New document is a bold call to action

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.

Julia Vann | Daily Trojan

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.

7 replies
  1. steveg
    steveg says:

    When viewing a narrative of this scope (outlining the board our entire foreign policy framework should be “played” upon) we must view the big picture and only drill down into the details where and when they fit this overlying structure. The mixture of principles and interests are what founded our great experiment of a country, and that mixture in large part is what made us grab the imagination of the world. Our other cultural imperatives like exploration (frontiers and space) along with freedom, industriousness, innovation, logistical sophistication and sheer audacity are what held people’s attention and made many want to emulate us.

    Bill M you raise so many great discussion points in this thread I wish the forum accepted more html options to quote and respond to sub topics. Thank you for posting so much!

    In terms of foreign policy maintaining these goals and strategies strengthen and expand our SOI (sphere of influence) and the stronger that tie to allies and third parties becomes, the stronger our security becomes.

    The author seems to believe our prosperity is not sustainable without fixing the structural problems of the third world, but does not make clear why this is the case.

    The authors probably though this needed no explanation. No matter our individual political leanings/affiliations, we can all agree that the economic growth of China, the opulence of Dubai and the rising importance of India and southeast Asia all leave us with a feeling of bewilderment. How is this happening? What are the impacts to the USA? Why aren’t WE enjoying this exponential growth from our own domestic initiatives and foreign policy rewards? The goal of foreign policy at its heart is to promote interdependent relationships that transfer tranquility, security and opportunity to our citizenry…isn’t it? Well wouldn’t it stand to reason that setting economic, informational, and industrial capabilities to third world nations (if done smartly)would benefit us two-fold? It would establish strong allies AND provide future competition. Since when have we as a nation been afraid of competition? We all know it raises the skill level and prosperity of all involved.

    Using the containment theory set forth by George Kennan was corrupted in its execution from a diplomatic/intelligence strategy into a military one. Even he was vocal about this. It was skewed then, but ultimately effective at great cost, but today its mind-numbingly misguided and hurtful to our interests.

    The true message in my opinion of this report, is that we must focus internally. No our streets never ran with gold as so many immigrants of the past wished. But with this framework in place, we can sure polish up this rusty behemoth we call home. We are the (relatively) modern day birthplace of innovation, of technology, of entrepreneurial spirit. Lets remember that.

    Is it right that our politicians, bankers and speculators were allowed to cause an unprecedented global recession? Is it right to try to increase our debt ceiling? Is it right that our CEO’s can earn 30 times the wages of their employees that have had stagnant wage growth for 30 years while the hopeless earn federal assistance in record amounts? Is it right that our transportation, water and energy infrastructures are degraded and incapable of continuous improvement without total overhaul? Is it right that 15-20 years of industry policy has forced our manufacturing base out of country, exposing us to huge security risk? Why are our national graduate programs a majority of foreign students?

    Lets retake our position as having the finest scientists, political theories and implemented technological systems.

    Applying this narrative to our trade treaties, educational initiatives, infrastructure upgrades and intelligence staffing and decision making will benefit us for decades to come. And if not, it certainly wont hurt as much as using the globe as a checker board of independent reactionary policies to any flare-up this dynamic globe throws in our face.

  2. Rich Salas
    Rich Salas says:

    Communistic Globalist crud….what a joke. Lets be nice to the rest of the world, and they will put American well being first and foremost…LOL!!!

  3. Keenan Kline
    Keenan Kline says:

    Heard about the article just now on CNN GPS and it’s gratifying to see our best and brightest are in the CJCS office! Very closely aligned with another article recently about the need to shrink the remnants of our empire and focus on competitiveness. Thank for bringing it to the fore and into the minds of our future leaders.

  4. jay
    jay says:

    Cogent writing, Danny. Truly appreciate your bringing this compelling document to my attention.

    See ya at The Spot.

  5. Diane
    Diane says:

    There is truly nothing new under the sun. This “Narrative” is nothing more than a rehashing of tired leftist rhetoric. Might seem new to you kids. But it’s not.

  6. CAPT Wayne Porter
    CAPT Wayne Porter says:

    As a graduate of the University of Southern California, I am gratified to see this note in the Daily Trojan! Thanks, and keep getting the word out!

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