The National Security Strategy - March 2006
III. Strengthen Alliances to Defeat Global Terrorism and Work to Prevent Attacks Against Us and Our Friends
A. Summary of National Security Strategy 2002
Defeating terrorism requires a long-term strategy and a break with old patterns. We are fighting a new enemy with global reach. The United States can no longer simply rely on deterrence to keep the terrorists at bay or defensive measures to thwart them at the last moment. The fight must be taken to the enemy, to keep them on the run. To succeed in our own efforts, we need the support and concerted action of friends and allies. We must join with others to deny the terrorists what they need to survive: safe haven, financial support, and the support and protection that certain nation-states historically have given them.
B. Current Context: Successes and Challenges
The war against terror is not over. America is safer, but not yet safe. As the enemy adjusts to our successes, so too must we adjust. The successes are many:
- Al-Qaida has lost its safe haven in Afghanistan.
- A multinational coalition joined by the Iraqis is aggressively prosecuting the war against the terrorists in Iraq.
- The al-Qaida network has been significantly degraded. Most of those in the al-Qaida network responsible for the September 11 attacks, including the plot’s mastermind Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, have been captured or killed.
- There is a broad and growing global consensus that the deliberate killing of innocents is never justified by any calling or cause.
- Many nations have rallied to fight terrorism, with unprecedented cooperation on law enforcement, intelligence, military, and diplomatic activity.
- Numerous countries that were part of the problem before September 11 are now increasingly becoming part of the solution – and this transformation has occurred without destabilizing friendly regimes in key regions.
- The Administration has worked with Congress to adopt and implement key reforms like the Patriot Act which promote our security while also protecting our fundamental liberties.
The enemy is determined, however, and we face some old and new challenges:
- Terrorist networks today are more dispersed and less centralized. They are more reliant on smaller cells inspired by a common ideology and less directed by a central command structure.
- While the United States Government and its allies have thwarted many attacks, we have not been able to stop them all. The terrorists have struck in many places, including Afghanistan, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Morocco, Pakistan, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, and the United Kingdom. And they continue to seek WMD in order to inflict even more catastrophic attacks on us and our friends and allies.
- The ongoing fight in Iraq has been twisted by terrorist propaganda as a rallying cry.
- Some states, such as Syria and Iran, continue to harbor terrorists at home and sponsor terrorist activity abroad.
C. The Way Ahead
From the beginning, the War on Terror has been both a battle of arms and a battle of ideas – a fight against the terrorists and against their murderous ideology. In the short run, the fight involves using military force and other instruments of national power to kill or capture the terrorists, deny them safe haven or control of any nation; prevent them from gaining access to WMD; and cut off their sources of support. In the long run, winning the war on terror means winning the battle of ideas, for it is ideas that can turn the disenchanted into murderers willing to kill innocent victims.
While the War on Terror is a battle of ideas, it is not a battle of religions. The transnational terrorists confronting us today exploit the proud religion of Islam to serve a violent political vision: the establishment, by terrorism and subversion, of a totalitarian empire that denies all political and religious freedom. These terrorists distort the idea of jihad into a call for murder against those they regard as apostates or unbelievers – including Christians, Jews, Hindus, other religious traditions, and all Muslims who disagree with them. Indeed, most of the terrorist attacks since September 11 have occurred in Muslim countries – and most of the victims have been Muslims.
To wage this battle of ideas effectively, we must be clear-eyed about what does and does not give rise to terrorism:
- Terrorism is not the inevitable by-product of poverty. Many of the September 11 hijackers were from middle-class backgrounds, and many terrorist leaders, like bin Laden, are from privileged upbringings.
- Terrorism is not simply a result of hostility to U.S. policy in Iraq. The United States was attacked on September 11 and earlier, well before we toppled the Saddam Hussein regime. Moreover, countries that stayed out of the Iraq war have not been spared from terror attack.
- Terrorism is not simply a result of Israeli-Palestinian issues. Al-Qaida plotting for the September 11 attacks began in the 1990s, during an active period in the peace process.
