1. Sometimes I show a video about two groups of people playing basketball next to an elevator. One team has white shirts and the other team has black shirts. Both teams are bouncing basketballs. The task is to count the number of passes the white team makes. [If you have not seen the video, you might want to look at it first before you read further]
While the 30 second game is in progress, a person dressed in a gorilla suit walks through the scene. In my experience, 80% of the people watching the video do not see the gorilla.
As I was reading the 2010 National Security Strategy, I could not tell if I was watching people passing a basketball or watching someone in a gorilla suit walking through the world of homeland security.
2. I am reading a book by George Friedman called The Next 100 years: a Forecast for the 21st Century. Friedman believes the United States has five geopolitical goals that historically have directed its national strategy.
1) The complete domination of North America by the United States Navy.
2) The elimination of any threat to the United States by any power in the Western Hemisphere.
3) Complete control of the maritime approaches to the United States by the Navy in order to preclude any possibility of invasion.
4) Complete domination of the world’s oceans to further secure US physical safety and guarantee control over the international trading system.
5) The prevention of any other nation from challenging US global naval power.
When seen against the backdrop of our national history, any 100 year projection makes the 50+ page National Security Strategy seem insignificant. I am reminded of a man I used to work for who believed, “It all matters. But not very much.”
3. Last week I attended a four-day conference of state and local homeland security leaders. By leaders, I mean public safety officials with significant responsibility for the security of parts of the nation. No one I spoke with was interested — even moderately interested – in the National Security Strategy that came out Thursday.
Maybe that’s ok. But it was disturbing
4. I watched part of a YouTube video of a White House question and answer forum about the National Security Strategy. It was one of those behind the scenes views that used to belong to radio, but now thanks to CSPAN it’s no longer unusual. It did not appear those folks were very excited by the National Strategy either.
Another video of the U.S. National Security Advisor talking about the Strategy also did not exude a lot of energy. Secretary of State Clinton was a bit more energized in her video. But I think it’s difficult to project excitement and read a somewhat dry speech at the same time.
The people I watched sounded like policy analysts briefing the results of study. It was not especially inspiring.
5. One columnist from the Financial Times doesn’t believe the document is even a strategy. Here are some quotes from the author, Clive Crook:
The worrying thing is that the US president and his team seem so deluded about what they have produced….
To judge the content of the statement [i.e., the Strategy], you have to overlook the way it is expressed, which is not easy. It was run through a management-speak machine. It emerged, repetitious and full of misprints, with added verbiage and reduced intellectual content. Then it was put through a second time.
Imagine 50 pages of this: “To prevent acts of terrorism on American soil, we must enlist all of our intelligence, law enforcement, and homeland security capabilities. We will continue to integrate and leverage state and major urban area fusion centres that have the capability to share classified information….”
Previously, as you know, many people denied that homeland security capabilities should be used for homeland security. So much for that false doctrine. And notice how state and major urban area fusion centres will in future share information. Another bold departure. The previous approach to these strangely impaired fusion centres was different, entirely different. Thankfully, those days are over.”
I’m told what we call sarcasm, the British term irony.
6. “America’s greatness is not assured,” writes the president of the United States in his introduction to the National Security Strategy. “Each generation’s place in history is a question unanswered.”
Last week I participated in a discussion about the American narrative. The topic came up within the context of Al Qaeda’s narrative: that Islam is under attack all over the world. What is our narrative? Some people in the room asked why America even needs a narrative.
Another person — a scholar from Mexico — said the American narrative was about the future. America is where the world’s future emerges, created from the friction of multiple interests, battling factions, and conflicts about what to do next, all governed by a living Constitution.
Our strategic narrative welcomes those who can contribute answers to our never ending question.
7. Homeland security is mentioned directly almost 2 dozen times in the National Security Strategy. It is evident that under this administration, homeland security is an integral part of national security. Just as the president said in 2009 it was going to be.
Unsurprisingly, the language in the National Security Strategy echoes frequently the words of the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (see pages 18 and 19, for example). Resilience, all hazards, pandemics, information sharing — the usual suspects make their expected appearances.
According to GAO,
“The statute mandating the National Security strategy [50 U.S.C. 404a] calls for the document to provide a comprehensive description and discussion of U.S. worldwide interests, goals, and objectives vital to national security; detail the foreign policy, worldwide commitments, and national defense capabilities necessary to deter aggression and implement the strategy; identify the proposed short- and long-term uses of national power to protect our interests and achieve our goals and objectives; and assess the adequacy of our capabilities to carry out the national strategy.”
As untold gallons of oil spew without restriction from the crust of the Gulf of Mexico, the National Security Strategy seems as out of place — or maybe as invisible — as someone in a gorilla suit walking through a basketball game.
I have a vague feeling I’m missing something.