Obama's New Security Strategy To Stress Cooperation The Obama administration releases its revised National Security Strategy on Thursday. The document is expected to make a significant break from the previous administration, with a focus on America's role in the world and the need to strengthen global alliances.
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Obama's New Security Strategy To Stress Cooperation

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Obama's New Security Strategy To Stress Cooperation

Obama's New Security Strategy To Stress Cooperation

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The White House has spent the last year and a half developing an overarching national security strategy. That document will be released tomorrow.

NPR White House correspondent Ari Shapiro has a preview.

ARI SHAPIRO: The themes of this national security strategy have been gradually emerging ever since President Obama took office. He distilled them in a commencement speech at West Point over the weekend - multilateralism, cooperation, global outreach.

President BARACK OBAMA: We have to shape an international order that can meet the challenges of our generation. We will be steadfast in strengthening those old alliances that have served us so well.

SHAPIRO: It's a clear contrast to the Bush administration philosophy of preventive war and unilateral action. In a speech today at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, White House counterterrorism adviser John Brennan elaborated.

Mr. JOHN BRENNAN (Deputy National Security Adviser, Homeland Security and Counterterrorism): This strategy aims to renew American leadership in the 21st century by rebuilding the fundamental sources of American strength, security, prosperity and influence in the world.

SHAPIRO: Brennan's description of the Obama national security doctrine never explicitly rebuked the Bush administration. But at times, his criticism was strongly implied.

Mr. BRENNAN: Our enemy is not terrorism, because terrorism is but a tactic. Our enemy is not terror, because terror is a state of mind. And as Americans, we refuse to live in fear. Nor do we describe our enemy as jihadists or Islamists, because jihad is a holy struggle, a legitimate tenet of Islam.

SHAPIRO: He said we are at war with al-Qaida and its terrorist affiliates.

Juan Zarate was counterterrorism adviser to President Bush. After the speech, he warns that the administration might be trying too hard to break with the past.

Mr. JUAN ZARATE (Senior Adviser, Transnational Threats Project, Center for Strategic and International Studies): And if we're talking about centrally a war on al-Qaida as our principal counterterrorism goal, then you can't ignore the fact that this is a group that attempts to use theology, the Quran, its influence in Muslim communities around the world, as part of its strength.

SHAPIRO: In some ways, the release of this national security strategy is not just a pivot from one administration to another. Heather Hurlburt of the National Security Network describes it as a pivot within the Obama administration.

Ms. HEATHER HURLBURT (Executive Director, National Security Network): Where they move from dealing with the business of the past to pointing the way forward. And I think that what you heard Brennan doing today was really trying to signal both, this is the progress we've made, you know, looking back on what we inherited, and these are the principles we're going to use to go forward.

SHAPIRO: For the first time, this strategy included a mention of homegrown terrorism. Brennan said al-Qaida wants to change the United States.

Mr. BRENNAN: By turning our great diversity from a source of strength into a source of division, by causing us to undermine the laws and values that have been a source of our strength and our influence throughout the world.

SHAPIRO: That sounded to Matthew Waxman like another swipe at the prior administration. Waxman was legal adviser to the State Department under President Bush.

Professor MATTHEW WAXMAN (Law, Columbia Law School): I do think it's fair criticism, though I would also note that during the Bush years, you saw a significant evolution in United States government legal policy with regard to counterterrorism.

SHAPIRO: Ultimately, any national security policy will include some elements of multilateralism and some aspects of unilateralism. Any president will balance diplomacy and military strength. So, one could characterize this new national security strategy as a change in style over substance.

But Heather Hurlburt of the National Security Network argues style can affect substance.

Ms. HURLBURT: For example, willingness of Russia and China to introduce a Security Council resolution on Iran, some of the numbers that are out today on the dramatic improvement in views of the U.S. worldwide. So there's an actual difference in result to go along with the difference in rhetoric.

SHAPIRO: The full national security strategy comes out tomorrow, when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will give a speech about the global diplomatic implications of the policy.

Ari Shapiro, NPR News, Washington.

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