NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY 2015: WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR CURRENT U.S. FOREIGN POLICY?

2015 National Security StrategyJust recently, President Obama and the White House released the administration’s second, and likely final, national security strategy, laying out a blue print for powerful American leadership while highlighting the top strategic risks to American interests. Throughout the next couple of days, we will be posting the most relevant and key excerpts from this document to provide an understanding of how this strategy may influence current U.S foreign policy. 

For access to the Full Text online visit: https://cipnationalsecurity.wordpress.com/resources/full-text-pieces/


Security: Strengthening Our National Defense

“We will prioritize collective action to meet the persistent threat posed by terrorism today, especially from al-Qa’ida, ISIL, and their affiliates. In addition to acting decisively to defeat direct threats, we will focus on building the capacity of others to prevent the causes and consequences of conflict to include countering extreme and dangerous ideologies. Keeping nuclear materials from terrorists and preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons remains a high priority…Collective action is needed to assure access to the shared spaces—cyber, space, air, and oceans—where the dangerous behaviors of some threaten us all.” (pg. 7)

“Although our military will be smaller, it must remain dominant in every domain. With the Congress, we must end sequestration and enact critical reforms to build a versatile and responsive force prepared for a more diverse set of contingencies… We will be principled and selective in the use of force. The use of force should not be our first choice, but it will sometimes be the necessary choice. The United States will use military force, unilaterally if necessary, when our enduring interests demand it: when our people are threatened; when our livelihoods are at stake; and when the security of our allies is in danger.” (pg. 8)

“The threshold for military action is higher when our interests are not directly threatened. In such cases, we will seek to mobilize allies and partners to share the burden and achieve lasting outcomes. In all cases, the decision to use force must reflect a clear mandate and feasible objectives, and we must ensure our actions are effective, just, and consistent with the rule of law.” (pg. 8)


Combating the Persistent Threat of Terrorism

“Specifically, we shifted away from a model of fighting costly, large-scale ground wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in which the United States—particularly our military—bore an enormous burden. Instead, we are now pursuing a more sustainable approach that prioritizes targeted counterterrorism operations, collective action with responsible partners, and increased efforts to prevent the growth of violent extremism and radicalization that drives increased threats.” (pg. 9)

“We will help build the capacity of the most vulnerable states and communities to defeat terrorists locally. Working with the Congress, we will train and equip local partners and provide operational support to gain ground against terrorist groups. This will include efforts to better fuse and share information and technology as well as to support more inclusive and accountable governance.” (pg. 9)

Specifically toward the Threat of ISIL:

“We have undertaken a comprehensive effort to degrade and ultimately defeat ISIL. We will continue to support Iraq as it seeks to free itself from sectarian conflict and the scourge of extremists. Our support is tied to the government’s willingness to govern effectively and inclusively and to ensure ISIL cannot sustain a safe haven on Iraqi territory. This requires professional and accountable Iraqi Security Forces that can overcome sectarian divides and protect all Iraqi citizens. It also requires international support, which is why we are leading an unprecedented international coalition to work with the Iraqi government and strengthen its military to regain sovereignty.” (pg. 10)

“Joined by our allies and partners, including multiple countries in the region, we employed our unique military capabilities to arrest ISIL’s advance and to degrade their capabilities in both Iraq and Syria. At the same time, we are working with our partners to train and equip a moderate Syrian opposition to provide a counterweight to the terrorists and the brutality of the Assad regime. Yet, the only lasting solution to Syria’s civil war remains political—an inclusive political transition that responds to the legitimate aspirations of all Syrian citizens.” (pg. 10)


Preventing the Spread and Use of Weapons of Mass Destruction

“For our part, we are reducing the role and number of nuclear weapons through New START and our own strategy. We will continue to push for the entry into force of important multilateral agreements like the Comprehensive Nuclear Test-Ban Treaty and the various regional nuclear weapons-free zone protocols, as well as the creation of a Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty.” (pg. 11)

“Having reached a first step arrangement that stops the progress of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for limited relief, our preference is to achieve a comprehensive and verifiable deal that assures Iran’s nuclear program is solely for peaceful purposes. However, we retain all options to achieve the objective of preventing Iran from producing a nuclear weapon.” (pg. 11)

More Updates to Come!

We welcome your comments!

2015: THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE UNKNOWN CHALLENGES GOING FORWARD?

DANGERS, OPPORTUNITIES, AND CHOICES IN 2015 AND BEYOND

By: Harry C. Blaney III

After looking back at 2014, which was in so many ways a time of change and a time of conflict and tragedy for many around the world but there were also moments of active and sometimes productive diplomacy and renewal that transpired. In some areas of the world, it was lamentably much of the same. The sad questions that remain: Was the globe well served by its leaders? Did the citizens of each nation take the lessons of our times with renewed understanding and engagement? Did the institutions of our international community react, educate, and address with honesty and in comprehensive detail what these changes and trends portend for our frail planet? Does the international community know what needs to be done to safeguard the security and lives of its citizens?

Looking ahead, there are two categories of our analysis: (1) Recognizing the distinctly “macro global” trends of 2015, and (2) an attempt to understand these trends and consequences while devising possible responses to specific functional and regional problem areas.

In the “macro” or what some call the “geo-strategic” level, and what I have also called major global challenges, we are indeed facing the kind of significant risks and dangers which are among the most confounding and complex, along with not as easily understood barriers to progress. We often see across-the-board disruptive forces that impact much of the rest of the specific regional and functional issues we face.

Looking forward, there are two important issues. First, what are the underlying landscapes and trends that are shaping our global system? Second, what can the United States, our allies and friends, do to improve global security, poverty, and reduce violence and secure well being as we move forth into 2015 and beyond?

