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Overview of National Security Strategy

OT-1016E | Date: 6/03/2010

At the dawn of the 21st century, the United States of America faces a broad and complex array of chal­lenges to our national security. Just as America helped to determine the course of the 20th century, we must now build the sources of American strength and influence, and shape an international order capable of overcoming the challenges of the 21st century.

The World as It Is, A Strategy for the World We Seek

To succeed, we must face the world as it is. The two decades since the end of the Cold War have been marked by both the promise and perils of change. The circle of peaceful democracies has expanded; the specter of nuclear war has lifted; major powers are at peace; the global economy has grown; commerce has stitched the fate of nations together; and more individuals can determine their own destiny. Yet these advances have been accompanied by persistent problems. Wars over ideology have given way to wars over religious, ethnic, and tribal identity; nuclear dangers have proliferated; inequality and economic instability have intensified; damage to our environment, food insecurity, and dangers to public health are increasingly shared; and the same tools that empower individuals to build enable them to destroy.

The dark side of this globalized world came to the forefront for the American people on September 11, 2001. The immediate threat demonstrated by the deadliest attacks ever launched upon American soil demanded strong and durable approaches to defend our homeland. In the years since, we have launched a war against al-Qa'ida and its affiliates, decided to fight a war in Iraq, and confronted a sweep­ing economic crisis. More broadly, though, we have wrestled with how to advance American interests in a world that has changed-a world in which the international architecture of the 20th century is buckling under the weight of new threats, the global economy has accelerated the competition facing our people and businesses, and the universal aspiration for freedom and dignity contends with new obstacles.

Our country possesses the attributes that have supported our leadership for decades-sturdy alliances, an unmatched military, the world's largest economy, a strong and evolving democracy, and a dynamic citizenry. Going forward, there should be no doubt: the United States of America will continue to underwrite global security-through our commitments to allies, partners, and institutions; our focus on defeating al-Qa'ida and its affiliates in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and around the globe; and our determina­tion to deter aggression and prevent the proliferation of the world's most dangerous weapons. As we do, we must recognize that no one nation-no matter how powerful-can meet global challenges alone. As we did after World War II, America must prepare for the future, while forging cooperative approaches among nations that can yield results.

Our national security strategy is, therefore, focused on renewing American leadership so that we can more effectively advance our interests in the 21st century. We will do so by building upon the sources of our strength at home, while shaping an international order that can meet the challenges of our time. This strategy recognizes the fundamental connection between our national security, our national competitiveness, resilience, and moral example. And it reaffirms America's commitment to pursue our interests through an international system in which all nations have certain rights and responsibilities.

This will allow America to leverage our engagement abroad on behalf of a world in which individuals enjoy more freedom and opportunity, and nations have incentives to act responsibly, while facing consequences when they do not.

Renewing American Leadership-Building at Home, Shaping Abroad

Our approach begins with a commitment to build a stronger foundation for American leadership, because what takes place within our borders will determine our strength and influence beyond them. This truth is only heightened in a world of greater interconnection-a world in which our prosperity is inextricably linked to global prosperity, our security can be directly challenged by developments across an ocean, and our actions are scrutinized as never before.

At the center of our efforts is a commitment to renew our economy, which serves as the wellspring of American power. The American people are now emerging from the most devastating recession that we have faced since the Great Depression. As we continue to act to ensure that our recovery is broad and sustained, we are also laying the foundation for the long term growth of our economy and competitive­ness of our citizens. The investments that we have made in recovery are a part of a broader effort that will contribute to our strength: by providing a quality education for our children; enhancing science and innovation; transforming our energy economy to power new jobs and industries; lowering the cost of health care for our people and businesses; and reducing the Federal deficit.

Each of these steps will sustain America's ability to lead in a world where economic power and individual opportunity are more diffuse. These efforts are also tied to our commitment to secure a more resilient nation. Our recovery includes rebuilding an infrastructure that will be more secure and reliable in the face of terrorist threats and natural disasters. Our focus on education and science can ensure that the breakthroughs of tomorrow take place in the United States. Our development of new sources of energy will reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Our commitment to deficit reduction will discipline us to make hard choices, and to avoid overreach. These steps complement our efforts to integrate homeland security with national security; including seamless coordination among Federal, state, and local govern­ments to prevent, protect against, and respond to threats and natural disasters.

