A Tale of Two National Security Strategies

By Timothy Furnish Published on November 2, 2022

We can always count on our presidential administrations, of either party, for certain things. Spending as if revenues were infinite. Claiming the moral high ground. Reanimating Dr. Fauci. And putting out at least one “National Security Strategy.” These started with George W. Bush, 20 years ago. Their purpose is to lay out the security challenges America faces, as well as how they will be dealt with. Biden’s drones published “his” a few weeks ago. It’s a 48-page “roadmap” for “laying out the future we seek.” In order to put its vagueness and detachment from reality in proper perspective, however, let’s first look at the 2017 Trump one.

Trump’s National Security Strategy: More Grounded

His was 20 pages longer, to start with. Which allowed for quite a few specific historical references. For example, the major good things this country has done are listed. Fighting the Civil War to end slavery, defeating fascism, imperialism, and Soviet Communism (p. 2). So are the reasons why America has been great. The Declaration of Independence, the Bill of Rights, that “our Founders understood religious freedom not as the state’s creation, but as the gift of God” (p. 41). There’s even a quote from Alexander Hamilton. “The world has its eye upon America … . The influence of our example has penetrated the gloomy regions of despotism” (p. 37).

But on that same page it also warns that “there is no arc of history that ensures America’s free political and economic system will automatically prevail. Success or failure depends upon our actions.” And while we will remain engaged with the rest of the world, “we are not going to impose our values on others.”

Trump’s NSS: Realistic and Honest

The 2017 NSS points out that Trump was elected to “make America great again.” To “put the safety, interests, and well-being of our citizens first” (p. 1). Here, then, are America’s priorities. Counter Chinese and Russian efforts to dominate or undermine the international system. Contain rogue regimes, especially Iran and North Korea. And defeat “jihadist terrorism,” which is mentioned 29 times. All three of these threats are but the latest manifestations of “the contest for power,” which is “a central continuity in history” (p. 25). Overall, Trump’s NSS acknowledges that the world has returned to an era of “great power competition” (p. 27). And the U.S. needs to win it.

Biden’s NSS: Globalism First

Biden’s NSS is quite different. Instead of watching out for this country, the administration aims to guide our world through, and to, an “inflection point” (pp. 1, 12). We must “prioritize leading the international response to … transnational challenges” and “defend democracy around the world” (p. 2). The greatest challenge is, of course, “climate change,” which is referenced 21 times and described as “potentially existential” (p. 9). Along with the threat posed by Russia and China, the latter of which is called “America’s most consequential geopolitical challenge” (p. 11). Covid-19 is adduced, too — but nothing is mentioned about its Chinese origins.

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Unlike the Trump NSS, which privileged markets, Biden’s document calls for more government involvement in the economy (p. 14). He claims that that “our economy has added 10 million jobs” (p. 1), instead of acknowledging that most of those are people who went back to work post-Covid. Somehow the “Inflation Reduction Act” will increase domestic energy production and also “reduce carbon emissions.” That’s because oil and natural gas production are sacrificed on a solar panel altar. Whereas the Trump plan called simply for more STEM education, the Biden one does so “for women and girls” (p. 15). Immigration is mentioned as a positive — but nothing is said about the 2 million illegals who have swamped the country since Biden took office.

Biden’s NSS: Dishonest and Naïve

Terrorism is a problem, but the adjective “Islamic” is, of course, never used (pp. 30-1). And there is as much about “domestic violent extremists,” especially the alleged “anti-government or anti-authority” kind, as about ISIS or al-Qa`ida.

In terms of “strategy by region,” Biden’s handlers prioritize it this way: Indo-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Middle East, Africa, the Arctic and Space. Trump has the same first two, but then ME, South & Central Asia, Western Hemisphere and Africa. (Space, for the latter, was subsumed under the military section.) Kudos to the Bidenistas for including the Arctic, which is already a great power competition zone. The sections on the Indo-Pacific and Europe are not that different from Trump’s.

The one on the Americas borders on the delusional, however. The flood of illegals is euphemistically termed “irregular migration” (p. 40). And there are hundreds of words about how the U.S. will “modernize border infrastructure” and build a “hemisphere-wide partnership” and “combat illicit human smuggling” and “replace irregular migration with orderly flows” and so on. But no specifics as to how these things will be accomplished. And no explanation of how we can afford to do them, since we are $31 trillion in debt (up from “only” $20 trillion in Trump’s NSS).

The Middle East section is disingenuous bordering on the dishonest. “It is time to eschew grand designs in favor of more practical steps” (p. 42) totally ignores Trump’s supremely pragmatic 2020 “Peace to Prosperity” Plan for the Israelis and Palestinians. And Islamic jihad doesn’t exist here at all. At least the current administration does acknowledge the Trump-driven Abraham Accords.

Concerning Africa, we get the boilerplate Leftist viewpoint on terrorism, the “root causes” of which are corruption and a lack of “inclusive economic development” (p. 44). Remember, if terrorists just had jobs, they wouldn’t blow up and behead us.

Finally, the State Department and Intelligence Community must focus on “prioritizing diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility” (p. 46). Intelligence, knowledge and the ability to speak foreign languages don’t matter as much as having the right skin color and gender (real or imagined).

Come On, Man! Have You Learned Nothing?

Overall, Trump’s NSS was convincing, grounded, and realistic. And it produced real results: more peace in the Middle East, Russia minding its manners, the U.S. becoming the world’s largest oil and natural gas producer. Biden’s, on the other hand, reads like a term paper put together by college liberal arts majors during an all-night cram session.

It’s vague, misleading, impractical and overtly ideological. And it shows that Biden, whom former Defense Secretary Robert Gates described as having “been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the last four decades,” is as obtuse as ever. So it’s no surprise that under his watch our geopolitical position is slipping, friends (Saudi Arabia) and enemies (China) are making common cause against us, and America is no longer respected. It will only get worse as long as Biden is in office.


Timothy Furnish holds a Ph.D. in Islamic, World and African history from Ohio State University and a M.A. in Theology from Concordia Seminary. He is a former U.S. Army Arabic linguist and, later, civilian consultant to U.S. Special Operations Command. He’s the author of books on the Middle East and Middle-earth, a history professor and sometime media opiner (as, for example, on Fox News Channel’s War Stories: Fighting ISIS). He currently writes for and consults The Stream on international security matters.

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