President Barack Obama’s new national security doctrine is expected to enshrine his break with the go-it-alone Bush era, instead promising more diplomacy abroad and economic discipline at home to bolster America’s standing in the world.
The White House is poised to roll out Obama’s first official declaration of national security priorities, a list all but certain to pointedly omit predecessor George W. Bush’s policy of pre-emptive war that alienated some US allies.
Laying out a vision for keeping America safe as it fights wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the document is meant to formalize Obama’s intent to rely as much on diplomatic engagement as military power to shape the world order.
As Obama grapples with a struggling economy and record deficits, there is also growing recognition that US national security also depends on regaining economic health, putting its fiscal house in order and reducing dependence on foreign oil.
But it is not clear whether Obama’s strategists will go as far as admitting what has become an emerging consensus in foreign policy circles — that heavy US.
Indebtedness to countries like China now poses a national security problem.
Obama’s National Security Strategy, required by law of every president, will give an official stamp to his efforts to steer a new course in global affairs since taking office.
Bush used his first policy statement in 2002 to stake out the right to unilateral and pre-emptive military action against countries and terrorist groups deemed threats to the United States in the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, 2001.
Obama has signalled that he will distance his administration, at last implicitly, from what became known as the “Bush Doctrine” and underpinned the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.
Turning page on “cowboy diplomacy”?
At West Point on Saturday, Obama laid out his broad principles, stressing multilateral cooperation over Bush’s “cowboy diplomacy.” He said the United States must strengthen alliances, build new partnerships and promote human rights.
“We are clear-eyed about the shortfalls of our international system,” he said. “But America has not succeeded by stepping out of the currents of cooperation.”
“We have to shape an international order that can meet the challenges of our generation,” he said.
Obama’s insistence the United States cannot act alone in the world was also a message to allies that they must shoulder their share of the burden in confronting global conflicts.
Obama has already been widely credited with improving the tone of US foreign policy — an achievement noted when he won the Nobel Peace Price in 2009 — but he is still struggling with two unfinished wars, nuclear standoffs with Iran and North Korea, and sluggish Middle East peace efforts.
Critics say some of his efforts at diplomatic outreach show US weakness, and they question whether he jeopardizes American interests by relying too heavily on “soft power.”
Previewing parts of the document, John Brennan, Obama’s leading counterterrorism adviser, said on Wednesday it would make clear that the United States is not “at war with Islam.”
“We are at war against al Qaeda and its terrorist affiliates,” he said in a speech in Washington.
Brennan’s words jibed with Obama’s outreach to the Muslim world, where the US image under Bush was hurt by the Iraq war, the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal and his use of phrases like “war on terror” and “Islamo-fascism.”
Brennan said curbing the growing threat of “home-grown” terrorism would be a top priority. This comes in the aftermath of the failed Christmas Day bombing of a US airliner and the botched Times Square car bomb attempt earlier this month.
Obama also indicated that his strategy would assert that domestic priorities such as developing new technologies and clean energy sources are also linked to national security.
“At no time in human history has a nation of diminished economic vitality maintained its military and political primacy,” he told graduating cadets at West Point.
Pic: US President Barack Obama