Use of Force
Military force, at times, may be necessary to defend our country and allies or to preserve broader peace and security, including by protecting civilians facing a grave humanitarian crisis. We will draw on diplomacy, development, and international norms and institutions to help resolve disagreements, prevent conflict, and maintain peace, mitigating where possible the need for the use of force. This means credibly underwriting U.S. defense commitments with tailored approaches to deterrence and ensuring the U.S. military continues to have the necessary capabilities across all domains—land, air, sea, space, and cyber. It also includes helping our allies and partners build capacity to fulfill their responsibilities to contribute to regional and global security.
While the use of force is sometimes necessary, we will exhaust other options before war whenever we can, and carefully weigh the costs and risks of action against the costs and risks of inaction. When force is necessary, we will continue to do so in a way that reflects our values and strengthens our legitimacy, and we will seek broad international support, working with such institutions as NATO and the U.N. Security Council.
The United States must reserve the right to act unilaterally if necessary to defend our nation and our interests, yet we will also seek to adhere to standards that govern the use of force. Doing so strengthens those who act in line with international standards, while isolating and weakening those who do not. We will also outline a clear mandate and specific objectives and thoroughly consider the consequences —intended and unintended—of our actions. And the United States will take care when sending the men and women of our Armed Forces into harm’s way to ensure they have the leadership, training, and equipment they require to accomplish their mission.
Reverse the Spread of Nuclear and Biological Weapons and Secure Nuclear Materials
The American people face no greater or more urgent danger than a terrorist attack with a nuclear weapon. And international peace and security is threatened by proliferation that could lead to a nuclear exchange. Indeed, since the end of the Cold War, the risk of a nuclear attack has increased. Excessive Cold War stockpiles remain. More nations have acquired nuclear weapons. Testing has continued. Black markets trade in nuclear secrets and materials. Terrorists are determined to buy, build, or steal a nuclear weapon. Our efforts to contain these dangers are centered in a global nonproliferation regime that has frayed as more people and nations break the rules.
That is why reversing the spread of nuclear weapons is a top priority. Success depends upon broad consensus and concerted action, we will move forward strategically on a number of fronts through our example, our partnerships, and a reinvigorated international regime. The United States will: