WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama is breaking with the go-it-alone Bush years in a new strategy for keeping the nation safe, counting more on U.S. allies to tackle terrorism and other global problems.
The administration’s National Security Strategy, a summary of which was obtained Wednesday by the Associated Press, also for the first time adds homegrown terrorism to the familiar menu of threats facing the nation – international terror, nuclear weapons proliferation, economic instability, global climate change and an erosion of democratic freedoms abroad.
From mustering NATO forces for Afghanistan to corralling support to pressure North Korea to give up its illicit nuclear weapons program, the U.S. has sometimes struggled in leaning on friends and allies in recent years. Still, the new strategy breaks with some previous administrations in putting heavy emphasis on the value of global cooperation, developing wider security partnerships and helping other nations provide for their own defense.
Presidents use their national security strategy to set broad goals and priorities for keeping Americans safe. But the document isn’t an academic exercise: it has far-reaching effects on spending, defense policies and security strategy.
For example, President George W. Bush’s 2002 strategy document spelled out a doctrine of pre-emptive war.
The following year U.S. forces invaded Iraq, launching a conflict that has lasted far longer and cost far more money and lives than Bush intended.
Obama’s new strategy is expected to move away from that doctrine.
Still, the strategy makes it clear the United States intends to maintain the world’s most powerful military, with unsurpassed reach and capability despite being stretched by two wars and other challenges.
John Brennan, the White House’s top counterterrorism adviser, said Wednesday that the administration would add combating homegrown terrorism to its strategy.
Terror attacks like the shooting at Fort Hood last year, which killed 13 bystanders, as well as the failed Times Square bombing on May 1, have thrust homegrown terrorism into the spotlight, and U.S. citizens like Najibullah Zazi and David Headley have been charged with plotting terror attacks.
Brennan, speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, did not disclose specifics of Obama’s strategy paper. But he hinted at its philosophical underpinnings. Denouncing al-Qaida as “a small band of cowards,” Brennan said the U.S. would defeat the militant network while maintaining “our values as a nation.”