February 05, 2015

Don’t Expect Too Much From Obama’s National Security Strategy

By Richard Fontaine, and Shawn Brimley

If there’s one notion that unites the national security community these days, it’s that the United States needs strategy. It needs a strategy for defeating the Islamic State, one that matches ends to means. It needs a strategy to oppose Russian aggression, one that combines deterrence with reassuring the allies. It could use a strategy to arrest the spread of violent extremism in Africa and Europe, another to secure cyberspace, and yet another to reap the benefits of the ongoing energy revolution.

Decrying the lack of such strategies has emerged as one of Washington’s favorite pastimes. Foreign policy types routinely lament their absence in American foreign policy, condemn “adhocracy” and improvisation, and suggest, often with a sage nodding of the head, that perhaps today’s leaders simply aren’t up to the task of strategic thinking.

Indeed, one would be forgiven for concluding that a strategy — any strategy — is better than none. And after President Barack Obama acknowledged last summer that “we don’t have a strategy yet” for dealing with the Islamic State in Syria, the denunciations came from all quarters. Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein suggested that the administration was too cautious, while her House counterpart Rep. Mike Rogers said that “the severity of the problem” had not “really sunk in to the administration just yet.” Pollsters even asked Americans whether they were worried about this lack of strategy — by and large, they were.

Read the full op-ed at Foreign Policy.