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Symposium: The Bush Foreign Policy Strategy, Take Two

Symposium: The Bush Foreign Policy Strategy, Take Two

What direction will U.S. foreign policy take in the last two years of the Bush Administration? The 2006 National Security Strategy may provide some guidance. Does it provide a useful framework for the formation of policy and in addressing the challenges the United States will face in the upcoming months? Two distinguished practitioners--and former members of the Bush Administration--join with one of America's leading conservative intellectuals to offer their thoughts.

Robert D. Blackwill:

NATIONAL SECURITY strategies of U.S. administrations are usually around about as long as last week's Chinese takeout. They are methodically prepared and debated over many months by midlevel officials, make a brief flyby past senior policymakers, are released and then head briskly for the nearest filing cabinets. In no case in my experience does a president during a crisis ask to see his National Security Strategy (NSS) in order to decide how best to proceed.

Until recently, there was only one striking exception over the decades. In the immediate aftermath of the communist conquest of China and the detonation of the first Soviet nuclear weapon, the Truman Administration in April 1950 issued NSC-68. A classified document largely written by Paul Nitze that became America's guiding conceptual light for more than twenty years in dealing with the Soviet global threat, it characterized the confrontation with Moscow as an uncompromising battle between good and evil. Comprehensive in design and formulation, NSC-68 dealt with the military, economic, political and physiological dimensions of the USSR's danger to vital American national interests and democratic values. This study, too, was headed for oblivion, until June 25, 1950, when North Korea attacked across the 38th parallel. As Dean Acheson said later, "Korea ... created the stimulus which made action." That action was a massive U.S. military buildup and a dramatic intensification of American foreign policy.

The Nitze study comes to mind because the administration of President George W. Bush, in the terrible shadow of 9/11, in September 2002 and again in March 2006, published The National Security Strategy of the United States of America. In conception, description and analysis, these two studies are every bit as far-reaching and comprehensive as NSC-68. As the distinguished diplomatic historian John Lewis Gaddis has written, after the attack on the Twin Towers and the Pentagon "the Bush Administration would then, over the next few months, undertake the most fundamental reassessment of American grand strategy in over half a century, and ... it would publish the results of this rethinking, for all to read, discuss and dissent from." President Bush himself has been intimately involved in this exercise, again a significant departure from past practice. In a strategic and policy sense, these are his documents.

The first sentence of the president's covering letter to the 2006 report, which updates the 2002 text and defends ensuing administration policies, captures the profound essence of the current era: "America is at war." It continues, "a new totalitarian ideology now threatens, an ideology grounded not in secular philosophy but in the perversion of a proud religion." As Gaddis points out, "What is new is Bush's elevation of the terrorist threat to the level of that posed by tyrants."

The 2006 NSS begins with an encompassing prescription to deal strategically with the long struggle against terrorism that America now faces. "It is the policy of the United States to seek and support democratic movements and institutions in every nation and culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world. ... This is the best way to provide enduring security for the American people." And from the 2002 NSS, "We seek instead to create a balance of power that favors human freedom...." This is not a new theme for the president. In November 1999, in a speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library during his first campaign for the presidency, he emphasized that "American foreign policy must be more than the management of crisis. It must have a great and guiding goal: to turn this time of American influence into generations of democratic peace."

It is at this most fundamental level of strategic purpose and policy prescription that critics of these reports have focused their fire. On the philosophical level, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright has argued regarding the 2006 NSS that "it is sometimes convenient, for purposes of rhetorical effect, for national leaders to talk of a globe neatly divided into good and bad. It is quite another, however, to base the policies of the world's most powerful nation on that fiction."

This seems an odd assertion. She cannot mean that evil does not exist in the world. She cannot mean that nations do not do evil in the world: Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Belarus, Burma, Zimbabwe and so on. She cannot mean that we Americans, and our president, should not distinguish between bad (these sorts of regimes) and good (our friends and allies). Indeed, this distinction is exactly where our highest political leaders should begin in their public policy formulation. Harry Truman and NSC-68 certainly did not accept that the inherent complexities of the international system should cloud the supremacy of our values. Thus, it is unclear what "fiction" Secretary Albright might have in mind. But Hannah Arendt had no confusion on the matter: "No cause is left but the most ancient of all, the one, in fact, that from the beginning of our history has determined the very existence of politics, the cause of freedom versus tyranny."

