National Security Strategy of the United States
In his March 16th, 2006 introduction to the publication of the National Security Strategy of the United States, President George Bush opened with the simple sentence “America is at war.” In this report, the first since August 2002, the White House stood by its policy of “preemptive war” in the defense of the nation, but the emphasis of the strategy has changed from one stressing unilateral military power to a policy leaning more toward diplomacy and cooperation with our multilateral allies. The introduction states “Our strength is not founded on force of arms alone. It also rests on economic prosperity and a vibrant democracy [and] strong alliances, friendships, and international institutions.”
The 2006 NSS is based on “two pillars”: the promotion of freedom, justice, and human dignity; and the confrontation of challenges through the leadership of the growing community of democracies. These pillars are broken down further into essential tasks but the overriding theme of the 2006 strategy is the policy of the United States to “seek and support democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in the world”. The strategy reasons that since “democracies are the most responsible members of the international system”, the United States should be most aggressive in the promotion and support of democracy.
To lay the foundation for this far-reaching “generational” goal, the United States will work toward the accomplishment of several tasks, beginning with addressing terrorism, limiting the threat of weapons of mass destruction, and defusing regional conflicts. The 2002 NSS stated that the “first priority will be to disrupt and destroy terrorist organizations”; the 2006 documents carries this a step further by stating that in the long run, winning the war on terror means winning the battle of ideas as well as the military battle. If terrorism is the primary threat to US security, the causes of this threat need to be understood. Terror networks are less centralized, and therefore strategy must be preemptive to causes as well as preemptive to immediate threats. While the 2002 document stated that “no cause that justifies terror”, the 2006 document acknowledges root causes of terrorism such as political alienation, grievances that can be blamed on others, sub-cultures of conspiracy and misinformation, and ideologies that justify murder which can and must be addressed.
The counter to each of these causes and to the larger causes of regional conflicts in the long term is democracy, with its offer of ownership in one’s society, its rule of law in the settling of disputes, its freedom of information and ideas, and its respect for human dignity. Short term steps to be taken towards this goal are: preventing terrorist attacks before they occur, denying weapons of mass destruction to rogue states and their terrorist allies, and deny terrorist groups the sanctuary of rogue states’ protection and support by keeping them from controlling any nation.
Addressing larger regional conflicts through conflict prevention, intervention, and stabilization will require “effective international action—and the international community is most engaged in such action when the United States leads”. While the 2002 NSS argued that the US should do everything possible to maintain its position as the sole superpower by maintaining a military capability that was so far ahead of potential rivals that those states would not seek to compete; the 2006 document calls for the US to “strengthen alliances” and “work with others”. In some respects, this is being done. The United States spurned the United Nations in its decision to invade Iraq in 2003, citing Iraq’s repeated serious breaches of UN resolutions, Saddam Hussein’s abuses of his own people, and the danger to the rest of the world should Hussein use the weapons of mass destruction he was believed to have obtained. The current administration also showed its early unilateralist tendencies through its withdrawal or disengagement from international organizations and treaties ranging from the Kyoto protocol to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty to the International Criminal Court. However, more recent developments show the administration’s willingness to cooperate with other countries in multilateral diplomatic efforts. An example of this is shown by the US approach to both Iranian nuclear aspirations, which are being dealt with in closer diplomacy within the United Nations Security Council; and in dealings with North Korea’s nuclear program, where the US has rejected direct bilateral negotiations with North Korea in favor of six-party talks in concert with China, Russia, Japan, and South Korea.
A second thrust of the larger US strategy in promoting democratization lies in its approach to economic globalization. The document states “Promoting free and fair trade has long been a bedrock tenet of American foreign policy. Greater economic freedom is ultimately inseparable from political liberty”. The document also points out that “weak and impoverished states…are susceptible to exploitation by terrorists”, tying economic reforms firmly to the war on terrorism. The United States proposes building long-term stable and peaceful societies by working to open markets and integrate developing countries, diversifying energy markets to ensure energy independence, and reform the international financial system to ensure stability and growth. Pointing to its successful implementations of 14 Free Trade Agreements on five continents, the administration proposes to advance the opening of markets with several more FTAs and helping countries such as Russia to join the World Trade Organization. Noting that in some cases “oil revenues fund activities that destabilize regions or advance violent ideologies”, the United States proposes to diversify energy sources through technologies such as nuclear energy and other “clean” sources of energy, as well as reducing reliance on foreign energy sources.
Discussion of the US strategy to reform international financial system includes encouraging adoption of flexible exchange rates, which is of particular importance in the US dealings with China in recent years. China rates a warning in the 2006 NSS document due to its continued reliance on global trade imbalances through the manipulation of its currency that the US may “hedge against [the] possibility” of China’s not working with the United States and other major powers to correct these imbalances. In its previous trade policy, the United States has refrained from making accusations that “nonmarket” economies such as China’s are illegally subsidizing their export trade, but recent Commerce Department decisions may lead to tariffs and duties on Chinese imports to the US. The 2006 NSS document goes further to encourage China to “follow the path of East Asia’s many modern democracies, adding political freedom to economic freedom” and to become one of the “close allies and friends with whom we share common values and principles”.
The US strategy assumes that greater economic freedom will produce greater political freedom which will, in turn, produce greater security for the United States and the world. As George Bush stated in the introduction “Peace and international stability are most reliably built on a foundation of freedom” and the 2006 National Security Strategy states that the United States is prepared to lead in the promotion of free and effective democracies throughout the world.
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