The Obama National Security Strategy: “Mush” Ado about Nothing?

post to UNC Press Blog, 9 June 2010

In the world of U.S. foreign policy, the release of a new National Security Strategy is a big deal. This congressionally mandated exercise offers an opportunity for the executive to grapple with basic issues, and it may even herald the birth of a “doctrine” (as it did for George W. Bush in 2002). The Obama administration rolled out its NSS in late May in grand style. The president previewed it at West Point, and then following its release on the 27th, senior administration figures stepped forward to make sure the study’s significance was perfectly clear.

Alas, it is not so clear, as anyone who wishes to inflict a reading of this NSS on themselves will discover. (It’s lying in wait at the White House website [pdf].) The statement’s prose is leaden and cliché ridden, its organization mechanical and repetitive. It offers no easy-to-grasp Obama doctrine, indeed no coherent point of view. Those who fear that U.S. policy suffers from conceptual mush will find ample confirmation here. Read More »