More serious critiques concern the application of this NSS and democratic transformation to present conditions in the Greater Middle East. These criticisms are now familiar, including from some on the Republican side of the aisle: The United States cannot do everything at once; these are utopian, even "Wilsonian", concepts; this region is not ready for democratic change; such transformation could bring anti-American regimes into power and unseat some of our oldest and most important partners in the area; American public intervention abroad on behalf of our values further fuels extremist urges among ordinary Muslims. All of these assertions fly under the flag, asserted or implicit, that previous U.S. approaches to this absolutely crucial area were more or less effective, or at least the best we could do, and did not require fundamental change.

This historical interpretation seems open to question. After all, the record of this region over the past three decades or so is not exactly stable and peaceful: the 1973 Yom Kippur War; the ensuing oil boycott; the Iranian Revolution; Black September; Israel's Operation Litani; the Iran-Iraq War; the terrorist capture of Afghanistan; Desert Storm; the first intifada; the second intifada; the rise of global Islamic terror; the growing systemic separation between moderate Arab regimes and their own citizens; 9/11; the coalition overthrow of Saddam; the increasing terrorist threat to the American homeland, including with weapons of mass destruction; and so forth. These, apparently, are laurels on which President George W. Bush chooses not to rest.

With the core of the previous strategy over the decades clearly giving way, it does seem reasonable for the United States at least to attempt a sharply different approach to the Greater Middle East and to this long War on Terror. The Bush NSS depends for overall success on many elements: sustaining its strategy (recall Friedrich Nietzsche's observation: "Man's most persistent stupidity is forgetting what he is trying to do"); steady nerves; adroit and persistent diplomacy suited as appropriate to local circumstances; ever better intelligence; a transformed U.S. military; the steady help of multilateral allies and friends, now decidedly including India; winning the battle of ideas in the Islamic world; if possible, decent relations with China and Russia; U.S. domestic public support; and luck. This is quite a set of objectives to sustain over the long term for this and succeeding American presidents. As the NSS stresses, this "is the work of generations."

HOW IS President Bush's NSS doing so far? Winston Churchill reminds us, "However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results." For reasons of space, let me here only address the NSS and U.S. policy trials regarding Iran and Iraq.

We are well along in a gathering storm with Iran, and perhaps heading for an agonizing binary decision for the president in the next few years. He may be faced with a choice either to use military force to slow Iran's nuclear weapons program, with the attendant regional and global consequences of an ongoing war with Iraq and a volcanic eruption in the Muslim world; or to accept that Iran will acquire a nuclear arsenal, with consequently devastating implications for U.S. security and vital national interests, as well as those of our allies and friends.

Within this context, the 2006 NSS says, "We may face no greater challenge from a single country than from Iran." In seeking to avoid a military confrontation with Iran, the Bush Administration, led by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, has mounted an intense and impressive diplomatic effort to coalesce the international community, including the great powers, behind a demand that Tehran end its nuclear weapons program. This vigorous American effort reflects several of the major themes in the latest NSS in an impressive way: recognizing the Iranian WMD threat; mobilizing the international community to deal with it peacefully, a general multilateral orientation found repeatedly in the 2006 NSS; depending on diplomacy as the main instrument to accomplish this goal; and holding out the use of force as a last resort to address the problem, including through pre-emption. Regarding the final point, the NSS uses this language: "under long standing principles of self defense, we do not rule out the use of force before attacks occur, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy's attack." After 9/11, an American president could have no other policy.

Unfortunately, despite skillful U.S. diplomacy by Secretary Rice and her colleagues, it appears at this writing that the prospects for peacefully persuading Iran to give up its nuclear ambitions are grim. Tehran under its new president is defiant, and it seems doubtful that a package of sanctions will pass the Security Council that would coerce Iran to cease and desist. If this is true, we are reminded again that sometimes in international relations there are no available diplomatic strategies that will sufficiently realize the compelling objective of protecting vital national interests. In those cases, nations must either use other means to accomplish the necessary (military force, regime change or both), or switch to a less demanding objective--in this instance, seeking to deter a nuclear Iran controlled by the mullahs.

Iraq naturally also figures in the most recent NSS, but the report's reasoned arguments are largely overwhelmed by the constant violence from Iraq shown on American mass media and by the inherent intractables of that country.

The administration's political, security, economic and international strategies for victory in Iraq are by this time well-known. Most critics (except those who propose to cut and run) do not question the fundamental strategy, but rather what they see as its faulty implementation.

