Tamils - a Trans State Nation..

"To us all towns are one, all men our kin.
Life's good comes not from others' gift, nor ill
Man's pains and pains' relief are from within.
Thus have we seen in visions of the wise !."
Tamil Poem in Purananuru, circa 500 B.C

Home Whats New Trans State Nation One World Unfolding Consciousness Comments Search
Home > Tamils - A Trans State Nation > Beyond Tamil Nation: One World > The Strength of an Idea > Nations & Nationalism International Relations & the Age of Empires in Denial > Power & Interest News Report > Washington's 2006 National Security Strategy Confirms a Policy Void



"..The Struggle for Tamil Eelam is a National Question - and it is therefore an International Question.." note by tamilnation.org - Given the key role played by India and the United States in the Struggle for Tamil Eelam, it is not without importance for the Tamil people to further their own understanding of the foreign policy objectives of these two countries - this is more so because the record shows that states do not have permanent friends but have only permanent interests. And, it is these interests that they pursue, whether overtly or covertly. Furthermore, the interests of a state are a function of the interests of groups which wield power within that state and 'foreign policy is the external manifestation of domestic institutions, ideologies and other attributes of the polity'. In the end, the success of any liberation struggle is, not surprisingly, a function of the capacity of its leadership to mobilise its own people and its own resources at the broadest and deepest level."

International Relations

Washington's 2006 National Security Strategy Confirms a Policy Void

Dr. Michael A. Weinstein
Power and Interest News Report

22 March 2006

"..Rather than resolving the differences between the unipolarists and the multipolarists, the new N.S.S. incorporates both perspectives without synthesizing them, so that the report confirms a continuing policy void at the highest levels of Washington's power structure. The lack of a coherent vision appears starkly on page 37 of the report, where the contending positions are jammed together: "...we must be prepared to act alone if necessary, while recognizing that there is little of lasting consequence that we can accomplish in the world without the sustained cooperation of our allies and partners...""

note by tamilnation.org It may well be that there is in fact no policy void and that though the State Department and Defence Department appear to speak in different voices, their goal is the same. Actually, President George W. Bush's letter of presentation may well reflect the reality : "Effective multinational efforts are essential to solve...problems. Yet history has shown that only when we do our part will others do theirs. America must continue to lead." AS for 'multi polarity' George Orwell and the Animal Farm come to mind: "All are equal, but some are more equal than others".

With the release on March 16, 2006 of its National Security Strategy (N.S.S.), Washington completed its overview of diplomatic, defense and security policy that included Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's reorganization of the State Department and U.S. aid programs, and the Defense Department's Quadrennial Defense Review (Q.D.R.).

The N.S.S. is required by law to be issued to Congress by the president on a yearly basis, but the new report is the first one to be delivered since 2002. The delay was due to the Iraq intervention, which embroiled the administration in responding to immediate situations and rendered the direction of future policy uncertain -- pending the outcome of the intervention -- and, more importantly, reflected unreconciled fundamental divisions within the administration over the position of the United States in the global power configuration.

The split among the forces in the U.S. security apparatus was evidenced by the differences between Rice's explanation of the State Department reorganization and the analysis in the Q.D.R. Rice forthrightly embraced the view that world politics is moving toward a multipolar power configuration and outlined plans to reallocate State Department resources to emerging power centers, including China, India, Indonesia and Egypt. She stressed the importance of "partnering" with regional powers and avoided making claims to U.S. global supremacy. In contrast, the Q.D.R. maintained a qualified unipolar perspective based on achieving absolute U.S. military supremacy and offered a maximalist program geared to building the "capability" to respond to every possible threat. [See: "Condoleezza Rice Completes Washington's Geostrategic Shift" and "U.S. Quadrennial Defense Review Reveals a Strategy Void"]

Whereas Rice's reorganization marked an acknowledgment of the constraints on U.S. power that have become evident in the Iraq intervention and, more deeply, in the sheer growth of the emerging power centers, the Q.D.R. registered a failure to prioritize threats and an inability or unwillingness to abandon the unipolar vision, although it conceded that there was a need to partner with other states.

Rather than resolving the differences between the unipolarists and the multipolarists, the new N.S.S. incorporates both perspectives without synthesizing them, so that the report confirms a continuing policy void at the highest levels of Washington's power structure. The lack of a coherent vision appears starkly on page 37 of the report, where the contending positions are jammed together: "...we must be prepared to act alone if necessary, while recognizing that there is little of lasting consequence that we can accomplish in the world without the sustained cooperation of our allies and partners."

