A Program of the Stanley Foundation


Strategies for US National Security: Winning the Peace in the 21st Century

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The end of the Cold War and the events of September 11 make it imperative that the United States develops a new grand strategy for its foreign and security policies. Yet, even after the completion of major combat operations in Iraq, the United States does not have a consistent national security strategy or grand strategy that enjoys the support of the American people and our allies and that is clear to our adversaries and potential adversaries. This situation is markedly different from the Cold War period, when the United States had a clear, coherent, and widely supported strategy that focused on containing and deterring Soviet communist expansion.

To fill this void, the Stanley Foundation created an independent task force to analyze the strategy or strategies the United States might use to ensure its own national security while creating a stable, just, and sustainable global system in the 21st century. The task force was made up of 25 foreign policy analysts and practitioners representing all points of view on the political and foreign policy spectrum.

To answer the fundamental questions posed by longstanding US strategic debates—which encompass everything from finances to the future of defense transformation to the applicability of US values to other parts of the globe—the task force met in a series of seven sessions over nine months.

During the discussions, most task force members agreed on the broad goals espoused by the Bush National Security Strategy of the United States of America (NSS) and other strategy statements. However, many also expressed sharply conflicting opinions over the means of implementing the goals and innovations in the Bush NSS—that is, how should the United States go about using its power in a way that does not create further instability and future catastrophic attacks against US territory?

The primary critiques of the Bush NSS on this issue are outlined as the primary findings and recommendations of the group. Also, for the purpose of further summarizing and clarifying the differences among task force members, Chairman Lawrence Korb proposed three broad "grand strategies" or "strategic viewpoints": preventive war; active deterrence and containment, and cooperative multilateralism. These three strategic views of the world were fully discussed and critiqued as part of the ongoing task force deliberations.

Finally, the report's conclusion describes in detail six critical issues around which there was a consistent lack of majority opinion and consensus and which require further intensive debate and reflection. The ultimate answer to these questions will have a defining impact on US security in coming years and ideally should be fully confronted in the political debates surrounding the upcoming presidential election in 2004. All of these critical areas of dispute will need to be resolved if the United States is to pursue a truly integrated, coherent, and effective set of international policies over the long term.