Category Archives: Statements of imperialist intent

Containing China

Slowly but surely, the grand strategy of the Bush administration is being revealed. It is not aimed primarily at the defeat of global terrorism, the incapacitation of rogue states, or the spread of democracy in the Middle East. These may dominate the rhetorical arena and be the focus of immediate concern, but they do not govern key decisions regarding the allocation of long-term military resources. The truly commanding objective ? the underlying basis for budgets and troop deployments ? is the containment of China.


Containing China

by Michael T. Klare
19 April 2006

Slowly but surely, the grand strategy of the Bush administration is being revealed. It is not aimed primarily at the defeat of global terrorism, the incapacitation of rogue states, or the spread of democracy in the Middle East. These may dominate the rhetorical arena and be the focus of immediate concern, but they do not govern key decisions regarding the allocation of long-term military resources. The truly commanding objective ? the underlying basis for budgets and troop deployments ? is the containment of China. This objective governed White House planning during the administration’s first seven months in office, only to be set aside by the perceived obligation to highlight anti-terrorism after 9/11; but now, despite Bush’s preoccupation with Iraq and Iran, the White House is also reemphasizing its paramount focus on China, risking a new Asian arms race with potentially catastrophic consequences.

President Bush and his top aides entered the White House in early 2001 with a clear strategic objective: to resurrect the permanent-dominance doctrine spelled out in the Defense Planning Guidance (DPG) for fiscal years 1994-99, the first formal statement of U.S. strategic goals in the post-Soviet era. According to the initial official draft of this document, as leaked to the press in early 1992, the primary aim of U.S. strategy would be to bar the rise of any future competitor that might challenge America’s overwhelming military superiority.

"Our first objective is to prevent the re-emergence of a new rival ” that poses a threat on the order of that posed formerly by the Soviet Union," the document stated. Accordingly, "we [must] endeavor to prevent any hostile power from dominating a region whose resources would, under consolidated control, be sufficient to generate global power."

When initially made public, this doctrine was condemned by America’s allies and many domestic leaders as being unacceptably imperial as well as imperious, forcing the first President Bush to water it down; but the goal of perpetuating America’s sole-superpower status has never been rejected by administration strategists. In fact, it initially became the overarching principle for U.S. military policy when the younger Bush assumed the presidency in February 2001.

Target: China

When first enunciated in 1992, the permanent-dominance doctrine was nonspecific as to the identity of the future challengers whose rise was to be prevented through coercive action. At that time, U.S. strategists worried about a medley of potential rivals, including Russia, Germany, India, Japan, and China; any of these, it was thought, might emerge in decades to come as would-be superpowers, and so all would have to be deterred from moving in this direction. By the time the second Bush administration came into office, however, the pool of potential rivals had been narrowed in elite thinking to just one: the People’s Republic of China. Only China, it was claimed, possessed the economic and military capacity to challenge the United States as an aspiring superpower; and so perpetuating U.S. global predominance meant containing Chinese power.

The imperative of containing China was first spelled out in a systematic way by Condoleezza Rice while serving as a foreign policy adviser to then Governor George W. Bush during the 2000 presidential campaign. In a much-cited article in  Foreign Affairs, she suggested that the PRC, as an ambitious rising power, would inevitably challenge vital U.S. interests. "China is a great power with unresolved vital interests, particularly concerning Taiwan," she wrote. "China also resents the role of the United States in the Asia-Pacific region."

For these reasons, she stated, "China is not a ‘status quo’ power but one that would like to alter Asia’s balance of power in its own favor. That alone makes it a strategic competitor, not the ‘strategic partner’ the Clinton administration once called it." It was essential, she argued, to adopt a strategy that would prevent China’s rise as regional power. In particular, "The United States must deepen its cooperation with Japan and South Korea and maintain its commitment to a robust military presence in the region." Washington should also "pay closer attention to India’s role in the regional balance," and bring that country into an anti-Chinese alliance system.

Looking back, it is striking how this article developed the allow-no-competitors doctrine of the 1992 DPG into the very strategy now being implemented by the Bush administration in the Pacific and South Asia. Many of the specific policies advocated in her piece, from strengthened ties with Japan to making overtures to India, are being carried out today.

In the spring and summer of 2001, however, the most significant effect of this strategic focus was to distract Rice and other senior administration officials from the growing threat posed by Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. During her first months in office as the president’s senior adviser for national security affairs, Rice devoted herself to implementing the plan she had spelled out in Foreign Affairs. By all accounts, her top priorities in that early period were dissolving the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia and linking Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan into a joint missile defense system, which, it was hoped, would ultimately evolve into a Pentagon-anchored anti-Chinese alliance.

