Post-Election Strategic Priorities for the United States
Lincoln P. Bloomfield, Jr., Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs
Remarks at the Chatham House Conference on Matching Capabilities to Commitments
Can Europe Deliver?
London, United Kingdom
December 6, 2004
Lord Roper, thank you for the introduction, and for the opportunity to join your deliberations on what lies ahead for
the U.K., Europe and the United States in their pursuit of security.
From an American perspective, this conference is perfectly timed during the brief moment of policy introspection
between the first and second administrations of President George Bush.
I have been invited to address post-election strategic priorities of the United States. You will, I hope, understand
that these priorities will be more explicit and clear once President Bush's second term cabinet is confirmed and in
So what follows are the thoughts of one official who has lived through the last four years of momentous events forcing
a major evolution in U.S. security policy, on the basis of which I will venture to spell out strategic challenges facing
the United States.
President Bush and his administration came to office in 2001 with a number of course adjustments in mind, relative to
the previous administration.
There was a strong interest in advancing the missile defense program, increasing budget support to our military, and
addressing forthrightly the burden of Iraq's continued non-compliance with UN resolutions, as well as the extremist
activities by other countries and non-state actors.
Of course, the focus on security became a national preoccupation in the U.S., on a scale previously unknown to my
generation, after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Looking back at the intervening three years, Americans can
point to tremendous, even historic strides in the scope of cooperation with our British allies and with Europe more
* First, we remember the immediate and generous offers of help from Europe to the emergency efforts in New York
following the collapse of the Twin Towers. We will not soon forget that NATO invoked Article 5, and our allies united in
pledging support for America's actions to secure itself against the terrorists in Afghanistan who had attacked our
country. Afghanistan today is NATO's top priority.
* Second, one has to cite the partnership on the battlefield between U.S. and U.K. forces, most notably in Iraq. The
U.S. and U.K. each took on lead roles in Afghanistan, including the combat mission of Operation Enduring Freedom, the
stabilization mission of the International Security Assistance Force, and various crucial rehabilitation and training
tasks for the new Afghan Government. The U.S.-U.K. political-military partnership has produced today the closest and
most capable bilateral military alliance in the world. U.S. military cooperation in the field with other European allies
has generated many other successes.
* Third, perhaps reflecting the momentum of change spurred by these historic circumstances, NATO as an institution has
successfully adapted and evolved in a very short time toward a better structured, more active, more relevant and more
productive alliance. NATO expansion has gone very well. The process of reforming the NATO command structure moved
smoothly and with good results. The new Allied Command Transformation in Norfolk, Virginia is, in my view, a key to
ensuring that the NATO alliance will remain the essential guardian of our mutual security interests against any future
The list of positive indicators could go on, but it should be enough to say here that our security foundation is in
some ways strengthened, and in any case not broken.
But permit me to review another undercurrent that has shaped America's relations with Great Britain and with Europe
generally these past four years. The Bush Administration brought to office a belief in the in the importance of
clarifying and facing up to the implications of certain multilateral agreements, the negotiation of whose terms during
the 1990s had strayed in important respects from what even centrist policymakers and the majority in Congress could be
expected to accept as firm U.S. treaty obligations.
For example, the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court, and the Ottawa Convention banning all
anti-personnel landmines, had both reached final form in the late 1990s with the moral encouragement of the Clinton
Administration, despite their embodying final terms that President Clinton recognized that the Senate would never accept
as U.S. obligations.
I think it is worth explaining why the Bush Administration took the hard step of delineating these points of difference
over the Rome Statute, the Ottawa Convention, and some other multilateral agreements. While one hopes it was well
understood around the world that the U.S. cares a great deal about justice for war crimes, and safety for innocent
civilians against the hazards of live landmines left in the ground after a conflict, the editorial and public reaction
to these clarified U.S. positions, in Europe and even within the United States, included a perception that unilateralism
was the preferred American course, and that the new administration could not be relied upon to support key goals shared
by many countries around the world.
I think this reaction got it wrong, notwithstanding the odd voice in the administration's policy ranks that seemed to
confirm it. What was truly different about the philosophy of the Bush Administration, compared to its predecessor, was a
more deep-seated conviction that when the United States signs a treaty, it must fulfill its obligations reliably.
Just five days ago in Canada, President Bush captured both the promise and the pitfall of such negotiated approaches to
international concerns when he said that "the success of multilateralism is measured not merely by following a process,
but by achieving results. My country is determined to work as far as possible within the framework of international
organizations, and we're hoping that other nations will work with us to make those institutions more relevant and more
effective in meeting the unique threats of our time."
In each instance where President Bush braved the protests and stood up for terms of international commitment that
differed from the majority of nations, he did so on the basis of sober calculations about realities in the world, not
political or ideological agendas.
He did so because the price of a multilateral approach that fails to advance security is higher than the political cost
of criticism for declining to lend support to that approach.
This is true whether we are talking about failure to fulfill the purpose and intent of UN Security Council Resolutions
on Iraq, removing a modern self-defensive landmine munition from our arsenal without a substitute, subjecting Americans
and soldiers to untested and unregulated judicial treatment by a tribunal whose jurisdiction we have not accepted, or
maintaining an Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty whose termination by the U.S. in the face of much international political
resistance, quickly led to the largest reciprocal nuclear stand-down between the U.S. and Russia in a generation.
