What three United States national interests do you think will be at great risk over the next five years? Describe those interests and identify which instruments of national power can be leveraged to protect or advance those national interests and how those instruments can be used.
As President Obama stated in his addresses to Congress in February 2009, the most important problem that the country faced was the economy, which was in the worst recession since the 1930s. This affected both domestic and foreign policy, since the country would probably have to reduce military spending and its commitments overseas as it did during the Great Depression, so for the Obama administration economic recovery was the primary goal. He did promise that "the weight of this crisis will not determine the destiny of this nation" (Obama Address, 2009, p. 1). He promised that the government would deal with unemployment, lack of affordable housing and health care, a failing education system, energy self-sufficiency, revival of the auto industry, an unfair tax system, and weak regulation of the financial system, so that the recession would not be endless. In bringing about economy recovery, the U.S. would not act unilaterally but in cooperation with the G-20 and other international organizations, and with developing nations to ensure that they do not face further catastrophic declines in living standards. For the last three years, in fact, economic revival of the global economy has been at the heart of the strategy and planning of the Obama administration, to prevent the world from sliding into a 1930s-style Depression.
In foreign policy, Obama promised to be more transparent about the costs of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to wind down the nation building operation in Iraq in his first term, which was done. There would also be a new strategy in Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat Al Qaeda, and the president promised that he would not "allow terrorists to plot against the American people from safe havens half a world away" (Obama Address, p. 6). Over the past three years, the use of aerial drones to attack Taliban and Al Qaeda leaders has increased, along with unconventional warfare against terrorist groups, such as the SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011. President Obama also promised a "new era of engagement" with the world, including new efforts to secure peace between Israel and the Palestinians, which has not occurred yet. In general, the U.S. would strengthen alliances and "use all elements of our national power" to deal with 21st Century problems such as terrorism, epidemics, nuclear proliferation and global poverty. He pledged to work closely with the G-20 on international economic problems and to avoid a return to protectionism, which would also be a regression into a 1930s-type Depression on the global level. In all these policies, the administration would work with coalitions and allies as much as possible to defeat terrorist groups, to deny safe havens to Al Qaida and affiliated organizations, prevent the spread of WMDs and deal with other urgent social, economic and environmental problems.
2. What are three possible ends you would expect to see in President Obama's National Security Strategy based upon the policy objectives contained in the C202 readings?
Among the most important goals of President Obama's National Security Strategy (NSS 2010) is to defeat Al Qaida and its affiliated global terrorist networks, protect the homeland against attack, prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons and other WMDs, and secure cyberspace from attack by state and non-state actors. The war against Al Qaida requires a strong alliance with Muslim countries, denying safe havens to terrorists, and an "integrated campaign that judiciously applies every tool of American power -- both military and civilian -- as well as the concerted efforts of like-minded states and multilateral institutions" (NSS, p. 19). This is not a global war against Islam but a specific terror network that uses certain tactics to attack the United States and its allies. To prevent attacks on the homeland, the federal government will continue to work with state and local police forces to share intelligence about suspicious activities, entrap possible terrorists, and improve information sharing and communications. It will improve screening technologies and enforce stricter travel bans, collaborating bilaterally, regionally and internationally to identify terrorists. By 2013, the government also planned to have secured all vulnerable nuclear materials to prevent them from falling into the hands of Al Qaida.
Most of Al Qaida's leadership was still in Pakistan, so the military and CIA would intensify surveillance, drone attacks and special operations against these targets, such as the SEAL team that killed Osama bin Laden in 2011. Since this area in the "epicenter" of violent Islamic extremism, another important goal will be to deny the Taliban and Al Qaida control of territorial bases from which they can attack the U.S. And its allies (NSS, p. 20). They must be blocked from establishing similar bases and safe havens in any region if the world, but first and foremost the policy has been to strengthen the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan and to improve the training and equipment of Afghan security forces. Linked with this effort, the U.S. And its allies will attempt to improve governance at all levels in Afghanistan, root out corruption, support human rights and economic development and create "a strong, stable, and prosperous Afghanistan" (NSS, p. 21). The U.S. government would also work with Pakistan to strengthen democracy and economic development there, as well as providing security assistance to combat the Taliban and Al Qaida there. In addition, if Al Qaida attempts to set up safe havens in North Africa, Yemen, the Sahel or Somalia, the U.S. will exert all necessary pressure to prevent it, although obviously the recent revolutions in the Middle East have complicated these efforts and the outcome is uncertain. Use of torture against terror suspects will not be allowed, though, and if possible all terror suspects will be arrested and tried according to due process of law. In addition, the Obama administration signaled its attention to close down the detention facility at Guantanamo, although this has not happened yet.
The greatest threat to the American people was an attack by terrorists possessing nuclear, chemical or biological weapons. Cold War stockpiles in these weapons and materials still exist, as do black markets trading in them, while many countries have been disregarding nonproliferation agreements. All of this makes a nuclear attack more likely, which is why U.S. policy favors a global reduction in the development of WMDs and assigns "top priority" to preventing their proliferation (NSS, p. 22). Towards this end, the administration signed and ratified a new START agreement with Russia and also reduced the role of nuclear weapons in its own national security planning, while calling for a new Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The U.S. will also continue its efforts to de-nuclearize the Korean peninsula and prevent Iran from acquiring WMDs, and will continue to isolate both countries diplomatically and economically if they refuse to negotiate on this issue.
3. Describe the process whereby a Geographic Combatant Commander translates strategic level guidance into theater shaping activities, and should those shaping activities fail the process by which he arrives at an executable operation plan.
The United States fights wars with all instruments of national power, including military, diplomatic, economic and mass communications, and the President uses the military to achieve national strategic objectives. National strategic direction is transmitted from the President and National Security Council to the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS), and then to theater and subordinate commanders (JP 3-0 Chapter I). As Harry Yarger points out, strategy is not planning, but rather planning is the bridge between planning and execution. Setting goals and objectives is the most important aspect of strategic planning, and is these are not right then the strategy is doomed to failure from the outset (Yarger, p. 1). Planning, coordination and guidance then takes place among the Joint Staff and Combat Commanders (CCDRs). In addition, the U.S. Government also uses Strategic Communications to advance its "interests, policies, and objectives through the use of coordinated programs, plans, themes, messages, and products synchronized with the actions of all instruments of national power" JP 3-0 I-1). CCDRs then translate overall strategic direction from the President, Secretary of Defense and JCS into courses of action (COAs) to match the local situation. Sometimes the effort will be mainly military and in others to support diplomatic, political and humanitarian efforts carried out by other agencies. CCDRs also provide "strategic direction; assign missions, tasks, forces, and resources; designate objectives; provide authoritative direction; promulgate rules of engagement; establish constraints and restraints; and define policies and concepts of operations to be integrated into operation plans (OPLANs)" (JP 3-0 I-2). Subordinate CCDRs have the duty to ensure that their plans, operations and policies are in accord with those of the CCDR.