Sat May 29th, 2010 at 03:20:38 PM EST
On Thursday Obama's administration quietly and almost unnoticed released new national security strategy which reflects American perception of the world as it is and outlines priorities in American foreign policy.
As Foreign Policy noted this is not a strategy but rather a long speech printed on 52 pages. It took 1.5 year to prepare and by quick reading it has not changed much from previous version of 2003 though it does not include some points like Bush doctrine of pre-emptive strikes.
Nevertheless this is document which will be used for assessments of the administration's performance in the future. Let's see how high Obama's team set the planks. Not very high.
After one and a half year in office the administration's priorities in foreign policy were made crystal clear and such lengthy documents arouse from interested wonks only yawns.
Foreign Policy: Obama's National Security Strategy: real change or just `Bush Lite?'
The roll-out of President Obama's National Security Strategy tries to frame the strategy as a repudiation of his predecessor's. But the reality is that the new strategy is best characterized as "Bush Lite", a slightly watered down but basically plausible remake of President Bush's National Security Strategy.
You can read analysis further which may be summed up as "people at the helm can change but interests of the country rarely". Why? As Guardian writes :
Since the end of the cold war, there has been a disturbing uniformity of opinion among liberal internationalist Democrats and Republicans alike on the nature of the threats facing the US (transnational and bad), the value of alliances (valuable and good) and the need for American "leadership" (essential).
It's regrettable that Obama's administration did not use opportunities to change their Middle Eastern and AfPak policies more radically. For example as I pointed out in my previous diary Obama's administration had lost first precious year in Afghanistan insisting on delay of elections then taking time to embark on massive military surge which is looking more and more like a swan song.
In the meantime the administration went on with semantic exercise renaming most odious Bush's policies like "war on terror" (which became "overseas contingency operations"), and pretending to repudiate others like "pre-emptive strikes". This linguistic time pass was reflected in dismal press coverage which the same author of Foreign Policy calls deserving "failing grade that borders on malpractice".
Why this document received such coverage? Maybe because it was fruit of collective writing, Guardian in the same article explains:
The national security strategy documents are .. written by committee, thereby reflecting the most watered down consensus that the bureaucracy can bear.
This is reflected in curious writing style of the strategy, especially concerning particular countries. For example take "Russian part":
Russia: We seek to build a stable, substantive, multidimensional relationship with Russia, based on mutual interests. The United States has an interest in a strong, peaceful, and prosperous Russia that respects international norms. As the two nations possessing the majority of the world's nuclear weapons, we are working together to advance nonproliferation, both by reducing our nuclear arsenals and by cooperating to ensure that other countries meet their international commitments to reducing the spread of nuclear weapons around the world. We will seek greater partnership with Russia in confronting violent extremism, especially in Afghanistan. We also will seek new trade and investment arrangements for increasing the prosperity of our peoples. We support efforts within Russia to promote the rule of law, accountable government, and universal values. While actively seeking Russia's cooperation to act as a responsible partner in Europe and Asia, we will support the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Russia's neighbors.
Verb "seek" was used several times and paragraph about Russia ends with promise of support of territorial integrity of Russia's neighbors (read Georgia and Ukraine). It seems obvious that the text has passed many people, each one adding a sentence or two or even word in order to change the meaning of phrase from positive to negative and vice-versa.
Instead of conclusion
Despite its numerous flaws I remain cautiously optimistic and would not give to the strategy "B-" grade as Foreign Policy did. It's not yet on junk level, it consists of some commendable aspirations especially regarding broader engagements with emerging powers and tackling third world long standing issues of security, poverty and development. So far there was modest progress only on nuclear disarmament front (START agreement with Russia, 2012 conference on nuclear free Middle East etc.), the administration needs to concentrate efforts and come up with new bolder initiatives in other areas outlined in the strategy.