Again, where are we now regarding meeting the Iraq objectives of the NSS? I believe that by 2008 there is a reasonable prospect that the following seven goals can be reached vis-a-vis Iraq: Iraq stays together under a federal system of government; there is no civil war and no fracturing of the state; Iraq poses no threat to its neighbors; Iraq makes no attempt to acquire weapons of mass destruction; Iraq does not support international terrorism; Iraq has made major strides in defeating the insurgency, although some terrorist violence continues; Iraqi forces are undertaking the bulk of security missions within the country, and U.S. forces in Iraq have been reduced to several tens of thousands, deployed entirely outside of the cities; Iraq is well underway in developing pluralist political institutions and the elements of civil society, based importantly on much improved economic conditions.

If these seven objectives can be accomplished in the next two years, Iraq-despite the great loss of American blood and treasure--will in my judgment be seen as deeply worth the effort. President Bush, like Harry Truman and Ronald Reagan before him, will receive, after seriously bad patches in office, enduring credit from the American people and from much of the international community. And the basic tenets of his NSS may survive into the policies of his successors. But if we fail in Iraq, many of the guiding principles of 2006 NSS will be quickly washed away by an engulfing flood of terror sent against the United States and its friends and allies by a triumphant enemy.

Therefore, and just as with the years following the formulation of NSC-68, we must await the future with respect to judging the long-term conceptual merit, effectiveness and staying power of the administration's 2006 National Security Strategy. As Henry Kissinger has noted, "History has no resting place and no plateaus." This will not come as breaking news to President George W. Bush.

Robert D. Blackwill was President George W. Bush's deputy national security advisor for strategic planning and also served as presidential envoy to Iraq and U.S. ambassador to India. He is now president of Barbour Griffith & Rogers International, a Washington lobbying and consulting firm.

Rich Lowry:

BY AND large, I support President Bush's foreign policy. I think he has been right to put the War on Terror on the top of his agenda, and I supported the Iraq War and the post-invasion attempt at nation-building, even if I had some misgivings about the administration's ambitions (see my Spring 2005 TNI piece, "Reaganism v. Neo-Reaganism"). But I can't read some passages of the new National Security Strategy without groaning.

It is peppered with logical leaps and sweeping, dubious contentions, in keeping with the administration's apparent temperamental preference--whether in warning of Saddam's supposed weapons of mass destruction or making the case for its democratization push--for overstatement, when something more modulated and restrained would suffice.

Soaring rhetoric has a place in an inaugural address, but a strategy should be a different beast. Unfortunately, even though it makes bows to practicality, it often seems as though the National Security Strategy is devoted to justifying the aspirational rhetoric, rather than seriously relating means to ends in our foreign policy.

"The United States must defend liberty and justice because these principles are right and true for all people everywhere." If these principles are right and true for everyone--and who would dispute that it is best for people to live in just and free societies?--that doesn't necessarily compel the United States to defend them everywhere and always. Strategic and prudential considerations can--and should--trump any commitment to universal values. There is something in the universalism of Bush's pronouncements that, if taken literally, would be corrosive of American nationhood, of the idea that our government's foremost commitment must be to the American people and their interests above any abstractions, no matter how noble.

"The human desire for freedom is universal...." This is a favorite Bush trope. In some sense, it might be true. But if this uniform human desire exists, it is often buried under layers of culture and institutional impediments that prevent its expression. And it is just as true to say that the human desire for honor, for pride and for power is universal, too. In societies where the necessary supports for liberal democracy are underdeveloped--the rule of law and so on--these desires will often outstrip the yearning for freedom.

"[T]he survival of liberty at home increasingly depends on the success of liberty abroad." This is overly broad. How does Burma's dictatorship affect our liberty? Or Putin's steps toward authoritarianism? Or the progress, or lack thereof, of liberty in Africa? They don't.

The strategy sets out the goal of ending tyranny. This seems utopian on its face, so to inject a note of realism the document notes, "an end to tyranny will not mark an end to all global ills"; disputes, disorder and injustice "will outlast tyranny." Then, in the same breath, it argues that the continued existence of tyranny shouldn't be tolerated because "it is a crime of man, not a fact of nature." But disputes, disorder and injustice are crimes of man, too, which doesn't make them any less enduring. Why is tyranny, of all man's crimes, the one that will end once and for all?

