2002 October 04 Friday
Condoleezza Rice on Containment, Deterrence, Preemption

Condoleezza Rice recently delivered the Manhattan Institute's Wriston Lecture at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. The lecture covered a variety of foreign policy topics but this excerpt focuses on preemption:

The National Security Strategy does not overturn five decades of doctrine and jettison either containment or deterrence. These strategic concepts can and will continue to be employed where appropriate. But some threats are so potentially catastrophic -- and can arrive with so little warning, by means that are untraceable -- that they cannot be contained. Extremists who seem to view suicide as a sacrament are unlikely to ever be deterred. And new technology requires new thinking about when a threat actually becomes "imminent." So as a matter of common sense, the United States must be prepared to take action, when necessary, before threats have fully materialized.

Preemption is not a new concept. There has never been a moral or legal requirement that a country wait to be attacked before it can address existential threats. As George Shultz recently wrote, "If there is a rattlesnake in the yard, you don't wait for it to strike before you take action in self-defense." The United States has long affirmed the right to anticipatory self-defense -- from the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 to the crisis on the Korean Peninsula in 1994.

But this approach must be treated with great caution. The number of cases in which it might be justified will always be small. It does not give a green light -- to the United States or any other nation -- to act first without exhausting other means, including diplomacy. Preemptive action does not come at the beginning of a long chain of effort. The threat must be very grave. And the risks of waiting must far outweigh the risks of action.

To support all these means of defending the peace, the United States will build and maintain 21st century military forces that are beyond challenge.

We will seek to dissuade any potential adversary from pursuing a military build-up in the hope of surpassing, or equaling, the power of the United States and our allies.

Some have criticized this frankness as impolitic. But surely clarity is a virtue here. Dissuading military competition can prevent potential conflict and costly global arms races. And the United States invites -- indeed, we exhort -- our freedom loving allies, such as those in Europe, to increase their military capabilities.

The burden of maintaining a balance of power that favors freedom should be shouldered by all nations that favor freedom. What none of us should want is the emergence of a militarily powerful adversary who does not share our common values.

Thankfully, this possibility seems more remote today than at any point in our lifetimes. We have an historic opportunity to break the destructive pattern of great power rivalry that has bedeviled the world since rise of the nation state in the 17th century. Today, the world's great centers of power are united by common interests, common dangers, and -- increasingly -- common values. The United States will make this a key strategy for preserving the peace for many decades to come.

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2002 October 04 11:44 AM  US Foreign Preemption, Deterrence, Containment


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