Thursday, March 16, 2006

George P. Shultz and the origins of the Bush Doctrine 

Former Secretary of Labor, Treasury and State George P. Shultz spoke Wednesday afternoon at Princeton University before a tweedy audience of grumpy-looking professors and townies at McCosh 50. There were only a few obvious undergraduates present, perhaps because they did not know who he is.

Shultz, who graduated from Princeton in 1942, was a Marine, served every administration except Carter's from Eisenhower to Reagan in one capacity or another, was dean of the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, was another time president of the construction giant Bechtel, and wrote innumerable books (including Management Organization And The Computer in, *cough*, 1960), remains one of the most perceptive Americans alive.

Shultz's message was at once both optimistic -- "the world has never been in a situation of greater promise than now" -- and concerned -- "the terrorists must not be allowed to abort this opportunity." The challenge, he said, is to develop a sustainable American strategy against Islamic terrorism that will carry us through a very long war.

Shultz's speech Wednesday afternoon, of which I will write more in a subsequent post, led me to the astonishing realization that he understood threat of terrorism, and particularly Islamic terrorism, long before virtually anybody else in the foreign policy establishment of either party. On October 25, 1984, more than 21 years ago, he gave a speech1 in New York City that today appears startlingly prescient, and can fairly be said to be the foundational document of current American policy. Shultz spoke then of the nature of terrorism, the moral confusion of the West in the confronting of it, and the requirement that it be preempted by military force, if necessary. Considering what has transpired in the years since then, Shultz's argument is arresting. Excerpts follow below, with bold emphasis added and my commentary in italics.

On the moral confusion of the West in the confronting of terrorism:
The magnitude of the threat posed by terrorism is so great that we cannot afford to confront it with half-hearted and poorly organized measures. Terrorism is a contagious disease that will inevitably spread if it goes untreated. We need a strategy to cope with terrorism in all of its varied manifestations. We need to summon the necessary resources and determination to fight it and, with international cooperation, eventually stamp it out. And we have to recognize that the burden falls on us, the democracies--no one else will cure the disease for us.

Yet clearly we face obstacles, some of which arise precisely because we are democracies. The nature of the terrorist assault is, in many ways, alien to us. Democracies like to act on the basis of known facts and shared knowledge. Terrorism is clandestine and mysterious by nature. Terrorists rely on secrecy, and, therefore, it is hard to know for certain who has committed an atrocity.

Democracies also rely on reason and persuasive logic to make decisions. It is hard for us to understand the fanaticism and apparent irrationality of many terrorists, especially those who kill and commit suicide in the belief that they will be rewarded in the afterlife. [We made little progress in understanding this impulse right through September 10, 2001. - ed.] The psychopathic ruthlessness and brutality of terrorism is an aberration in our culture and alien to our heritage.

And it is an unfortunate irony that the very qualities that make democracies so hateful to the terrorists -- our respect for the rights and freedoms of the individual -- also make us particularly vulnerable. Precisely because we maintain the most open societies, terrorists have unparalleled opportunity to strike at us. Terrorists seek to make democracies embattled and afraid, to break down democratic accountability, due process, and order; they hope we will turn toward repression or succumb to chaos.

These are the challenges we must live with. We will certainly not alter the democratic values that we so cherish in order to fight terrorism. We will have to find ways to fight back without undermining everything we stand for. [Both left and right will agree that this remains a central challenge. - ed.]

There is another obstacle that we have created for ourselves that we should overcome -- that we must overcome -- if we are to fight terrorism effectively. The obstacle I am referring to is confusion.

We cannot begin to address this monumental challenge to decent, civilized society until we clear our heads of the confusion about terrorism, in many ways the moral confusion, that still seems to plague us. Confusion can lead to paralysis, and it is a luxury that we simply cannot afford.

The confusion about terrorism has taken many forms. In recent years, we have heard some ridiculous distortions, even about what the word "terrorism" means. The idea, for instance, that denying food stamps to some is a form of terrorism cannot be entertained by serious people. And those who would argue, as recently some in Great Britain have, that physical violence by strikers can be equated with "the violence of unemployment" are, in the words of The Economist, "a menace to democracy everywhere." In a real democracy, violence is unequivocally bad. Such distortions are dangerous, because words are important. When we distort our language, we may distort our thinking, and we hamper our efforts to find solutions to the grave problems we face.

