20 September 2002
National Security Strategy Seeks to Defend Peace, Prosperity
(Senior U.S. official briefs journalists at White House) (3860)
President Bush's National Security Strategy will focus on three
priorities: defending the peace against global terror, preserving the
peace by fostering good relations among the world's great powers, and
extending the peace by working to extend the benefits of liberty and
prosperity as broadly as possible, a senior administration official
Briefing reporters at the White House shortly after the administration
issued its 35-page National Security Strategy report September 20, the
official said the report "is based on a distinctly American
internationalism that reflects the union of our values and our
The report says the United States "should remain very strong"
militarily, but that "the balance of power that favors freedom should
not be maintained by American military power alone," the official said
in response to reporters' questions. In fact, the United States
encourages "states that share our values" to devote more resources to
the military side "to share some of the security burdens," said the
official, but "we will not allow an adversarial military power to
The official said concerns about unilateralism "are unwarranted,"
noting that the report says there is "nothing of lasting consequence
that the United States can achieve on its own without -- I'm
paraphrasing -- without its friends."
Following is a transcript of the briefing:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
September 20, 2002
PRESS BACKGROUND BRIEFING BY A SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL
The James S. Brady Briefing Room
2:09 P.M. EDT
MR. McCORMACK: We have a senior administration official here this
afternoon to give a brief opening statement about the President's
national security strategy, and then we'll be ready to take your
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Good afternoon, thanks for coming. I'm
going to briefly summarize some of the key points of the national
security strategy that is being released today, and then I'm happy to
take your questions.
The President's National Security Strategy is based on a distinctly
American internationalism that reflects the union of our values and
our national interests. As the President says in his cover letter,
which is a submission to Congress, "We will use the United States's
position of strength and influence to create a balance of power that
favors human freedom. We will work to create conditions in which all
nations and all societies can choose for themselves the rewards and
challenges of political and economic liberty. By pursuing this
strategy, we can help make the world a safer place and a better place.
"To execute this Strategy, the United States will focus on three
priorities. First, we will lead the world in defending the peace
against global terror and against aggressive regimes seeking weapons
of mass destruction. The second key element is a commitment to
preserve the peace by fostering good relations among the world's great
powers. Great powers, or centers of power, matter. They have the
ability to influence international stability and shape the course of
history, for better or for worse. And the outcome of these struggles
can affect millions of people.
"Destructive great power rivalry has bedeviled the world since the
17th century. Today, we have an historic opportunity to break that
pattern, because nations on every continent are increasingly united by
common interests, common dangers, and common values.
"In the past, great power rivalry often exacerbated regional security
threats and conflicts. Today, great power cooperation can accelerate
efforts to solve security challenges, especially efforts to defuse and
resolve regional conflicts from the Middle East, to Africa, to Asia
and beyond. America will help to lock in and build on this trend,
because it is a source of greater security for our country and for all
"Finally, America will help extend the peace by working to extend the
benefits of liberty and prosperity as broadly as possible. We will
press forward on free trade globally, regionally, and with individual
nations. A global trading system that is growing and more free is
essential to the development efforts of poor nations, and to the
economic health of all nations.
"We will provide greater assistance to developing nations which govern
justice -- justly, invest in their people, and encourage economic
liberty. We will continue to lead the fight against AIDS. And we will
stand on the side of men and women in every nation who stand for
tolerance and human rights.
"In all these efforts, to defend against common dangers and to build
on our common aspirations, the United States must work closely with
our friends and allies and important international institutions such
as NATO, the United Nations, and the World Trade Organization."
This is an extraordinary moment in history, a time of testing and a
time of opportunity. The President's National Security Strategy sets
forth a strong vision for how our country can meet the challenges of
Now I'm happy to take questions. Ron.
QUESTION: Is there any new doctrine or policy in this that we haven't
heard the President articulate before?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: That you have not heard the President
articulate? No. The President has really laid most of this out from
time to time in various speeches. What this does is to bring these
common themes from what he has been doing over the last 18 months
together in one coherent document.