- Terrorism is not simply a response to our efforts to prevent terror attacks. The al-Qaida network targeted the United States long before the United States targeted al-Qaida. Indeed, the terrorists are emboldened more by perceptions of weakness than by demonstrations of resolve. Terrorists lure recruits by telling them that we are decadent and easily intimidated and will retreat if attacked.
The terrorism we confront today springs from:
- Political alienation. Transnational terrorists are recruited from people who have no voice in their own government and see no legitimate way to promote change in their own country. Without a stake in the existing order, they are vulnerable to manipulation by those who advocate a perverse vision based on violence and destruction.
- Grievances that can be blamed on others. The failures the terrorists feel and see are blamed on others, and on perceived injustices from the recent or sometimes distant past. The terrorists’ rhetoric keeps wounds associated with this past fresh and raw, a potent motivation for revenge and terror.
- Sub-cultures of conspiracy and misinformation. Terrorists recruit more effectively from populations whose information about the world is contaminated by falsehoods and corrupted by conspiracy theories. The distortions keep alive grievances and filter out facts that would challenge popular prejudices and self-serving propaganda.
- An ideology that justifies murder. Terrorism ultimately depends upon the appeal of an ideology that excuses or even glorifies the deliberate killing of innocents. A proud religion – the religion of Islam – has been twisted and made to serve an evil end, as in other times and places other religions have been similarly abused.
Defeating terrorism in the long run requires that each of these factors be addressed. The genius of democracy is that it provides a counter to each.
- In place of alienation, democracy offers an ownership stake in society, a chance to shape one’s own future.
- In place of festering grievances, democracy offers the rule of law, the peaceful resolution of disputes, and the habits of advancing interests through compromise.
- In place of a culture of conspiracy and misinformation, democracy offers freedom of speech, independent media, and the marketplace of ideas, which can expose and discredit falsehoods, prejudices, and dishonest propaganda.
- In place of an ideology that justifies murder, democracy offers a respect for human dignity that abhors the deliberate targeting of innocent civilians.
Democracy is the opposite of terrorist tyranny, which is why the terrorists denounce it and are willing to kill the innocent to stop it. Democracy is based on empowerment, while the terrorists’ ideology is based on enslavement. Democracies expand the freedom of their citizens, while the terrorists seek to impose a single set of narrow beliefs. Democracy sees individuals as equal in worth and dignity, having an inherent potential to create and to govern themselves. The terrorists see individuals as objects to be exploited, and then to be ruled and oppressed.
Democracies are not immune to terrorism. In some democracies, some ethnic or religious groups are unable or unwilling to grasp the benefits of freedom otherwise available in the society. Such groups can evidence the same alienation and despair that the transnational terrorists exploit in undemocratic states. This accounts for the emergence in democratic societies of homegrown terrorists such as were responsible for the bombings in London in July 2005 and for the violence in some other nations. Even in these cases, the long-term solution remains deepening the reach of democracy so that all citizens enjoy its benefits.
The strategy to counter the lies behind the terrorists’ ideology is to empower the very people the terrorists most want to exploit: the faithful followers of Islam. We will continue to support political reforms that empower peaceful Muslims to practice and interpret their faith. The most vital work will be done within the Islamic world itself, and Jordan, Morocco, and Indonesia have begun to make important strides in this effort. Responsible Islamic leaders need to denounce an ideology that distorts and exploits Islam for destructive ends and defiles a proud religion.
Many of the Muslim faith are already making this commitment at great personal risk. They realize they are a target of this ideology of terror. Everywhere we have joined in the fight against terrorism, Muslim allies have stood beside us, becoming partners in this vital cause. Pakistan and Saudi Arabia have launched effective efforts to capture or kill the leadership of the al-Qaida network. Afghan troops are in combat against Taliban remnants. Iraqi soldiers are sacrificing to defeat al-Qaida in their own country. These brave citizens know the stakes – the survival of their own liberty, the future of their own region, the justice and humanity of their own traditions – and the United States is proud to stand beside them.