I mention these admittedly delicate issues to make a point: our friends in Europe are likely to see transatlantic
security policy differences with Washington continue to be portrayed in the European media as evidence of a contrarian
American condition, an affliction of ideological zealotry among Republican politicians that is out of step with the high
principles representing the aspirations of Europe's peoples.
I think this is not only too simple, but wrong. And if this is the expectation, then many in Europe will misread
President Bush's clear intention to reach out, solidify alliance relations, and address our common security challenges
Indeed, I would suggest that in preparing for the next four years of security relations with the United States,
Europeans take a look at the questions that go unasked and unexamined when the accepted explanation of all differences
is American wrong-headedness.
It is appropriate, by way of preface, to point out that Prime Minister Blair and his government have shown a real grasp
of this perspective.
Let's start with Iraq. After more than a decade of a tattered and ineffectual UN sanctions regime, when exactly were
the pilots patrolling the dangerous no-fly zones, and the sailors interdicting oil smugglers in the Gulf, supposed to
stand down? Was a heavy, costly, and predominantly American military posture in the Arabian Peninsula to contain Saddam
Hussein's regime ever going to be relieved of this mission? Was the long list of unmet Security Council obligations to
be considered a satisfactory state of affairs indefinitely?
As President Bush said in Nova Scotia last week, "the objective of the UN and other institutions must be collective
Indeed, as one looks back at the Bush Administration's experience, it is undeniable that the United States is, itself,
taking on an ever-greater role in providing security for itself and others. With the latest expansion of NATO, the
United States is formally committed to come to the mutual defense of over 50 countries in Europe, Asia and our own
western hemisphere never mind the Middle East and Central Asia.
U.S. spending on R, weapons, training, and a high operational tempo of deployed forces including National Guard and reservists, is a high
price, but one Americans are prepared to bear even as it works against our economic recovery, our effort to control
deficit spending, and our plans to invest in social programs. The obvious question in Washington is, 'if we do not
fulfill these security roles, who will?'
In many respects, as I said a moment ago, the U.K. has answered this question rather resoundingly, extending its
military capacity and its political and intellectual support very forthrightly in the face of clear dangers from the
al-Qaeda terrorist network and its ilk.
Others in Europe have similarly taken political risks and sent forces into harm's way, braving real dangers and
suffering losses in Iraq and Afghanistan. So there is a basis in Europe for answering the American demand for credible
responses to undeniable dangers.
The issue is whether transatlantic cooperation is likely to move in a strategically satisfactory direction in the next
America's security priorities for President Bush's second term are not hard to imagine or predict:
* Prevent further terror attacks on the United States;
* Disrupt and defeat the international terror threat; and
* Fulfill other basic commitments to allies and friends around the world.
But here is the part to focus upon: the strategic success of these endeavors will be measured by whether they are
carried out in partnership with, and with strong roles and contributions by, America's allies foremost in Europe.
Why does the U.S. measure success by the amount of shared burden and sacrifice among allies in facing the new security
We do this for two reasons:
First, as I have said, the expenditure of American blood and treasure is high, and we need the help and partnership of
all the countries waging the war on terrorism,
And second, it is unhealthy for the U.S. and other countries to see the world through very different lenses. This
undermines solidarity at the political level.
So let me ask: does it matter to Europeans what Americans see when they look across the Atlantic?
I began my remarks by citing the good news. But I think we all know that European willingness to carry a greater share
of the defense burden has been a question at the heart of alliance politics for a number of years. It was Lord
Robertson's greatest concern as NATO Secretary General.
One noted U.S. academic has summarized mutual alliance perceptions as follows: "until Europeans feel threatened, they
will under-invest in defense and over-complain about Americans. As long as Americans harbor illusions about the
closeness of interests shared with Europeans, they will be angered by the indifference, even contempt, shown by
Europeans toward American security concerns and military sacrifice."
Those of us in policy roles of the allied governments operate from a more optimistic vision that this. We promote very
positive military collaboration in Afghanistan and Iraq. We advance new and better concepts for information sharing and
defense industrial cooperation particularly between the U.S. and U.K. We work well together on many, many issues.
But then we see European policies that give credence, from an American perspective, to the darker, less optimistic
vision of this alliance.
Example one: the U.S., following the advice of European governments a few years back, has pursued bilateral agreements
around the world to ensure that the U.S. Government will have a say before one of our citizens or soldiers is turned
over to the new International Criminal Court.
Nearly 100 countries have signed an agreement with us and most have ratified. Yet the Europeans have held out as a
bloc, warning fellow neighbors not to sign and lobbying against our negotiating effort even outside of Europe.
Example two: the European Union has been contemplating the lifting of its Arms Embargo on China as an apparent gesture
of improving relations. The U.S. has sent briefing teams across Europe to explain the sensitive military balance that
could implicate our own forces in the Taiwan straits.
Separately, Japan has appealed to European governments not to perturb the Pacific Rim security equation. The EU-PRC
Summit is this week.
And so I leave you with a question. It is not enough to speculate on whether President Bush will, in his second term,
be more given to unilateral or multilateral solutions. He is clear in preferring the latter so long as the solutions are
commensurate to the challenges.
No, the more salient question, I submit, is whether Europe will take its full share of ownership of the global problem
manifested by terror and extremism. Will Europe, like the Americans, embrace the necessity of achieving strategic
success, or will it confirm the lesser predictions of skeptics?
Answer that, and you will know what to expect in the coming years of alliance relations.