The paper may also be downloaded here: Larry Catá Backer, From Global to Fortress America; Thoughts on “National Security Strategy of the United States” (4 Dec 2017), CPE Working Paper 12/1 (December 2017). ACCESS HERE: BackerNationalSecurityStrategy12-2017
A spokesman for Russian President Vladimir Putin told reporters today that the document had a “clearly imperial nature” and demonstrated a reluctance to abandon the idea of a “unipolar world.” The Kremlin’s reaction, however, was mixed. The spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said he saw “positive things” in the document, noting it expressed a view of U.S.-Russia relations shared by Putin: that the two countries should cooperate in areas where it suits their interests. (Patrick Reevel, Russia calls Trump's national security strategy 'imperialist', ABC News (19 Dec. 2017) ).Chinese official reaction, for publication, on the other hand, was content to see this as a return to the Cold War era. "A spokeswoman for China’s foreign ministry, Hua Chunying, called on the U.S. to 'abandon its Cold War mentality and zero-sum game concept," warning that failure to do so "would only harm itself as well as others.'" (Ibid.). The Russians, however, could not resist suggesting the speech was Orwellian. (Trump’s ‘Orwellian’ strategy speech: Triumph of the neocons?, RT (18 Dec. 2017)).
Some in the American elite, at war with the current administration since its election victory in 2016, shared some of those views. "This is a farce. On any one issue, President Trump and his team have several contradictory positions. That’s what happens when your priority as president is to use foreign policy to throw red meat to your base while other cabinet members are scrambling to stop Armageddon." (Roger Cohen, Opinion: Trump’s National Security Strategy Is a Farce, New York Times (19 Dec 2017)). In a similar vein some suggest that "this foreign policy strategy is dead on arrival; it is plain impossible to execute such a strategy with a commander in chief who is neither capable of sticking to his word nor a believer in some of the document’s most important principles." (Ilan Goldenberg, Trump's National Security Strategy Is Dead on Arrival, Newsweek (18 Dec. 2017)). Others provided a more nuanced though cautious reaction (Thomas Wright, The National Security Strategy Papers Over a Crisis, The Atlantic (19 Dec. 2017) ("It tries to convert the mundane into the language of nationalism, presumably playing to an audience of one. The lack of any overarching purpose, and the failure to explicitly embrace a U.S.-led, rules-based order, is an unwelcome break with 70 years of U.S. foreign policy.")). And still others offer their readers an NSS with a glimmer of hope (Daniel Fried, Opinion: Why the Trump administration’s National Security Strategy offers a glimmer of hope, The Washington Post (19 Dec. 2017)).
This is all very important opinion, to be sure, but there is some value to diving in for oneself. It is most interesting or the ways in which it continues and also transforms the last NSS, the 2015 NSS developed by the Obama Administration.
The NSS starts with a page and a half transmittal letter from the President. It is useful if only for providing the formal and official context within which it might be useful to read the 55 or so pages that follow. First, the president defined the parameters of his presidency,that is, his sense of why he was elected to office ("to make America great again" NSS, p. i) and its translation into a broad set of policy principles: "my Administration would put the safe , interests, and well-being of our citizens first. . . we would revitalize the American economy, rebuild our military, defend our borders, protect our sovereignty, and advance our values." (Ibid.). He then explained his efforts to advance these priorities during his first year in office. That served as a prelude to the great insight that animates his own view of the world and the relation of the United States to it: "The United States faces an extraordinarily dangerous world, filled with a wide range of threats that have intensified in recent years." (Ibid.). These threats include nuclear threats by rogue regimes, radical Islamic terror groups, the success of rival powers in pursuing their own interests, porous borders (migration and trade), global criminal enterprises, free riding by U.S. allies, neglect of defense, loss of trust in government and faith in U.S. values. These challenges, he asserted are now being met. But they also require "charting a new and very different course." (Ibid).
That "very different course" is elaborated in the NSS, itself "a strategic vision for protecting the American people and preserving our way of life, promoting our prosperity, preserving peace through strength, and advancing American influence in the world." (Ibid., p.ii). This strategic vision is grounded in concepts of balance of power favoring the U.S. without losing sight of U.S. values, which have the capacity to "inspire, uplift, and renew," (Ibid). This "beautiful vision—a world of strong, sovereign, and independent nations, each with its own cultures and dreams, thriving side- by-side in prosperity, freedom, and peace" (Ibid), the President intends to pursue "throughout the upcoming year." (Ibid).
Of course, an introduction or a transmittal statement is neither policy nor law. Yet it is probably the most important commentary that exists on the NSS. Its importance derives from the authority of its writer. It will be the President whose own structures and approaches to interpretation will be crucial for defining terms and objectives, and for choosing among alternatives when the NSS must be applied to specific context. To that extent, at least, there is little point (except narcissism and politics) to waste a lot of time berating or belittling this or that in the approach or in the perspective f the President. Time is better spent a better understanding understanding the world view within which the NSS is framed and the likely way in which it is likely to be applied. That, at least, is clear than most commentary: this is styled a heroic presidency in which in a world that is increasingly hostile and closing in on the U.S. and a very specific self-conception of what that means (in terms of self-consciousness and way of life of a unitary polity), will save the United States from its past mistakes and from its present dangers. More importantly, its present dangers are a product, quite directly of its past mistakes--and at the core of those mistakes was the erroneous notion that the United States could lead the world by losing itself within this new world order (with a convergence of the United States into the world).
To save the nation, then, the NSS is crafted to first separate the United States from its global context (to "make America") and then to embed it back into the world as itself (to "make America great again"), not as a leader of global order in which states meld together in some way, but as a primus inter pares of a community of states. "An America that is safe, prosperous, and free at home is an America with the strength, confidence, and will to lead abroad. It is an America that can preserve peace, uphold liberty, and create enduring advantages for the American people. Putting America first is the duty of our government and the foundation for U.S. leadership in the world." (NSS, pp. 1). It is true that this represents a quite different approach from that which has been evolving since 1945--and with greater force since the 1990s--an approach that has been an aggressively guarded orthodoxy among policy, administrator and academic elites. That might explain the unrelenting hostility--well beyond a disagreement as to premise and method. And yet ironically--though with the greatest artistry--this U.S. NSS and the principles that underlie it, is perfectly in sync with the security strategies of the Russian Federation and the People's Republic of China. Indeed, for the first time since the 19th century the great powers, China, Russia, and the U.S., are now all near perfectly aligned--each through its own institutional order is seeking to make themselves great again. There is, indeed, global convergence, but in a direction that would have been difficult to predict even five years ago.
