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Home > News & Policies > Press Secretary Briefings

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
March 16, 2006

Press Briefing on the National Security Strategy by Dr. J.D. Crouch, Deputy National Security Advisor
James S. Brady Briefing Room

3:20 P.M. EST

DR. CROUCH: Hello. J.D. Crouch, Deputy National Security Advisor. I have with me Dr. Peter Feaver, who's also a special advisor to the National Security Advisor.

What we'd like to do today is provide a little bit of a background brief on the NSS -- National Security Strategy -- that was released this morning. Obviously, this is an important document, statement by the President, also a report that is mandated by Congress.

This strategy, as released today, builds on the foundation of the National Security Strategy that was released in 2002. It's the same broad strategy, although it obviously has assessed recent developments, taking into account accomplishments and challenges as we go forward, and it charts a way ahead for the administration's National Security Policy. It explains how we're working to protect the American people, advance American interests and enhance global security and expand liberty and prosperity.

Obviously, it's a long document, a lot in it. We encourage all of you to read it and chew on it. Some of you may have had an opportunity to do that already. But I'd like to sort of make maybe five key themes that I think emerged from the document.

The first strategy is really premised on preserving and enhancing our national strength, our economic strength, our diplomatic strength, and our military strength. And we are a nation at war, as the President's opening letter reminds us. And, obviously, defeating terrorists who would destroy the United States and our way of life is our most immediate challenge.

But second, the strategy talks about a long-term strategy to defeat terrorists, which is focused on defeating their hateful ideology. We do this by promoting a positive vision of freedom and democracy. The strategy really builds on that forward strategy of freedom that was outlined by the President many times, including most recently in his second inaugural address and in the State of the Union.

A third element of the strategy recognizes that freedom and democracy are not just a means to an end. We seek to promote freedom, justice and human dignity around the globe as important objectives of our nation. This means working to end tyranny and to promote effective democracies. And our goal, really, is human liberty protected by democratic institutions. We think that this end-state, this goal is both right in the moral sense, but it is also very important in terms of protecting the American people in the long run.

Fourth point, our strategy recognizes that security and effective democracy lay a foundation for smart development strategy that focuses on outcomes. And there's quite a bit in the report on development -- that we need to encourage nations and reward nations that govern well and invest in their own people, and that we will work with them to promote prosperity, open markets, integrating developing countries into the world economy through the WTO, free trade agreements, and the like.

And then a fifth point, our strategy explains how we are confronting the challenges of our time, and the importance that we confront the challenges of our time by leading a growing community of democracies. Obviously, many of the problems that we face from pandemic disease, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, to terrorism, human trafficking, natural disasters such as the tsunami, for example, these are issues that reach across borders. And effective democracies are better able to deal with these challenges than are repressive or poorly governed states.

So, really, the theme that kind of runs through this national security strategy is on the one hand the promotion of effective democracy, and at the same time the need for the international community with the United States in a leadership position to confront the challenges of our day.

So with that as kind of a background, an overview -- I know there are probably some specific questions having to do with comparative issues and other kinds of things, and I'd be happy to engage on those and send all the tough questions over here. No, just kidding. Thoughts?

Q It's not directly on the report, but it's related. Today, the Iranians said that they would be willing to talk with the U.N. ambassador with regard to -- I don't know what. There has been -- but Scott said in the briefing today that their U.N. ambassador -- U.S. ambassador, U.S. ambassador to Iraq, has some very narrow mandates to talk with Iraqi officials. What would they be discussing if they get together and talk? Iranian officials, I'm sorry.

DR. CROUCH: I think it's important to point out that we have many and do publicly in many other ways of communicating our concerns about Iranian actions in Iraq. It's also -- and in that regard, I think Scott mentioned the fact that our ambassador in Baghdad, Ambassador Khalilzad, has the authority to raise concerns with his counterpart in Iraq.

But I think it's also important to underscore the fact that this is really -- the concerns between Iran and Iraq are something that need to be worked out between the Iraqi and the Iranian governments; that Iraq is a sovereign government, and obviously they're in the process right now of constituting a permanent government. And it's really their important and their role, their -- the role vested in them by the Iraqi people to have those kinds of discussions and to be able to deal with them.

But as I said, our ambassador is able to raise concerns, and we've raised concerns publicly about what we have regarded as unhelpful activities of the Iranians in Iraq.