Richard A. Clarke, the senior White House adviser on counter-terrorism, later charged that, because of her preoccupation with Russia, China, and great power politics, Rice overlooked warnings of a possible al-Qaeda attack on the United States and thus failed to initiate defensive actions that might have prevented 9/11. Although Rice survived tough questioning on this matter by the 9/11 Commission without acknowledging the accuracy of Clarke’s charges, any careful historian, seeking answers for the Bush administration’s inexcusable failure to heed warnings of a potential terrorist strike on this country, must begin with its overarching focus on containing China during this critical period.

China on the Back Burner

After Sept. 11, it would have been unseemly for Bush, Rice, and other top administration officials to push their China agenda ” and in any case they quickly shifted focus to a long-term neocon objective, the overthrow of Saddam Hussein and the projection of American power throughout the Middle East. So the "global war on terror" (or GWOT, in Pentagon-speak) became their major talking point and the invasion of Iraq their major focus. But the administration never completely lost sight of its strategic focus on China, even when it could do little on the subject. Indeed, the lightning war on Iraq and the further projection of American power into the Middle East was intended, at least in part, as a warning to China of the overwhelming might of the American military and the futility of challenging U.S. supremacy.

For the next two years, when so much effort was devoted to rebuilding Iraq in America’s image and crushing an unexpected and potent Iraqi insurgency, China was distinctly on the back-burner. In the meantime, however, China’s increased investment in modern military capabilities and its growing economic reach in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America ? much of it tied to the procurement of oil and other vital commodities ? could not be ignored.

By the spring of 2005, the White House was already turning back to Rice’s global grand strategy. On June 4, 2005, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld gave a much-publicized speech at a conference in Singapore, signaling what was to be a new emphasis in White House policymaking, in which he decried China’s ongoing military buildup and warned of the threat it posed to regional peace and stability.

China, he claimed, was "expanding its missile forces, allowing them to reach targets in many areas of the world" and "improving its ability to project power" in the Asia-Pacific region. Then, with sublime disingenuousness, he added, "Since no nation threatens China, one must wonder: Why this growing investment? Why these continuing and expanding arms purchases? Why these continuing robust deployments?" Although Rumsfeld did not answer his questions, the implication was obvious: China was now embarked on a course that would make it a regional power, thus threatening one day to present a challenge to the United States in Asia on unacceptably equal terms.

This early sign of the ratcheting up of anti-Chinese rhetoric was accompanied by acts of a more concrete nature. In February 2005, Rice and Rumsfeld hosted a meeting in Washington with top Japanese officials at which an agreement was signed to improve cooperation in military affairs between the two countries. Known as the "Joint Statement of the U.S.-Japan Security Consultative Committee," the agreement called for greater collaboration between American and Japanese forces in the conduct of military operations in an area stretching from Northeast Asia to the South China Sea. It also called for close consultation on policies regarding Taiwan, an implicit hint that Japan was prepared to assist the United States in the event of a military clash with China precipitated by Taiwan’s declaring its independence.

This came at a time when Beijing was already expressing considerable alarm over pro-independence moves in Taiwan and what the Chinese saw as a revival of militarism in Japan ? thus evoking painful memories of World War II, when Japan invaded China and committed massive atrocities against Chinese civilians. Understandably then, the agreement could only be interpreted by the Chinese leadership as an expression of the Bush administration’s determination to bolster an anti-Chinese alliance system.

The New Grand Chessboard

Why did the White House choose this particular moment to revive its drive to contain China? Many factors no doubt contributed to this turnaround, but surely the most significant was a perception that China had finally emerged as a major regional power in its own right and was beginning to contest America’s long-term dominance of the Asia-Pacific region. To some degree this was manifested ? so the Pentagon claimed ? in military terms, as Beijing began to replace Soviet-type, Korean War-vintage weapons with more modern (though hardly cutting-edge) Russian designs.

It was not China’s military moves, however, that truly alarmed American policymakers ? most professional analysts are well aware of the continuing inferiority of Chinese weaponry ? but rather Beijing’s success in using its enormous purchasing power and hunger for resources to establish friendly ties with such long-standing U.S. allies as Thailand, Indonesia, and Australia. Because the Bush administration had done little to contest this trend while focusing on the war in Iraq, China’s rapid gains in Southeast Asia finally began to ring alarm bells in Washington.

At the same time, Republican strategists were becoming increasingly concerned by growing Chinese involvement in the Persian Gulf and Central Asia ? areas considered of vital geopolitical importance to the United States because of the vast reserves of oil and natural gas buried there. Much influenced by Zbigniew Brzezinski, whose 1997 book The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and Geostrategic Imperatives first highlighted the critical importance of Central Asia, these strategists sought to counter Chinese inroads. Although Brzezinski himself has largely been excluded from elite Republican circles because of his association with the much-despised Carter administration, his call for a coordinated U.S. drive to dominate both the eastern and western rimlands of China has been embraced by senior administration strategists.

In this way, Washington’s concern over growing Chinese influence in Southeast Asia has come to be intertwined with the U.S. drive for hegemony in the Persian Gulf and Central Asia. This has given China policy an even more elevated significance in Washington ” and helps explain its return with a passion despite the seemingly all-consuming preoccupations of the war in Iraq.

