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Report Details National Security Strategy


Today the White House released its 2006 National Security Strategy Report, an update of the report released four years ago. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley presented the report today at the U.S. Institute of Peace.

Here's some of what he had to say.

Mr. STEPHEN HADLEY (National Security Advisor): The President's strategy affirms that the doctrine of preemption remains sound and must remain an integral part of our national security strategy.

If necessary, the strategy states, under longstanding 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.

CONAN: Joining us now is David Greene, NPR's White House correspondent with us here in Studio 3A today.

Nice to have you in the building for once.

DAVID GREENE reporting:

Good to be here, Neal.

CONAN: This strategy of preemption, the strategy that gave us Iraq.

GREENE: Indeed it is, and a strategy that the White House is restating today. They don't offer a clear sense of when the strategy will be used, not on a whole lot of details, that the report that came from the White House today suggests it's a last resort, lists some vague conditions. They'll only act preemptively when the United States has proceeded deliberately, weighed the consequences, made sure that the reasons are clear. It's not the kind of language that's going to clear up all the questions that have been tossed at the President, such as why Iraq and not Iran or North Korea? So a lot of confusion might remain.

CONAN: And confusion attending new wording about Iran today in this new strategy report.

GREENE: Indeed. And obviously the President's been tough on Iran before, but stating that Iran claims not to be trying to develop any nuclear weapons, but saying that the United States just doesn't believe them, and the United States is going to work with allies to make Iran be transparent. It accuses Iran of sponsoring terrorism, of threatening Israel.

The report says the United States is going to continue to try to take diplomatic actions to force Iran to be transparent. There might some action out of the United Nations in coming days. But the last words are that diplomatic, diplomacy has to succeed, because if not, diplomacy has to succeed if confrontation is to be avoided.

That's diplo-speak. I mean it's not something explosive. But it's notable if the report raises even a subject of confrontation.

CONAN: And it also says that all necessary measures would be taken to prevent Iran's acquisition of nuclear weapons; again, a phrase that gives you some strategic ambiguity. But there's a big club there in the background.

GREENE: Indeed, sitting right there in full view.

CONAN: And another country that came in for some criticism today, or at least advice: China.

GREENE: Indeed. And again, the President's been tough on China before. But it kind of cements some concerns about China in the President's foreign policy. It says that the leaders of China have said that they're committed to a peaceful path to development. But they're a lot of problems, such as the fact that China is developing, expanding its military in a way that's not transparent.

And the report accuses them of trying to lock up energy supplies in direct markets, in a way that comes from a discredited era, not the way that it's going to engage other nations in a positive type of relationship.

So certainly a warning to that county as well. And it's a big important country that the United States I think is very afraid of if it's not being transparent.

CONAN: Yeah. They accuse the Chinese mercantilism, which is a charge that hasn't been levied recently.

GREENE: In a very long time, that's right, Neal.

CONAN: Again, this strategy, this idea of preemption, other people said that in fact Iraq was more preventive than preemptive. But anyway, does this report, this update, acknowledge that there were, might have been any problems with this, the execution of this policy in the past?

GREENE: It acknowledges essentially what the White House has acknowledged before; that there was faulty intelligence that was wrong about the WMDs. And it says that the President has taken steps to address that and tried to reform the intelligence community. But it is unapologetic, as has often been the case with, with this President. It blames Saddam Hussein, again, for drawing the United States into an invasion, suggesting that if Saddam Hussein had, let me see what the report says, removed the ambiguity that he created, Iraq could have avoided a confrontation.

So saying yes, the intelligence was faulty, yes, we thought that there were WMDs there, but the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power.

CONAN: David Greene, thanks very much.

GREEN: Pleasure to be here, Neal.

CONAN: David Greene, NPR's White House correspondent with us here in Studio 3A. You can read the full report, if you'd like, at our Web site, npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.