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Thread: New National Security Strategy

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default New National Security Strategy

    Well, a preview anyways.

    Obama Offers Strategy Based in Diplomacy
    Peter Baker, NYT

    President Obama previewed a new national security strategy rooted in diplomatic engagement and international alliances on Saturday as he essentially repudiated his predecessor’s emphasis on unilateral American power and the right to wage pre-emptive war. Eight years after President George W. Bush came to the United States Military Academy to set a new security doctrine after the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Obama used the same setting to offer a revised vision vowing no retreat against enemies while seeking “national renewal and global leadership.” “Yes, we are clear-eyed about the shortfalls of our international system,” the president told graduating cadets. “But America has not succeeded by stepping out of the currents of cooperation. We have succeeded by steering those currents in the direction of liberty and justice, so nations thrive by meeting their responsibilities and face consequences when they don’t.”
    I particularly like the highlighted literary prose. In SWC, we've longed discussed the pitfalls of attempting to go against the current. It will be interesting to see the new NSS. I want to know how we will engage when diplomacy fails to deter/minimize non-state actors. Additionally, how will we react to states that isolate or refuse to cooperate with the international community? I suspect it will be a more indirect approach with the military emphasis on FID and CT.

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    Default Mike, the new NSS will indeed be interesting.

    One interesting aspect of the discussion is that in the International Security class I am teaching for AMU, we speculated a week ago on the neture of the new NSS. My initial reading of the WP and NYT commentary is that it will hark back to the Clinton NSS of engagement and enlargement. Obviously,any direct support for preemption (preventive war) will be gone, but questions remain as to whether the option will be retained in an implicit and un/understated way. The other major emphasis in the Bush 43, Clinton, and Reagan NSS was strong support for democracy promotion. Will it be in the Obama NSS? Or will this NSS address the issue in human rights terms while downplaying democracy as did the Carter Administration and the Dukakis candidacy? Or, unlikely, will it tend to ignore these value issues for a Realist stance as did Bush 41? Going out on a minor limb, I think the new NSS will mention democracy but not give it the emphasis that his Republican and Democratic predecessors did.

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    Default

    Hi John,

    Quote Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
    My initial reading of the WP and NYT commentary is that it will hark back to the Clinton NSS of engagement and enlargement.
    Can you explain the enlargement part?

    Going out on a minor limb, I think the new NSS will mention democracy but not give it the emphasis that his Republican and Democratic predecessors did.
    One thing that always struck me as peculiar during the last several NSSs was the universal acceptance of the Democratic Peace Theory (Democracies tend to be less violent so if every state has a democracy then we'll have peace). Democracy is not a panacea, and it is very difficult to establish the ground work for a fully functional democratic gov't. There is no gov't in a box.

    Personally, it is similar to if one's only investment strategy for purchasing stocks is to "buy low, sell high" thinking that all one has to do is buy a bunch of cheap stocks and they'll be rich without cause or concern over what type of business it is, quality of leadership, how well it operates, and future prospects for growth.

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    Council Member Dayuhan's Avatar
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    Default

    It might be a semantic quibble, but to me this is a discussion of policy, not strategy. There's a difference.

    I don't even see a policy here, just a rather vague collection of general objectives. This is not unusual, and we won't really know what the policy is until it's tested. Even then there will be uncertainties: Obama's North Korea policy is likely to favor multilateral engagement, but so did Bush's North Korea policy. We won't know how far all the cooperative rhetoric goes until and unless a policy objective arises that is more important to Obama than it is to his allies.

    A stated preference for cooperation can be an excellent excuse for doimg nothing, and kicking an issue down the road in the hope that someone else will deal with it. That actually worked rather well for Mr. Clinton, though I wouldn't say it worked particularly well for the US...

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    Quote Originally Posted by John T. Fishel View Post
    Obviously,any direct support for preemption (preventive war) will be gone, but questions remain as to whether the option will be retained in an implicit and un/understated way.
    It will be retained. The American people retain the option of electing a President who favors preemption. The opportunity arises in two years and then again every four years thereafter. So long as a President has the power to push for a preemptive/preventive war and so long as the election of such a President is possible, the option exists.

