In a speech delivered at West Point on Saturday, President Obama previewed his new security doctrine. This was a key passage:
Now even as we fight the wars in front of us, we also have to see the horizon beyond these wars — because unlike a terrorist whose goal is to destroy, our future will be defined by what we build. We have to see that horizon, and to get there we must pursue a strategy of national renewal and global leadership. We have to build the sources of America’s strength and influence, and shape a world that’s more peaceful and more prosperous.
Time and again, Americans have risen to meet and to shape moments of change. This is one of those moments — an era of economic transformation and individual empowerment; of ancient hatreds and new dangers; of emerging powers and new global challenges. And we’re going to need all of you to help meet these challenges. You’ve answered the call. You, and all who wear America’s uniform, remain the cornerstone of our national defense, the anchor of global security. And through a period when too many of our institutions have acted irresponsibly, the American military has set a standard of service and sacrifice that is as great as any in this nation’s history.
Now the rest of us — the rest of us must do our part. And to do so, we must first recognize that our strength and influence abroad begins with steps we take at home. We must educate our children to compete in an age where knowledge is capital, and the marketplace is global. We must develop clean energy that can power new industry and unbound us from foreign oil and preserve our planet. We have to pursue science and research that unlocks wonders as unforeseen to us today as the microchip and the surface of the moon were a century ago.
Simply put, American innovation must be the foundation of American power — because at no time in human history has a nation of diminished economic vitality maintained its military and political primacy.
The sub-text here seems to be a neo-Clintonism: when it comes to national security, it’s the economy stupid!
David Ignatius, who often acts as an unofficial spokesman for the administration, pursues the same theme:
One of the strongest voices arguing for fiscal responsibility as a national security issue has been Defense Secretary Bob Gates. He gave a landmark speech in Kansas on May 8, invoking President Dwight Eisenhower’s warnings about the dangers of an imbalanced military-industrial state.
“Eisenhower was wary of seeing his beloved republic turn into a muscle-bound, garrison state — militarily strong, but economically stagnant and strategically insolvent,” Gates said. He warned that America was in a “parlous fiscal condition” and that the “gusher” of military spending that followed Sept. 11, 2001, must be capped. “We can’t have a strong military if we have a weak economy,” Gates told reporters who covered the Kansas speech.
On Thursday the defense secretary reiterated his pitch that Congress must stop shoveling money at the military, telling Pentagon reporters: “The defense budget process should no longer be characterized by ‘business as usual’ within this building — or outside of it.”
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has also argued for a rethinking of the strategic mind-set that encouraged two expeditionary wars in the past decade at immense cost. “U.S. foreign policy is still too dominated by the military,” he said in a March 3 speech. He cautioned that the military should use its power “in a precise and principled manner,” rather than always insisting on overwhelming force.
Let’s return to the class exercise of the military and civilian logisticians who were asked to prepare a national security strategy. They focused on America’s domestic challenges, which included “unsustainable budget,” “finite foreign energy” and “failing education,” and proposed this rubric: “Credibility abroad begins with credibility at home.” In a multipolar world, they said, the “U.S. cannot be the sole guarantor of international security.”
What’s interesting about this focus on domestic economic security is that it probably would be endorsed by Republicans and Democrats, Tea Party conservatives and antiwar liberals. In a country that doesn’t agree on much, it could be a unifying theme.