Finally, the work to build a stronger foundation for our leadership within our borders recognizes that the most effective way for the United States of America to promote our values is to live them. America's commitment to democracy, human rights, and the rule of law are essential sources of our strength and influence in the world. They too must be cultivated by our rejection of actions like torture that are not in line with our values, by our commitment to pursue justice consistent with our Constitution, and by our steady determination to extend the promise of America to all of our citizens. America has always been a beacon to the peoples of the world when we ensure that the light of America's example burns bright.

Building this stronger foundation will support America's efforts to shape an international system that can meet the challenges of our time. In the aftermath of World War II, it was the United States that helped take the lead in constructing a new international architecture to keep the peace and advance prosperity-from NATO and the United Nations, to treaties that govern the laws and weapons of war; from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, to an expanding web of trade agreements. This architecture, despite its flaws, averted world war, enabled economic growth, and advanced human rights, while facilitating effective burden sharing among the United States, our allies, and partners.

Today, we need to be clear-eyed about the strengths and shortcomings of international institutions that were developed to deal with the challenges of an earlier time and the shortage of political will that has at times stymied the enforcement of international norms. Yet it would be destructive to both American national security and global security if the United States used the emergence of new challenges and the shortcomings of the international system as a reason to walk away from it. Instead, we must focus American engagement on strengthening international institutions and galvanizing the collective action that can serve common interests such as combating violent extremism; stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and securing nuclear materials; achieving balanced and sustainable economic growth; and forging cooperative solutions to the threat of climate change, armed conflict, and pandemic disease.

The starting point for that collective action will be our engagement with other countries. The cornerstone of this engagement is the relationship between the United States and our close friends and allies in Europe, Asia, the Americas, and the Middle East-ties which are rooted in shared interests and shared values, and which serve our mutual security and the broader security and prosperity of the world. We are working to build deeper and more effective partnerships with other key centers of influence-includ­ing China, India, and Russia, as well as increasingly influential nations such as Brazil, South Africa, and Indonesia-so that we can cooperate on issues of bilateral and global concern, with the recognition that power, in an interconnected world, is no longer a zero sum game. We are expanding our outreach to emerging nations, particularly those that can be models of regional success and stability, from the Americas to Africa to Southeast Asia. And we will pursue engagement with hostile nations to test their intentions, give their governments the opportunity to change course, reach out to their people, and mobilize international coalitions.

This engagement will underpin our commitment to an international order based upon rights and responsibilities. International institutions must more effectively represent the world of the 21st century, with a broader voice-and greater responsibilities-for emerging powers, and they must be modernized to more effectively generate results on issues of global interest. Constructive national steps on issues ranging from nuclear security to climate change must be incentivized, so nations that choose to do their part see the benefits of responsible action. Rules of the road must be followed, and there must be consequences for those nations that break the rules-whether they are nonproliferation obligations, trade agreements, or human rights commitments.

This modernization of institutions, strengthening of international norms, and enforcement of inter­national law is not a task for the United States alone-but together with like-minded nations, it is a task we can lead. A key source of American leadership throughout our history has been enlightened self-interest. We want a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if other peoples' children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity. The belief that our own interests are bound to the interests of those beyond our borders will continue to guide our engagement with nations and peoples.

Advancing Top National Security Priorities

Just as our national security strategy is focused on renewing our leadership for the long term, it is also facilitating immediate action on top priorities. This Administration has no greater responsibility than the safety and security of the American people. And there is no greater threat to the American people than weapons of mass destruction, particularly the danger posed by the pursuit of nuclear weapons by violent extremists and their proliferation to additional states.

That is why we are pursuing a comprehensive nonproliferation and nuclear security agenda, grounded in the rights and responsibilities of nations. We are reducing our nuclear arsenal and reliance on nuclear weapons, while ensuring the reliability and effectiveness of our deterrent. We are strengthening the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) as the foundation of nonproliferation, while working through the NPT to hold nations like Iran and North Korea accountable for their failure to meet international obligations. We are leading a global effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials from terrorists. And we are pursuing new strategies to protect against biological attacks and challenges to the cyber networks that we depend upon.

