The word on the street is that the Administration will release its updated National Security Strategy tomorrow. Consequently, the news is full of hints and pundits are abuzz with prognostications. It’s been said to be a return to a cooperative diplomatic, economic and alliance-centric approach, and include a new focus on “home-grown” threats. Most predictably, it’s being heralded by many as a break with the Bush administration, which seems to still be the pinnacle of achievement in the minds of many. Surprisingly absent from the previews is any discussion of the roles the ongoing global economic and financial responsibility crises pose to security, despite recent comments from Secretary Gates. All in all, the buzz makes the new NSS sound like the Navy’s cooperative strategy on steroids.

All the details revealed to date and subsequent commentary and discussion seem to reveal no major departures from the Administration’s strategy-in-practice of the last 17 months. We’ll talk (a lot) before we shoot. We’ll try to get others to bear a hand with the heavy lifting. So the big question after the release will be what it always is after major policy announcements: will it work?

To try and answer that question, I’ll ask my own question: how’s it working so far? Well, here are some examples:

  • Iran — No noteworthy departures from previous approaches or progress.
  • North Korea — Nuclear program still chugging along, with the loss of a RoK national asset and 46 sailors dead as collateral costs. Relations spiraling and the “great powers” are looking less “great” every day.
  • Russia — Successfully reasserting their influence–without major obstruction–in their near abroad. Appears to be winning in their battle against a U.S. national BMD system.
  • China — Proceeding with a military buildup like none since the inter-war years. Flexing their muscles inside the first island chain and increasing their reach into the second island chain. Proving they’ll continue to support rogue states when it’s to their benefit.
  • United Kingdom — Busy planning the funeral for the “special relationship”
  • Israel — Increasingly finding themselves all alone in an increasingly harsh wilderness.

Thus far, the answer to “will it work” doesn’t look promising to me. What say you?

Chris van Avery is a Military Professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies. The views expressed herein are his own.

Posted by Chris van Avery in Uncategorized

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  • UltimaRatioReg

    Collective security and economic appeasement have been dismal failures at every turn. Now we are basing our NSS on those very principles? It is amateur hour.

    I am gravely concerned about the “home-grown threat” bent. From whom? By whom? Against what?

    After several attempts at another attack on US citizens and US sovereignty by foreign-connected terrorists, to hear Napolitano and company continue to harp on “home grown threats” seems a fairly thin veil for clamping down on vocal political opposition.

    Hope I am wrong, but haven’t been so far.

  • Nick

    Planning the funeral for the Special Relationship? I am not sure where you are getting this from. Not only has every single person who has predicted it’s demise over the past 60 years been proven wrong time and again, but the current government of David Cameron is in many ways more pro-American than the prior Labor gov’t. Just look at some of the recent comments by Foreign Secretary Hague.

    If anything, I think we are about to see a “re-birth” of the Special Relationship into a mold more of the Reagan/Thatcher type. Close, but also frank. Which is a good thing, IMO.

    As for Israel, if they are finding themselves alone in the wilderness, it is due to the current Israeli government’s bellicose and confrontational approach to the Palestinians. This is hardly the fault of the Obama Administration.

  • Warrant Diver


    you’re only looking at one side of the relationship…the American administration appears much more interested in “outreaches” (or capitulations?) to the Arab world (not to mention China and North Korea) than to to a commitment to our oldest and best ally.

  • Nick

    Warrant Diver

    The Obama Administration has been showing some signs of taking the Special Relationship more seriously. Just look at some of the praise that the President and the Secretary of State have been saying lately about the UK. It is important to recall that President Obama was the first to call David Cameron, which I think is telling.

    To be honest, the administration did seem a bit distant at first, but I think that this had more to do with Brown’s personality than anything. Afterall, the most sucessful periods of the US/UK relationship always coincide with good relations between the President and PM.

    July is the month to watch. If PM Cameron and President Obama hit it off, I think that you will see an instant reaffirmation and warming of the special relationship.

  • Paul

    I think we’re also trying to apply rational actions to irrational leaders. All of the above enemies (or “frenemies”) are not afraid to do things to hurt our interests. But our options to strike back are limited.

    Iran– they don’t listen to us and short of a military strike they’re going to keep trying to get a bomb. Plus, they have Russia in their back pocket in the Security Council. So, what would work and that’s not a rhetorical question.

    North Korea is nuts– but again, what can be done with China protecting them and using them as a foil to the US?

    China– they have too much economic power over us and frankly, the amerian population isn’t going to stop buying cheap chinese goods at Walmart in the interests of national security. They are playing an adult game and we let this happen by wanting those goods without considering the long term impact on us.

    Russia has issues but their power projection has been limited by their own problems. Still, they have that veto on the ineffective Security Council. More symbolic power rather than real power there.

    So, what to do? China and Russia are able to point to the US as the only superpower and garner support through challenging the big kid on the block and in the process garner influence. I don’t have the answers at all, but no matter what administration is in power, what can realistically be done short of economic restructuring or military action?

    Oh, one area that could be beefed up ASAP is information warfare. Our defenses against cyber attack are woefully lacking and we could certainly build up those offensive and defensive options.

    So, if we could advise the office of the President, no matter who is in power, what would everyone recommend to do to the above? I’m not worried about Israel as they’ve shown themselves quite capable of protecting themselves.

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