Shadow Government

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Where did the “three D’s” come from, really?

By Philip Zelikow Will Inboden wonders in his otherwise very good post how folks might have imbibed the long-held view that President Bush regarded development as a priority right alongside defense and diplomacy — one of "three D’s" — placing development as one of the top three priorities of the United States. Some referred to ...

By Philip Zelikow

Will Inboden wonders in his otherwise very good post how folks might have imbibed the long-held view that President Bush regarded development as a priority right alongside defense and diplomacy — one of "three D’s" — placing development as one of the top three priorities of the United States. Some referred to the 2002 National Security Strategy (NSS). But, Will writes, he checked that document, and "it nowhere privileges development as the third pillar of some type of new national security trinity."

Will believes he solved the puzzle by finding a USAID official who heard something at a White House meeting and embellished it. That’s a good story. I have another. This one traces the origins to a White House official … George W. Bush.

In his remarks at the World Bank on July 17, 2001, President Bush said that, to build a better world, the United States "must be guided by three great goals." The first was to keep the peace with a balance of power that favors freedom. The second was "to ignite a new era of global economic growth through a world trading system that is dramatically more open and more free." Finally, Bush said, "our third goal must be to work in true partnership with developing countries to remove the huge obstacles to development, to help them fight illiteracy, disease, unsustainable debt."

Working on the NSS in late 2001 and early 2002, I was quite struck by the trinity of priorities announced in this July 2001 speech, and the rank it gave to development.  Condi Rice confirmed to me that this was deliberate. President Bush soon followed up with his Monterrey speech in March 2002 announcing the plan to increase development assistance by 50 percent and create the Millennium Challenge Account initiative, displaying an international side to his ideal of compassionate conservatism. Although the NSS ended up not adopting such a trinitarian structure, at the time I cited the conceptual structure of President Bush’s World Bank speech to many people as illustrative of the emphasis he had placed on development.

So perhaps a more likely explanation for the belief in President Bush’s "three D’s" is that many people internalized the structure the president had used in his speech, adjusting the middle principle into one of "diplomacy" in order to create a useful and memorable catechism.

But, since Will recently served on the White House staff as one of the custodians of authoritative presidential guidance, the story serves another purpose. It illustrates how fragile institutional memory is in our government, even within the White House of the same president.

By Philip Zelikow

Will Inboden wonders in his otherwise very good post how folks might have imbibed the long-held view that President Bush regarded development as a priority right alongside defense and diplomacy — one of "three D’s" — placing development as one of the top three priorities of the United States. Some referred to the 2002 National Security Strategy (NSS). But, Will writes, he checked that document, and "it nowhere privileges development as the third pillar of some type of new national security trinity."

Will believes he solved the puzzle by finding a USAID official who heard something at a White House meeting and embellished it. That’s a good story. I have another. This one traces the origins to a White House official … George W. Bush.

In his remarks at the World Bank on July 17, 2001, President Bush said that, to build a better world, the United States "must be guided by three great goals." The first was to keep the peace with a balance of power that favors freedom. The second was "to ignite a new era of global economic growth through a world trading system that is dramatically more open and more free." Finally, Bush said, "our third goal must be to work in true partnership with developing countries to remove the huge obstacles to development, to help them fight illiteracy, disease, unsustainable debt."

Working on the NSS in late 2001 and early 2002, I was quite struck by the trinity of priorities announced in this July 2001 speech, and the rank it gave to development.  Condi Rice confirmed to me that this was deliberate. President Bush soon followed up with his Monterrey speech in March 2002 announcing the plan to increase development assistance by 50 percent and create the Millennium Challenge Account initiative, displaying an international side to his ideal of compassionate conservatism. Although the NSS ended up not adopting such a trinitarian structure, at the time I cited the conceptual structure of President Bush’s World Bank speech to many people as illustrative of the emphasis he had placed on development.

So perhaps a more likely explanation for the belief in President Bush’s "three D’s" is that many people internalized the structure the president had used in his speech, adjusting the middle principle into one of "diplomacy" in order to create a useful and memorable catechism.

But, since Will recently served on the White House staff as one of the custodians of authoritative presidential guidance, the story serves another purpose. It illustrates how fragile institutional memory is in our government, even within the White House of the same president.

Philip Zelikow holds professorships in history and governance at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center of Public Affairs. He also worked on international policy as a U.S. government official in five administrations.

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