There has been, however, a more serious kind of confusion surrounding the issue of terrorism: the confusion between the terrorist act itself and the political goals that the terrorists claim to seek.

The grievances that terrorists supposedly seek to redress through acts of violence may or may not be legitimate. The terrorist acts themselves, however, can never be legitimate. And legitimate causes can never justify or excuse terrorism. Terrorist means discredit their ends.

We have all heard the insidious claim that "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter." When I spoke on the subject of terrorism this past June, I quoted the powerful rebuttal to this kind of moral relativism made by the late Senator Henry Jackson. His statement bears repeating today: "The idea that one person's 'terrorist' is another's 'freedom fighter,'" he said, "cannot be sanctioned. Freedom fighters or revolutionaries don't blow up buses containing non-combatants; terrorist murderers do. Freedom fighters don't set out to capture and slaughter school children; terrorist murderers do. Freedom fighters don't assassinate innocent businessmen, or hijack and hold hostage innocent men, women, and children; terrorist murderers do. It is a disgrace that democracies would allow the treasured word 'freedom' to be associated with acts of terrorists." So spoke Scoop Jackson. [If today's Democratic Party had a single leader of national stature who understood threats with the moral clarity of Scoop Jackson, the national discussion over foreign policy would not be nearly as divided. - ed.]

We cannot afford to let an Orwellian corruption of language obscure our understanding of terrorism. We know the difference between terrorists and freedom fighters, and as we look around the world, we have no trouble telling one from the other.

How tragic it would be if democratic societies so lost confidence in their own moral legitimacy that they lost sight of the obvious: that violence directed against democracy or the hopes for democracy lacks fundamental justification. [Is not the failure of much of the West to support the democrats of Iraq implicit proof that this predicted moral tragedy has come to pass? - ed.] Democracy offers the opportunity for peaceful change, legitimate political competition, and redress of grievances. We must opppose terrorists no matter what banner they may fly. For terrorism in any cause is the enemy of freedom.... [And here I thought George W. Bush spoke that line. - ed.]

Moral confusion about terrorism can take many forms. When 2 Americans and 12 Lebanese were killed at our Embassy Annex in East Beirut last month, for instance, we were told by some that this mass murder was an expression, albeit an extreme expression, of Arab hostility to American policy in the Middle East. We were told that this bombing happened because of a vote we cast in the United Nations, or because of our policies in Lebanon, or because of the overall state of our relations with the Arab nations, or because of our support for Israel.

We were advised by some that if we want to stop terrorism--if we want to put an end to these vicious murders-- then what we need to do is change our policies. In effect, we have been told that terrorism is in some measure our own fault, and we deserved to be bombed. I can tell you here and now that the United States will not be driven off or stayed from our course or change our policy by terrorist brutality.

We cannot permit ourselves any uncertainty as to the real meaning of terrorist violence in the Middle East or anywhere else. Those who truly seek peace in the Middle East know that war and violence are no answer. Those who oppose radicalism and support negotiation are themselves the target of terrorism, whether they are Arabs or Israelis. One of the great tragedies of the Middle East, in fact, is that the many moderates on the Arab side -- who are ready to live in peace with Israel -- are threatened by the radicals and their terrorist henchmen and are thus stymied in their own efforts for peace.

The terrorists' principal goal in the Middle East is to destroy any progress toward a negotiated peace. [Plus ca change... - ed.] And the more our policies succeed, the closer we come toward achieving our goals in the Middle East, the harder terrorists will try to stop us. The simple fact is, the terrorists are more upset about progress in the Middle East than they are about any alleged failures to achieve progress. Let us not forget that President Sadat was murdered because he made peace, and that threats continue to be issued daily in that region because of the fear--yes, fear--that others might favor a negotiated path toward peace.

