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Restoring Our National Security


Published: February 28, 2018

For the past twenty years, the United States has been operating mostly unguided by a coherent security strategy. As a result, we have been too reactive to events and crises. To effectively manage our national security, we need a strategy that is clearly defined, communicated, and supported.

Discussion Questions

  1. Is America responsible for international order?
  2. Could we have avoided any of the wars post WWII if we had a clear strategy? If so, how?
  3. What results have we witnessed recently due to an ill-defined strategy?

Additional Resources

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For the past twenty years and across administrations of both political parties, the United States has been reactively responding to threats rather than proactively starting from strategy. America's strengths have shielded us from the consequences of operating this way, but it is a costly way to do business.

As a result, we have squandered opportunities to strengthen and support an international order that serves the interests of America and all nations that want a peaceful and prosperous world.

If we are to arrest the atrophying of America as the guardian of the international order, we must develop a security strategy that is appropriate for today's world and flexible enough to respond to alternative futures not yet defined.

Rather than cataloging every interest, strategy needs to provide clear expectations about reacting to unforeseen events as they unfold.

Strategy is a process, not an endpoint. Its role is to reduce uncertainty to the degree we can and to prepare us to respond even when we are surprised.

The strategic process starts with defined political objectives. They can change, but they must be realistic and coherent to drive strategy. Those objectives set the levels of ambition for what will be attempted and drive the level of resources required to attain them.

Shaping the future, rather than merely accepting it, requires leadership. The beauty of the American order is that most of the world wants us to succeed, and is willing to help us when we are clear about what we are doing, demonstrate that it is in the collective interest, and persevere to attain our goals.