 

PRESIDENT OBAMA’S “SECOND WIND” ON GLOBAL ISSUES AND SECURITY

 One of the most important new developments is a tougher, more focused and more innovative stand by President Obama in foreign affairs including national security. This policy is still created with great deliberation, but also with more of a will to act “out of the box” than it did before the November election.

                 

Already, there are several examples of this development. One example is the agreement with China regarding a climate change limitation of greenhouse gasses that bypasses Congress. Another example that has great importance is the decision to open negotiations with Cuba, creating the ability to establish diplomatic relations and to relax decade’s old failed sanctions, overall promoting closer and a more intense engagement. His immediate action to deal with Ebola showed when prompt action was clearly needed he would act.  The very recent decision to continue to negotiate with Iran over their nuclear program as well as to start a quiet dialogue on broader issues, like how to handle ISIS, has also become another signal of this new development.  All show a new tendency to take political risks at home to achieve key American objectives.  

 

In his State of the Union speech, President Obama made it clear that he would be more active in taking the lead on a host of outstanding and difficult issues abroad. As our world grows more conflict prone, he is more assertive to make our best efforts to try to mitigate the worst consequences of upheaval, humanitarian disasters, global health dangers, the rich-poor poverty gap, terrorism and its repercussions, and last but not least the so called “rise” of China and Russian aggression. Presidential meetings in Saudi Arabia and India indicate a game-changing mode. But his caution and deliberation are likely to continue.

 

It is clear that the White House, Department of State, and Department of Defense are all currently going through a “re-thinking” of American strategy to account for the fast moving changes that are developing around the world. Included in this reassessment are relations with Russia; especially dealing more actively with the escalating Ukrainian-Russian conflict. This is extremely relevant as this conflict not only touches the security of our NATO countries, but also shows a perspective for a long-term diplomatic modus vivendi with Russia. But, as this is being written, there is a building consensus on both sides of the Atlantic that some added assistance to Ukraine is necessary.

 

Look for new instruments and modalities from Obama to shape the foreign affairs agenda and debate in the coming months. Also look for Secretary John Kerry to be even more active in setting the stage in places like the Middle East, China, Africa, and India.  Expect a host of added initiatives over the coming months and even into 2016. President Obama is clearly laying a more active and innovative American agenda in the foreign affairs field, even beyond his term in office.

 

A second installment of this post, looking forward into 2015 and beyond,  specifically in key problem sectors describing the difficulties and opportunities that lay ahead for American foreign and security policy will follow in the coming days.

 

We welcome your comments!

THE DEBATE: THE WAR HAWKS VERSUS OBAMA – THE LESSON OF KOBANI

Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby briefs reporters on the latest developments in the fight against ISIS, Oct. 21, 2014 (Photo: Department of Defense)
Pentagon Press Secretary Navy Rear Adm. John Kirby briefs reporters on the latest developments in the fight against ISIS, Oct. 21, 2014 (Photo: Department of Defense)

By Harry C. Blaney III

There has been a great effort by many commentators (in the media and politicians) about how our strategy to degrade and defeat ISIS (known also as Islamic State) has already failed. Most of these saber rattlers have an ax to grind against the current administration or have a desire to push their own interests, rather than a long-term perspective of what this struggle is in reality and recognition that this is a long game and military action is but one tool.

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THE DEBATE OVER ISIS AND AMERICA’S ROLE: “BOOTS OR SUPPORT”

US Navy F/A - 18 Super Hornet refueling midair after conducting airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq (Photo: Department of Defense)
US Navy F/A – 18 Super Hornet refueling midair after conducting airstrikes against ISIS targets in Iraq (Photo: Department of Defense)

By Harry C. Blaney III

The Washington Post Editorial in its October 8th edition titled, “A straitjacketed war,” got it largely wrong. They have a long history of advocating a military solution to far too many problems that require more than a knee-jerk, kinetic response. They have criticized President Obama because he “has ruled out such ground personnel despite requests from our military.” They have criticized his “restrictions” on commanders and said they are not compatible with the objectives. On the contrary, they are keeping with our objectives which are not to make this a unilateral fight and endanger our troops unnecessarily, but play a key role with others. This includes Iraqi troops and the new coalition members, specifically Arab nations, in battling ISIS. This is not an easy task.

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THE CHALLENGE OF ISIS AND BEYOND – GETTING IT RIGHT

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Join Chiefs of Staff Army General Martin Dempsey briefing reporters at the Pentagon.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Join Chiefs of Staff Army General Martin Dempsey briefing reporters at the Pentagon.

By Harry C. Blaney III

There are few things more challenging today, not only for the West but also for the Islamic world, than confronting ISIS and stopping its carnage and above all seeking the rise of a more unified moderate Islamic consensus. After all, ISIS is an even greater threat to the Islamic world than it is for America and Europe.

On August 25th the New York Times wrote an editorial titled “A Necessary Response to ISIS.” This had about as good a short appraisal of the situation, and of a strategy for dealing with it, as can be found in an American journal. Frankly, it is also what seems to have been and still is the approach of the Obama administration to address the many complex levels of the current conflict. Its perspective is to seek a long-term solution or at least to lessen ISIS’s threat to the Islamic world and perhaps the West. Continue reading

OBAMA’S STRATEGIC IRAQ INTERVENTION

Secretary Kerry looks out over Baghdad as he left Iraq earlier this week.
Secretary Kerry looks out over Baghdad as he left Iraq earlier this week.

By: Harry C. Blaney, III

“There’s no military solution inside of Iraq, certainly not one that is led by the United States. But there is an urgent need for an inclusive political process, a more capable Iraqi security force, and counterterrorism efforts that deny groups like ISIL a safe haven.”

President Obama’s update on the situation in Iraq, June 19. Continue reading