The White House has produced its first comprehensive explanation of its foreign policy and defense strategy. Based on the assumption that security in the world has changed fundamentally since the attacks of 11 September 2001, it proposes a union of U.S. interests and universal values that it calls "a distinctly American internationalism."
Washington, 23 September 2002 (RFE/RL) -- The administration of U.S. President George W. Bush has laid out a bold new strategy for national security in the post-11 September world, defining America's global mission as fighting terrorism and spreading freedom and democracy around the world.
"The National Security Strategy of the United States," a 33-page report released on Friday, states for the first time that the United States must never again let its military superiority be challenged -- as it was during the Cold War -- in order to prevent the rise of hostile rivals and ensure the global spread of free-market democracy.
It also says that Washington must be prepared to use preemptive military action to defend U.S. and allied interests against the threat of terrorists and their state sponsors who possess or seek weapons of mass destruction.
"The gravest danger our nation faces lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology," the document says. "As a matter of common sense and self-defense, America will act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed."
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer had this to say about the report: "The strategy states that the safety and the security of America is the first and fundamental commitment of our government, and the president will be realistic in assessing where those threats come from."
The document, the first comprehensive explanation of the Bush administration's foreign policy, is mandated by a 1986 law requiring that presidents articulate their strategic policies to Congress. It comes as Bush is urging the global community to support tough action on Iraq, which it accuses of harboring weapons of mass destruction.
Enlivened by the bold ideas of senior officials such as National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, the report is being called by "The New York Times" the most "aggressive approach to national security" since the 1981-1988 administration of President Ronald Reagan, whose massive military buildup is seen by some as having hastened the fall of Soviet communism.
Support of human dignity, democracy, and freedom of conscience are listed as the key goals of an overall U.S. strategy that puts counterterrorism at the center of security policy and defines as virtually obsolete the Cold War doctrines of deterrence and containment.
The report says: "The great struggles of the 20th century between liberty and totalitarianism ended with a decisive victory for the forces of freedom -- and a single sustainable model for national success: freedom, democracy and free enterprise."
It adds that people around the world are now starting to enjoy such freedoms but says America's role in defending them remains as central as in the past. It reaffirms a recent commitment to increase by 50 percent U.S. foreign aid to "countries whose governments rule justly, invest in their people and encourage economic freedom."
It calls this marriage of U.S. national interests and universal values "a distinctly American internationalism."
Still, it is the emphasis on preemptive military strikes when necessary and an indefinite military superiority, even for the ostensible goal of defending the United States and international peace, that is certain to raise the eyebrows of officials around the world, be they in Moscow, Beijing, or Brussels.
A senior U.S. official was quoted by "The New York Times" as saying that Bush had recently edited the document heavily "because he thought there were sections where we sounded overbearing or arrogant."
Fleischer, asked on Friday about the report's aggressiveness, likened it to U.S. policy in the 20th century, when he said the United States used its strength to achieve good around the globe. He said the world became a better place thanks to U.S. policies that led to the fall of communism and the spread of democracy to places it previously it did not exist, such as Germany and Japan. "The United States' role as a military power has been -- we are a nation that is very reluctant, extremely reluctant to use that power. But we do use our influence that can be backed up by power for a way that I think has led to a better world," Fleischer said.
But Fleischer said that, although driven by the same ideals, Washington now sees its security reality as being dramatically reshaped by the attacks of 11 September 2001, which the U.S. blamed on the Al-Qaeda terrorist network. "September 11 has changed substantially America's way of viewing how vulnerable we are. That attack did not come from a former superpower or a former rival. It came from a crumbling regime that had a parasite -- terrorists took over that country, Afghanistan -- and brought the threat to us," Fleischer said.
The report defends the war on terrorism and says extremists have "hijacked" Islam. "The war on terrorism is not a clash of civilizations," the report says. "It does, however, reveal the clash inside a civilization, a battle for the future of the Muslim world. This is a struggle of ideas, and this is an area where America must excel."
The report calls Russia and China diminished threats. But it warns that Moscow's reforms could be undermined by the Russian elite and cautions Beijing against military expansion, saying that it would threaten regional stability and hamper China's "own pursuit of national greatness."
The report appears to jibe with beliefs expressed earlier this year by Condoleezza Rice. Bush's national-security adviser has said that 11 September opened a new chapter in world history analogous to the period after World War II and that the United States must seize the moment to refashion the world as it did in 1945.
Nowhere has the U.S. intent to reshape the world been more evident than in the Muslim world. The United States has helped to overthrow the fundamentalist Taliban regime in Afghanistan, enlisted the assistance of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in the war on terrorism, and threatened action against Iraq, as well as applied heavy pressure on Iran.
But a U.S. official said on Friday that while the principles outlined in the report are universal, the case against Iraq is unique. The official said the United States sees no other countries as targets for potential military action.