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Thursday, March 24, 2005

2002 Transcripts: Luti at the Fletcher Conference on National Security Strategy and Policy

2002 Transcripts: "Transcript

Session 2
Strategic Responses to New Security Challenges

“An Emerging Bush Doctrine: Preemption to the Forefront”

Dr. William J. Luti, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Special Plans and Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs


Harmon: I’m delighted to be with you this afternoon. My name is Chris Harmon. I am from Marine Corps University. And our panel, this first of the afternoon is on “Strategic Responses to New Security Challenges.” That is always a good subject, especially now so quickly after the release of the Bush Administration’s new and much awaited National Security Strategy. Now our speakers are numerous and an impressive lot. And for that reason I am going to forego any comments I might make and move immediately to our first speaker.

The line-up is a little different than recorded on your program, be it original and updated. And that is because there are several Pentagon appointments that require our gents to move beyond this location after the panel. So we are going to begin with William Luti. He is going to discuss an emerging Bush doctrine of preemption. He is one of two Fletcher graduates who will be speaking to you this afternoon.

Apart from his year, 1990 degrees, in Law and Diplomacy and International Relations, William J. Luti also took another degree, a Masters from the Naval War College in National Security and Strategic Studies. Dr. Luti has been a Congressional Fellow at the Office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives. He has been also an adviser to Vice President Cheney.
It is not exactly an afterthought to say that Dr. Luti is a Naval flight officer with the rank of Captain. He has flown or held command in more than a few of the nation’s more recent crises including Dessert Storm. And from ’97 to ’98, William Luti was commanding officer of the U.S.S. Guam. Today, he is with us as Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs. Dr. Luti.

Luti: Thank you very much Chris for that kind introduction. What I would like to say, first of all, is thank you for inviting me. It is always good to see my friends from the Fletcher School, Richard Shultz, Bob Pfaltzgraff, Jackie Davis. It is always a delight to see you. It is also an honor to follow the Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz who gave a marvelous luncheon address today.

And also, it is an honor for me to stand before you today and discuss an important topic such as our national defense. What I would like to do is spend about 10 minutes and describe how we got to where we are today with our national security strategy, how and why we treat anticipatory self-defense with great caution, and all placed in the context of the new threats posed by terrorist networks and states that sponsor them.

But first, let me describe what has changed in the world that we live in today. And that world changed on September 11th, 2001, when terrorists attacked the United States murdering 3 thousand American men, women, and children. We are still a very long way from understanding the long-term effects of 9/11. But one thing is very clear. We are vulnerable. We have lost the insulation and safety that we enjoyed since the founding of our nation. In and age of globalism, easy transportation, instant bank transfers, and Internet communications, we remain at risk from those who would do us irreparable harm. Outlaw regimes and terrorist groups pursuing weapons of mass destruction are dangers we simple cannot ignore. In September, President Bush unveiled the National Security Strategy of the United States. And it is constructed on three pillars.


First, we will defend the peace by opposing and preventing violence by terrorist and outlaw regimes. Second, we will preserve the peace by fostering an era of good relations among the world’s great powers. And third, we will extend the peace by seeking to extend the benefits of freedom and prosperity across the globe. Now built into this first pillar, defending the peace, is the not-so-new doctrine of anticipatory self-defense.

And I believe that it is important to point out that anticipatory self-defense is more than just preemption. Our vision is to create a balance of power that favors freedom. And as the President says in his cover letter to the Strategy, we seek to create conditions in which all nations and societies can choose for themselves the rewards and challenges of political and economic liberty.
In short, our vision combines moral clarity with extreme vigilance. We seek peace with freedom-loving countries and we hold tyrannical regime accountable for their actions and those of any proxy terrorist groups they host or support. Now before I say more about what we mean by anticipatory self-defense, I want to say a little bit about the evolution of the National Security Strategy over the past year. In other words, how did we get where we are today? Well, as Abraham Lincoln once admonished, “The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves.” So, too, on September 20th, 2001, the President began a series of remarkable speeches in which he wisely challenged us to disenthrall ourselves from the outmoded rules, procedures and techniques of the past and to begin to think and act anew.

He addressed the American people before a joint session of Congress and clearly articulated that the goal of terrorism is the destruction of democracy, liberty, and freedom. He said, and I quote, “On September 11th, enemies of freedom committed an act of war against the country. Americans have known the casualties of war but not at the center of a great city on a peaceful morning.”

