Howard Dean at Harvard last night

Presidential candidate Howard Dean gave a talk at Harvard last night. He asked an interesting question. Next year, how will we feel when China invades Taiwan because they think they have weapons of mass destruction? Has the new Bush Doctrine, pre-emptive wars, unleashed a philosophy of world power that we may not be so comfortable with? [Scripting News]

This “slippery slope” argument received a bit of attention a week ago when Eugene Volokh deconstructed it in Slate. In essence, Volokh (who’s an incredibly smart guy – I’ve written about him before) says that China won’t follow our lead in invading Taiwan because they’ll simply look at their own interests, and besides, they don’t really care what we do.

I’m not so sure I agree. Regardless of China’s “real” motives in dealing with Taiwan, I think it’s entirely possible that they would nevertheless use the Bush doctrine as a way to justify their actions. Even if they know it to be hollow or lacking merit. The real problem then becomes: what will the Bush Administration do when faced with other countries using the Bush doctrine to further interests that are inconsistent with U.S. interests?

Ultimately, I think that’s the failure of the Bush doctrine. It presumes that American security can be obtained in a vacuum, that it’s not ultimately dependent on what other states do. And I’m glad Howard Dean is raising that point.