During Tuesday’s press briefing, White House spokesman Jay Carney was asked about a legal memo used by the Obama administration to justify drone strikes against American citizens. Carney gave a prepared response which was reminiscent of the “Bush Doctrine.”
There have actually been several definitions of the Bush Doctrine. One of the most common has been the idea of launching a preemptive strike against any government who might pose a threat.
This idea of preemptive war was much maligned by the left during the Bush years. Mother Jones called it “a romantic justification for easy recourse to war whenever and wherever an American president chooses.” Charlie Gibson, describing it to Sarah Palin, called it “the right to anticipatory self-defense.”
Apparently, the Bush Doctrine is alive and well. An NBC report published Monday outlined President Obama’s legal justification for using drone strikes against Al Qaeda targets, including U.S. citizens. Asked about this report during today’s press briefing, spokesman Jay Carney described drone strikes as legal, ethical and “wise.”
We conduct those strikes because they are necessary to mitigate ongoing, actual threats, to stop plots, to prevent future attacks and save American lives. These strikes are legal, they are ethical and they are wise.
Key here is the justification of the prevention of “future attacks.” The memo, a declassified summary of a classified memo, is especially elastic on what constitutes an imminent threat. What this amounts to is a justification of a preemptive strike or the right to anticipatory self-defense. This is President Obama’s more intimate version of the Bush Doctrine.