“Americans have known surprise attacks, but never before on thousands of civilians. All of this was brought upon us in a single day. And night fell on a different world, a world where freedom itself is under attack.” Now, outlining the American response, the President was clear that the United States would fight to defend liberty and uphold freedom. Our actions would neither be limited to a single terrorist group, nor single terrorist safe haven.
He said, “Our war on terror begins with Al Qaeda but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist groups of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated.” On January 29th, in his State of the Union address, the President said, “I will not stand by as peril draws closer and closer. The United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.”

And on June 1 at West Point, the President addressed the next generation of those on the front lines of our country’s defense. There he explained why cold doctrines of deterrence and containment were no longer valid. He said, “New threats require new thinking. Deterrence, the promise of massive retaliation against nations means nothing against shadowy terrorist networks with no nation or citizens to defend. Containment is not possible when unbalanced dictators, with weapons of mass destruction can deliver those weapons on missiles or secretly provide them to terrorist allies.”

The defense of the United States and its nearly 300 million citizens cannot be predicated on the insincere words of dictators alone. Speaking for the cadets, the President said, “We cannot put our faith in the world of tyrants who solemnly sign nonproliferation treaties and then systematically break them. If we wait for the threats to fully materialize we will have waited too long.”
Indeed in a new world and dangerous world, where enemies grant safe haven to terrorists and where terrorists aim not to kill just five or 10 but 500 or 10 thousand, the United States can no longer afford to absorb the first blow. The Fletcher School’s own Michael Glennon has aptly noted that, “Modern weapons of mass destruction make the risk of a terrorist group’s first strike far more devastating than was imaginable at the formation of the U.N.” The United States must be unceasingly vigilant in our defense. As the President said at West Point, “We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge.” Now let me be clear, though, anticipatory self-defense is not about unrestrained use of unilateral military action. It is about heading off threats to liberty and freedom before they emerge.

And speaking before the United Nations General Assembly on the 12th of September of this year, President Bush called for the deliberations to be more than talk and resolutions to be more than wishes. He said, “If the U.N. is to remain relevant and not go the way of the feckless League of Nations, then it must be willing to enforce its own Chapter Seven resolutions.”

President Bush’s speeches over the past year have outlined the need for anticipatory self-defense crystallized in the new National Security Strategy but the concept is not new. As Condoleezza Rice said in a recent speech, “There has never been a moral or legal requirement that a country wait to be attacked before it can address existential threats.” Anticipatory self-defense is consistent with the goal of making the world more secure.

With sufficient warning of 9/11 or any other recent terrorist attacks, is there any doubt that the United States should have the right to act first in the defense of thousands of Americans in the World Trade Center and in the Pentagon or holiday makers in Bali? Anticipatory self-defense means that the United States reserves the right to break up terror networks but also to hold accountable nations that harbor terrorists and the tyrants who encourage them.


On October 5th Babbel(?) and official Iraqi government newspaper published by Saddam’s son and alluded to today by Paul Wolfowitz at his luncheon address, urged the Iraqis to “Strike at U.S. interests wherever they may be.” Iraqi television has shown Saddam urging his nuclear mujahideen(?) to defeat the enemy. So we can no longer turn a deaf ear to the far away threats and incitement.

A few years ago we received similar pronouncement from Osama bin Laden. International law does not require that the United States absorb a nuclear, biological or chemical weapons attack before responding to an imminent threat. The risk of inaction, as Paul Wolfowitz said today, outweighs the risk of action.

Now our intelligence agencies play a very important role in warning us about looming threats. Again, as Michael Glennon has noted, “With modern methods of intelligence collection, such as satellite imagery and communications intercepts, it is now unnecessary to absorb an attack before concluding a lawless regime’s hostile intent.”

Now intelligence alone is not enough to protect us. Often times we have suffered from what we might call failure of imagination. A few years ago a well-known columnist published an essay in which he said, and noted several of these failures of the imagination. For example, three years after the first flight at Kitty Hawk, a well respected scientist at the time declared, “No possible combination of known substances, known forms of machine, and known forms of force, can be united in a practicable machine by which men shall fly long distances through the air.”

