Tuesday, February 10, 2015

President Obama's 2015 National Security Strategy

What the White House says about it, "President Obama's National Security Strategy in 2015: Strong and Sustainable American Leadership":
Here are the 4 key ways we will advance a strong and sustained American leadership:
1. We will advance the security of the United States, its citizens, and U.S. allies and partners by:
- Maintaining a national defense that is the best trained, equipped, and led force in the world
- Reinforcing our homeland security to protect Americans from terrorist attacks and natural hazards
- Striving for a world without nuclear weapons and ensuring nuclear materials don't fall into the wrong hands
- Developing a global capacity to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to biological threats like Ebola through the Global Health Security Agenda
2. We will advance a strong, innovative, and growing U.S. economy in an open international economic system by:
- Strengthening American energy security and increasing global access to reliable and  affordable energy to bolster economic growth and development worldwide
- Advancing a trade agenda -- including the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Transatlantic  Trade and Investment Partnership -- that creates good American jobs and shared prosperity
- Leading efforts to reduce extreme poverty, food insecurity, and preventable deaths with initiatives such as Feed the Future and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief
3. We will advance respect for universal values at home and around the world by:
- Holding ourselves to the highest possible standard by living our values at home even as we do what is necessary to keep our people safe and our allies secure
- Leading the way in confronting the corruption by promoting adherence to standards of accountable and transparent governance
- Leading the international community to prevent and respond to human rights abuses and mass atrocities as well as gender-based violence and discrimination against LGBT persons
4. We will advance an international order that promotes peace, security, and oppor­tunity through stronger cooperation by:
- Strengthening and growing our global alliances and partnerships, forging diverse coalitions, and leading at the United Nations and other multilateral organizations
- Pursuing a stable Middle East and North Africa by countering terrorism, preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, and reducing the underlying sources of conflict
- Promoting a prosperous, secure, and democratic Western Hemisphere by expanding integration and leveraging a new opening to Cuba to expand our engagement
What Foreign Policy's Shadow Government blog says in "Patience Isn’t Always a Virtue":
The central conceit of the document, though, is the concept of “strategic patience.” By this the Obama administration means not doing too much in the world, seeing how things develop before acting, using our powers in limited ways that will accrue large effects over time. They see it as “influencing the trajectory of major shifts in the security landscape today in order to secure our national interests in the future.”

And to an extent, they’re right. The United States often insists on immediate results, in international affairs as in so many other aspects of government activity. Smart strategies take into account cost-effectivness, and immediate effects are often extremely costly (their emphasis on cost does not extend to considering the national debt as a security risk, however).

But patience has its costs, too. Our “patience” in Syria has cost 230,000 lives and 5 million refugees, an expansion of Iran’s influence in Iraq, Lebanon and Syria, destabilization of friendly countries in the region to include Jordan and Turkey, and the spread of horrific tortures and war crimes on a large scale. President Obama’s patience is the Syrian peoples’ tragedy.
What a New York Times opinion piece by Peter Baker and David E. Sanger says in "Security Strategy Recognizes U.S. Limits":
“The question is never whether America should lead, but how we should lead,” Mr. Obama writes in an introduction to the document, a report that seems to mix legacy with strategy. In taking on terrorists, he argues that the United States should avoid the deployment of large ground forces like those sent more than a decade ago to Iraq and Afghanistan. In spreading democratic values, he says, America should fight corruption and reach out to young people.

“On all these fronts, America leads from a position of strength,” he writes. “But this does not mean we can or should attempt to dictate the trajectory of all unfolding events around the world. As powerful as we are and will remain, our resources and influence are not infinite. And in a complex world, many of the security problems we face do not lend themselves to quick and easy fixes.”
Over all, it reflects a president who is more seasoned and scarred than the one who last released a formal national security strategy in 2010. At the time, Mr. Obama’s main goals were ending the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, rebuilding ties with Russia and reviving a world economy reeling from financial collapse.

Now the economy is on the rebound, and the vast majority of troops have been brought home. But the Russian rapprochement is dead, spinoffs of Al Qaeda are on the rise, and the implosions of several Arab states have upended a strategy for the region that Mr. Obama laid out in the first years of his presidency.

The strategy lists eight top strategic risks to the United States, starting with a catastrophic attack at home but including threats like climate change, disruptions in the energy market and significant problems caused by weak or failing states.
What the International Business Times' Amy Nordrum sees:
Overall, though, Obama communicated a reluctance to commit military forces to combat threats in unfocused wars like those which he entered into during his early presidency, saying the U.S. should be careful not to try to "dictate the trajectory of all unfolding events around the world."

“The United States will always defend our interests and uphold our commitments to allies and partners. But, we have to make hard choices among many competing priorities, and we must always resist the over-reach that comes when we make decisions based upon fear,” he wrote in his introductory letter to the strategy.

