The US National Security Strategy against Threat of Use of Weapons of Mass Destruction

The Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary defines strategy as “the science and art of employing the political, economic, psychological, and military forces of a nation or group of nations to afford the maximum support to adopted policies in peace or war” (1990, p. 1165). The U. S. National Security Strategy is one such document prepared by the Executive encompassing all the elements of the definition above for the Congress to understand how the U. S. is going to face global strategic challenges. The National Security Strategy (NSS) document was first published in 2002 and then again in 2006 and 2008.

One of the issues highlighted in all the three NSS is that of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) proliferation. At present, there are nine states armed with nuclear weapons; The P-5 states consisting of the U. S. , Russia, China, France and U. K. three states that have overtly demonstrated their capability namely India, Pakistan and North Korea, one known to possess nuclear weapons, Israel and aspirants such as Iran that threaten global stability. This paper shall focus only on the NSS 2006 and 2008 and the February 2009 news release by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) on global threats in relation to U.

S. strategy against the threat from use of WMD by adversaries against the U. S and its allies. Chapter V of NSS 2006 specifically addresses the issue of WMD threats. The NSS outlines that Iran has violated the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), North Korea has a nuclear arsenal, non-state actors and terrorists are trying to acquire WMD, some of the weapon grade fissile material in the world is not securely kept and that advancement in biotechnology has made it possible for state and non-state actor to create chemical and biological weapons that can cause mass destruction (The White House, 2006, p. 19).

To keep dangerous nuclear material from falling into wrong hands, the strategy aims at closing the loopholes in the NPT to prevent export of fissile material, pressurize rogue nations such as Iran and North Korea to adhere to their obligations under the NPT and secure nuclear material through the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) as also persevere with the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) (The White House, 2006, p. 21). Against biological weapons, the NSS 2006, planned to work with partner nations to enhance global bio-surveillance processes as also develop integral capability to tackle pandemic threats.

Against chemical threats, the NSS way ahead enunciated disruption of terrorist networks and preventing them from acquiring chemicals as also improving technological means for detection and management in case of an incident. Overall, both offense and defense was outlined as the way ahead to deter state and non-state actors, strengthening security commitments with allies and invoking the international law principle of just cause for intervening in case a state or a non-state actor is perceived of trying to acquire WMD (The White House, pp. 22-23).

The 2008 document was a marked shift from the 2006 document as even the title was changed from National Security Strategy to National Defense Strategy (NDS). This document claims that the contents “flow from the NSS (The White House, 2008, p. 1)” and the emphasis of this document clearly focused on first ensuring the defense of the homeland and then issues of security at the international level. In pursuance of this defense of homeland strategy, the document laid out the need for winning the ‘Long War’ against terrorism, promote security worldwide, deter conflicts and win the nation’s war.

To prevent adversaries from acquiring or using WMD, the document states that the strategy would be to first use non-military options, and if not “the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively in exercising its right of self-defense” (The White House, p. 14). In relation to its allies, the 2008 document calls for interagency and partner-nation efforts to “detect, tag, track, intercept and destroy WMD and related material (The White House, p. 15)”.

The February 12, 2009 news release by the ODNI squarely names Iran’s nuclear intentions as a threat to global security (ODNI, Februry 12, 2009, p. 2). The complete testimony of ODNI Director, Dennis Blair regarding WMD threat ascertains that Iran is continuing with its quest for nuclear weapons and is likely to possess them in the time frame 2010-2015 (Blair, February 12, 2009, p. 20). With ballistic missiles, Iran would be in the position to threaten America and its allies in the entire Gulf region.

According to Blair’s testimony, terrorists in the coming years will attempt to acquire Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) weapons and calls for “neutralizing extremist groups using terrorism and controlling the proliferation of WMD” (Blair, p. 45). In conclusion, America’s national security strategy since 2006 as outlined in the NSS 2006, NDS 2009 and ODNI release 2010 for combating threats emanating from spread of WMD has provided clearly defined measures for defense of America and its allies.

Iran, North Korea and non-state actors such as terrorists are mentioned as the principle adversaries. In the first instance, the strategy calls for use of defensive and offensive means to counter WMD proliferation. The defensive means include use of diplomacy and economic sanctions to counter proliferation. The plan also calls for plugging the existing loopholes in the NPT, better control of fissile material, continuance of PSI, putting into place global bio-surveillance processes and improving technological means of detection of chemical agents.

At the same time, America with its allies would actively track, monitor and neutralize terror groups trying to acquire CBRN weapons. To protect its allies, as also its own interests, America plans to enter into security arrangements with like minded nations to prevent WMD proliferation. Should all these measures fail, the strategy says that America will resort to use of force under the principle of self defense to prevent any attacks from materializing against it from adversaries intent on using WMD.