Six Steps to a Safer America
Six Steps to a Safer America
• A Different Strategy
Our strategy – and the initiatives we will advocate in the upcoming year – is based on these principles:
Focus on the primary threat to the security of the United States. The threat today is terrorists with a global reach, like al Qaeda and its affiliates. While the United States must combat global terrorism that threatens U.S. interests, the security of the United States is not threatened equally by all terrorists or tyrants. Therefore, the United States must give priority to minimizing the threat from al Qaeda, and employ different tactics in order to reduce the support the network might receive from rogue regimes. The United States must also prevent such groups from obtaining nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons, materials and technologies.
We must not underestimate this threat. The rapid dissemination of destructive technologies and sensitive information, combined with international capital flows, gives groups like al Qaeda the power to strike more quickly and nimbly than ever before. Moreover, if and when these actors acquire the materials or expertise needed to build weapons of mass destruction, any attacks they carry out will be much more devastating. Disturbingly, there is a ready supply of these components in the former Soviet Union and other nations with porous borders and poor internal security. As the world’s leading military and economic power, the United States is the most likely target of these terrorists and tyrants.
In the face of, and in response to, these imminent dangers, our nation has not only the duty but also the legal and moral right to act preemptively and unilaterally if necessary. But we also have a duty not to forget the lessons of history. Contrary to the assumptions behind the Bush approach, the fundamental precepts of U.S. national security policy did not change as a result of September 11, 2001. Decisive action in the face of emerging problems is necessary, but containment, deterrence and international support are as vital to our security today as they have been for the past six decades. Ironically, the fact that weapons inspectors now say that no actual weapons of mass destruction will be found in Iraq demonstrates that the containment policy with respect to Iraq actually worked.
Ensure that our armed forces are strong enough to carry out their missions. The debate over military transformation must go far beyond battlefield technology. It must focus on the people who fight our battles. We need a military that is large and well-equipped enough to carry out multiple tasks in many theaters across the globe. Iraq and Afghanistan are only two such locations. And we must also support active duty forces and citizen soldiers from the National Guard and Reserves on many fronts – from making sure they know their missions abroad to helping their families at home.
Use every weapon in our arsenal – diplomatic, economic, technological and military. Force as the centerpiece of a national security strategy will not by itself be able to address all transnational threats. Military power makes important contributions to U.S. security, but there are dangers in relying on it too much. Preventive attacks against established states, even rogue nations, are but one possible tactical response to a strategic threat, not a strategy by itself.
The United States must emphasize diplomatic and economic cooperation – from strengthening treaty regimes to increasing development assistance – as well as military force. We need to remain the strongest military power on earth, but we should also lead collective efforts to gather intelligence on threats that extend beyond borders; prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction; confront health, humanitarian, environmental and other catastrophes that can lead to failed states; and undertake many other tasks that contribute to our security.
Work with allies and international institutions to best advance our national interests. This does not mean giving other nations a veto over America’s pursuit of its security, nor does it naively hold that the national interests of others can always be set aside to achieve consensus in favor of U.S. interests and values. But alliances provide a vital framework to achieve a shared perception of common threats and a shared responsibility for the cost of action. They enhance rather than detract from our power and ability to succeed in today’s complex threat environment.
While the short-term threats to the American people come from terrorists with a global reach, rogue states, and WMD, our country is also threatened by the longer-term effects of global poverty, the nexus of terrorism and international crime, and the increasing isolation of the United States from like-minded states. The best way, if not the only way, to address these threats is by using all forms of American power in conjunction with international support.
Yes, the United States alone can inflict military defeat on just about any state in the world, as we have seen in Afghanistan and Iraq. But we do not have the capacity to turn a battlefield victory into a political one or to counter the threats from global terrorists adequately without broad-based international cooperation. The United States must take a leadership role in, and increase its financial commitments to, organizations that try to solve the economic, social, and health problems that help create a climate in which radicalism can flourish.
Fighting global terrorism requires us to take advantage of new synergies in global law enforcement, intelligence sharing, and efforts to thwart money laundering. U.S. power and technology must be used to strengthen these norms and institutions designed to prevent the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, including the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the biological and chemical weapons conventions, the comprehensive test ban treaty, and the IAEA, which we rely on to verify that countries like Iran and Libya are meeting their treaty obligations.
At the same time, existing cooperative security agreements, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), should be further adapted to deal with the new threat environment. New security enhancing mechanisms with our friends in Asia must also be explored. Former adversaries, such as Russia and China, should be integrated into an international system that supports U.S. values, and preventive diplomacy must be used to quell conflicts before they erupt into major crises.
Promote an integrated international and domestic strategy. We must better integrate our military options with our diplomatic, economic and intelligence-gathering priorities. We need a single, unified national security budget to replace today’s complex, sprawling mix of categories. We must pursue an integrated homeland security strategy – working to make sure that it matches our international priorities and programs, and reflects and supports the needs and capabilities of states, cities and local communities. And in Washington, we must reach across the partisan divide in order to promote more effectively policies that help every American.
These principles underlie our more realistic national security strategy. They offer a stronger path to combating the many threats we face, chief among them the deadly combination of a terrorist or rogue regime armed with a nuclear, chemical or biological weapon. Our strategy will help support our men and women in uniform and provide them with more of the resources and capabilities that we need in a dynamic global security environment. But it will go beyond a reflexive reliance on military power, and exploit to the maximum every international and domestic capability we possess. By integrating alliances and international institutions, responding to local needs, and matching resources to risks, our strategy offers a better path to protecting the American people and advancing our national interests.
Overview | Five-Point Failure | A Different Strategy | The Six Steps | How We Will Pay For It
The positions of American Progress, and our policy experts, are independent, and the findings and conclusions presented are those of American Progress alone. A full list of supporters is available here. American Progress would like to acknowledge the many generous supporters who make our work possible.
Lawrence J. Korb