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Security strategy 92 { October 17 2002 }

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October 17, 2002
Chicago Daily Law Bulletin

By Douglass W. Cassel

"America the Supercop," scoffed the New York Times, "pounding its global beat alone, menaced by threats and nervously eyeing its partners as potential challengers ... a needlessly provocative vision."

No, the Times was not responding to the new National Security Strategy released last month by President Bush. Its editorial appeared 10 years ago. Its target was an early draft of the Pentagon's post-Cold War strategy paper.

Prepared in early 1992 under the supervision of then-Under Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, that draft celebrated and proposed to perpetuate America's emergence as lone superpower. It recommended "convincing potential military competitors that they need not aspire to a greater role." It downplayed the United Nations. And it urged military force, if necessary, to prevent Iraq from developing weapons of mass destruction.

Reaction to the draft was scathing. One official of the first Bush administration, said by the Times to be familiar with White House and State Department views, called it a "dumb report" that "in no way or shape represents U.S. policy."

Terming the draft "myopic," Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va., warned that in the long run it would be "counterproductive to the very goal of world leadership that it cherishes."

Even an official Pentagon spokesman, while maintaining that its basic thrust reflected the thinking of then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, disavowed several of the draft's main points. By April 1992, a new Pentagon draft dropped the goal of maintaining unrivaled military power and emphasized the UN role in resolving disputes.

A decade later, Dick Cheney is back as vice president and Wolfowitz as deputy secretary of defense. And, as the Chicago Tribune's R.C. Longworth points out, the 1992 report is back as the president's new National Security Strategy.

The document is not unchanged. Input by National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice is said to be seen in its insistence on the use of power not purely for barren realpolitik, but to promote values of freedom, democracy and human dignity. And in lieu of the "chest-thumping unilateralism" denounced by the Times in 1992, the new strategy echoes Rice's support for a "distinctly American internationalism."

But the core of the document is the discredited, decade-old draft. As exemplified by the Bush plan to invade Iraq with or without UN authorization, the new strategy rests on three main points.

First, America is to maintain unrivaled military power. Already our defense budget is greater than that of the next 20 countries combined -- more than the total of Britain, France, Russia, China, India and Israel, among others. By 2005 our military budget is projected to surpass the entire rest of the world combined. As an administration official told reporters when the new strategy was released, "We will not allow an adversarial military power to arise."

Second, we claim the right to use our unrivaled power to launch preemptive attacks against perceived threats. Never mind the UN Charter, which gives the Security Council the sole right to authorize military force, except in cases of self-defense. Never mind the international law rule, reaffirmed at Nuremberg, that preemptive self-defense is permitted only in the face of imminent threats. Just trust us.

The asserted justification is that potential enemies today, unlike during the Cold War, must be preempted because they cannot be rationally deterred. This is over-inclusive. True, suicidal terrorists like al-Qaida cannot be deterred. But dictators like Saddam Hussein, who preside over nations, cherish power and survival. They are more like Joseph Stalin than Mohammed Atta. For them, containment still works.

Perhaps international law should be updated. The way to reform it, however, is by international negotiation, not by unilateral pronouncement.

Third, "distinctly American internationalism" turns out to mean "unilateralism unless we get our way." If the UN accedes, we use it. If not, we round up a posse -- a so-called "coalition of the willing," like Britain and others who may soon join us in attacking Baghdad. And if other countries decline, we simply go it alone, flexing our unmatched military muscle.

In other words, as the president told the UN in regard to Iraq, either you act, or we will.

So America the self-appointed Supercop is back. Only this time the dumb draft has become real policy: global military domination designed to enable unilateral, preemptive attacks against other nations. The Nuremberg Tribunal called such a policy by its rightful name: a "crime against peace." Human Rights

By Douglass W. Cassel Jr. Cassel is director of the Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern University's School of Law, where he also serves as a clinical associate professor. The views expressed here are solely those of the author.

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