Faith in the Doctrine

The Bush Doctrine has its origins among the neo-conservatives, a loose group of influential scholars and intellectuals. The term itself is contested, but refers to the newly conservative, and former liberals. Paul Kagan, one of the more famous neo-cons, noted in an Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Late Night Live” interview that he was flatly not interested in domestic issues. Like many of the neo-cons, Kagan is interested in fostering a successful American future through the use of force, if necessary. The neo-cons created a “platform” of sorts with the establishment of “The Project for a New American Century” in 1997.
The project was an important step in articulating a new foreign policy for America. Through the placement of influential neo-con thinkers into the Pentagon and the Vice Presidents Office, the president brought this new thinking closer to policy creating circles. Over a number of months, the White House began to articulate this new policy. Three documents stand out as very important in this process: First, in a speech to a joint session of Congress on September 20, 2001 (9 days after the attacks on New York and Washington), a June 1, 2002 speech at the West Point Military Academy graduation ceremony, and culminating with the release of the National Security Strategy of the United States September 17, 2002.
The basis of these three documents is an unwavering faith in American values of liberty, justice, and freedom. Not only does the President purport “American’s freedom” and “progress, pluralism, tolerance, and freedom” for all peoples of the world. He describes the views of Al Queda as “radical visions” or “radical beliefs.”
In his address to the graduates of West Point, he said “Some worry that it is somehow undiplomatic or impolite to speak the language of right and wring. I disagree.” These speeches represent the rise of the President’s conviction in his God and his belief in a new foreign policy for the United States. In the opening letter from the President, the National Security Strategy outlines a few important ideas.
The opening paragraph of the Security Strategy is quite telling:
The United States possesses unprecedented – and unequaled – strength and influence in the world. Sustained by faith in the principles of liberty, and the value of a free society, this position comes with unparalleled responsibilities, obligations, and opportunity. The great strength of this nation must be used to promote a balance of power that favors freedom.

The Impact
Rooted in faith, there is little room for disagreement in this strategy. The administration labels those who oppose this plan as unpatriotic – a cardinal sin in this American theocracy. Primary examples of those who resigned from this Administration include Richard Clarke and Paul O’Neill. The list of books that critique the Bush Administration is several pages long.
The Bush Doctrine goes beyond the preemptive strikes against other nations who do not adhere completely to the Administrations ideals of freedom and peace. Preemption is taken against those who do not prescribe themselves to all Bush Doctrines, foreign and Domestic. The foreign policy initiative is the most overt of the message control used by the Bush Administration. It is not the only.
Unbending goals and singular faith in a few ideals guide the Bush Administration. Faith-like language employed by the President describes these ideals, and are proscribed to all in the Administration, such as through the Office of Global Communications. Global Warming is now Climate Change. Bush characterizes the war in Iraq as part of the more broad War on Terror. The Roanoke Times noted in 2003 that “Bush shows time and again his willingness to censor, distort or simply ignore scientific evidence contrary to his policy objectives - including data on global warming, on Arctic oil drilling and wildlife, on stem-cell research, on tax cuts and budget deficits, on abortion, on condoms and "abstinence only" sex education.“
This distortion of facts is evident in Iraq where the US Military found no weapons of mass destruction. The New York Time’s Ron Suskind attributed these distortions to faith, not in God but in the goals of the Administration. “This is one key feature of the faith-based presidency: open dialogue, based on facts, is not seen as something of inherent value. It may, in fact, create doubt, which undercuts faith.”
Where does this leave us? When looking at the Foreign Policy of the Bush Administration it is critical to understand the faith of the President, to read between the lines in what he says, and to fear that he may act with determination on something the rest of the world is struggling to understand. Although realist, constructivist, neo-liberal, and neo-realist models may inform the Bush Administration, it is none of these. Nor do the “neo-cons” entirely inform the President. Instead, the Bush Presidency is the modern faith-based presidency, not in God, but in itself.

