The (New?) National Security Strategy

July 20, 2010

The 2010 National Security Strategy (NSS) lays out the President’s vision and intent for the United States on the world stage. The document frames the global strategic environment in terms of current and emerging threats, strengths and weaknesses of American influence and power, and overarching goals designed to safeguard American values and way of life. The immediate question is how this version of the NSS differs from those of past administrations, especially since the United States is involved in two major conflicts that span two presidencies. On the surface, the 2010 NSS’ cooperative- and normative-centric methods seem to be a frank rebuttal of those of both the 2002 and 2006 NSS advancement of preemption and unilateralism; however, a closer look reveals many striking similarities along with obvious omissions and clear retorts to past policies. This piece looks at the 2010 NSS and then compares it to those of 2002 and 2006. It then offers commentary on the implications for the military and the nation. To preview the piece’s conclusion, while the 2010 and 2002/2006 strategies are the products of two very different presidencies, their ends are very similar; that foretells a continued burden on the military as it struggles to manage diverse conflicts and interests around the globe with serious questions about the coherence and ability to generate the means to win those conflicts.