The document recognizes that it imperative to defeat al-Qaeda, adding that the "frontline of this fight is Afghanistan and Pakistan." That ignores the fact that the country in which American troops have killed more al-Qaeda combatants than anywhere else is Iraq. Though al-Qaeda in Iraq has been decimated, it has not yet been eliminated. In particular, its cells in and around Mosul have been responsible for most of the recent suicide bombings in Iraq. Would it not be useful for U.S. forces to finish them off before shipping out? And, conceptually, does it make sense to continue to assert, as the NSS does, that the U.S. is "fighting two wars," one in Iraq, one in Afghanistan, rather than a single war with frontlines in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia as well as Times Square, Fort Hood, and Northwest Flight 253?
To strategize is to prioritize and to bet on a correlation between actions to be taken and outcomes to be expected. This NSS makes no attempt to do either. Promising to "deter aggression and prevent the proliferation of the world's most dangerous weapons" is one thing; formulating a strategy for achieving those goals is another.
Nor does the NSS demonstrate strategic thinking when it states that U.S will pursue its "interests within multilateral forums like the United Nations-not outside of them." The fact is the U.N. General Assembly is now largely under the control of the Organization of the Islamic Conference, while Russia and China routinely use their veto power to thwart U.S. interests in the U.N. Security Council. If there's a strategy to change that, it's not in the NSS.
I suppose the White House advisers who produced this document would say that the roadmap for getting from where we are to where we want to be can be found in the "commitment to renew our economy, which serves as the wellspring of American power." But if that were the case, would the administration be increasing the U.S. debt by trillions of dollars - more than the total debt accumulated since 1776? Does anyone seriously believe that Obama's health care plan is about economic power rather than its proponents' conception of fairness? Surely, no one can argue that "cap-and-trade" and similar measures intended to combat "global warming" will speed rather than slow economic growth.
Since coming to office a year and a half ago, President Obama has attempted to "engage" Iran. Oblivious to the outcome of that experiment, the NSS pledges to "pursue engagement with hostile nations to test their intentions, give their governments the opportunity to change course, reach out to their people, and mobilize international coalitions."
Actually, Iran has mobilized an international coalition, one that includes Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Brazil and Turkey - all of which have shown themselves eager to undercut the United States. Our strategy to turn this around? Who knows? Certainly not the authors of the NSS who say: "Nations must have incentives to behave responsibly, or be isolated when they do not. ... Credible and effective alternatives to military action-from sanctions to isolation-must be strong enough to change behavior..." Agreed. So when will there be a serious effort to isolate Iran? Why isn't Obama at least asking Congress to give him tough sanctions legislation as quickly as possible?
Commendably, the NSS does recognize that "the United States must now be prepared for asymmetric threats, such as those that target our reliance on space..." But the best way to prevent missiles from moving through space to reach their targets would be to deploy a space-based missile defense system - a project the Obama administration rejects.
Perhaps what is most troubling about the NSS is what it omits. The seminal role played by Iran since its 1979 revolution is never mentioned, much less explored. Such words as "Islamism," "Jihadism," "radical Islam," and "Salafism" are never uttered.
Instead, we are warned that the "danger from climate change is real, urgent, and severe" even as it has become apparent that the science supporting those assertions is shaky -- and leaving aside whether "climate change" is a national security issue. There are frequent evocations of "our most cherished values" with no attempt to say what those values are or what to do when they conflict. Such traditional values as freedom, democracy and human rights get short shrift.
"Renewing American leadership," we are instructed, will require "calling upon what is best about America-our innovation and capacity; our openness and moral imagination." Moral imagination? What does that even mean?
And, of course, there is this: "To deny violent extremists one of their most potent recruitment tools, we will close the prison at Guantanamo Bay." Remind me: How is that strategy progressing?