For students of contemporary American history, it was George W. Bush who introduced the infamous phrase, "pre-emptive strike" into American foreign policy, as his way of demonstrating his Texan machismo in starting the war with Iraq, "before Saddam Hussein dropped his non-existent "mushroom cloud" nuclear bomb on the United States.
Now, "proportional response" in military-diplomatic terms, has been replaced by the more powerful, extreme pre-emptive strike:
do to them before they do it to you!
Unfortunately, the Bush doctrine is inappropriate in both military conflict, and in domestic political debate.
However, those citizens groups, including some Republican congressmen and women, have not learned just how inappropriate it this approach to any situation, no matter how potentially dangerous.
Suddam Hussein did not have weapons of mass destruction, but, unfortunately and ironically, the pre-emptive strike has been deployed, with devastating results in the political debate, quite recently.
In the first instance, McCain and Graham (Senators John and Lindsay respectively) launched a pre-emptive campaign against United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice, before she was even nominated for the position of Secretary of State. Their complaint was that she was not truthful when she uttered the words of a national security memo on the then-public background to the uprising in the compound in Benghazi that killed U.S. Ambassador Stevens. She was doing her job, under instructions from the White House, and if there were failures of both commission and omission in the security operation, including the failure to sufficiently arm and protect American embassies and consulates in danger in foreign countries, that is a far greater problem than the words spoken by Ms Rice. Nevertheless, her potential confirmation seemed in doubt, in the Senate, should she be nominated by the president, and she withdrew her name.
Subsequently, the name of former Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican, has emerged as a potential candidate for the position of Secretary of Defence. Almost immediately, once again using the pre-emptive strike, opponents of Senator Hagel have dubbed him ineligible for the new position. He is not friendly enough to Israel; he was not a real republican (Senator McCain's view) when he left the senate. And once again the potential choice of the president for his second term cabinet is thwarted by pre-emptive public relations attacks, before the name has even come before the Senate for confirmation.
And, although Obama has now nominated Senator John Kerry, former Democratic presidential candidate, for the position of Secretary of State, he was denied what is reported to have been his first choice. And it is not incidental that the president has traditionally been able to pick his Secretary of State, without political opposition and threatened confirmation hearings in the Senate. All of that tradition has been swept aside, in order to accommodate the nefarious motivations of Republicans who see the chance for another Republican Senator, following Kerry's confirmation,when he must resign his Senate seat from Massachusetts, thereby opening up the seat for a potential election, if the governor does not appoint someone to replace him.
This is not only a tragic abandonment of tradition, but also a dangerous precedent in political life, in all countries, when people with one view pre-emptively attack the person, or the potential view of the opposition, before it is articulated, in order to gain the 'upper ground' in the forthcoming debate.
Now, potentially legal cases will be argued and fought in the public domain, prior to a writ being filed by a petitioner, in order to tip the balance of the playing field in favour of the pre-emptive strikers!
It is a dynamic that Obama must confront, through first nominating Chuck Hagel, in order not to appear weak in the face of the public pre-emptive strike and secondly, he must prepare and release all the names of his second-term cabinet so that no one is put through the agonizing process through which Susan Rice was put, thereby invalidating what could have been an outstanding Secretary of State, and in our view, a better Secretary of State than John Kerry, whose fuzzy thinking and obfuscation during his presidential campaign is not what the world needs in a time of growing crisis and growing complexities in those crises.
While I have often supported Obama's moderate stance, as maturity, and as welcome following the disaster that was Dubya, I also see a serious danger in too much moderation, especially when facing a second term of Republican/Tea Party obstructionism, outright lying about the president's positions, and deep-seated hatred for anything the president proposes, as their "brand"...and pledge.