The American Interest

Hawks Win


The Pentagon’s National Defense Strategy, which Defense Secretary James Mattis presented on January 19, envisages aggressive measures to counter Russia and China and instructs the military to refocus on Cold War-style competition with them, away from terrorist threats and “rogue nations.”  This is in stark contrast to Barack Obama’s 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, which called for “preserving strategic stability” in relations with the two Eurasian giants.  The new defense strategy openly treats them as the Pentagon’s “principal priorities.”  According to Mattis, “great power competition—not terrorism—is now the primary focus of U.S. national security.”

The unclassified 11-page summary indicates a major victory for foreign-policy hawks and for the military-industrial complex.  It marks the final defeat of candidate Donald Trump’s intention, repeatedly stated in the summer of 2016, to abandon the bipartisan quest for global primacy, to reexamine the purpose and utility of NATO, and to improve relations with Russia.  It reflects the National Security Strategy (NSS) unveiled in December 2017, which asserted that “China and Russia challenge American power, influence, and interests,...

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