A Life in Politics, received the Emil and Katherine Sick Award for the best book on the history of the Pacific Northwest. His first book, Arms Control During the Prenuclear Era, which Columbia University Press published, studied the interwar naval treaties and their linkage to the outbreak of World War II in the Pacific. Kaufman also assisted President Richard M. Nixon in the research and writing of Nixon’s final Book, Beyond Peace. He is currently in the research phase of a biography of President Ronald Reagan, focusing on his presidency and his quest for it.
Kaufman is a former Bradley Scholar and current adjunct scholar at the Heritage Foundation. He has taught at Colgate University, The Naval War College, and the University of Vermont.