The Bush Doctrine provided a rationale for invading both Iraq and Afghanistan by advocating for preemptive strikes and against waiting for threats to fully materialize before acting. There was also an emphasis on unilateralism; if other allies could be found, so much the better, but the United States should not wait for approval or agreement from bodies such as the United Nations. This approach has caused long-term effects that the US continues to grapple with today, arguably including the destabilization of the Middle East region, the Syrian refugee crisis, and enormous human and financial costs.
The Pentagon estimates that 1.8 million US troops served in Afghanistan and Iraq by 2009. An estimated 360,000 of those suffered traumatic brain injuries. One third of returning troops reported mental health issues, with the most frequent being depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz were among the most influential architects of the Bush Doctrine, and forceful advocates for invading Iraq. Even on September 11, 2001, as the country reeled in shock from the terrorist attacks, Rumsfeld began making his case for invading Iraq, despite the lack of connection between Saddam Hussein’s regime and the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Addressing Congress and the nation the week after 9/11, Bush stated that, “Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.” This committed the country to an ongoing, nebulous conflict with a cost running into the trillions—a strategy that many have questioned and that continues in a revised form to this day.