A Citizen's Response to the National Security Strategy of the United States of America(A)
HE NEW NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY published by the White House in September 2002, if carried out, would amount to a radical revision of the political character of our nation. Its central and most significant statement is this:
While the United States will constantly strive to enlist the support of the international community, we will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self defense by acting preemptively against such terrorists… (p. 6)
A democratic citizen must deal here first of all with the question, Who is this “we”? It is not the “we” of the Declaration of Independence, which referred to a small group of signatories bound by the conviction that “governments [derive] their just powers from the consent of the governed.” And it is not the “we” of the Constitution, which refers to “the people [my emphasis] of the United States.”
This “we” of the new strategy can refer only to the president. It is a royal “we”. A head of state, preparing to act alone in starting a preemptive war, will need to justify his intention by secret information, and will need to plan in secret and execute his plan without forewarning. The idea of a government acting alone in preemptive war is inherently undemocratic, for it does not require or even permit the president to obtain the consent of the governed. As a policy, this new strategy depends on the acquiescence of a public kept fearful and ignorant, subject to manipulation by the executive power, and on the compliance of an intimidated and office dependent legislature. To the extent that a government is secret, it cannot be democratic or its people free. By this new doctrine, the president alone may start a war against any nation at any time, and with no more forewarning than preceded the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
Full Essay can be found at the Orion web site.