Whatever the exact balance of factors, the Bush administration is now clearly engaged in a coordinated, systematic effort to contain Chinese power and influence in Asia. This effort appears to have three broad objectives: to convert existing relations with Japan, Australia, and South Korea into a robust, integrated anti-Chinese alliance system; to bring other nations, especially India, into this system; and to expand U.S. military capabilities in the Asia-Pacific region.

Since the administration’s campaign to bolster ties with Japan commenced a year ago, the two countries have been meeting continuously to devise protocols for the implementation of their 2005 strategic agreement. In October, Washington and Tokyo released the Alliance Transformation and Realignment Report, which is to guide the further integration of U.S. and Japanese forces in the Pacific and the simultaneous restructuring of the U.S. basing system in Japan. (Some of these bases, especially those on Okinawa, have become a source of friction in U.S.-Japanese relations, and so the Pentagon is now considering ways to downsize the most objectionable installations.) Japanese and American officers are also engaged in a joint "interoperability" study, aimed at smoothing the "interface" between U.S. and Japanese combat and communications systems. "Close collaboration is also ongoing for cooperative missile defense," reports Admiral William J. Fallon, commander-in-chief of the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM).

Steps have also been taken in this ongoing campaign to weld South Korea and Australia more tightly to the U.S.-Japanese alliance system. South Korea has long been reluctant to work closely with Japan because of that country’s brutal occupation of the Korean peninsula from 1910 to 1945 and lingering fears of Japanese militarism; now, however, the Bush administration is promoting what it calls "trilateral military cooperation" between Seoul, Tokyo, and Washington. As indicated by Admiral Fallon, this initiative has an explicitly anti-Chinese dimension. America’s ties with South Korea must adapt to "the changing security environment" represented by "China’s military modernization," Fallon told the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 7. By cooperating with the U.S. and Japan, he continued, South Korea will move from an overwhelming focus on North Korea to "a more regional view of security and stability."

Bringing Australia into this emerging anti-Chinese network has been a major priority of Condoleezza Rice, who spent several days there in mid-March. Although designed in part to bolster U.S.-Australian ties (largely neglected by Washington over the past few years), the main purpose of her visit was to host a meeting of top officials from Australia, the U.S., and Japan to develop a common strategy for curbing China’s rising influence in Asia. No formal results were announced, but Steven Weisman of the New York Times reported on March 19 that Rice convened the meeting "to deepen a three-way regional alliance aimed in part at balancing the spreading presence of China."

An even bigger prize, in Washington’s view, would be the integration of India into this emerging alliance system, a possibility first suggested in Rice’s  Foreign Affairs article. Such a move was long frustrated by congressional objections to India’s nuclear weapons program and its refusal to sign on to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). Under U.S. law, nations like India that refuse to cooperate in nonproliferation measures can be excluded from various forms of aid and cooperation. To overcome this problem, President Bush met with Indian officials in New Delhi in March and negotiated a nuclear accord that will open India’s civilian reactors to International Atomic Energy Agency inspection, thus providing a thin gloss of nonproliferation cooperation to India’s robust nuclear weapons program. If Congress approves Bush’s plan, the United States will be free to provide nuclear assistance to India and, in the process, significantly expand already growing military-to-military ties.

In signing the nuclear pact with India, Bush did not allude to the administration’s anti-Chinese agenda, saying only that it would lay the foundation for a "durable defense relationship." But few have been fooled by this vague characterization. According to Weisman of the Times, most U.S. lawmakers view the nuclear accord as an expression of the administration’s desire to convert India into "a counterweight to China."

The China Buildup Begins

Accompanying all these diplomatic initiatives has been a vigorous, if largely unheralded, effort by the Department of Defense (DoD) to bolster U.S. military capabilities in the Asia-Pacific region.

The broad sweep of American strategy was first spelled out in the Pentagon’s most recent policy assessment, the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), released on Feb. 5, 2006. In discussing long-term threats to U.S. security, the QDR begins with a reaffirmation of the overarching precept first articulated in the DPG of 1992: that the United States will not allow the rise of a competing superpower. This country "will attempt to dissuade any military competitor from developing disruptive or other capabilities that could enable regional hegemony or hostile action against the United States," the document states. It then identifies China as the most likely and dangerous competitor of this sort. "Of the major and emerging powers, China has the greatest potential to compete militarily with the United States and field disruptive military technologies that could over time offset traditional U.S. military advantages" ? then adding the kicker, "absent U.S. counter strategies."

According to the Pentagon, the task of countering future Chinese military capabilities largely entails the development, and then procurement, of major weapons systems that would ensure U.S. success in any full-scale military confrontation. "The United States will develop capabilities that would present any adversary with complex and multidimensional challenges and complicate its offensive planning efforts," the QDR explains. These include the steady enhancement of such "enduring U.S. advantages" as "long-range strike, stealth, operational maneuver and sustainment of air, sea, and ground forces at strategic distances, air dominance, and undersea warfare."

