Week In News: National Security, Online Privacy

President Obama laid out his security objectives Saturday in a speech at West Point — the same place George W. Bush introduced the Bush Doctrine eight years earlier. James Fallows of The Atlantic magazine reviews Obama's plans and the week's other big stories with host Guy Raz.

GUY RAZ, host:

We're back with ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Guy Raz.

President BARACK OBAMA: America has not succeeded by stepping out of the currents of cooperation. We have succeeded by steering those currents in the direction of liberty and justice. So nations thrive by meeting their responsibilities and face consequences when they don't.

RAZ: That's President Obama at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point earlier today. He was outlining a new national security strategy that emphasizes diplomacy and alliances.

Our friend James Fallows, national correspondent for The Atlantic is here to give us some context.

Jim, hi.

Mr. JAMES FALLOWS (News Analyst, The Atlantic): Nice to talk to you again, Guy.

RAZ: Now, Jim, I'm already reading analyses of the speech and claims that President Obama pointedly repudiated the strategy of his predecessor, George W. Bush. But I wonder whether historians will actually, you know, look at the speech and say that was the turning point for American security strategy.

Mr. FALLOWS: I think yes, but in a sense. Certainly, rhetorically and conceptually, this couldn't be more different from the speech that President George W. Bush gave in the same venue eight years ago when he was propounding his doctrine of preemptive war, which led to the invasion of Iraq.

But actually, what struck me about the speech was its continuity with some other parts of American diplomatic policy, and I mean in the sort of immediate sense that Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has been building up to this kind of approach in an extraordinary series of speeches over the past year.

But when I read the Obama speech today, the first speech I thought of and the one I went back to read was President Eisenhower's farewell address to the nation in January 1961, almost 50 years ago. That's a speech that's famous for his warnings about the effect of the military industrial complex.

RAZ: Right.

Mr. FALLOWS: But really, what he's saying is the same message that President Obama was saying today that a combination of economic strength, moral leadership, diplomatic networks and, of course, military power is the way America can advance its interest in the world.

RAZ: Jim, moving on to another area related to diplomacy and security. North Korea, U.S. intelligence agencies are now saying that North Korea's leader, Kim Jong-il, personally authorized that deadly attack on a South Korean warship about two months ago. They are also saying that they believe he did it to help secure the succession of his youngest son. Can you explain how those things are related?

Mr. FALLOWS: I don't think anybody can fully or completely explain what's going on in North Korea. Now I remember very clearly an interview that Bill Clinton gave and he was talking about one of the North Korean crises. And he said what makes this regime and this state unique is it's the only state in the world whose power over the world is wholly negative. Really, the only way it can get attention is to make trouble elsewhere.

And the way in which this might fit into the logic of North Korean succession is that Kim Jong-il and his father, Kim Il-sung, the way they present themselves as the saviors of the nation is standing up against the U.S. in particular and its alleged lackies in South Korea. And so, if he's now preparing for the succession to his son, Kim Jong-un, is the way of reminding the populace of the greatness of the Kim family.

RAZ: Finally, Jim, you wrote a long article for The Atlantic on Google recently and I'm wondering what you make of all this controversy, you know, regarding not just Google, but Facebook and other websites in terms of privacy issues, you know, how much information they are passing along to advertisers about us.

Mr. FALLOWS: Well, for the last decade, when we've had political arguments about the effect of the Internet, they've mainly been about state control and censorship and firewalls and all the rest. I think the next generation of political and cultural and moral arguments will concern privacy.

From a technological point of view, you know, devices are more and more aware of where we are at all times. Our cell phones always know where we are. And from a commercial point of view, the business model of Google and Facebook and many of their competitors is to collect as much information about the public as they can so as to more precisely target the advertisements they want to deliver.

The way in which this will stay within what Eric Schmidt, the CEO of Google, has called the limits of creepiness will be an ongoing matter of commercial ethics and I'm sure legislation around the world.

RAZ: And, Jim, we're going to be hearing more about Facebook and privacy on this program, ALL THINGS CONSIDERED, tomorrow. So, tune in.

Mr. FALLOWS: I will certainly do so.

RAZ: That's James Fallows. He's national correspondent for The Atlantic. He joins us on this programs most Saturdays.

Jim, thanks so much.

Mr. FALLOWS: My pleasure, Guy. Thank you.

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