The National Security Strategy of the United States of America for 2006:

How is it affecting international organizations?

On March 16, 2006, President George Bush unveiled what is perhaps one of the most anticipated security announcements in the world: the National Security Strategy of the United States for 2006. In simple terms, the National Security Strategy for 2006 or NSS06, for brevity’s sake, is regarded as highly important because it outlines America’s plan in terms of addressing security threats in its domestic front as well as global affairs.

In the introductory part of the statement, President George Bush noted that this year’s security strategy is founded on two pillars: first is the promotion of freedom, justice and human dignity. The second pillar involves the US’ strategy in confronting the present challenges faced by the global community by leading the democratic countries of the world. This was seconded by National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley, during his speech to the United States Institute of Peace on the President’s National Security Strategy when he said the principles behind the current National Security Strategy is “to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world.”

The NSS06 clearly states the policy of the United States which is to help create a world of democratic, well-governed states that can meet the needs of their citizens and conduct themselves responsibly in the international system. This path is being threaded because it is believed that this is the best way to provide enduring security for the American people.

There are eight major points enumerated in the NSS06 but for the purpose of this paper, focus will be made on the third and fourth major strategies presented in NSS06: strengthening alliances to defeat global terrorism and work to prevent attacks against US and its allies; and working with others to diffuse regional conflicts. Putting emphasis on these two major strategies will allow us to analyze what the positive and negative implications of the US NSS06 are in the context of international organizations.

Just like its predecessor –National Security Strategy for 2002–, NSS06 cites terrorism and the battle against it as its focal point. In the NSS06, President George Bush admitted that the War on Terror has been both a battle of arms and a battle of ideas –or a fight against the terrorists and against the murderous ideology behind it. This year’s security strategy also clarifies that the war on terror is anything but a battle of religions.

To combat this battle, the NSS06 recognized the need to empower the very people the terrorists most want to exploit: the faithful followers of Islam. The NSS06 also recognizes the need to work with allies or with others to completely diffuse conflicts, regional or otherwise. As noted by the NSS06 statement, regional conflicts can arise from a wide variety of causes, including poor governance, external aggression, competing claims, internal revolt, tribal rivalries, and ethnic or religious hatreds. If left unaddressed, however, these different causes lead to the same ends: failed states, humanitarian disasters, and ungoverned areas that can become safe havens for terrorists.

The Bush administration’s strategy for addressing regional conflicts includes three levels of engagement: conflict prevention and resolution; conflict intervention; and post-conflict stabilization and reconstruction.

However, the most striking part of the NSS06 statement is the admission of the Bush administration that effective cooperation on these efforts is dependent on capable partners. To this end, NSS06 states that Congress has enacted new authorities that will permit the United States to train and equip our foreign partners in a more timely and effective manner. It added that the President will continue working with Congress and will continue to pursue foreign assistance reforms that allow the President to draw on the skills of agencies across the United States Government.

The NSS06 was also clear in defining its allies. According to the NSS06 document, America’s closest alliances and friendships are with countries with whom we share common values and principles. The more countries demonstrate that they treat their own citizens with respect and are committed to democratic principles, the closer and stronger their relationship with America is likely to be. NSS06 vows that the United States will lead and calls on other nations to join us in a common international effort. All free nations have a responsibility to stand together for freedom because all free nations share an interest in freedom’s advance.

In looking at these points, one can logically draw the conclusion that one of the positive implications of the 2006 National Security Strategy of the United States is the recognition of the Bush Administration that it cannot wage war against a powerful ideology all by itself. The NSS06 falls short of admitting that the War on Terror is not simply a war to be won by the United States against its enemies. It recognizes the need for international cooperation to fully combat the battle that is terrorism. I deem this a positive implication simply because the financial burden of waging such a massive and dragging war will no longer be shouldered by American taxpayers but by the whole international community.

Another positive implication of the new NSS06 is that the United States is actually leaning more towards voluntary cooperation rather than resorting to binding treatises. I say that this is a positive move because no nation should use power and influence to win the support of another nation. In this case, the United States has most often been perceived as a bully in international law and that it always muscles itself in the negotiating table to get what it wants. Now that the NSS06 is clear on the voluntary cooperation of other nations, the United States can finally break free from this image. One other positive effect of this stance is seeing the real commitment of the allies to the cause being pursued by the United States.

There have been cases where countries stay in a war simply because it has pledged to support a certain country by signing a particular treaty. When countries sign in voluntarily to help a particular cause, it must be because they believe and are committed to the goal or the cause. Voluntarily joining a cause allows a country to assess how far they can go in the journey and how much they are willing to give. If, in the middle of the game –so to speak–, the country finds itself in a compromising situation, it can freely get out of the battle and focus on more pressing matters in the home front. Signing treaties will not allow a country off the hook so easily.

