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AssessingtheNewUSNationalSecurity

Strategy
AliWyneisacontributinganalystatWikistratand
aglobalfellowwithPS21.FollowhimonTwitter:
@Ali_Wyne.
ThereismuchtorecommendtheObama
administrationsnewnationalsecuritystrategy,
whichNationalSecurityAdvisorSusanRice
launchedattheBrookingsInstitutionearlylastmonth.Releasedalittleoverfour
yearsafteritspredecessor,itidentifiesfivehistorictransitionsunderwaythatwill
unfoldoverdecades:thetransitionofpowerbetweenstates,thediffusionof
powerfromstatestononstateactors,atighteningnexusofglobaleconomic
interdependenceandtechnologicalchange,thedevelopmentofanewregional
orderintheMiddleEastanddramaticshiftsinglobalenergyproduction.Every
subsequentnationalsecuritystrategyshouldtakeapagefromthislatestdocument
andopenwithabriefoverviewofthemajortrendsdrivingworldorder:astrategic
U.S.foreignpolicywill,afterall,continuouslydiscern,respondtoand,where
possible,moldthosetrends.
Anundercurrent,ifnotatheme,oftheadministrationsnewstrategyisthe
growingimportanceofeconomicstrengthasbothapillarandaninstrumentof
U.S.foreignpolicy.ThedocumentstatesthatAmericasgrowingeconomic
strengthisthefoundationofournationalsecurity,advocatesamodelof
AmericanleadershiprootedinthefoundationofAmericaseconomicand
technologicalstrength,andstressesthatAmericasfirstlineofactionis
principledandcleareyeddiplomacy,combinedwiththecentralroleof
developmentintheforwarddefenseandpromotionofAmericasinterests.The
documentalsoreaffirmstheadministrationsdeterminationtofinalizenegotiations
ontheTransatlanticTradeandInvestmentPartnershipandtheTransPacific
Partnership,which,ifsuccessful,wouldplacetheUnitedStatesatthecenterofa
freetradezonecoveringtwothirdsoftheglobaleconomy.TheUnitedStates
shouldcontinuetomakegeoeconomicsamorecentralpillarofitsforeignpolicy:
withitseconomicrecovery,tradeinitiatives,pushforgreaterNorthAmerican
integrationandopeningtoCuba(and,byextension,theAmericas),itiswell
positionedtodoso.
ThenewstrategyalsoframestheAmericasandAfricawithacombined
populationofroughly1.8billionandcombinedoutputofsome$8trillionas
centersofgrowingeconomicpromiseinsteadofchronicpoliticaldysfunctionand

humanitarianrisk.Americaspostwarforeignpolicyhasoftenneglectedthem,
tendingalternativelytoseekoutstrategicopportunitieswithinthetrilateral
frameworkofNorthAmerica,WesternEurope,andEastAsia.Theopeningto
CubaandplummetingoilpricesgivetheUnitedStatestoboostitstradeand
investmentlinkagestoaregionwhereithasunderinvestedsince9/11,atleast
relativetoitsAsiancompetitors.Meanwhile,TradeAfrica,thePowerAfrica
Initiative,andtheAfricanGrowthandOpportunityActwillhelptheUnitedStates
boostitseconomicengagementwithacontinentthatboastssixoftheworldsten
fastestgrowingeconomies.
