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Bush outlines first-strike doctrine

'We will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary'

From John King
CNN Washington Bureau

Congressional leaders met with President Bush at the White House on Thursday to discuss Iraq.
Congressional leaders met with President Bush at the White House on Thursday to discuss Iraq.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Bush administration released a report Friday outlining an aggressive national security policy that says the United States must adapt its forces and planning toward favoring pre-emptive action against terrorist groups and hostile states that possess or are developing weapons of mass destruction.

The 33-page report, mandated by Congress, reflects many of the policy arguments that have emerged since last year's terrorist attacks and are front-and-center as the Bush White House argues in favor of an aggressive policy of confrontation with Iraq.

The debate over how and when the United States should use military force has been evolving since the Cold War ended more than a decade ago.

It has gained prominence and urgency as Bush pursues a war on terrorism on two fronts: pursuit of a group accused of attacking the United States - al Qaeda - and contemplation of a military strike against Iraq. The sovereign state has not been tied to any terrorist attack, but the administration has declared it is pursuing weapons of mass destruction.

The document, titled "The National Security Strategy for the United States of America" says the United States would prefer to act within international bodies and with international allies. But it also is blunt, saying, "We will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting pre-emptively."

In addition, it says administration policy envisions perhaps "compelling states" to stop actions the White House considers to be assistance to terrorists.

The report, which was required by law, has been in the works for months. It makes clear that the Bush administration has no plan to cede the military superiority the United States has built up since the collapse of the Soviet Union. "Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military buildup in hopes of surpassing or equaling the power of the United States," it says.

In a statement, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said:

"This strategy states that the safety and security of America is the first and fundamental commitment of our government. America must always stand for and protect the universal values on which it was founded. To this end, President Bush makes clear that the United States will use its position of strength and influence in the world to defend, preserve and extend the peace."

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