European Views of
Preemption in US
National Security Strategy



© 2007 Gary L. Guertner

From Parameters,  Summer 2007, pp. 31-44.

The 2002 National Security Strategy of the United States and the 2006 expanded version describe the broad strategic goals that have become known as the Bush Doctrine: military primacy, global transformation, preemption, and a willingness to act unilaterally. Europeans, like American critics of the Bush Doctrine, worry about the unfortunate juxtaposition of the unachievable goal of completely ending tyranny throughout the world, the confusion between preemptive war and preventive war, the use of 9/11 as a pretext for unilateralism, and the document’s preface declaring, “This is a wartime national security strategy . . . .” From the perspective of most Europeans, these overly broad goals are in sharp contrast with the European preference for multilateralism and consensus. These elements of the Bush Doctrine, and their applications in Iraq, have radically altered the extensive post-9/11 sympathy and support for the American response to the threat of terrorism.

The focus of this article is on the transatlantic divide over preemption, and it is therefore important to distinguish between the two chapters of the National Security Strategy (NSS) where preemption is discussed. In both the 2002 and the 2006 versions the first reference is in Chapter III, titled, “Strengthen Alliances to Defeat Global Terrorism and Work to Prevent Attacks Against Us (sic) and Our Friends.” Both versions of Chapter III focus on global terrorism and terrorists as non-state actors. The 2002 version states:


[W]e will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively against such terrorists, to prevent them from doing harm against our people and our country. . . .1

The 2006 document is expanded in its detail related to the nature and causes of terrorism, and lays out a more developed concept for denying terrorists access to allies, territory, and weapons of mass destruction. The overarching element of the strategy is to:

Prevent attacks by terrorist networks before they occur. A government has no higher obligation than to protect the lives and livelihoods of its citizens. The hard core of the terrorists cannot be deterred or reformed; they must be tracked down, killed, or captured.2

The explicit use of preemption is avoided, but the meaning is precisely the same. The softening of language from “preemption” to “prevention” is one of those puzzling and Talmudic aspects of the inter-agency process that produces these documents. It may seem a minor point, but the question remains, why soften language in the chapter discussing the relatively non-controversial strategy of preempting terrorist groups before they attack while retaining the more explicit language in Chapter V where the preemption against nation-state actors is spelled out in detail?

Chapter III of the 2006 NSS states that the United States and its allies “make no distinction between those who commit acts of terror and those who support and harbor them . . . .” However, in cases of support or harboring, the proposed and somewhat vague objective is to deny rogue states their ability to support terrorism. The criticism in the United States and from our European allies comes in response to Chapter V of both the 2002 and 2006 versions where preemption against nation-states is spelled out in unambiguous detail. After asserting a stated preference for multilateral diplomacy the 2006 version states:

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 logic of preemption.3


The logic of preemption is clear even though the term is confused with the more accurate legal formulation, preventive war. The concept of preemption or the anticipatory use of force in the face of imminent attack has been broadened in the NSS to encompass preventive war and use of force when no evidence of imminent attack is present, but serious threats to US security may gather and grow over time. This unilateral declaration of when to use military force against another state is the point where most Europeans and many Americans diverge from the Bush Doctrine’s explicit rejection of deterrence.

The Response of “Old” Europe

European responses to the Bush Doctrine and its application in Iraq are stark landmarks in the deterioration of transatlantic relationships because they are in such sharp contrast to the political and emotional bonds that followed 9/11. The French headline that declared, “Today we are all Americans,” captured the feelings of virtually all Europeans. The assistance clause of NATO’s Article V was invoked for the first time in history, and Europeans joined Americans in the continental defense of the United States. The war against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan was broadly endorsed as legal and reasonable retaliatory responses.

