After nearly a year in office, President Trump will unveil his National Security Strategy today in a speech at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington, D.C. The document, which runs over 55-pages, is more than twice as long as the previous strategy document published by the Obama administration in 2015. It is an effort and attempt to flesh out the President’s vision of U.S. foreign policy, which he has termed as “America First” a pivotal and strategic strategy in itself. It is in fact, as I first coined in June 2015, over a year ago, “The Trump Doctrine.”
The Trump administration’s NSS to be released today is a document required by Congress, will address the most dire global threats, including the primary threat of “revisionist powers” such as Russia and China and of course North Korea, Iran and radical-Islamic terror. It will also be the first one to have a deep focus on economic competitiveness, particularly with China, according to a source familiar with it.
Overall the strategy will center on what has been described as “geopolitics with vengeance” that is based on the tenants of;
– Protecting the U.S. Homeland
– Advancing and protecting U.S. prosperity
– Competitive Engagement
– Peace through strength
– Advancing U.S. influence
The latter of which includes and addresses aspects of “new generation warfare” incumbent on countering and targeting sophisticated foreign propaganda campaigns against the U.S. designed to influence our society.
It is very Reaganesque, but at the same time must also reverse much of the disastrous and consequential damaging national security, foreign policy and defense policy of the Obama administration. So what might President Trump’s national security strategy, the first for his Presidency look like? As I said, the new President is required by Congress to usually develop and publish the first edition of his term by December-January — essentially at the end of his first year in office. To that end, President Trump wasted no time, since his inauguration, both by being tested and of his taking quick action to implement and reverse Obama’s mess. We certainly have gotten a glimpse of his policy and engagement over the last 12-months in his dealing with Russia, Middle Eastern leaders, NATO, China, Iran and North Korea, and the ongoing decimation of ISIS. His prowess, determination and aggressive stance has been dominant, but steady – and America’s position and leadership in the world is once again being respected!
Over the past week, the President’s staffers on the U.S. National Security Council have been diligently putting the finishing touches to the President Trump’s congressionally mandated NSS. Having worked on the crafting and development of the strategy during my time on the NSC staff, I can say that the focus is supposed to describe America’s interests, identify the threats to those interests, and describe a strategy to counter them. But Trump’s National Security Council faces a unique problem: The greatest threat to America’s national security is not some foreign enemy or rogue terrorist entity such as ISIS or al-Qaeda. It is essentially the lack of a strategic and coherent national security strategy for the past 8-years for the U.S. It was handed a weak semblance of a strategy that saw an eight-year long apology tour, the accommodating of Putin and Russia by dismantling the Missile Defense System in Europe. Further, the acquiescing to Iran, facilitating the overthrow of long-time allies in the Middle East, ignoring North Korea’s nuclear program by a policy of strategic pause, and capitulating to radical Islam had set us back even more so. Further, failure to rest and refit our warfighters and their hardware, and insane social experimentation of our armed forces has been detrimental to our capability. As a result, this now calls for innovative strategy — so with that I will imagine what the “adults in the room” might write if they were to acknowledge this unique challenge.
The President’s NSS will be the first strategy since Reagan to have a deep focus on economic competitiveness, particularly with China, according to those familiar with and involved in the ongoing development of the strategy. Reasserting U.S. economic power and might will be pivotal to the strategy, unlike during the past administration.
Towards that end, the NSS is expected to be actionable, in terms of recommending certain economic trade laws be reformed and to which are forthcoming. Secondly, in the Trump administration’s view, the United States’ greatest weapon is a strong and sustainable gross domestic product (GDP). Third, along those lines, the NSS is expected to have a heavy focus on reciprocal and fair trade, economic strength, economic competitiveness, and to defend against economic warfare directed towards the U.S. In this sense, once again, the U.S. will use it full economic and financial might as a weapon and together with the other pillars of national power, the U.S. will wield its influence around the globe.
Likewise, President Trump made American economic competitiveness with China a key campaign issue. The administration has made it a key focus, at the same time attempting to work with China to denuclearize North Korea. As I previously outlined. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster this past week in Washington provided a preview of the NSS, outlining the four core pillars: Protecting the homeland, advancing U.S. prosperity, peace through strength, and advancing U.S. influence. He also outlined the nation’s five major threats: revisionist powers like China and Russia, rogue states like Iran and North Korea, and transnational terrorist groups.
The NSS drafting and development process, spearheaded by Deputy Assistant to the President for National Security Strategy on the National Security Council, Nadia Schadlow, and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategy Dina Powell, took input from across government, as is the process, including defense and military leaders, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of Staff Rex Tillerson, the Treasury Department and Economic leaders, the Intelligence Community and others. It obviously it was very coordinated and collaborative effort. General Mattis noted that, “We had an open invitation to be there. We took full advantage of it, giving our inputs.” Of extreme importance, while it used a numerous expert national security sources for input, the NSS also drew from President Trump’s campaign promises, and Trump himself had a hand in crafting it, according to the White House.
Towards that end, the NSS is expected to be actionable, in terms of recommending certain economic trade laws be reformed, in that vein, the NSS with be a driver and a tool to measure U.S. global economic influence. It’s all about putting “America First” in the world.
So along alone the above, other critical considerations to pay attention to are as follows about the strategy:
What role does the strategy play in shaping policy? Think of the NNS as a mission statement, one that translates the President’s vision into a series of practical principles that serve as guide to policy decisions on everything from involvement in foreign wars to immigration law. In a recent speech, national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster called the strategy, “a dramatic rethinking of American foreign policy from previous decades.”
What are its guiding principles? The full strategy document will be released today in conjunction with the president’s remarks, but Lt. General McMaster has already sketched its four pillars in broad terms, as I pointed out earlier — they are: Protecting the homeland, advancing American prosperity, preserving peace through strength, and enhancing American influence.
As referenced previous, another question that should be asked is; how is it different? Under President Barack Obama, the U.S. focused on the “big 4 plus 1,” which is threats from China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran, plus terrorism. The Trump strategy also names China and Russia as “revisionist powers,” and North Korea and Iran as “rogue regimes.” But it also defines the threats in terms of economic competition, not just military strength, because economies and economics is equally import when dealing with China and Russia…obviously.
The Trump document calls on America to defend its economic interests with its military, including trade deals and military alliances. “The U.S., the UK, and other allies cannot serve as a force for peace and stability in the world if we are not economically and fiscally secure,” McMaster stressed. And the NSS stresses those alliances must be a two-way street in which allies contribute their fair share and don’t depend on the U.S. to do all the heavy lifting. Once again we must think NATO. The President reiterated that both during the campaign and in his visit to the NATO summit and key NATO nations earlier this year.
Has the U.S. always had a formal NSS? No. The first official National Security Strategy was released in 1987, near the end of the Reagan administration. The Cold War was still going on, and the document was billed as a “radical rethinking” of American foreign policy.
How will U.S. policy and the approach to national security be different under President Trump? At a speech at the Ronald Reagan presidential library this month, General McMaster credited Reagan for ushering in a new era of American confidence, reaching a new height of influence and prosperity. He said; “As we approach the unveiling of President Trump’s national security strategy, we are at a similar crossroads.” He further, noted; the new strategy will help reclaim “America’s strategic confidence.” Certainly, key element of President Trump’s overall strategy goal of; America First and Make America Great Again – MAGA! … and the center piece of the Trump Doctrine.