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"Where is the United States going in the world?", asks the introduction to a blockbuster of an article published quietly in early April by two officers currently serving the Joint Chiefs of Staff. It discusses America’s strategic narrative for the 21st century and, interestingly, stringently downplays the importance of the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security.

The officers' argument is summed up by Anne Marie Slaughter in the introduction as

we want to become the strongest competitor and most influential player in a deeply inter-connected global system, which requires that we invest less in defense and more in sustainable prosperity and the tools of effective global engagement.  

Capt. Wayne Porter, USN, and Col. Mark Mykleby, USMC, are calling for a new “National Prosperity and Security Act” to replace the National Security Act that has served us since 1947.

Though I started drafting this a few days ago, I think it's particularly relevant now that Bin Laden is dead. That boogeyman is gone; how do we move on to a more sane foreign policy?

Some background:
In 1947, a State Department officer named George Kennan wrote an anonymous article in Foreign Affairs Journal under the pseudonym “X.”  He argued that US policy towards the Soviet Union should be one of “a long-term, patient but firm and vigilant containment.” This concept became a key component of America’s military foreign policy, and Kennan himself became known as father of the containment doctrine. Ironically, Kennan later mused that he had not meant for the US to pursue primarily a military policy towards the Soviets, rather than a political and diplomatic strategy. He had not meant to imply at the time that he saw the Soviets as primarily a military threat. On CNN, in 1996, he said ruefully, that it

all came down to one sentence in the "X" Article where I said that wherever these people, meaning the Soviet leadership, confronted us with dangerous hostility anywhere in the world, we should do everything possible to contain it and not let them expand any further. I should have explained that I didn't suspect them of any desire to launch an attack on us. This was right after the war, and it was absurd to suppose that they were going to turn around and attack the United States. I didn't think I needed to explain that, but I obviously should have done it.

But today:
Where the 1947 article largely created the framework for America’s political and military objectives for the second half of the 20th century, the very recent article named “A National Strategic Narrative” by “Mr. Y” discusses what will ensure America’s success in the 21st century. Mr. Y is an obvious allusion to the original article, and is a call by Porter and Mykleby for change in how we view national security. The entire article is a must read, but I'll try to highlight a few of their positions here. Go read the full piece - accessible through Foreign Policy as a pdf.

The current review in Foreign Policy states,

The narrative argues that the United States is fundamentally getting it wrong when it comes to setting its priorities, particularly with regard to the budget and how Americans as a nation use their resources more broadly. The report says Americans are overreacting to Islamic extremism, under-investing in their youth, and failing to embrace the sense of competition and opportunity that made America a world power. The United States has been increasingly consumed by seeing the world through the lens of threat, while failing to understand that influence, competitiveness, and innovation are the key to advancing American interests in the modern world.

Mr Y notes,

[In the 20th century, we believed] that our environment was a closed system to be controlled by mankind – through technology, power and determination – to achieve security and prosperity. … We failed to recognize that dominance, like fossil fuel, is not a sustainable source of energy.

Today, we find ourselves in a very different strategic environment…. The challenges and opportunities facing us are far more complex, multi-nodal, and inter-connected than we could have imagined in 1950.

Containment no longer works. Instead, we must move from containment towards ‘sustainment’ – or, better said though less cleverly, sustainability. We need to move from power and control to strength and influence, from the defensive posture of exclusion to inclusion and engagement. Our strategy needs to start at home.

Mr. Y has three major suggestions to create this strategy:

1. We must invest first in ourselves – our youth’s education, science, technology, and the infrastructure to support sustainable sources of energy and food production – in order to compete internationally and regain the moral ground to influence other nations. We must realize that competition is good for us, and that there needn’t be just one global leader.

2. We must take a 'whole nation' approach to both domestic and foreign policy, including development and diplomacy along with defense, and including all governmental departments in a wholistic approach to sustainability.

3. We must cultivate and wisely - sustainably - use the natural resources we've been given - "We cannot export 'smart power' until we practice 'smart growth' at home."

We cannot isolate our own prosperity and security from the global system. We must embrace global competitiveness, not be defeated by it.

The narrative says much more - it speaks to the need to address our long term strategic ecology and environment, rather than to be reacting to immediate, and relatively minor threats.

I'm interested that the military has been, often, the loudest voice of reason in this political debate. They clearly see that water will be the most coveted resource in the 21st century and that climate change will be the greatest threat;  they're investing in mobile renewable energy technologies to replace oil; etc. The top thinkers of the US military - Eisenhower's strategic brain trust folks - are offering us pretty clear ideas on how to proceed; let's make sure the military industrial complex - and their Congress critters - don't interfere with this compelling, peaceful vision.

