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American National Security in the Age of Insecurity: 1/5
by Dr. Habib Siddiqui
2008-08-14 09:51:16
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Part 1: American National Security and Presidential Doctrines

The notion of total national security has never been a reality, neither during the heydays of Egyptian, Assyrian, Byzantine, Persian, Roman, Byzantine and Islamic Empires nor now for any nation, big or small.  All nation-states, therefore, crave for national security through a combination of economic, political and military power plus an effective diplomacy. Simple bullying has never been a guarantor of national security.

In his seventh annual State of the Union Address to Congress on December 2, 1823, President James Monroe stipulated America's national security principles, which came to be known as the Monroe Doctrine.  It said that European powers were no longer to colonize or interfere with the affairs of the newly independent nations of the Americas. The United States planned to stay neutral in wars between European powers and their colonies. However, if later on, these types of wars were to occur in the Americas, the United States would view such action as hostile. The Doctrine was a proclamation of America's moral opposition to colonialism.

Unfortunately, the same Doctrine was reinterpreted later, which came to be known as the Roosevelt Corollary, to establish America's exclusive hegemony over other smaller nations in the western hemisphere. The Corollary allowed America to colonize (as it happened to Puerto Rico and Cuba) or intervene in small Caribbean and Central American states like Cuba (1906-1910), Nicaragua (1909-1911, 1912-1925 and 1926-1933), Haiti (1915-1934), and the Dominican Republic (1916-1924), in the name of stabilizing the economy of those nations. In 1928, the Clark Memorandum concluded that the United States had a self-evident right of self-defense and need not invoke the Monroe Doctrine as a defense of its interventions in Latin America.

The Cold War (from mid 1940s to mid 1990s) was a period marked by costly defense spending, arms race – conventional and nuclear, and proxy wars in which the USA competed with the Soviet Union to expand her zone of influence in the world. America sought "containment" strategy to stop the domino effect of nations politically moving towards Soviet Union and socialism/communism as against United States and capitalism and used military force to "rollback" communism in countries where it had taken root. To this end, America forged numerous alliances, particularly in Western Europe and the Middle East.

In 1954, the U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles cited the Monroe Doctrine to justify America's intervention in Guatemala that overthrew Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, the democratically-elected President of Guatemala, through a CIA-sponsored coup d'etat. A year earlier, the CIA had also toppled Dr. Mossaddeqh's nationalist government in Iran, perceived to be pro-Soviet. Such a rollback policy, however, pushed Eastern Europe (e.g., Poland and Hungary) further toward the Soviets.

During Kennedy Administration the policy of containment reached its most expansive and consensually accepted stage to oppose Soviet influence, or what was dubbed as "the Communist menace" in Cuba. During Nixon Administration, America relied on friendly regimes to police their regions.

As the Vietnam War ended, the Clark Amendment of 1976 was adopted prohibiting aid to anti-Marxist fighters in Angola. Congress, therefore, refused to support war against indigenous Communist dictatorships, no matter how heavily supported by the Soviet Union or its proxies. However, even after the Clark Amendment became law, clandestine aid to Angola would continue under the CIA Director, George H. W. Bush. Israel stepped in as a proxy arms supplier for the USA.

 In the final year of Carter Administration, Dr. Brzezinski, Carter's national security advisor, adopted the "containment" strategy, to be continued overtly and aggressively later by President Reagan, to aid the Mujahideen in their fight against Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. That stopped not only the Soviets from reaching the warm waters of the Persian Gulf, but also helped to bring about the collapse of the regime.

President Reagan's program of CIA support for the Nicaraguan contras, that did not fight foreign occupation, broke post-Vietnam precedent of "containment" strategy and instead, adopted the "rollback" strategy. Like the Nixon Doctrine, the Reagan Doctrine turned to proxies. Unlike the Nixon Doctrine, however, it supported not the status quo but revolution. Subsequently, during the 1980s Reagan would justify America's intervention in El Salvador, Guatemala and Grenada. He would also support the rebels in Angola, Cambodia and Eritrea. To pledge his adherence to international law, Reagan declared: "Support for freedom fighters is self-defense and totally consistent with the OAS and U.N. charters."

