NATO Unease Over Bush 'No-Warning' Attack Plans

  • From: "Muslim-News" <editor_@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Fri, 14 Jun 2002 09:46:02 +0100

PRESIDENT BUSH is preparing to present to Congress his new
“strike-first” policy against terrorists and rogue states armed with
weapons of mass destruction, in a radical shift in strategy that could
cause alarm among America’s NATO allies. 
Under the President’s expected security change, the United States would
reserve the right to launch “nowarning” pre-emptive action against
terrorist states or groups suspected of plotting to use weapons of mass
destruction against American targets. 

Dick Cheney, the US Vice-President, gave warning in a speech: “We have
enemies with nothing to defend. A group like al-Qaeda cannot be deterred
or placated or reasoned with at a conference table.” He said that grave
threats were “accumulating” against the United States. 

“Inaction will only bring them closer. We will not wait until it is too

Ari Fleischer, the White House press secretary, said yesterday that the
document outlining the new strategy, drawn up by the National Security
Council, would be released to Congress and to the public in the early

The Pentagon is in the process of developing a “Joint Stealth Task
Force”, consisting of special operations troops, radar-evading bombers
and ballistic-missile submarines converted to carry troops and fire
conventionally armed cruise missiles, for mounting preemptive raids,
according to The Washington Post. 

NATO has developed its own “strategic concept” for dealing with future
threats, including international terrorism, but the language does not
mention preemptive action. 

Last week, when asked if he could support such a change in strategy,
Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, the NATO Secretary-General, said that the
alliance was a defensive organization, adding: “We do not go looking for
problems to solve.” 

Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defense Secretary, countered by saying that it
was difficult to distinguish between offensive and defensive. The
American campaign in Afghanistan, he said, was action take in
self-defense against the al-Qaeda terrorists who had attacked the World
Trade Center and Pentagon on September 11. 

NATO sources said that although Lord Robertson had appeared to rule out
preemptive action by NATO, the circumstances would be very different if
the United States or another alliance country was facing an imminent
attack. “We hope we won’t need to have a big debate on this issue,” one
NATO diplomat said. 

The sources said there were no plans at present to alter the wording of
the alliance’s Strategic Concept, agreed at NATO’s last summit, which
was in Washington in 1999. 

NATO leaders are next due to hold a summit in Prague in November and the
US may put pressure on the rest of the alliance to update the text of
the Strategic Concept to take into account the new circumstances after
the September 11 attacks. If the wording is not changed, it might be
difficult for the US to appeal for NATO support if the White House
decided to take preemptive action against a terrorist state. 

Yesterday a senior US official was quoted in The Washington Post as
saying that the new “National Security Strategy” would include for the
first time “preemption” and “defensive intervention” as options for
striking at rogue states or terrorist organizations suspected of
plotting to use weapons of mass destruction against America. 

Mr Bush gave the clearest indication of this dramatic change in policy
in a speech ten days ago. It would be a radical departure from America’s
previous strategy of “deterrence and containment”. 

The American official said: “Since September 11, the nature of the enemy
has changed, the nature of the threat has changed and so the response
has to change.” 

NATO diplomatic sources said that the issue was likely to provoke a
“hell of a debate” in the alliance. One diplomat questioned whether
preemptive action would be justified if a potential enemy acquired
weapons of mass destruction or only when it was clear that the enemy had
the intention of using them. 

However, the sources said that if there was unquestionable Intelligence
giving warning of an imminent nuclear, chemical or biological attack by
a terrorist state or organization, the US or any other country in NATO
should have the right to act first in self-defense. The sources said
that NATO’s Strategic Concept did not preclude preemptive action, even
if it did not specifically authorize it. It would be a matter of
interpretation, one diplomat said. 

Source:  Times of London

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