Bush details pre-emptive strike policy

Under new security plan, U.S. will attack nations, groups that pose threats

Will act alone if necessary

Foreign aid will increase to promote democracies

September 21, 2002|By Tom Bowman | Tom Bowman,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration unveiled a sweeping new national security strategy yesterday, declaring that the United States is prepared to launch pre-emptive strikes against terrorists and nations that threaten America with weapons of mass destruction.

The new strategy, outlined in a 35-page document, boldly states that as the pre-eminent political and economic power, the United States will use its might to spread democracy and to vanquish its enemies - by acting alone, if necessary.

In a sharp break with the past, the policy also brushes aside the concepts of containment and deterrence that America relied on during the Cold War to counter the military threat of the Soviet Union.

"The gravest danger our nation faces lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology," President Bush says in the introduction. "Our enemies have openly declared they are seeking weapons of mass destruction. As a matter of common sense and self-defense, America will act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed."

Deterrence, the document says, succeeded against the Soviet Union, a "status quo, risk averse" adversary that considered weapons of mass destruction a "last resort." Today, it says, terrorists and hostile states regard such an arsenal as "weapons of choice," and deterrence won't work against those who "seek martyrdom in death."

Much of the strategy has been outlined before by Bush or his advisers since the Sept. 11 attacks. Still, it represents the first comprehensive summary of an aggressive new national security policy, far more so than President Bill Clinton or Bush's father articulated in their own similar documents.

The Bush document declares that while America will try to build multinational coalitions to fight terrorism, "we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting pre-emptively."

In addition, it says, the United States will act to head off any potential enemy's challenge to America's military superiority.

"The president has no intention of allowing any foreign power to catch up with the huge lead the United States has opened since the fall of the Soviet Union more than a decade ago," the document states. "Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military build-up in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States."

The plan also calls for increased foreign aid as a way to encourage the spread of democracy throughout the world.

Key concerns

A senior administration official said the new strategy rests on three key concerns - defending against weapons of mass destruction; working with other world powers, such as Russia and China, to promote global security; and extending free trade and economic aid to the developing world.

The document makes only a passing reference to Iraq, even though Bush's advocacy of pre-emptive attacks could get its first test in that country, as the administration seeks to disarm Saddam Hussein's regime.

Some critics contended that the Bush strategy amounted to unilateralism - a go-it-alone approach that ignores America's allies and smacks of the arrogance of an empire.

"It does sound as unilateralist as ever," said Gordon Adams, a visiting professor of international affairs at George Washington University who was an adviser to Al Gore's presidential campaign. Adams said he was most concerned about the use of pre-emptive military action. "It sets a precedent for many other countries to follow - Russia against Chechnya, and the Israelis against the Palestinians."

The risk of pre-emptive strikes, Adams said, is that you create a world that is "mistrustful" and "fearful" of America.

"You end up creating the enemy you seek to prevent," he said.

More details sought

Ashton Carter, a former assistant secretary of defense in the Clinton administration who is a professor at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, criticized the Bush strategy for lacking detailed discussion of the tools needed for homeland security, or of how the United States would handle "nation-building" in countries such as Afghanistan.

The U.S. military, Carter said, is not equipped to handle that task alone.

Parts of the document involve the Bush administration's plans to clean up the environment, improve public health and encourage the growth of democracy throughout the world, by offering American cooperation and financial aid.

Despite the administration's decision not to take part in the Kyoto treaty to reduce the world's greenhouse gases, the strategy pledges to reduce America's greenhouse gas emissions relative to the size of its economy, cutting such emissions per unit of economic activity by 18 percent over 10 years.

Moreover, the strategy pledges more money for a global HIV/AIDS organization organized by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, "if the global fund demonstrates its progress."

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