National Security Council
The security environment confronting the United States today is radically different from what we have faced before. Yet the first duty of the United States Government remains what it always has been: to protect the American people and American interests. It is an enduring American principle that this duty obligates the government to anticipate and counter threats, using all elements of national power, before the threats can do grave damage. The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction – and the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy’s attack. There are few greater threats than a terrorist attack with WMD.
To forestall or prevent such hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively in exercising our inherent right of self-defense. The United States will not resort to force in all cases to preempt emerging threats. Our preference is that nonmilitary actions succeed. And no country should ever use preemption as a pretext for aggression.
Countering proliferation of WMD requires a comprehensive strategy involving strengthened nonproliferation efforts to deny these weapons of terror and related expertise to those seeking them; proactive counterproliferation efforts to defend against and defeat WMD and missile threats before they are unleashed; and improved protection to mitigate the consequences of WMD use. We aim to convince our adversaries that they cannot achieve their goals with WMD, and thus deter and dissuade them from attempting to use or even acquire these weapons in the first place.
We have worked hard to protect our citizens and our security. The United States has worked extensively with the international community and key partners to achieve common objectives.
Nevertheless, serious challenges remain:
We are committed to keeping the world’s most dangerous weapons out of the hands of the world’s most dangerous people.
The proliferation of nuclear weapons poses the greatest threat to our national security. Nuclear weapons are unique in their capacity to inflict instant loss of life on a massive scale. For this reason, nuclear weapons hold special appeal to rogue states and terrorists.
The best way to block aspiring nuclear states or nuclear terrorists is to deny them access to the essential ingredient of fissile material. It is much harder to deny states or terrorists other key components, for nuclear weapons represent a 60-year old technology and the knowledge is widespread. Therefore, our strategy focuses on controlling fissile material with two priority objectives: first, to keep states from acquiring the capability to produce fissile material suitable for making nuclear weapons; and second, to deter, interdict, or prevent any transfer of that material from states that have this capability to rogue states or to terrorists.
The first objective requires closing a loophole in the Non-Proliferation Treaty that permits regimes to produce fissile material that can be used to make nuclear weapons under cover of a civilian nuclear power program. To close this loophole, we have proposed that the world’s leading nuclear exporters create a safe, orderly system that spreads nuclear energy without spreading nuclear weapons. Under this system, all states would have reliable access at reasonable cost to fuel for civilian nuclear power reactors. In return, those states would remain transparent and renounce the enrichment and reprocessing capabilities that can produce fissile material for nuclear weapons. In this way, enrichment and reprocessing will not be necessary for nations seeking to harness nuclear energy for strictly peaceful purposes.
The Administration has worked with the international community in confronting nuclear proliferation.
We may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran. For almost 20 years, the Iranian regime hid many of its key nuclear efforts from the international community. Yet the regime continues to claim that it does not seek to develop nuclear weapons. The Iranian regime’s true intentions are clearly revealed by the regime’s refusal to negotiate in good faith; its refusal to come into compliance with its international obligations by providing the IAEA access to nuclear sites and resolving troubling questions; and the aggressive statements of its President calling for Israel to “be wiped off the face of the earth.” The United States has joined with our EU partners and Russia to pressure Iran to meet its international obligations and provide objective guarantees that its nuclear program is only for peaceful purposes. This diplomatic effort must succeed if confrontation is to be avoided.
As important as are these nuclear issues, the United States has broader concerns regarding Iran. The Iranian regime sponsors terrorism; threatens Israel; seeks to thwart Middle East peace; disrupts democracy in Iraq; and denies the aspirations of its people for freedom. The nuclear issue and our other concerns can ultimately be resolved only if the Iranian regime makes the strategic decision to change these policies, open up its political system, and afford freedom to its people. This is the ultimate goal of U.S. policy. In the interim, we will continue to take all necessary measures to protect our national and economic security against the adverse effects of their bad conduct. The problems lie with the illicit behavior and dangerous ambition of the Iranian regime, not the legitimate aspirations and interests of the Iranian people. Our strategy is to block the threats posed by the regime while expanding our engagement and outreach to the people the regime is oppressing.
