Brent Scowcroft Center Nonresident Senior Fellow James Joyner writes for War on the Rocks on the differences between the Obama administration’s updated National Security Strategy and President Obama’s actual national security strategy:
he Obama administration’s updated National Security Strategy (NSS), released Friday morning, has been widely panned by defense analysts, including yours truly, as a wish list lacking in strategy, being overly focused on placating the U.S. domestic audience, and “really just a PR exercise.” (To be sure, others are more positive, seeing it as rising “above immediate crises and headlines” to provide “a compelling picture of the broader context of the global environment,” albeit one not remotely aligned with the administration’s military spending and procurement policies.) By contrast, President Obama’s actual national security strategy is quite nuanced and very much takes into account costs and benefits. And while he eschews the “realist” label, his actual policy choices seem very much guided by hardheaded weighing of gains to the national interest versus cost in terms of blood, treasure, and bandwidth.
On Monday, Vox released an interview executive editor Matthew Yglesias conducted with the president “in late January.” Off-the-cuff Obama is strangely more lucid–and certainly more candid–on his national security priorities than his staff, at least in the form of the NSS. He articulates why he eschews the realist label, identifies “disorder” as our biggest national security threat, and lays out a reasonably detailed series of thoughts on conflict intervention.