As we secure the world's most dangerous weapons, we are fighting a war against a far-reaching network of hatred and violence. We will disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qa'ida and its affiliates through a com­prehensive strategy that denies them safe haven, strengthens front-line partners, secures our homeland, pursues justice through durable legal approaches, and counters a bankrupt agenda of extremism and murder with an agenda of hope and opportunity. The frontline of this fight is Afghanistan and Pakistan, where we are applying relentless pressure on al-Qa'ida, breaking the Taliban's momentum, and strength­ening the security and capacity of our partners. In this effort, our troops are again demonstrating their extraordinary service, making great sacrifices in a time of danger, and they have our full support.

In Iraq, we are transitioning to full Iraqi sovereignty and responsibility-a process that includes the removal of our troops, the strengthening of our civilian capacity, and a long-term partnership to the Iraqi Government and people. We will be unwavering in our pursuit of a comprehensive peace between Israel and its neighbors, including a two-state solution that ensures Israel's security, while fulfilling the Palestinian peoples' legitimate aspirations for a viable state of their own. And our broader engagement with Muslim communities around the world will spur progress on critical political and security matters, while advancing partnerships on a broad range of issues based upon mutual interests and mutual respect.

As we rebuild the economic strength upon which our leadership depends, we are working to advance the balanced and sustainable growth upon which global prosperity and stability depends. This includes steps at home and abroad to prevent another crisis. We have shifted focus to the G-20 as the premier forum for international economic cooperation, and are working to rebalance global demand so that America saves more and exports more, while emerging economies generate more demand. And we will pursue bilateral and multilateral trade agreements that advance our shared prosperity, while accelerat­ing investments in development that can narrow inequality, expand markets, and support individual opportunity and state capacity abroad.

These efforts to advance security and prosperity are enhanced by our support for certain values that are universal. Nations that respect human rights and democratic values are more successful and stronger partners, and individuals who enjoy such respect are more able to achieve their full potential. The United States rejects the false choice between the narrow pursuit of our interests and an endless campaign to impose our values. Instead, we see it as fundamental to our own interests to support a just peace around the world-one in which individuals, and not just nations, are granted the fundamental rights that they deserve.

In keeping with the focus on the foundation of our strength and influence, we are promoting universal values abroad by living them at home, and will not seek to impose these values through force. Instead, we are working to strengthen international norms on behalf of human rights, while welcoming all peaceful democratic movements. We are supporting the development of institutions within fragile democracies, integrating human rights as a part of our dialogue with repressive governments, and sup­porting the spread of technologies that facilitate the freedom to access information. And we recognize economic opportunity as a human right, and are promoting the dignity of all men and women through our support for global health, food security, and cooperatives responses to humanitarian crises.

Finally, our efforts to shape an international order that promotes a just peace must facilitate cooperation capable of addressing the problems of our time. This international order will support our interests, but it is also an end that we seek in its own right. New challenges hold out the prospect of opportunity, but only if the international community breaks down the old habits of suspicion to build upon common interests. A global effort to combat climate change must draw upon national actions to reduce emis­sions and a commitment to mitigate their impact. Efforts to prevent conflicts and keep the peace in their aftermath can stop insecurity from spreading. Global cooperation to prevent the spread of pandemic disease can promote public health.

Implementing this agenda will not be easy. To succeed, we must balance and integrate all elements of American power and update our national security capacity for the 21st century. We must maintain our military's conventional superiority, while enhancing its capacity to defeat asymmetric threats. Our diplomacy and development capabilities must be modernized, and our civilian expeditionary capac­ity strengthened, to support the full breadth of our priorities. Our intelligence and homeland security efforts must be integrated with our national security policies, and those of our allies and partners. And our ability to synchronize our actions while communicating effectively with foreign publics must be enhanced to sustain global support.

However, America's greatest asset remains our people. In an era that will be shaped by the ability to seize the opportunities of a world that has grown more interconnected, it is the American people who will make the difference-the troops and civilians serving within our government; businesses, foundations, and educational institutions that operate around the globe; and citizens who possess the dynamism, drive, and diversity to thrive in a world that has grown smaller. Because for all of its dangers, globalization is in part a product of American leadership and the ingenuity of the American people. We are uniquely suited to seize its promise.

Our story is not without imperfections. Yet at each juncture that history has called upon us to rise to the occasion, we have advanced our own security, while contributing to the cause of human progress. To continue to do so, our national security strategy must be informed by our people, enhanced by the contributions of the Congress, and strengthened by the unity of the American people. If we draw on that spirit anew, we can build a world of greater peace, prosperity, and human dignity.

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