As US forces prepare for a possible war to unseat Saddam Hussein, the Bush administration has formally put the world on notice that its approach to Iraq is not the exception - but rather the rule - of a new US national security doctrine.
The strategy envisions a more robust, global role for the US military in eliminating threats from terrorists, "rogue" states, and weapons of mass destruction (WMD), making the case for preemptive strikes, even absent clear signs of an imminent attack.
The policy holds key implications for the shape and scope of the US military, and may add fresh impetus to current Pentagon efforts to bolster and expand the counterterrorism work of its elite Special Operations units, secure new basing arrangements in remote corners of the world, and enhance its long-range precision strike capabilities.
Echoing the Bush administration's mantra that the "best defense is a good offense," it reaffirms the goal of US military superiority and calls on the Pentagon to give the president more options for exercising it. "The goal must be to provide the President with a wider range of military options to discourage aggression or any form of coercion against the United States, our allies, or our friends," reads the document, which is required by Congress and was released Friday by The White House.
Underpinning the strategy is the claim that America, with its "unprecedented - and unequaled - strength and influence" has a responsibility to lead and that its actions will "help make the world not just safer but better."
By promoting values that are "right and true for all people," such as the rule of law, free speech, and religious tolerance, Washington will act with just cause, it asserts.
Yet in recognition that a bolder projection of US military strength could encourage other countries to follow suit, it warns nations against using "preemption as a pretext for aggression."
The strategy underscores the need to transform the US military from being structured to deter massive-yet-static cold war-era armies. Instead, it calls for a force that is more agile, better integrated, and poised globally to counter hard-to-predict …