The NSS is built on four (4) Pillars: (1) Self-protection (NSS, pp. 7-14); (2) Trade and prosperity (pp. 17-23); (3) peace through strength (pp. 25-35); (4) advance American influence (pp. 37-42). It is then augmented by the development of the NSS in a regional context (NSS, pp. 45-55). An introduction (NSS, pp. 1-4) and a conclusion (NSS, p. 55) pulls all of the preceding together. Let's work through each section critically. Compare the 2015 NSS which also was constructed around four Pillars: (1) Security; (2) Prosperity; (3) Values; and (4) International Order.
The Introduction is most useful for its elaboration (Ibid., pp. 1-3) of the values referenced in the President's introductory comments. The Introduction styles the Strategic vision as "a clear-eyed assessment of U.S. interests, and a determination to tackle the challenges that we face. It is a strategy of principled realism that is guided by outcomes, not ideology." (NSS, p. 1). But of course, there is always ideology, especially in the context of pragmatic methodologies (see, e.g., here). The principles that underlie the ideology that frames the pragmatism of the NSS are those that, until recently, there existed something of a consensus among national thought leaders, officials and powerful institutional stakeholders. These include conventional notions of popular sovereignty grounded in democratic republicanism and federalism as expressed through the federal constitution. It includes the system of legalization of rights and customary privileges. They are principles that are at once suspicious of government, yet which find government useful when it suits. These traditional principles have been battle tested (NSS, p. 2). But, in the NSS world view, that victory made the Americans lazy or overconfident in the 1990s (and not surprisingly at the moment when the logic of globalization moved the United States to embark on a project through which it would invest itself in a system that would order the world).
The United States began to drift. We experienced a crisis of confidence and surrendered our advantages in key areas. As we took our political, economic, and military advantages for granted, other actors steadily implemented their long-term plans to challenge America and to advance agendas opposed to the United States, our allies, and our partners. (NSS, 2).
China and Russia challenge American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity. . . . At the same time, the dictatorships of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and the Islamic Republic of Iran are determined to destabilize regions, threaten Americans and our allies, and brutalize their own people. . . . In addition, jihadist terrorists such as ISIS and al-Qa’ida continue to spread a barbaric ideology that calls for the violent destruction of governments and innocents they consider to be apostates. (Ibid., p. 3).
Americans have long recognized the benefits of an interconnected world, where information and commerce flow freely. Engaging with the world, however, does not mean the United States should abandon its rights and duties as a sovereign state or compromise its security. Openness also imposes costs, since adversaries exploit our free and democratic system to harm the United States. . . . Adversaries target sources of American strength, including our democratic system and our economy. They steal and exploit our intellectual prop- erty and personal data, interfere in our political processes, target our aviation and maritime sec- tors, and hold our critical infrastructure at risk. All of these actions threaten the foundations of the American way of life. Reestablishing lawful control of our borders is a first step toward protecting the American homeland and strengthening American sovereignty. (NSS, p. 7))
Given this ideology and its principles, the construction of the NSS for marking and defending borders becomes central to the new strategy. Pillar 1 is divided into four (4) sections: (1) securing borders (Ibid., pp. 8-10); (2) projecting defensive power outward (Ibid., pp. 10-12); (3) cyber-security (Ibid., pp. 12-14); (and (4) resilience practices (Ibid., pp. 14).
1. The NSS guidance on securing U.S. borders.
This strategy is itself divided into three (3) parts that differentiates three distinct sorts of threats--weapons of mass destruction (WMD), biological threats, and the threats of mass migration. The response to WMD threats is to be met by a number of long and short term strategies. These include four (4) basic long and short term strategies. The first is focused on enhancing missile defenses. The strategy is also careful to avoid suggesting offensive use, though of course, that capability is inherent in the nature of the necessary systems. "This system will include the ability to defeat missile threats prior to launch. Enhanced missile defense is not intended to undermine strategic stability or disrupt longstanding strategic relationships with Russia or China." (NSS, p. 8). The second centers on bolstering efforts to detect and disrupt WMD. If the first strategy is meant to counter projections of offensive weaponry form abroad, the second is meant to counter the deployment of such weapons from inside the U.S. This strategy will likely produce the greatest discussion within the U.S. as it is likely to produce internal political conflict between the understanding and application of principles of ordered liberty at the core of the American values the NSS is developed to protect, against the techniques and measures necessary to protect against the destruction of those values by elements of our own society. The NSS appears to weigh the threat as more serious than the collateral effects on the application of ordered liberty concepts.
We will also better integrate intelligence, law enforcement, and emergency management operations to ensure that frontline defenders have the right information and capabilities to respond to WMD threats from state and non-state actors. (NSS p. 8)
The response to biological threats is both simpler and more straightforward, yet more difficult. The NSS starts with the presumption (not irrational) that "[d]edicated state actors are likely to develop more advanced bioweapons, and these capabilities may become available to malicious non-state actors as well." (NSS, p. 9). This produces a three part strategy. Part 1 embraces a "detect and contain" strategy and focuses on disease control. There is a strong element of multi´lateral cooperation built into this strategy that is worthy of substantial support. Part 2 focuses on enhancing support for biomedical innovation. Yet the nature fo this support is to some extent oddly stated--"We will protect and support advancements in biomedical innovation by strengthening the intellectual property system that is the foundation of the biomedical industry." (NSS, p. 9). This is not so much a defensive strategy to protect the nation as it appears to be a measure designed to enhance the power of pharmaceutical production chains and their control by the apex enterprises that operate them. It is regrettable that the NSS in this respect missed an opportunity to avoid hat appears to be an industry support measure in the context of a broad plan to meet substantial threats to the nation. Surely something broader (which might also be market enhancing) might have been in order--and certainly, as this is a matter of security, something undertaken by and for the benefit of the nation might have been usefully explored. Part 3, of course, focuses on response. Here the strategy is enhancement not innovation--though enhancement in this case might well be innovative if only to the extent response becomes more effective.
The response to the threat of migration is fairly conventional. Sadly, in a strategic area that is well deserving of a difficult national conversation--the political, economic, social and cultural effects of mass migration in an age in which assimilation is no longer a core value of the state, is entirely avoided. And yet that is at the heart of the policy and its unstated premise. Instead the NSS continues the ancient and increasingly unhelpful premise about protection against undesirables (terrorists, and criminals) and avoids the larger issue that was for a brief moment put into play by the President himself. And yet that discussion is central to the construction of a useful set of strategies respecting migration and border control (NSS, p. 10). Instead we are presented with the usual border control methodologies, marginally enhanced, without a sounder principle for guiding its use and development. And yet that underlying issue is larded within the NSS strategy itself. Thus:
We will also reform our current immigration system, which, contrary to our national interest and national security, allows for randomized entry and extended-family chain migration. Residency and citizenship determinations should be based on individuals’ merits and their ability to positively contribute to U.S. society, rather than chance or extended family connections. (NSS p 9).
