Obama Redefines National Security Strategy – Beyond Military Might & Toward Leadership
Today, President Obama released his first National Security Strategy report to the nation and the world — In a broad redefinition of U.S. strategic priorities, President Obama said that the United States must revitalize its own economic, moral and innovative strength if it is to continue to lead the world.
Just as it did following World War II, the United States today must also shape a new international order and system of global institutions that reflect a 21st century reality.
“As we fight the wars in front of us, we must see the horizon beyond them,” he writes in an introduction to the document. “To get there, we must pursue a strategy of national renewal and global leadership — a strategy that rebuilds the foundation of American strength and influence.”
Obama’s new doctrine represents a clear break with the unilateral military approach advocated by his predecessor.
“…when we overuse our military might, or fail to invest in or deploy complementary tools, or act without partners,” Obama said, “then our military is overstretched. Americans bear a greater burden, and our leadership around the world is too narrowly identified with military forces.”
“America has not succeeded by stepping out of the currents of cooperation.”
In a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, John Brennan, Obama’s top counterterrorism adviser, outlined some of the President’s major perspectives within the new National Security Strategy.
Brennan began by explaining the new understanding of the realities the U.S. confronts as he described a “new phase” in al-Qaeda tactics, one in which individuals who do not fit the “traditional profile” attempt to carry out relatively unsophisticated attacks — citing both the Nigerian suspect in the failed Christmas Day airliner bomb attack and the Pakistani American who allegedly parked a car bomb in Times Square.
“As our enemy adapts and evolves their tactics,” Brennan said, “so must we constantly adapt and evolve our tactics, not in a mad rush driven by fear, but in a thoughtful and reasoned way that enhances our security and further delegitimizes the actions of our enemy.”
- “Our enemy is not terrorism, because terrorism is but a tactic.
- “Our enemy is not terror, because terror is a state of mind and,
- “As Americans, we refuse to live in fear.”
“Nor do we describe our enemy as jihadists or Islamists,” Brennan said, because use of these religious terms would “play into the false perception” that al-Qaeda and its affiliates are “religious leaders and defending a holy cause, when in fact, they are nothing more than murderers.”
“The United States is at war,” he said. “We are at war against al-Qaeda and its terrorist affiliates.”
The administration “will take the fight” to the extremists “wherever they plot and train in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and beyond,” Brennan said, but we “will exercise force prudently, recognizing that we often need to use a scalpel and not a hammer.”
“When we know of terrorists who are plotting against us, we have a responsibility to take action to defend ourselves, and we will do so,” Brennan said. “At the same time, an action that eliminates a single terrorist but causes civilian casualties can, in fact, inflame local populations and create far more problems — a tactical success but a strategic failure.”
Even as the United States strengthens internal and international defenses, American values and resilience remain the primary U.S. weapons, he said.
“Terrorists may try to bring death to our cities, but it is our choice to either uphold the rule of law or chip away at it . . . to either respond wisely and effectively or lash out in ways that inflame entire regions and stoke the fires of violent extremism. That is our choice. And with the strategy . . . President Obama and the administration offers our answer.”
The administration, the strategy document says, will “do everything in our power to prevent these dangers . . . [but] we also recognize that we will not be able to deter or prevent every single threat. That is why we must also enhance our resilience — the ability to adapt to changing conditions and prepare for, withstand and rapidly recover from disruption.”
The strategy concludes on a somewhat regretful but highly accurate note, saying that both domestic and international progress depend upon “broad and bipartisan cooperation” whose absence “places the United States at a strategic disadvantage.”
“Throughout the Cold War, even as there were intense disagreements about certain courses of action, there remained a belief that America’s political leaders shared common goals, even if they differed about how to reach them,” it says. “In today’s political environment,… that sense of common purpose is at times lacking in our national dialogue.”