Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Obama Security Strategy Stresses Economy, Multilateralism

In his first National Security Strategy, President Obama pledged to maintain the U.S.'s "military superiority" while stressing that the persistence of the nation's global power will depend more on the health of its domestic economy and international cooperation.

Print Friendly

Inter Press Service

In his first National Security Strategy (NSS), President Barack Obama pledged last week to maintain Washington’s “military superiority” but stressed that the persistence of the nation’s global power will depend more on the health of its domestic economy and international cooperation.

In sharp contrast to the NSS released by former President George W. Bush six months before the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, the 52-page document underlined the limits of military power and the kind of unilateralism that characterised Bush’s first term, in particular.

“The burdens of a young century cannot fall on American shoulders alone – indeed, our adversaries would like to see America sap our strength by overextending our power,” Obama wrote in the NSS’s introduction.

“We are clear-eyed about the challenge of mobilising collective action, and the shortfalls of our international system. But America has not succeeded by stepping outside the currents of international cooperation,” he went on in one of a number of many implicit criticisms of Bush’s record that studded the document.

At the same time, the NSS asserted, Washington will not shy from the use of military force “unilaterally if necessary to defend our nation and our interests…” If and when it does so, however, “We will also seek to adhere to standards that govern the use of force.”

The NSS, which the executive branch is required to issue periodically under a 1986 law, has traditionally focused primarily on military, or “hard”, power.

In that respect, Obama’s NSS marked a significant change in the amount of attention it devoted to the importance of both strengthening the U.S. economy – described as “the wellspring of American strength” – and building “a just and sustainable international order” that, among other things, accommodates the ambitions of “21st century centres of influence”, such as China, Russia, India, Brazil, South Africa, and Indonesia.

“This really is a national security strategy in the sense that it covers a lot of ground and tries to be quite synthetic in dealing with traditional security issues, geo-economics, and the domestic sources of American power all in one fell swoop,” noted Charles Kupchan of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR).

“The document states quite clearly that the source of American power begins at home with education, with democracy, with prosperity, with fiscal responsibility,” he added. “These are all important messages.”

“The idea of grounding national security in a strong economy borrows a page from President (Dwight) Eisenhower’s playbook,” said William Hartung of the New America Foundation (NAF) who praised the document as a “huge improvement over the Bush approach, which advocated a ‘shoot first, ask questions later’ approach to foreign policy”.

Indeed, the new NSS differs from the two issued by Bush in 2002 by stressing the increasing multipolarity of global power and the need for Washington to look beyond both its ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and what it called the “global campaign against al-Qa’ida and its terrorist affiliates” in bolstering its security.

“(T)hese wars – and our global efforts to successfully counter violent extremism – are only one element of our strategic environment and cannot define America’s engagement with the world. Terrorism is one of many threats that are more consequential in a global age,” it asserted, citing nuclear weapons, cyber-warfare, U.S. dependence on fossil fuels, climate change, disease, and failed states among other threats.

“More actors exert power and influence,” according to the NSS, which noted that the administration has already helped shift the focus of global economic management from the Group of Seven (G7) Western powers to the Group of 20 (G20), which includes a number of emerging nations.

“(T)he very fluidity within the international system that breeds new challenges must be approached as an opportunity to forge new international cooperation,” it said. “We must rebalance our long-term priorities so that we successfully move beyond today’s wars, and focus our attention and resources on a broader set of countries and challenges.”

In addition to frankly recognising the world as multi-polar, the most striking difference between the new NSS and the two issued by Bush – the more aggressive 2002 NSS, which, among other things, attempted to justify the preventive use of force and vowed to maintain military superiority against any potential adversary was softened somewhat by a 2006 edition – was its treatment of military power.

“(W)hen we overuse our military might, or fail to invest in or deploy complementary tools, or act without partners, then our military is overstretched,” the new NSS warned.

“Americans bear a greater burden, and our leadership around the world is too narrowly identified with military force,” it went on. “And we know that our enemies aim to overextend our Armed Forces and drive wedges between us and those who share our interests.”

“It’s a refreshing antidote to the Bush years in making quite clear that military power is only one component of America’s strength and could under some circumstances even prove counter-productive,” Kupchan noted.

At the same time, however, Obama, partially echoing Bush, pledged in his introduction that Washington “will maintain the military superiority that has secured our country, and underpinned global security, for decades”.

Andrew Exum, a counterinsurgency specialist at the Centre for a New American Security (CNAS), said he had difficulty squaring that “bold claim” with the document’s “acknowledgement that the United States must address its deficit to ensure our future security”.

“(T)he United States might not be able to pursue all of our national security goals as vigorously as we might like in part due to spending constraints,” he said, adding that the document left him “unsure of what the administration’s true priorities are heading into the rest of its term in office”.

“The problem is there is much in Obama’s current policy that seems to contradict the document’s rhetoric of restraint – from continuing increases in an already huge military budget to the reliance on a troop surge and drone attacks as central elements of U.S. policy in Pakistan and Afghanistan,” added Hartung.

Jim Lobe is the Washington bureau chief of the Inter Press Service and a contributor to IPS Right Web (http://rightweb.irc-online.org/). He blogs at http://www.lobelog.com/. 

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

John Yoo is a former deputy assistant attorney general known for his extreme views on executive wartime powers and for helping author the George W. Bush administration’s infamous “torture memos.”


Rep. Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), former chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, is a leading ”pro-Israel” hawk in Congress.


Brigette Gabriel, an anti-Islamic author and activist, is the founder of the right-wing group ACT! for America.


The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), one of the more effective U.S. lobbying outfits, aims to ensure that the United States backs Israel regardless of the policies Israel pursues.


Frank Gaffney, director of the hardline neoconservative Center for Security Policy, is a longtime advocate of aggressive U.S. foreign policies, bloated military budgets, and confrontation with the Islamic world.


Shmuley Boteach is a “celebrity rabbi” known for his controversial “pro-Israel” advocacy.


United against Nuclear Iran is a pressure group that attacks companies doing business in Iran and disseminates alarmist reports about the country’s nuclear program.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Print Friendly

Contrary to some wishful thinking following the Trump administration’s decision to “put Iran on notice” and seemingly restore U.S.-Saudi ties, there are little signs of apprehension in Tehran.


Print Friendly

“The fundamental conflict at the heart of Israeli-Russian views on Syria is that Israel’s redline is the establishment of a permanent Iranian presence in Syria and Russia’s redline is the elimination of a permanent Iranian presence in Syria.”


Print Friendly

AIPAC has done more than just tolerate the U.S. tilt toward extreme and often xenophobic views. Newly released tax filings show that the country’s biggest pro-Israel group financially contributed to the Center for Security Policy, the think-tank that played a pivotal role in engineering the Trump administration’s efforts to impose a ban on Muslim immigration.


Print Friendly

It would have been hard for Trump to find someone with more extreme positions than David Friedman for U.S. ambassador to Israel.


Print Friendly

Just as the “bogeyman” of the Mexican rapist and drug dealer is used to justify the Wall and mass immigration detention, the specter of Muslim terrorists is being used to validate gutting the refugee program and limiting admission from North Africa, and Southwest and South Asia.


Print Friendly

Although the mainstream media narrative about Trump’s Russia ties has been fairly linear, in reality the situation appears to be anything but.


Print Friendly

Reagan’s military buildup had little justification, though the military was rebuilding after the Vietnam disaster. Today, there is almost no case at all for a defense budget increase as big as the $54 billion that the Trump administration wants.


RightWeb
share