Obama’s National Security Strategy (NSS): A New Direction or Continuity

Periodically, US administrations prepare NNS documents for Congress, outlining their major national security concerns and plans for addressing. 

On May 27, the White House Office of the Press Secretary announced Obama’s saying it’s to “Advanc(e) Our Interests: Actions in Support of the President’s National Security Strategy.” UN ambassador Susan Rice called it a “dramatic departure” from the Bush administration. The White House claims it’s “to keep the American people safe” and advance the nation’s “values and ideals.”

In fact, it’s old wine in new bottles, rebranded to appear softer. Rhetoric is one thing, policy another, revealing actions much louder than words. Under all administrations, they’re menacing, given America’s permanent war agenda, discussed by this writer on March 1 here .

It addressed permanent wars, waging them in the name of peace, what historians, Charles Beard and Gore Vidal, called “perpetual war for perpetual peace,” suppressing truths too disturbing to reveal, like creating pretexts to pursue them, always for imperial gain and benefits for war profiteers.

As a candidate, Obama campaigned against militarism, promised limited escalation and the removal of all combat troops from Iraq by August 31, 2010. In fact, permanent occupation of Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere is planned, increased military spending annually, and more conflicts for greater dominance that eventually will bankrupt the country and leave it as damaged and isolated as Israel is becoming from a policy Stratfor’s George Friedman calls r(unning) into its own fist.” 

Even the world’s superpower is vulnerable, maneuvering perhaps for goals too lofty, running out of ways to pay for them, and perhaps enough allies willing to go along.

In his writings and a recent interview, Chalmers Johnson “worr(ies) about the future of the United States; whether, in fact, we are tending in the same path as the former Soviet Union (as well as other former empires), with domestic, ideological rigidity in our economic institutions, imperial overstretch (that) we have to be everywhere at all times. (We’re richer than Russia), so it will take longer. But we’re overextended,” and are headed for the same fate. “I think we will stagger along under a facade of constitutional government (until one day) we’re overcome by bankruptcy.” Obama is pursuing the same reckless path as his predecessors, more so, in fact, with greater spending and new fronts.

What then to make of his NSS? On May 27, New York Times writers, David Sanger and Peter Baker, headlined, “New US Strategy Focuses on Managing Threats,” saying:

Obama’s first plan describes a time when America “will have to learn to live within its limits — a world in which two wars cannot be sustained for much longer and (other) rising powers inevitably begin to erode some elements of (US) influence around the globe.”

Seeking help to advance global hegemony, Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, stressed “patience and partners (to achieve) results more slowly,” claiming “In a world like this, American leadership isn’t needed less. It is needed more. And the simple fact is that no problem can be solved without us,” or perhaps less of them would exist without US policies creating them — the fractious, threatening world The Times writers mention, reflecting more continuity than divergence from Bush. 

On May 27 in Foreign Policy, Peter Feaver, wondered the same thing in his article headlined, “Obama’s National Security Strategy: real change or just ‘Bush Lite,’ ” saying:

Despite trying to frame it as a new direction, in fact, he’s continuing “a slightly watered down but basically plausible remake” of his predecessor’s. Beyond the hyperbole and talking points, “the conclusion is pretty obvious.”

Instead of Bush’s “strengthen(ed) alliances to defeat global terrorism,” Obama stresses prevention of “attacks against us and our friends, (and) agendas for cooperative action with the other main centers of global power.” Further, “comprehensive engagement” with our traditional allies, as well as “more effective partnerships with other key centers of influence.” In other words, greater efforts to co-opt more nations to expand America’s global dominance.

Bush also addressed reforming international institutions. So does Obama, saying:

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 shortcoming of the international system as a reason to walk away from it.

Instead, he stresses focusing on strengthening it to “serve common interests,” mostly benefitting America.

Bush and Obama both identified WMD proliferation as a major threat, “particularly the danger posed by the pursuit of nuclear weapons by violent extremists and their proliferation to additional states.” They both  recognized the importance of military and police power to combat it, and according to Obama’s NSS:

“The United States must reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend our nation and our interests.” In other words, like Bush, preemptive war will be pursued to combat perceived threats.

Also, both presidents stressed US leadership, Bush’s 2006 NSS saying:

“The challenges America faces are great, yet we have enormous power and influence to address those challenges.” The “time has long since passed” that Washington can lead by example alone. “America cannot know peace, security, and prosperity by retreating from the world. America must lead by deed as well as example.”

As true for Obama stressing “global leadership (dependent on) strong and responsible American leadership” directing it to ensure other nations follow.

Overall, the language and tone differ, but policy remains the same — permanent wars in a threatening world, America in the lead waging them along with willing partners offering support; that is, until they cut their losses and opt out.

Also in Foreign Policy on May 27, Will Inboden headlined, “Obama’s National Security Strategy leaves an empty feeling,” saying:

Continuity with Bush is evident in the context of a less than compelling grand strategy “that connects an analysis of opportunities and threats with resources, policies and goals.”

It’s “too heavy on process and light on strategy,” much of it devoted to “engagement, cooperation and partnerships” as well as a “world we seek (for) a just and sustainable international order,” not what’s needed without Washington rampaging to control it. 