Whom would we serve by changing our policies in the Middle East in the face of the terrorist threat? Not Israel, not the moderate Arabs, not the Palestinian people, and certainly not the cause for peace. Indeed, the worst thing we could do is change our principled policies under the threat of violence. What we must do is support our friends and remain firm in our goals.

We have to rid ourselves of this moral confusion which lays the blame for terrorist actions on us or on our policies. We are attacked not because of what we are doing wrong but because of what we are doing right. We are right to support the security of Israel, and there is no terrorist act or threat that will change that firm determination. We are attacked not because of some mistake we are making but because of who we are and what we believe in. We must not abandon our principles, or our role in the world, or our responsibilities as the champion of freedom and peace.

Then, late in this speech of 21 years ago, Shultz told us what we had to do:
While terrorism threatens many countries, the United States has a special responsibility. It is time for this country to make a broad national commitment to treat the challenge of terrorism with the sense of urgency and priority it deserves.

The essence of our response is simple to state: violence and aggression must be met by firm resistance....

Much of Israel's success in fighting terrorism has been due to broad public support for Israel's antiterrorist policies. Israel's people have shown the will, and they have provied their government the resources, to fight terrorism. They entertain no illusions about the meaning or the danger of terrorism. Perhaps because they confront the threat everyday, they recognize that they are at war with terrorism. The rest of us would do well to follow Israel's example.

But part of our problem here in the United States has been our seeming inability to understand terrorism clearly. Each successive terrorist incident has brought too much self-condemnation and dismay, accompanied by calls for a change in our policies or our principles or calls for withdrawal and retreat. [This speech could have been written today. - ed.] We should be alarmed. We should be outraged. We should investigate and strive to improve. But widespread public anguish and self-condemnation only convince the terrorists that they are on the right track. It only encourages them to commit more acts of barbarism in the hope that American resolve will weaken.

We must reach a consensus in this country that our responses should go beyond passive defense to consider means of active prevention, preemption, and retaliation. [Got that? "Prevention, preemption, and retaliation." - ed.] Our goal must be to prevent and deter future terrorist acts, and experience has taught us over the years that one of the best deterrents to terrorism is the certainty that swift and sure measures will be taken against those who engage in it. We should take steps toward carrying out such measures. There should be no moral confusion on this issue. Our aim is not to seek revenge but to put an end to violent attacks against innocent people, to make the world a safer place to live for all of us. Clearly, the democracies have a moral right, indeed a duty, to defend themselves.

A successful strategy for combating terrorism will require us to face up to some hard questions and to come up with some clear-cut answers. The questions involve our intelligence capability, the doctrine under which we would employ force, and, most important of all, our public's attitude toward this challenge. Our nation cannot summon the will to act without firm public understanding and support.

First, our intelligence capabilities, particularly our human intelligence, are being strengthened. Determination and capacity to act are of little value unless we can come close to answering the questions: who, where, and when. We have to do a better job of finding out who the terrorists are; where they are; and the nature, composition, and patterns of behavior of terrorist organizations. Our intelligence services are organizing themselves to do the job, and they must be given the mandate and the flexibility to develop techniques of detection and contribute to deterrence and response.

Second, there is no question about our ability to use force where and when it is needed to counter terrorism. Our nation has forces prepared for action -- from small teams able to operate virtually undetected, to the full weight of our conventional military might. But serious issues are involved -- questions that need to be debated, understood, and agreed if we are to be able to utilize our forces wisely and effectively....

The heart of the challenge lies in those cases where international rules and traditional practices do not apply. Terrorists will strike from areas where no governmental authority exists, or they will base themselves behind what they expect will be the sanctuary of an international border. And they will design their attacks to take place in precisely those "gray areas' where the full facts cannot be known, where the challenge will not bring with it an obvious or clear-cut choice of response.

In such cases we must use our intelligence resources carefully and completely. We will have to examine the full range of measures available to us to take. The outcome may be that we will face a choice between doing nothing or employing military force. We now recognize that terrorism is being used by our adversaries as a modern tool of warfare. It is no aberration. We can expect more terrorism directed at our strategic interests around the world in the years ahead. To combat it, we must be willing to use military force.