Originally posted to nzanne on Tue May 03, 2011 at 08:12 AM PDT.

Also republished by Military Community Members of Daily Kos and Community Spotlight.

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Comment Preferences

    •  thanks so much for this... (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Akonitum, neroden, MartyM, nzanne

      I had completely missed it.

      "There's nothing serious about a plan that claims to reduce the deficit by spending a trillion dollars on tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires." - President Obama

      by fhcec on Tue May 03, 2011 at 07:06:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Fixed your tags. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      From rescued to Rec. list! Only in America.

      Baja Arizona Libre!

      by GANJA on Wed May 04, 2011 at 05:21:18 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Thanks. I wanted to diary this, but was too busy. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      You did a great job laying it out.

      The report itself is rather dry and jargon-laden. Your context is really helpful to those unaware of Kennan.

    •  Occupying Afghanistan worked so well for Soviets (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      native, nzanne, TexasTwister

      Has it occurred to anyone inside Beltway that we might meet the same fate?  Are any of them familiar w/ the "imperial overstretch" argument so incisively enunciated by Kevin Phillips in American Theocracy?  Have any of them ever heard of Sen. George Aiken's advice on Vietnam?  

      As Harry Truman famously said:

      “The only thing new in this world is the history that you don't know”.
      Have any of our decision-makers on this issue ever read any relevant history?   Have any of them considered Aiken's core thesis:
      "The United States could well declare unilaterally that this stage of the Vietnam War is over--that we have `won' in the sense that our armed forces are in control of most of the field and no potential enemy is in a position to establish its authority over South Vietnam.

      It would be far easier for Obama to w/draw from Afghanistan now than it would've been for LBJ to w/draw from Vietnam 45 years ago.  OBL is dead, KSH has been in custody for years, and the raid on OBL's compound produced a treasure trove of intelligence on AQ.  Few, if any, AQ elements remain in Afghanistan.  Ground troops and air power have never been an effective weapon against enemies who have no standing armies, and they're utterly pointless now.

      People are beyond tired after almost 10 years of an uniwinnable war, and our economy remains in extremis.  We're having trouble rebuilding our own country--how and why are we so arrogant to think that we can rebuild a country on the opposite side of the planet?  This WH has been given a golden opportunity here, and I'm sorry to think that they probably won't take it.

      Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?

      by RFK Lives on Wed May 04, 2011 at 06:04:05 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Also, I'm sending the link around (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      There are lots of thoughtful outlets that should be addressing this. I've sent it to Rachel, among several others, and posted it on my FB page.

      This is something worth talking about!

      West Virginia's new motto: Ex Os, Ex Mens (go look it up)

      by blonde moment on Wed May 04, 2011 at 07:24:15 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  The military has some really smart guys (27+ / 0-)
    I'm interested that the military has been, often, the loudest voice of reason in this political debate

    Why I was a "Clarkie"
    From his 2004 campaign

    The 100 Year Vision
     by Wesley K. Clark

    Looking ahead 100 years, the United States will be defined by our environment, both our physical environment and our legal, Constitutional environment. America needs to remain the most desirable country in the world, attracting talent and investment with the best physical and institutional environment in the world. But achieving our goals in these areas means we need to begin now. Environmentally, it means that we must do more to protect our natural resources, enabling us to extend their economic value indefinitely through wise natural resource extraction policies that protect the beauty and diversity of our American ecosystems - our seacoasts, mountains, wetlands, rain forests, alpine meadows, original timberlands and open prairies. We must balance carefully the short- term needs for commercial exploitation with longer-term respect for the natural gifts our country has received. We may also have to assist market-driven adjustments in urban and rural populations, as we did in the 19th Century with the Homestead Act.

    Institutionally, our Constitution remains the wellspring of American freedom and prosperity. We must retain a pluralistic democracy, with institutional checks and balances that reflect the will of the majority while safeguarding the rights of the minority. We will seek to maximize the opportunities for private gain, consistent with concern for the public good. And the Clark administration will institute a culture of transparency and accountability, in which we set the world standard for good government. As new areas of concern arise - in the areas of intellectual property, bioethics, and other civil areas - we will assure continued access to the courts, as well as to the other branches of government, and a vibrant competitive media that informs our people and enables their effective participation in civic life. And even more importantly, we will assure in meeting the near term challenges of the day - whether they be terrorism or something else - that, we don't compromise the freedoms and rights which are the very essence of the America we are protecting.

    If we are to remain competitive we will have to do more to develop our "human potential." To put it in a more familiar way, we should help every American to "be all he or she can be." For some this means only providing a framework of opportunities - for others it means more direct assistance in areas such as education, health care, and retirement security. And these are thirty year challenges - educating young people from preschool until they are at their most productive, helping adults transition from job to job and profession to profession during their adult lives; promoting physical vigor and good health through public health measures, improved diagnostics, preventive health, and continuing health care to extend longevity and productivity to our natural limits; and strengthening retirement security, simply because it is right; first for our society to assure that all its members who have contributed throughout their lifetimes are assured a minimal standard of living, and secondly to free the American worker and family to concentrate on the challenges of today. Such long-term challenges must be addressed right away, with a new urgency.

    We have a solid foundation for meeting these challenges in many of the principles and programs already present today. They need not be enumerated here, except to argue for giving them the necessary priorities and resources. We can never ensure that every one has the same education, or health care, or retirement security, nor would we want to do so. But all Americans are better off when we ensure that each American will have fundamental educational skills and access to further educational development throughout their lives; that each American will have access to the diagnostic, preventive and acute health care and medicines needed for productive life, as well as some basic level of financial security in his or her retirement.

    To do this we will have to get the resources and responsibilities right. In the first place, this means allocating responsibilities properly between public and private entities. Neither government nor "the market" is a universal tool - each must be used appropriately, whether the issues are in security, education, health or retirement. Then we must reexamine private versus public revenues and expenditures. We need to return to the aims of the 1990's when we sought to balance our federal budget and reduce the long- term public debt. Finally, it means properly allocating public responsibilities to regulate, outsource, or operate. This means retaining government regulation where necessary to meet public needs, and balancing the federal government's strengths of standardization and progressive financing with greater insights into the particular needs and challenges that State and local authorities bring.

    As we work on education, health care, and retirement security we must also improve the business climate in the United States. This is not simply a matter of reducing interest rates and stimulating demand. Every year, this economy must create more than a million new jobs, just to maintain the same levels of employment, and to reduce unemployment to the levels achieved in the Clinton Administration, we must do much more immediately. This is in part a matter of smoothing the business cycle, with traditional monetary and fiscal tools, but as we improve communications and empower more international trade and finance, firms will naturally shift production and services to areas where the costs are lower. In the near term we should aim to create in America the best business environment in the world - using a variety of positive incentives to keep American jobs and businesses here, attract business from abroad, and to encourage the creation of new jobs, principally through the efforts of small business. These are not new concerns, but they must be addressed and resourced with a new urgency in facing the increasing challenges of technology and free trade. And labor must assist, promoting the attitudes, skills, education and labor mobility to enable long overdue hikes in the minimum wage in this country.  

    PTSD, don't leave 'Nam without it.

    by BOHICA on Tue May 03, 2011 at 08:46:05 AM PDT

    •  excellent - and spot on. (10+ / 0-)

      I'm somewhat confused, I must admit, between the shining intellect of the miltary's top thinkers and the increasing military budget.... It seems like what the 'guys' say they want is not what they're getting from the MIC.

      •  Because they (14+ / 0-)

        Don't control the budget process. Common sense leaves the room during a budget hearing and greed enters.

        PTSD, don't leave 'Nam without it.

        by BOHICA on Tue May 03, 2011 at 09:10:51 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  DoD spending includes "social" issues. (8+ / 0-)

        nzanne, great topic and great analysis!  I concur with your POV.  I have a complimentary subscription to FP (Foreign Policy) through my membership in the CCGA (Chicago Council on Global Affairs).

        In 1994 I addressed Congress, on behalf of my women's support group, regarding autoimmune diseases (200+ genetically mediated diseases).  Among our sponsors were, the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Energy (DOE).

        I wondered why the Defense Department would care.

        Because 20% (1 out of 5) people have the autoimmune gene and can be tested for it.  The DOD's and DOE's. The military studied the nation's health as a factor in: the nation's social stability and ability to defend itself.

        Alot of money that's designated as 'military spending' shows up in odd places, like the space program - space supposedly is a military-free-zone.

        "Nobody realizes that some people expend tremendous energy merely to be normal" ~Albert Camus & "Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted" ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

        by Aidos on Tue May 03, 2011 at 03:25:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Can you say "oink?" (5+ / 0-)

        It's because of the pork!

        How much does Boeing add to the cost of its military programs by spreading manufacturing over 20 or 30 or 40 states? The company doesn't do it because it makes military or financial sense; it does it 'cause it makes it impossible for Congress to kill any programs.

        Or look at the hubbub over the second engine for the Joint Strike Fighter (I think that's the plane) - military officials have said repeatedly and publicly they don't want it, think it's a waste of resources, but Congress just kept funding it because the manufacturers (and elected officials, primarily but not solely Republicans) wanted it.

        The only - and I mean only - benefit to the various budget fights is that we may yet get to a point where the Pentagon's budget is not sacrosanct.

        West Virginia's new motto: Ex Os, Ex Mens (go look it up)

        by blonde moment on Wed May 04, 2011 at 05:16:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I was just going to comment (4+ / 0-)

          But you already stated it perfectly well.  That goes for all the bases the military wanted to close in 90s as well and Congress is all for it, except for the NIMBY angle... the problem is, is that bases and manufacturing, economic factors and by-products of the military, are in EVERYONES backyard and nobody wants to explain to their constituents why everyone just lost their jobs at the districts Lockheed Martin plant or explain to bar owners, realtors, pawn shops, and military gear shops why they must all go bankrupt because the base is closing.

          That's a huge problem.  I always thought the solution must lie in a swords to plowshares program where we produce green technology or space tech instead of F22 components at the local factory.  I think that is the only way to do it.

          "What's disgusting? Union busting!" 17.02.2011 Madison, WI

          by Jeffersonian Democrat on Wed May 04, 2011 at 05:24:04 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Eisenhower told the truth in 1953 (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Jeffersonian Democrat, nzanne

            in this epic speech:

            Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

            This world in arms in not spending money alone.

            It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.

            The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities.

            It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population.

            It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals.

            It is some 50 miles of concrete highway.

            We pay for a single fighter with a half million bushels of wheat.

            We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people.

            I'd dance w/ joy if our current POTUS were to give a similar speech.

            Some men see things as they are and ask why. I dream of things that never were and ask why not?

            by RFK Lives on Wed May 04, 2011 at 06:09:04 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

      •  It's been said (0+ / 0-)

        that there are a lot of careerists in the top ranks, Petraus being one of them.

        "Here's another nice mess you've gotten me into." - Oliver Hardy

        by native on Wed May 04, 2011 at 06:41:50 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for bringing this forward. I agree that our (16+ / 0-)

    military has been a voice of reason and restraint in discussions about their future.

    America has a well-funded War College. If we had a parallel Peace College to address the issues raised by these officers, we might be better able to prepare for a better future for our country.

    The first panacea for a mismanaged nation is inflation of the currency; the second is war. Both bring a temporary prosperity; both bring a permanent ruin. - Ernest Hemingway

    by 4Freedom on Tue May 03, 2011 at 08:55:56 AM PDT

  •  Great Diary (12+ / 0-)

    While people were out celebrating the death of OBL, this was a sobering piece of a way forward.  Big military operations are draining this country of our resources so much so that we are demonizing fire-fighthers, police, those on Medicare/Medicaid, teachers and other public sector employee's whose pensions, health care benefits, salaries are now being used to pay for wars, the rich, and corporations that exploit the same people we are targeting in the Middle East and beyond.  Our infrastructure is crumbling from our roads to bridges, dams, levees, schools and hospitals.  We don't have a "pot to pee in or a window to throw it out of" but we seem to have unlimited cash to spend on wars.  The only reason the wars in Afganistan and Iraq have lasted this long is that we don't have draft and no one has been taxed to the hilt to pay for this stuff.  THese two young military officers should be commended for their truth telling and vision.

    The pottery barn rules of the past need to be applied to the USA which raised the debt sealing 5 times largely to pay for tax cuts for the merry rich and wars that nobody in higher government office's kids are repeatedly deployed in.  I'm not shouting "USA< USA USA.  It is a temporary high that won't last the summer.  

  •  Tipped and Rec'd. (8+ / 0-)

    This is one of the most heartening blog posts I've read in awhile. Thank you, nzanne.

  •  military needs to understand that it's a pawn (5+ / 0-)

    For all the rhetoric about how the civilian leadership defers to the Pentagon and lets them decide what the military needs and ought to do with it, the Pentagon actually wields very little influence over our foreign policy.  America's bloated military and the empire it defends is motivated first by the money to be made in the private sector and second by an ideology of empire for its own sake.

    This is just another instance where the Pentagon takes as firm a public stance on policy as good soldiers ever will, but nothing comes of it because the civilian leadership has its own reasons for doing what it does with the military.  There's less money to be made by reducing the size and technological sophistication of - if not the military - then of the US's ability to project power abroad (including high-priced mercenaries), and for many in Washington - both civilian and military - it's simply unthinkable the the US could or should do with words and money what it could do with bullets and bombs.