It does, Ron, endeavor to give some spotlight and emphasis to some
things that we think have been under-represented in the discussions of
the President's policies. For instance, his very strong Monterrey
speech, which talked about a new compact for development, was reported
of course, I don't mean to suggest that it wasn't. But we think that
this may be one of the most important elements of a new American
strategy, to really think about development as a partnership between
the developing countries and developed countries, to make the criteria
of governing justly, investing in human capital and having open
economic systems that -- understanding that development assistance in
the absence of those commitments from the developed world simply will
not have an impact. And so we wanted to drive that home.
I also think that this document works very hard to lay to rest what we
all consider to be a kind of academic debate, that you can separate
your values from power and interests. The distinctly American
internationalism recognizes that as the strongest nation in the world,
the United States has a responsibility to sponsor a balance of power
that favors freedom. Had the strongest power in the world at the end
of the Cold War been the Soviet Union, you would have had a very
different environment for another set of values. And so this merger of
values and power has been there in the President's speeches, but we
think it's highlighted in this document.
Q: In the final section, you talk about initiatives to strengthen the
DCI (Director of Central Intelligence) and develop new methods to
collect information. Could you elaborate on those points
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: As you know, we're looking -- or will
be looking after the intelligence committees in the 9/11 inquiry have
completed their work -- at what their work tells us about intelligence
reform. The President is interested in intelligence reform. What Bob
Mueller and George Tenet have already been doing in reorganization,
what the Patriot Act allows us to do, some of the work that has been
done by the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, and by a
special panel that looked at intelligence, we're going to be putting
all of that together and looking to see what needs to be done on
intelligence reform. And this just is a preview of the fact that this
is an important issue for us.
Q: Do you have any plans right now for a new role for the Central
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: No, the DCI is the place at which all
intelligence currently comes together. And I think everybody believes
that we're going to need to just take a look in light of what we know
now about domestic threats, what we know now about the worldwide
nature of this organization, but that it also maps onto domestic
threats. We're just going to have to take a look, and I think
everybody is in favor of doing that.
Q: Isn't it possible that in spite of the way you've said this, and in
spite of the way the document is written, some people will see it in
different parts of the world, and even at home, as the U.S.
determination to do what it wishes, when it believes it is right, and
others are wrong, and a U.S. determination to remain so far ahead of
anybody else that they could never catch up, in the military sense?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The section on the military quite
clearly states that the United States wants to dissuade military
competition, and believes that it should remain very strong, but
remaining strong in the service of a balance of power that favors
freedom. That means that the balance of power that favors freedom
should not be maintained by American military power alone. In fact, we
would welcome states that share our values, like, for instance, the
Europeans, devoting more resources to the military side, so that there
is more ability to share some of the security burdens in pressing for
a balance of power that favors freedom.
What we shouldn't want is a military adversary who does not share
those values to rise and start to equal the United States again in
military power in the way that the Soviet Union was able to challenge
American power, and therefore keep half of Europe in darkness and
oppression for 50 years.
And so this is not a statement that the United States wants to alone
be militarily so superior to everyone, it says that since we believe
that the key to American military power, the purpose of American
military power is to defend this balance of power that favors freedom,
we will not allow an adversarial military power to arise.
It also says, Bill, that for a lot of people, the devotion of
resources into other areas is going to be more stable for the world
and better for the world, and if you can dissuade military
competitors, it is good. I'll give you an example. China has been
saying in recent years that it's most important goal has to be
providing for its billion-plus population, for an entrepreneurial
spirit that's growing, for a growing Chinese economy. And devoting
resources to that and to economic competition and trade is something
that we welcome. Dissuading competition on the military side is
something that we would --
Q: Are there concerns about unilateralism?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The concerns about unilateralism I
just think are unwarranted. There is a line in this document that says
that there is nothing of lasting consequence that the United States
can achieve on its own without -- I'm paraphrasing -- without its
We really do believe that this is a shared burden and a shared
opportunity. Those who have benefited from the paradigm of progress,
those who have benefited from economic liberty and political freedom
-- people in Europe who were liberated 50 years ago through the blood
of young Americans, for instance -- those people, with us now, have an
obligation to extend that liberty to the rest of the world. And we
ought to be doing it together. And it's hard to imagine why you would
not want to cooperate on a program and on a set of opportunities to
extend liberty to the rest of the world, to those who have not yet had
Q: In view of the top priority given on a reasonable context to the
Middle East, I was just wondering whether there is some initiative in
the works to re-start talks there with -- led by the United States.
