Trump's national security vision needs a staff willing to fight for it

Trump's national security vision needs a staff willing to fight for it
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National Security Strategies (NSSs), which presidents are required by law to issue annually, are usually so full of bland language and platitudes that they go unnoticed. This was not the case for Donald Trump’s National Security Strategy, which he rolled out in a speech on Monday

The new NSS mostly consists of the same themes that President TrumpDonald TrumpCIA chief threatened to resign over push to install Trump loyalist as deputy: report Azar in departure letter says Capitol riot threatens to 'tarnish' administration's accomplishments Justice Dept. argues Trump should get immunity from rape accuser's lawsuit MORE ran on to keep America safe and prosperous but develops them with in-depth arguments and the benefit of a year in office.

What’s really important about this strategy is that it represents the president reasserting and solidifying his “America First” and “Keep America Safe” campaign themes.


Although the president’s cover letter to the NSS states, “During my first year in office, you have witnessed my America First foreign policy in action,” many experts would dispute this after a year of resistance to his campaign promises on national security by middle-of-the-road national security officials in his administration and careerists — “the Swamp” — who have worked to water down and undermine his national security agenda. 

Whether it was withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accord, withdrawing from the nuclear deal with Iran, naming “radical Islamic terrorism” in President Trump’s historic speech in Saudi Arabia, or Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonTillerson: 'We squandered the best opportunity we had on North Korea' State Department sets up new bureau for cybersecurity and emerging technologies Lawmakers express concern about lack of young people in federal workforce MORE constantly proposing talks with North Korea that the White House forced the secretary to walk back, President Trump often has seemed to be alone among his top advisers defending his national security vision.

The new National Security Strategy indicates these days are over. The president has regrouped and doubled down on his national security approach. This NSS is now the bible to guide Trump foreign policy from this day forward. 

President Trump made the case for a foreign policy based on “principled realism,” an approach under which America will unapologetically pursue its interests and values in a world of competing states and act from a position of strength. The president views economic security and national security as intertwined – we cannot have a strong position in the world unless we have a strong economy at home.   

The highest priority of the NSS is protecting the American people, the U.S. homeland and the American way of life. This means better border security, reforming our immigration system, protecting critical infrastructure and combating cyber warfare.  The president also pledged a multi-layered missile defense system.

The NSS promotes peace through strength, explaining that world peace and the security of the U.S. homeland can only be secured by a strong military by the United States and its partners as well as the will to confront shared threats.

The NSS states that “America First” does not mean “America alone” or isolationism. It explains that America must work with its allies to confront shared challenges and notes that allies “magnify our power.” 

But President Trump’s NSS also takes an unprecedented swipe at globalism by explaining that while the U.S. will work for better outcomes from international organizations and regional alliances, the Trump administration will not go along with their policies and decisions that are not in America’s interests. United Nations Ambassador Nikki HaleyNikki HaleyNikki Haley unveils PAC ahead of possible 2024 White House bid We've seen this movie before — Rumors of Trump's political demise are greatly exaggerated Nikki Haley on Capitol riot: Trump 'badly wrong with his words' MORE demonstrated this approach on Monday when she vetoed a UN Security Council resolution condemning President Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and said, “The United states will not be told by any country where we can put our embassy.”

The NSS is emphatic that jihadist terror is the top threat to America’s security. It answers attacks on President Trump’s policies toward Russia and China by labeling them competitors and “revisionist states” that want to shape a world antithetical to U.S. values and interests. While the strategy describes the growing security and economic threats posed by these nations that America must resist, it also says the U.S. stands ready to cooperate with them on areas of mutual interest. 

The NSS discusses the growing threat from the rogue states of Iran and North Korea, noting that the longer we ignore threats from countries determined to proliferate and develop weapons of mass destruction, the worse such threats become, and the fewer defensive options we have.

The new National Security Strategy exhaustively explains to the world President Trump’s revolutionary, Reagan-esque vision for U.S. national security. But it also is a powerful rebuke to the president’s senior advisers and the Swamp who have tried to undermine Mr. Trump’s national security policies and replace them with the usual approaches by the foreign policy establishment. 

President Trump’s next task is to ensure that this new strategy is fully implemented. This should include replacing senior officials who have been resisting his policies and staffing vacant positions in the State Department, Pentagon and National Security Council with pro-Trump appointees ASAP. A strategy this revolutionary cannot succeed unless the president fully staffs the government with his appointees who are prepared to fight for it.

Fred Fleitz was chief of staff to Under Secretary of State John Bolton from 2001-2005. He served in national-security positions for 25 years with the CIA, the DIA, the State Department and the House Intelligence Committee staff. He is now senior vice president of the Center for Security Policy.