The American Interest

Neocon Security Strategy

Devising a great power’s national-security strategy is serious business.  When external challenges are properly evaluated, tasks prioritized, and resources allocated, the results can be impressive.  The Roman Empire from Nerva to Marcus Aurelius (a.d. 96-180) provides one example; Britain from Napoleon to the Great War another.  The rise of Prussia and unification of Germany during Otto von Bismarck’s tenure (1862-90) was based on his masterly assessment of the international environment and successful interlacing of political, economic, and military capabilities—the essence of strategy.

The 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act—which mandated that the White House produce an annual report to Congress on the U.S. National Security Strategy (NSS)—was based on sound thinking.  The report was supposed to assess America’s “worldwide interests, goals, and objectives”; to outline “proposed short-term and long-term uses of the political, economic, military, and other elements of the national power”; and to assess the resources and capabilities required to implement that strategy.

Over the years, however, the NSS has degenerated into an ad hoc wish list laced with lofty rhetoric and mostly devoid of the key elements of strategic reasoning.  President Donald Trump’s first NSS, which he presented on December 18, is no exception to this rule. ...

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