Nicolas J S Davies

A collection of published articles and letters to policymakers regarding the crisis in United States foreign policy by Nicolas J S Davies.

Location: North Miami, Florida, United States

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

Letter to Congress on National Security Strategy of the U.S. (2002)

Senator Bill Nelson
United States Senate
Washington DC 20510

Tuesday, October 8th, 2002

Dear Senator Nelson,

I have been reviewing “The National Security Strategy of the United States – 2002”, which was recently published by the Bush administration. Based on their conduct of defense and foreign policy, I expected to find much I would not like. However, I have been very pleased to find that this document wholeheartedly endorses a multilateral approach to national security. Four of the eight section headings and no less than 78 paragraphs refer to “strengthening alliances”, “working with others”, “cooperative action”, or to the importance of working within the framework of multilateral organizations like the United Nations.

Only two paragraphs refer to the right of the U.S. to take unilateral military action, and one of these (p.6) refers only to terrorism, while the other (p.31) states explicitly that “we will respect the values, judgment, and interests of our friends and partners”, “we will strive to forge viable alternatives”, and “we will not allow such disagreements to obscure our determination to secure together, with our allies and our friends, our shared fundamental interests and values”. Ultimately, every country has a right to defend itself, and this seems like a well-reasoned assertion of that right firmly grounded in an overall policy of multilateralism.

Neither do the clauses (p.15-16) on preemptive action, which have stirred so much controversy, assert a right to take unilateral preemptive action without the consensus of the international community. Rather they commit the administration to “coordinate closely with allies to form a common assessment of the most dangerous threats” before taking preemptive action, and they attempt to place such action within the context of international law. Nonetheless, I do not believe that, under more widely accepted interpretations of international law, the U.S. can unilaterally adopt such a policy. I understand the reasons for it, but it would be much safer to work with the U.N. to develop mechanisms for multilateral preemptive military action. The document points out the danger of “nations using preemption as a pretext for aggression”, and such mechanisms would prevent that.

I agree with the goals laid out in the sections on free markets and development as far as they go. However our protection of U.S. agribusiness through farm subsidies, and of our steel industry through tariffs, undercut all of our stated goals on free markets, while hindering our goals for third world development. Also, while the Bush administration has increased development aid, Africa is still only getting half what it was ten years ago, and we are only giving a total of about 0.1% of GNP in total development aid, which is far from the U.N.’s target of 0.7%. Third world countries have been demonstrating that they can use responsibly the aid we give them, and the administration is refusing to give greater amounts of aid because of mistakes made in the past. This is really a missing piece in our overall National Security policy, as it undermines the role of the United States as a benevolent superpower.

In my view, the Achilles’ heel of this document is the paragraph on the last page that addresses the issue of the International Criminal Court. After 31 pages in favor of multilateral cooperation, a disturbing dichotomy becomes evident, and it seems to mirror the debate on Iraq and also to explain why this administration’s actual conduct of foreign policy is so at odds with the strategy outlined in this document. When confronted with a real-life choice, Mr. Bush and many of his advisors would rather entrust the security of our country to the men and women of the U.S. armed forces than to any alliance or international body. Many Americans would and do support him in this, but we need to understand that, thanks to our overwhelming military power, we are the only country on Earth that has the luxury of making such a choice. And we need to understand the significance of this for relations with our allies.

One of our stated strategies is to “dissuade future military competition” (p.29), and, indeed, our defense budget now exceeds those of the next twelve military powers combined. We are spending $390 billion this year, versus $43 billion by Japan, and $39 billion by the U.K. who have the 2nd & 3rd largest defense budgets. After the lessons of two World Wars, the countries of Europe have effectively renounced the power to unilaterally project military power against each other or around the world. They have committed themselves to peaceful coexistence, and to working out their differences through international institutions and diplomacy, and naturally see this as a more evolved and desirable model for the world. Like any system of laws and institutions, this model depends for its integrity on the willingness of the powerful to be bound equally by its constraints, so that its authority is seen to be universal and is therefore universally accepted and respected.

The United States has the power, for some brief period in history, to ignore such constraints, but perhaps one reason we should accept them is that this is actually an American idea, the vision of Wilson and Roosevelt, that Americans fought and died for, and that America then talked the rest of the world into. I happen to think it is still the best one we’ve got, and that what Mr. Bush and our country are having to deal with now is really the temptation of unprecedented power, along with a number of new threats, set against the backdrop of an evolving multilateralism that offers the only long-term hope for lasting peace and security. “The National Security Strategy of the United States – 2002” strongly affirms this, and I hope that you and your colleagues in Congress will challenge the administration to live up to the goals they have set themselves in this document.

“Effective coalition leadership requires clear priorities, an appreciation of others’ interests, and consistent consultations among partners with a spirit of humility.” (p.25)

Thank you once again for all your work on behalf of the people of Florida and our country.

Yours sincerely