Preparing for war with China, in other words, is to be the future cash cow for the giant U.S. weapons-making corporations in the military-industrial complex. It will, for instance, be the primary justification for the acquisition of costly new weapons systems such as the F-22A Raptor air-superiority fighter, the multi-service Joint Strike Fighter, the DDX destroyer, the Virginia-class nuclear attack submarine, and a new, intercontinental penetrating bomber ? weapons that would just have utility in an all-out encounter with another great-power adversary of a sort that only China might someday become.

In addition to these weapons programs, the QDR also calls for a stiffening of present U.S. combat forces in Asia and the Pacific, with a particular emphasis on the Navy (the arm of the military least utilized in the ongoing occupation of and war in Iraq). "The fleet will have greater presence in the Pacific Ocean," the document notes. To achieve this, "The Navy plans to adjust its force posture and basing to provide at least six operationally available and sustainable [aircraft] carriers and 60 percent of its submarines in the Pacific to support engagement, presence and deterrence." Since each of these carriers is, in fact, but the core of a large array of support ships and protective aircraft, this move is sure to entail a truly vast buildup of U.S. naval capabilities in the Western Pacific and will certainly necessitate a substantial expansion of the American basing complex in the region ? a requirement that is already receiving close attention from Admiral Fallon and his staff at PACOM. To assess the operational demands of this buildup, moreover, this summer the U.S. Navy will conduct its most extensive military maneuvers in the Western Pacific since the end of the Vietnam War, with four aircraft carrier battle groups and many support ships expected to participate.

Add all of this together, and the resulting strategy cannot be viewed as anything but a systematic campaign of containment. No high administration official may say this in so many words, but it is impossible to interpret the recent moves of Rice and Rumsfeld in any other manner. From Beijing’s perspective, the reality must be unmistakable: a steady buildup of American military power along China’s eastern, southern, and western boundaries.

How will China respond to this threat? For now, it appears to be relying on charm and the conspicuous blandishment of economic benefits to loosen Australian, South Korean, and even Indian ties with the United States. To a certain extent, this strategy is meeting with success, as these countries seek to profit from the extraordinary economic boom now under way in China ? fueled to a considerable extent by oil, gas, iron, timber, and other materials supplied by China’s neighbors in Asia. A version of this strategy is also being employed by President Hu Jintao during his current visit to the United States. As China’s money is sprinkled liberally among influential firms like Boeing and Microsoft, Hu is reminding the corporate wing of the Republican Party that there are vast economic benefits still to be had by pursuing a non-threatening stance toward China.

China, however, has always responded to perceived threats of encirclement in a vigorous and muscular fashion as well, and so we should assume that Beijing will balance all that charm with a military buildup of its own. Such a drive will not bring China to the brink of military equality with the United States ” that is not a condition it can realistically aspire to over the next few decades. But it will provide further justification for those in the United States who seek to accelerate the containment of China, and so will produce a self-fulfilling loop of distrust, competition, and crisis. This will make the amicable long-term settlement of the Taiwan problem and of North Korea’s nuclear program that much more difficult, and increase the risk of unintended escalation to full-scale war in Asia. There can be no victors from such a conflagration.

Michael T. Klare is a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and the author of Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America’s Growing Dependency on Imported Petroleum (Owl Books, 2005).

‘The National Defense Strategy of the USA’ – Document and Comment

The March 2005 "National Defense Strategy of the United States of America" (NDS), whose ostensible purpose is to guide the Quadrennial Defense Review, is a revolutionary text, in that it explicitly overthrows the principle of national sovereignty, upon which international relations have been based for many centuries…Reading the National Defense Strategy of the United States of America is a chilling experience. (Henry Adams)

DOCUMENT & COMMENTARY: The National Defense Strategy of the USA  

Written by Henry Adams  Tuesday, 22 March 2005

Below is the full text of the Pentagon’s extraordinary plan for global empire — and beyond:  The March 2005 National Defense Strategy of the United States of America, preceded by a brief commentary….

By Henry Adams

United for Peace of Pierce County
March 22, 2005

The eagle has landed.

Below is full text of the Pentagon’s 10,426-word plan for global empire, first described by the Los Angeles Times on Saturday; the source of the complete text presented below is the web site

The March 2005 "National Defense Strategy of the United States of America" (NDS), whose ostensible purpose is to guide the Quadrennial Defense Review, is a revolutionary text, in that it explicitly overthrows the principle of national sovereignty, upon which international relations have been based for many centuries.

The principle of sovereignty is the principle upon which the United Nations (unmentioned in the NDS) is based. Article 2, Section 1 of the Charter of the United Nations states: "The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members." But the NDS states: "It is unacceptable for regimes to use the principle of sovereignty as a shield behind which they claim to be free to engage in activities that pose enormous threats to their citizens, neighbors, or the rest of the international community."