The publication of the 2002 National Security Strategy precipitated a healthy debate among Americans and Europeans that might have ended in a strong consensus on the appropriate use of force against terrorist organizations and their sponsors. The extension of preemption to embrace preventive war as described in Chapter V of the NSS and its application to regime change in Iraq, however, derailed a critical debate on how to formalize broad alliance policies against terrorism and created instead bitter divisions between the Franco-German position and the Bush Administration. The apogee of American self-assurance and European opposition came in a speech by then Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld at the annual Wehrkunde security conference in Munich on the eve of war. Secretary Rumsfeld asserted in remarks aimed primarily at then German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer that the occasion for argument was over. “It is difficult to believe there still could be questions in the minds of reasonable people open to the facts before them.”4

The invasion of Iraq not only obscured more reasoned discussions taking place within NATO and in key European capitals from which the greatest opposition to the war was centered, but also the consensus that was emerging on how to fight the Global War on Terrorism. At the NATO summit in Prague in November 2002, NATO adopted Military Committee (MC) 472, “NATO’s Military Concept for Defense Against Terrorism,” a document that implicitly supports the option of preemptive strikes against terrorist threats:


NATO’s actions should . . . work on the assumption that it is preferable to deter terrorist attacks or to prevent their occurrence rather than deal with their consequences . . . . Counter terrorism is offensive military action designed to reduce terrorists’ capabilities. Allied nations agree that terrorists should not be allowed to base, train, plan, stage and execute terrorist actions and that the threat may be severe enough to justify acting against these terrorists and those who harbor them, as and where required . . . .5

The explicit language of preemption and anticipatory self-defense was not included at the insistence of Germany and France, and a more extensive discussion and consensus were cut short by European opposition to the manner in which these concepts were being applied to regime change in Iraq.6 MC 472, however, represented a transatlantic consensus on meeting the terrorist threat, but was lost in the acrimony between “old Europe” and the American push for war.

The European Union too has, in its declaratory policies, attempted to address wider strategic issues in the post-9/11 world. Many of these are mutually supportive of the NSS preemptive strategies against terrorism and WMD proliferation. The EU has established a common definition of terrorism and a list of terrorist groups, enhanced its tools to disrupt terrorist financing, and approved new measures to strengthen border controls.7

While Secretary General Javier Solana has been explicit that the EU would not undertake US-style preemptive military actions, he has espoused “preemptive engagement,” attacking root causes before they become acute international crises. This approach reflects Europe’s strategic personality as developed in more detail in the EU strategy document, “A Secure Europe in a Better World.” Here, Secretary General Solana sounds a note quite compatible with transatlantic unity outlining EU goals to prevent, protect, pursue, and respond to the international terrorist threat:

Our traditional concept of self-defense—up to and including the Cold War— was based on the threat of invasion. With the new threats, the first line of defense will often be abroad. The new threats are dynamic. The risks of proliferation grow over time; left alone, terrorist networks will become ever more dangerous. State failure and organized crime spread if neglected. . . . This implies that we should be ready to act before a crisis occurs. Conflict prevention and threat prevention cannot start too early.8

Solana continues in a section of the document titled “Policy Implications for Europe:”

    We need to be more active in pursuing our strategic objectives. This applies to the full spectrum of instruments for crisis management and conflict prevention


at our disposal, including political, diplomatic, military and civilian, trade and development activities. Active policies are needed to counter the new dynamic threats. We need to develop a strategic culture that fosters early, rapid, and when necessary, robust intervention.9

Even though preventive engagement against root causes is the preferred strategy, the paragraphs cited could easily have been tucked into Chapter III of the NSS. While most Europeans do not support the case for preemption as applied against Iraq, there are scenarios that lend themselves to the application of preemptive force against terrorist organizations and their sponsors. Future reactions from Europeans are almost certain to be contextual in the sense that if terrorist links are established and proven, Europeans would find it difficult to disapprove. The question of consensus in the legitimacy of preemptive force will be closely linked to its practicality, how it is executed, and how quickly it might succeed. As Karl-Heinz Kamp has argued in one of the few European assessments moderately supportive of the Bush Doctrine:

