Secretary of Defense James Mattis personally rolled out the U.S. government’s new National Defense Strategy in a speech last week, signaling his intellectual and bureaucratic ownership of the document. This is a good thing, and as one might expect from the so-called warrior monk, the strategy is a lot more about sensible approaches to a very complicated world — including a very strong emphasis on diplomacy and alliances — than it is about President Donald Trump’s “America First” agenda.
In a break from previous Quadrennial Defense Reviews, at the direction of Congress, the 2018 National Defense Strategy is actually a classified document — so much of what it tells the Defense Department to do will remain secret. What the unclassified summary does reveal is a clear prioritization of Russia and China as strategic competitors, over terrorism, as the primary concern for U.S. national security. As National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster has said more than a few times recently, “geopolitics are back.”
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