The grounds the NDS offers for this revolutionary proclamation are familiar ones: "the potential proliferation of weapons of mass destruction." This means, the document explains, that "great dangers may arise in and emanate from relatively weak states and ungoverned areas."

Additional dangers the document foresees: enemies who seek "to terrorize our population and destroy our way of life," or try to "limit our global freedom to act," or aim to "dominate key regions," or "attempt to make prohibitive the costs of meeting various U.S. international commitments."

Faced with such "threats," the NDS commits the U.S. to "an active defense of the nation and its interests," which is a euphemism for aggression, by "securing strategic access to key regions, lines of communication, and the global commons," which are euphemisms for resource-rich regions.

The NDS is not without its amusing aspects. For example, in a paragraph in Section I.B. on "problem states," the Pentagon might be describing the United States when it speaks of states that "squander their resources to benefit ruling elites, their armed forces, or extremist clients.  They often disregard international law and violate international agreements. Problem states may seek WMD or other destabilizing military capabilities.  Some support terrorist activities, including by giving terrorists safe haven."

Another interesting aspect of the doctrine is its assertion that "the Global War on Terrorism is not a war against Islam, but rather is an outgrowth of a civil war within Islam between extremists and those who oppose them."

The intent of the NDS to substitute the war on terror for the Cold War as a justification for a generations-long struggle that legitimates the existence of the U.S. national security state is clear:  "As in the Cold War, victory will come only when the ideological motivation for the terrorists’ activities has been discredited and no longer has the power to motivate streams of individuals to risk and sacrifice their lives."

In other words, "America is at war" — and the war will be endless.

The intent to attack Iran in the coming months is signaled in this passage:  "Prevention might require the use of force to disable or destroy WMD in the possession of terrorists or others or to strike targets (e.g., terrorists) that directly threaten the United States or U.S. friends or other interests."

Reading the National Defense Strategy of the United States of America is a chilling experience.  There are several passages that give one pause.

For example, Posse Comitatus would seem to be a dead letter:  "At the direction of the President, the Department will undertake military missions at home."

The intention militarily to dominate outer space (oddly defined as part of the "global commons," along with international waters, airspace, and cyberspace) is spelled out:  "Key goals, therefore, are to ensure our access to and use of space, and to deny hostile exploitation of space to adversaries."

The NDS has fully assimilated the doctrine that the president has unlimited powers under the commander-in-chief clause of the U.S. Constitution, though the Constitution (for the purpose of upholding of which the U.S. military officially exists) and Congress are never mentioned; instead, the operational doctrine is: "if the President so decides."

For "America is a nation at war."

Anyone inclined to object will have second thoughts in noting two passages.

First, those who appeal to international law are lumped together with terrorists in the category of those who would "challenge" (which is, by the way, one of the words most often repeated in the NDS) "our strength as a nation state," which is here a euphemism for empire.

Second, the NDS seems chillingly to allude to a common military euphemism for torture ("setting the conditions for interrogation") when it says:  "At the direction of the President, we will defeat adversaries at the time, place, and in the manner of our choosing setting the conditions for future security."


Department of Defense
March 2005


Executive Summary
I. America’s Security in the 21st Century
I.A. America’s Role in the World
I.B. A Changing Security Environment
II.A. Defense Strategy for the 21st Century
II.B. How We Accomplish Our Objectives
II.C. Implementation Guidelines
III. Desired Capabilities and Attributes
III.A. Key Operational Capabilities
III.B. Attributes


We live in a time of unconventional challenges and strategic uncertainty. We are confronting fundamentally different challenges from those faced by the American defense establishment in the Cold War and previous eras. The strategy we adopt today will help influence the world’s strategic environment, for the United States is an unusually powerful player in world affairs. President George W. Bush is committed to ensuring the security of the American people, strengthening the community of free nations, and advancing democratic reform, freedom, and economic well being around the globe.

The Department of Defense is implementing the President’s commitment to the forward defense of freedom as articulated in the National Security Strategy. This National Defense Strategy outlines our approach to dealing with challenges we likely will confront, not just those we are currently best prepared to meet. Our intent is to create favorable security conditions around the world and to continue to transform how we think about security, formulate strategic objectives, and adapt to achieve success.

This strategy emphasizes the importance of influencing events before challenges become more dangerous and less manageable. It builds upon efforts in the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) to develop an adaptable, global approach that acknowledges the limits of our intelligence (in all senses of the term), anticipates surprises, and positions us to handle strategic uncertainty.

Since the QDR was released, events have confirmed the importance of assuring allies and friends, dissuading potential adversaries, deterring aggression and coercion, and defeating adversaries. The war on terrorism has exposed new challenges, but also unprecedented strategic opportunities to work at home and with allies and partners abroad to create conditions favorable to a secure international order.