What will be required, however, is public understanding before the fact of the risks involved in combating terrorism with overt power.

The public must understand before the fact that there is potential for loss of life of some of our fighting men and the loss of life of some innocent people.

The public must understand before the fact that some will seek to cast any preemptive or retaliatory action by us in the worst light and will attempt to make our military and our policymakers -- rather than the terrorists -- appear to be the culprits.

The public must understand before the fact that occasions will come when their government must act before each and every fact is known -- and the decisions cannot be tied to the opinion polls.

Public support for U.S. military actions to stop terrorists before they commit some hideous act or in retaliation for an attack on our people is crucial if we are to deal with this challenge.... [Is there any question that this speech, by a United States Secretary of State in 1984, was, in fact, the intellectual ancestor of American foreign policy in the 21st century. - ed.]

If we are going to respond or preempt effectively, our policies will have to have an element of unpredictability and surprise. And the prerequisite for such a policy must be a broad public consensus on the moral and strategic necessity of action. We will need the capability to act on a moment's notice. There will not be time for a renewed national debate after every terrorist attack. We may never have the kind of evidence that can stand up in an American court of law. But we cannot allow ourselves to become the Hamlet of nations, worrying endlessly over whether and how to respond. A great nation with global responsibilities cannot afford to be hamstrung by confusion and indecisiveness. [This is the memorable line of this speech -- the "Hamlet of nations" metaphor is perhaps Shultz's most famous quotation. In light of that, it is interesting and surprising that this speech has not been the subject of any significant post 9/11 journalism, except via references in recent speeches that Shultz himself has given. - ed.2] Fighting terrorism will not be a clean or pleasant contest, but we have no choice but to play it.

I will trust that any reader who has made it this far is familiar enough with George W. Bush's policies and pronouncements -- and the claims by the opposition that they are without precedent -- to see that George P. Shultz's speech of October 25, 1984 foreshadowed it all. Interestingly, the Shultz speech did not pass without notice, coming as it did on the eve of a presidential election. In his talk this afternoon, he briefly mentioned the hostile reaction at the time, saying that he was glad that he had gotten Reagan's approval to give it in advance. The barest footprints of that controversy remain on the Web today. The CBS Evening News of October 26, 1984 reported (abstract):
(Studio) President Reagan's campaign efforts today said sidetracked by apparent conflict within administration over policy on terrorism; Secretary of State George Shultz's claim admin. supports quick military retaliation despite potential loss of innocent lives quoted.
REPORTER: Dan Rather
(Hackensack, New Jersey) [REAGAN - supports Shultz's speech on terrorism; remarks transcribed on screen.] [Vice President George BUSH - disagrees with Shultz; explains.] [REAGAN - backs off earlier blanket support of Shultz's statement] White House spokesperson said later endorsing Shultz's speech as reflecting administration policy in full; possible effect on President's reelec. efforts mentioned dismissed by his campaign aides. Reagan's courting of Jewish vote, moving away from him due to his stance on Church-State relations, said include veiled reference to Jesse Jackson. [REAGAN - attacks Democratic party `s lack of resolution condemning anti-Semitism.]
REPORTER: Lesley Stahl

Dan Rather and Lesley Stahl reporting on a split between Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush over Shultz's speech -- it just doesn't get any better than that.

And see this from ABC Evening News:
(Studio) Disagreement within Reagan administration on United States response to terrorism generalized.
REPORTER: Peter Jennings
(DC) Secretary of State George Shultz's outline for dealing with terrorism, presented at New York City synagogue last night, discussed; Shultz quoted on screen. Secretary's remark on probable deaths of innocent people in process of combating terrorism noted contradicting President Reagan's comment on issue during Sunday's debate. [October 21, REAGAN - will retaliate only if innocent civilians aren't endangered.] State Department spokesperson John Hughes' explanation of their stmts. outlined. [HUGHES - warns terrorists.] CIA decision not to retaliate against terrorists responsible for last month's embassy bombing in Beirut, despite knowing their identification immediately after attack, discussed; apparent change in admin.'s stance just prior to election considered.
REPORTER: John McWethy