2. The response to pursue threats to their source.
This strategy makes concrete the implications of the prior policies by providing a basis for the defensive projection of U.S. power globally. The NSS strategies continue to build on and enhance many of the strategies developed or refined during the Bush II and the Obama administrations. Again, there is an emphasis on "detect and disrupt" strategies, with which one might have little to complain of (except of course in execution). These strategies were controversial during the Bush II and Obama administrations; they will remain controversial as applied by the Trump administration. But they do not represent a radical departure from a now long term pattern of U.S. policy. The only caveat would be in the context of methodologies. One might see in the overarching principles that guide NSS strategic choices a change to change both methodologies and the scope of action under these conventional tactics. But it is far too early to tell; prudence, however, might caution that itis useful to read this "pursue and destroy" policy carefully in light of the entirety of the Pillar 1 securing our borders strategy.
The strategy is divided into two parts (NSS, p. 10-11). The first focuses on Jihadist terrorists. The second looks to international criminal organizations. Interestingly, there is no overt strategy that looks to the pursuit of threats of so-called rogue states or state sponsors of either terrorists or those state which harbor international criminal organizations,. That is a lacunae that is to be regretted given the ideological stance of this administration and the need for strategic transparency. that the NSS itself is meant to represent. The most interesting strategic elements are not the obvious ones--detect and destroy; strategic alliances to combat; disruption of financing and logistics--but rather in the acknowledgement of the strategic importance of culture and society. These will test the scope within which such strategic imperatives may be operationalized against the application of American values (at least within the United States). This includes strategies for denying
violent ideologies the space to take root by improving trust among law enforcement, the private sector, and American citizens. U.S. intelligence and home- land security experts will work with law enforcement and civic leaders on terrorism prevention and provide accurate and actionable information about radicalization in their communities. (NSS, p. 11)These will test the boundaries of the protection of religious belief and practice, the reach of domestic intelligence to communities, and the extent to which the state may engage in counter-cultural activities touching on religious and other belief systems. More interesting would be the extent to which the U.S., could, consistent with other policy initiatives and consistent as well with the practices of the prior administration, to privatize this objective, while retaining strategic management. Similar difficulties will apply to internally directed NSS strategies targeting communities that are the focus of anti-drug and other criminal related activities (NSS, p. 11). The difficulties of adhering to the traditional private-public divide in this age of globalization is also expressed in the NSS, especially with respect to projections into markets and social engineering of popular tastes for activities and objects the state would prefer to suppress (NSS, p. 12).
3. Cyber Threats.
The NSS well describes the now commonplace premises of the power and threat posed to public and private institutions increasingly dependent for their activities and communication on computer and internet based platforms (NSS, p. 12). Here, curiously, the NSS strategies reflect the old Obama era notions of melding the U.S. within the global order for the normative management of a transnational system.
The Internet is an American invention, and it should reflect our values as it continues to trans- form the future for all nations and all generations. A strong, defensible cyber infrastructure fosters economic growth, protects our liberties, and advances our national security. (NSS, p. 13)
4. American Resilience.
At first bluish, it was not clear what this meant, or how it was connected with the defensive strategic objectives of the NSS. But then by the time that one had gotten to this point--with the embedding of intellectual property protection, drug war and other quite specific domestic policy objectives embedded in the NSS that one could discern the ultimate strategic objective of a section like this one: privatization of governmental obligation, and governmentalization of private defense efforts. This ironically reflects strongly a pattern already well developed in the prior administration, though now directed at a different target and for a slightly different ends (see, e.g., here). For non-state institutions and individuals,"Resilience includes the ability to withstand and recover rapidly from deliberate attacks, accidents, natural disasters, as well as unconventional stresses, shocks, and threats to our economy and democratic system." (NSS, p. 14). As for the state, its principal obligation appears to be to preserve itself. "Federal, state, and local agencies must perform essential functions and have plans in place to ensure the continuation of our constitutional form of government." (Ibid).
Yet the strategy is not as simple minded as this might suggest. The reverse is true. The NSS strategy reflects the trajectory of American institutional approaches to activity--and their institutional self-preservation. It embodies the growing importance of risk management and surveillance cultures that have become deeply placed within private enterprises. It enhances cultures of compliance as well as the risk aversion and resource allocation imperative that these compliance and risk reduction cultures produce. These are not criticisms, merely observations of the inevitable coordination (and perhaps convergence) between public and private and between business culture and state policy already in a symbiotic relationship). That may be the most useful way of understanding the way in which the four priorty actions will be operationalized: improving risk management, building cultures of preparedness, imrpoving planning, and creating incentive to information sharing (NSS, p. 14).
The Second Pillar is grounded in the strategies necessary to enhance U.S. development. It is centered on President Trump's statement of the principle, an ancient one perhaps, that economic security is national security. (NSS p. 17). In many ways it echos that of other vigorous states seeking to develop its productive forces for the attainment of national, political, or ideological goals. One wonders whether it might be useful to read this Second Pillar Against Deng Xiaoping's notions of socialist modernization (see, e.g., here) but with American characteristics. And, indeed, in some significant respects, the discourse of American economic strategic thinking mirrors that of the Chinese of a generation ago--the notion of the need to catch up, of the loss of economic power and innovation, of the need to regain economic primacy as a centerpiece to the solidification of stability at home and the effective protection and projection of power abroad. This is not to suggest that the strategic approach is wrong, merely that it is neither uniquely American, nor in its own context unsuccessful. But it does represent a way of thinking about economic development substantially at odds with American strategic thinking of the last several generations.
But the divergence is not as complete as Mr. Trump's critics are fond of trying to point out. The current administration continues to cling to at least the fundamental assumptions that produced the current global order.
For 70 years, the United States has embraced a strategy premised on the belief that leadership of a stable international economic system rooted in American principles of reciprocity, free markets, and free trade served our economic and security interests. Working with our allies and partners, the United States led the creation of a group of financial institutions and other economic forums that established equitable rules and built instruments to stabilize the international economy and remove the points of friction that had contributed to two world wars. (NSS, p. 17)
Yet, where the current administration moves in a different direction is in its assessment of the current state of that project, and its ramifications for U.S. security (and, in a sense, in the integrity of the global system the U.S. established and administered).
The United States helped expand the liberal economic trading system to countries that did not share our values, in the hopes that these states would liberalize their economic and political practices and provide commensurate benefits to the United States. Experience shows that these countries distorted and undermined key economic institutions without undertaking significant reform of their economies or politics. ey espouse free trade rhetoric and exploit its benefits, but only adhere selectively to the rules and agreements. (Ibid).
And thus Pillar II focuses on five (5) strategic objectives; (1) rejuvenating the domestic economy; (2) promoting reciprocal relationships; (3) enhancing innovation; (4) promoting and protecting the national security innovation base; and (5) energy domination.
