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Preemption Remains US Policy Option

Us President George W. Bush. Photo courtesy of AFP.
by Richard Tomkins
UPI White House Correspondent
Washington (UPI) Mar 20, 2006
The Bush administration rolled out its long-overdue paper on national security strategy Thursday. The study demolished the assessments by many recent analysts that the administration was starting to take a more cautious approach to international security challenges and was growing increasingly averse to the use of force.

It repeated and elaborated the importance of preemptive military action against rogue states and terrorists threatening the United States and emphasized that this remained a central policy tenet.

The lesson of al-Qaida's Sept. 11, 2001 mega-terrorist attacks on the United States was that the nation cannot afford to wait to be attacked first and must act proactively -- militarily if diplomacy failed or was deemed inappropriate, the report said.

"If necessary ... under long-standing principles of self defense, we do not rule out use of force before attacks occur, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy attack," it said. "When the consequences of an attack with (weapons of mass destruction) are potentially so devastating, we cannot afford to stand idly by as grave dangers materialize."

The doctrine of preemption, long a U.S. policy option, shook the political scene when President George W. Bush presented it in 2002 in close proximity to his references to rogue regimes forming an Axis of Evil.

Worries in world capitals over the unilateral use of U.S. military power came to a head when the United States in March 2003 invaded Iraq, which was mistakenly thought to have retained its weapons of mass destruction in violation of accords that suspended hostilities in the 1991 Gulf War.

Thursday's reiteration of the preemptive strike policy came as tensions continued to rise over Iran and its suspected nuclear weapons program and interference in Iraq.

"We are concerned about their behavior in a number of ways," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said earlier this week. "We're concerned about their behavior when it comes to their support for terrorism. We're concerned about their behavior when it comes to the role that they're playing in the region. And we're concerned about their behavior when it comes to the Middle East peace process, as well, and their support for groups like Hezbollah."

McClellan Thursday stressed the need for continued negotiations with Tehran, but he would not say what options the United States exercises if the Islamic regime goes ahead with its intention to enrich uranium and continues to meddle in the Gulf region.

"We may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran," according to the report.

The report released Thursday is formally called "The National Security Strategy of the United States." By law, the administration is required to produce an elaboration of the threats and challenges facing the United States every year. But the NSS document for 2006 was the first produced by the Bush administration since 2002.

In the 49-page exposition, the Bush administration highlighted the push for democracy in the Middle East and elsewhere to mitigate the disaffection that breeds susceptibility to radicalism and terrorism.

The report called for free elections so people could express their will, but it also stressed the need to establish democratic institutions and adoption of democratic principles -- a free press, minority rights, rule of law - as necessary for democracy to take root.

It specifically pointed to recent Palestinian elections that put Hamas -- a designated terrorist organization -- in control of the Palestinian parliament.

"Elections alone are not enough -- they must be reinforced by other values, rights and institutions to bring about lasting freedom," the report said. "Our goal is human liberty protected by democratic institutions."

"These principles are tested by the victory of Hamas candidates in recent elections in Palestinian territories," it added. "The Palestinian people voted in a process that was free, fair and inclusive ... (but) the burden now shifts to those whom they have elected to take the steps necessary to advance peace, prosperity and statehood for the Palestinian people."

The administration chastised what it called despotic regimes -- North Korea, Zimbabwe, Syria and others, and it warned China to act responsibly in the area of human rights and in its "strategic choices." This appeared to be a reference to Taiwan. It also and bemoaned what the administration fears in a loss of commitment to democracy by the Russian government of President Vladimir Putin.

The United States, the report said, continued to support transnational organizations for diplomacy, but again reiterated its acceptance of "coalitions of the willing" if those organizations should prove ineffective.

It also stressed continued support for stopping human and narcotics trafficking, in combating genocide and in providing humanitarian aid.

However the preemption doctrine continued to attract the most attention and controversy.

"It's always been an arrow in the quiver for defense policy," said Peter Brookes, a national security expert at the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank in Washington. "In this day and age, considering the potential of nuclear weapons falling into the hands terrorist states ... I think we have to continue to embrace the idea that preemption may be required, especially in the case of dealing with non-state actors, such as terrorists

"(But) there is some concern over the ability to understand imminence, the idea that an attack is imminent and the challenges to the intelligence community on this," Brookes said. "There have been a number of intelligence failures in the last several years -- I think 9/11 and Iraqi WMD are two of them -- and so that makes people uncomfortable in having to make those very weighty decisions.