Still,thenewstrategydoesnotoffertheclearestsenseoftheadministrations
priorities.WhileitisneitherrealisticnorsensibletoorientAmericasentire
foreignpolicyaroundasinglethreatorregion,itispossibleandprudentto
establishhierarchies,especiallygiventhemultiplicityofAmericaseconomic
challenges,thefrailtyofitsrecoveryfromtheglobaldownturnthatbeganinlate
2008andthewelldocumentedwarinessoftheAmericanpublictopursuea
proactiveforeignpolicy.PresidentObamanotesintheprefacethatbecauseour
resourcesandinfluencearenotinfinite,wehavetomakehardchoicesamong
manycompetingpriorities.Beyondreaffirmingtheadministrationsviewone
thatiswidelysharedwithinthenationsforeignpolicyestablishmentthat
nuclearterrorismremainsthegreatestthreattoU.S.nationalsecurity,the
documentidentifieseighttopstrategicriskstoU.S.nationalinterestsandfive
pillarsofanagendaforreinforcing,shaping,andwhereappropriate,creatingthe
rules,norms,andinstitutionsofanewworldorder.Inneithercategory,however,
doesitappeartorankthem;nordoesitcommentmuchontherelationshipor
interactionbetweentheeightrisks,whicharelargelyfunctional,andthefive
pillars,whichareregional.
Becauseitdoesnotordertheadministrationsprioritiesmoresharply,thenew
strategyperhapsunwittinglywhatmaywellbeitssignatureforeignpolicy
initiative,therebalancetotheAsiaPacific.Whilethedocumentdoescallitoneof
Americashistoricopportunitiesandincludesitsadvancementasoneofthe
aforementionedfivepillars,itdoesnotdescribetherebalancewithasmuchforce
asitsarchitectsdid.InaninfluentialNovember2011essay,formerU.S.Secretary
ofStateHillaryClintonarguedthat[i]natimeofscarceresourcesweneedto
investthemwiselywheretheywillyieldthebiggestreturns,whichiswhythe
AsiaPacificrepresentssuchareal21stcenturyopportunityforus.Thesubtitleof
herpieceasserts[t]hefutureofpoliticswillbedecidedinAsia.Togiveone
otherillustration,formerU.S.NationalSecurityAdvisorTomDoniloncalledthe
UnitedStatesaPacificpowerwhoseinterestsareinextricablylinkedwithAsias
economic,security,andpoliticalorderinaNovember2012speech.Americas

successinthe21stcenturyistiedtothesuccessofAsia.
WhentheObamaadministrationofficiallyunveiledtherebalanceinJanuary2012
viathePentagonsDefenseStrategicGuidance,someobserversargueditwas
tryingtowashitshandsoftheMiddleEast;withtheoneyearanniversaryof
CrimeasabsorptionintoRussiaapproaching,theyhaveextendedtheircritiqueby
arguingthattheadministrationinsistsondiscussing21stcenturygeoeconomics
whileVladimirPutinisfarmoreinterestedin20thcenturygeopolitics.Amid
growingworlddisorder,anincreasinglyvocalsegmentofthecommentariat
supportsaU.S.strategicposturethataccordsequaloratleastcomparablepriority
totheMiddleEast,EasternEurope,andtheAsiaPacific.Whileintuitive,this
propositionismisguided.
IntheMiddleEast,theoptimismthataccompaniedtheArabSpringalittleover
fouryearsagohaslargelymorphedintodespondence.Thedepredationsofthe
IslamicStateofIraqandtheLevant(ISIL)inIraqandSyriahaveunderstandably
capturedthemostattention,butLibyaandYemenssecuritysituationscontinueto
deteriorate.AsNATObringsitsmilitarycampaigninAfghanistantoanend,
moreover,observersfeararevivaloftheTaliban.
WhileitmakessensefortheUnitedStatestoparticipateinatargeted
counterterrorismcampaigntokeepISILandotherterroristoutfitsatbay,ideally
withArabcountriesassuminganevergrowingshareoftheburden,theregions
chaosprecludesabroad,coherentU.S.approach.Governmentrepression,terrorist
activity,popularunrest,andresurgenttensionsbetweenSaudiArabiaandIran,
forexampleareamongthefactorsthatmaketheMiddleEastsevolutionnearly
impossibletounderstand,letaloneshape.TheUnitedStateswoulddowellto
observeavariantoftheHippocraticOathadministeredtoeveryaspiringdoctor
first,donoharm.AmericasexperiencesinAfghanistanandIraqoverthepast
decadeahalfcautionagainstthepresumptionthatheavyU.S.involvementina
giventheaterwilladvanceAmericasnationalinterests.