1. Rejuvenating the Domestic Economy
With respect to its first set of objectives, rejuvenating the domestic economy (NSS, pp. 18-19), these strategies read more like the standard components of domestic policy debates than the articulation of strategies for the protection of American economic interests through rejuvenation strategies. That said, the reduction of regulatory burdens (Ibid., 18-19), tax reform (Ibid, p. 19), infrastructure development (Ibid), debt reduction (Ibid), and training programs for labor productivity enhancement (Ibid), all are both strategies and core issues of domestic politics. This is one area where the NSS sounds more like campaign sloganeering (suitable for both dominant political parties) rather than well coordinated strategic initiatives designed to enhance U.S. strategic global goals. That said, there is little to find fault with respecting the strategic principles. Yet the details and operationalization of each of these will remain extremely contentious within American politics. In that context, the strategic value of those principles becomes at best cloudy. And the NSS provides little practice guidance. The translation of objectives to regulation becomes enmeshed in internal politics--and that may not be the most propitious space for the elaboration of national strategies for activity abroad, precisely because it touches on core political debates within the polity.
2. Bilateralism: Promoting Fair Relationships
With respect to the second set of objectives, promoting free, fair, and reciprocal economic relationships (NSS, pp. 19-20), the NSS lays out the structures of an alternative basis for multilateral trade that avoids system building and is more closely aligned with national rather than global interests. Indeed, we move from the construction of systems to the promotion of values.
The United States distinguishes between economic competition with countries that follow fair and free market principles and competition with those that act with little regard for those principles. We will compete with like-minded states in the economic domain—particularly where trade imbalances exist— while recognizing that competition is healthy when nation share values and build fair and reciprocal relationships.(NSS p. 19).
The United States will pursue bilateral trade and investment agreements with countries that commit to fair and reciprocal trade and will modernize existing agreements to ensure they are consistent with those principles. Agreements must adhere to high standards in intellectual property, digital trade, agriculture, labor, and the environment. (NSS p. 20).
3. Leadership in Research, Tech and Innovation.
The United States must continue to a attract the innovative and the inventive, the brilliant and the bold. We will encourage scientists in government, academia, and the private sector to achieve advancements across the full spectrum of discovery, from incremental improvements to game-changing breakthroughs. (NSS p. 20).
4. The U.S. National Security Innovation Base.
Privatized knowledge production (innovation) is then governmentalized (again) through the strategies embedded in the promotion and protection of the U.S. national security innovation base, objectives. .
The focus is not on work like this consideration of the NSS, but work that ties in directly or indirectly to U.S. weaponry, technological innovation with conflict potential and weaponized economic innovation. "Technologies that are part of most weapon systems often originate in diverse businesses as well as in universities and colleges. Losing our innovation and technological edge would have far-reaching negative implications for American prosperity and power. (NSS p. 21). This is probably among the most important, and likely the most neglected of the NSS strategic principles. Its breadth and scope remain unclear. Its connection with the current system of U.S. control over the export of technology and knowledge inescapable. But one already sees the effects in the export regimes undertaken by the department of State and Commerce. It is likely that economic innovation will have an enhanced role as a weapon of trade in the years to come. Key here is to watch what happens at the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the Commerce Department's Bureau of Industry and Security, and the State Department watch lists (see, e.g., here). Watch as well a broader use of the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. Here, at least there is some convergence with European policy and strategic initiatives (see, e.g., here). Yet here, again, what is offered is enhanced protection of intellectual property (NSS, pp. 21-22), greater control of migration, and data protection. Yet, especially with respect to migration, there is likely to be some opposition within the education business. The NSS looks to "consider restrictions on foreign STEM students from designated countries to ensure that intellectual property is not transferred to our competitors" balanced against the need to continue harvesting the most talented individuals form other states (NSS, 22). That has already brought preemptive opposition from the education establishment officials (see, e.g., here).The NSIB is the American network of knowledge, capabilities, and people—including academia, National Laboratories, and the private sector—that turns ideas into innovations, transforms discoveries into successful commercial products and companies, and protects and enhances the American way of life.(NSS p. 21)
5. Energy Domination
Lastly, the strategic objectives around embracing energy dominance replays a domestic policy debate that goes back to the mid 1970s (NSS, pp. 22-23). Though worth reading, it suggests, more than anything else, that the debate that began in the early 1970s continues unabated and unresolved. It is true that the context is different. We speak to sustainability now. But the issue of innovation and energy independence as as contentious now as it was a generation ago. We continue the debate in its classical forms. What is clear is that the administration has definitively taken a very specific position that remains globally contentious:
Climate policies will continue to shape the global energy system. U.S. leadership is indispensable to countering an anti-growth energy agenda that is detrimental to U.S. economic and energy security interests. Given future global energy demand, much of the developing world will require fossil fuels, as well as other forms of energy, to power their economies and lift their people out of poverty. The United States will continue to advance an approach that balances energy security, economic development, and environmental protection. (NSS p 22)
The title of this third Pillar recalls George Washington's farewell address to the nation of the late 18th century. That is not a criticism but a reminder that some of what appears to be new strategies are actually quite old and well embedded within American political culture. But in addition, this Third Pillar is centered on the threat posed to the global order by China, Russia, the distinctive threats of rogue regimes and specifically North Korea and Iran, and groups of non-state actors (ISIS and al-Qa'ida) that threaten order in their own way (NSS, pp. 25-26). Other states, notably Cuba and Venezuela, failed to make the list are are no doubt not far from the conscious objectives of this Pillar. Though they do make it to the list of names states in the application of NSS in a regional context (NSS., p. 51).
1. Renew America's competitive advantage.
This Pillar effectively seeks to consolidate many of the principles of the first two Pillars and concentrate them in the context of the three distinct forms of contestants represented by challengers to U.S. hegemony (China and Russia); challengers to global order (Iran and North Korea), and challengers to the orderliness of the state system (ISIS and al-Qa'ida). To that end, the focus shifts from economic and cyber warfare to the capabilities of conventional military power.
But not just conventional military power. The NSS acknowledges publicly that we are all well beyond conventional warfare.Experience suggests that the willingness of rivals to abandon or forgo aggression depends on their perception of U.S. strength and the vitali of our alliances. The United States will seek areas of cooperation with competitors from a position of strength, fore- most by ensuring our military power is second to none and fully integrated with our allies and all of our instruments of power. A strong military ensures that our diplomats are able to operate from a position of strength. In this way we can, together with our allies and partners, deter and if necessary, defeat aggression against U.S. interests and increase the likelihood of managing competitions without violent conflict and preserving peace. (NSS p. 26).)
