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Date: 2024-05-26 Page is: DBtxt003.php txt00004435

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National Security Indicator

Burgess COMMENTARY

Peter Burgess

National Security Indicator

This indicator received much attention after September 2001, since it warned of terrorism and the need for new defense priorities. The U.S. public's view of national security has been changing for over a decade. Our expert, Col. Dan Smith, US Army (Ret.), has posted updates on the current debate. Even before the end of the Cold War, Americans were identifying global economic competitiveness and environmental pollution as issues of national security beyond traditional military views of defense. President Bush ordered a complete review of Pentagon spending priorities, which already has led to abandoning the 'Two-War Policy' which assumed that the US must be equipped to fight two major wars simultaneously. The new war on terrorism has changed the focus to so-called 'asymmetrical' threats: where suicidal individuals armed with box cutters can turn passenger planes into explosive missiles. Hearings of the 9/11 Commission are helping reveal the extent of reform needed to protect US citizens from further attacks. Thus, 21st century threats include bioterrorism, suitcase bombs and cyber-warfare. All this calls for even more fundamental changes in national security policy. Bush retains his commitment to continue with Ronald Reagan's dream of missile defense. The bottom line issue in the scientific community is whether the plan will work technologically, and in a world of asymmetrical threats whether missile defense is even relevant. This together with the September 2002 Administration Security Policy document espousing the doctrine of 'preemptive' strikes on other nations, sparked a fierce backlash among our allies in Europe and worsened relations with Russia and China over what many countries, including our allies, see as U.S. 'unilateralism.' The 2004 presidential race has focused on national security and President Bush's priorities in going to war in Iraq. Issues include whether the Iraq preemptive war made US citizens safer or less safe, whether there are now fewer or more terrorists, targeting US citizens and whether homeland security priorities (greater screening of airline passengers and hand luggage; greater surveillance under the Patriot Act) should be re-focused, for example, on screening baggage checked on planes and greater surveillance of borders, ports and incoming cargo shipments.

Our National Security Indicatorreveals how Americans, Congress, the Executive Branch, and a host of institutional players actually shape our current national security policy. This inside view from a retired military officer and lecturer at West Point, Col. Dan Smith, who also serves on our Advisory Board, identifies other potential lags in the military view of national security. These relate to prevention of threats and conflicts. These must be addressed via intelligence, diplomacy, treaty-making, surveillance, and verification most often involving allies and multilateral agencies including the United Nations. The U.S. has refused to ratify many UN treaties, including the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the International Criminal Court, the Land Mine Treaty and the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty as well as the Comprehensive Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) and the Kyoto Protocol.

Short-changing anticipatory, preventive policies inevitably leads to more drastic, expensive military interventions such as those that might have been prevented in Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor, and other trouble spots. Much in the news is the national security priority of reducing US dependence on foreign oil and the need to shift to domestic renewable energy and greater fuel-efficiency. Yet our indicator still shows an alarming drop-off in such preventive activities, (not only the increase in sales of gas-guzzling SUVs), but deteriorating U.S. embassy facilities, cuts to State Department diplomatic activities, pull-backs from international peace-keeping and surveillance operations with our allies and the United Nations. The Congress voted to pay $580 million of our $1 billion arrears owed to the UN after 9/11. Bush's new US doctrine of 'preemptive' strikes on other nations contravenes current international law, which only allows for self-defense as the justification for going to war with another nation. This heightened opposition to the US among our allies and caused new disarray in Europe and NATO. The public debate about the changing meaning of 'national sovereignty,' and globalization will continue for years to come. Our National Security Indicator will provide an ongoing roadmap to clarify these issues, which are fundamentally linked to all other areas and indicators of our national life.

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