Even if the debate usually concentrates itself around the question of a decisive military strike against a state, the spectrum of possible options is nevertheless substantially broad. Non-military as well as “semi-military” actions are just as conceivable against governments and non-governmental actors.10

Kamp goes on to elaborate specific preemptive options most likely to be supported by Europeans. They cover a wide spectrum of actions using nearly all instruments of power and including naval blockades, attacking data networks, acts of sabotage against suspected WMD storage or production facilities, and direct attacks against command centers for terrorists or their state sponsors. Each of the options described by Kamp has a different level of acceptability and effectiveness depending on the circumstances at the time. Destruction of a terrorist training camp would be met with greater public approval, on both the national and international level, than the overthrow of a government when preemption is associated specifically with regime change. For most Europeans, the dimensions of preemptive military action must still be measured in some fashion against the degree of threat and the actions may only include those that are required for the sustained removal of the threat. All of this reflects the kind of consensus building debate that should dominate and strengthen the transatlantic partnership’s war on terrorism. Instead, agreement on many approaches are subordinated to criticism of the Administration’s disastrous Iraq policies based on assumptions that containment and deterrence are no longer viable strategic options.

In addition to NATO and EU acceptance of preemption in extreme situations, the concept is being debated and integrated in individual national


strategies. France, for example, one of the leading opponents of US actions in Iraq and the nation that led the opposition to preemption within the NATO framework, has in its new Programmation Militaire, 2003-2008 the explicit reference to “capacite d’anticipation” and the necessity of a preemptive strike in certain situations:

We must . . . be prepared to identify and forestall threats as soon as possible. In this context, the possibility of preemptive action might be considered, from the time that an explicit and confirmed threatening situation is identified.11

Germany has avoided official policy debates on preemptive military actions. A new Chancellor with a slim ruling coalition has focused on domestic priorities and cautious attempts to repair relations with Washington. A majority of Germans still link the Bush Doctrine with the war in Iraq and its primary goal of regime change. However, the more its neighbors and allies address the issues of preemption in the war on terrorism and as Germany becomes more directly a target of terrorism, the less able Germany will be in avoiding the issue and finding more common ground with Washington. The failed attempt to bomb the rail system in Griesbaum and Koblenz in July 2006 was a wake-up call for those 60 percent in Germany who do not feel personally threatened by international terrorism.12

The recently declassified “Key Judgments” of the US National Intelligence Estimate, “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,” dated April 2006, was also a wake-up call for Europeans. Paradoxically, it is likely to solidify transatlantic cooperation against terrorism, but deter cooperation with Washington’s idealistic notions of regional and global transformation, and military interventions in the Islamic world. The paragraph in the NIE painfully felt in Europe states:

The jihadists regard Europe as an important venue for attacking Western interests. Extremist networks inside the extensive Muslim diasporas in Europe facilitate recruitment and staging for urban attacks, as illustrated by the 2004 Madrid and 2005 London bombings.13

Europeans have been fighting terrorism for decades, but the terrorist groups were mostly Euro-specific, with the exception of groups like Hamas or the Kurdish PKK who used Europe as a support base to attack outside the EU or committed acts of violence against very precise targets. Recent attacks and the resulting mass casualties have made it obvious that the contemporary Islamic threat has evolved to targeting Europeans directly. There is little disagreement that the worst of these attacks in Madrid and London were in direct response to Spanish and British support for the war in Iraq. Terrorists in the Islamic diaspora can, on the one hand, punish Europeans for their support of US policies in


the Islamic world, but in doing so, create even greater cooperation and collaboration in fighting the broader and more important global war on terrorism.

