Prevent Our Enemies from Threatening Us, Our Allies, and Our
Friends with Weapons of Mass Destruction
The gravest danger to freedom lies at
the crossroads of radicalism and technology. When the spread
of chemical and biological and nuclear weapons, along with ballistic
missile technologywhen that occurs, even weak states and
small groups could attain a catastrophic power to strike great
nations. Our enemies have declared this very intention, and have
been caught seeking these terrible weapons. They want the capability
to blackmail us, or to harm us, or to harm our friendsand
we will oppose them with all our power.
West Point, New York
June 1, 2002
The nature of the Cold War threat required the United Stateswith
our allies and friendsto emphasize deterrence of the enemys
use of force, producing a grim strategy of mutual assured destruction.With
the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War, our
security environment has undergone profound transformation.
Having moved from confrontation to cooperation as the hallmark
of our relationship with Russia, the dividends are evident: an
end to the balance of terror that divided us; an historic reduction
in the nuclear arsenals on both sides; and cooperation in areas
such as counterterrorism and missile defense that until recently
But new deadly challenges have emerged from rogue states and terrorists.
None of these contemporary threats rival the sheer destructive
power that was arrayed against us by the Soviet Union. However,
the nature and motivations of these new adversaries, their determination
to obtain destructive powers hitherto available only to the worlds
strongest states, and the greater likelihood that they will use
weapons of mass destruction against us, make todays security
environment more complex and dangerous.
In the 1990s we witnessed the emergence of a small number of rogue
states that, while different in important ways, share a number
of attributes. These states:
- brutalize their own people and squander their national resources
for the personal gain of the rulers;
- display no regard for international law, threaten their neighbors,
and callously violate international treaties to which they are
- are determined to acquire weapons of mass destruction, along
with other advanced military technology, to be used as threats
or offensively to achieve the aggressive designs of these regimes;
- sponsor terrorism around the globe; and
- reject basic human values and hate the United States and everything
for which it stands.
At the time of the Gulf War, we acquired irrefutable proof that
Iraqs designs were not limited to the chemical weapons it
had used against Iran and its own people, but also extended to
the acquisition of nuclear weapons and biological agents. In the
past decade North Korea has become the worlds principal purveyor
of ballistic missiles, and has tested increasingly capable missiles
while developing its own WMD arsenal. Other rogue regimes seek
nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons as well. These states pursuit
of, and global trade in, such weapons has become a looming threat
to all nations.
We must be prepared to stop rogue states and their terrorist clients
before they are able to threaten or use weapons of mass destruction
against the United States and our allies and friends. Our response
must take full advantage of strengthened alliances, the establishment
of new partnerships with former adversaries, innovation in the
use of military forces, modern technologies, including the development
of an effective missile defense system, and increased emphasis
on intelligence collection and analysis.
Our comprehensive strategy to combat WMD includes:
- Proactive counterproliferation efforts. We must deter
and defend against the threat before it is unleashed.We must
ensure that key capabilitiesdetection, active and passive
defenses, and counterforce capabilitiesare integrated into
our defense transformation and our homeland security systems.
Counterproliferation must also be integrated into the doctrine,
training, and equipping of our forces and those of our allies
to ensure that we can prevail in any conflict with WMD-armed
- Strengthened nonproliferation efforts to prevent rogue states
and terrorists from acquiring the materials, technologies,
and expertise necessary for weapons of mass destruction. We
will enhance diplomacy, arms control, multilateral export controls,
and threat reduction assistance that impede states and terrorists
seeking WMD, and when necessary, interdict enabling technologies
and materials.We will continue to build coalitions to support
these efforts, encouraging their increased political and financial
support for nonproliferation and threat reduction programs.
The recent G-8 agreement to commit up to $20 billion to a global
partnership against proliferation marks a major step forward.
- Effective consequence management to respond to the effects
of WMD use, whether by terrorists or hostile states. Minimizing
the effects of WMD use against our people will help deter those
who possess such weapons and dissuade those who seek to acquire
them by persuading enemies that they cannot attain their desired
ends. The United States must also be prepared to respond to
the effects of WMD use against our forces abroad, and to help
friends and allies if they are attacked.
It has taken almost a decade for us to comprehend the true nature
of this new threat. Given the goals of rogue states and terrorists,
the United States can no longer solely rely on a reactive posture
as we have in the past. The inability to deter a potential attacker,
the immediacy of todays threats, and the magnitude of potential
harm that could be caused by our adversaries choice of weapons,
do not permit that option.We cannot let our enemies strike first.
In the Cold War, especially following the Cuban missile crisis,
we faced a generally status quo, risk-averse adversary. Deterrence
was an effective defense. But deterrence based only upon the threat
of retaliation is less likely to work against leaders of rogue
states more willing to take risks, gambling with the lives of their
people, and the wealth of their nations.
- In the Cold War, weapons of mass destruction were considered
weapons of last resort whose use risked the destruction of those
who used them. Today, our enemies see weapons of mass destruction
as weapons of choice. For rogue states these weapons are tools
of intimidation and military aggression against their neighbors.
These weapons may also allow these states to attempt to blackmail
the United States and our allies to prevent us from deterring
or repelling the aggressive behavior of rogue states. Such states
also see these weapons as their best means of overcoming the
conventional superiority of the United States.
- Traditional concepts of deterrence will not work against a
terrorist enemy whose avowed tactics are wanton destruction and
the targeting of innocents; whose so-called soldiers seek martyrdom
in death and whose most potent protection is statelessness. The
overlap between states that sponsor terror and those that pursue
WMD compels us to action.
For centuries, international law recognized that nations need
not suffer an attack before they can lawfully take action to defend
themselves against forces that present an imminent danger of attack.
Legal scholars and international jurists often conditioned the
legitimacy of preemption on the existence of an imminent threatmost
often a visible mobilization of armies, navies, and air forces
preparing to attack.
We must adapt the concept of imminent threat to the capabilities
and objectives of todays 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 destructionweapons that can be
easily concealed, delivered covertly, and used without warning.
The targets of these attacks are our military forces and our civilian
population, in direct violation of one of the principal norms of
the law of warfare. As was demonstrated by the losses on September
11, 2001, mass civilian casualties is the specific objective of
terrorists and these losses would be exponentially more severe
if terrorists acquired and used weapons of mass destruction.
The United States has long maintained the option of preemptive
actions to counter a sufficient threat to our national security.
The greater the threat, the greater is the risk of inaction and
the more compelling the case for taking anticipatory action to
defend ourselves, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and
place of the enemys attack. To forestall or prevent such
hostile acts by our adversaries, the United States will, if necessary,
The United States will not use force in all cases to preempt emerging
threats, nor should nations use preemption as a pretext for aggression.
Yet in an age where the enemies of civilization openly and actively
seek the worlds most destructive technologies, the United
States cannot remain idle while dangers gather. We will always
proceed deliberately, weighing the consequences of our actions.
To support preemptive options, we will:
- build better, more integrated intelligence capabilities to
provide timely, accurate information on threats, wherever they
- coordinate closely with allies to form a common assessment
of the most dangerous threats; and
- continue to transform our military forces to ensure our ability
to conduct rapid and precise operations to achieve decisive results.
The purpose of our actions will always be to eliminate a specific
threat to the United States or our allies and friends. The reasons
for our actions will be clear, the force measured, and the cause
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