Hot Preemption

What better place for a president to set a new military doctrine than at West Point, the incubator for Army officers. Mr. Bush told graduating cadets on Saturday to put aside old war concepts such as deterrence or containment.

The new doctrine? Take the battle to the enemy.

Instead of a passively maintaining military might against enemy nations, Bush warned that the US must use a strike-first strategy to "uncover terror cells in 60 or more countries."

This "hot preemption" is also the new strategy at the FBI, which last week shifted to preventing terrorist acts, not just investigating old crimes.

If now "the only defense is a good offense," then the US has taken on a new moral purpose in rooting out people merely intent on evil acts. Defining them, locating them, while doing no harm to others will require much more delicate but aggressive tactics.

Fortunately, Bush also said a "just peace" means replacing poverty, repression, and resentment with hope for all people. Will the US be as aggressive in that battlefield? It should, if it plans to preempt the hatred that lies behind terrorism.

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