27 May 2010
President Obama described his national security objectives at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on May 22.
By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
Staff Writer (Department of State)
Washington — The highest priorities of U.S. national security are the safety of Americans at home and abroad and achieving a peaceful, stable world through global cooperation despite a flawed international system, President Obama says.
The White House released the president’s National Security Strategy (PDF, 1.8MB) May 27. It defines the foreign policy goals of his administration in broad terms, and blends Obama’s world view with the realities of the world as it is. The Obama security strategy relies heavily on diplomacy and engagement, economic development and other methods of influence, along with U.S. military capabilities with global reach and unsurpassed resources.
“As we face multiple threats — from nations, nonstate actors and failed states — we will maintain the military superiority that has secured our country, and underpinned global security, for decades,” Obama said in the introduction to the document.
The strategy, mandated by Congress, is global, and identifies an array of real or potential security challenges that include: countering violent extremism and insurgency; stopping the spread of nuclear weapons and securing nuclear materials; combating climate change while sustaining global economic growth; reducing the danger of cyberthreats; helping countries feed themselves and care for their sick; ending dependence on fossil fuels; resolving and preventing conflict; and reducing destabilizing risks to economic interdependence.
Obama said the United States will take a multilateral approach to the many security challenges it faces. Acknowledging that the use of force is sometimes necessary, Obama pledged that “we will exhaust other options before war whenever we can, and carefully weigh the costs and risks of action against the costs and risks of inaction. We will seek broad international support, working with such institutions as NATO and the U.N. Security Council.”
A significant characteristic of Obama’s approach to foreign affairs during his first 16 months in the White House — and emphasized in the new security strategy — is engagement through negotiation, and persuasion rather than confrontation.
NATIONAL SECURITY PRIORITIES
Obama says his national security strategy begins with renewing American leadership to more effectively advance U.S. interests in the 21st century. It recognizes the fundamental connection among U.S. national security, national competitiveness, resilience and morality. “Our strategy starts by recognizing that our strength and influence abroad begins with the steps we take at home,” the president wrote in the strategy’s introduction.
Obama regards the spread of weapons of mass destruction, and specifically the danger posed by the pursuit of nuclear weapons by extremists and other states, as the greatest threat to the American people. It is why his administration has placed considerable attention on a comprehensive nonproliferation and nuclear security agenda that places heavy emphasis on the rights and responsibilities of nations, the document says.
The United States will continue its relentless strategy to disrupt, dismantle and defeat the transnational terrorist group al-Qaida and its affiliates. The elements of that strategy include denying them safe haven, strengthening front-line partners, securing the American homeland, pursuing justice through lasting legal methods and countering a bankrupt agenda of extremism and murder with an agenda based on hope and opportunity, the document says.
“The frontline of this fight is Afghanistan and Pakistan, where we are applying relentless pressure on al-Qaida, breaking the Taliban’s momentum, and strengthening the security and capacity of our partners,” the document says.
The security strategy, for the first time since modern presidents have been preparing them, includes a priority to strengthen the American economic system in the era of globalization. A key component is to advance balanced and sustainable growth on which global prosperity and stability depend, the document says. That includes taking steps domestically and internationally to prevent another sweeping economic crisis.
“We have shifted focus to the [Group of 20 major economies] as the premier forum for international economic cooperation, and are working to rebalance global demand so that America saves more and exports more while emerging economies generate more demand,” the document says. Bilateral and multilateral trade agreements are critical to advancing U.S. and global prosperity, the document says.
An additional facet of American national security is enhancing and supporting human rights and democratic values among nations. “We see it as fundamental to our own interests to support a just peace around the world — one in which individuals, and not just nations, are granted the fundamental rights that they deserve,” the document says.
That includes, the document adds, promoting the human dignity of all persons through support for global health, food security, and cooperative responses to humanitarian crises such as the devastation caused by the January earthquake in Haiti.
“Implementing this agenda will not be easy. To succeed, we must balance and integrate all elements of American power and update our national security capacity for the 21st century,” the document says. “We must maintain our military’s conventional superiority, while enhancing its capacity to defeat asymmetric threats.”
“Our diplomacy and development capabilities must be modernized, and our civilian expeditionary capacity strengthened, to support the full breadth of our priorities,” the document says.
Commencement Remarks By The President at West Point Military Academy