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Do You Think Dr. Cohen's Views Are in Agreement or Disagreement With President Trump's 2017 National Security Strategy

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The publication of the National Security Strategy (NSS) is a milestone for any presidency. A statutorily mandated document, the NSS explains to the American people, U.S

allies and partners, and federal agencies how the President intends to put his national security vision into practice on behalf of fellow citizens. First and foremost, President Donald J. Trump’s NSS is a reflection of his belief that putting America first is the duty of our government and the foundation for effective U.S. leadership in the world. It builds on the 11 months of Presidential action thus far to renew confidence in America both at home and abroad.

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Our founding principles have made the United States of America among the greatest forces for good in history. But we are also aware that we must protect and build upon our accomplishments, always conscious of the fact that the interests of the American people constitute our true North Star. America’s achievements and standing in the world were neither inevitable nor accidental. On many occasions, Americans have had to compete with adversarial forces to preserve and advance our security, prosperity, and the principles we hold dear. At home, we fought the Civil War to end slavery and preserve our Union in the long struggle to extend equal rights for all Americans. In the course of the bloodiest century in human history, millions of Americans fought, and hundreds of thousands lost their lives, to defend liber in two World Wars and the Cold War. America, with our allies and partners, defeated fascism, imperialism, and Soviet communism and eliminated any doubts about the power and durability of republican democracy when it is sustained by a free, proud, and unified people. The United States consolidated its military victories with political and economic triumphs built on market economies and fair trade, democratic principles, and shared security partnerships. American political, business, and military leaders worked together with their counterparts in Europe and Asia to shape the post-war order through the United Nations, the Marshall Plan, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and other institutions designed to advance our shared interests of securi , freedom, and peace. We recognize the invaluable advantages that our strong relationships with allies and partners deliver. Following the remarkable victory of free nations in the Cold War, America emerged as the lone superpower with enormous advantages and momentum in the world. Success, however, bred complacency. A belief emerged, among many, that American power would be unchallenged and self–sustaining. The United States began to drift. We experienced a crisis of confidence and surrendered our advantages in key areas. As we took our political, economic, and military advantages for granted, other actors steadily implemented their long-term plans to challenge America and to advance agendas opposed to the United States, our allies, and our partners. These competitions require the United States to rethink the policies of the past two decades—policies based on the assumption that engagement with rivals and their inclusion in international institutions and global commerce would turn them into benign actors and trustworthy partners. For the most part, this premise turned out to be false. Rival actors use propaganda and other means to try to discredit democracy.  ey advance anti-Western views and spread false information to create divisions among ourselves, our allies, and our partners. In addition, jihadist terrorists such as ISIS and al-Qa’ida continue to spread a barbaric ideology that calls for the violent destruction of governments and innocents they consider to be apostates

Ese jihadist terrorists attempt to force those under their influence to submit to Sharia law.

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The relative importance of these factors can vary as well. States living in highly competitive international environments (think 19th century Europe) are incentivized to focus on external conditions. In contrast, states benefiting from a surfeit of security have the latitude to draw more heavily upon other factors. The modern United States falls into the latter category: a massively wealthy state surrounded by weak neighbors, wide oceans, and with no peer competitor since the early 1990s, the United States benefits from the most latent security of any actor in modern history (Hal Brands, 2014). In the post-Cold War world, the net result has been the consolidation of a powerful grand strategic consensus in which the United States claims to act in support of a liberal world order. In theory, this system allows the United States to (1) support benevolent policies such as free-trade and regional stability; (2) prevent states from engaging in military affairs unless viewed as legitimate; and (3) integrate potential rivals into a mutually agreed-upon “rules based” system of international governance. Of course, these claims were always embraced more in theory than in the breach. In practice, the United States quickly recognized the desirability of asserting American power in support of its self-defined interests irrespective of other states’ concerns. “America First” is hardly a new concept

Primacy, not benign liberal engagement, typically ruled the day. After all, the United States went to war against both Serbia and Iraq despite international opposition, and has shown a marked disinclination to let other states have a say in constructing the nominal “rules” of international governance. As a framing device, however, the post-Cold War foreign policy consensus was a mobilization device par excellence, reflecting and able to sustain popular backing through its nod to liberal values, bureaucratic support by providing substantial foreign policy funding, and political support by leaving enough maneuvering room for leaders to pursue any policy they wanted. Indeed, the appeal of this consensus was such that — as Patrick Porter shows — alternate grand strategy approaches have been largely ignored, with their proponents isolated or driven from government decision-making (Barry R. Posen, 1984).

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By and large, president Donald J. Trump’s actions have often been rash, ignorant, and chaotic. He seems sometimes to imagine that he can withdraw from the world and sometimes to think he can dominate it. Yet some of his individual foreign policies are substantially better than his opponents assert. It is no wonder that Trump is not given sufficient credit for his foreign policies. After more than two tumultuous years in office, the president has disrupted a whole series of conventions in the international system, some of them undoubtedly needed, but adopted few follow-on strategies and little or no implementation.

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Barry R. Posen, The Sources of Military Doctrine: France, Britain, and Germany Between the World Wars (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1984), 3–6;

Hal Brands, What Good Is Grand Strategy?: Power and Purpose in American Statecraft from Harry S. Truman to George W. Bush (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014).

For the critique of grand strategy as a formal plan, see Ionut Popescu, “Grand Strategy is Overrated,” Foreign Policy, December 11, 2017,

G. John Ikenberry, After Victory: Institutions, Strategic Restraint, and the Rebuilding of Order After Major Wars (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001);

G. John Ikenberry and Anne-Marie Slaughter, eds., Forging a World of Liberty Under Law: U.S. National Security in the 21st Century: Final Report of the Princeton Project on National Security (Princeton: Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University, 2006).

Patrick Porter, “Why America's Grand Strategy Has Not Changed: Power, Habit and the Foreign Policy Establishment,” International Security (forthcoming).

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