And, second, the last paragraph of chapter five, which deals with
preemption, lays out some very specific conditions for when you might
use preemptive force. And I wonder if you would apply those to the
situation in Iraq?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: To the situation in Iraq? Well, let me
not try to take what is a generalized principle here and -- but I will
come back to why we think preemption is a narrow end of a long band of
On the first point about the Middle East, as you know, Secretary
Powell met with the Quartet in New York last -- at the beginning of
the week. They had the Arab foreign ministers there. They then had the
Palestinians and the Israelis there.
A lot is going on. We think that a lot is going on in terms of
Palestinian reform and efforts there. Everybody's going to have to
step up and accept responsibilities. We are working very hard on the
security side to try and reform the security organizations of the
Palestinian Authority so that we can have a more secure environment in
which the Israelis can begin to pull back. We're pressing very hard on
the Israelis on the humanitarian front, because even in the absence of
a change in the security situation, something has to be done about the
humanitarian conditions in which the Palestinian people find
So there's a lot going on. The belief is, in the Quartet, that they're
working to think about what kind of work plan they might be able to
put in place. I think the President put out a pretty clear road ahead
in talking about the need for Palestinian reform leading to
institutions that could be the institutions of a democratic
Palestinian state; said that there were certain responsibilities that
Israel needed to undertake; and that at some point in time, it would
be possible to return to final status negotiations. But you need a
proper Palestinian interlocutor for that process.
So, yes, there's a lot ahead. They are working at it. The Quartet
meetings were very successful. And I think you may see more efforts of
On preemption, preemption is not a new concept. Anticipatory
self-defense is not a new concept. It goes -- you know, Daniel Webster
actually wrote a very famous defense of anticipatory self-defense.
But people have to -- you have to explain why it would be common sense
to say we will sit and wait to be attacked if we can do something
about the threat before we are attacked. And that really is the
essence of anticipatory self-defense.
It does mean that there should be other methods that you pursue and
use to try and deal with those threats -- diplomatic methods,
counterproliferation. There are all kinds of ways that you can try and
deal with threats.
There will be some cases in which much else has been exhausted, or
almost everything else has been exhausted, and it appears that you can
only deal with it through the use of military force. In a case in
which we've had 11 long years of cessation of hostilities, and in a
case in which there has been continued defiance and the forward march
of weapons of mass destruction, the President has given a chance for
another option to work, and that's an option through the United
But he has also made clear that he will not stand by and let that
danger gather if we can't get action in the UN.
Q: Are there other countries now on the globe where -- that the
doctrine of preemption would apply to, now or potentially in the
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: I think it's hard to answer the
question hypothetically. You really ought to try a lot of other means.
There are states with which we have serious disagreements, where we
have concerns about their programs, where we are working
diplomatically to try to deal with those situations.
An example might be North Korea, where we're working with Japan and
South Korea to try to deal with the threat posed by North Korean
nuclear programs and missile proliferation. So there are other ways to
go about this.
It's something that one would never want to use lightly, and one
certainly ought to have as good intelligence as you possibly can. But
there will be cases when you have no other option but to use military
force to prevent an attack against you.
Q: Would you clarify the difference between nonproliferation and
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Yes. Nonproliferation suggests that
there is still a chance that it won't spread, that you put in place
either treaties, or use norms -- an example of a nonproliferation
effort would be the Nunn-Lugar programs that seek to prevent Russian
nuclear scientists or materials from spreading out of the Soviet
Union, out of the old Soviet Union. So it is action that is taken
before you believe that something has spread.
Counterproliferation is when you either believe it has spread, or its
spread is imminent, and you have no choice but to use more active
measures to try and get it -- interdiction, for instance, would be a
case of counterproliferation.
Q: In other words, that would generally include things like special
operations and intelligence activities to --
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: A whole -- that's right. But it's
active measures rather than assuming that it has not spread, which is
generally what nonproliferation deals with.