Preemption and the New Europe

The new members of NATO and the EU roughly coincide with former Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld’s rhetorical attempt to reject the Franco-German opposition to the war in Iraq and embrace the new, more “enlightened” members of the European security community. If you look at the entire NATO Europe today, the center of gravity is shifting to the east and there are a lot of new members.14

The partitioning of Europe on the basis of Iraq grossly misrepresented the number of “old European” states who supported the American Administration’s Iraq policies. Nevertheless, it is instructive and not surprising why the newest democracies in Europe would not want to alienate Washington, their chief sponsor in the enlargement of the NATO alliance. Joining NATO was the highest foreign policy priority among those seven states formally admitted to the ranks at the Prague summit in November 2002. Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Slovakia, and Slovenia joined the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland as NATO enlarged, embracing old members of the Warsaw Pact and the former Soviet Union. These new members had no inclination to oppose Washington’s position in the first crisis coming only four months after their formal invitation into Western cooperative security structures. Their political support was guaranteed from the beginning and played an important role in legitimizing the war. Their actual military contributions, the political fallout at home, and their willingness to support Washington in the future are different matters entirely.

No recent NATO invitee or prospective applicant was in a position to oppose US policies given the nearly two-year membership ratification process before them, dependence on US diplomatic and military assistance, and prospects for economic assistance and investment that NATO and EU memberships guaranteed. Early rumors that the United States was prepared to move bases from Germany to the territory of new NATO members further galvanized the support of new members. These pragmatic considerations combined with a deep sense of strategic nostalgia among former Warsaw Pact members who saw NATO membership and US support as vital to their post-Cold War security and a stamp of Western political approval.15

It is against this background of strategic necessity that the newly invited members to NATO and future aspirants quickly granted base rights, overflight rights, and pledges to send military support contingents to Iraq. The political significance for Washington in its battle for domestic support far outweighed the military value of their contributions to the war and the do-


mestic political sacrifices made by each in supporting a war that was opposed by majorities in every participant state. In the specific case of preemption as defined in the Bush Doctrine, none were willing to embrace its legality under international law as it applied to nation-states.16

Paradoxically, the most militarily significant contributions to the war came from the forces of “old Europe.” The United Kingdom, Italy, and Spain combined to provide most of the 13,400 allied forces in Iraq by August 2003, and these forces were prepared to participate in combat operations.17 Poland provided a force of 2,000 and led a multinational division. Other “new European” contingents were small, numbering less than 500 and more often less than 100, and none, including Poland, was authorized to participate in combat operations. Several coalition partners felt they had been brought into Iraq under false pretenses. Their commitment was to peacekeeping and stability operations that degenerated into combat because of Washington’s poor planning for post-war Iraq and a fixation with the validation of transformation doctrine by forcing large cuts in Central Command’s war plans. According to Thomas Ricks in his account of allied contributions in Iraq:

“We came for Phase IV—security and stabilization operations,” said Lt. General Mieczyslaw Bieniek, the Polish paratrooper who commanded the multinational division operating in south-central Iraq. That was how the mission statement was framed to him . . . . “All of a sudden, against our will, we find ourselves in a combat zone.” That caught him in a bind: His parliament had forbidden him to conduct offensive operations.18

The deteriorating conditions on the ground in Iraq and domestic politics at home precipitated a steady reduction in European forces, with many exits hastened by elections in which voters chose political leaders and parties that promised to quit the coalition. The withdrawals were accompanied by deep resentment among new and aspirant members of NATO and the EU. The application of a doctrine based on and preemptive war had committed the prestige of the West and the loyalty of European allies to a poorly planned war of choice. American legitimacy has been damaged by its flawed judgment, specifically, during the latter stages of the conflict and the results will make it more difficult to build coalitions of the willing in the future. Afghanistan is the most recent case in point where a large contingent of NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF, comprised primarily of United States, British, Canadian, and German combat forces) battling a Taliban resurgence have failed in efforts to get new and old members alike to send additional forces. Many of those who do have troops on the ground dilute their effectiveness with caveats or restrictive rules of engagement on how they may be used. Only six nations place no restrictions on the troops they contribute to NATO operations. Others are lim-


ited by incompatibility of equipment and communications or domestic politics shaped to a considerable degree by opposition to the war in Iraq and lessons learned from their respective participation in the US-led coalition.19

The scope of cooperation between Washington and its European allies is diminishing, largely due to the war in Iraq. Little support can be expected for additional military actions against the “axis of evil.” Europeans, with the exception of Prime Minister Tony Blair who echoes President Bush’s philosophy, do not see Iraq as the central front in the war on terror. It is often viewed as a tragic detour, but not one that has lessened European willingness to cooperate across the board in the global war against terrorism and terrorist organizations. Among the many tragedies associated with the war is the possibility of an unnecessary transatlantic rift that masks a powerful consensus on the larger and more vital war against global terrorism.

