New US National Security Strategy

By Ali Younes – Washington, D.C.

The Obama administration released its National Security Strategy Thursday (May 27) which is consistent with president Obama’s approach on issues of international cooperation, terrorism, and nuclear policy. The document is largely an internationalist approach by an internationalist president who seeks cooperation with the world’s economic powers and international institutions in order to ensure continuity of American economic prosperity and its position as the world’s only superpower.

On the issue of terrorism the document did not make any significant changes from those of the Bush administration. Terrorism is still dealt with as an issue of “war” as oppose to “criminal” matter.  Obama’s terrorism policies are a continuation of the same policies under Bush; that said, however, the new strategy no longer uses the words “Islam” or “Jihad” in the same sentences as “terrorism, so as to deny terrorist groups the claim that the United States is at war with all Muslims or with Islam. This is also meant to prevent the flourishing of smaller local extremist groups anywhere in the world from joining Al Qaida in its global “Jihad” by re-defining the US battle against one specific organization and not its conceptual underpinnings.

From the outset, this is significant; the document reads: “the United States is not at war with Islam” and mentioned that the US is battling Al Qaida specifically “the US is waging a global campaign against Al Qaida and its terrorist affiliates”.

The change in terminology is important but it is largely symbolic because the Obama administration terrorism policies are largely a continuation of Bush terrorism policies minus words like “jihadists” extremist Islam” that, according to this administration were empowering groups like Al Qaida by making the United States look like a country at war “or waging a crusade” against Islam itself.

Despite using the term “global campaign” in the document to refer to the war against Al Qaida in one place, and using “we are at war with a specific network, Al Qaida, and its terrorist affiliates” in another, this is only a minor change from the Bush approach.

The term “War” is a legal term; the Bush administration declared that the United States is at “war with Al Qaida” same as this administration; in so doing, this declaratory policy gives the president extraordinary “war powers” as a wartime president. Wartime powers enable the president to override the Congress and the Constitution of the United States as practiced from Abraham Lincoln until George .W. Bush, who, as a “wartime president” invaded both Iraq and Afghanistan under the nose of a terrified congress.

Also, as a wartime president, Bush was able to cow congress into silence and complacency when kidnapping foreign persons in foreign countries, surveillance against American citizens without court warrants, imprisoning American citizens without legal charges, the Rendition program (also practiced under Clinton) and establishing secret prisons in foreign countries to extract confessions through torture. (Several Arab countries were shamelessly participating in this program).

International law was also violated by President Bush when dealing with US-held detainees as enemy combatants depriving them, therefore, of Geneva Conventions protocols protections. 

Under Obama these practices continued to be practiced with only minor cosmetic changes if any at all such as authorizing the CIA to kill or assassinate Anwar Al Awlaki, an American citizen of Yemeni origins who is affiliated with Al Qaida in Yemen.

Despite Obama’s promises to close Guantanamo Bay prison, it is still holds its inmates, some indefinitely and the administration is expanding the Bagram prison, in Afghanistan, which will be outside the jurisdiction  of US laws and international laws as well. 

Overall, the document, emphasized a “soft power “approach to international relations and broke with Bush’s neoconic grand designs to change the world in the US image.

– Ali Younes is a writer and political analyst based in Washington D.C. He contributed this article to He can be reached at:

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