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Empire and Military Supremacy at Heart of Bush Strategy
21 September 2002
No state will be allowed to challenge the military supremacy of the United States under a national security strategy for the 21st century revealed by President Bush yesterday.
The document seeks to enshrine Mr Bush's post- September 11 doctrine of pre-emptive strikes, fleshing out for the first time his assertion that the US must confront emerging threats before they materialize.
The 33-page document, submitted to Congress yesterday, also reveals the previously unstated determination of the US to do everything possible to maintain its status as the world's sole superpower.
A key pillar of American national security policy would be to dissuade future military competition , the White House document states.
The essential role of US military strength is to build and maintain our defenses beyond challenge. It says: 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 document stops short of spelling out what would happen if a potential challenger did begin to emerge. Since the end of the Cold War deprived Moscow of its superpower status a decade ago, the US has had no rival in terms of military strength.
But instead of easing its spending on defense, like many NATO countries, the Pentagon is increasing it. The US defense budget for 2003 is $400 billion, an increase of 6 per cent. Washington spends as much on defense as the next eight largest military powers combined.
With Russia financially strapped, Mr Bush's message appeared aimed at China, a rising military power which is increasing both its conventional and nuclear capabilities.
Mr Bush's warning, and the tone of the document, were a far cry from his stance during the presidential election two years ago when he said that he would pursue a humble foreign policy.
Reflecting the changes thrust on to White House foreign policymaking by September 11, the document states: "America is now threatened less by conquering states than we are by failing ones. But it aims to turn adversity into opportunity, pursuing a distinctly American internationalism that reflects US values and interests".
Wary of charges that the US is throwing its weight around, Mr Bush used his foreword to the document to insist that Washington was not acting only for itself. "We do not use our strength to press for unilateral advantage. We seek instead to create a balance of power that favors human freedom", he said.
But the heart of the President's proposals for ensuring America s national security is the vigorous pursuit of threats from rogue states and terrorists before they strike.
Elaborating on the doctrine of which he first spoke at the West Point military academy in June, Mr Bush said that the US would seek allies as it confronted these threats. But the document added that "we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting pre-emptively".
The key to America s efforts to combat weapons of mass destruction would be counter-proliferation. Although it failed to spell out in detail what measures or pre-emptive move that would encompass, they would allow the US to deter and defend against the threat before it is unleashed .
The White House conceded that it has been slow to comprehend the true nature of this new threat , adding: "Given the goals of rogue states and terrorists, the United States can no longer solely rely on a reactive posture. We cannot let our enemies strike first".
Iraq is mentioned explicitly at points, but much of the thrust of the new policy is aimed at President Saddam Hussein and others of his ilk.
Deterrence based on the threat of retaliation worked in the Cold War, it argues, but is unlikely to work against leaders of rogue states more willing to take risks, gambling with the lives of their people and the wealth of their nations.
In the Cold War weapons of mass destruction were a weapon of last resort, but today America's enemies regarded them as weapons of choice, and could use them to strike at or blackmail the US. To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act pre-emptively.
Senators expressed initial concern at the tone of the new policy. Charles Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, said: "The United States should never forecast to the rest of the world that we desire one inch of foreign territory".
Extracts from policy blueprint:
"America is now threatened less by conquering states than we are by failing ones. We are menaced less by fleets and armies than by catastrophic technologies in the hands of the embittered few.
The US National Security Strategy will be based on a distinctly American internationalism that reflects the union of our values and our national interests. The aim of this strategy is to help make the world not just safer but better.
Deterrence based only on a threat of retaliation is less likely to work against leaders of rogue states more willing to take risks . . . to forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act pre-emptively.
It is time to reaffirm the essential role of American military strength. 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.
Counterproliferation must also be integrated into the doctrine, training, and equipping of our forces and those of our allies to ensure that we can prevail in any conflict."
Roland Watson, Washington