Clive Crook on Sarah Palin

I haven’t seen the interview — I won’t have a television for a while, to my chagrin — but I’ve been struck by the ridicule Palin has attracted re: her confusion regarding the Bush Doctrine, as I’m pretty sure most of the people I know who’ve been doing the ridiculing couldn’t give me a plausible account of what it is either. Here’s Clive Crook:

I don’t go along with the view that her answers on the “Bush doctrine” were a serious misstep, however. True, she did not know what that term meant. The fact is, it means different things to different people. If Gibson had put that question to me, my answer would have been: “It depends what you mean by the Bush doctrine.” In effect, that was what she said. And it deserves to be noted (as Jim points out, but with a kindly lack of emphasis, calling it a minor error) that Gibson himself apparently does not know what it means.

GIBSON [impatiently]: The Bush doctrine as I understand it is that we have the right of anticipatory self-defense, that we have the right to a preemptive strike against any country that we think is going to attack us. Do you agree…?

No, Charles. That is not what the Bush doctrine means. The right of anticipatory self-defence is already enshrined in international law. Countries do not have to wait until they are attacked to legitimately defend themselves. The Bush doctrine advances the notion of preventive war: the right to attack not in order to defend yourself against an imminent assault, but to deal with less certain, more distant but still possibly mortal threats.

Whatever you think about the Bush doctrine, people who laugh at Palin for failing to know what it is really ought to make sure they understand it themselves.

And of course there was the pre-9/11 Bush Doctrine, as identified by Charles Krauthammer. As always, Wikipedia provides a decent outline of the state of the debate over the term.

But honestly I think it’s fair to say, going only by the clips I’ve seen and not the entire interview, that Palin could have and ought to have done much better. Also, foreign policy is the central responsibility of the president.