December 23, 2017
President Trump revealed the first National Security Strategy Report of his presidency on Monday, further displaying his ideological departure from previous presidents. Trump’s report takes a more grim perspective than past reports, painting a picture of a world overrun with jihadist terrorists, international crime organizations, and conniving allies seeking to undermine the United States. While clear directives are largely absent, proposed solutions primarily include raising the defense budget and further promoting neoliberal market reforms. China and Russia are mentioned as “revisionist powers”, with a vague reference to Russia’s targeting of “media [and] political processes”. In highlighting the dangers of our “porous” border “chain migration” is designated as a threat, suggesting a further shift in rhetoric from opposing illegal immigration to immigration in general. This is not the only instance of Trump’s use of the report for vague race baiting, as he states that one of the five universal truths setting the stage for our security strategy is that “A nation that is not proud of its history cannot be confident in its future.”, an uncomfortable allusion to the confederate statue conflicts of August.
What is most telling about this year’s report is not the threats that are included, but those which are absent. Worldwide poverty is only cited as an excuse to deregulate the market, human rights are barely mentioned, and phrases such as “climate change” and “food insecurity” are completely missing. Russia and China are almost solely discussed as a pair, downplaying the far more serious danger to international peace and security that Russia has proven itself to be in recent years. North Korea’s dangerous pursuance of nuclear weapons is mentioned, but there is no suggestion of a commitment to reduce the number of nuclear weapons around the world. In fact, Trump’s perception of the largest factor engendering war and conflict is our under-funded, weak military – despite the enormously disproportionate amount of funds we direct to our defense in comparison to the rest of the world. Conversely, Trump also warns of the “grave threat” of our growing debt, which only comes off as more insincere when mentioned immediately after pushing for the largest tax cut in decades. The underpinning of what causes Trump’s security strategy to read so differently from those of past presidents is that he does not believe the United States and its allies can grow together cooperatively. Trump promotes strategic partnerships, but ultimately he views all of our relationships as inherently competitive. Whether it be through trade deals or the spreading of American influence, in Trump’s mind, we can only succeed at the expense of others.
- Read the full report: Here you can find the full, 68-page report
- Compare with the previous report: Here you can find a summary of the main components of Obama’s 2015 report.
- Read an article on defense spending: This 2016 article, written by Time magazine, explores the major disconnect between citizens and politicians ideas of appropriate defense budgets.
This brief was compiled by Colin Shanley. If you have comments or want to add the name of your organization to this brief please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.