As can be seen in the post WW II Cold War era, American national security strategy increasingly became intertwined with a strategy for global hegemony. As argued by the libertarian think tank Cato Institute, quite a few of America's engagements in the third world countries had little to do with legitimate American security needs. Instead of draining Soviet military and financial resources America was ending up dissipating her own.


9/11 and the Road to Afghanistan

In this age of modern technology and globalization, total national security is simply unattainable. It is only a myth. Modern technology is diminishing the effect of geographic distance and is punctuating traditional protective umbrella for any nation – strong or weak. It is capable of importing and exporting violence long distance through a variety of means. So, national security will continue to be an increasingly difficult task for any government in our very fast paced world.

Prior to 9/11, American national security concern was heavily focused on the possibility that unfriendly states might launch or threaten to launch a missile attack with nuclear warheads on the USA.  Missile defense system was thus a rational choice and workable strategy that gained some popularity, especially among the Reaganite Republicans. (This idea has not quite died down as is apparent from Senator McCain's recent remarks in the wake of Iran's firing of long and medium range missiles on July 9, 2008.)

9/11 was like a cluster bomb that shattered all such perceptions about national security. It showed that to puncture national security of the most powerful nation on earth, the foe does not need much – no nuclear bomb, no missile, not even enough money. It just has to be extra-smart, thinking outside the box, to improvise and be resolute to its cause. Truly, those 19 terrorists that attacked America had only box-cutters and a willingness to forfeit their own lives. They weren't cowards. So how can America secure itself against an enemy that is physically weak but endowed with an unfathomed passion?

In the wake of 9/11, the rising inclination in America to seek enhanced national security is quite understandable. But Americans must ask: what is the guarantee that those surveillance cameras, metal detectors and long checkups in airports, terminals and stations can stop the next 9/11 from happening? The hard truth is: none, zero! In its effort to stop global terrorism, how many people can the government spy on, how many bank accounts can it freeze, how many conversations can it eavesdrop on, how many emails can it intercept, how many letters can it open, how many phones can it tap? Doesn't too much data actually hinder intelligence and decision making? As Arundhati Roy has argued, rather prophetically, back in October 21, 2001, "The sheer scale of the surveillance will become a logistical, ethical and civil rights nightmare. It will drive everybody clean crazy. And freedom - that precious, precious thing - will be the first casualty. It's already hurt and hemorrhaging dangerously."

Just nine days after 9/11, on September 20, 2001, President Bush issued an ultimatum to the Taliban government of Afghanistan that had sheltered al-Qaeda demanding handover of Osama bin Laden (OBL) to the USA. The next day, September 21, 2001, at a news conference in Islamabad, the Taliban ambassador said that he was sorry that people had died in the suicide attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but appealed to the United States not to endanger innocent people in a military retaliation.  He said, "Our position on this is that if America has proof, we are ready for the trial of Osama bin Laden in light of the evidence." On October 4, 2001, the Taliban offered to turn OBL over to Pakistan for trial in an international tribunal that operated according to Islamic Sharia law. Under pressure from the USA, President Musharraf rejected the offer saying that he could not guarantee his safety.

On October 7, 2001, before the onset of Anglo-American military operations, the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan offered to "detain bin Laden and try him under Islamic law" if the United States made a formal request and presented the Taliban with evidence. This counter offer was immediately rejected by the U.S. as insufficient. [America had maintained that the "evidence", which would not stand up in a court of law, against the terrorists was shared amongst friends in the "coalition".]

Within hours of the Taliban offer, President Bush declared war against Afghanistan. The UN wasn't even asked to mandate the air strikes. Thus, in an instant, centuries of jurisprudence were carelessly trashed. With massive bombing campaigns from the air for two months and cooperation on the ground from the Northern Alliance (made up of non-Pushtoon speaking minorities from the Tajik, Hazara and Uzbek communities), the NATO forces were able to overthrow the Taliban government (made up of majority Pushtoons).  Afghanistan, a country that had already been reduced to rubble since the Soviet invasion days (thanks to 45 billion dollars worth of arms and ammunition that were poured by Soviet Union and the USA), was now pounded into finer dust.


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