The doctrine business


I want to get in on this doctrine business. I’ve been trying to figure it out, and it seems to me that doctrines, at least U. S. policy doctrines, go something like this: Someone, most likely a presidential speechwriter, comes up with a catchphrase that puts a spin on policy, then the President declares it somewhere, then pundits all over take it seriously.

It used to be that doctrines had some thought behind them. Take the Monroe Doctrine, much taught in the schools of my day. They taught it as a reaction to European imperialism by the U. S., but ignored the reality that it substituted U. S. imperialism, which wasn’t such a great deal for the Central and South American and Caribbean countries this doctrine got imposed on. It wasn’t a good doctrine, but it was a doctrine.

Nowadays, what passes for a doctrine seems a little bit flimsier, though no less of an imperialist stance.

George W. Bush has proclaimed two doctrines. Not to be an intellectual snob or anything, but these doctrines seem to have the advantage of being shorter than sound bites, with even less real substance behind them. Their substance seems to be in inverse proportion to their scary and threatening nature.

Here’s Boy George’s Terrible Two:

The doctrine of preemptive strike, and

The doctrine of you’re either for us or against us.

The amazing thing is that so many people take these pieces of nonsense seriously. They write newspaper columns about them (not that I have anything against newspaper columns!) and discuss them in editorials and essays. They are referred to in speeches and public pronouncements.

George W. “Stop Me Before I Steal Another Election” Bush likes to look serious and determined when he spouts this blather.

Translated, the first one, the doctrine of preemptive strike, means that the U. S. gets to do whatever it wants, as long as they can make up a threat that enough people will buy. Since the Bush administration, whatever its other failing, is expert at creating excuses and rationalizations, that is no obstacle at all.

The second doctrine, that you’re either with us or against us, is playground logic masquerading as foreign policy. Bush feels right at home with playground logic – just read any of his speeches, which are filled with over-simplifications more appropriate for elementary school boys than for a President.

Anyway, I want to try out this doctrine business. I want to proclaim a doctrine of my own, the “Follow the Money” doctrine. This states that if only you follow the money, you will figure out more easily the real meaning of U. S. foreign policy than if you try to figure it out from what Bush, Powell, and Rumsfeld actually say. A corollary: If money doesn’t explain it all, look at who gains power.

Here’s my second doctrine, the doctrine that peace is better than war. I feel sure that there are a few tens of millions of people who join me in proclaiming this doctrine, not a bad start.

I’ve proclaimed them, now let’s see if any pundit or politician takes them as seriously as they take the Bush doctrines.

Marc Brodine is chair of the Washington State Communist Party. He can be reached at