Bush Reaffirms Strike-First Policy

With the White House in the background, President Bush steps off Marine One as he arrives on the South Lawn on Tuesday, March 14, 2006 in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Undaunted by the difficult war in Iraq, President Bush reaffirmed his strike-first policy against terrorists and enemy nations on Thursday and said Iran may pose the biggest challenge for America.

In a 49-page national security report, the president said diplomacy is the U.S. preference in halting the spread of nuclear and other heinous weapons.

"The president believes that we must remember the clearest lesson of Sept. 11: that the United States of America must confront threats before they fully materialize," national security adviser Stephen Hadley said.

"The president's strategy affirms that the doctrine of preemption remains sound and must remain an integral part of our national security strategy," Hadley said. "If necessary, the strategy states, under longstanding principles of self defense, we do not rule out the use of force before attacks occur, even if uncertainty remains as to the time and place of the enemy's attack."

Titled "National Security Strategy," the report summarizes Mr. Bush's plan for protecting America and directing U.S. relations with other nations. It is an updated version of a report the president issued in 2002.

Read the complete White House report
In the earlier report a year after the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Bush underscored his administration's adoption of a pre-emptive policy, marking the end of a deterrent military strategy that dominated the Cold War.

The latest report makes it clear he hasn't changed his mind, even though no weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq.

"When the consequences of an attack with weapons of mass destruction are potentially so devastating, we cannot afford to stand idly by as grave dangers materialize. ... The place of pre-emption in our national security strategy remains the same," Mr. Bush wrote.

In his remarks, Hadley conceded, "We need better intelligence." Responding to questions about the failure to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Hadley told a Washington audience, "We obviously did not have the intelligence we needed." But he strongly defended the "prudent" use of pre-emptive force despite the failure to uncover any WMD in Iraq, CBS News correspondent Peter Maer reports.

The report had harsh words for Iran. It accused the regime of supporting terrorists, threatening Israel and disrupting democratic reform in Iraq. Mr. Bush said diplomacy to halt Tehran's suspected nuclear weapons work must prevail to avert a conflict.

"This diplomatic effort must succeed if confrontation is to be avoided," Mr. Bush said.

He did not say what would happen if international negotiations with Iran failed. The Bush administration currently is working to persuade Russia and China to support a proposed U.N. Security Council resolution demanding that Iran end its uranium enrichment program.

Hadley said Iran was "finally beginning to listen" to international criticism of its behavior. Hadley said Iran has to understand that the situation is "not just an issue between them and the 'great Satan,' the U.S." but between Iran and the international community.