THE SEPT. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks fundamentally altered U.S. thinking about global security. The Bush Administration mobilized for a war on terror and launched an assault on Afghanistan and an invasion and occupation of Iraq. The concept of preemptive war moved to the center of U.S. doctrine. The use of military force became the primary U.S. response to an increasingly international security environment.
In the aftermath of the war in Iraq, the U.S. now must deal with the broader implications of preemptive military action, including its corrosive effects on the system of collective security embodied in institutions such as the United Nations and NATO; the prospect that we are entering a cycle of permanent war as we pursue "evil" regimes and race continuing terrorist threats; and an unpredictable cost in terms of American lives and U.S. taxpayer dollars. The strategy of preemptive unilateralism has aroused animosity toward the U.S. abroad and reduced international trust in American policies. It has made the country less, not more, secure.
At this juncture, it seems appropriate to examine the various means of addressing global terrorism, weapons proliferation, and other threats to U.S. and international security. These alternatives based on the "force of law" rather than the "law of force"--include diplomacy, prevention, deterrence, containment, and collective defense. It is time to move beyond the metaphor of war to a more sustainable and effective international policy based on engagement rather than preemption.
The "National Security Strategy," released by the White House in September, 2002, redefined the threat to U.S. security as the nexus between terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, and the possibility of access to such weapons through failed states or rogue regimes. The greatest danger was identified as the "crossroads of radicalism and technology," the fear that terrorists--aided by tyrants--would acquire and use nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons.
Terrorism is nothing new, but in recent decades these networks have acquired global reach and have become mole lethal and agile. If 21st-century terrorists get hold of weapons of mass destruction, this devastating power will. for the first time, be available to deviant groups and individuals. The problem of failed states exacerbates this throat. When governments cannot maintain law' and order in their territories, terrorists use the installing power vacuum as a safe haven, much as Al Qaeda did in Afghanistan. Iraq has become a magnet for terrorists in the wake of the collapse of government and social structures following the U.S.-led invasion.
The dangers of mass destruction terrorism are growing as the deadliest weapons proliferate. A Pentagon analysis shows 12 nations with nuclear weapons programs, 13 with biological weapons activities, 16 with chemical weapons initiatives, and 28 with ballistic missile capabilities. A Department of Energy commission report released before Sept. 11 concluded that the "most urgent unmet national security threat to the United States today is the danger that weapons of mass destruction or weapons-usable material in Russia could be stolen and sold to terrorists or hostile nation states...." This situation still has not been adequately addressed. It is exacerbated by unemployed scientists in the former Soviet Union who are desperate for work and could provide others with the expertise to develop nuclear weapons.
The U.S. also is threatened by the longer-term effects of growing lawlessness and the increasing isolation of the country from like-minded states. American leaders have contributed to this through a penchant for unilateral action, the abrogation or disregard of international agreements, and the invasion of Iraq without UN approval.
Defeating Al Qaeda and like-minded groups is the primary security objective. While the Administration has devoted substantial energy to this task, important opportunities have been missed. …