Trump’s Conventional National Security Strategy

Trump’s Conventional National Security Strategy

The trouble with Trump's National Security Strategy is that its realism is mostly rhetorical.

The Ugly

This strategy’s ugly departure from its predecessors is its protectionism. It advocates restrictions on legal immigration that are likely to harm many U.S. business and the technological innovations it seeks to accelerate. The strategy’s laudable focus on protecting U.S. prosperity is likewise marred by zero-sum thinking on trade. A key example: it fails to note how China’s economic success creates a vast market for U.S. goods, lower prices for U.S. consumers and companies, and a deluge of foreign investment, much in debt that ambitious strategies like this fuel. The document likewise proposes greater restrictions on foreign investment in the United States in order to protect intellectual property without substantiating the risk or weighing the lost investment.

President Trump’s National Security Strategy, as critics note, doesn’t seem to match Trump’s views. But it does reflect his policies, which adhere far more closely to the establishment foreign-policy view than he or they like to admit. That includes a refusal to prioritize. Because resources are always limited and goals inevitably compete, U.S. national-security policy can’t entirely avoid such choices. But without a true strategy that guides those decisions, they’re likely to adhere to the overreaching status quo, abrading the simple goals this document aims to serve.

Benjamin H. Friedman is a fellow at Defense Priorities and an Adjunct Lecturer at George Washington’s Elliot School.

Image: U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks regarding the Administration's National Security Strategy at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington D.C., U.S. December 18, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts