everal of my colleagues have already pointed out — with obvious relief — that the new National Security Strategy does not veer to sharply from those espoused by President Trump’s predecessors, at least until Ronald Reagan. Indeed, the document devotes a section to “peace through strength,” a phrase much associated with the Gipper and his secretary of defense, Caspar Weinberger. It is primarily in the realm of politico-military affairs that the Strategy fits within the mainstream of national security policy. It is a well-crafted document that should reassure allies and partners, and give adversaries considerable pause. That is not at the case with respect to domestic policy, however.
That the document is at its strongest and most coherent when addressing issues that the Departments of State and Defense confront daily should come as no surprise. After all, they fall squarely within the expertise of H.R. McMaster, Dina Powell, and Nadia Schadlow in particular. The harsh words about Iran and North Korea are surely welcome. They represent a signal departure from the flaccid approach of the Obama administration. The Trump administration’s description of its approach to dealing with Iran is increasingly in tune with the views of Western Europeans, who are beginning to wake up to the fact that Iranian missiles could target their territory while Iranian inspired mayhem in the Middle East has contributed to the flood of refugees seeking to enter their shores. Similarly, Europeans are becoming increasingly nervous about North Korea’s determined drive toward a strategic nuclear capability, and while not as heavily invested as is Washington in northeast Asia, do worry about the implications of a nuclear North Korea for the likelihood that Japan and South Korea could both go nuclear.