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The Bush Doctrine is the diplomatic doctrine first unveiled by US President George W. Bush during his speech to the graduating class of West Point, given June 1, 2002. It is the proclamation of the right of the United States to wage pre-emptive war should it be threatened by terrorists or rogue states that are engaged in the production of weapons of mass destruction. The doctrine was further delineated in the government policy statement "The National Security Strategy of the United States" released September 17, 2002, which additionally advocates multi-lateral international cooperation in dealing with terrorism and other threats to international security.

A doctrine permitting pre-emptive strikes against developing threats can be seen as a change from focusing on the doctrine of deterrence[?] (e.g the cold war policy of mutually assured destruction) as the primary means of self-defense. There is some opinion that pre-emptive strikes have long been a part of international practice and indeed of American practice, as exemplified, for example, by the unilateral US blockade and boarding of Cuban shipping during the Cuban Missile Crisis[1] (http://www.nytimes.com/2002/10/04/opinion/04BOOT?todaysheadlines) The Bush Administration's view is the legitimacy of preemption hinges on the existence of a imminent threat, although it seeks to expand the definition of what an imminent threat is.

The doctrine also states that the United States "will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States." This is designed to create a deterrence to countries that seek to use military might to oppose the United States' policy. Maintaining the strongest military capability in the world gives the United States a unique ability to act unilaterally if it chooses. This ability has created significant concern in many nations, since a hallmark of post World War II international relations has been multi-lateral agreements prior to commencement of military action (primarily through United Nations Security Council resolutions), except in cases of direct attack by an enemy. This was codified in Article 51 of the United Nations Charter which specifically acknowledges the "inherent right of individual or collective self-defence" by a member state if an armed attack occurs, "until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security." The United Nations Charter by ratification as a treaty is part of the law of the United States [2] (http://www.nytimes.com/2002/09/21/opinion/21ACKE?todaysheadlines)

The Bush Doctrine takes the view that the potential results of the use of a weapon of mass destruction are so severe that pre-emption is warranted, particularly when those weapons may be acquired by terrorist enemies "whose so-called soldiers seek martyrdom in death and whose most potent protection is statelessness".

There are many critics of the Bush Doctrine, with the criticism relating primarily to the United States' policy of being able and willing to use military force unilaterally. These critics believe that requiring any country (especially the United States) to obtain international support prior to commencing military action is a necessary check on the power of a single nation. In addition, many criticisms have arisen around the doctrine's assertion that the United States will never allow any potential adversary -- a term which is unlikely to exclude many nations -- to develop the military capability of challenging the U.S. as the world's sole superpower.

See also: Pax Americana, hegemony, imperialism, National Security Strategy of the United States, and Hearst doctrine

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