Thursday, March 16, 2006

Thoughts on the National Security Strategy

The National Security Strategy of the United States, in its 2006 incarnation, less of a practical guide to policy than its 2002 predecessor. I had a real sense in reading it that its purpose was less to provide a clear blueprint for policy and more to reconcile competing factions within the adminstration and within the Republican party, to produce a compromise document with different sections appealing to different factions.

My objections ...

No surprise, I find the opening segments to repeat the articles of democratic faith with little appreciation for the realities. Democracies don't fight each other, democracies align with each other on security interests, etc.

I don't get a sense of any real guidance of how policy is to be framed when the U.S. has to make choices between values and interests or even among different values and interests. Take Pakistan. Promote democracy or promote liberalism and the rule of law, since democracy doesn't necessarily leda to the latter two? Keep Musharraf in place and keep Pakistan aligned with us in the war on terror and in promoting detente on the Indian subcontinent?

So, I think what we are going to see is that the NSS itself is going to be further "clarified" and "defined".

The issuing of this document or something like it is I believe required every year under the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986. I don't immediately recall any statement under the title "National Security Strategy" receiving this publicity in the years since the one in 2002, and I wonder under what other rubric it has appeared.

On the content of the current version, the tensions in the Bush foreign policy could indeed spell trouble in the years remaining to the administration. But the White House gives the impression of being much more circumspect in its actions now, so I would not imagine that its inconsistencies will amount to very much.

The one exception is the continuing confrontational tone with Iran. Obviously, if we conduct an air strike on their nuclear facilities or try in other ways to pressure Tehran, the consequences could be very serious. The real question here is whether there is some time limit to how long we can threaten military action and be taken seriously.
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