1) Similarities and Differences between the Bush and Obama Doctrines
When Barack Obama took office in 2009, he decided to make substantial changes to national security strategy and policy that were present under Bush’s reign, while still remaining true to many of the core principles, in order to avoid alienating those who had already committed to the previous administration’s strategies.
According to both Bush and Obama, there are many threats to American prosperity and security still present in the world. First and foremost is the continued interference and resistance from terrorist organizations such as al-Qaida and Hamas. Islamic extremists still offer resistance and the potential for terrorist attacks both at home and abroad, and the majority of national security efforts are geared toward the prevention of those attacks. While Bush targeted Afghanistan and Iraq primarily as targets for suppression and occupation (Afghanistan to unseat the Taliban from rule, and Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein’s regime), Obama is moving towards countries such as Iran, as he believes that their uranium enrichment programs present a danger to national security.
Another threat to America is, in fact, an economic one – the rise of China as a substantial economic power. “If China’s current policies meet setbacks, and alternative national ideas are present within important Chinese domestic constituencies….China’s policy approach could be expected to change in potentially dangerous or disruptive ways” (Jordan, p. 20). The proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction by countries such as North Korea also remain a threat, and must be dealt with.
Our national interest, the goals and basic ambitions of the United States, must be defined clearly in order for an administration to conduct itself in a productive and progressive way. The survival and security of American must be protected at all costs, with its economic and cultural prosperity being a close second. Both Bush and Obama seek to have America act as a symbol of success and freedom for the rest of the world. They have set about it in slightly different ways; Bush wished to showcase America’s resolve and demonstrate their power in the wake of 9/11, taking more extreme and militaristic steps to ensure national security. Obama, on the other hand, is attempting to scale back these measures and create a more moderate approach to the national interest, focusing inward on a failing economy and internal unrest more so than external forces such as terrorism.
There are many things that must be accomplished by Obama to create a better sense of national security (first and foremost among our national interest). First, foreign policy must be improved in order to create better relations with our fellow nations. Many of the problems and hostilities many other countries and foreign entities (terrorist groups) have with America stems back to poor foreign policy decisions such as a decided lack of globalization in our economic and political efforts. Obama’s foreign policy emphasizes globalization, as it would promise greater economic and security-related prosperity. Also, much like the Bush doctrine, it pushes for the ideal of the US helping the globalized world improve its conditions, becoming a force for good. In addition to that, Bush and Obama share the idea that American’s position on a global scale should be strengthened through foreign policy. Secondly, a greater emphasis must be placed on national security. “Americans have traditionally focused much of their energy on the pursuit of private interests and consequently have viewed national security as a secondary matter” (Jordan, p. 23).
It is important to look at Bush’s national security strategy in order to see where Obama’s makes significant changes. In the wake of 9/11, Bush had to redefine the United States’ approach to terrorist threats. “An important element of this new approach was an effort on the part of the Bush administration to redefine the doctrine of preemption” (Jordan, p. 45). This meant attempting to predict future threats, which is extremely difficult, as well as attempt to maintain diplomatic relations with our allies while force was being used to act on information that may not be entirely accurate. From a military standpoint, the point of the Bush doctrine was to create “a lean, effective, joint force that could deploy rapidly anywhere in the world on short notice,” creating a more comprehensive and effective military deterrent to outside threats (Jordan, p. 68).
During the Bush administration, the U.S. grand strategy mostly involved the concept of primacy. Essentially, the primary goal of Bush’s national security strategy involved making sure that American remains a global leader on the political and economic scale. American power and its maintenance is the basic tenet of the primacy model, and with China becoming a greater economic and military power, a primacy-led national security model would take steps to prevent its rise above America on that front.
Obama’s current grand strategy, unlike Bush’s, is one of cooperative security. Multilateral cooperation among a coalition of nations and international alliances are the bread and butter of this strategy, which also emphasizes the handling of humanitarian issues. Some tenets of primacy remain (the United States still seeks to lead these coalitions), but they are tempered by a more moderate approach. One of his more fervent political actions on a national security front was to crack down on the torture of detainees; he was of the opinion that to perform waterboarding or any sort of torturous action upon these detainees was to sacrifice the principles of freedom and safety, and deny them their basic human rights. This was a dramatic change to the Bush doctrine of national security, which saw these actions as necessary in order to protect the greater good.
