Around sixty years ago, the deal with current American foreign policy started with a paper by George Kennan. He spoke of the need to project military force to contain Soviet expansionism. It worked, but the world environment is way different these days. We need a new story, a world perspective that respects the values that we profess while somehow also being real.
Two military guys recently wrote “A National Strategic Narrative,” Captain Wayne Porter and Col. Mark “Puck” Mykleby. These guys point out that US strength lies in the way we treat people at home, our educational system, international engagement and diplomacy, and hopefully a commitment to getting serious long-term about food, water, and energy resources, at home and abroad. They say, separately:
… the point may be that military dominance alone cannot sustain security and prosperity because that requires strength and credibility that is derived from our values and demonstrated by our actions at home and abroad
In their paper, the officers argue that the United States has to move from “containment” — the foreign policy established after World War II to limit the expansion and influence of the Soviet Union — to what they call “sustainment” or sustainability.
The first priority, they write, should be “intellectual capital and a sustainable infrastructure of education, health and social services to provide for the continuing development and growth of America’s youth.” They go on to say that the country’s security may require “a hard look at the distribution of our treasure,” arguing that the historic focus on defense and protectionism has meant the neglect of international development and diplomacy. And with technology piercing the isolation of nations, they write that the United States has a stake in helping countries held down by illiteracy and poverty.
Finally, they write, the world population is projected to reach nine billion by midcentury and the country must face the demands for water, food, land and energy.
The narrative argues that the United States is fundamentally getting it wrong when it comes to setting its priorities, particularly with regard to the budget and how Americans as a nation use their resources more broadly. The report says Americans are overreacting to Islamic extremism, underinvesting in their youth, and failing to embrace the sense of competition and opportunity that made America a world power. The United States has been increasingly consumed by seeing the world through the lens of threat, while failing to understand that influence, competitiveness, and innovation are the key to advancing American interests in the modern world.
Courageously, the authors make the case that America continues to rely far too heavily on its military as the primary tool for how it engages the world.
If you check out the paper, a lot of it’s about restoring the values we preach, like not just talking democracy but doing real stuff about it. This goes far to maintaining the US, to ourselves and others, as that “shining city on the hill.”
I really encourage you to check it out, and if you agree at all, do me a favor, check out their Facebook page and press that Like button.