A Gift to Moscow

Preemption quickly found its way into Russian declaratory policies encompassing both domestic and international threats. President Vladimir Putin declared that:

If the principle of preventive use of force is established in international practice, then Russia will have the right to act in a similar way to protect its national interests.20

The Chechen terrorist attacks at the school in Beslan where 1,200 children and adults were held hostage and more than 300 perished brought a forceful elaboration of these rights from the Russian Chief of the General Staff. General Yuri Baluevsky declared the right to launch preemptive strikes against terrorist bases worldwide. The choice “of strike methods will be determined by the specific situation in a particular region.” Only the use of nuclear weapons was ruled out.21

The Bush Doctrine has also underscored and perhaps legitimized a more muscular Russian approach to the “near abroad” where the shadow of Russian military power and economic interdependence still constrains the policies of Georgia and Ukraine among others. In Georgia, Russia has invoked preemption to justify future intervention against Chechen separatists operating from Georgian territory. In Chechnya, a protracted and violent civil conflict continues, but with more muted Western criticism of human rights violations as the conflict blends increasingly into the broader war against terrorism and Islamic extremists.22 President Putin, with great diplomatic skills, walks a fine line in pursuing his internal war against radical Islam and his external relations with the Muslim world. In a nation with 20 million Muslims


he has carefully stated that terrorism has “no religion or nationality . . . only provocateurs could seek to equate Muslims with terrorism . . . but there is a problem and it is a global problem. Here, we can work as full strategic partners with the United States.”23 Embracing both preemption and the United States as a strategic partner in the war on terror implies that Moscow is in league with the United States and by association is a powerful country ready to defend its vital interests with methods made legitimate by association. Vice President Richard Cheney’s criticism of Russia in May 2006 and the growing rift over sanctions against Iran may weaken Putin’s embrace of the Bush Administration, but not Russian acceptance of preemption if and when it fits Russia’s strategic interests.

Recommendations for the Next National Security Strategy

In Chapter III of the National Security Strategy preemption as applied against the war on terrorism and the retaliatory war against the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan are widely supported on both sides of the Atlantic. Tragically, a united Western front against the global war on terrorism has been obscured and disrupted by Chapter V of the NSS with preemption and the attempts at regime change and political transformation in Iraq and the broader Middle East. No serious change in course can be expected for the remainder of the current administration’s tenure despite the assaults on its policies at home and abroad. The next administration, Democrat or Republican, will need to address three major issues in a new and revised national security strategy to effectively wage the war on terrorism with a united, transatlantic front.

First, Chapter V preemption against nation-states, no matter how they may be regarded in their foreign and domestic policies, needs to be reexamined through extensive debate among allies on the continued utility of containment and deterrence of common threats as alternatives to preemptive wars. Iraq is a classic case study in the success of containment that was virtually ignored as a long-term alternative. Yet, both pre-war and post-war evidence is conclusive in the debilitating effects a decade of sanctions had on the Iraqi economy, military power, and most of all, its WMD programs and stockpiles.24 The US Joint Forces Command has also identified Saddam Hussein’s motivation for his obstructive behavior toward United Nations weapons inspectors. As it turned out a weakened dictator was playing a dangerous game. “Deterrence by ambiguity” was his way of clinging to a deterrent posture aimed at Iran and the possibility of Shia insurgency against his regime.25 Western containment was working and was a cost-effective, prudent alternative, in comparison to Iraq today.