Faith and Language Converge

Whether Bush’s faith is sincere or not, the language he is using works. Polls have shown that the main issue in the election turned out to be “moral values.” It was no coincidence that eleven states, including Ohio, had measures on the ballot outlawing gay marriage. Frank Luntz, one of the most influential pollsters of modern politics, is convinced of Bush’s sincerity in this election. “When it came to the war on terror, Americans knew where their president stood and exactly what he believed. They simply did not share the same level of confidence in Mr. Kerry.”
The language utilized by the President left at least half the American people with faith in his policies. The electorate felt confident by his words and what they represented. It may have been simple phrases repeated many times over, but it worked.
What is he doing? First, the president has personal faith and is not afraid to share that fact. Second, whenever possible, the President utilizes the language of his faith, which communicates directly to his base in subtle tones. Third, the President and the entire Republican Party carefully construct their language about certain issues to speak directly to the desires of the American people. Taking lessons from Madison Avenue, the President chooses to use words such as “climate change” instead of the more frightening “global warming.” Together these forces form a very powerful force that the opposition and the world must come to understand.

The Bush Language

President Bush has provided thousands of hours of material for comedians around the world to make fun of his pronunciation. A quick search on produces no less than a couple dozen books making fun of the “Bushisms.” The dearth of press conferences by the President has drawn criticisms. According to the Democratic National Committee, Bush held only 15 press conferences in his first four years in office. Instead, the Bush White House has focused on well-planned speeches and other public appearances.
This tool of rhetoric has worked quite well for Bush. The message control in the White House is notorious, and works to create a single message about any topic. The Bush Administration has institutionalized message control. The message is not just mainstreamed throughout the White, but also throughout the executive branch. For example, in January of 2003 Bush established, through executive order, the Office of Global Communications. The mission of this office is to:
Advise the President, the heads of appropriate offices within the Executive Office of the President, and the heads of executive departments and agencies (agencies) on utilization of the most effective means for the United States Government to ensure consistency in messages that will promote the interests of the United States abroad, prevent misunderstanding, build support for and among coalition partners of the United States, and inform international audiences.

This is but one example of the message control employed at the White House. It works not only to control the message, but also to bypass the public diplomacy and public affairs networks of the Department of State.
When the President speaks, he wields great power with his language, albeit with help from his speechwriter, Michael J. Gerson. His work has produced some very powerful language at key times. One of those is the January 2004 State of the Union Address:
America is a nation with a mission, and that mission comes from our most basic beliefs. We have no desire to dominate, no ambitions of empire. Our aim is a democratic peace -- a peace founded upon the dignity and rights of every man and woman. America acts in this cause with friends and allies at our side, yet we understand our special calling: This great republic will lead the cause of freedom.

Bush uses this language on not only special occasions. He does not often quote scripture. Nonetheless, he often makes inferences that may not sound so religious, but ring home for his religious base.
Many phrases and “sayings” employed by the president have biblical or hymnal roots. They are appealing and comforting. Martin Luther King, Jr. mastered this in his speeches and writings. All Presidents borrow language from their predecessors. Michael Gerson, President Bush’s speechwriter, noted in an interview that sometimes there just is not time for historical reflection, such as on September 20 or 2001, when Bush declared war on Afghanistan. “It was just not a case where I could go back and look at what Woodrow Wilson had said when he declared war.” Many times though, when Gerson does not craft his words, Bush falls back on his language of choice – his faith based conscious.
When Bush is speaking or when Gerson is crafting, two audiences are kept in mind. The two groups hear the same words in two very different ways. Those who are fluent in the bible, and bible-speak, connect very quickly with the President and his underlying message. This was critical in the months following September 11, and the President has continued to use this language in discussing the war on terror (including Iraq).
A primary example of this religious speak being exploited to send slightly subtle messages is a reference then Governor Bush made to a Methodist Hymn. In a memorandum to his staff members (Appendix A), he referred to a painting and its inspirational hymn, “A Charge to Keep I Have” (Appendix B). To some this is an interesting quote referring to art, a hymn and a painting, but to others it is an explicit reminder of the ultimate source of authority in the Bush Administrations, then in Texas and now in Washington.

