Back in April I gave some initial grades to the Obama Administration’s management of national security issues. Of particular concern to me was the absence of any grand strategy:
National Security Strategy: Incomplete, and my sense is the due date on this assignment is not far off. I suspect that Gen. Jones is laboring mightily on one, but excessive delays may send a message that global security problems are something to be reacted to and not planned for. You can’t shape the world if you don’t have any blueprints from which to work.
Now, the broader policy community is starting to notice and making the same arguments.
When President Obama announced his decision to deploy 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, he presented a clear argument for why he believes U.S. national security is threatened by violence and extremism in that country and in the region.
What was missing from the speech, however, was a sense of how and to what degree continued U.S. involvement in that region fits into the United States’ comprehensive national security agenda. That evaluation is the key to keeping U.S. foreign policy consistent and balanced, and should be based on the president’s national security strategy (NSS).
Almost one year has passed since Mr. Obama’s inauguration, and the White House has yet to issue that seminal document.
A new strategy is not only a practical requirement; it’s a legal obligation. Congress mandates that a new president issue an NSS within five months of taking office, and annually thereafter. Mr. Obama has passed the deadline without delivering, yet several Cabinet agencies are developing key tactical documents, such as the Defense, Homeland Security and State departments’ quadrennial reviews, which should be based on the White House’s overall strategy.
This process is entirely backward. Mr. Obama needs a new NSS to make sure the country, Cabinet agencies and, most important, the men and women in the field have clear and comprehensive guidance on their role within broader U.S. national security efforts.
Personnally, my observations make me wonder whether there’s a vision behind this administration’s policies. I get no sense they are trying to shape the world; it seems like they’re merely trying to shape the processes and are ambivalent about the results. So, I have two questions for the group:
1) Is the National Security Strategy an essential component in the big picture or just a formality, and;
2) From your perspective, does this administration have a coherent grand strategy?