Skip to content

The 2010 National Security Strategy

May 27, 2010

Today, while the Senate was voting down the need for an exit strategy from Afghanistan, and the House was marking up billions more for war, the White House released the Obama Administration’s first National Security Strategy.  A new NSS (yes, everything in Washington has an acronym) is released more or less every four years and lays out the overarching strategic vision of the administration for ensuring U.S. national security.  As such, it defines the White House’s overall approach to keeping the country safe and engaging with the world.  Theoretically, from it, all other foreign policy flows.

President Obama’s first National Security Strategy has been long-awaited and will be received in Washington with plenty of political opining and foreign policy expert blogging.  Here at FCNL we understand both the importance of the document in laying out an administration’s approach to national security, and the reality that ultimately U.S. actions speak louder than policy documents.  Below are some of the highlights and lowlights I found in my first quick scan of the 52 page document. 

On balance, Obama’s 2010 NSS includes both important shifts in U.S. policy toward FCNL’s own goals, as well as the perpetuation of failed war policies that we must continue to challenge.


  • Repudiates the “pre-emptive war” approach of the 2006 NSS;
  • Pursues the “goal of a world without nuclear weapons”;
  • Identifies climate change as a fundamental threat to U.S. and global security and emphasizes the need to reduce emissions at home and support adaptation and mitigation abroad;
  • Offers a more comprehensive approach to building national and global security which includes robust tools of diplomacy, development, and international cooperation;
  • Returns the U.S. squarely to meeting its commitments under international law and emphasizes the importance of working with the global community, including “paying our bills” to the UN;
  • Gives specific attention to strengthening human rights, protecting civilians, improving international peacekeeping, and supporting active civil society;
  • Includes the most substantive focus yet in any NSS on the U.S’s role in preventing, resolving, and rebuilding after armed conflict, including a commitment to “measures [that] will help us diminish military risk, act before crises and conflicts erupt, and ensure that governments are better able to serve their people”;
  • Emphasizes preventing genocide and mass atrocities and references U.S. and global commitments to the “Responsibility to Protect”;

We will draw on diplomacy, development, and international norms and institutions to help resolve disagreements, prevent conflict, and maintain peace, mitigating where possible the need for the use of force.

To advance our common security, we must address the underlying political and economic deficits that foster instability, enable radicalization and extremism, and ultimately undermine the ability of governments to manage threats within their borders and to be our partners in addressing common challenge


  • Continues the endless, boundless war against al-Qaeda, and justifies unilateral military action “if necessary” ;
  • Perpetuates U.S. reliance on massive military force and maintaining global military superiority as a means to security;
  • Prescribes “whole of government” as an organizing principle, risking further militarization of U.S. foreign policy;
  • Justifies and persists with failed war policies in Afghanistan;
  • Persists with threatening and isolating Iran without any strategy for effectively altering behavior.

The United States remains the only nation able to project and sustain large-scale military operations over extended distances. We maintain superior capabilities to deter and defeat adaptive enemies and to ensure the credibility of security partnerships that are fundamental to regional and global security.

For nearly a decade our Nation has been at war with a far-reaching network of hatred and violence. Even as we end one war in Iraq, our military has been called upon to renew its focus on Afghanistan as part of a commitment to disrupt, dismantle, and defeat al-Qa’ida and its affiliates. This is part of a broad, multinational effort that is right and just, and we will be unwavering in our commitment to the security of our people, allies, and partners. Moreover, as we face multiple threats- from nations, non-state actors, and failed states – we will maintain the military superiority that has secured our country, and underpinned global security, for decades.

With the 2010 NSS now out, foreign policy pundits will have plenty to talk about for a while.  But the real test of the Obama Administration’s approach to the world will be how U.S. policies play out on the ground – from Afghanistan to Sudan – and what results follow in the months and years to come.

One Comment
  1. Ellen N. Duell permalink
    May 27, 2010 5:01 pm

    I applaud most of the NSS!

    I do not support my country’s dependence on overwhelming military power. I am convinced that most of the money that goes to the military establishment would make us more secure if we spent it on care of the earth, helping provide opportunities for good living to poor people in our land and in other lands, planting trees, and supporting the arts and folkways in all lands.

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: