The Transformation of National Security

The Bush Administration's National Security Strategy is based on five critical redefinitions of international politics--and not a moment too soon.

Issue: Spring 2003

Perhaps the key question of international politics and U.S. national security policy today is whether a genuinely new era has dawned since the end of the Cold War. It has. The attacks of September 11, 2001 did not create the new era, but they were a catalytic moment in our recognition of it. Like previous shocks to the United States in June 1940, December 1941 or June 1950, this shock gave emerging trends a form, brought them into mass consciousness, and forced upon us the task of defining a comprehensive national response.

Such a definition appears in the Bush Administration's recently published National Security Strategy of the United States. This essay draws out some of the ideas that appear to undergird the administration's emerging strategy. It focuses on five essential redefinitions of what national security means for the United States in the 21st century-but first a note about the rhetoric of empire that has come to dominate much current discussion.

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