When President Bush took office four years ago, he gave us the mission to prepare the Department of Defense to meet 21st century challenges. This strategy is designed to fulfill that mission. Knowing the dedication and capabilities of our uniformed men and women and of the civilians who support them, I am confident we will succeed.

Donald H. Rumsfeld
Secretary of Defense


America is a nation at war. We face a diverse set of security challenges. Yet, we still live in an era of advantage and opportunity.

The National Defense Strategy outlines an active, ayered approach to the defense of the nation and its interests. It seeks to create conditions conducive to respect for the sovereignty of nations and a secure international order favorable to freedom, democracy, and economic opportunity. This strategy promotes close cooperation with others around the world who are committed to these goals. It addresses mature and emerging threats.


Secure the United States from direct attack. We will give top priority to dissuading, deterring, and defeating those who seek to harm the United States directly, especially extremist enemies with weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Secure strategic access and retain global freedom of action. We will promote the security, prosperity, and freedom of action of the United States and its partners by securing access to key regions, lines of communication, and the global commons.

Strengthen alliances and partnerships. We will expand the community of nations that share principles and interests with us. We will help partners increase their capacity to defend themselves and collectively meet challenges to our common interests.

Establish favorable security conditions. Working with others in the U.S. Government, we will create conditions for a favorable international system by honoring our security commitments and working with other nations to bring about a common appreciation of threats; the steps required to protect against these threats; and a broad, secure, and lasting peace.


Assure allies and friends. We will provide assurance by demonstrating our resolve to fulfill our alliance and other defense commitments and help protect common interests.

Dissuade potential adversaries. We will work to dissuade potential adversaries from adopting threatening capabilities, methods, and ambitions, particularly by developing our own key military advantages.

Deter aggression and counter coercion. We will deter by maintaining capable and rapidly deployable military forces and, when necessary, demonstrating the will to resolve conflicts decisively on favorable terms.

Defeat adversaries. At the direction of the President, we will defeat adversaries at the time, place, and in the manner of our choosing setting the conditions for future security.


Four guidelines structure our strategic planning and decision making.

Active, layered defense. We will focus our military planning, posture, operations, and capabilities on the active, forward, and layered defense of our nation, our interests, and our partners.

Continuous transformation. We will continually adapt how we approach and confront challenges, conduct business, and work with others.

Capabilities based approach. We will operationalize this strategy to address mature and emerging challenges by setting priorities among competing capabilities.

Managing risks. We will consider the full range of risks associated with resources and operations and manage clear tradeoffs across the Department.



America is a nation at war. We face a diverse set of security challenges.

Yet, we still live in an era of advantage and opportunity. We also possess uniquely effective military capabilities that we are seeking to transform to meet future challenges.

As directed by the President in his 2002 National Security Strategy, we will use our position "to build a safer, better world that favors human freedom, democracy, and free enterprise." Our security and that of our international partners — our allies and friends — is based on a common commitment to peace, freedom, and economic opportunity. In cooperation with our international partners, we can build a more peaceful and secure international order in which the . sovereignty of nations is respected.

The United States and its allies and partners have a strong interest in protecting the sovereignty of nation states. In the secure international order that we seek, states must be able to effectively govern themselves and order their affairs as their citizens see fit. Nevertheless, they must exercise their sovereignty responsibly, in conformity with the customary principles of international law, as well as with any additional obligations that they have freely accepted.

It is unacceptable for regimes to use the principle of sovereignty as a shield behind which they claim to be free to engage in activities that pose enormous threats to their citizens, neighbors, or the rest of the international community.

While the security threats of the 20th century arose from powerful states that embarked on aggressive courses, the key dimensions of the 21st century — globalization and the potential proliferation of weapons of mass destruction — mean great dangers may arise in and emanate from relatively weak states and ungoverned areas. The U.S., its allies, and partners must remain vigilant to those states that lack the capacity to govern activity within their borders. Sovereign states are obligated to work to ensure that their territories are not used as bases for attacks on others.

Despite our strategic advantages, we are vulnerable to challenges ranging from external attacks to indirect threats posed by aggression and dangerous instability. Some enemies may seek to terrorize our population and destroy our way of life, while others will try to 1) limit our global freedom to act, 2) dominate key regions, or 3) attempt to make prohibitive the costs of meeting various U.S. international commitments.

The United States follows a strategy that aims to preserve and extend peace, freedom; and prosperity throughout the world. The attacks of 9/11 gave us greater clarity on the challenges that confront us. U.S. officials and the public saw then that, without resolute action, even more harmful attacks would likely occur in the future. A reactive or defensive approach would not allow the United States to secure itself and preserve our way of life as a free and open society. Thus, the United States is committed to an active defense of the nation and its interests. This new approach is evident in the war on terrorism.

