Bush: U.S. strikes first from now on (courtesy MSNBC.com)

Defining a sad turn in World History, the US government has spelled out what we have feared for so long. Read on —
WASHINGTON, Sept. 20 – Discarding fundamental principles that dominated U.S. foreign policy for more than half a century, President Bush declared a new military doctrine Friday that shifts the focus of national security from Cold War-era strategies of deterrence and retaliation to an aggressive pre-emptive stance that seeks to strike against “emerging threats before they are fully formed.”

Here is the document. Only future historians will add up the havoc that it caused.

“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. … We cannot let our enemies strike first,” Bush wrote in the document submitted to Congress as required annually by law.

As a matter of common sense and self-defense, America will act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed,” he said.

The 35-page document, titled “The National Security Strategy of the United States of America,” completes a transformation in fundamental U.S. military doctrine that Bush first outlined in a landmark speech in June at the U.S. Military Academy.

The report portrays Washington’s great Cold War adversaries, Russia and China, as diminished threats, replaced in the modern world by terrorists intent on acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

“The gravest danger our nation faces lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology,” the report said. “As a matter of common sense and self-defense, America will act against such emerging threats before they are fully formed.”

The report cast the United States as caught up in a battle within the Muslim world. The United States has blamed the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the al-Qaida network of Islamist militant Osama bin Laden and has said extremists have “hijacked” Islam.

“The war on terrorism is not a clash of civilizations. It does, however, reveal the clash inside a civilization, a battle for the future of the Muslim world. This is a struggle of ideas and this is an area where America must excel,” the document said.

It vowed to defeat terrorists “by identifying and destroying the threat before it reaches our borders,” saying the United States would work with allies to smash terrorist networks and punish states that harbored them but would not hesitate to act alone “when our interests and unique responsibilities require.”

U.S. officials denied that the strategy asserted U.S. unilateralism, pointing to passages in the report that commit Washington to promoting democracy, economic openness and human dignity.

In keeping with our heritage and principles, we do not use our strength to press for unilateral advantage,” it said. “We seek instead to create a balance of power that favors human freedom. … We will preserve the peace by building good relations among the great powers.”

White House press secretary Ari Fleischer predicted that “when countries see the values expressed in that document, the way America has helped the world to enjoy more freedom and democracy and prosperity, they’ll recognize that America uses its strength for the purpose of pursing peace and spreading opportunity around the world.”

The document proclaimed that “the United States enjoys a position of unparalleled military strength and great economic and political influence” and said it was imperative to maintain that dominance. “Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military buildup in hopes of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States,” it said.

In particular, it cautioned China against a military expansion. “In pursuing advanced military capabilities that can threaten its neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region, China is following an outdated path that, in the end, will hamper its own pursuit of national greatness,” it said.

But the Chinese threat is different from the Cold War-era specter of nuclear annihilation that hung over the world for more than 50 years, the report said. Since the collapse of Soviet communism, policies of deterrence and containment have less significance in the battle against terrorism, it said.

“Enemies in the past needed great armies and great industrial capabilities to endanger America. Now, shadowy networks of individuals can bring great chaos and suffering to our shores for less than it costs to purchase a single tank. …

“Traditional concepts of deterrence will not work against a terrorist enemy whose avowed tactics are wanton destruction and targeting of innocents,” the report said. “The overlap between states that sponsor terror and those that pursue [weapons of mass destruction] compel us to action.”

U.S. officials said that the case against Iraq was unique and that there was only a “narrow band” of problems in which the doctrine of pre-emption would apply.

Bush has referred to North Korea, Iran and Iraq as members of an “axis of evil, but a senior official told Reuters that North Korea, for example, was involved in diplomatic efforts that distinguished it from Iraq.

Still, the official did not rule out use of pre-emptive strikes in other situations. “There will be cases where you have no other options,” the official said.

The document makes that policy clear, even if means taking action against hostile forces when multinational groups like the United Nations balk.

“While the United States will constantly strive to enlist the support of the international community, we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting pre-emptively against such terrorists to prevent them from doing harm against our people and our country,” it said.