To that end, the president’s top priorities will also be attacking nebulous threats that are more closely tied to public health, inequality and a faltering global economy. He lists finding secure sources of affordable energy, ending poverty, exploiting new markets for American goods and fighting for LGBT rights as chief among them. LGBT stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. The strategy also gives a nod to efforts to fend off Ebola and the need to address “the urgent crisis of climate change.”
UPDATE: From James Joyner at The National Interest:
The Obama administration’s long-overdue update to the National Security Strategy hit the streets Friday morning. It is in many ways a remarkable document, lucidly describing the foreign (and domestic) policy vision of the only global power, nodding to an enormous number of allies, partners and stakeholders. It is, however, only loosely about national security. More importantly, it’s decidedly not a strategy.
Taken in microcosm, the dozens of unprioritized priorities of the 2015 NSS are banal. There’s little over which to disagree on a point-by-point basis. Indeed, like most of its predecessors, it reads like a summary of recent issues of publications like Foreign Affairs and The National Interest written by junior bureaucrats on the National Security Staff that’s then been edited by the president’s domestic-policy advisors—which, in fairness, is pretty much what it is.
You can decide for yourselves. It might help to look at exactly what "strategic planning" is, which is well set out here:
The underlying assumption of strategy from a national perspective is that states and other competitive entities have interests that they will pursue to the best of their abilities. Interests are desired end states such as survival, economic well-being, and enduring national values. The national elements of power are the resources used to promote or advance national interests. Strategy is the pursuit, protection, or advancement of these interests through the application of the instruments of power. Strategy is fundamentally a choice; it reflects a preference for a future state or condition. In doing so, strategy confronts adversaries and some things simply remain beyond control or unforeseen.

Strategy is all about how (way or concept) leadership will use the power (means or resources) available to the state to exercise control over sets of circumstances and geographic locations to achieve objectives (ends) that support state interests. Strategy provides direction for the coercive or persuasive use of this power to achieve specified objectives. This direction is by nature proactive. It seeks to control the environment as opposed to reacting to it. Strategy is not crisis management. It is its antithesis. Crisis management occurs when there is no strategy or the strategy fails. Thus, the first premise of a theory of strategy is that strategy is proactive and anticipatory.

A second premise of a theory of strategy is that the strategist must know what is to be accomplished--that is, he must know the end state that he is trying to achieve. Only by analyzing and understanding the desired end state in the context of the internal and external environment can the strategist develop appropriate objectives leading to the desired end state.

A third premise of a theory of strategy is that the strategy must identify an appropriate balance among the objectives sought, the methods to pursue the objectives, and the resources available. In formulating a strategy the ends, ways, and means are part of an integral whole and if one is discussing a strategy at the national (grand)level with a national level end, the ways and means would similarly refer to national level concepts and resources. That is ends, ways, and means must be consistent. Thus a National Security Strategy end could be supported by concepts based on all the instruments of power and the associated resources. For the military element of power, the National Military Strategy would identify appropriate ends for the military to be accomplished through national military concepts with national military resources. In a similar manner a Theater or Regional Commander in Chief (CINC) would have specific theater level objectives for which he would develop theater concepts and use resources allocated to his theater. In some cases these might include other than military instruments of power if those resources are available. The levels of strategy are distinct, but interrelated because of the hierarchical and comprehensive nature of strategy.

A fourth premise of strategy is that political purpose must dominate all strategy; thus, Clausewitz’ famous dictum, "War is merely the continuation of policy by other means." Political purpose is stated in policy. Policy is the expression of the desired end state sought by the government. In its finest form it is clear articulation of guidance for the employment of the instruments of power towards the attainment of one or more end states. In practice it tends to be much vaguer. Nonetheless policy dominates strategy by its articulation of the end state and its guidance. The analysis of the end state and guidance yields objectives leading to the desired end state. Objectives provide purpose, focus, and justification for the actions embodied in a strategy. National strategy is concerned with a hierarchy of objectives that is determined by the political purpose of the state. Policy insures that strategy pursues appropriate aims.

A fifth premise is that strategy is hierarchical. Foster argues that true strategy is the purview of the leader and is a "weltanschauung" (world view) that represents both national consensus and comprehensive direction. In the cosmic scheme of things Foster may well be right, but reality requires more than a "weltanschauung." Political leadership insures and maintains its control and influence through the hierarchical nature of state strategy. Strategy cascades from the national level down to the lower levels. Generally strategy emerges at the top as a consequence of policy statements and a stated National Security Strategy (sometimes referred to as Grand Strategy). National Security Strategy lays out broad objectives and direction for the use of all the instruments of power. From this National Security Strategy the major activities and departments develop subordinate strategies. For the military this is the National Military Strategy. In turn, the National Military Strategy leads to lower strategies appropriate to the various levels of war.

A sixth premise is that strategy is comprehensive. That is to say, while the strategist may be devising a strategy from a particular perspective, he must consider the whole of the strategic environment in his analysis to arrive at a proper strategy to serve his purpose at his level. He is concerned with external and internal factors at all levels. On the other hand, in formulating a strategy, the strategist must also be cognizant that each aspect--objectives, concepts, and resources--has effects on the environment around him. Thus, the strategist must have a comprehensive knowledge of what else is happening and the potential first, second, third, etc., order effects of his own choices on the efforts of those above, below, and on his same level. The strategist’s efforts must be fully integrated with the strategies or efforts of senior, co-equal, and subordinate elements. Strategists must think holistically--that is comprehensively. They must be cognizant of both the "big picture," their own institution’s capabilities and resources, and the impact of their actions on the whole of the environment. Good strategy is never developed in isolation.

A seventh premise is that strategy is developed from a thorough analysis and knowledge of the strategic situation/environment. The purpose of this analysis is to highlight the internal and external factors that help define or may affect the specific objectives, concepts, and resources of the strategy.

The last premise of a theory of strategy is that some risk is inherent to all strategy and the best any strategy can offer is a favorable balance against failure. Failure can be either the failure to achieve one’s own objectives and/or providing a significant advantage to one’s adversaries.

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