Vol. 5 Num 289 Sun. March 20, 2005  

US keeps pre-emptive strike strategy intact

The Pentagon said on Friday it will now include allies in top-secret US defence strategy sessions, but stressed that Washington could still launch unilateral, preemptive strikes to protect itself.

The invitation to Britain and other countries to this year's previously closed Quadrennial Defence Review meetings at the Pentagon is to foster cooperation in the US war on terrorism, Undersecretary of Defence Douglas Feith said.

But pressed on whether the Bush administration might soften its preemptive strike strategy to defend the country, Feith said at a news conference that the country would still go it alone if necessary.

"The president has the obligation to protect the country. And I don't think that there's anything in our Constitution that says that the president should not protect the country unless he gets some non-Americans' participation or approval of that," he said.

Feith, as other administration officials have done in response to criticism about the invasion of Iraq, said that "it was just wrong" to charge that the strategy was a departure from long-held rights of any country to protect itself.

President Bush and other top administration officials, stung by bitter criticism and continued opposition by France, Germany and other allies to the US invasion of Iraq, have moved in recent weeks to patch up the trans-Atlantic rift. Feith spoke as he released unclassified annual reports on US defence and military strategies. The reports highlighted the need for better intelligence and planning for unexpected post-Cold War challenges.

"We want to be able to work with our allies," he said, confirming a New York Times report that Britain and other countries will be invited to take part in talks on the QDR, which will be issued early next year and will determine how US forces are built, equipped and deployed to meet the national defence strategy.

Feith did not name the countries that might take part.

"We are interested in getting participation in the QDR from other countries and from other government agencies. In the past, the QDR tended to be a Defence Department project, and had been pretty tightly controlled within the Defence Department," he told reporters.