Another note of realism is even more dissonant, given the emphasis the document places on democratization. "Immature democracies", the strategy says, "are prone to conflict and vulnerable to exploitation by terrorists." Since immature democracies are the only ones we are going to be able to create, this makes the prospect of ushering in any era of democratic peace seem discouragingly remote. Even the countries where we achieve some success will be liable to suffer conflict and exploitation by terrorists.

Just as Bush sympathizers must some times discount the president's tangled syntax and think to themselves, "Well, we know what he means", those well-disposed to his foreign policy have to discount all the rhetorical over-reach. Putting aside the grand pronouncements, you know what the administration means--all things being equal, it is better that countries move in a liberalizing direction, and it is especially important that it happen in the Middle East, where secular fascism and Islamic radicalism have lent support to violence and terror.

The National Security Strategy correctly identifies the War on Terror as an ideological struggle, and the push for liberalization in the Middle East is an important front in that struggle. There are two interpretations of Islam prominently on offer in Iraq, that of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (who argues that Islam mandates terror), and that of Grand Aytollah Ali al-Sistani (who says Islam does no such thing and is compatible with democracy). It matters immensely who prevails on the ground there. What happens in Iraq also affects the region. Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon was an aftershock of our successful liberation of Iraq; Syria's current crackdown on internal dissent is a symptom of our difficulties there. It is perhaps an exaggeration to say, "as goes Iraq, so goes the Middle East", but there is no doubt that the prestige of democracy in the region--and therefore the pressure governments will feel to moderate and make democratic reforms--depends on its fate in Baghdad.

The document is also correct to emphasize the option of anticipatory self-defense in response to terrorist threats and to the possibility of dangerous states--read, Iran--acquiring nuclear weapons. Both threats are different in kind--though in varying degrees--from what we faced from the Soviet Union during the golden age of deterrence.

Ronald Reagan liked to tell the story of a Harvard professor who said, "Yes, it works in practice, but will it work in theory?" The question with the Bush strategy is the opposite, more mundane one: Will it work it practice? The document stakes out about a dozen utterly unobjectionable ways the administration will promote democratic reform, from speaking out against human rights abuses to partnering with non-governmental organizations. What it leaves out is the most important way it chose to promote reform in its first term: a massive invasion and military occupation of Iraq. Whether that action ultimately produces a reasonable version of parliamentary democracy in Iraq will do much to determine the credibility of Bush's doctrine of democratization.

Iraq was also an exercise in the kind of preventive war that makes sense on paper, given the new threat environment. But our intelligence was deeply flawed, not just about Saddam's weapons programs, but also the state of the country we would find on our arrival; the ongoing cost in blood and treasure; and the prospects for producing a stable ally that improves our position in the region. All of this is prompting doubts, too, about the real-word wisdom of the preventive-war model.

The fight to prevail in Iraq, unfortunately, now has very little to do with anything written in any strategy document. Success will depend on the judgment of diplomats and military commanders on the ground dealing with circumstances too various to be analyzed at this kind of level of abstraction. But their work is what matters: The soundness of the doctrine has all come down to the viability of the practical application.

How it turns out will be the difference between Bush's National Security Strategy being considered by history as far-sighted or as fanciful, and his administration being remembered for durable accomplishments or for fine sentiments it couldn't translate into reality.

Rich Lowry is editor of National Review.

Dov S. Zakheim:

THE VARIOUS editions of the congressionally mandated National Security Strategy (NSS) have tended to be more about policy than strategy, more about justifying in detail past administration decisions than providing in detail future courses of action. The latest version, released in March, is no different. It is long on justification, long on goals and objectives, long on rhetoric, but rather thin with respect to the essence of strategy, or outlining how available means are applied to achieve specific ends.

As many analysts have already pointed out, the new NSS lays significant emphasis on democracy and democratic values. In this it is not different from its Clintonian predecessors, nor from the report issued in 2002. Indeed, the new document even includes the dreaded "E-word" (engagement) which was a hallmark of Clinton-era national security strategies from 1995 onward.

The strategy is, however, far more practical about democracy, and about democratic objectives, than administration critics are prepared to acknowledge. Indeed, that other dreaded word, the "R-word", which supposedly fell out of fashion in the first Bush Administration, actually appears in the president's preface: "Our approach is idealistic about our national goals and realistic about our means to achieve them." (Emphasis added.) The document repeatedly acknowledges that democracy is not something that is instantly achieved: It is "the work of generations" and a "long-term measure." For good measure, it states that "freedom cannot be imposed."