Repressive, closed states and organizations, although brittle in many ways, are often more agile and faster at integrating economic, military, and especially informational means to achieve their goals. They are unencumbered by truth, by the rules and protections of privacy inherent in democracies, and by the law of armed conflict. They employ sophisticated political, economic, and military campaigns that combine discrete actions. They are patient and con- tent to accrue strategic gains over time—making it harder for the United States and our allies to respond. Such actions are calculated to achieve maximum effect without provoking a direct military response from the United States. And as these incremental gains are realized, over time, a new status quo emerges. (NSS 27-28)
The administration identifies the critical impediments to its strategic initiatives--and they are not foreigners, but rather the apparatus of the U.S. government itself.
Our diplomatic, intelligence, military, and economic agencies have not kept pace with the changes in the character of competition. America’s military must be prepared to operate across a full spectrum of conflict, across multiple domains at once. To meet these challenges we must also upgrade our political and economic instruments to operate across these environments. Bureaucratic inertia is powerful. But so is the talent, creativity, and dedication of Americans. (NSS p. 28).
And the solution offered again advances the basic strategic thrust of privatization of governmental efforts and the governmentalization of private efforts coordinated for strategic advantage. "By aligning our public and private sector efforts we can field a Joint Force that is unmatched. New advances in computing, autonomy, and manufacturing are already transforming the way we fight. When coupled with the strength of our allies and partners, this advantage grows." (Ibid).
To that end, the NSS identifies six (6) specific areas of strategic development: military, defense industrial base, nuclear forces, space, cyberspace, and intelligence (NSS pp. 28-33). Each of these present challenges.
The strategic objectives of modernizing our military is broken out into five priority action fields (Ibid., 29). Beyond the concept of modernization (which remains unchanged since the 1940s), the strategic objective focuses on "commercial off the shelf solutions" (Ibid., p. 29). Yet that cannot be read in isolation--such an approach suggests, together with the strategic objectives of denying foreigners access to weaponizable technologies, that the market incentives to produce "off the shelf" product will be severely constrained without government subsidy--yet that defeats the purpose of the initiative. How the state will overcome this challenge remains to be seen. As for the rest--elimination of cost overruns, building capacity, improving readiness and enhancing full spectrum capabilities retains important long term policy objectives of several past administrations.
One cannot read the strategic objectives relating to the defense industrial base without considering General and President Eisenhower's famous military industrial complex speech (see, e.g., here ("We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together. ")). And that suggests that this initiative will be both contentious as a political matter and that its scope and content will determine its utility in line with American "values" (the ultimate responsibility to protect of the NSS). The NSS appears respectful, to some extent, of that counsel. It focuses on repatriation of industry with military application, of better management of supply chains that touch on military goods, and on the cultivation of "skills" (NSS pp. 29-30). These again intermesh with the more generalized strategic objectives of Pillar I and II. At the same time the administration has made clear its commitment to a string and effective nuclear capability. This will be contentious internally but less so beyond our European allies (or at least some of their elites) (NSS p. 30-31).
Likewise, the strategic commitment to space (NSS 31) is necessary and useful, both for its commercial and its military objectives. The United States is well advised to consider space the way it used to view the oceans--as a necessary and open space that facilitates economic activity and thus the openness of which must be protected. This is a point reiterated in the Fourth Pillar (NSS, p. 40) with respect ot U.S: engagement in multilateral institutions. And yet there is a danger where the protection of space is also used to limit its access to our competitors. That is the way conflict is intensified rather than diffused. The complexities of maintaining open space while guarding against misuse will call for more than general principles. And it is as likely to spark conflict as the Chinese position on the control of a vast area of ocean is currently generating.
The focus on cyberspace and intelligence (NSS pp. 31-32). Here the strategic objectives include better criminalization of cyber activity and better attribution of cyber attacks, with appropriate response. (though what exactly that response is to be remains unclear). But it is also focused on better data management and the use of big data to protect the national cyber structures and operations ("We will work with the Congress to address the challenges that continue to hinder timely intelligence and information sharing, planning and operations, and the development of necessary cyber tools." (NSS p. 32)). Cyberspace strategies meld imperceptibly with the needs of intelligence agencies (Ibid). Here the U.S. appears to be coming around to a big data based approach to managing data harvesting and its evaluation and use. This approach will cause some contention within the polity--issues respecting data collection, ownership, privacy and the like remain unresolved in this country. It is perhaps time to continue the conversation, though resolution will be elusive in the near term. That leaves a space open for governmental and industrial initiatives which will seek to "make facts" and in the process move the conceptual debates in particular directions. Whether elements of this administration or of the economic community have the vision and will to achieve those ends in the face of a relatively well organized intellectual elite with its own strongly held views, remains to be seen. For the moment the focus of strategy is on the protection of data and analysis from thieves, the better management and use of big data (as a proprietary element of state power) and on better connectivity among the data harvesting institutions of state and private sectors. This last priority action ought to raise eyebrows--it provides a concrete manifestation of the policy of Joint Force (Ibid., p. 28) that institutionalized the privatization-governmentalization principle to the ends of big data management.
3. Diplomacy and Statecraft.
Beyond that, and in a nod to the primary focus of the previous administration, the NSS also considers the strategic value of diplomacy and statecraft, but now re-imagined (NSS, pp. 33-35). It recalls Hilary Clinton's smart power speech, though now turned to somewhat different ends. Yet in this case the NSS appears to suggest a secondary or consequential role for diplomacy and soft power--directed form elsewhere and meant to serve as a means of projecting objectives out and directing data in, without necessarily having much authority to develop the objectives to which it is tasked to complete. Diplomacy and statecraft is divided into three (3) broad categories: competitive diplomacy, tools of economic diplomacy, and information statecraft.
Thus when the NSS speaks to competitive diplomacy (Ibid., 33)) it speaks to putting agents in the field and to serve as American mouthpieces in international forums and bilateral relationships. Note here the very careful distinction between international forums and relationships which are bilateral. There is an underlining here of the Administration rejection of multilateralism and its commitment to aggregated bilateralism. Beyond that, our diplomats are catalysts: "Diplomats must identify opportunities for commerce and cooperation, and facilitate the cultural, educational, and people-to-people exchanges that create the networks of current and future political, civil society, and educational leaders who will extend a free and prosperous world." (Ibid.).
Beyond diplomacy there is statecraft, what might once have been understood as softer power. Here the NSS speaks to the weapons of "economic tools" (NSS, p. 34).
Economic tools—including sanctions, anti-money-laundering and anti-corruption measures, and enforcement actions—can be important parts of broader strategies to deter, coerce, and constrain adversaries. We will work with like-minded partners to build support for tools of economic diplomacy against shared threats. Multilateral economic pressure is often more effective because it limits the ability of targeted states to circumvent measures and conveys united resolve. (Ibid).This has a very specific strategic objective: it "enhances our security and prosperity by expanding a community of free market economies, defending against threats from state-led economies, and protecting the U.S. and international economy from abuse by illicit actors." (Ibid).