The United States and its partners have made progress in the war on terrorism through an unprecedented level of international cooperation. More than 170 countries are engaged in activities ranging from freezing terrorist assets to sharing intelligence to providing combat forces for coalition operations. In Afghanistan, a multinational coalition defeated a regime that provided one of the world’s principal havens for terrorists. In Iraq, an American led effort toppled the regime of Saddam Hussein a tyrant who used WMD, supported terrorists, terrorized his population, and threatened his neighbors.

Experience in the war on terrorism has underscored the need for a changed defense establishment one postured both for extended conflict and continuous transformation. This demands an adaptive strategy, predicated on creating and seizing opportunities and contending with challenges through an active, layered defense of the nation and its interests.


Uncertainty is the defining characteristic of today’s strategic environment. We can identify trends but cannot predict specific events with precision. While we work to avoid being surprised, we must posture ourselves to handle unanticipated problems — we must plan with surprise in mind.

We contend with uncertainty by adapting to circumstances and influencing events. It is not enough to react to change. This strategy focuses on safeguarding U.S. freedoms and interests while working actively to forestall the emergence of new challenges.


"America is now threatened less by conquering states than we are by failing ones. We are menaced less by fleets and armies than by catastrophic technologies in the hands of the embittered few." — National Security Strategy, September 2002

The U.S. military predominates in the world in traditional forms of warfare. Potential adversaries accordingly shift away from challenging the United States through traditional military action and adopt asymmetric capabilities and methods. An array of traditional, irregular, catastrophic, and disruptive capabilities and methods threaten U.S. interests:

Traditional challenges are posed by states employing recognized military capabilities and forces in well understood forms of military competition and conflict.

Irregular challenges come from those employing "unconventional" methods to counter the traditional advantages of stronger opponents.

Catastrophic challenges involve the acquisition, possession, and use of WMD or methods producing WMD like effects.

Disruptive challenges may come from adversaries who develop and use breakthrough technologies to negate current U.S. advantages in key operational domains.

These categories overlap. Actors proficient in one can be expected to try to reinforce their position with methods and capabilities drawn from others.

Indeed, recent experience indicates that the most dangerous circumstances arise when we face a complex of challenges. For example, our adversaries in Iraq and Afghanistan presented both traditional and irregular challenges. Terrorist groups like al Qaeda are irregular threats but also actively seek catastrophic capabilities. North Korea at once poses traditional, irregular, and catastrophic challenges. Finally, in the future, the most capable opponents may seek to combine truly disruptive capacity with traditional, irregular, or catastrophic forms of warfare.

Traditional challenges. These challenges are most often associated with states employing armies, navies, and air forces in long-established forms of military competition. Traditional military challenges remain important, as many states maintain capabilities to influence security conditions in their region. However, allied superiority in traditional domains, coupled with the costs of traditional military competition, drastically reduce adversaries’ incentives to compete with us in this arena.

As formidable as U.S. capabilities are against traditional opponents, we cannot ignore the challenges that such adversaries might present. Traditional challenges require us to maintain sufficient combat capability in key areas of military competition.

Irregular challenges. Increasingly sophisticated irregular methods — e.g., terrorism and insurgency — challenge U.S. security interests. Adversaries employing irregular methods aim to erode U.S. influence, patience, and political will. Irregular opponents often take a long term approach, attempting to impose prohibitive human, material, financial, and political costs on the United States to compel strategic retreat from a key region or course of action.

Two factors have intensified the danger of irregular challenges: the rise of extremist ideologies and the absence of effective governance.

Political, religious, and ethnic extremism continues to fuel conflicts worldwide.

The absence of effective governance in many parts of the world creates sanctuaries for terrorists, criminals, and insurgents. Many states are unable, and in some cases unwilling, to exercise effective control over their territory or frontiers, thus leaving areas open to hostile exploitation.

Our experience in the war on terrorism points to the need to reorient our military capabilities to contend with such irregular challenges more effectively.

Catastrophic challenges. In the face of American dominance in traditional forms of warfare, some hostile forces are seeking to acquire catastrophic capabilities, particularly weapons of mass destruction (WMD). Porous international borders, weak international controls, and easy access to information related technologies facilitate these efforts. Particularly troublesome is the nexus of transnational terrorists, proliferation, and problem states that possess or seek WMD, increasing the risk of WMD attack against the United States.

Proliferation of WMD technology and expertise makes contending with catastrophic challenges an urgent priority. Even a single catastrophic attack against the United States or an ally would be unacceptable. We will place greater emphasis on those capabilities that enable us to dissuade others from acquiring catastrophic capabilities, to deter their use and, when necessary, to defeat them before they can be employed.

Disruptive challenges. In rare instances, revolutionary technology and associated military innovation can fundamentally alter long-established concepts of warfare. Some potential adversaries are seeking disruptive capabilities to exploit U.S. vulnerabilities and offset the current advantages of the United States and its partners.

Some disruptive breakthroughs, including advances in biotechnology, cyber operations, space, or directed energy weapons, could seriously endanger our security.