(Hackensack, New Jersey) Reagan and Vice President George Bush reported trying to define policy on terrorism and clarify Shultz's remarks during campaign appearances today; films shown. President mentioned claiming Shultz's speech contained nothing new policy-wise. [BUSH - disagrees with Shultz; explains.] [REAGAN - tries to interpret Shultz's statement] Terrorist issue noted arising as result of bombings of United States ints. in Lebanon; President's use of holocaust metaphor in speech to Jewish audience to rationalize United States military presence in Lebanon noted. [REAGAN - claims US troops are in region to assure avoidance of such devastation.] Possible relationship between administration's sudden talk of retaliation and threat of terrorist attack in closing days of campaign noted.
REPORTER: Sam Donaldson

Judging from these abstracts of the evening news broadcasts, the objection to Shultz's speech was not that he advocated preemption, but that in retaliation for terrorism innocent people might die. (Do not also fail to notice that the CIA decided -- on its own initiative? -- not to retaliate for the attack on our embassy in Beirut.) The press seems to have missed the part about preemption, and focused its coverage and the rhetoric of the presidential campaign around the now quaint idea that innocent people might die if we retaliate.

In October 1984, George Shultz was quite obviously losing a bureaucratic fight along with a philosphical argument about American policy with regard to terrorism. Would 3000 Americans have died on September 11, 2001, if he had won them?
1. I could not locate a permanent link to the speech, but if you Google the words *US Department of State Bulletin 1984 Shultz terrorism* (without quotation marks) the first hit on a findarticles.com search page will lead you to the transcript.
2. I surfed the index and notes of James Mann's book, Rise Of The Vulcans: The History of Bush's War Cabinet, which contains lots of discussion of the ties between Shultz and Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Cheney, Rice and Armitage, yet found no reference to Shultz's speech on terrorism of October 25, 1984. This strikes me as an almost unbelievable omission, given the obvious prescience of that speech. How could it not have influenced Bush's "war cabinet"?


By Blogger John F. Opie, at Thu Mar 16, 06:58:00 AM:

Hi -

Hot damn.

This is awesome, Tigerhawk: Kudos for having found it.

This covers the core argument that must be brought to educate and persuade the American AND European population in order to gain the public support needed.

But where are the politicians whose job it must be to do this? Bush is at this point permanently poisoned in the mind of the average journalist, and your point that this needs to come also from the democratic side is pointed.

What I fear now is that the enemy has already achieved what the North Vietnamese achieved during the 1960s: the establishment of a modern fifth column dedicated to nothing less than the undermining of the US.

Good lord knows it sure looks like that many days...

Best regards,


By Blogger Cassandra, at Thu Mar 16, 07:16:00 AM:

Way cool.

You may not remember this TH, but it was George Schultz, in a piece written for the WaPo, who convinced me that war with Iraq was inevitable. Up until that point I was really on the fence.

He spoke at the McBall in DC a few years back - I was completely star struck, especially since we're finally old and fossilized enough that we are seated up with the muckety-mucks so I could actually *see* him instead of straining to catch a peek from the peanut gallery - some compensation for the general annoying-ness of the other crap that rank brings with it :)

Wish I'd had the guts to go over and introduce myself. He seems like a grand gentleman.  

By Blogger Sissy Willis, at Thu Mar 16, 09:55:00 AM:

Halfway through I had to go back and check that all this was said not yesterday, but 21 years ago: A brilliant find on your part.

It's understandable that lot of folks didn't get it prior to 9/11, but what excuse beyond BDS is there today for not getting it?  

By Blogger Cassandra, at Thu Mar 16, 10:55:00 AM:


"BDS means never having to say you're sorry"

- Oliver Barrett IV  

By Blogger Georg Felis, at Thu Mar 16, 11:00:00 AM:

He also made a similar speech at Kansas State University in 1986 under the Landon Lecture series that I listened to


Makes me proud to be from K-State. And Lech Walesa is speaking this afternoon. We get some good ones out here in flyover country :)  

By Blogger Bill Baar, at Thu Mar 16, 11:21:00 AM:

I have a whole new opinion of him after reading this.  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Thu Mar 16, 01:47:00 PM:

"But the call that Schultz hinted at was first made explicit by President Clinton who determined it should be U.S. policy not merely to remove the Hussein regime but to replace it with a democratic form of government."