InEasternEurope,RussiaslonggameinUkraineposesavexingchallengeto
U.S.foreignpolicy.Russiadialsupthepressurewhenitdiscernsawindowof
opportunitytoencroachfurtheruponitsneighborssovereignty,butbelowthe
thresholdthatwouldtriggerasustainedmilitaryresponsebytheUnitedStatesand
itsEuropeanpartners.SolongasRussiacanmanagethesecyclesofescalationand
dtente,itreasonsitcancontinuetonotchsmallterritorialgainsthatmay,over
time,allowittoalterfundamentallythestrategicbalancebetweenRussiaand
NATOinRussiaswesternperiphery.ThereislittledoubtthatRussiasbehavior
overthepastyearhasproveninimicaltoitsnationalinterests.Athome,the

precipitousfalloftheruble,massiveoutflowsofcapitalandcollapsinggrowth
reinforceitsdemographicdecline;abroad,itsrelationswithmuchoftheWest
continuetodeteriorateanditsdependenceonChineselargesseseemspoisedto
increaseindefinitely.Meanwhile,theprospectofaEurasianUnion,whichPutin
hasrepeatedlycitedasaprincipalaspirationofhisforeignpolicy,continuesto
recede.Paradoxically,though,Russiasextantandemergingweaknessesshieldit
fromexternalpressure.Beyondenjoyingover80%popularapprovalathome,
PutinhaslikelyconcludedheisinaprotractedstrugglewiththeWestthe
UnitedStates,inparticulartodefendRussiashonorandnationalinterests.
Russiaswoesseemmorelikelytoencouragehisdefensivenessthaninducea
coursecorrection.
Theuncomfortablereality,though,isthatforreasonsofbothgeographyand
history,UkrainesfateisfarmoreessentialtoRussiasplaceintheworldthan
Americas.ItisNATOsEuropeanmembers,moreover,thatshouldbethe
principalbulwarkagainstRussianrevanchism,nottheUnitedStates.However
muchofachallengeRussiascurrentbehaviorposestoU.S.foreignpolicy,
neitheranopenmilitaryconfrontationbetweenthetwocountriesnoradecisionby
RussiatoabandonfurtherareasofbilateralconceptionwouldadvanceU.S.
interests.
Thenewstrategyshouldhavestressedthatnoneofthedevelopmentsineither
regiontheMiddleEastorEasternEuropealterthegrowingstrategic
centralityoftheAsiaPacifictoworldorder:oncurrenttrendlines,itwillaccount
foranevergrowingshareoftheworldspeople,output,andmilitaryspending.
Therebalance,moreover,isrootednotonlyintheregionsopportunitiesbutalso
initsdangers:whilethesecuritythreatsintheMiddleEastandEasternEurope
maybemorevivid,theAsiaPacificisfarfromidyllic.ConsiderNorthKoreas
nuclearexports,thepotentialforanuclearexchangebetweenIndiaandPakistan,
thevarietyofgreatpowertensions(ChinaIndia,ChinaJapan,andJapanSouth
Korea,forexample)andthepotentialforterritorialdisputesintheSouthChina
SeaandEastChinaSeatoescalate.Moreover,asKurtCampbellandElyRatner
explainedlastMay,theregionalsoconfrontsnontraditionalsecuritythreatssuch
asnaturaldisasters,humantrafficking,andthedrugtrade.