    I agree with Dayuhan - this is a policy document, not a strategic one. No country will look at this document as a predictor of how to interact with the US in the decade to come. They will look at it as an indicator of how they should interact with the current administration.

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    A new national security "strategy" every four-eight years is no strategy at all in my opinion. And I agree with others that these are policy documents or, less charitably, glorified wish lists.
    Supporting "time-limited, scope limited military actions" for 20 years.

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    Council Member Ken White's Avatar
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    Default True. Very true.

    Quote Originally Posted by Entropy View Post
    A new national security "strategy" every four-eight years is no strategy at all in my opinion. And I agree with others that these are policy documents or, less charitably, glorified wish lists.
    In reverse order, agree that a glorified wish list by a dedicated internationalist isn't even a policy document. The the US can do long term policy, however, we do not do it well because those who implement a policy rarely are forward looking and thus fail to lock in their successor -- as G.W. Bush was able to do. Still, long term policy does not equate to strategy...

    That is the reality of the US political model. Electoral change every 2, 4 and 8 years precludes long term strategy. That's been true for 228 years and is unlikely to change in the near future.

    All these Master Strategists that plunk for a 'Grand Strategy' need to realize that and instead of wishing it were not so, adapt to the reality.
    Last edited by Ken White; 05-25-2010 at 07:41 PM. Reason: To remove "world government lover" and replace it with a euphemism.

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    Default Hi Mike

    Sorry not to have gotten back sooner (or I wouldn't be confused by the turn of the thread). To answer your question, the Clinton NSS used enlargement to talk about expanding NATO and its affiliated programs like the Partnership for Peace (PfP) which they hoped to use to engage non-NATO candidates ffrom the former WP incl Russia. Some success, some failure, much overtaken by events.

    To those who have criticized the new NSS for not being a strategy - well it doesn't yet exist as a public doc - it hasn't been released. While I don't expect it to be a robust strategy (ends, ways, means) I do expect it to have more of the elements than what we see now. Y'all should recall the Goldwater-Nichols required the Pres to provide to Congress a new NSS report (unclas) each year when he submitted his budget. Beginning in 1987 when Reagan submitted the first, all presidents missed some but most came close. Bush 43 only submitted 2 in 02 and 06, however, he submitted and published a a bunch of supporting strategies. While all NSS tout the Administrations successes and all fall short of being robust strategies, Bush 41 had the most complete and least propagandistic NSS of the modern era after NSC 68 which, of course, was a classified document.

    To the moderators: we really have two different threads here - one on the NSS and the other a debate on the UN and Intl Law. Suggest we split the discussion.

    Cheers

    JohnT

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    Council Member MikeF's Avatar
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    [QUOTE=John T. Fishel;99100To those who have criticized the new NSS for not being a strategy - well it doesn't yet exist as a public doc - it hasn't been released. While I don't expect it to be a robust strategy (ends, ways, means) I do expect it to have more of the elements than what we see now. [/QUOTE]

    I've only read the Clinton NSSs onwards. While the tone of each document is a reflection of each personality, I've always felt that the NSS brings out the best of America's idealism. We're one of the few nation-states that publish our strategy publically, and they typically recap our desire to further promote democracy and capitalism towards the rest of the world. GW went a bit further about eradicating AIDs in Africa.

    On the downside, sometimes those ideals get confused as means.

    Mike

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    National Security Strategy, May 2010
    ....Our national security strategy is, therefore, focused on renewing American leadership so that we can more effectively advance our interests in the 21st century. We will do so by building upon the sources of our strength at home, while shaping an international order that can meet the challenges of our time. This strategy recognizes the fundamental connection between our national security, our national competitiveness, resilience, and moral example. And it reaffirms America’s commitment to pursue our interests through an international system in which all nations have certain rights and responsibilities. This will allow America to leverage our engagement abroad on behalf of a world in which individuals enjoy more freedom and opportunity, and nations have incentives to act responsibly, while facing consequences when they do not.....

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    Default I have only read the Overview in detail

    and given the rest a cursory look. No peemption or preventive war (although enough ambiguity if needed). Engagement is back big time. Democracy gets lip service. Human rights gets more but not much. I didn't see any real discussion of means but Haddick says he did....

    Cheers

    JohnT

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