The North Korean regime also poses a serious nuclear proliferation challenge. It presents a long and bleak record of duplicity and bad-faith negotiations. In the past, the regime has attempted to split the United States from its allies. This time, the United States has successfully forged a consensus among key regional partners – China, Japan, Russia, and the Republic of Korea (ROK) – that the DPRK must give up all of its existing nuclear programs. Regional cooperation offers the best hope for a peaceful, diplomatic resolution of this problem. In a joint statement signed on September 19, 2005, in the Six-Party Talks among these participants, the DPRK agreed to abandon its nuclear weapons and all existing nuclear programs. The joint statement also declared that the relevant parties would negotiate a permanent peace for the Korean peninsula and explore ways to promote security cooperation in Asia. Along with our partners in the Six-Party Talks, the United States will continue to press the DPRK to implement these commitments.
The United States has broader concerns regarding the DPRK as well. The DPRK counterfeits our currency; traffics in narcotics and engages in other illicit activities; threatens the ROK with its army and its neighbors with its missiles; and brutalizes and starves its people. The DPRK regime needs to changes these policies, open up its political system, and afford freedom to its people. In the interim, we will continue to take all necessary measures to protect our national and economic security against the adverse effects of their bad conduct.
The second nuclear proliferation objective is to keep fissile material out of the hands of rogue states and terrorists. To do this we must address the danger posed by inadequately safeguarded nuclear and radiological materials worldwide. The Administration is leading a global effort to reduce and secure such materials as quickly as possible through several initiatives including the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI). The GTRI locates, tracks, and reduces existing stockpiles of nuclear material. This new initiative also discourages trafficking in nuclear material by emplacing detection equipment at key transport nodes.
Building on the success of the PSI, the United States is also leading international efforts to shut down WMD trafficking by targeting key maritime and air transportation and transshipment routes, and by cutting off proliferators from financial resources that support their activities.
Biological weapons also pose a grave WMD threat because of the risks of contagion that would spread disease across large populations and around the globe. Unlike nuclear weapons, biological weapons do not require hard-to-acquire infrastructure or materials. This makes the challenge of controlling their spread even greater.
Countering the spread of biological weapons requires a strategy focused on improving our capacity to detect and respond to biological attacks, securing dangerous pathogens, and limiting the spread of materials useful for biological weapons. The United States is working with partner nations and institutions to strengthen global biosurveillance capabilities for early detection of suspicious outbreaks of disease. We have launched new initiatives at home to modernize our public health infrastructure and to encourage industry to speed the development of new classes of vaccines and medical countermeasures. This will also enhance our Nation’s ability to respond to pandemic public health threats, such as avian influenza.
Chemical weapons are a serious proliferation concern and are actively sought by terrorists, including al-Qaida. Much like biological weapons, the threat from chemical weapons increases with advances in technology, improvements in agent development, and ease in acquisition of materials and equipment.
To deter and defend against such threats, we work to identify and disrupt terrorist networks that seek chemical weapons capabilities, and seek to deny them access to materials needed to make these weapons. We are improving our detection and other chemical defense capabilities at home and abroad, including ensuring that U.S. military forces and emergency responders are trained and equipped to manage the consequences of a chemical weapons attack.
The new strategic environment requires new approaches to deterrence and defense. Our deterrence strategy no longer rests primarily on the grim premise of inflicting devastating consequences on potential foes. Both offenses and defenses are necessary to deter state and non-state actors, through denial of the objectives of their attacks and, if necessary, responding with overwhelming force.