Q: What's to stop other nations, like India or Russia, from taking
this language on preemption and using it to justify their actions in
Kashmir or Chechnya?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, I've said that this is a fairly
narrow band of problems to which it should be applied -- that's the
first -- and that you should try other things.
And in the case -- let's take the case of India and Pakistan. There
are major efforts underway with India and Pakistan, led by the United
States with Great Britain, to find a diplomatic solution to the
problem -- between the problem of extremism between India and
Pakistan, the problem of terrorism in and around Kashmir; the problem,
then, of getting the two sides to enter dialogue. There are very grave
-- great diplomatic efforts underway there.
With the Russian issue with Chechnya, there's an underlying political
situation here that can be resolved, and needs to be resolved. I don't
think anybody would argue that we've got an underlying political
situation with al-Qaeda that can be resolved or needs to be resolved.
And so you may be left with no other option if there are not other
ways to deal with the problem.
Of course, people can appropriate any argument. But the fact is it
isn't going to be considered a legitimate argument if it is clearly a
cover for naked aggression. And that is a judgment that I think the
world community will easily make in a case where there's either an
underlying political dispute that could be resolved, or diplomatic
efforts are underway, or where there are other means by which to
resolve the conflict.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about waging a war of ideas? You talk
here about supporting moderate and modern governments, especially in
the Muslim world. And I'm wondering, how do you encourage democracy
with a U.S. ally such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Kuwait?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: The first thing that you do is you
speak about it, and you put it there as an aspiration. And Ron asked
what was different. I think this is another thing, that there was a
sense that the United States has not been active enough in talking
about these values as universal values in asserting that they don't
stop at the boundaries of Islam, for instance, which is a religious
tradition that is holy and completely consistent with values of human
dignity. And so the first thing is to put it on the agenda. And this
puts it on the agenda.
Secondly, to encourage reform efforts in all kinds of places. The
Saudi Crown Prince does have some reform efforts underway in Saudi
Arabia. Bahrain, Qatar are places where you're having quite major
reform efforts underway. Encouraging it in Pakistan, for instance,
where you not only hold the Musharraf responsible for democratic
elections to take place in October, but try and support Musharraf's
efforts to reform the Madrassahs so that they are schools that teach
tolerance, not hatred. There are lots of ways that you can support
efforts that are underway in these countries. The United States will
not have answers about how these values express themselves in various
cultural and political circumstances.
But there are a couple of things that we're very clear about. One is
that they must express themselves, and that countries that are going
to be modern and successful are going to have to find a way to express
these values. And, secondly, that they are important to the people who
live in those countries, and if you give people a choice between
freedom and tyranny, they're going to choose freedom.
So that's it. You want to follow up?
Q: What about monetary assistance to some democratic groups in these
countries? Would you consider that, or is that part of this proposal?
SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL: Well, we'll look at all options. Some
of it is information flow. The United States does have a number of
programs through the National Endowment for Democracy, and through
other agencies of that kind that can reach out to groups that are
interested in and are trying to find support.
We are not going to change every country in the world into a democracy
overnight, everybody understands that. But you have to have an
aspiration, first and foremost. Secondly, you have to put it on the
agenda and care about it. I can tell you that many of the
conversations that I now have with heads of state around the world or
foreign ministers around the world or national security advisors
begins with a -- their discussion of what they are trying to do to
pursue democracy. In some cases we can be explicit. We've been
explicit that Millennium Challenge Account money, which is the new
development assistance, is only going to go to places that govern in a
way that is consistent with good governance and movement toward
democracy, where the trend lines are toward democracy.
So there is a lot that you can do, and you can do it without
arrogance, because the United States itself is an example that
democracy is not built overnight, that you get up every day and you
work at it brick by brick, piece by piece. You know, when the Founding
Fathers said, "We, the people," they didn't mean me. So it's taken the
United States a while to get there. It's something that we have to
work at all the time.
And because of that, we can say to people what you -- what has served
the United States well is documents and founding concepts, founding
principles; that we're in aspiration to this. You ought to be moving
consistently toward that aspiration, and the United States will be
there to help.
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