The Washington Post reported yesterday:
President Bush plans to issue a new national security strategy today reaffirming his doctrine of preemptive war against terrorists and hostile states with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons, despite the troubled experience in Iraq.
The long-overdue document, an articulation of U.S. strategic priorities that is required by law, lays out a robust view of America's power and an assertive view of its responsibility to bring change around the world. On topics including genocide, human trafficking and AIDS, the strategy describes itself as "idealistic about goals and realistic about means."
You can hear me on the BBC World Service World Update programme, broadcast earlier today, defending pre-emption. I point out that the doctrine is not novel, but goes back to the arguments over Spanish Florida in the early 19th century. Containment has serious weaknesses as a security doctrine where the enemy is terrorist groups and the states that harbour them: your adversary is no longer susceptible to traditional forms of deterrence, and your assessment of risks therefore changes. A doctrine of pre-emption has two requirements, however: the initial show of force, and the ensuing consolidation and reassurance of allies. The Bush administration has been conspicuously bad at the second of these.
At one point during the interview I was disturbed to hear myself saying "very real", a phrase that I had thought mocked out of existence by Private Eye many years ago. Accidents happen. The interview is 33 minutes into the programme.