Q Sir, is it -- I might be confused here, but the last time you talked to the Iranians was through the Swiss channel, and was that over two years ago, right before the Saudi terrorist attacks? And were the Saudi terrorist attacks the reason why you cut off those negotiations, or those talks with the Iranians through the Swiss channel?

DR. CROUCH: I mean, like I said, we've -- I think what's appropriate here is to say that we have a number of different ways of communicating messages to the Iranians, both in terms of public statements, and obviously in the case of Ambassador Khalilzad, he's got the authority to talk to counterparts. I'm not going to get into specific back and forth. And I, frankly, don't even know what cause and effect you're referring to.

But I think the main point in the context of Iraq is that this really -- the resolution of differences between those two countries is something that ought to be done in dialogue between Iranians and Iraqis.

Q And just to make clear, you're ruling out talking directly to the Iranians or through a third party on other issues, right?

DR. CROUCH: I think, again, on broader issues, broader than the Iraqi situation. We have many different ways of communicating our concerns and our problems with the Iranians. Obviously, one of those vehicles has been our diplomatic approach to this, in which we have been working very closely with the EU 3, very closely with the Russian Federation, and bringing them together. And obviously, we know that -- as you know -- the EU 3 have been discussing, have had extensive conversations, particularly on the nuclear issue concerns, but not exclusively on the nuclear issue with the Iranians. So we have many different ways of both communicating and sending messages with the -- to the Iranians.

Q Sir, will you be seeking through change or augment in any way international law, international structures, in accordance with this new National Security Strategy, especially maybe as it relates to the preemptive strikes, which everybody is mostly interested in?

DR. CROUCH: I think if you look at the discussion of preemption and -- in the document, you'll see that it's very consistent with the lay down that was in the 2002 document. It's important to understand that we believe that this is based on the right of self defense, which is inherent, and obviously, the first charge of the U.S. government, that's the charge -- first charge of the President under the Constitution. And it is a right that is enshrined, indeed, in the U.N. Charter itself. And so it's really premised on that, the idea that we need to confront challenges and have those tools available.

But confronting challenges, as the document also makes clear, is -- obviously you want to try to use diplomatic tools so as -- for example, in the case of Iraq, there was a long history of diplomatic engagement with the Iraqis about the concerns over WMD and other issues. We didn't want to use economic tools again. There was a very long history backed by the international community of trying to use economic leverage in that case. You want to use the United Nations. Again, over a 12-year period, we had some 16, 17 resolutions.

And so in the end, there was a strategic choice that was really made by the Iraqi leader -- at the time, Saddam Hussein -- on that particular issue. I think it's really important to view the discussion in the document on preemption in that context, that we will use that broad range of tools. We will also, of course, always reserve the right that if our security is threatened, and in our own self defense, if we have to use military force.

Q But sir, preemption has many forms. The military strike is one, but I mean, you can --

DR. CROUCH: Exactly. Economic preemption, diplomatic preemption --

Q -- intercept -- you can intercept ships at sea, which is, in my understanding, is contrary to the international law, as it stands. So would you, in such instances, where a correction in international law is in order in view of what -- basically what the practices are already -- I mean, the interceptions are happening -- in such instances, would you be seeking to change the laws?

DR. CROUCH: Well, the -- if you look at the activities, for example, under the global war on terror and the declarations that were made coming out of the resolutions out of the United Nations, operating under those authorities to stop terrorists from moving around, there have been ship interceptions by coalition forces in and around the Eastern Mediterranean and the like. Obviously, we have the Proliferation Security Initiative where we have literally dozens of countries cooperating together under international law, and abiding by international law to try to develop means and implement those means to stop the movement and trafficking of weapons of mass destruction and their components.

So I think it's an important topic. I think it's something that, obviously, we would encourage broader participation, from an international perspective, in getting countries to use the rights they have now to stop the movement of WMD, for example. It's an interesting question that you pose, as to whether or not more or different legal rights need to be developed. I think that's something that should be taken up somewhere in an international body.

Q Can you talk about China just a little bit? In the document it says that the Chinese are trying to lock up energy supplies. Could you give a little specifics on that? And that they're also building ties with countries that are rich in resources that aren't necessarily democratic. Who are you talking about there?