Information statecraft, on the other hand (NSS pp. 34-35), focuses on the strategic use of big data not merely as a military weapon but as an important economic weapon in trade. More important, though, is the insight of the NSS that there appears to be little distinction between the threat of information and analytics in economic or military application--they are two aspects of the same challenge (Ibid., 34). Here, China is very much on the minds of the NSS: it makes special reference to Chinese social credit systems and its big data management objectives as melding political and economic objectives (e.g., here), "China, for example, combines data and the use of AI to rate the loyal of its citizens to the state and uses these ratings to determine jobs and more." (NSS p. 35). Russian and jihadist use of information is much more political or "cultural"--the jihadists use it to proselytize members and the Russians to manage mass politics outside its borders (Ibid, p. 35). Yet the "Priority Actions" are a disappointment int he face of the analysis suggesting its strategic importance. There is nothing here that suggests the building of U.S. social credit, informatics and big data capabilities to match or exceed those of their competitors. Indeed, the priorities suggest a 20'th century approach to one of the most important and transformative changes of this century. This is a very large gap in the NSS that the U.S. will regret in the coming years (e.g., here).
At first blush, this appears to be an odd strategy given the thrust of the first three Pillars and the underlying strategic philosophy at the hearty of the NSS: Upon closer reflection, however, what it suggests is not so much an oddity as a tilt from one form of projection of American influence to another. Whether this tilt is a good idea and whether it will work will remain to be seen. It is, however, a plausible policy choice in the policy context in which it is made. That framework emphasizes bilateralism ("Encouraging Aspiring Partners" NSS, p. 38), changing the approach to U.S: engagement with multilateral and international organizations (Ibid., p. 40), and advancing the American Internationale ("Champion American Values; NSS p. 41). These objectives are nicely integrated both with the Third Pillar (especially its diplomacy and statecraft objectives; "By modernizing U.S. instruments of diplomacy and development, we will catalyze conditions to help them achieve that goal." Ibid., p. 38) and in the Pillar I objectives of substituting values based engagement in place of systems in global institution or relationship building (NSS p. 39).
Yet the NSS takes it values less as a systemic imperative than other administrations.
The United States offers partnership to those who share our aspirations for freedom and prosperity. We lead by example. . . . We are not going to impose our values on others. Our alliances, partnerships, and coalitions are built on free will and shared interests. When the United States partners with other states, we develop policies that enable us to achieve our goals while our partners achieve theirs.(NSS, p. 37)
1. Encouraging Aspiring Partners. The key element here appears to be the continuation of the American ideological project to encourage foreign national development along the lines of American principles of politics, society and economics. This, it is understood, has been good for business as well as politics.
Some of the greatest triumphs of American statecraft resulted from helping fragile and developing countries become successful societies. These successes, in turn, created profitable markets for American businesses, allies to help achieve favorable regional balances of power, and coalition partners to share burdens and address a variety of problems around the world. Over time, the United States has helped create a network of states that advance our common interests and values. (Ibid 38)
Today, the United States must compete for positive relationships around the world. China and Russia target their investments in the developing world to expand influence and gain competitive advantages against the United States. China is investing billions of dollars in infrastructure across the globe. Russia, too, projects its influence economically, through the control of key energy and other infrastructure throughout parts of Europe and Central Asia. The United States provides an alternative to state-directed investments, which often leave developing countries worse off. The United States pursues economic ties not only for market access but also to create enduring relationships to advance common political and security interests. (NSS p. 38)
The question assumes economic and strategic importance as the choice among approaches to markets may determine the domination of the Chinese, Russian or American models among those states that are placed at key points within global production chains. And that is what this NSS initiative is all about--the protection of relationships with key national actors among developing states and the equally important protection of access to markets and to the protection of global production in ways that favor one apex state over others (for a discussion of the distinct varieties of globalization and its implications, useful in this context, see here).
Across Africa, Latin America, and Asia, states are eager for investments and financing to develop their infrastructure and propel growth. The United States and its partners have opportunities to work with countries to help them realize their potential as prosperous and sovereign states that are accountable to their people. Such states can become trading partners that buy more American-made goods and create more predict- able business environments that benefit American companies. (NSS p. 39).
2. Achieving Better Outcomes. This is one of the most telling and interesting of the objectives of Pillar IV. It starts on familiar ground--an acknowledgement that international and multilateral institutions are rule producing institutions with the power to affect American interests. "If the United States cedes leadership of these bodies to adversaries, opportunities to shape developments that are positive for the United States will be lost." (Ibid. p. 40). But from this consensus point springs a bit of divergence from traditional approaches. First, the U.S. means to use its participation not merely to protect its interests in multilateral rule making but also to protect its sovereignty (Ibid). But more importantly, the U.S. will now withdraw from full engagement with all such multilateral institutions, where, in accordance with its own assessments, the value of those institutions as a threat or benefit to American interests is not equal to the costs of participation or that advantage that participation garners for American opponents. More importantly, this Pillar IV serves its most important purpose by announcing that the United States will take a narrow and traditional view of the authority of international institutions and their rules to constrain or affect their own domestic legal order.
All institutions are not equal, however. The United States will prioritize its efforts in those organizations that serve American interests, to ensure that they are strengthened and supportive of the United States, our allies, and our partners. Where existing institutions and rules need modernizing, the United States will lead to update them. At the same time, it should be clear that the United States will not cede sovereign to those that claim authority over American citizens and are in conflict with our constitutional framework. (NSS p. 40).
Beyond that, the U.S. strategic objectives mirror those of the U.K. in the 19th century and the U.S. after 1945:"to shape and govern common domains—space, cyberspace, air, and maritime—within the framework of international law." (NSS 41). Yet here, as well, there is a retreat from the movement, accelerated during the last administration and much beloved by global academic and institutional elites (in the West at least) that sought to construct international law and obligation as superior to and always embedded above and within the domestic legal orders of states. In its place there is a much more muted acknowledgement of the authority of international law, of international forums and of the international system and an implicit rejection of international legalization that had gone substantially unchallenged by U.S. institutional and academic elites for at least a generation. "The United States supports the peaceful resolution of disputes under international law but will use all of its instruments of power to defend U.S. interests and to ensure common domains remain free." (Ibid). More problematically is the strategic objective of preserving a free and open internet (Ibid).
The problem, of course arises from the implications of the security and information surveillance objectives of the NSS itself, and its promise in Pillar IV to interdict speech and other activities on the web sponsored by terrorist groups and otherwise deemed a threat to the U.S.. Not that this is the first time that objectives might clash in a multi objective document. Yet there appears no mechanism for resolving these conflicts and contradictions. That does not mean that there aren't methods; rather it suggests that such methods, like the decision making that underlie them, will be subject to an opaque and publicly unaccountable exercise of administrative discretion.
