Thursday, March 16, 2006

Bush Reaffirms First Strike Policy

In a 49-page report to Congress, President Bush reaffirmed the US policy he enacted in 2002 which provides for preemptive strikes against nations potentially planning an attack against the US with weapons of mass destruction. (Union Tribune: Bush security strategy reaffirms strike-first policy, sees Iran as possibly greatest threat).

That policy has come under fire of late with critics citing faulty intelligence in Iraq as an example of why preemption doesn't work. Until 2002 US policy had opposed launching preemptive strikes and was the cornerstone of our waging the cold war. However, given the number of rogue nations that either have nuclear weapons (such as Pakistan) and the number of rogue nations such as Iran that are trying to develop nuclear weapons, a policy of preemption is absolutely required. A nuclear equipped Iran or a fundamentalist regime change in Pakistan are worst case scenarios that would most certainly prompt a US preemptive strike.

President Bush commented on the policy saying, “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 place of pre-emption in our national security strategy remains the same.”

The President is correct. What is needed in addition to this policy, however, is significant improvement in our intelligence gathering capabilities within rogue nations as well as a restoration of our credibility with regards to foreign intelligence. The argument for war in Iraq is seen world-wide as a failure of US intelligence (despite the same conclusions being drawn by France, Germany, Spain, and Great Britain) and that public perception will certainly make it more difficult to sell a skeptical world on the need to act preemptively elsewhere.

Iran is one of the nations benefiting from the loss of foreign intelligence credibility. Efforts to sanction Iran - or even merely warn them not to develop a nuclear program - have stalled in the UN Security Council. Neither Russia nor China support any measures that appear at all confrontational. While their motives have little to do with foreign intelligence and more to do with their strong economic ties to Iran, the fact that the US has lost credibility has contributed to our inability to gain more widespread support for sanctions.

Still, the policy of preemption is sound. It does not make sense to wait for the enemy to strike first when the results of that strike could be a nuclear, chemical, or biological attack against US interests or allies. If that means acting unilaterally or without the support of the UN, then so be it. US foreign policy is set in Washington, not in New York, Paris, or Brussels. In the final analysis, the President reports to the American people, not to the United Nations. It is our responsibility to ensure that rogue nations do not gain the ability to cause harm to US interests. If that means acting while the UN stumbles along in endless and fruitless debate, then we will do just that.


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