In 1922, Franklin Roosevelt said, “It is unlikely that an airplane or a fleet of them could ever successfully sink a fleet of Naval vessels under battle conditions.” In 1945, MIT’s Vanever(?) Bush told the Senate that it would not be feasible “for a very long period of time to develop an inter-continental ballistic missile capable of hitting a city.” He said, “I think we can leave that out of our thinking.”

At the fall of the Soviet Union, we saw just how much we underestimated the Soviet’s biological weapons’ capability. Its scope was nothing short of huge. In the years leading to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, international agencies certified Saddam Hussein in compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Only after a defector escaped from Iraq in 1991, did the world learn that Saddam systematically had put together a nuclear weapons program and was within a few years of building a nuclear weapon.

Just four years ago both Pakistan and India surprised us when they tested nuclear weapons. India is the world’s largest democracy and Pakistan is trying to return to democracy. But in the case of tyrannies like Iraq, we have to ask whether or not we can afford to wait for proof beyond a reasonable doubt, a standard fitting for a western courtroom, not a standard we should apply to terrorists trying to kill Americans in very large numbers.
Now the United States will not treat the powers invested in anticipatory self-defense lightly. Condoleezza Rice has spoken recently and clearly that “It must be treated with great caution.” Earlier this month she told a New York audience that “The numbers of cases in which it might be justified will always be small. It does not give a green light to act first without exhausting other means including diplomacy.”

Preemptive action does not come at the beginning of a long chain of effort. The threat must be very grave and the risks of waiting must far outweigh the risks of action. In other words, before the United States military engages in any act of anticipatory self-defense, our diplomats will seek to ensure our safety through peaceful means. We will consult with our allies in their capitols and in the halls of the U.N. We will monitor the rhetoric of opponents and take their threats seriously.

We’ll especially focus on any statements which indicate that the country or terrorist group hosted within it considers itself at war with the United States. We’ll look at the historical record of a country’s development and use of weapons of mass destruction. We’ll also assess the country’s motive for doing great harm to the United States and our allies. We will not settle for deals based on promises alone but will judge our adversaries on the reality of their actions.

We will not differentiate between a direct attack upon the United States or its citizens and an attack made by terrorist proxy. Any country that provides safe haven, financing or facilities to terrorists who kill Americans will come under close scrutiny. Now, Iraq is one case where the United States is making these judgments. Saddam Hussein has started two wars that killed upwards of one million people.

He has systematically impoverished one of the richest countries on earth in the relentless pursuit of chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles to deliver them. The U.N. has already passed 13 separate resolutions calling for Iraq to abide by her commitments and not obstruct U.N. weapons inspectors. He overtly funds suicide bombers that not only undermine Middle East peace but also taken American lives.

Iraq’s relation with Al Qaeda go back a decade. They have harbored Al Qaeda operatives in Baghdad and provided chemical and biological warfare training to Al Qaeda. An even more potent threat is posed by Saddam’s threat for weapons of mass destruction. And according to the dossier released by the British government, when U.N. inspectors left in 1998, they could not account for 360 tons of chemical agents including one and a half tons of BX nerve gas.

They could not account for growth media capable of producing 85 hundred liters of anthrax. They could not account for 30 thousand artillery shells and other munitions capable of delivering chemical and biological agents. Again, as the President said on 12 September at the U.N. General Assembly, “We know that Saddam Hussein pursued weapons of mass destruction even when the inspectors were in his country. Are we to assume that they stopped when they left?”

The history, the logic and the facts lead one to one conclusion, Saddam Hussein’s regime is a grave and gathering danger. To suggest otherwise is to hope against the evidence. To assume this regime’s good faith is to bet the lives of millions and the peace of the world in a reckless gamble. Now we very much hope the conflict with Iraq can be avoided. But we cannot in good conscience sacrifice our liberty or safety by turning a blind eye to a grave and growing danger.

As the President said in the National Security Strategy, “We must adapt the concept of imminent threat to the capabilities and objectives of today’s adversaries. Rogue states and terrorists do not seek to attack us using conventional means. They know such attacks would fail. Instead, they rely on acts of terror and, potentially, the use of weapons of mass destruction.”
Now we live in a dangerous new world and we cannot turn our backs from it. In this new world with 21st-century dangers, “The purpose of our actions,” the President has said, “will always be to eliminate a specific threat to the United States or our allies and friends. We have to protect the American people from the threats that the new century brings while embracing its opportunities for increased knowledge, freedom, and prosperity. A great nation can do both things.”
Thank you.

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