The U.S. faces two contradictory imperatives in the war on terror: on the one hand, it tempts the U.S. to put aside its democratic scruples and seek closer ties with autocracies throughout the Middle East and Asia. On the other hand, the U.S. has increasingly come to believe that it is precisely the lack of democracy in many of these countries that helps breed Islamic extremism.
During the 1990s, international democracy promotion efforts led to the establishment of numerous regimes that cannot be easily classified as either authoritarian or democratic - semi-authoritarian regimes. These regimes pose a considerable challenge to U.S. policy makers because the superficial stability of semi-authoritarian regimes usually masks severe problems that could lead to future crises.
The Bush Doctrine affirms the legitimacy of a preventive strike and emphasizes the notion that "if you are not with us, you are against us." U.S. foreign policy, therefore, is no longer just about containment or supporting freedom fighters, but about shedding the multilateralism favored by the Clinton administration. Is the Bush Doctrine a sound and effective strategy in the war on terror?