DR. CROUCH: Well, let me say broadly, I think one of the things that we -- obviously, our relationship with China is an important one; it's a very complex one. And I think we see the emergence of China as one that presents challenges, but also at the same time presents opportunities for the United States and for the rest of the region.

And in that context, we've been trying to work with the Chinese to try to get them to view their approach to energy security, their approach to -- and, obviously, as their appetite for energy increases and their economy expands, to view energy security in a less mercantilist way -- that is to say where they are open to an approach that supports kind of a free market approach, a more transparent approach, and one that is not based solely on the interaction between national energy companies, between various countries.

And that's really been, I think, our sort of approach globally. It's not a set of principles we're only applying to the Chinese. It's a set of principles that we're applying in our conversations on energy security globally.

Q Which countries are they trying to develop relationships with that are rich in -- are you talking about Iran? Who are you talking about?

DR. CROUCH: Well, I think -- I don't want to get into a bunch of specific countries, but I think there are a lot of countries that China is seeking energy resources from. And as the report mentions, many of these countries -- or some of these countries do not have strong democratic credentials. We think that -- we, obviously, think the Chinese have a right to seek energy resources from them. We think that if appropriately applied, they could play a more constructive role in those countries. We'd like to see them do that. But we also don't think it's a good idea that they are necessarily dealing with regimes that are both anti-democratic and that are creating problem for their own people.

Before I go back, I want to -- before I come back to the same person, I'd like to give an opportunity for somebody in the back.

Q Could you tell me about the relationship of this document with QDR? I know the QDR is a DOD document, but I'm just interested in how those two processes have been incorporated? For example, QDR talks about the long war. I see the mention about long struggle in NSS. So could you elaborate on that?

DR. CROUCH: Sure. Obviously, the QDR is a defense-oriented document, and it is principally about the transformation of the Department of Defense to make its structures, its capabilities more suitable to the threats that face us in the 21st century.

The National Security Strategy is really the broadest national security document that the U.S. government produces. Obviously, it has been a long time in development. But you will see a consistency between these documents because -- obviously, what flows -- particularly the discussion about transformation in the NSS really flows into the QDR, and into, frankly, a family of other documents that talk about the strategy for the global war on terror, the strategy for dealing with weapons of mass destruction and the like.

So if you think about those, you might think about them as kind of nested inside the National Security Strategy. But the National Security Strategy touches on a lot of issues that you won't necessarily find in the QDR -- strong emphasis on development, for example, as an important part of our approach to dealing with the long war.

Anybody else?

Q Yes. I wanted to ask you about one of your key objectives, which is spread of freedom and democracy. And what do you do in situations where democratic elections produce results that you don't like? A case in point is Belarus. Some people say if Belarussians tomorrow, or whenever the elections are, come out, all of them, 100 percent, and vote for the government, the sitting government, the U.S. would still say it was a fair and free election. What are they supposed to do?

DR. CROUCH: Well, you know, the document talks quite a bit about effective democracy. And elections are important -- an important aspect of democracy. Free and fair elections are, I think, the standard that is demanded by the international community. Not all elections are free and fair.

But even in a case where elections are free and fair and they produce a particular government, that is not where effective democracy ends. Effective democracies are ones that respect the rights of the minority inside their countries; they're ones that are at peace with their neighbors, they're ones that see the peaceful resolution of issues as the most important approach, the first approach to dealing with questions.

And so when we look around the world and we see elections -- obviously we think elections are important agents for change, particularly when they're free and fair. But we should not say, as we don't in our own country, that an election a democracy makes.

And so it's important, I think, that we have standards, that we understand that not all democracies will be the same. They have to spring -- they're not made by the United States. They must spring from the soil in which they -- if they're going to be effective.

But at the same time, there have to be a set of broad standards that we can all recognize, as we do in this country, and as I think are broadly shared by the democratic world, that a democracy has to limit the intrusiveness of government in the people's lives, has to respect minorities, and it has to have a peaceful approach to the resolution of international issues.

Q Still --

DR. CROUCH: Hold on, hold on. I want to give somebody else a question if there is one. If not, I'll be happy to give you the last one.

Q Will you recognize the results of the Belarus -- specific case -- the Belarus elections, if they seem to be controversial in terms of the results of this particular election?

DR. CROUCH: This is an election that hasn't happened yet. So for me to comment on an election that hasn't happened yet I think is a little premature.

Thanks very much.

END 3:42 P.M. EST