What to do in the shorter run--and, equally important, how to do it--is quite another matter. The strategy is notably inconsistent about its targets for democratization--authoritarian states with long histories of friendship with America receive far less prominence in this regard than do Iran, North Korea, Burma, Belarus and Cuba. Syria is the only Arab country that is mentioned. There is nary a word about Vietnam; nor is there any mention of Turkmenistan--home of that real-life Ozymandias, Turkmenbashi--or of Uzbekistan, which expelled us from our base there because we protested its anti-democratic tendencies. China receives mild treatment, while Russia is meant to be the target of "persuasion" that democracy is a good thing.

Of course, the document does not state what "democracy" really means. Surely it is not Athenian democracy, South Africa apartheid-era democracy, or American democracy prior to the Civil War. Nor indeed is it Anglo-American democracy prior to the 20th century, when half the population of both countries-the women--was still denied the franchise. In fact, "democracy" continues to mean different things to different people around the world and is not everyone's highest priority. Nor does democracy in itself guarantee peace and stability.1

The NSS may prove to be quite troublesome for its authors in other ways, beyond its focus on democracy. In particular, the section entitled "Genocide" seemingly is unambiguous about where the United States stands: "It is a moral imperative that states take action to prevent and punish genocide." And its authors conclude, "we must not allow the legal debate over the technical definition of 'genocide' to excuse inaction. The world must act in cases of mass atrocities and mass killings that will eventually lead to genocide even if the local parties are not prepared for peace."

These are both brave and stirring sentiments. Yet the name Darfur is nowhere to be found in the document. Neither, for that matter, is Sudan. The omissions are not accidental. In practice, until recently, the administration has been quite circumspect about stopping the killing--even if it is "technically" not "genocide." The administration has set itself a standard in its NSS against which its action can surely be measured. It is a standard it must meet to remain credible on this issue.

Iraq and the New Multilateralism

NOT SURPRISINGLY, the NSS focuses heavily on Iraq, the nation's current preoccupation. There is nary a word about civil strife, however, even though the prospect of sectarian warfare has haunted our objectives in that country for at least a year. Indeed, this refusal to acknowledge reality mirrors the administration's similar refusal publicly to recognize that it was fighting an insurgency until well over a year after Operation Iraqi Freedom had formally come to an end. In fact, by denying the reality that a civil war already is at hand, the administration adds to its difficulty in persuading the American people, and the international community, that the solutions it proposes in the NSS and elsewhere really are viable.

In addition, despite the creation of a new Office of Stabilization and Reconstruction within the State Department, America's activities in Iraq remain focused on security, while the economy and social services stagnate. The $18 billion that the Congress allocated for reconstruction has frittered way, with a large portion of those funds diverted from reconstruction to security. No major new funding is either forthcoming or expected. The Stabilization Office itself has yet to make an impact, in part because it, too, has received insufficient funds to carry out its mandate. Perhaps the attention it has now received in the NSS will bolster its efforts to undertake its critical mission, in Iraq and elsewhere.

The National Security Strategy's reference to the Stabilization Office, one of only two new administration structures mentioned in the report (the other is the reorganization of the Agency for International Development), is noteworthy in two other respects. First, it emphasizes the office's role as an interagency coordinator. Second, it asserts that the office will work with like-minded governments "building similar capabilities."

Interagency coordination, particularly with respect to Iraq reconstruction, has not been the administration's strongest suit. Indeed, it is unclear whether a State Department office with a director whose ranks falls below that of an undersecretary will really be able to harness the energies of other agencies toward a common objective. That role should properly be played by the National Security Council staff, and it is telling that this appears not to be the case.

The choice of governments that receive specific mention is interesting--the United Kingdom, Canada and the EU. Canada, which was placed on the notorious list of states whose firms could not win contracts in Iraq, is now rightly seen as part of America's solution for reconstruction, not its problem. Likewise, the EU, a source of friction with Washington in the build-up to the war, is now seen as a key element in providing stability to the world's troubled regions. On the other hand, Japan, which played a pivotal role in the run-up to the Madrid donors' conference for Iraq, is entirely absent. One wonders why.

The administration's belated recognition that it cannot pursue its objectives without the ongoing support of allies and friends--as opposed to the "adhocery" implied by the term "coalition of the willing"--is all to the good. While the administration initially received more international support for Operation Iraqi Freedom than its critics were prepared to acknowledge, and certainly continues to do so in Afghanistan, its international partners in the "coalition" to unseat Saddam and rebuild Iraq slowly but steadily have withdrawn their forces and withheld their resources. The NSS, while certainly not a paean to the mindless multilateralism that characterized much Washington policy during the 1990s, thus represents a sober reversion toward the notion that international cooperation on a sustained basis is a sine qua non for the realization of America's security goals and objectives.