BeyondreaffirmingthecentralityoftherebalanceinU.S.foreignpolicy,thenew
strategyshouldhaveelaboratedmoreonitsplansforrejuvenatingliberalworld
order.Whileitexpressesconfidencethattheinternationalsystemwhosecreation
weledintheaftermathofWorldWarIIwillcontinuetoserveAmericaandthe
worldwell,itconcedesthatthatsystemconfrontsundeniablestrains.From
timetotimeobserverssoundalarmsaboutanemergingilliberalism,an

authoritarianaxis,oraBeijingConsensus.Thesystemicchallengetoliberalworld
order,however,isnotsomuchtheexistenceofacompellingalternativeasitisthe
prospectofinternalerosion.Ittookhorrificconvulsionsamongthemtwoworld
wars,whichcollectivelykilled80millionpeople,andtheworstmacroeconomic
downturninthehistoryofthemodernindustrialworldtoproducetodays
environment.Whowouldwanttoriskcomparableorevenworsecatastrophesto
makeitmoreinclusiveandequitable?
Second,givenhowsignificantlytheprospectofgreatpowerwarhasdiminished,
todaysleaderslackanexistentialimpetusforadvancingliberalworldorder.
Third,growingdisorderhasnotunderminedhumanprogress;allowingthatthat
progressvariesconsiderablyfromregiontoregion,mosttrendssuggesttheworld
isbecomingsafer,healthierandwealthierintheaggregate.Todaysleadersmay
wellfindthisdualitybetweengrowingdisorderandgrowingprogress
tolerable.Assuch,theUnitedStatesshouldconsiderhowitwouldadjustits
foreignpolicyshouldliberalworldordererodeindefinitely.Partofstrategy
involvesleveragingcurrenttrends;anotherpart,however,involveshedging
againstpossiblefutures.Tothatend,theNationalIntelligenceCouncilshouldplay
alargerroleinshapingfuturenationalsecuritystrategies.
TheUnitedStatesislikelytoremainindefinitelytheworldspreeminentpower,
eventhoughitsmarginofpreeminencemaycontinuetodiminish.If,moreover,as
muchoftheWestwouldlikelyagree,arejuvenatedliberalworldorderisthe
likeliestvehicleforexpandingthegainsinpeaceandprosperitythathaveoccurred
inthepostwarera,itishardtoimagineacountryotherthantheUnitedStateswith
thecapacitytoorganizesuchanundertaking.Paradoxically,though,thefrequency
andcertaintywithwhichthenewstrategyavowsthecentralityofU.S.leadership
betraysagrowinginsecurityamongAmericanscitizensandpolicymakersalike
abouttheircountrysprospectsforexercisinginfluenceintheworld.Some
observersinterpretPresidentObamascallforstrategicpatienceasaeuphemism
forhisdesiretowithdrawtheUnitedStatesfromworldaffairsandevadedifficult
policychoices.Theintensityofthereactionisbothanotherexpressionofthat
insecurityandademonstrationofmisguidednostalgia:theUnitedStateshasnever
beenabletodictatethetrajectoryofallunfoldingevents,evenwhen,inthe
immediatepostwarera,itiswidelybelievedtohaveexercisedhegemony.
Fewwoulddenythattheemerginglandscapeisdaunting.TheUnitedStatesmust
prepareitsforeignpolicyforaworldwhereitseconomywillnolongerbethe
largestinabsoluteterms;wheredisordermaywellbeanenduringfeatureofthe
strategicenvironment,notapassingaberration;whereadizzying,growingarray
ofnonstateactorsexercisesevergrowinginfluence;andwhereitssignature

postwarachievement,liberalworldorder,erodesindefinitely.Thesenoveltiesdo
not,though,andneednot,supporttheoftpaintedpictureofaUnitedStatesin
terminaldecline;instead,theyreinforcetheimperativeofstrategicadjustment.
AsPaulKennedyconcludedaquartercenturyago,theonlyseriousthreattothe
realinterestsoftheUnitedStatescancomefromafailuretoadjustsensiblytothe
newerworldorder.
ProjectforStudyofthe21stCenturyisanonnational,nonideological,non
partisanorganization.Allviewsexpressedaretheauthorsown.