American Primacy and Major Power Concert: A Critique of the 2002 National Security Strategy   [open pdf - 948KB]

The Bush administration's National Security Strategy of 2002 has attracted attention and debate largely because of its arguments about the role of preemption. But over the longer term the strategy may prove far more significant in terms of its vision for relations with Russia, China, and the other major powers. As Condoleezza Rice has argued in describing the thinking behind the strategy, "we have an historic opportunity to break the destructive pattern of great power rivalry that has bedeviled the world since the rise of the nation state in the 17th century." This is a bold vision. It extends the notion of transformation from defense strategy to geopolitics. But is it viable? What is required to achieve this ambition? The opportunity is real - this is the conclusion from an informal dialogue among analysts and policymakers from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council that IDA cosponsored between 1999 and 2001. That dialogue explored the differences of worldview, historical perspective, and national interest informing strategy and policy in each capitol. Ranging across such myriad topics as the balance of power, the legitimacy of humanitarian interventions, the impact of ballistic missile defense, and the tensions between multipolarity and unipolarity, that dialogue also gave vent to debates in each country about the requirements of peace and stability in the current era. To the surprise of many, that dialogue extended into a deep exploration of sovereignty's contribution to peace and to the requirements of political legitimacy. Also to a surprising extent, issues related to weapons of mass destruction cut across much of the agenda, and with them, questions about the ability of a "nuclear aristocracy" to provide nuclear order over the long term. For the Americans in the dialogue process, the main message from the others was simply that doubts about American power and purposes on the world stage permeate every aspect of the global security dialogue. In its moment of unprecedented power and dominance, what will America choose to do? What will it do with primacy?

Report Number:
IDA Paper P-3751
Public Domain
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