The Bush Doctrine
Veteran Washington Post columnist David Broder described
President Bush’s new national security strategy as “probably the
most dramatic and far-reaching change in national security
policy in a half-century.”
In the past, when the U.S. was threatened, or, rather aggressors
pushed forward, the U.S. fought back. Examples of this were
Korea, Vietnam and the Gulf War. But the U.S. didn’t start these
conflicts. “Now,” as Broder explains, “with the doctrine of
preemption justified by the all too real threat of terrorism,
President Bush is proposing to scrap that distinction. Instead, he
asserts the right of the United States, as the only superpower, to
judge the degree of potential danger itself – and to take whatever
action it deems necessary to eliminate that threat.”
Following are important excerpts from the document, formally
labeled “The National Security Strategy of the United States of
America.” [Source: Irish Times]
The nature of the Cold War threat required the United States –
with our allies and friends – to emphasize deterrence of the
enemy’s use of force, producing a grim strategy of mutual
assured destruction. With the collapse of the Soviet Union and
the end of the Cold War, our security environment has undergone
But new deadly challenges have emerged from rogue states and
terrorists. None of these contemporary threats rival the sheer
destructive power that was arrayed against us by the Soviet
However, the nature and motivations of these new adversaries,
their determination to obtain destructive powers hitherto
available only to the world’s strongest states, and the greater
likelihood that they will use weapons of mass destruction against
us, make today’s security environment more complex and
In the 1990s we witnessed the emergence of a small number of
rogue states that, while different in important ways, share a
number of attributes. These states:
--brutalize their own people and squander their national
resources for the personal gain of the rulers;
--display no regard for international law, threaten their neighbors
and callously violate international treaties to which they are
--are determined to acquire weapons of mass destruction, along
with other advanced military technology, to be used as threats or
offensively to achieve the aggressive designs of these regimes;
--sponsor terrorism around the globe; and
--reject basic human values and hate the United States and
everything for which it stands.
We must be prepared to stop rogue states and their terrorist
clients before they are able to threaten or use weapons of mass
destruction against the United States and our allies and friends.
Our response must take full advantage of strengthened alliances,
the establishment of new partnerships with former adversaries,
innovation in the use of military forces, modern technologies,
including the development of an effective missile defense system
and increased emphasis on intelligence collection and analysis.
Our comprehensive strategy to combat weapons of mass
destruction (WMD) includes:
--Pro-active counter-proliferation efforts. We must deter and
defend against the threat before it is unleashed.
--Strengthened non-proliferation efforts to prevent rogue states
and terrorists from acquiring the materials, technologies and
expertise necessary for weapons of mass destruction.
--Effective consequence management to respond to the effects of
WMD use, whether by terrorists or hostile states.
It has taken almost a decade for us to comprehend the true nature
of this new threat. 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.
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.
In the Cold War, especially following the Cuban missile crisis,
we faced a generally status-quo, risk-averse adversary.
Deterrence was an effective defense.
In the Cold War, weapons of mass destruction were considered
weapons of last resort whose use risked the destruction of those
who used them. Today, our enemies see weapons of mass
destruction as weapons of choice.
Traditional concepts of deterrence will not work against a
terrorist enemy whose avowed tactics are wanton destruction and
the targeting of innocents; whose so-called soldiers seek
martyrdom in death and whose most potent protection is
statelessness. The overlap between states that sponsor terror and
those that pursue WMD compels us to action.
For centuries, international law recognized that nations need not
suffer an attack before they can lawfully take action to defend
themselves against forces that present an imminent danger of
We must adapt the concept of imminent threat to the capabilities
and objectives of today’s adversaries. Rogue states and terrorists
do not seek to attack us using conventional means. They know
such attacks would fail. Instead, they rely on acts of terrorism
and, potentially, the use of weapons of mass destruction –
weapons that can be easily concealed and delivered covertly and
The targets of these attacks are our military forces and our
civilian population, in direct violation of one of the principal
norms of the law of virtue.
As was demonstrated by the losses on September 11th, 2001,
mass civilian casualties are the specific objective of terrorists,
and these losses would be exponentially more severe if terrorists
acquired and used weapons of mass destruction.
The United States has long maintained the option of preemptive
actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security. The
greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction – and the
more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend
ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of
the enemy’s attack. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by
our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act
The United States will not use force in all cases to preempt
emerging threats, nor should nations use preemption as a pretext
for aggression. Yet in an age where the enemies of civilization
openly and actively seek the world’s most destructive
technologies, the United States cannot remain idle while dangers
The major institutions of American national security were
designed in a different era to meet different requirements. All of
them must be transformed.
It is time to reaffirm the essential role of American military
strength. We must build and maintain our defenses beyond
challenge. Our military’s highest priority is to defend the United
States. To do so effectively, our military must:
--assure our allies and friends;
--dissuade future military competition;
--deter threats against US interests, allies, and friends; and
--decisively defeat any adversary if deterrence fails.
The unparalleled strength of the United States armed forces, and
their forward presence, have maintained the peace in some of the
world’s most strategically vital regions.
The presence of American forces overseas is one of the most
profound symbols of the US commitments to allies and friends.
Through our willingness to use force in our own defense and in
defense of others, the United States demonstrates its resolve to
maintain a balance of power that favors freedom.
To contend with uncertainty and to meet the many security
challenges we face, the United States will require bases and
stations within and beyond western Europe and northeast Asia,
as well as temporary access arrangements for the long-distance
deployment of US forces.
We know from history that deterrence can fail; and we know
from experience that some enemies cannot be deterred. The
United States must and will maintain the capability to defeat any
attempt by an enemy, whether a state or non-state actor, to
impose its will on the United States, our allies or our friends.
We will maintain the forces sufficient to support our obligations
and to defend freedom. 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
Today the distinction between domestic and foreign affairs is
diminishing. In a globalized world, events beyond America’s
borders have a greater impact inside them. Our society must be
open to people, ideas and goods from across the globe. The
characteristics we most cherish – our freedom, our cities, our
systems of movement, and modern life – are vulnerable to
In exercising our leadership, we will respect the values, judgment
and interests of our friends and partners. Still, we will be
prepared to act apart when our interests and unique
Freedom is the non-negotiable demand of human dignity; the
birthright of every person – in every civilization. Throughout
history, freedom has been threatened by war and terror; it has
been challenged by the clashing wills of powerful states and the
evil designs of tyrants; and it has been tested by widespread
poverty and disease. Today, humanity holds in its hands the
opportunity to further freedom’s triumph over all these foes. The
United States welcomes our responsibility to lead in this great
Hott Spotts will return Oct. 10.