By DAVID E. SANGER (NYT) 1029 words
Report Backs Iraq Strike and Cites Iran Peril: The latest National Security Strategy
Published: March 16, 2006
WASHINGTON, March 15 - An updated version of the Bush administration's national security strategy, the first in more than three years, gives no ground on the decision to order a pre-emptive attack on Iraq in 2003, and identifies Iran as the country likely to present the single greatest future challenge to the United States.
The strategy document declares that American-led diplomacy to halt Iran's program to enrich nuclear fuel ''must succeed if confrontation is to be avoided,'' a near final draft of the document says. But it carefully avoids spelling out what steps the United States might take if diplomacy fails, and it makes no such direct threat of confrontation with North Korea, which boasts that it has already developed nuclear weapons.
When asked about the omission in an interview today, Stephen J. Hadley, President Bush's national security adviser and the principal author of the new report, said ''the sentence applies to both Iran and North Korea.''
The 48-page draft of the new ''National Security Strategy of the United States,'' which was released by the White House before a formal presentation by Mr. Hadley on Thursday, is an effort to both expand on and assess the security strategy published by the administration in September 2002, a year after the terrorist attacks against New York and the Pentagon upended American foreign policy.
But in a reflection of new challenges, the document also covers territory that the first strategy sidestepped, warning China, for example, against ''old ways of thinking and acting'' in its competition for energy resources.
China's leaders, it says, are ''expanding trade, but acting as if they can somehow 'lock up' energy supplies around the world or seek to direct markets rather than opening them up -- as if they can follow a mercantilism borrowed from a discredited era.''
No such discussion appears in the earlier version of the strategy, and Mr. Hadley said the warning was an effort to get China's leaders to think about ''the broader constellation'' of their interests.
In a reflection of growing tensions between Washington and Moscow, the administration also expresses deep worry that Russia is falling off the path to democracy that Mr. Bush spent much of his first term celebrating.
''Recent trends regrettably point toward a diminishing commitment to democratic freedoms and institutions,'' the document reads. In a much tougher tone than the 2002 document, it emphasizes that the future of the relationship with Russia ''will depend on the policies, foreign and domestic, that Russia adopts.''
Mr. Hadley, who was the deputy to Condoleezza Rice, who was the national security adviser when the 2002 document was produced, said the effort was not intended to formulate new strategy, but to ''take stock of what has been accomplished and describe the new challenges we face.''
He noted, for example, that dealing with economic globalization -- a subject the administration rarely talked about directly until recently -- constituted a new chapter, and that in other areas ''we've learned something over the past four years.''
But chief among the sections that remain unchanged is the most controversial section of the 2002 strategy: the elevation of pre-emptive strikes to a central part of United States strategy.
''The world is better off if tyrants know that they pursue W.M.D. at their own peril,'' the strategy says. It acknowledges misjudgments about Iraq's weapons program that preceded the invasion three years ago, but it is clearly unwilling to give ground on that decision. The report notes that ''there will always be some uncertainty about the status of hidden programs since proliferators are often brutal regimes that go to great lengths to conceal their activities.''
While the new document hews to many of the administration's familiar themes, it contains changes that seem born of bitter experience. Throughout the document there is talk of the need for ''effective democracies,'' a code phrase, some of its drafters said, for countries that do not just hold free elections but also build democratic institutions and spread their benefits to their populations. ''I don't think there was as much of an appreciation of the need for that in 2002,'' one senior official said.
The new document is also less ideological in tone, and far more country-specific. Syria, for example, received no mention in the older document, but it is cited as a sponsor of terrorism in this one.
Mr. Hadley and other officials said that in using the word ''confrontation'' the administration did not intend to signal a greater willingness to use military force against Iran's nuclear production sites. But it did indicate a willingness to step up pressure against Iranian leaders, including the threat of penalties that the United States is pressing in the United Nations Security Council.
Even as the White House edited the final drafts of the strategy, the House International Relations Committee voted 37 to 3 for legislation to end American economic aid to any country that invests in Iran's energy sector. The administration has opposed the bill out of concern that it would interfere with efforts to form a common front against Iran in the Security Council.
Still, the wording of the warning about confrontation with Iran comes just two pages after the strategy reiterates the 2002 warning that the United States reserves the right to take ''anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy's attack.'' The juxtaposition is unlikely to be lost on Iran's leaders.
Sections of the new document discuss at greater length the need to strengthen alliances, with specific references to supporting NATO and reforming the United Nations.
Following Mr. Bush's new push to ward off what he has called a dangerous shift toward isolationism, there is a section that refers to the need to ''engage the opportunities and confront the challenges of globalization,'' a word that did not appear in the 2002 document.
The passage hails the ''new flows of trade, investment, information and technology,'' which it says are transforming national security in every area from the spread of H.I.V./AIDS to avian flu to ''environmental destruction, whether caused by human behavior or cataclysmic megadisasters such as flood, hurricanes, earthquakes or tsunamis.'' It stays away from the subject of global warming.