Who, unfortunately, never did anything about it. Operation Desert Fox was probably the best time; Saddam was in blatant violation of the cease-fire that halted Desert Storm. It would have been perfectly acceptable to declare the cease fire nullified, declare Saddam an untrustworthy menace who reneged on his word, and restart the war.  

By Blogger Cassandra, at Thu Mar 16, 02:33:00 PM:

From Schultz's 2002 op-ed, Act Now, sirius, more confirmation:

Following the end of the current Iraqi regime, a new Iraq can emerge as a territorially integral sovereign state with a federal-style form that respects the Kurdish, Sunni and Shia communities. A set of phased transitional steps, including referendums and elections, can be carried out and involve the range of Iraqi political parties, factions and groups in exile and internally opposed to the Hussein regime over the years.

For the Arab world as a whole, a new Iraq offers the opportunity to start a reversal of the stagnation detailed in the "Arab Human Development Report 2002" recently released by the United Nations. The report describes how Arab societies are being crippled by a lack of political freedom, repression of women and isolation from the world of ideas that stifles creativity.

The history of Iraq, the achievements of its peoples, its high civilization of the past, and its extensive natural resources all point to the possibility of a positive transformation once Hussein's yoke is lifted. In the process, a model can emerge that other Arab societies may look to and emulate for their own transformation and that of the entire region. The challenge of Iraq offers an opportunity for a historic turning point that can lead us in the direction of a more peaceful, free and prosperous future.


This is not a new idea. It is only one that was admired more in the contemplation than when actually doing something about it became a distinct possibility. Then its former proponents suddenly recoiled in horror :)  

By Blogger Cassandra, at Thu Mar 16, 03:12:00 PM:

...there is a difference between knowing what is required and actually doing something about it.

The latter being, in certain circles, considered grounds for impeachment.  

By Blogger Counter Trey, at Thu Mar 16, 03:24:00 PM:

Other than Reagan himself, Schultz was my favorite person in the Reagan Administration. I made a note in the calendar to attend that speech, but I couldn't get away.

Great find, TH. Schultz's 1984 speech is one example out of many that in the past sixty years most of the intellectual firepower came from the right.  

By Blogger ScurvyOaks, at Thu Mar 16, 03:33:00 PM:

My hat is off to you, Tigerhawk, for finding this and bringing it to your readers. I wish that a larger audience could be made aware of this speech. It's an important reminder that the main thrust of the current administration's policies regarding terrorism have deep -- and immensely respectable -- analytical roots.  

By Blogger Cassandra, at Thu Mar 16, 04:28:00 PM:

TH does good, doesn't he ScurvyOaks?  

By Blogger ScurvyOaks, at Thu Mar 16, 07:45:00 PM:

Yes, Cassandra, he does indeed. I really marvel at the man's efficiency and productivity, too, because I know he has a very real day job.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Thu Mar 16, 09:40:00 PM:

Well, that is very nice of both of you to say. If only it were deserved.

ScurvyO, do we know each other? Or were you only deriving the realness of my day job from the various off-hand references in my writing?  

By Blogger ScurvyOaks, at Fri Mar 17, 04:19:00 PM:


I also went to Princeton. So when I first ran across your blog, I asked your name over email to find out whether you were someone I knew. It turns out that we knew each other only slightly, if at all. (I was one year behind you.) Google subsequently revealed where you work; please forgive the curiosity.  

By Blogger Solomon2, at Mon Mar 20, 03:14:00 PM:

Very interesting. As a spectator I attended one of the Iran-Contra hearings where Shultz - who was most favorably received - gave something of an upbeat speech on U.S. foreign policy. Stahl was there, looked at two or three of her friends, and with an expression on her face that could curdel milk, said something like, "Enough of this. Let's get something to eat." Nothing of Shultz's speech was reported in print (NYT and W.Post) or TV that day or the next.  

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