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A nation must think before it acts.
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.
Zakheim’s opening conversation is followed by Ali Wyne’s contribution: how should we assess competitive pressure from both Russia and China? More importantly, can we develop criteria to determine when, where, and how we will contest Beijing and Moscow? This editor then provides an overview of recent conversations on social media regarding the challenges facing U.S. national security by Orbis authors and readers. Finally, we close this section with a conversation between Clint Watts and John Conger on the national security implications and challenges of climate change and environmental shifts.
Zakheim’s comment on the maritime focus of U.S. policy is explored by James J. Wirtz, Jeffrey Kline, and James Russell, who want to start a “maritime conversation” with America. Terrorism remains a key focus for U.S. national security, according to Zakheim. Michael Boyle’s article amplifies this point. He contends that counterterrorism takes place not in the context of a global war on terror but in an era of great power competition.
Zakheim discussed what he described as the “triple challenge” America confronts in the 2020s: Russia, China, and Iran. The triple challenge paradigm informs the next set of articles in this issue. On Russia, Andrew Michta asks how Europe will cope with the “Russia Question.” And Alexander Kessler, building on the “emerging technologies and national security” theme of our Fall 2020 special issue, gives us a primer on Russian hypersonic glide vehicles. On Iran, Ray Takeyh assesses the “age of Ebrahim Raisi” and how the new Iranian president differs from his reform-minded predecessor—and what this means for the Persian Gulf’s future. Dominic Tierney, meanwhile, asks why U.S. efforts end up helping Iran—and complements Takeyh’s efforts to assess what this means for future talks between Tehran and Washington. On China, Ryan Martinson returns to the maritime theme, but from China’s perspective—and how Beijing frames its “oceanic aspirations.” Meanwhile, Lawrence Rubin, the editor of the aforementioned special issue on emerging technology, joins with Michael V. Ceci to examine whether China can use the provision of high technology—in this case, 5G networks—as one of the tools for advancing “digital authoritarianism” around the world.
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.
Explore the Spring 2022 Issue of Orbis here.
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