3. Championing American Values. This strategic initiative combines traditional elements of advancing the ideological project of global Americanization through law, economics, politics, religion, and social interaction, with a number of platforms and policies that reflect some of the most well known assertions made by the President while he was a candidate for office. Much f the latter remains both contentious (that is does not reflect national consensus) and likely to ignite somewhat heated internal political and legal challenge. That is neither here nor there; every administration (including the last one) also faced this very issue. Yet that should be borne in mind in assessing both the scope and character of these sets of strategic initiatives in the context of a complex document.
With that in mind, the NSS provides a window on the political foreign policy priorities of this administration in the context of its ideological and normative agendas. The first touches on support for individuals but not states. This strategic initiative reaffirms the right of the U.S. to engage in regime changes and to use international norms when it advances U.S. interests.
We support, with our words and actions, those who live under oppressive regimes and who seek freedom, individual dignity, and the rule of law. We are under no obligation to offer the benefits of our free and prosperous community to repressive regimes and human rights abusers. We may use diplomacy, sanctions, and other tools to isolate states and leaders who threaten our interests and whose actions run contrary to our values. We will not remain silent in the face of evil. We will hold perpetrators of genocide and mass atrocities accountable. (NSS p. 42)
The second, again, touches on the U.S. conflict with terrorist organizations and especially those operating under cover of Islam, "to defeat jihadist terrorists and other groups that foment hatred and use violence to advance their supremacist Islamist ideologies." (Ibid). The third, continuing a long tradition of American foreign policy is to empower women and youth, though its expression in action remains unclear.
The fourth is probably among the more important of these initiatives--and reflects the outward projection of American internal politics.
Read together with the others, it is not impossible to see in this initiative a strategic objective to protect Christian communities in states with non Christian majorities. It may also be read as adding a stronger religious element to relations between the United States and non religious, atheist and secular communities--from France to China.We will advocate on behalf of religious freedom and threatened minorities. Religious minorities continue to be victims of violence. We will place a priority on protecting these groups and will continue working with regional partners to protect minority communities from attacks and to preserve their cultural heritage. (Ibid)
The last is a commitment to continued humanitarian aid, but with a twist. "We will support food security and health programs that save lives and address the root cause of hunger and disease. We will support displaced people close to their homes to help meet their needs until they can safely and voluntarily return home." (NSS p. 42). The critical element here are both the tying of humanitarian aid to displaced persons to the larger issue of mass migrations (the "close to their homes" language) and what appears to be the avoidance of food and medicine transfers for more long term an institutional measures--though what they might be remains a mystery.
It is in this final section that the NSS Four Pillar strategy is applied in a regional context, and the section of the NSS of greatest interest to U.S. allies and competitors. The focus again in on what appears for the U.S. administration to comprise the "big Four" threat states--China, Russia, North Korea and Iran.
China and Russia aspire to project power worldwide, but they interact most with their neighbors. North Korea and Iran also pose the greatest menace to those closest to them. But, as destructive weapons proliferate and regions become more interconnected, threats become more difficult to contain. And regional balances that shift against the United States could combine to threaten our security. (NSS p. 45).
1. Indo Pacific. The focus of this strategic initiative is, of course, China and North Korea. "China is using economic inducements and penalties, influence operations, and implied military threats to persuade other states to heed its political and security agenda. " (NSS p. 46). Yet without the slightest acknowledgement of irony it suggest that this is all done to advance the national interests and the political aspirations of the Chinese state (Ibid). The reason this is curious, of course, is that the NSS itself is grounded on those very same principles and objectives. Yet there is no means provided to understand why American national aspirations ought to triumph over those of the Chinese. It is on this point that the prior administration had the better argument (though its ability to capitalize on it and to actually assert the will to operationalize its aspirations fell far short of the mark). In the face of Chinese national interests, the only possible force that could claim an authority superior (not just equal) to it would be the advancement of international norms and structures, and international consensus. That, precisely, had been the ideological position of the Americans (though again not used as successfully as it might have). The Americans were good at this, even as they refused or fail to apply those standards to themselves. It is not clear what is gained by ceding that ideological space (and the ability to manage that consensus through the use of military and economic and social power) to advance national interest--even if the underlying ideology is appealing (especially to Americans). All that the Americans can offer is this: acceding to American interests will be less sovereignty crushing than acceding to Chinese interests.
China presents its ambitions as mutually beneficial, but Chinese dominance risks diminishing the sovereignty of many states in the Indo-Pacific. States throughout the region are calling for sustained U.S. leadership in a collective response that upholds a regional order respectful of sovereignty and independence.(NSS 46)
2. Europe. Beyond the almost cringe worthy reminder of what the Europeans owe the United States for rescuing them from their near century long aggressive effort at suicide (and to some extent worthy of reminder for a generation of Europeans that would prefer to re-imagine the 20th century)(NSS 47), the NSS offers some interesting strategic considerations. To the Europeans the United States has been generous--it offers them the opportunity to escape from vassalage to the United States (something some might not have thought prudent) but at the price of bearing a greater share of the responsibility for their own sovereign orders. Note the subtlety with which that bargain is offered:
The United States is safer when Europe is prosperous and stable, and can help defend our shared interests and ideals. The United States remains firmly committed to our European allies and partners. The NATO alliance of free and sovereign states is one of our great advantages over our competitors, and the United States remains committed to Article V of the Washington Treaty. (NSS p. 48)The meaning changes with an emphasis on "help defend""partners" and "free and sovereign." But perhaps subtlety is overvalued in documents like this one. And yet all of this is recast in much more traditional terms--the Europeans serve as a trip wire against Russian ambition (Ibid); and the whispers of the TTIP are offered though not by name as a counter to Chinese ambitions (especially with respect to OBOR and Yuan internationalization, see, e.g. here). But this comes at a price: "We expect our European allies to increase defense spending to 2 percent of gross domestic product by 2024, with 20 percent of this spending devoted to increasing military capabilities." (Ib id 48). This is, as the famous line from the Godfather reminds us, is strictly business.
3. Middle East. The Middle East brigs us back to Iran and the jihadist movement, while characterizing the Israeli-Palestinian challenge as "the prime irritant preventing peace and prosperity in the region." (NSS p. 49). In a telling statement the U.S. reveals its objectives clearly:
Today, the threats from jihadist terrorist organizations and the threat from Iran are creating the realization that Israel is not the cause of the region’s problems. States have increasingly found common interests with Israel in confronting common threats.(Ibid).
4. South and Central Asia. Here the concern are Pakistan and Afghanistan, important especially given the American obsession with China.