The Administration’s assumption that deterrence is no longer an effective tool against radical regimes is an assertion that does not fit a future


world in which even a small number of states withdraw from the existing non-proliferation regime. According to the NSS:

In the Cold War . . . we faced a generally status quo, risk-averse adversary. Deterrence was an effective defense. But deterrence based only on the threat of retaliation is less likely to work against leaders of rogue states more willing to take risks, gambling with the lives of their people, and the wealth of their nations.26

Setting aside the fact that this does not accurately describe US Cold War, nuclear posture based on preemptive, damage limiting, counter-force nuclear war plans, it is informative to revisit the debate preceding Soviet and Chinese entry into the nuclear club. Neither regime, it was argued, was sufficiently Western enough to value human life or to hesitate in sacrificing the lives of millions to achieve political objectives. Ethnocentric assumptions were wrong, rationality prevailed, and deterrence worked for over 50 years between states with radically different normative values.

If preemption is applied against either Iranian or North Korean nuclear capabilities those nations could counter with such a wide range of assaults against US and allied interests that deterrence is by far the least desirable option. Preparing for a post-proliferation world and a second nuclear era has the advantage of reinforcing deterrence, underscoring the credibility of the American nuclear umbrella over its regional allies, and dissuading many would-be proliferators. The implicit use of preemption and preventive war for counterproliferation risks precipitating the very dangers our national security strategy seeks to prevent.27

Fears of sharing WMD with terrorist organizations can be addressed through direct communication and declaratory policies that clearly spell out how transfers from nation-states to non-state actors would be considered an act of war resulting in US and allied retaliation. Moreover, the threat of sharing WMD with terrorist organizations may be less than critics of deterrence acknowledge since biological, chemical, and radiological weapons can easily be produced in the absence of state sponsorship.28 This more serious threat must be addressed by extensive US-European intelligence, law enforcement, and military cooperation that reflects the growing consensus that preemption against terrorists is not an issue dividing the United States and Europe.

Second, the United States needs to de-link the threats from al Qaeda and the networks it has spawned from the maze of terrorists groups that were operating for decades prior to 9/11. An essential first step is to distinguish global threats to US security from longstanding regional and increasingly radicalized terrorism that is the product of the enduring Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Associating al Qaeda with every known terrorist organization regardless of the nature of that support, whether declaratory or operational, only strengthens the


image and political clout of al Qaeda in the Muslim world. Joining European allies in a more balanced and evenhanded approach in the region would contribute to a more positive image of the United States and weaken al Qaeda’s influence. Saudi Arabia’s Prince Bandar Saud, longtime ambassador to the United States, lectured President Bush on this problem prior to 9/11 when he described the impact on the Muslim world of Israeli attacks using American-made weapons and the US pattern of condemning Palestinian violence but rarely Israeli violence. “The United States,” he said, “has to find a way to separate the actions of the Israeli government and its own interests in the region.”29

Support for Israel is a fundamental and enduring part of US foreign policy, but this does not assume support for all Israeli policies and actions. US interests in a post-9/11 world require, as Prince Bandar stated, a perception in the Muslim world that US and Israeli interests are not identical. Policy delineations can best be achieved through a robust reengagement of the peace process that includes participation of the European Union with the dual objectives of moderating the most radical Palestinian factions and outlining a path to the final contours of a Palestinian state. It is the process itself that is important and the credibility of the Western commitment to a fair outcome that will, in the short-term, contribute to moderating the anti-Western mood throughout the Muslim world.

