January 20, 2015

SOTU: Jacob Stokes on the National Security Strategy

The national security portions of the State of the Union should preview a new National Security Strategy, the first since 2010. Both should directly address the world we live in today where each of the three major regions for U.S. foreign policy – Asia, the Middle East and Europe – are all grappling with fundamental challenges to regional order. Asia is on a tightwire trying to work with a China both growing in strength but also made vulnerable by internal challenges. The Middle East struggles to confront an epochal breakdown in order sparked by the search for freedom but now driving war and fostering radicalism. Europe faces a trifecta of economic stagnation, a political no man’s land between integration and devolution, and a military challenge from Russia on its periphery. 

Creating a sustainable and successful U.S. strategy requires an approach that can balance these simultaneous challenges to order in key regions, allocating scarce resources and attention to bolster order over time. Sometimes that means responding vigorously to events, sometimes it requires subordinating current events to longer-term goals. What the United States needs now is the wisdom to decide which approach to take for any given challenge and the vision to make them add up to a coherent overall strategy.