We seek an American presence in the region proportionate to threats to the homeland and our allies. We seek a Pakistan that is not engaged in destabilizing behavior and a stable and self-reliant Afghanistan. And we seek Central Asian states that are resilient against domination by rival powers, are resistant to becoming jihadist safe havens, and prioritize reforms. (NSS p. 50)
5. Western Hemisphere. The Western Hemisphere poses substantial risks--criminal enterprises, migration, Russia. . . and (always) China (NSS p. 51). But here the U.S: offers a partnership between the U.S. and Canada to work through the issues of the rest of what is now reduced to Latin America. And that is the problem. The Latin Americans have always had a "mutual respect" problem. The Americans have never gotten the hint--even under the Obama Administration. Policy cannot be built on the images of those fun movies of the 1940s.50s or those horrific ideological epics after the 1970s. And yet that appears to be the problem. So, the US. will isolate Cuba and Venezuela--hardly original nor successful (Ibid. 51). The threat to modernize trade agreements does not ring with the same positive overtones in Latin America as it does in Washington; and one wonders why these Republics might consider alternatives to the U.S: status quo. The problem for them is that they also operate forma position of weakness, and neither the Europeans nor the Chinese (much less the Russians) offer viable long term alternatives. It is in this context that the m,ajor strategic promise loses coherence:
We will build upon local efforts and encourage cultures of lawfulness to reduce crime and corruption, including by supporting local efforts to professionalize police and other security forces; strengthen the rule of law and undertake judicial reform; and improve information sharing to target criminals and corrupt leaders and disrupt illicit trafficking.(Ibid).
There is some comfort here. Little appears to be changed from prior administration in this NSS. The only exception was the last minute thaw in relations with Cuba by the Obama administration--and there that was a mutual affair. Consider this another opportunity lost.
6. Africa. Africa is understood as a space within which the challenges to U.S interests are all well represented. This includes everything form fragile states, to Chinese expansion, to the problems of jihadist ideology and its consequences. Sadly, but not surprisingly, the United States again (as it did under the Obama Administration) offers much by way of hope and little by way of action.
The United States seeks sovereign African states that are integrated into the world economy, able to provide for their citizens’ needs, and capable of managing threats to peace and security. Improved governance in these states supports economic development and opportunities, diminishes the attraction of illegal migration, and reduces vulnerability to extremists, thereby reducing instability.(NSS, p. 52)
As for America and the West, our commitment must be measured by more than just the dollars we spend. I have pledged substantial increases in our foreign assistance, which is in Africa’s interest and America’s. But the true sign of success is not whether we are a source of aid that helps people scrape by - it is whether we are partners in building the capacity for transformational change. This mutual responsibility must be the foundation of our partnership. And today, I will focus on four areas that are critical to the future of Africa and the entire developing world: democracy; opportunity; health; and the peaceful resolution of conflict. (here).And that, of course, represents the continuing and still unresolved challenge of Africa for those who would venture within that remarkable continent. And always, China: "We will support economic integration among African states. We will work with nations that seek to move beyond assistance to partnerships that promote prosperity. We will offer American goods and services, both because it is profitable for us and because it serves as an alternative to China’s often extractive economic footprint on the continent." NSS p. 52). Surely there must have been some way to make this more palatable.
The NSS assumes an interest in members of the global community or society to have the opportunity to share our values (NSS, 1); all benefit when the U.S. leads "in accordance with our interests and values" (NSS, 3). And, indeed, the NSS is guided by the premise that values are central to American strategic aims. Advancing American influence is the means to that end "because a world that supports American interests and reflects our values makes America more secure and prosperous." (NSS, p. 4). American values should infuse technology and mechanisms for global interaction--the Internet, for example, "is an American invention, and it should reflect our values as it continues to transform the future for all nations." (NSS, 13). Moreover it is important strategically to ensure that external threats not be "allowed to shake our shared commitment to our values." (NSS, 14).
Values provide the means of separating friend and ally from competitor and from enemy. Thus, for example, the NSS is based on a principle that "competition is healthy when nations share values." (NSS, 19. That provides a foundation for the strategic conclusion that "China and Russia want to shape a world antithetical to U.S. values and interests." (NSS, 25). It follows that the U.S. must "raise our competitive game to meet that challenge, to protect American interests, and to advance our values." (NSS, 28). And our values determine the focus of our soft power against rivals and enemies. Indeed soft power--diplomacy, sanctions "and other tools" are to be used to "isolate states and leaders who threaten our interests and whose actions run counter to our values." (NSS, 42). Indeed, our values distinguish allies from adversaries, for example North Korea (NSS, 46), and serve as the fundamental glue that holds our European alliance together (NSS, 48).
Values, like information, is also central to "Information Statecraft that serves as an important element of Pillar III (NSS, 34). The weaponization of information has as a principal target the solidity of our values (Ibid). Necessary countermeasures, then, must be deployed, though such measures "will adhere to American values and expose the adversary propaganda and disinformation." (NSS, 35). At the same time values must be embedded in the "local voices" communications the Americans support (Ibid). In this context values must be constructed and advanced through public-private partnerships; indeed, "the private sector should lend its creativity and resources to promoting the values that inspire and grow a community of civilized groups and individuals." (Ibid).
Of course, the entirety of Pillar IV is focused on the development and transmission of American values (NSS, 37 et seq.). It embraces the notions of marketplaces of ideas, now transposed into global markets for values (NSS; 37), a concept with respect to which there is some consensus in the public and private spheres. It is this embrace of the notion of values in markets that make it possible to adhere to the notion that our strategic aims exclude the objective of imposing our values "on others" (Ibid) while simultaneous crafting a sophisticated campaign to promote those values globally. The U.S. joins many others in embracing this approach. Indeed the NSS sounds like a mission statement for popular global civil society elements when it explains the aim of championing "American values and offer encouragement to those struggling for human dignity in their societies." (Ibid., 38). To that end, a strategic objective of the Americans, carried over from decades of prior work, is to extend and maintain its "network of states that advance our common interests and values." (Ibid). Values also drive American strategic interventions in international organizations. They also serve as the basis for determining whether the U.S, will participate in such organizations or withdraw form them (NSS, 40).
It is in the context of the important strategic aim of championing American values (NSS, 41) that such values are defined. The definition is straightforward: "our respect for fundamental individual liberties beginning with the freedoms of religion, speech, the press, and assembly. Liberty, free enterprise, equal justice under the law, and the dignity of every human life are central to who we are as a people." (NSS, 41). The definition ought to be borne in mind, both as a baseline for national accountability, and as a means of distinguishing these values from those of rival camps. These values, thus defined, are offered as the foundation for reducing "the violence, drug trafficking, and illegal immigration that threaten our common security (NSS, 51). And thus the fundamental connection between values and interest: "America's values and influence, underwritten by American power, make the world more free, secure, and prosperous." (NSS, 55).
(Pix © Larry Catá Backer 2017)
It is realist because it acknowledges the central role of power in international politics, affirms that sovereign states are the best hope for a peaceful world, and clearly defines our national interests. It is principled because it is grounded in the knowledge that advancing American principles spreads peace and prosperity around the globe. We are guided by our values and disciplined by our interests. (NSS, p. 55)