George Kennan famously defined national security as "the continued ability of this country to pursue its internal life without serious interference." The Obama Administration, with the release of its National Security Strategy, has re-defined it beyond all meaning.
Previous NSS documents have frequently gone beyond Kennan’s concept, expanding to include broader foreign policy aims. For example, the Bush Administration’s 2006 version, the immediate predecessor to yesterday’s edition, included bromides about "working to end tyranny, to promote effective democracies, and to extend prosperity through free and fair trade and wise development policies." But the Obama administration recasts "security" to include domestic issues tangentially related to traditional definitions.
Our strategy starts by recognizing that our strength and influence abroad begins with the steps we take at home. We must grow our economy and reduce our deficit. We must educate our children to compete in an age where knowledge is capital, and the marketplace is global. We must develop the clean energy that can power new industry, unbind us from foreign oil, and preserve our planet. We must pursue science and research that enables discovery, and unlocks wonders as unforeseen to us today as the surface of the moon and the microchip were a century ago. Simply put, we must see American innovation as a foundation of American power.
Now, this is unobjectionable so far as it goes. Of course these things all relate in some way to our security. But the "human security" movement, of which this is clearly part, has always been a means to fund otherwise lower priority projects under the mantle of security, which has generally received precedence in budget fights.
The money’s got to come from somewhere, after all, and this would seem to be laying the groundwork for funding environmental programs, education, and the like out of the hide of the military and intelligence budgets. After all, they’re all part of the security equation! Except that, well, they’re not.
FP’s Josh Rogin notes that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton used the National Security Strategy rollout to lobby for merging budgets, stating her purpose:
To begin to make the case that defense, diplomacy and development were not separate entities, either in substance or process, but that indeed they had to be viewed as part of an integrated whole and that the whole of government then had to be enlisted in their pursuit.
You cannot look at a defense budget, a State Department budget, and a USAID budget without defense overwhelming the combined efforts of the other two and without us falling back into the old stovepipes that I think are no longer relevant for the challenges of today. So we want to begin to talk about a national security budget, and then you can see the tradeoffs and the savings. And it’s not us going and making our case to our appropriators and DOD going and making their case to their appropriators.
There’s much truth in this. Especially in missions such as the ones we’re engaged in at the moment in Iraq and Afghanistan, the "3 D’s" are intertwined but the military has almost all of the resources. But, to the extent that combined budgets results in State and USAID getting a larger share of the resources, it’ll be by dint of obscuring the public debate with the words national security. But, going back to Kennan, it’s hard to argue that foreign aid, generally speaking, contributes greatly to American ability to conduct its affairs without interference.
Even though I happen to think they’re right, the administration will have an uphill fight persuading Congress and the American people that we need drastic cuts in the defense and intelligence budgets while we’re engaged in two hot wars. Much less, one would think, if they argue we must instead transfer that money to domestic programs in the name of national security.
James Joyner is managing editor of the Atlantic Council. This article is part of the NSS Review – a collection of expert analysis on the Obama Administration’s National Security Strategy.