The N.S.S. as a Compromise Formation

Government white papers on security policy vary in their utility for providing guides for the future behavior of the states that issue them. When they represent a coherent policy, they serve the purposes of informing other international actors of the state's intentions so that miscalculations can be avoided and of assessing strengths and weaknesses realistically. When such documents reflect inconclusiveness at the top levels of decision making, they are unreliable guides to intention and provide, instead, readings of the conflicts of interests within security establishments. The latter is clearly the case for the 2006 N.S.S.

As a compromise formation papering over unreconciled interests, the N.S.S. achieves a specious coherence rhetorically through a utopian ideology centered on U.S. "leadership" in creating a world of market democracies.

The high concept of "democracy" appears throughout the document as the constant justification for particular policies and is defined in such a way that it constitutes a self-contained ideology. The rationale for promoting the vision of a world of market democracies incorporates the two disputable theories that democratic political systems do not engage in violent conflicts with one another ("the democratic peace theory") and that political democracies are not sustainable unless they permit the operation of capitalist market economies ("market democracy").

The utopian character of the N.S.S.'s democracy rhetoric is evidenced by the fact that the report does not contain concrete policies for effecting the vision beyond a commitment to nurture democratic oppositions in non-democratic states, a policy that -- if pursued consistently, as it is unlikely to be -- would impair U.S. relations with strategic partners such as Egypt and Saudi Arabia, not to mention the many states around the world that have the formal trappings of democracy and de facto authoritarian rule, and China, with which the U.S. is involved in a complex relationship of interdependency and competition.

The N.S.S. acknowledges the disconnect between the democratic vision and concrete policy in its conclusion: "The times require an ambitious national security strategy, yet one recognizing the limits to what even a nation as powerful as the United States can achieve. Our national security strategy is idealistic about goals and realistic about means."

In the N.S.S., realism about means translates into a repetition of current U.S. positions on specific concerns such as the victory of Hamas in recent Palestinian elections, Iran's program of uranium enrichment, China's bid for energy resources and its currency policy, Russia's drift toward authoritarianism, Venezuela's moves to encourage Latin American autonomy, and the interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. The familiar talking points on each of those issues are not related into a coherent set of regional strategies, but are referred directly to the democracy theme, leaving a gap between the universal goal and momentary positions.

The absence of mediating principles between general aspirations and particular adjustments is what deprives the N.S.S. of utility as a guide to Washington's future behavior, putting its allies and adversaries on notice that the U.S. government has yet to formulate a genuine strategy and is consequently hampered from responding effectively to well-calculated challenges to its interests.

Another feature of the N.S.S. that impairs its credibility and utility is its failure to execute a balanced analysis of the strengths and weaknesses of recent U.S. policies and actions.

The organization of each of the chapters composing the report begins with a section on "successes" and moves on to a review of "challenges," passing by any discussion of failures, which are inevitable for any political practice in the present world, which is characterized by a complex web of cross-cutting competitive and cooperative power relations.

The omission of any acknowledgment of mistakes renders the N.S.S. more like an advertisement for U.S. policy than a normal white paper directed to a knowledgeable and sophisticated political class. The absence of self-criticism also means that any policy shifts made in response to perceived mistakes have to appear under the guise of established policies, making their import problematic and their presentation non-transparent.

Nowhere is the lack of self-criticism in the N.S.S. more striking than in the scant attention that the report pays to the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, which are the test cases of the administration's security policies and will in great part determine the U.S. power position in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Set off in a separate box in the chapter on terrorism, the discussions of Iraq and Afghanistan are superficial and based on best-case scenarios.

Afghanistan merits only a short paragraph, in which the country's "two successful elections" are noted and it is lauded for being "a staunch ally in the war on terror." As for challenges, the N.S.S. confines itself to admitting that "much work remains" and calling for the "support of the United States and the entire international community." Left unmentioned are the dependence of Afghanistan's economy on the heroin trade, the recent resurgence of the Taliban, the lack of effective control of the central government over regional warlords, the border tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and the slow pace of post-war reconstruction.

