Home / Articles / The Obama Administration’s Strategic Black Hole
The Goldwater-Nichols Department of Defense Reorganization Act of 1986 mandated that the president issue a national security strategy (NSS) report. According to the legislation, the purpose of this document is to provide the president with the means to communicate his strategic vision to the Congress, foreign leaders, and domestic constituencies.
Although some of the early NSS documents were worthwhile, recent ones have fallen far short of providing any real discussion of a true grand strategy — in other words, outlining how the United States plans to apply all of the instruments of national power to achieve the goals of national policy in light of potential cost and risk. Instead, they have degenerated into platitudinous expressions of aspirations.
President Obama’s 2015 National Security Strategy is almost a parody of the worst previous NSS documents. Its catch phrase is “strategic patience,” presumably an attempt to replace “leading from behind.”
Much of the document is given over to self-congratulation, touting the administration’s purported achievements. The rest is filler that does not fulfill the document’s promise to provide “a vision and strategy for advancing the nation’s interests, universal values, and a rules-based international order through strong and sustainable American leadership.”
The new NSS does not offer an antidote for the administration’s propensity for ricocheting from one crisis to another without any attempt to apply a coherent strategic framework to its actions. Obama’s approach is driven by his apparent belief that if the United States takes a step back in the world, our allies will step forward. But in fact, the only actors to step forward have been our adversaries.
Strategy is a plan of action for using available means to achieve the ends of policy. Strategy links ends and means, seeking to…