The Two Pressing Issues Trump’s First National Security Strategy Must Clarify

The Two Pressing Issues Trump’s First National Security Strategy Must Clarify
U.S. Army tanks during joint U.S.-South Korea military drills near the border with North Korea, Pocheon, South Korea, April 26, 2017 (AP photo by Ahn Young-joon).

Since 1986 every U.S. president has been required by law to prepare an annual National Security Strategy. This report is intended to explain to Congress and the American public what the president plans to do to promote U.S. national interests, and to provide guidance for the government agencies that implement security policy.

While the requirement to produce an annual National Security Strategy was well-intentioned, the results have been uneven. Few presidents have produced the report every year. Most of them have simply recapitulated presidential talking points and listed what the administration considered its major accomplishments. In practice the National Security Strategy has been more a public relations exercise than a true strategy.

There have been a few exceptions. George W. Bush’s 2006 strategy codified the post-9/11 focus on transnational terrorism and indicated that the United States would both pre-empt terrorism and attempt to address its economic and political causes. Barack Obama’s first National Security Strategy, which appeared in 2010, showed that his administration intended to move away from the emphasis on terrorism and focus on revitalizing America’s economic, moral and innovative strength. While these two strategies were very different, both were important.

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