Primacy with a Side of Aspirational Liberalism
The good folks at Inkstick Media asked me to do a quick-turn reaction piece on the National Security Strategy. Between my gripes in my previous newsletter post and my Twitter sarcasm, I thought I had exorcised my demons on this one, but I had one more crucial point to make.
Here's the key takeaway:
No matter what the strategy says, we have to ask if it’s going to shift the United States into a new grand strategy or defense paradigm. It does not. If anything, Biden’s NSS brings back the Clinton-era practice of talking like a liberal about an agenda that works primarily for conservative elites and defense contractors. As John Carl Baker quipped, “the Pentagon budget will tell you more about US strategy (or lack thereof) than any administration document.” At $850 billion, Baker is right.
If it seems like I'm spitting hot fire at the NSS, there are three things going on here to explain why.
One is that a lot of commentators are judging the strategy on a curve because they're just glad it's not Trump's NSS (even though in the most important ways it is...). I'm correcting for the curve.
Two, a lot of pundits are just not to be trusted; they're corrupted by their need to have access to the administration (even ones who aren't democrats). I still have some access because of personal ties to specific people, but in the main I'm now an outsider. And I get no juice whatsoever out of praising or throwing shade at the Biden administration. So I'm calling the balls and strikes that others can't.
Three, I'm obviously of the belief that we're in a crucial historical conjuncture where the last thing we need is more same same military primacy, city-on-a-hill bullshit.
Even though I truly don't hate the NSS and thought it did some things well, nothing good would come out of praising it. More than that, my venom toward it has much to do with what I see as a kind of strategic apathy it displays. We need social democratic reform to ward off fascism and make a better world. We need to start reforming and restraining the national security state in preparation for the day when the far right gets hold of it.
What we've got instead is a national security strategy that Bill Clinton would be proud of.