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Obama National Security Strategy Breaks With Past, Takes On New Threats

U.S. President Barack Obama's new strategy identifies "homegrown" terrorism as a top priority.
The White House has unveiled a new National Security Strategy that distances the administration of President Barack Obama from the Bush-era doctrine of preemptive war -- and emphasizes global cooperation and robust diplomacy to make the use of military force less likely.

The document also highlights the link between security and economic discipline at a time when the U.S. budget deficit is soaring.

Required of every president under a mandate from Congress, the strategy is meant to guide U.S. security initiatives for years to come.

Obama's security strategy is a 52-page document that describes threats ranging from nuclear proliferation to disease outbreaks to cyber warfare, all in an increasingly interconnected and complex world.

In a speech at the Brookings Institution, a Washington, think tank on May 27, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the strategy puts security in the context of an "integrated whole."

"This is a comprehensive national security strategy that integrates our strength here at home, our commitment to homeland security, our national defense, and our foreign policy," Clinton said. "In a nutshell, this strategy is about strengthening and applying American leadership to advance our national interests and to solve shared problems."

Power And Influence

The new strategy distances the Obama administration from the doctrine of preemptive war, a tenet of former President George W. Bush's defense policy, and stresses multilateral engagement and diplomacy. The shift is meant to reduce the need for the United States to strike first or apply military force unilaterally -- but does not rule it out.

"While the use of force is sometimes necessary, we will exhaust other options before war whenever we can, and carefully weigh the costs and risks of action against the costs and risks of inaction," the document says. "When force is necessary, we will continue to do so in a way that reflects our values and strengthens our legitimacy, and we will seek broad international support, working with such institutions as NATO and the UN Security Council."

Opposition Republicans have alleged that in deemphasizing military might, Obama's security policy projects U.S. weakness.

But Clinton said that a new "smart power" was most appropriate to meet today's challenges.

"We are no less powerful, but we need to apply our power in different ways," Clinton said. "We are shifting from mostly direct exercise and application of power to a more sophisticated and difficult mix of indirect power and influence."

While the security strategy names dismantling Al-Qaeda as a top priority, it also abandons the "war on terror" rhetoric that characterized the Bush years.

"We will always seek to delegitimize the use of terrorism and to isolate those who carry it out," the document says, adding "this is not a global war against a tactic -- terrorism -- or a religion -- Islam." It also pledges to uphold human rights in countering extremism and rejects torture as a tool of U.S. national security.

'Strong Abroad'?

The Obama strategy also underlines the link between security and economic standing, especially in the wake of the financial meltdown and while funding two wars. According to the U.S. Treasury Department, the national budget deficit may exceed $1.5 trillion by year's end.

Clinton said failure to tackle the country's fiscal woes could undermine its position in the world.

"The United States must be strong at home in order to be strong abroad," Clinton said. "We have to lead with confidence. We have to have the conditions in effect in our own country where we are able to project both power and influence."

The security strategy also reiterates warnings to Iran and North Korea over their nuclear programs, and cites combating extremism in Pakistan, strengthening Afghanistan, and completing a responsible withdrawal from Iraq as key security issues for the immediate future.

It also names the struggle against "homegrown" terrorism as a top priority -- a first for a national security strategy.

The increased attention to radicalization of U.S. citizens comes after a series of perpetrated or planned attacks. In the latest incident, Pakistani-born Faisal Shahzad allegedly drove a bomb-rigged vehicle into New York City's Times Square earlier this month.

written by Richard Solash with agency reporting
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