As such breakthroughs can be unpredictable, we should recognize their potential consequences and hedge against them.


Alongside the four security challenges are far reaching changes in the international system:

–We continually adapt our defense partnerships.

–Key states face important decisions that will affect their strategic position.

–Some problem states will continue to pose challenges, while others could realize that their current policies undermine their own security.

–Hostile, non state actors have substantial numbers, capability, and, influence.

International partnerships. International partnerships continue to be a principal source of our strength. Shared principles, a common view of threats, and commitment to cooperation provide far greater security than we could achieve on our own. Unprecedented cooperation in the war on terrorism is an example of the benefit of strong international partnerships.

Today, the United States and its partners are threatened not just by enemies who seek to oppose us through traditional means, but also by an active spectrum of non traditional challenges. Key U.S. relationships around the globe are adapting and broadening in response to these changes. Also, we have significantly expanded our circle of security partners around the world.

Key states. Several key states face basic decisions about their roles in global and regional politics, economics, and security, and the pace and direction of their own internal evolution. These decisions may change their strategic position in the world and their relationship with the United States. This uncertainty presents both opportunities and potential challenges for the United States. Some states may move toward greater cooperation with the United States, while others could evolve into capable regional rivals or enemies.

Over time, some rising powers may be able to threaten the United States and our partners directly, rival us in key areas of military and technological competition, or threaten U.S. interests by pursuing dominance over key regions. In other cases, if adverse economic, political, and demographic trends continue, large capable states could become dangerously unstable and increasingly ungovernable, creating significant future challenges.

While remaining alert to the possibility of renewed great power competition, recent developments in our relations with states like Russia and China should encourage a degree of hope. As the President’s National Security Strategy states, "Today, the international community has the best chance since the rise of the nation state in the seventeenth century to build a world where great powers compete in peace instead of continually prepare for war."

Problem states. Problem states will continue to undermine regional stability and threaten U.S. interests. These states are hostile to U.S. principles. They commonly squander their resources to benefit ruling elites, their armed forces, or extremist clients. They often disregard international law and violate international agreements. Problem states may seek WMD or other destabilizing military capabilities. Some support terrorist activities, including by giving terrorists safe haven.

As recently demonstrated by Libya, however, some problem states may recognize that the pursuit of WMD leaves them less, not more, secure.

Significant non state actors. Countering the military capabilities of state competitors alone cannot guarantee U.S. security. Challenges today emanate from a variety of state and non state sources. The latter are a diverse collection of terrorists, insurgents, paramilitaries, and criminals who seek to undermine the legitimate governance of some states and who challenge the United States and its interests.


This strategy is built on key assumptions about the world, the nature of U.S. strengths and vulnerabilities, and the opportunities and challenges we may see in the coming decade.


The United States will continue to enjoy a number of advantages:

–We will retain a resilient network of alliances and partnerships.

–We will have no global peer competitor and will remain unmatched in traditional military capability.

–We will maintain important advantages in other elements of national power — e.g., political, economic, technological, and cultural.

–We will continue to play leading roles on issues of common international concern and will retain influence worldwide.


Nevertheless, we have vulnerabilities:

–Our capacity to address global security challenges alone will be insufficient.

–Some allies and partners will decide not to act with us or will lack the capacity to act with us.

–Our leading position in world affairs will continue to breed unease, a degree of resentment, and resistance.

–Our strength as a nation state will continue to be challenged by those who employ a strategy of the weak using international fora, judicial processes, and terrorism.

–We and our allies will be the principal targets of extremism and terrorism.

–Natural forces of inertia and resistance to change will constrain military transformation.


The future also offers opportunities:

–The end of the Cold War and our capacity to influence global events open the prospect for a new and peaceful state system in the world.

–Positive developments in Iraq and Afghanistan strengthen U.S. influence and credibility.

–Problem states themselves will increasingly be vulnerable to the forces of positive political and economic change.

–Many of our key partners want to deepen our security relationships with them.

–New international partners are seeking integration into our system of alliances and partnerships.


In the framework of the four mature and emerging challenges outlined earlier, we will contend with the following particular challenges:

–Though we have no global peer, we will have competitors and enemies — state and non state.

–Key international actors may choose strategic paths contrary to the interests of the United States.

–Crises related to political stability and governance will pose significant security challenges. Some of these may threaten fundamental interests of the United States, requiring a military response.

–Internationally — even among our closest partners — threats will be perceived differently, and consensus may be difficult to achieve.


All this necessitates an active defense of the nation and its interests, as explained below and in the National Military Strategy.


This National Defense Strategy outlines how DoD will support broader U.S. efforts to create conditions conducive to a secure international system as the President’s National Security Strategy states, a balance of power that favors freedom. Such conditions include the effective and responsible exercise of sovereignty, representative governance, peaceful resolution of regional disputes, and open and competitive markets.

Our strategic circumstances are far different today from those of the Cold War.

Today, we enjoy significant advantages vis-