The advance of freedom and human dignity through democracy is the long-term solution to the transnational terrorism of today. To create the space and time for that long-term solution to take root, there are four steps we will take in the short term.
- 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. They must be cut off from the network of individuals and institutions on which they depend for support. That network must in turn be deterred, disrupted, and disabled by using a broad range of tools.
- Deny WMD to rogue states and to terrorist allies who would use them without hesitation. Terrorists have a perverse moral code that glorifies deliberately targeting innocent civilians. Terrorists try to inflict as many casualties as possible and seek WMD to this end. Denying terrorists WMD will require new tools and new international approaches. We are working with partner nations to improve security at vulnerable nuclear sites worldwide and bolster the ability of states to detect, disrupt, and respond to terrorist activity involving WMD.
- Deny terrorist groups the support and sanctuary of rogue states. The United States and its allies in the War on Terror make no distinction between those who commit acts of terror and those who support and harbor them, because they are equally guilty of murder. Any government that chooses to be an ally of terror, such as Syria or Iran, has chosen to be an enemy of freedom, justice, and peace. The world must hold those regimes to account.
- Deny the terrorists control of any nation that they would use as a base and launching pad for terror. The terrorists’ goal is to overthrow a rising democracy; claim a strategic country as a haven for terror; destabilize the Middle East; and strike America and other free nations with ever-increasing violence. This we can never allow. This is why success in Afghanistan and Iraq is vital, and why we must prevent terrorists from exploiting ungoverned areas.
America will lead in this fight, and we will continue to partner with allies and will recruit new friends to join the battle.
Afghanistan and Iraq: The Front Lines in the War on Terror
Winning the War on Terror requires winning the battles in Afghanistan and Iraq.
In Afghanistan, the successes already won must be consolidated. A few years ago, Afghanistan was condemned to a pre-modern nightmare. Now it has held two successful free elections and is a staunch ally in the war on terror. Much work remains, however, and the Afghan people deserve the support of the United States and the entire international community.
The terrorists today see Iraq as the central front of their fight against the United States. They want to defeat America in Iraq and force us to abandon our allies before a stable democratic government has been established that can provide for its own security. The terrorists believe they would then have proven that the United States is a waning power and an unreliable friend. In the chaos of a broken Iraq the terrorists believe they would be able to establish a safe haven like they had in Afghanistan, only this time in the heart of a geopolitically vital region. Surrendering to the terrorists would likewise hand them a powerful recruiting tool: the perception that they are the vanguard of history.
When the Iraqi Government, supported by the Coalition, defeats the terrorists, terrorism will be dealt a critical blow. We will have broken one of al-Qaida’s most formidable factions – the network headed by Zarqawi – and denied him the safe haven he seeks in Iraq. And the success of democracy in Iraq will be a launching pad for freedom’s success throughout a region that for decades has been a source of instability and stagnation.
The Administration has explained in some detail the strategy for helping the Iraqi people defeat the terrorists and neutralize the insurgency in Iraq. This requires supporting the Iraqi people in integrating activity along three broad tracks:
Political: Work with Iraqis to:
- Isolate hardened enemy elements who are unwilling to accept a peaceful political process;
- Engage those outside the political process who are willing to turn away from violence and invite them into that process; and
- Build stable, pluralistic, and effective national institutions that can protect the interests of all Iraqis.
Security: Work with Iraqi Security Forces to:
- Clear areas of enemy control by remaining on the offensive, killing and capturing enemy fighters, and denying them safe haven;
- Hold areas freed from enemy control with an adequate Iraqi security force presence that ensures these areas remain under the control of a peaceful Iraqi Government; and
- Build Iraqi Security Forces and the capacity of local institutions to deliver services, advance the rule of law, and nurture civil society.
Economic: Work with the Iraqi Government to:
- Restore Iraq’s neglected infrastructure so that Iraqis can meet increasing demand and the needs of a growing economy;
- Reform Iraq’s economy so that it can be self-sustaining based on market principles; and
- Build the capacity of Iraqi institutions to maintain their infrastructure, rejoin the international economic community, and improve the general welfare and prosperity of all Iraqis.
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