Third, none of the above can succeed without a united front between the academic and policy communities on both sides of the Atlantic to discredit the neo-conservatives in and out of government whose prescriptions and predictions have led to disaster in Iraq and undermined the war on terrorism. A clear intellectual audit trail of neo-conservative writings and policy prescriptions led to all four major pillars of the Bush Doctrine and the NSS— preemption, unilateralism, military primacy, and democratic transformation. The godfather of the neo-conservative movement, Norman Podhoretz, claims an additional pillar—the concept of how Israel and the Palestinians fit into the larger war on Islamic terrorism. Podhoretz says, “Israel’s struggle is yet another front in the global struggle against terrorism, which is to say World War IV.”30 The neo-conservative effort to link the longstanding crisis in the Middle East with the larger, post-9/11 war against al Qaeda detracts from the US effort to focus on the primary threat. Linking the two creates more anti-Americanism in the Middle East and more al Qaeda sympathizers. The apparent neo-conservative agenda is to use the post-9/11 war on terrorism to strengthen the US defensive umbrella over Israel at a time of increasing peril from regional terrorism. This is a serious threat to any ally and needs to be addressed with robust US participation, but also as a uniquely regional crisis, not as part of the global war on terrorism. Crisis linkage is self-defeating in a


global struggle that will require discriminating approaches in the Islamic world, approaches designed to limit hostility against unified Western efforts and to contain the global threat.

Neo-conservative worldviews embedded in the current administration’s doctrine rebound in the Muslim world in ways that undermine the key element in the war on terrorism. That is the erosion of moderate Muslim support due to their own unique perceptions, crisis linkages, and conspiracy theories. Our involvement in Iraq and one-sided support of Israel is radicalizing mainstream Muslim opinion. Muslim intellectuals increasingly see the Bush Doctrine as a modern-day crusade against Islam. In this view, democracy masks an effort to colonize Muslim lands and control oil resources. When moderate intellectuals can argue that Pope Benedict XVI’s controversial speech at Regensburg University in which he criticized the Prophet Muhammad was a Western “fatwa” granting President Bush religious justification for wars against Islam, then the West has a crisis of public diplomacy and credibility that only reinforces the appeal of radical Islam.31

Regaining the confidence of moderate Muslims is vital. Our European allies with experience in the region and an Islamic diaspora of some 23 million have a strategic approach that may bridge the gap between Europe, the United States, and the Muslim world. First, Europeans believe the Bush Doctrine’s combination of military power and democratic transformation confuses power with counter-productive righteousness. The European approach emphasizes economic and political instruments of power to attack root causes that lead to radicalization and recruitment. Root causes are a combination of poverty, autocratic governance, rapid modernization, corruption, and the absence of political, economic, or educational opportunities. Attacking root causes is not only a foreign policy goal, but increasingly a domestic issue that will determine the long-term stability and integration of Europe’s Muslim minorities.

Finally, before Western unity can be effectively mobilized against  threats from radical Islam, the next administration will need to bridge the gap between European and American strategic culture.32 To do this, the next US National Security Strategy must have greater emphasis on political and economic instruments of power and abandon the rhetoric of military primacy and preemption in pursuit of the unattainable goal of democratic transformation.


1. George W. Bush, The National Security Strategy of the United States of America (Washington: The White House, September 2002), p. 6.

2. Ibid., p. 12.

3. Ibid., p. 23.


4. Quoted in Thomas E. Ricks, Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq (New York: Penguin Press, 2006), p. 94. Also recorded in author’s notes of the conference.

5. “NATO’s Military Concept for Defense Against Terrorism,” October 2003,

6. Karl-Heinz Kamp, “Preemptive Strikes: A New Reality in Security Policy,” Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Working Paper No. 121, February 2004, p. 7.

7. Kristin Archick, “US-EU Cooperation Against Terrorism,” Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service, 24 January 2006, p. 2.

8. Javier Solana, “A Secure Europe in a Better World,” European Council (Thessaloniki, Greece), 20 June 2003, p. 7,

9. Ibid., p. 11.

10. Kamp, op. cit., p. 11.

11. M. Elaine Bunn, “Preemptive Action: When, How, and to What Effect?” Strategic Forum (Washington: National Defense University, July 2003), p. 6.

12. Constanze Stelzenmüller, “How the Germans see the World: Results of a New Survey From the German Marshall Fund,” International Politik, 6 (Winter 2005), 50.