When looking at both doctrines, they both carry the same basic principles; making sure that American stays on top as a world power, and ensuring that threats to its security are swiftly addressed and handled. However, whereas Bush’s doctrine was a more hardline approach, in hand with the harsh reaction needed after 9/11, Obama’s new doctrine is an attempt to reconcile the harder edges of the previous administration. They still seek to defend against terrorist attacks and nuclear weapons, but the use of torture is strictly forbidden, and an emphasis on more graceful foreign policy as a deterrent is another primary element.
2) The New Revolution in Military Affairs
In the wake of 9/11, many new military advancements were created in order to fight a brand new enemy: extremist terrorist groups. Terrorism is defined as “premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents” (Jordan, p. 267). Instead of country fighting against country, the adversaries the American military face are smaller, splintered, and not affiliated with any specific government. They fight for an ideal, not for land, and the governing bodies of the countries in which they reside have no official political or economic ties with them. As a result, it is far easier for them to hide, making traditional military methods ineffective.
The US campaign of Afghanistan in 2001 was the first showcase of this new military, consisting of small land forces (often infantry and armored forces) acting in conjunction with unmanned drones, which became their eyes and ears (Jordan, p. 68). The toppling of Iraq used the exact same military strategy, and was successful in effecting a government change within a single day (Bolt et al., 2008).
Another attribute of this new paradigm of military action was the formation of a coalition of nations which would provide military and intelligence assistance however possible. In the case of Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan became staging areas for US air assets, as temporary bases were formed there (Jordan, p. 68). From these points, friendly forces could then act on potential threats from miles away. This change in organization made warfare safer, as military leadership is kept as far away from the fight as possible, leaving infantry as the only real physical presence in the battlefield.
The advent of robotic drone technology has completely revolutionized the way in which warfare is conducted. These small, agile, technologically advanced drones have the ability to fly high overhead, travel long distances, provide accurate surveillance from hundreds of feet in the air, and even occasionally carry weapons. Advancements in wireless technology have made it incredibly easy to communicate with troops across vast distances, and unmanned drones can provide real-time support to any friendly presence.
This transformation is somewhat necessary in order to create a battlefield that is devoid of friendly casualties. The more we find we can use automated weapons and long-shot artillery to attack our enemies from a distance, the fewer troops we can put in harm’s way. This should be the primary goal of a revolution in military affairs, therefore it is entirely required that we do whatever we can to emphasize the use of drones and automated weaponry (Jordan, p. 326).
It is becoming increasingly clear that the presence of the human individual in a military campaign is becoming obsolete, with the use of drones and AC-130 gunships, all of whom can tactically and surgically take out enemies from further away than they can reach. They also provide needed intelligence, which is a vital component of military action, and therefore an important part of this new Revolution of Military Affairs. What’s more, a greater proportion of troops can be allotted to domestic defense, where an automated surgical strike is less feasible, due to its likelihood of creating domestic civilian casualties. –
The primary goals of a military commitment must be to have clear objectives, overwhelm the enemy with substantial display of force, make sure that the public supports these initiatives, and then have an exit strategy in place (Jordan, p. 326). This is done so as to avoid scenarios such as Iraq, where a military presence continues nearly a decade after the primary goal (toppling Saddam Hussein’s regime); it is thought that the use of automated weapons like drones will be able to make the execution of these goals much more quick and painless. If entire military campaigns can be conducted without a single friendly foot on the battlefield, it changes the level of commitment we can have to engaging our enemies (Bolt et al., 2008).
Moving ahead, the next step of the Revolution in Military Affairs must be an emphasis on more nontraditional warfare. While drones are beginning to change the way we wage war and gather intelligence on our enemies, they must be used in greater frequency and for a greater number of tasks. As much as we can, it is important to keep troops out of the fray as much as possible and rely more on these unmanned solutions. Increasing these capabilities will go a long way toward decreasing the number of casualties for American troops, as well as creating more efficient means of toppling potential threats to national security. At the same time, these changes must happen gradually, so as not to upset the already established order of military protocol, and ensure that these greater focuses on military technology are without flaws.
Bolt, Paul J. et al. 2008. American Defense Policy, Eighth Edition. Johns Hopkins University
Press. ISBN-13: 978-0801880940.
Jordan, Amos A. et al. 2009. American National Security, Sixth Edition. Johns Hopkins
University. Press. ISBN-13: 978-0801891540.