Weapons of Mass Destruction

WEAPONS OF mass destruction (WMD) occupy a major section of the NSS, and rightly so. There can be little doubt that the determination on the part of Islamic extremists to obtain WMD, especially nuclear weapons, is very real, as is the threat posed by North Korea's ownership of nuclear weapons and the mad Iranian quest to obtain them. Once again the administration recognizes that it cannot go it alone, and it points to the Proliferation Security Initiative as a model of international cooperation in impeding WMD trafficking.

Yet the administration's credibility on this issue has been sorely tested because of the coalition's inability to find any WMD in Iraq at war's end and the subsequent recriminations about the administration's original intentions regarding waging war with Saddam. The NSS mounts a spirited defense of the administration's policies to go to war. That defense will surely not quell its critics, however. Nevertheless, regardless of one's position on Iraq, the custodians of the nation's security must press on in their quest to limit the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Only the churlish will refuse to cooperate with Washington in this grave domain because of policy disputes over the Iraq War.

Energy and International Economics

THE STRATEGY document devotes considerable space to issues relating to the need to reduce dependence on fossil fuels and to broad questions relating to international finance and trade. The section on these matters is quite detailed, and, taken on its own, quite commendable. Yet the economic discussion cannot be isolated from the remainder of the document and, as such, sends confusing signals to the reader."

The energy discussion leaves much to be desired. In the first place, the question of dependence on foreign oil is not particularly new. Moreover, the strategy's language ("many countries are too dependent upon foreign oil, which is often imported from unstable parts of the world") is rather coy. The names of those producers in "unstable parts", who in many cases are not particularly democratic, are omitted--similar to the omissions of the sections on democracy.

Economic cooperation generally poses a problem for the administration, because many of the countries that come in for criticism for being undemocratic are important to America's international economic interests, China foremost among them. In the same vein, the strategy states that it will work with the less-than-democratic states of Kazakhstan and Vietnam to develop the market reforms that are a necessary condition for membership in the World Trade Organization. Free trade remains an important norm for the international community, and the administration is correct to pursue it, despite isolationist grumblings in darker corners of the political spectrum. Nevertheless, the hortatory nature of the strategy--asserting that "economic freedom ... reinforces political freedom", even as it calls for cooperation with states that for years have denied political freedom while opening their economies--sends conflicting signals about the administration's intentions and priorities, and undermines the strength and importance of its message.

Transformation and Implementation

TRANSFORMATION is currently Washington s favorite word. Even as the Pentagon continues its attempt to transform itself, NATO is also "transforming itself', according to the NSS, which also announces the administration's intention to undertake "transformational diplomacy." Overuse of the term renders it meaningless, even as the intentions that it represents are important and should be implemented.

Implementation is, in fact, the strategy's greatest weakness. The latter portion of the document is a tour d'horizon of the administration's good intentions around the globe. But strategy is as much about the "how" as about the "what", and on the former, the document is woefully lacking in details. How will Washington go about "deepening key relationships with Canada and Mexico"? How will it promote "economic development and the expansion of democratic, effective governance" in Africa? How specifically will the United States support "the efforts of reformers" in the Middle East? How will the administration "try to persuade the Russian government to move forward, not backward, along freedom's path"? The reader is left to wonder.

Ultimately, the NSS suffers from the malady that afflicts all documents of its kind, because the details of what it intends to with the means available to it-the essence of strategy--must invariably be kept confidential. Yet as a statement of policy, it is prone to creating unreasonable expectations that are the product of the well-meaning but superficial language that is the consequence of a consensus document. In fact, it breaks little new ground, and its most important contribution is a negative one: In no longer emphasizing elections as the key metric for democratic progress, it comes to terms with reality. But that is not a strategy; it is just common sense.

1 See, for example, Edward Mansfield and Jack Snyder, "Prone to Violence: The Paradox of the Democratic Peace", The National Interest (Winter 2005/06); and Irving Louis Horowitz, "The Struggle for Democracy", The National Interest (Spring 2006).

Dov S. Zakheim was undersecretary of defense (comptroller) and the Defense Department's chief financial officer from 2001 to 2004. He is a member of the Board of the Nixon Center.

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