Michael Gerson
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WASHINGTON -- American troops in Afghanistan spent their Memorial Day securing routes into Kandahar and engaging local tribal leaders in preparation for a major offensive. I spent part of my Memorial Day reading President Obama's recently released National Security Strategy (NSS) -- a document that concedes the importance of the military but emphasizes the security imperatives of "affordable health care" and "redeveloping our infrastructure."

America, we are told, requires "a broad conception of what constitutes our national security," which happens to coincide with the administration's legislative priorities. Never forget: They also serve who pass health entitlements and distribute highway construction funding.

It is commonplace to assert that there are economic foundations of national power. It is shameless to use a national security document to advance a debatable domestic agenda that shows scant understanding of how economies actually grow stronger. And it is doubly shameless -- naked-on-a-downtown-bus shameless -- for this administration to assert "responsible management of our federal budget" as a national security priority.

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In most areas, the 2010 NSS expresses unobjectionable continuity. America frowns on nuclear proliferation. America likes democracy. America will act along with its allies -- except when it needs to act alone. Portions of the document are admirable, especially its emphasis on the promotion of development and global health as instruments of national influence. But it is not surprising that nearly everyone can find something to like in the NSS, since it reads like a State of the Union without space constraints. "The United States is an Arctic nation," we are informed, "with broad and fundamental interests in the Arctic region."

Much that is old in the NSS is obvious. Much that is new is not actually new. The contention that health entitlements, infrastructure construction and education spending are really national security priorities is a repolished version of an argument made for decades on the isolationist left. "How many schools could we build for the price of an aircraft carrier?" has become the claim that domestic spending is the national security equivalent of building an aircraft carrier.

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Michael Gerson

Michael Gerson writes a twice-weekly column for The Post on issues that include politics, global health, development, religion and foreign policy. Michael Gerson is the author of the book "Heroic Conservatism" and a contributor to Newsweek magazine.
 
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