Paris, March 16, 2006 – Intellectual poverty is the most striking quality of the new Bush administration National Security Strategy statement, issued last Thursday.
Its over-all incoherence, its clichés and stereotyped phraseology, give the impression that Stephen Hadley, the national security advisor, and his fellow-authors assembled it from the boilerplate of bureaucratic discourse with contempt for the Congress to whom it is primarily addressed.
They should have farmed out writing the statement to the American Enterprise Institute or some other literate conservative think-tank. One might not have agreed with the result, but at least there would have been something coherent to argue with.
But even that remark contains a contradiction, since if AEI had produced a coherent strategy statement it would not have been faithful to the administration’s foreign policy, a lumpy stew of discredited neo-conservative ideas with some neo-Kissingerian geopolitics now mixed in.
The statement’s only visible purpose is to address a further threat to Iran (as the predecessor of this statement, in 2002, had threatened Iraq). The only actual “strategy” that can be deduced from it is that the Bush administration wishes to rule the world. The document is nonsensical in content, insulting to other nations, and unachievable in declared intention.
If people read it to find a statement of American foreign policy’s objective, they will learn that the United States has “the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.” Good luck.
The document‘s foreign readers will have two reactions. The first will be that it can’t be serious. The second will be that it has to be taken seriously since these people have spent three ruinous years in a futile effort to control Iraq; they must be assumed capable of doing the same thing again to Iran.
An annual National Security statement was demanded by Congress in 1986 legislation. The present document is the first since 2003, when an American policy of military preemption was proclaimed -- subsequently implemented in Iraq. This document reiterates the preemption policy, warning that “we are in the early years of a long struggle” like the cold war.
One asks if its authors foresee a 50-year struggle against Iran? Or with Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in the Iraqi desert and Osama bin Ladin in his cave in Waziristan? Or against febrile and fanaticized young Moslem men in European ghettos – already repudiated by the immigrant populations from which they come? Surely the great American nation will have better things to do during the next 50 years.
While Stephen Hadley, her former deputy, was preparing the strategy statement (or signing off on it), Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was in Indonesia to “expand a strategic partnership” with Jakarta, a visit described by officials accompanying her as a signal of American “interest in building up [Indonesia] as a major commercial and military power...to help counter the growing influence of China.”
A few days earlier, she and President Bush were in India on the same mission, making a “historic” gesture that conferred on India nuclear partnership with the U.S. and authorized it to keep its nuclear weapons. This was also as meant to check China.
Speaking to the International Institute for Strategic Studies just three years ago, Condoleezza Rice condemned “balance of power” politics as outmoded and dangerous. She said: “we tried this before; it led to the Great War.”
In a few weeks, China’s President Hu Jintao will be at the White House for a long-delayed meeting. Possibly he in turn will be offered a strategic partnership, provided that China does what the new U.S. National Security Strategy tells it to do. It is told to “give up old ways of thinking and acting...and [make] the right strategic choices for its people.” Until China takes this advice, the strategy statement menacingly adds that the United States will “hedge against other possibilities.”
The president and the secretary of state have been trying to manipulate the Asian power balance against China. At home Stephen Hadley and colleagues have told us that the effort in Iraq has been worth it because now “tyrants know that they pursue WMD at their own peril.” (The unmentioned thing people have also learned is that those who pursue non-existent WMD also do so at their peril.)
In addition, we are told that the United States today “may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran,” and that it reserves the right to “anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack.” Whose attack? Iran’s? Under what conceivable circumstances would Iran attack the United States, even if it possessed nuclear weapons?
Finally there is North Korea, which the national strategy document seems to assume already has nuclear weapons. Pyongyang is simply enjoined to “afford freedom to its people,” and the North Koreans are warned that the United States will protect itself “against adverse effects of their bad conduct.” The Iranian government in Teheran will surely note that preemption is not mentioned in connection with North Korea.
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