Safe, credible, and reliable nuclear forces continue to play a critical role. We are strengthening deterrence by developing a New Triad composed of offensive strike systems (both nuclear and improved conventional capabilities); active and passive defenses, including missile defenses; and a responsive infrastructure, all bound together by enhanced command and control, planning, and intelligence systems. These capabilities will better deter some of the new threats we face, while also bolstering our security commitments to allies. Such security commitments have played a crucial role in convincing some countries to forgo their own nuclear weapons programs, thereby aiding our nonproliferation objectives.
Deterring potential foes and assuring friends and allies, however, is only part of a broader approach. Meeting WMD proliferation challenges also requires effective international action – and the international community is most engaged in such action when the United States leads.
Taking action need not involve military force. Our strong preference and common practice is to address proliferation concerns through international diplomacy, in concert with key allies and regional partners. 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. When the consequences of an attack with WMD are potentially so devastating, we cannot afford to stand idly by as grave dangers materialize. This is the principle and logic of preemption. The place of preemption in our national security strategy remains the same. We will always proceed deliberately, weighing the consequences of our actions. The reasons for our actions will be clear, the force measured, and the cause just.
This Administration inherited an Iraq threat that was unresolved. In early 2001, the international support for U.N. sanctions and continued limits on the Iraqi regime’s weapons-related activity was eroding, and key UNSC members were asking that they be lifted.
For America, the September 11 attacks underscored the danger of allowing threats to linger unresolved. Saddam Hussein’s continued defiance of 16 UNSC resolutions over 12 years, combined with his record of invading neighboring countries, supporting terrorists, tyrannizing his own people, and using chemical weapons, presented a threat we could no longer ignore.
The UNSC unanimously passed Resolution 1441 on November 8, 2002, calling for full and immediate compliance by the Iraqi regime with its disarmament obligations. Once again, Saddam defied the international community. According to the Iraq Survey Group, the team of inspectors that went into Iraq after Saddam Hussein was toppled and whose report provides the fullest accounting of the Iraqi regime’s illicit activities:
“Saddam continued to see the utility of WMD. He explained that he purposely gave an ambiguous impression about possession as a deterrent to Iran. He gave explicit direction to maintain the intellectual capabilities. As U.N. sanctions eroded there was a concomitant expansion of activities that could support full WMD reactivation. He directed that ballistic missile work continue that would support long-range missile development. Virtually no senior Iraqi believed that Saddam had forsaken WMD forever. Evidence suggests that, as resources became available and the constraints of sanctions decayed, there was a direct expansion of activity that would have the effect of supporting future WMD reconstitution.”
With the elimination of Saddam’s regime, this threat has been addressed, once and for all.
The Iraq Survey Group also found that pre-war intelligence estimates of Iraqi WMD stockpiles were wrong – a conclusion that has been confirmed by a bipartisan commission and congressional investigations. We must learn from this experience if we are to counter successfully the very real threat of proliferation.
First, our intelligence must improve. The President and the Congress have taken steps to reorganize and strengthen the U.S. intelligence community. A single, accountable leader of the intelligence community with authorities to match his responsibilities, and increased sharing of information and increased resources, are helping realize this objective.
Second, there will always be some uncertainty about the status of hidden programs since proliferators are often brutal regimes that go to great lengths to conceal their activities. Indeed, prior to the 1991 Gulf War, many intelligence analysts underestimated the WMD threat posed by the Iraqi regime. After that conflict, they were surprised to learn how far Iraq had progressed along various pathways to try to produce fissile material.
Third, Saddam’s strategy of bluff, denial, and deception is a dangerous game that dictators play at their peril. The world offered Saddam a clear choice: effect full and immediate compliance with his disarmament obligations or face serious consequences. Saddam chose the latter course and is now facing judgment in an Iraqi court. It was Saddam’s reckless behavior that demanded the world’s attention, and it was his refusal to remove the ambiguity that he created that forced the United States and its allies to act. We have no doubt that the world is a better place for the removal of this dangerous and unpredictable tyrant, and we have no doubt that the world is better off if tyrants know that they pursue WMD at their own peril.