    •  the problem being (6+ / 0-)
      it's simply unthinkable the the US could or should do with words and money what it could do with bullets and bombs.

      we can't do what the corporate and Pentagon ideologues want to do -- global hegemony -- with bullets and bombs. We can only weaken ourselves economically and vis-a-vis the world's elite and popular opinion.

      Until we break the corporate virtual monopoly on what we hear and see, we keep losing, don't matter what we do.

      by Jim P on Tue May 03, 2011 at 02:41:33 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  i don't think anyone has mentioned (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Larsstephens, nzanne

    that, among other accomplishments, iirc, the u.s. military developed the internet

  •  The End of WW2 was the beginning of the decline (5+ / 0-)

    The Kennan paper was just one factor. there was a deluge of bad news from 49-50, the soviets setting off the bomb, spies convicted, McCarthy and his like being a total ass, Korea.

    The U.S. never stood down after World War Two. This is a very important topic to consider.  World War Two completely changed America. When the Berlin wall fell, we should have been able to pull back, instead we developed a new national enemy. Military spending is vastly underreported.

    in 2012, i hope both parties put pressure on their candidates to stop being the worlds policeman.

  •  Yeah I downloaded & read this when first published (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Larsstephens, neroden, nzanne

    It is an interesting read. I would hope this would impact our decision makers - it might, but the noisemakers in Congress will fight it tooth and nail.

    No single raindrop believes it is to blame for the flood

    by ResponsibleAccountable on Tue May 03, 2011 at 04:29:50 PM PDT

  •  I'm tired of our being the Military Police (3+ / 0-) the world too. Glad the Cold War ended.  Tired of the oil war, and the "war on 'Terra'" and even tired of the freaking "war" on drugs.

    But if in the new global "competition" includes American working people's wages "competing" with the hungriest, most abused, most desperate people on the planet?

    It's a lose-lose proposition anyway you slice it.
    Or blow it up.

    An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all republics - Plutarch

    by Anthony Page aka SecondComing on Tue May 03, 2011 at 08:04:25 PM PDT

  •  Decline is a relative term (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    neroden, blonde moment

    And there may be something healthy about it.  The US predominance post-WW2 was somewhat artificial.  It is amazing it lasted as long as it did.

    I am hoping that, as we disengage from war, we can go back to our core mission, which is building a great America here at home.

    "Hidden in the idea of radical openness is an allegiance to machines instead of people." - Jaron Lanier

    by FDRDemocrat on Tue May 03, 2011 at 08:39:34 PM PDT

  •  You wrote: (0+ / 0-)
    The top thinkers of the US military - Eisenhower's strategic brain trust folks - are offering us pretty clear ideas on how to proceed; let's make sure the military industrial complex - and their Congress critters - don't interfere with this compelling, peaceful vision..
    Who exactly were/are  "Eisenhower's strategic brain trust folks"? Only heard that trope used to refer to FDR's informal circle (brains trust, actually).

    I'd like to believe this dream, and might if it weren't for the inherent self-interest of the military in preserving the current arrangement.

    Slap it. Shoot it. Kaboot it.

    by adios on Tue May 03, 2011 at 08:56:38 PM PDT

    •  I'm not sure it's the military preserving it; (0+ / 0-)

      I think it's the $$ in the private sector that's benefiting.

      I mean, as you said above, the military has lots of facets, lots of concerns. I think the blame for the continuation of war war war is the MIC....

      As for Eisenhower's brain trust folks, that was actually a reference I picked up on from both a Wiki article I read on Mr X and from the Col Wilkerson interview. Again, sorry I can't find the link - someone else had that on the FP a few days back....

  •  A budget is a statement of priorities (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    boiled down to numbers.

    Our top and increasing priority is killing.
    Our decreasing priorities are the health, education, and safety of our people.

    We kidnap. We torture. It's our policy. Embrace it or end it!

    by Mosquito Pilot on Wed May 04, 2011 at 04:16:59 AM PDT

  •  As Bill Maher has been saying on his (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nzanne, TexasTwister

    stand up tour of late:

    "If you want to save money, END THE EMPIRE".

    but of course, it's not so simple... the corporations that want to keep the highly profitable war-profiteering going on and on forever-- they have plenty of lackeys in Congress helping them do just that.

    BTW, weapons are the Numeru Uno export of the United States. sweeeeeeeeeeeeeeet, eh?


    "I don't feel the change yet". Velma Hart

    by Superpole on Wed May 04, 2011 at 05:45:28 AM PDT

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