"But the other thing is the question are you willing to take the first punch, and how big a punch would that be ...? Could it be an explosion of a nuclear or dirty bomb or the use of chemical or biological weapons, and are you willing to live with that. That is the challenge for policy makers and it is no small challenge," Brookes said.

The White House said Thursday there was no link between the report being released and President Bush's low standing in opinion polls over his Iraq policy, or public support for the war in Iraq.

However, the report clearly indicated that the American people, and the world, can expect an aggressive and engaged United States in the months and years ahead.

Source: United Press International

related report

Outside View: Battling Over Brigades
by William S. Lind
UPI Outside View Commentator Washington (UPI) Mar 20 - A controversy appears to be brewing over the U.S. Army's plan to move away from the division as its basic unit and toward the brigade, or Brigade Combat Team as the Army buzzwords it. On the surface, it appears there should be little to argue about. Most other armies abandoned the division or downsized it long ago, recognizing that it is simply too big to be commanded effectively on dispersed modern battlefields.

The controversy, it seems, is less over the move to brigades than over the question of how many maneuver battalions the Army will have left once the reorganization is complete. Here, the answer is the usual answer where numbers are concerned: it depends on what you count. An IDA study says maneuver battalions are cut by 20 percent, which if true, is certainly a bad move.

The Army's leadership responds that IDA is not counting the recon battalion in each BCT, which is also a maneuver battalion. That may or may not be true, depending on the military situation. Like combat engineer battalions, reconnaissance battalions are sometimes used just like other maneuver battalions, because the situation demands that everyone be thrown into the fight. When the demand for cannon fodder is less intense, however, commanders usually want to avoid using units with special skills as infantry, because soldiers with special skills are harder to replace.

Far more serious than the question of whether recon battalions are or are not maneuver battalions is the matter of creeping headquarters' growth. The IDA study found that with the new BCT organization, brigade headquarters grew by about 11 percent. I met with the Army's "transformation task force" on force structure twice, and my strong impression from those meetings was that headquarters grow both in number and in size.

Why is this a problem? Because more headquarters and larger headquarters inevitably mean more centralization. Centralization is one of the key characteristics of Second Generation militaries, just as decentralization is a defining quality of the Third Generation. Decentralization permits outward focus and encourages initiative, which in turn together speed up Boyd's OODA Loop and improve accuracy of orientation. Centralization, in contrast, slows the OODA Loop down and blurs orientation because the picture that is the basis for decisions is many layers removed from the actual observation.

One of the reasons none of America's armed services has yet transitioned from the Second to the Third Generation is the vast number and size of their headquarters. All those headquarters' officers are continually looking for something to do, and for some scrap of information that will give them 30 seconds of face time in the endless Powerpoint briefings that are American headquarters' main business. The result is that they impose endless demands on the time and energy of subordinate units. One Army battalion last year told me they had to submit 64 reports to their division every day.

Here we come to the central question, not only about the Army's move from divisions to brigades, but about its whole "transformation" program: is it reform, or is it just reorganization? To count as real reform, it needs to move the Army out of the Second Generation and into the Third. If all it amounts to is reorganization within a Second Generation framework, then, frankly, it's not worth the umpteen-thousand Power Point slides it's printed on.

If the Army's senior leadership wants reform and not mere reorganization, here's a suggestion to move the "transformation" process in that direction. Order that at the end of the day, when the new BCT structure is in place, the Army may have only half as many officers in headquarters -- at all levels -- as it did under the previous structure. And no, the officers cut may not be replaced by contractors. That would at least encourage decentralization, without which no reform is possible. It might also give however many maneuver battalions the Army ends up with a little room to breathe.

William S. Lind, expressing his own personal opinion, is Director for the Center for Cultural Conservatism for the Free Congress Foundation. United Press International's "Outside View" commentaries are written by outside contributors who specialize in a variety of important issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of United Press International. In the interests of creating an open forum, original submissions are invited.

Source: United Press International

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