The N.S.S. makes it appear that Afghanistan is a done deal, which is far from the case. Indeed, the Bush administration's neglect of Afghanistan in favor of concentration on Iraq has left the country close to a failed state and has provided the conditions for it to become a narco-state and the potential for becoming a destabilizing influence in Central Asia. [See: "Insurgents, Warlords and Opium Roil Afghanistan"]

Turning to Iraq, the N.S.S. uses the prism of the war on terrorism and adopts a tone of unrelieved optimism. Here, however, "success" is removed to the future: "When the Iraqi Government supported by the United States defeats the terrorists, terrorism will be dealt a critical blow. ... 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 strategies for making those predictions come true are the familiar administration talking points: the formation of "stable, pluralistic, and effective national institutions," building the Iraqi security forces, and restoring "Iraq's neglected infrastructure" and reforming the country's economy according to "market principles." Absent is any consideration of the domestic insurgency; the conflict between Sunni, Shi'a and Kurdish interests; the power of sectarian militia; and the decline in basic services and the high unemployment and poverty rates that are tied to the collapse of services.

The N.S.S. carries forward without any caveats the best-case scenario for Iraq that was projected before the intervention by the neo-conservative elements within the U.S. security establishment who argued that the intervention would transform Iraq into a market democracy and a positive influence for change in the Middle East.

As the United States searches for an exit strategy from Iraq and is caught in the middle of the conflicting demands of the country's political forces, nearly every analyst from every persuasion believes that the probability that Iraq will be transformed into a model market democracy is negligible. The best that Washington can hope for is that a break-up of the country, whether or not preceded by a civil war, will be averted by the formation of a confederal state in which regions dominated by Shi'a, Sunni and Kurdish religious-ethnic groups have sufficient autonomy to thwart the effectiveness of a central government. Washington is currently adjusting to that scenario on the ground, yet the N.S.S. gives no indication of the shift, which has been going on for more than two years. [See: "Red Lines Crisscross Iraq's Political Landscape"]

The persistence of utopian pretensions and the denial of failure are present in every section of the N.S.S., with the discussions of Afghanistan and Iraq the most telling examples. The gulf between the ideal and the real that structures the report bespeaks Washington's inability to formulate a genuine strategy, which continues to leave it prey to reacting to external events and initiatives with ad hoc adjustments.

Now that the post-Iraq review of security policy is complete, it is clear that the policy void is not likely to be filled until the election of a new administration in 2008.


At the heart of the compromise formation that constitutes the N.S.S. is the unresolved conflict between the unipolar "idealists," centered in the vice president's office and factions in the Defense Department, and the multipolar "realists" in the State Department. The document carries forward the unipolarists' dictum that the U.S. must maintain a military force "without peer" and reaffirms Washington's option to wage preemptive war against perceived threats, and also adds commitments to Rice's program of "transformational diplomacy," which acknowledges the emerging multipolar global power configuration.

Throughout the report, the contending positions appear together in an uneasy mix, nowhere more than in President George W. Bush's letter of presentation: "Effective multinational efforts are essential to solve...problems. Yet history has shown that only when we do our part will others do theirs. America must continue to lead."

The question remains what precisely leadership means in the absence of a coherent strategy. Beneath the gap between universal principles and momentary policy adjustments, and the omission of acknowledgment of failures, is the lack of recognition of any need to compromise with allies and competitors in order to achieve "effective multinational efforts." The 2006 N.S.S. continues in the line of the 2002 N.S.S. in its assertion of U.S. global supremacy, while making some concessions to the need for diplomacy along with military power.

Although the U.S. remains the world's strongest military power and its largest economy, it is no longer plausible to call the U.S. an undisputed global "leader" -- it has neither the international trust necessary to lead by persuasion nor the overwhelming might required to impose its policies globally -- and its economic leverage has been weakened by massive indebtedness.

If Washington develops a coherent and credible security strategy over the next five years, it will have the possibility of becoming primus inter pares in a multipolar world. In order to take that position, it would have to develop trust as an honest broker, make judicious compromises and contrive delicate acts of regional balance-of-power politics.

None of the virtues required for those practices is promoted in the N.S.S., in which halting steps into the emerging regional world are taken with a head turned backwards toward an illusory past.

Report Drafted By:
Dr. Michael A. Weinstein

Mail Us Copyright 1998/2009 All Rights Reserved Home