Deb Riechmann / Associated Press – 2006-03-16 23:30:26
WASHINGTON (March 16, 2006) — Undaunted by the difficult war in Iraq, President George W. Bush reaffirmed Thursday his strike-first policy against perceived enemy countries while declaring that Iran may pose the biggest challenge of all for the United States.
In a 49-page national security report, the president said diplomacy is the US preference in halting the spread of nuclear and other heinous weapons.
“If necessary, however, under long-standing principles of self-defence, we do not rule out the use of force before attacks occur – even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack,” Bush wrote.
Titled National Security Strategy, the report summarizes Bush’s plan for protecting the United States and directing US relations with other countries. It is an updated version of a report Bush issued in 2002.
In the earlier report, a year after the Sept. 11 attacks, Bush underscored his administration’s adoption of a pre-emptive policy, marking the end of a deterrent military strategy that dominated the Cold War.
The latest report makes it clear Bush hasn’t changed his mind, even though no weapons of mass destruction – the primary reason given for invading Iraq – were ever found.
“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,” Bush wrote.
The report had harsh words for Iran. It accused Tehran of supporting terrorists, threatening Israel and disrupting democratic reform in Iraq. Bush said diplomacy to halt Tehran’s suspected nuclear weapons work must prevail to avert a conflict.
“This diplomatic effort must succeed if confrontation is to be avoided,” Bush said.
He did not say what would happen if international negotiations with Iran failed. The Bush administration currently is working to persuade Russia and China to support a proposed UN Security Council resolution demanding that Iran end its uranium enrichment program.
Bush had similar words for North Korea, which he said poses a serious nuclear proliferation challenge. Bush also accused North Korea of counterfeiting US currency, trafficking in narcotics, threatening its neighbours and starving its people.
“The North Korean regime needs to change these polices, open up its political system and afford freedom to its people,” Bush said. “In the interim, we will continue to take all necessary measures to protect our national and economic security against the adverse effects of their bad conduct.”
Bush issued rebukes to Russia and China and called Syria a tyranny that harbours terrorists and sponsors terrorist activity.
On Russia, Bush said recent trends show a waning commitment to democratic freedoms and institutions. “Strengthening our relationship will depend on the policies, foreign and domestic, that Russia adopts,” he said.
The United States was also nudging China down a road of reform and openness.
“China’s leaders must realize, however, that they cannot stay on this peaceful path while holding on to old ways of thinking and acting that exacerbate concerns throughout the region and the world,” Bush wrote.
These “old ways” include enlarging China’s military in a non-transparent way, expanding trade, yet seeking to direct markets rather than opening them up, and supporting energy-rich countries without regard to their misrule or misbehaviour at home or abroad, Bush said.
The report is laden with strategies for advancing democracy across the globe, a theme of Bush’s second inaugural address.
The president said his administration was advancing this goal by holding high-level meetings at the White House with democratic reformers in repressive counties; using foreign aid to support fair elections, women’s rights and religious freedom and pushing to abolish human trafficking.
Countering suggestions that he favours a go-it-alone approach to foreign policy, Bush emphasized multilateral problem-solving.
“Many of the problems we face – from the threat of pandemic disease to proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, to terrorism, to human trafficking, to natural disasters – reach across borders,” he said.
“Effective multinational efforts are essential to solve these problems. Yet history has shown that only when we do our part will others do theirs. America must continue to lead.”
© The Canadian Press, 2006
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