Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Fumio Ota

【#496】U.S. Has Reliable Security Strategy

Fumio Ota / 2018.02.15 (Thu)

February 13, 2018

     The U.S. Trump administration released the National Security Strategy (NSS) in December, the National Defense Strategy (NDS) in January and the Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) in February. These documents show a very reliable strategy structure based on a medium- to long-term point of view, except the NSS preface signed by President Donald Trump himself.

Problems in Trump’s NSS preface
     Trump’s NSS preface has three problems. First, he put forward his “America First” philosophy. Second, he failed to name China and Russia as rivals and avoided to position them as revisionist powers. Third, he gave top priority to the revitalization of the American economy while making light of the global diffusion of values such as freedom, democracy and human rights that the United States had led.
     The first problem has prompted U.S. allies to be concerned that the United States might decouple its allies and refrain from defending them at its own cost. The second problem has brought about doubts on the NSS preface’s consistency with the main NSS text, the NDS and the NPR that position China and Russia as the primary national security concern. The third problem indicates that President Trump could give top priority to economic deals and easily concede to China and Russia with which the United States does not share values.
     These problems in the NSS preface may be attributable to Trump’s personal lack of strategic thinking. In his State of the Union address in late January, President Trump mentioned China and Russia as rivals but only briefly.
     The main NSS text, the NDS and the NPR can be interpreted as indicating that U.S. national security officials are trying to pursue a very reliable policy based on a medium- to long-term perspective. Particularly, the NPR rejects an unrealistic ideal of the world without nuclear weapons and signals a realistic approach of enhancing extended nuclear deterrence to protect U.S. allies.

Systematic release of strategic documents
     The Trump administration has released strategic documents more orderly and systematically than its predecessors.
     Ordinarily, the NSS should be released before lower-positioned strategic documents. However, the Quadrennial Defense Review was released one year before the NSS publication in September 2002 and the National Strategy for Homeland Security came out two months before the NSS. The National Strategy for Maritime Security was released six months before the NSS publication in March 2006 and the QDR came out one month before the NSS. In this way, the order of publication of strategic documents had lacked consistency.
     In contrast, the Trump administration’s release of strategic documents has apparently been logical and systematic, indicating highly competent national security team in the administration.

Fumio Ota is a JINF Planning Committee Member and retired Vice Admiral of Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force.