2003-03-22 / Community

Meeks: War Will Make Americans Less Safe

Meeks: War Will Make Americans Less Safe

Congressman Gregory W. Meeks, of the Sixth Congressional District, which includes much of the east end of Rockaway, joined approximately 15 other members of Congress in a press conference on the Bush Administra-tion’s national security strategy based on preemptive military strikes.  Meeks issued the following statement" "With so much focus on a potential war against Iraq, we as legislators and the American people can’t lose sight of this administration’s underlying thinking and rationale for such a war. Iraq is a test case for applying a national security strategy based on a doctrine of global military dominance and the principle of preemption.

"I’m certain that all of us who oppose this doctrine, stand in strong support of the brave men and women in our armed services and the sacrifices being made by their families. In addition, I believe all of us recognize that international law does recognize the right of any sovereign nation to take military action to defend itself against an imminent threat of attack.

"However the preemptive doctrine of the Bush Administration, claiming the right to unilaterally strike anyone, anywhere and anytime we feel someone has the capability to be a potential threat, is inconsistent with international law. More importantly, the men and women in our armed services took an oath to defend America, not to be a tool of global military dominance.   I have three primary comments regarding the Bush Administration’s new national security strategy.

The preemption strategy was presented as a new policy approach to respond to new threats posed to America in the new post September 11 world. However, many of the elements of the strategy are actually old ideas of using preemptive military force found in the 1992 Defense Planning Guide. A document authored by current Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, who served as Under Secretary of Defense for Policy in the first Bush Administration. Why is the Bush Administration repackaging old ideas which were rejected, as a new policy approach to respond to new threats?

All of us have noticed the Bush Administration’s apparent decision not to apply the preemptive strike doctrine to North Korea. It seems that preemptive strikes are only considered against those who don’t have the capability (like Iraq) to seriously threaten us with a military response. However, this doctrine coupled with the Bush Administration’s hostility towards multilateral non-proliferation efforts, (including our rejection of adding an inspection regime to the global Biological Weapons Convention), gives other states an incentive to either acquire or speed up the development of weapons programs as a deterrent to a US preemptive attack. This will not lead to greater international stability or enhance the security of Americans at home and abroad.

In the 21st century, the world faces numerous challenges to peace and security which are related to issues of structural poverty (hunger and disease), failed states, and dis-functional regions like the Middle East and Latin America.  None of the above challenges can be effectively addressed by unilaterally using our military power in preemptive wars. Such actions will not only exacerbate those problems, they put at risk the cooperation of others which has proved so successful in confronting known terrorist threats from Al Qaeda.

"In closing, I believe that the preemption doctrine represents one of the most serious threats to the very institutions which form the basis of international peace and security in the 21st century. If other nations adopt this rationale, substituting the use of preemptive military action for negotiations to resolve conflicts, it will cause irreparable damage to the norms and rules of international relations which help ensure a degree of global order.  

"Americans must ask themselves what kind of world  they want their children to grow up in? A world where Americans are respected or one where popular anti-American sentiment grows throughout the world? Some in the Bush Administration believe that the United States must not only be more powerful then others or the most powerful in the world, we must be absolutely powerful. However, such thinking fails to recognize the global imbalances and insecurities that would be produced by such thinking in today’s inter-dependent world.

"If America uses its power to preemptively strike others, then the American people must understand it will weaken one of the greatest sources of America’s power, the moral legitimacy of how and when we use our military strength. Not only does a national security doctrine of preemption indicate a dangerous devaluation of diplomacy as an instrument of American statecraft. I believe it is a disservice for the strongest nation in the world to adopt such a policy, because it represents a policy of fear and weakness. We can use our strength to provide leadership in the world via cooperation, or via military dominance. The latter may extend our power, but it will make Americans less secure in the world."


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