Bush's Faith

The primary factor this religious speak communicates is that of faith. Faith permeates this White House. In his own words, “We ought not to fear faith in America, we ought to welcome faith.” Bush is not referring to generic faith, but faith in God. The personal faith of the President is well known. Unlike most presidents of the last century, President Bush tends to wear his faith on his sleeve. Unlike many presidents before him, he attends church less but apparently reads the bible more. Either way, Bush is the most publicly religious president in several generations.
In June of 2004 Radio and Television Ireland Interviewed the President, and asked him specifically about his faith.
Listen, I think that God -- that my relationship with God is a very personal relationship. And I turn to the good Lord for strength. And I turn to the good Lord for guidance. I turn to the good Lord for forgiveness.

But the God I know is not one that -- the God I know is one that promotes peace and freedom. But I get great sustenance from my personal relationship. That doesn't make me think I'm a better person than you are, by the way. Because one of the great admonitions in the Good Book is, don't try to take a speck out of your eye if I've got a log in my own.

Ron Suskind notes in his New York Times Article, that the President’s faith is multifaceted. In addition to Bush’s genuine personal faith, non-religious faith or loyalty is also important to the President. “The president has demanded unquestioning faith from his followers, his staff, his senior aides and his kindred in the Republican Party. Once he makes a decision – often swiftly, based on a creed or moral position – he expects complete faith in its rightness.”
This culture of faith in the White House has affected policy decisions. This is both through the direct input by the President, and because of his management style. Ron Suskind describes in his article how culture in the White House develops around the new executive. In the summer of 2001 there were a few characteristics that came to bear. Namely, “a disdain for contemplation or deliberation, an embrace of decisiveness, a retreat from empiricism, a sometimes bullying impatience with doubters and even friendly questioners.”
Jonathan Raban, of the Guardian newspaper, noted correctly in his article “Pastor Bush” that this idea of faith is a critical aspect of America’s culture. Bush is a product of this culture, and understands how to push the right buttons. According to Raban, “No culture in the world has elevated ‘faith’, in and of itself, with our without specific religious beliefs, to the status it enjoys in the United States.”
The language Bush employs, partnered with his faith, lays a clear message and understanding for a preponderance of Americans. This clear understanding has led to the creation of a simple plan for addressing the world’s most complicated situations. Bush has the message, the audience, and the faith to rally a plurality of the American people. The Project for a New American Century, and its subscribers, brought to the table a foreign policy to match.

Faithful Bush

On November 2, 2004 George W. Bush was reelected President of the United States. The election garnered the highest turnout of voters in American history, and the largest proportion of the population in a generation. At his acceptance speech, Bush declared, “voters turned out in record numbers and delivered an historic victory.” Although the election was historically very close -- not an historic victory, the President is convinced he has a mandate to follow through with his agenda, both domestic and international.

The skillful use of effective religious language, the unquestionable strength of one man’s conviction, and the unwavering believe in a “neo-con” political philosophy have converged within the Bush White House. First, a campaign of straight language convinced half of the United States to support their “moral leader” with blind faith. The language of this campaign and the Republican Party has ramifications not only for the American electoral process and domestic politics, but also in how the United States carries out its foreign policy and how the world perceives the United States. Second, Bush’s words are not empty. The Republican Party has greatly relied upon wordsmiths such as Frank Luntz. However, “faith,” “morality,” and “clarity” are not just buzzwords for this President. He comes across as being very sincere about his faith. The extreme faith the president exhibits is strange for most of the world, but it is not in the heart of America where Bush maintains his “base.” Finally, the language and faith of President Bush converge with a new, “straight shooting” foreign policy. Although the foreign policy of the United States has not changed drastically under this president, the language framing it has, and that indeed has clear ramifications.

To understand not only what this President is saying, but also what he is implying with his language, it is important to look at his history, his faith, and how they have converged with the most dominant political philosophy in his administration, that of the neo-cons. In coming posts I will frame these ideas of language, faith, and his foreign policy.

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