U.S. Pres. George W. Bush issued his second-term
National Security Strategy Thursday, a document outlining the administration's
strategy for using diplomatic, economic, and military tools to deal with global
Ironically, the 47-page document that outlines a series of "successes"
and "extraordinary progress in the expansion of freedom, democracy, and
human dignity" since 2002 makes few references to the one issue that most
clearly defines the Bush presidency the war in Iraq.
However, it confirms that the U.S. is involved in a long-term war against terrorism
a war it believes it is winning considers preemptive strikes against countries
that might threaten the U.S., as outlined in 2002, a legitimate response, and
singles out Iran as the country posing the "greatest challenge" to
In a letter introducing the National Security Strategy (NSS), Pres. Bush said:
"The ideals that have inspired our history freedom, democracy, and human
dignity are increasingly inspiring individuals and nations throughout the
world... We choose leadership over isolationism and the pursuit of free trade
and open markets over protectionism."
"We choose to deal with challenges now rather than leaving them for future
generations. We fight our enemies abroad instead of waiting for them to arrive
in our country. We seek to shape the world, not merely be shaped by it; to influence
events for the better instead of being at their mercy."
According to the White House, the NSS, which "explains how we are working
to protect the American people, advance American interests, enhance global security,
and expand global liberty and prosperity [rests] upon two pillars":
"The first pillar is promoting freedom, justice, and human dignity
working to end tyranny, to promote effective democracies, and to extend
prosperity through free and fair trade and wise development policies."
"The second pillar of the strategy is confronting the challenges of
our time by leading a growing community of democracies."
The National Security Strategy asserts that the "war on terrorism"
is a protracted struggle, and, "In the short run, the fight involves using
military force and other instruments of national power to kill or capture the
terrorists, deny them safe haven or control of any nation, prevent them from
gaining access to weapons of mass destruction (WMD), and cut off their sources
"In the long run, winning the war on terror means winning the battle of
ideas, for it is ideas that can turn the disenchanted into murderers willing
to kill innocent victims," it adds.
And in a nod toward a possible strike against Iran, which was recently referred
to the U.N. Security Council for refusing to abandon its nuclear program, the
NSS states that the U.S. is "committed to keeping the world's most dangerous
weapons out of the hands of the world's most dangerous people."
The report reinforces the importance of the World Trade Organization's so-called
Doha Development Agenda, as well as regional and bilateral free trade agreements.
And it calls for developing "agendas for cooperative action with the other
centers of global power." According to the NSS, unlike the "ideological
struggles of the 20th century which saw the great powers divided by ideology
as well as by national interest.... the struggle against militant Islamic radicalism
is the great ideological conflict of the early years of the 21st century that
finds the great powers all on the same side opposing the terrorists."
"Given the goals of rogue states and terrorists, the United States can
no longer solely rely on a reactive posture as we have in the past," it
asserts. "The inability to deter a potential attacker, the immediacy of
today's threats, and the magnitude of potential harm that could be caused by
our adversaries' choice of weapons, do not permit that option. We cannot let
our enemies strike first."
The release of the National Security Strategy comes at a time when the administration
is being buried by an avalanche of bad news, both at home and abroad. Despite
having launched yet another series of speeches aimed at winning the U.S. public's
support for his Iraq venture, the president's poll ratings continue to plummet,
having recently hit the lowest numbers of his presidency.
The administration has also come under heavy fire from Congress for supporting
a now-collapsed deal that would have handed over terminal operations at six
U.S. ports to a Dubai-based company, giving an opening to Democrats gearing
up for the midterm elections here to attack Bush on national security.
And a poll released Wednesday by the University of Maryland's Program on International
Policy Attitudes found that just 28 percent of respondents were confident that
the U.S. will succeed in its aims in Iraq, down from 40 percent 18 months ago.
On Monday, in remarks that appeared to disagree with the assessments of other
administration spokespersons, Bush said that, "By their response over the
past two weeks, Iraqis have shown the world that they want a future of freedom
and peace. We're helping Iraqis build a strong democracy so that old resentments
will be eased and the insurgency marginalized."
Interestingly, the NSS was released only days after Knight Ridder News Service
pointed out that the U.S. military "have dramatically increased airstrikes
in Iraq during the past five months, a change of tactics that may foreshadow
how the United States plans to battle a still-strong insurgency while reducing
the number of U.S. ground troops serving here."
On Thursday, the Pentagon launched its largest air campaign against the Iraqi
insurgency since the 2003 invasion, targeting a "suspected insurgent operating
area" northeast of the city of Samarra with more than 50 aircraft and 1,500
U.S. and Iraqi ground forces.
Earlier this week, Gen. John Abizaid, the Army general overseeing U.S. military
operations in Iraq, told a House of Representatives subcommittee that he could
not rule out the possibility that the U.S. would maintain a permanent military
presence in the country.
"Clearly our long-term vision for a military presence in the region requires
a robust counter-terrorist capability," Abizaid told the House Subcommittee.
"No doubt there is a need for some presence in the region over time primarily
to help people help themselves through this period of extremists versus moderates."
Abizaid also pointed out that the United States and its allies have a vital
interest in the oil-rich region. "Ultimately it comes down to the free
flow of goods and resources on which the prosperity of our own nation and everybody
else in the world depend," he said.
At a speech today to the U.S. Institute of Peace, Stephen Hadley, the president's
national security advisor, said that, "The doctrine of preemption remains
sound and must remain an integral part of our national security strategy."
Hadley added: "We do not rule out the use of force before the enemy strikes."