This article was originally published on The Strategy Bridge on February 8, 2015. Thank you to The Strategy Bridge for continuing to publish my work!
On November 23, 1948, the National Security Council (NSC) approved NSC 20/4 titled “U.S. Objectives with Respect to the [Union of Soviet Socialist Republics] USSR to Counter Soviet Threats to U.S. Security.” [i]
NSC 20/4 led to the April 15, 1950 release of NSC 68 or “United States Objectives and Programs for National Security,” which former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michelle Flournoy and Office of the Secretary of Defense Strategist Shawn Brimley described as a strategy for the construction and protection of an international system that facilitates commerce, travel, and thus the spread of Western values including individual freedom, democracy, and liberty. [ii] [iii]
The demise of the USSR in turn brought about the demise of NSC 68. Since then, without a central threat, weighted in importance above all others, the United States has been establishing national security objectives and programs on a case-by-case basis. Though this may be appropriate based upon the fluidity of the Post-Cold War landscape, and the idea of enduring national security objectives and programs may be impractical, I believe that it is possible to establish an enduring national security framework. This enduring framework, or basic conceptual structure, could be used to guide national security activities across multiple Presidential administrations. Based upon this belief, and inspired by both NSC 20/4 and NSC 68, I submit the below text as my vision for such a document.
An Enduring Framework for United States National Security
To broadly assess existing and foreseeable threats to United States national security posed by the Opposition and to establish an enduring framework to guide national security activities across multiple Presidential administrations.
The United States
The United States is a country, full of imperfect citizens, who have chosen the nearly unattainable goal of a free society, founded upon the dignity and worth of the individual, with a democratic form of government. The citizens of the United States believe that freedom is the most natural state of mankind and that mankind is best able to reach its maximum potential in a free society.
The Opposition to the United States and other nations and groups who desire freedom and democracy includes foreign governments, foreign forces, irregular forces, groups, and individuals. The Opposition views anyone who desires freedom and democracy as their principal enemy whose integrity and vitality must be subverted or destroyed. The Opposition will take every advantage of the fact that the United States, and other nations and groups who desire freedom and democracy, are limited in the manner in which they respond to threats by the very principles which give freedom and democracy its meaning. No single principle related to freedom and democracy, or all of them in totality, can deter the Opposition whose only code is “morality is that which serves our cause.” The Opposition will use violent and nonviolent means against anyone who desires freedom and democracy in accordance with the dictates of efficiency and expediency.
Actions To Be Taken
The United States takes actions to encourage other nations and groups throughout the world to choose, on their own, to have a free society founded upon the dignity and worth of the individual, with a democratic form of government.
Vision of Success
The United States, and other nations and groups that share our vision of freedom and democracy, have the moral and material strength to resist those who oppose this shared vision. This strength will lead to the Opposition being contained, doubting their chosen path, and steadily decaying.
Values in Action
1. Leadership: The United States will attempt to improve the world situation in a manner consistent with the principles that give freedom and democracy their meaning.
2. Partnership: To obtain non-partisan legislative support for this framework, and the national security activities established and executed based upon it, the Executive Branch will partner with Congressional leaders. To obtain broader global support, the United States will partner with other nations and groups who desire freedom and democracy.
3. Transparency: To obtain the support of the majority of the citizens of the United States, the Executive Branch will ensure they are given sufficient information regarding this framework, and the national security activities established and executed based upon it. As a natural extension of this domestic transparency, the information given to the citizens of the United States will be made available to the citizens of the world.
4. Unity: National security activities established and executed based upon this framework will be done under a single responsible leader who has the authority to direct and employ all national security capabilities under his or her control in pursuit of a common goal.
Lines of Effort
International Dialogue, Negotiation, and Assistance
1. Engage other nations and groups who desire freedom and democracy and assist them in their efforts by matching their will power and commitment. For those who cannot walk on their own towards freedom and democracy, the United States will offer you a cane and encouragement, not a wheelchair and a push.
2. Exert pressure on the Opposition in a fashion that will avoid direct confrontation while enabling their retreat with a minimum loss of face in the international community.
3. Negotiate the gradual withdraw of the Opposition, record these withdraws in a formal fashion, and use them to further advance the position of the United States and other nations and groups who desire freedom and democracy.
1. Ensure the United States retains military, intelligence, law enforcement, and other capabilities constructed and arrayed in such a manner as to deter an attack on the United States, its interests, and defend the integrity and vitality of our free society against the Opposition.
2. Employ United States military, intelligence, law enforcement, and other capabilities when the necessity for their use is clear and compelling, overwhelmingly supported by the majority of United States citizens and Congress, and in a manner congruent with the range of tasks they may encounter.
3. Ensure the United States retains a military that can serve as a nucleus of strength and the mobilization base upon which tremendous forces can be built, if the existing military structure is inadequate to counter the Opposition.
1. Protect the citizens of the United States and our critical infrastructures from attack and ensure their resiliency should an attack occur.
2. Protect the United States economy and the industries key to producing military, intelligence, law enforcement, and other capabilities.
3. Ensure United States leadership in the education of its citizens at all levels.
The success of this enduring framework in guiding national security activities across multiple Presidential administrations hangs ultimately on the recognition and acceptance of its value by the Executive Branch, Congress, and the citizens of the United States. The reward is freedom and democracy in the United States for generations to come. Failure means total defeat at the hands of the Opposition. The execution of national security activities under this enduring framework will require ingenuity, sacrifice, and the tenacity to persevere in a free society where there is never total victory, since freedom and democracy are always in the process of being attained.
[i] U.S. Objectives with Respect to the USSR to Counter Soviet Threats to U.S. Security. (1948, November 23). Retrieved February 6, 2015, from https://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/coldwar/nsc20-4.htm
[ii] United States Objectives and Programs for National Security. (1950, April 14). Retrieved February 6, 2015, from https://www.trumanlibrary.org/whistlestop/study_collections/coldwar/documents/pdf/10-1.pdf
[iii] Flournoy, M. and Brimley, S (2010, February 1). The Contested Commons. Retrieved January 23, 2015, from http://www.defense.gov/qdr/flournoy-article.html