This week, U.S. President Donald Trump unveiled his National Security Strategy in a speech that touted the new agenda while at the same time contradicting key elements of the very strategy he was outlining. Among many policy professionals, the document produced an array of opinions, from alarm by those who pointed to sharp departures from traditional positions, to relief that it proposes a rather traditional conservative philosophy on national security. There is an explanation for the conflicting views by observers and the verbal self-punching by the president: The National Security Strategy thinly conceals an important secret about foreign policy in the age of Trump.
If you read it carefully, you’ll find the message the authors—people who have distinguished careers in national security—slipped into the pages. It says, “We’re still here. We still know what matters. We understand the country’s security risks and strategic priorities. And we know how to operate under this president.”
That last point is evident from the first page of the text, a letter from the president presenting the strategy that reads like something out of a Trump rally. “My fellow Americans: The American people elected me to make America great again,” it starts. It concludes with Trump’s oversized signature.