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Preemptive Force Part of U.S. National Security Strategy


The new U.S. national security strategy says the government is obligated to "anticipate and counter threats to American people and interests and to use all elements of national power, before the threats can do grave damage." VOA's Peter Fedynsky reports that the strategy involves the controversial reaffirmation of the Bush administration's doctrine of preemptive force.

National security advisor Stephen Hadley unveiled the new strategy on Thursday in a speech in Washington, DC at the U.S. Institute of Peace, a non-partisan organization funded by Congress. Hadley said that preemptive force is a "generalized strategy to be used when appropriate."

"It is an element of our inventory to deal with these problems, and as I said, our preference in terms of preemptive action is always diplomacy."

Throughout its history, the United States relied on a policy of deterring and containing threats. Today, President Bush says America cannot afford to wait for the devastating consequences of an attack with weapons of mass destruction in order to respond.

But Harlan Ullman, a security expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, DC think tank, says announcing a preemptive policy does not serve American interests.

"Think about how non-Americans look at that. I mean this document is going to be ridiculed in lots of the world. People are going to be scared by it and they are going to say, 'America is unilateralist, and they are really proceeding to some kind of preemptive action against Iran'."

The National Security Strategy is a list of strategic priorities prepared by the White House. And it does, indeed, mention Iran's apparent attempt to acquire nuclear weapons. Among other challenges to U.S. security included in the document are defiance of the international community by North Korea, which boasts -- according to the report -- a small nuclear arsenal; and continued pursuit of weapons of mass destruction by terrorists, including those associated with the Al-Qaida network.

Stephen Hadley says these dangers can be reduced by the spread of democracy. "Effective democracies play a central role in America's foreign policy, because they are our natural allies and the anchors of stability in the international system."

The National Security document says the ultimate goal of supporting democracy is to end tyranny in the world. According to the document, it persists in North Korea, Iran, Syria, Cuba, Belarus, Burma and Zimbabwe.

While recognizing Russia as an influential nation, U.S. strategy encourages that country to respect freedom and democracy at home and not to impede those values in neighboring countries.

Numerous other challenges enumerated in the National Security Strategy include genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan, Cuba's anti-American dictator Fidel Castro, diseases that recognize no borders, such as AIDS and avian flu, illicit trade in human beings and drugs, and environmental catastrophes caused by natural forces or human behavior.

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