We expect during this year (2022) that the Biden/Harris administration will promulgate its national security strategy and related documents. These strategic missives signal the commitments and priorities of the administration and are intended to guide the development and procurement of capabilities and tools with which the United States expects to shape the global environment. Given the way the U.S. government organizes and budgets for national security, the direction set by these documents will define the American approach for the 2020s.
This Spring 2022 issue of Orbis is dedicated to the myriad of national security risks that confront the United States and how the country might formulate more effective national security strategies in response. We open with a conversation with former Undersecretary of Defense Dov Zakheim, who discusses the implications of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan for the future. The themes he identifies—the “triple challenge” of coping with China, Iran, and Russia; the risks of “Eurasian simultaneity” (facing coordinated action across multiple theaters); and the continued threat of terrorism and other transnational challenges—are covered in greater depth in the articles and essays that follow. In particular, Zakheim highlights the need to change the ways Americans conceive of national security, as well as the culture of how we resource and equip for meeting new challenges.
Finally, Chris Miller reviews two new books: Brendan Simms and Charlie Laderman’s Hitler’s American Gamble: Pearl Harbor and Germany’s March to Global War as well as Ian Ona Johnson’s Faustian Bargain: The Soviet-German Partnership and the Origins of the Second World War—an event which some fear has echoes for the twenty-first century. As we determine the contour of global affairs shaped by technological and environmental change and the re-emergence of great power competition, we hope that the contributors and themes appearing in this issue help to clarify the questions U.S. national security strategy needs to address.