13. Declassified Key Judgments from the National Intelligence Estimate, “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States,” April 2006, p. 1,

14. Noel Knox, “Europeans See Little Threat in Iraq,” USA Today, 23 January 2003, p. 1.

15. These issues are described in Sarah Anderson, Phyllis Bennis, and John Cavanagh, “Coalition of the Willing or Coalition of the Coerced,” Washington, Institute for Policy Studies (26 February 2003). The author’s discussions with senior officials from new NATO members attending the Marshall Center are consistent with the IPS study.

16. Author’s interviews while Dean of Academics at the George Marshall Center for European Security Studies. See also, Colonel Gordon R. Hammock, “Iraq, Preemption and the Views of Poland, the Czech Republic, and Hungary,” Air & Space Power Journal, 17 (Fall 2003), 84-92.

17. These data are constantly in flux. The author relied on data posted by Global, “Non-U.S. Forces in Iraq,” 23 August 2006 and the Web site for Perspectives on World History and Current Events, “Coalition of the Willing,” March 2003-February 2005.

18. Ricks, op. cit., pp. 347, 432.

19. Jim Michaels, “Nations Limit Use of NATO Forces,” USA Today, 29 September 2006, p. 1.

20. Speech delivered 3 November 2003. The author is grateful to Dr. Igor Zevelev, bureau chief for Novosti, Washington, D.C., for providing transcripts of several Putin speeches.

21. Yuri Baluevsky, Krasnaya Zvezda, 9 September 2004.

22. Steven Lee Myers, “Strong Rebuke for the Kremlin From Cheney,” New York Times, 5 May 2006, p. 1. Vice President Richard Cheney was critical of Moscow’s efforts to use oil and gas reserves as tools of intimidation and of “rolling back human rights.” The speech came at a time when the United States was also pressuring Putin for support of sanctions against Iran. Moscow condemned the speech, especially the passages on human rights. Europeans were in accord on condemning Moscow’s heavy hand on the gas and oil pipelines to Europe.

23. President Putin during an interview on Al Jazeera television, 16 October 2003.

24. George A. Lopez and David Cartright, “Containing Iraq: Sanctions Worked,” Foreign Affairs, 83 (July/August 2004), 90-103.

25. Kevin Woods, James Lacey, and Williamson Murray, “Saddam’s Delusions: The View From the Inside,” Foreign Affairs, 85 (May/June 2006) and Kevin M. Woods, “Iraqi Perspectives Project: A View of Operation Iraqi Freedom from Saddam’s Senior Leadership,” US Joint Forces Command,

26. The National Security Strategy of the United States of America, 2002, p. 15.

27. For a thoughtful example of post-proliferation thinking see Stephen Peter Rosen, “After Proliferation: What to Do if More States Go Nuclear,” Foreign Affairs, 85 (September/October 2006), 9-14, and Jeffrey Record, “Nuclear Deterrence, Preventive War, and Counterproliferation,” Policy Analysis, No. 519, Cato Institute, 8 July 2004.

28. This is in sharp contrast to neo-conservative thinking. Paul Wolfowitz, for example, was convinced that al Qaeda could not have attacked the United States without state support, namely Iraq. See Ricks, op. cit., p. 30.

29. Bob Woodward, State of Denial: Bush at War, Part III (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2006), p. 46.

30. Norman Podhoretz, “Is the Bush Doctrine Dead?” Commentary (September 2006), pp. 10, 23.

31. Fawaz A. Gerges, “Stoking Muslim Anger,” International Herald Tribune, 13 October 2006, p. 4.

32. For a thoughtful analysis of this see Wyn Rees and Richard J. Aldrich, “Contending Cultures of Counterterrorism: Transatlantic Divergence or Convergence,” International Affairs, 81 (October 2005), 905-23.

Dr. Gary Guertner served as the Dean of Academics at the George Marshall Center for European Security Studies from 1998-2004. He was Chairman of the Department of National Security Strategy at the Army War College from 1992-1998, and Director of Research at the Strategic Studies Institute from 1988-1991. He is adjunct Professor of National Security Policy at the University of Arizona.

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Reviewed 14 May 2007. Please send comments or corrections to