The Wrong Approach to National Security in a New World by Congressman Gregory W. Meeks

As Americans face the uncertainty of a war with Iraq, while demonstrating the resolve to wage a war on global terrorism, September 20, 2002 marked another day which could change human history. On that day, less then one week after taking the debate on Iraq to the international community, the Bush Administration declared a "New" National Security Strategy for the United States. A new doctrine outlining how the US government would use all of our foreign policy instruments, including reserving the right to unilaterally use our unmatched military power in preemptive and un-warned military 1st strikes against both "immanent threats" and "capabilities to potentially threaten", to make Americans at home and abroad safer from the global threats posed in the new post 9/11 world.

It is clear that the present Administration believes in an approach to national security that relies on reserving the right to exercise our dominant global military capabilities, while pledging global cooperation when it coincides with unilateral definitions of our national strategic and security interests. When our nation adopts an approach to national security that emphasizes the global reach of our armed forces, it may be more of an indication of fear and insecurity rather then the strength and capabilities of the world's only superpower. It is not surprising that such an approach could be re-cycled and flourish in the current climate of fear and uncertainty that exists in America after the tragedy of 9/11.

Two things came to mind as I read the document: The world we live in could become a much more dangerous place if the US were to implement the above doctrine; and I had "deja vu", because several of the military concepts contained in the new strategy were written ten years ago in the last Bush Administration.

If we truly live in a new world, why is the Bush Administration presenting us with what it calls is a "new approach" to national security, based on the concepts found in the 1992 Draft Defense Planning Guidance and the 1993 Defense Strategy for the 1990s? Both of those documents were written under the direction of the current Vice President, Cheney, Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz, and Secretary of State Powell, when they served in various Defense Department related positions in the last Bush Administration.

There is nothing I value more then the security of all Americans both at home and abroad. However I also fear that a unilateral preemptive military action against Iraq and a national security policy doctrine which justifies it, could actually weaken, not increase, the security of Americans both here and abroad! I say this because if the tragedy of 9/11 and the intelligence failures which preceded it provide us with any lessons, one of them must be that it in an increasingly smaller world no nation alone, not even the nation with the world's most powerful military, can protect its citizens at home and abroad from all kinds of global threats.

Since 9/11, the facts show that one of the reasons why we have been able to successfully wage a war against global terrorism is not simply through "establishing bases and stations beyond Europe and northern Asia", or extending our global military power for the purposes of "regime change" or "dissuading future military competition from others hoping to equal the power of the US".

The facts show that many of our recent successes are a direct result of the greater cooperation our intelligence, law enforcement, counter-terrorism and defense agencies have received from many countries, including several majority Muslim nations. Cooperation which has resulted in saving American lives, by capturing individuals involved in the attack on 9/11 and thwarting planned attacks against Americans. Cooperation which several of our foreign embassies fear that we risk losing, just as we have squandered foreign popular sympathy, if our government attacks Iraq. America sends contradictory messages to our friends and allies when we say that we value their help in combating terrorism, but then propose policy approaches and actions which de-values their concerns and could threaten their security.

Perhaps one of the greatest tributes we could pay to those Americans who died on September 11th is to further involve the American public in formulating how our government fulfills it's constitutional duties to provide for the national security of Americans in the 21st century. I believe that our security can't be separated from the fact that international terrorism is a global threat and defeating terrorism will require global cooperation to address the root causes of terrorism.

I believe that all Americans must ask the following questions. What kind of world do we want our children to live in? Some experts have noted that if other nations, including some with weapons of mass destruction were to also adopt a similar doctrine as "policy", it could pose a clear danger to global security. If that is true, then Americans must tell their representatives whether they believe they will be safer with a national security strategy based on the old ideas of global military dominance or new ideas based on global cooperation?

Representative Gregory Meeks of the 6th District of New York, is a Democratic Member of the International Relations Committee of the United States Congress. Congressman Meeks can be contacted via e-mail at

Rep. Gregory Meeks

Wednesday, October 2, 2002