The proof, of course, is in the implementation, and after nearly one-and-a-half years in office, Obama is clearly pursuing imperial wars and homeland repression, like the Bush administration, by a leader who promised change.

Another way came last September when Central Command head, General David Petraeus, issued a secret directive to send covert US Special Operations forces to friendly and hostile states in the Middle East, Central Asia, the Horn of Africa, and by implication anywhere in the world by his counterparts – to “penetrate, disrupt, defeat or destroy” terror threats and “prepare the environment” for future planned military attacks.

On June 4, Washington Post writers, Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe, headlined, “US ‘Secret War’ Expands Globally as Special Operations Forces Take a Larger Role,” saying:

The Obama administration “has significantly expanded a largely secret US war against al-Qaeda and other radical groups” with Special Ops forces “in 75 countries, compared with about 60 at the beginning of last year.”

More is planned along with intensified use of CIA drone attacks, and according to one unnamed “senior military official,” Obama has allowed “things that the previous administration did not,” including the largest ever FY 2011 Special Ops budget of $6.3 billion plus another $3.5 billion contingency funding in 2010.

His NSS aside, Obama plans more war on the world than George Bush, putting a lie to his campaign promise to withdraw Iraq troops by August 2010 and begin exiting Afghanistan by July 2011. Earlier as an Illinois State Senator, he delivered an October 2002 anti-war speech, saying:

….we ought not….travel down that hellish path blindly. Nor should we allow those who would march off and pay the ultimate sacrifice, who would prove the full measure of devotion with their blood, to make such an awful sacrifice in vain.

 As president, he’s waging war on the world, including Americans globally, suspected of terrorism. Explaining it, former National Intelligence Director, Dennis Blair, told Congress last February that Obama authorized “direct actions against terrorists,” including assassinating uncharged Americans innocent of any crime, in clear violation of the law.

Law Professor, Jonathan Turley, cites the “Annex to the Hague Convention Number IV, Respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land” with a provision stating: “In addition to the prohibitions provided by special Conventions, it is especially forbidden… to kill or wound treacherous individuals belonging to the hostile nation or army….”

Though vague, the Pentagon interprets it as “prohibiting assassination, proscription, or outlawry of an enemy, or putting a price upon an enemy’s head, as well as offering a reward for an enemy ‘dead or alive.'” In other words, combatants can be targeted on the battlefield, not civilians, precisely what other international law states, Turley citing the rights of US citizens, affirmed both in law and:

“in cases like Reid v. Covert, 354 US 1 (1957), American citizens have the same protections regardless of whether they are within or outside of the country.”

The decision referred to two American women who killed their husbands on US military bases abroad, given the same Fifth Amendment and other constitutional protections they’d get at home. Turley asked: “If a president can kill US citizens abroad, why not within the United States?” What’s to stop him, and what do policy statements mean if he can do as he pleases by executive order, other edicts, or verbal commands to subordinates.

Russia’s RIA Novosti said Obama’s NSS “is not a radical departure” from his predecessor. The document “is intended mainly for foreign consumption,” and to a lesser degree for Congress. However, it’s “just a piece of paper,” and will anyone “take him at his word.” Why, when all politicians lie, and Obama matches the best of them. 

While the document denies America targets Islam, policy clearly shows otherwise abroad and at home, Muslims remaining the enemy of choice, regularly vilified to hype fear to enlist support for imperial wars and homeland repression, the same as under Bush.

Added focus also stresses homegrown threats, John Brennan, Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, saying:

We’ve seen an increasing number of individuals here in the United States become captivated by extremist activities or causes…. The president’s national security strategy explicitly recognizes the threat (from) radicalized… individuals, including US citizens, armed with their US passport, travel(ing) to terrorist safe havens… then return(ing) to America, their deadly plans disrupted by coordinated intelligence and law enforcement.

What’s going on, in fact, is America’s war on Islam to incite fear, targeting innocent Muslims as convenient scapegoats to gain popular support for police state policies — Obama doing Bush one better with indefinite detentions of uncharged persons “who nonetheless pose a threat to the security of the United States.” Despots couldn’t say it better.

His NSS implies no let-up in the counterterrorism fight, Brennan referring to a campaign “harness(ing) every tool of American power, military and civilian, kinetic and diplomatic,” including war. “We will take the fight to Al Qaeda (read Muslims) and its extremist affiliates (read Taliban, US citizens, or anyone challenging America) wherever they plot and train — in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and beyond.”

Nor will we “respond after the fact. Instead the United States will disrupt, dismantle and ensure a lasting defeat of Al Qaeda and violent extremist affiliates” — a clear declaration of war on the world with America’s full military and homeland security might. 

What critic, Andrew Bacevich, calls America’s standard response to perceived threats, “a normal condition, one to which no plausible alternatives seem to exist. All of this Americans (and other nations) have come to take for granted: it’s who we are and what we do,” and why we’re increasingly hated. Governing as roguishly as Bush, Obama will end up as much despised.

Stephen Lendman wrote How Wall Street Fleeces America: Privatized Banking, Government Collusion and Class War. Contact him at: lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM-1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening. Read other articles by Stephen.