Chris Van Es

A Security Strategy for the 21st Century

The new US National Security Strategy offers a broad conception of what national security represents for Barack Obama. The Obama administration has embraced a comprehensive doctrine that marks a clear break with that of its predecessor and includes a defense of international law - thereby representing a decisive step towards solving the challenges of the twenty-first century.

MADRID – “Time and again in our Nation’s history, Americans have risen to meet –and to shape – moments of transition. This must be one of those moments.” So begins the National Security Strategy of the United States of America, presented before Congress on May 27. As with the politics pursued in the Obama administration’s 16 months of office – dialogue, international commitment, nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament – the document’s strength lies in the position that it takes. The Security Strategy is a clear departure from that of its predecessor and offers a wider conception of what national security represents for US President Barack Obama.

In the face of the major challenges of our times, Obama has taken a stand with a comprehensive doctrine. Indeed, the Security Strategy is almost a “National” Strategy. Its thinking goes beyond the dominant, unilateral paradigm of its predecessor and includes a defense of international law. This is particularly noteworthy, given that none of the great treaties to create an international criminal court and a permanent war-crimes tribunal was signed by the US during George W. Bush’s presidency.  

Obama’s approach to security is broader as well, proposing the “three Ds” – defense, diplomacy, and development – as indivisible parts of a whole. The military dimension of intervention abroad loses its privileged role, making way for the prevention of conflict and for peace-keeping and stabilization missions.

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