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A Proposal for a Unifying Strategic Doctrine for National Security

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A Proposal for a Unifying Strategic Doctrine for National Security

by Colonel David Maxwell, Small Wars Journal Op-Ed

A Proposal for a Unifying Strategic Doctrine for National Security (Full PDF Article)

It is important at this time in history, especially as a new President takes office, to continue the debate on how the United States thinks about its place in the world and its own security. As the U.S. leadership assesses National Security and the complex and globalized world in which it finds itself, three important potential realities should be contemplated.

First, people who are disadvantaged, disenfranchised, downtrodden, or disassociated are vulnerable to ideological and political manipulation by insurgent, terrorist, criminal, or other organizations (which could include alternatives to sovereign government organizations or nation-states seeking influence over the population of a rival nation-state). Such organizations have always and will continue to seek to exploit people for their own ends. These groups sometimes evolve into violent extremist organizations that use politics, economics, or religion to manipulate or exploit people.

Second, the U.S. is has and will likely be exploited as a target to enhance the legitimacy of an organization or even a nation-state in the eyes of its own constituency. I offer the following examples. The dictators of Cuba, Iran, and north Korea use the fact that they are perceived by the U.S. as a threat. They use this perception to enhance their own legitimacy among their people. Bin Laden and Al Qaeda's single most important measure of effectiveness (from their perspective) is that the AQ network still exists despite having had war "declared" (in the figurative vice Constitutional sense) against them. The U.S. as a world superpower, perceived hegemon, and an enemy is a useful paradigm for opposition elements.

Third, there will always be conditions in the world that will lead to people being disadvantaged and disenfranchised and make them vulnerable to exploitation.

A Proposal for a Unifying Strategic Doctrine for National Security (Full PDF Article)

About the Author(s)


I see Co-existence as a fancy new name for what we have been doing for decades, especially since the end of WWII as a major component of Containment. What we are now attempting to re-flag as "through, by and with" or what we inaccurately term the "indirect approach" is simply FID and IDAD in a new dress.

We havent had a unifying National Security Strategy since Containment largely because we face multiple threats, since the fall of the USSR. In some cases a threat based strategy is still appropriate, but there are many ways to defeat the threat. A threat based strategy does not preclude us from focusing on maintaining the Nation-State construct and / or focusing on the populace. During the Cold War we not only focused on out producing and performing the USSR militarily, but we pushed them with our human rights policy which the Soviets saw as a deliberate strategy to overthrow the USSR. The human rights policy kindled resistance to communism in many eastern European countries, and many believe it was that our HR policy was the beginning of the end for the USSR.

While I disagree with calling Co-existence a new a new unifying defense strategy, I do agree strongly with many the underlying arguments made in this post. Foremost that we will get more bang for our buck assisting partner nations deal with their own problems when it is in our interest, but to do this effectively we need to reevaluate and adjust as necessary our entire Building Partnership Capacity (BPC) and Security Force Assistance (SFA) doctrine, funding, and authorities.