Democracy promotion, pre-emption and non-proliferation are the main themes in the Bush administration's latest national security strategy document.
The renewed and even messianic emphasis on the 'freedem agenda' has a special resonance for India because it provides a clue to what might be expected of New Delhi as its "strategic partnership" with Washington moves ahead in the months and years ahead.
17 March 2006
Ties with India on a new path, says U.S.
New Delhi: The Bush administration’s latest National Security Strategy (NSS) document, released in Washington on Thursday, continues to stress the major themes of pre-emptive war and regime change even as it outlines new areas for cooperation with the “other main centres of global power” such as Europe and India in “democracy promotion”, the “war against terror” and the drive to prevent nuclear proliferation.
Listing the setting aside of “decades of mistrust” with India as an example of the “unprecedented levels of cooperation” the U.S. is enjoying “on many of its highest national security priorities”, the document says relations with “the world's most populous democracy” have been put “on a new and fruitful path”.
In a reflection of the conjoint nature -- in American thinking -- of India’s status as a world power and its willingness to work closely with the U.S., the report also says “India now is poised to shoulder global obligations in cooperation with the United States in a way befitting a major power”.
Even though it notes that “some of our oldest and closest friends disagreed with U.S. policy in Iraq”, NSS 2006 is more explicit than its earlier 2002 version in stressing the importance of the “freedom agenda” as both the basis for alliance-building and the object of foreign and military policy.
Indeed, the latest document says the U.S. national security strategy is founded on the “two pillars” of “working to end tyranny, to promote effective democracies” and “confronting the challenges of our time by leading a growing community of democracies”.
The United States, it asserts, “may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran”.
The document also breaks new ground by describing the “struggle against militant Islamic radicalism” as “the great ideological conflict of the early years of the 21st century”. This conflict, it says, “finds the great powers all on the same side - opposing the terrorists. This circumstance differs profoundly from the ideological struggles of the 20th century, which saw the great powers divided by ideology as well as by national interest”.
Among the “seven essential tasks” identified by the NSS are the need to “strengthen alliances to defeat global terrorism”, work with others to defuse regional conflicts, prevent countries and terrorists from threatening the U.S. and its allies and friends with weapons of mass destruction, and developing “agendas for cooperative action with other main centres of global power.” Some conflicts, it notes “pose such a grave threat to our broader interests and values that conflict intervention may be needed to restore peace and stability”.
In discussing the evolution of U.S. relations with other powers, the report expresses concerns about Russia’s commitment to democracy and warns China’s leaders to realize “they cannot stay on [a] peaceful path while holding on to old ways of thinking and acting that exacerbate concerns throughout the region and the world”.
According to NSS 2006, Washington “cannot pretend that our interests are unaffected by states’ treatment of their own citizens. America’s interest in promoting effective democracies rests on an historical fact: states that are governed well are most inclined to behave well”. Referring to China, the document says that while the U.S. does not seek to dictate to other states the choices they make, it had to “hedge appropriately in case states choose unwisely”.
The national security document accuses China of expanding its military in a non-transparent way and “acting as if they can somehow ‘lock up’ energy supplies around the world or seek to direct markets rather than opening them up – as if they can follow a mercantilism borrowed from a discredited era”. China, it says, is also “supporting resource-rich countries without regard to the misrule at home or misbehavior abroad of those regimes”.
Preemption and use of force
On the unilateral use of force, NSS 2006 says that while “there is little of lasting consequence that we can accomplish in the world without the sustained cooperation of our allies and partners”, America “must be prepared to act alone if necessary”.
In countering the threat of nuclear proliferation which it claims Iran poses, the document says Washington’s “strong preference… is to address proliferation concerns through international diplomacy, in concert with key allies and regional partners”. But it adds: “If necessary, however, under long-standing principles of self defense, 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… The place of preemption in our national security strategy remains the same”.
Turning to the subcontinent, the U.S. document describes South and Central Asia as “a region of great strategic importance where American interests and values are engaged as never before”. It notes with satisfaction the progress achieved with India “even as the United States has improved its strategic relationship with Pakistan”. Washington’s relations with Islamabad could not be a mirror image of its relations with Delhi, it notes. “For decades, outsiders acted as if good relations with India and Pakistan were mutually exclusive. This Administration has shown that improved relations with each are possible and can help India and Pakistan make strides toward a lasting peace between themselves”.
On the military front, NSS 2006 says the U.S. is pursuing a future force that will “provide tailored deterrence of both state and non-state threats while assuring allies and dissuading potential competitors”. The document emphasises the need to establish “results-oriented partnerships on the model of the Proliferation Security Initiative to meet new challenges and opportunities”. These partnerships, it notes, “rely on voluntary adherence rather than binding treaties. They are oriented towards action and results rather than legislation or rule-making”.