Last week, two members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff released a document that has not received much national attention but has the potential to be crucial in shaping the future of the United States.
Released under the pseudonym “Mr. Y” — an allusion to “Mr. X’s” 1947 article that shaped America’s strategy of containment during the Cold War — the document makes the case for a fundamental change in the way Americans view the world and spend their tax dollars. Titled “A National Strategic Narrative,” the officers’ paper argues for expanding the concept of national security from a purely military one to one that encompasses all of the nation’s capabilities.
With the 2012 election coming up, there is a real opportunity for the authors’ insights to make a major impact on the future of American policy.
Navy Capt. Wayne Porter and Marine Corps Col. Mark Mykleby start with the premise that though military strength is often needed to confront immediate threats, securing the nation in the long term requires maintaining our international credibility and addressing threats before they arise. To do this, they say, we need to redistribute our resources and re-evaluate our perspective, focusing on continued and sustainable security.
Domestically, the authors call for investment in education, healthcare and environmental protection to maintain and nurture our intellectual capital and natural resources.
Internationally, the officers argue for a three-pronged strategy of defense, diplomacy and development, saying the latter two are too often ignored or boxed into separate categories. They propose development now to minimize the need for military action later.
More generally, Porter and Mykleby write Americans need to modernize the lens through which they view the world. Currently, they say, most Americans view interdependence as a weakness, international competition as a zero-sum game, and other groups of people in a highly stereotyped manner. The solution, they write, is to cultivate “innovation, flexibility and resilience.”
“A National Strategic Narrative” is a bold call to action for all Americans. In particular, the fact that two senior military officers would call for massive cuts in defense spending in favor of environmental sustainability, education and diplomacy, enhances credibility and underscores the severity of our poor allocation of resources.
Sadly, it is likely this paper will be talked about but soon forgotten, just like most “grand strategy” papers produced in Washington. This would be a great shame, because rarely is such a sober, practical analysis published by such authoritative voices.
President Barack Obama rode into office promising “change,” and now he finally has a blueprint for it.
As a second term president with the support of top military officials, Obama could have a genuine opportunity to massively redistribute spending, focusing less on defense and more on long-term investments in education, healthcare, environmental sustainability and international diplomacy and development.
This will only happen, however, if the American public begins to understand the challenges “Mr. Y” brings up and to call for solutions.
So as the campaign season begins to heat up, try to look beyond the inevitable name-calling, arguments over a 2-percent change in the top marginal tax rate and Donald Trump’s hair. Instead, pay attention to which candidates seem able and willing to enact fundamental changes in government and get the United States back on a positive long-term track.
If enough voters do, it might actually happen.
Daniel Charnoff is a senior majoring in international relations (global business). His column, “Through the Static,” ran Fridays.