Once a country has pledged itself in the goal or the cause by signing a particular treaty, there is no backing out. It is my analysis that the concept of voluntary adherence tilts towards the positive side on this aspect.

The fact that the NSS06 is geared towards producing actual results for the international community can also be seen in a positive light. There have been instances wherein the goals of the international community have not been reached because of bureaucracy and too much legislation. Time has been wasted in many instances by drafting the right treaty when all we are looking for are concrete results. The case of September 11 shows that legislations cannot completely assure the security and safety of a nation. Hence, as in daily life, the cliché that action speaks louder than words is also very much true for international law.

It also worth pointing out that the NSS06 is not very different from its 2002 predecessor in the sense that the two security strategies put a lot of emphasis on cooperation in the prevention of terrorism. Like its predecessor, NSS06 also mentions that the US is ready to take a pre-emptive stance against any imminent threat to its security.

This stance is not new in international law. In fact, Christine Gray, in her paper entitled “The US National Security Strategy and the New “Bush Doctrine” on Preemptive Self-Defense”, noted that international law do recognize the fact that states or nations need not suffer an attack before they can lawfully take action to defend themselves against force that  present an imminent danger of attack (Gray, 2002).

I believe this stance also poses some negative implications on the United States upon closer scrutiny. Gray said that one major question that should be raised on this particular aspect is this: How far, if at all, is the US willing to accept the application of these new doctrines on the use of force by other states. Studying history will allow one to see that the United States is prone to establishing double-standard rules. Gray notes that the US warns that nations should not “use preemption as a pretext for aggression”. When others have sought to use force against terrorists in another state, accusing that state of harboring or failing to act against the terrorists, the US has not been encouraging.

Gray was correct in saying that the uncertainties at its heart increase the doubts as to the legality of the radical new doctrine; its impact will depend on the reaction of the rest of the world and to date other states have proved distinctly cautious. The Security Strategy provisions on preemptive action may yet prove more a rhetorical device designed to put pressure on Iraq than a serious attempt to rewrite international law on self-defense.

I also am of the opinion that partnerships that rely on voluntary adherence rather than binding treaties have its disadvantages too. While it is true that the absence of treaties will reveal the true commitment of allies, signing of treaties will likewise ensure the support of countries to the cause till the end –no matter the cost. As earlier noted, voluntary adherence may result to countries pulling out before the results are achieved. This attitude may put the entire project at great risk and will definitely cause more harm than good.

It goes without saying that the United States has placed too much emphasis on security and safety of the nation and its citizens. After the tragedy that is September 11, the United States began to view the global community as nothing short of being violent, dangerous and unpredictable. In response to this, the United States has crafter one of the most comprehensive security strategies in the world today:

the National Security Strategy for 2006 and its 2002 predecessor. Both of these strategies have been crafted to meet the looming threat perceived by the Bush administration. But the affects of these security strategies must hold water in the area of international law. And does it? Upon scrutiny and analysis, does the NSS06 comply with international law and its guidelines? Some say it does and some say it does not. Michael N. Schmitt, in his paper entitled “U.S. Security Strategies: A Legal Assessment”, says the United States did comply with international law and its guidelines.

Clearly in the twenty-first century, says Schmitt, the international community deems it appropriate to use military force against non-State actors pursuant to the right to self-defense so long as the conditions precedent to such use, particularly that of necessity, are present. He added that states need not secure the authorization of the Security Council before acting in self-defense, whether against terrorists, Weapons of Mass Destruction, or any combination thereof (Schmitt, 2004).

“States may even act preemptively, despite the crescendo of protestations to the contrary, during the last window of opportunity to prevent becoming the victim of an armed attack. Under certain circumstances, it is appropriate to cross into another State to mount counterterrorist operations without that State’s consent,” notes Schmitt.

Finally, Schmitt adds that states that provide support to terrorists do so at great risk in light of the shifting balance between the rights of territorial inviolability and self-defense. Simply put, it can be thus said that there is no aspect in the US Security Strategy—either the 2006 or 2002 models—that can be viewed as illegal under international law. Schmitt says however that it is certainly possible to pursue the strategies in an unlawful manner, for instance by acting forcefully in self-defense when non-forceful alternatives remain viable.

Therefore, actual instances of the use of force must always be normatively evaluated on a case-by-case basis. Most importantly, any interpretation of the applicable legal regime must account for the constantly evolving security environment if international law is to continue to command the respect of the international community.

In summary, one can say that like most things in this world, there are both positive and negative implications of the United States new National Security Strategy (March 2006) for the Law of International Organizations. Some of it has already been discussed at length in the earlier parts of the paper. When one tips the scale though, the concept of establishing results-oriented partnerships to meet new challenges and opportunities present more positive implications than negative ones. The NSS06, although a clear extension of the 2002 version clearly has learned the mistakes it made during the first security strategy and is willing to make adjustments to make sure the ultimate goals are met this time around.


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