A Radically Different Security Strategy

My latest for The National Interest, "How Trump's National Security Strategy Breaks with the Past," has posted.



My latest for The National Interest, “How Trump’s National Security Strategy Breaks with the Past,” has posted.

The setup:

President Trump unveiled a new National Security Strategy on Monday. Previews of the document, based on leaked drafts and backchannel interviews, had given the impression that it would be a bland continuity of previous administrations’ strategies, with a few sops to Trumpism thrown in to satisfy the boss. A careful reading, however, shows it to be the reverse: a radical departure from the past within a penumbra of stability.

Obama’s February 2015 NSS was an idealist wish list, bordering on constructivism. Trump’s is petulance and solipsism masquerading as realism.

The conclusion:

Those who voted for Trump, especially those who took him both seriously and literally, should rejoice in this strategy. Those who did not can perhaps take some small comfort in the fact that these documents seldom have much influence on public policy. Regardless, elections have consequences, and this is undoubtedly a very different strategy than we would have seen had Hillary Clinton’s name been on the signature page.

Much more at the link.

FILED UNDER: National Security, Published Elsewhere
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    This seems, to me, to be a hodgepodge of mixed messages that do nothing to make the Donnie Doctrine any clearer. All delusion and no solution. All black-and-white…zero nuance.
    He admits that “actors such as Russia are using information tools in an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of democracies,” yet, again, ignores the fact that one of the democracies that Russia attacked is the US and he has done nothing, nor plans to do anything, in response.
    Seriously – are we really to believe that our National Security depends on building an ineffective wall along pieces of our southern border?
    What I find most staggering, and I believe unprecedented, is just how willing this administration is to denigrate previous administrations.

  2. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    BTW, James…I was hoping you would do this analysis, so thanks.

  3. CSK says:

    “…petulance and solipsism masquerading as realism.”


  4. MBunge says:

    That’s a pretty disappointing analysis because so much of it boils down to “How DARE Donald Trump accurately describe or explicitly refer to entirely real problems and concerns that people like James Joyner don’t want to talk about.”

    For example, everything Donald Trump says about immigration might be 100% wrong. That does not change the fact that the American immigration system is broken and has been broken for DECADES while people like James Joyner did absolutely nothing about it.

    It’s very much the same tone and substance as the reaction to Trump’s inauguration address where people lost their minds at a President doing something besides the “Happy, happy! Joy, joy!” dance from the Ren and Stimpy show.


  5. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Bunge…you rabidly support child molestation, sexual assault, and Russia attacking our Republic.
    As a traitor to your country…you have nothing of value to add to civilized discourse.
    Might I suggest that you…

  6. Brooklyn Dave says:

    You’re just complaining about how others failed. And your solution, Trump, seems to be about screwing everything up even more until everyone pays attention to you. Instead of heaps of unfocused anger and blame, how about you propose something realistically constructive? Reading you, I get the distinct impression you want to burn everything, and everyone, down until you like the way things are. Lots of luck with that agenda.

  7. al-Ameda says:


    That’s a pretty disappointing analysis because so much of it boils down to “How DARE Donald Trump accurately describe or explicitly refer to entirely real problems and concerns that people like James Joyner don’t want to talk about.”

    First, did you actually review the 68 page document that presents the Administration’s ‘thoughts’ on a strategy for national security?

    I did, it borders on facile, and is replete with ‘junk food’ such as the following:

    “At home, we have restored confidence in America’s purpose. We have recommitted ourselves to our founding principles and to the values that have made our families, communities, and society so successful. Jobs are coming back and our economy is growing. We are making historic investments in the United States military. We are enforcing our borders, building trade relationships based on fairness and reciprocity, and defending America’s sovereignty without apology.”

    I think James gave a very measured and clear-eyed look at the Trump approach to complex issues of national security.

    What about James’ analysis did you find disappointing or objectionable?

  8. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    Morally reprehensible, and As a traitor to your country…you have nothing of value to add to civilized discourse.

    Fixed that…

  9. john430 says:

    It is, however, only loosely about national security. More importantly, it’s decidedly not a strategy.

    Taken in microcosm, the dozens of in-prioritized priorities of the 2015 NSS are banal. There’s little over which to disagree on a point-by-point basis. Indeed, like most of its predecessors, it reads like a summary of recent issues of publications like Foreign Affairs and The National Interest written by junior bureaucrats on the National Security Staff that’s then been edited by the president’s domestic-policy advisors—which, in fairness, is pretty much what it is.

    The above was taken from your 2015 review of Obama’s report. Seems to me that banality, petulance and solipsism describe the Obama mindset perfectly.

    So…in the words of Clara Peller…: “where’s the beef?”

  10. michael reynolds says:

    Remember the infamous headline “Mush From the Wimp?” in reference to Jimmy Carter?

    This is more Wind From the Gasbag. There is no such thing as policy in the Trump administration, there’s only the trashing of the black president, the servicing of billionaires and the endless licking of Putin’s taint.

    The notion that this random, petulant, stupid, crooked, absurd toddler could maintain a policy let alone a strategy is ridiculous on its face. This is a document created to satisfy a handful of ‘wonks’ in the Pentagon, it means essentially nothing new, and is entirely pointless.

    Reduced to its essentials the Trump ‘policy’ is: we will only play games we guaranteed to win. It’s all about me, me, me, mine, mine, mine, and how many Trump golf courses will a given country accept. What a load of bull.

  11. michael reynolds says:


    What about James’ analysis did you find disappointing or objectionable?

    1984 by George Orwell:

    Tell me, Winston — and remember, no lies: you know that I am always able to detect a lie — tell me, what are your true feelings towards Big Brother?’

    ‘I hate him.’

    ‘You hate him. Good. Then the time has come for you to take the last step. You must love Big Brother. It is not enough to obey him: you must love him.’

    You don’t understand where MBunge is coming from. You must learn to love Big Toddler. Cult members tolerate nothing less than abject devotion.

  12. Slugger says:

    How are these plans going to be implemented? Our State Department does not appear ready to spring into action. The Sec. of State has been rumored to be fired a couple of times and had to reverse himself on others. We did not have an official Ambassador to South Korea till a few weeks ago. Our important guardians, the FBI, are reportedly “in tatters” without any particulars about their shortcomings nor an action plan for improvement. The attacks on legal immigrants seem strange coming from a man who has married two of them.

  13. John430 says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Diagnosis: Trump Derangement Syndrome
    Prescription: Relocation
    Destination: Antarctica

    Prognosis: Incurable regression to infantilism.

  14. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Diagnosis: Trump Derangement Syndrome
    Derangment syndrome is when you make false claims just because you don’t like someone…like you did about Obama being a Muslim or a Socialist, or your claims about the so-called Whitey tape.
    What is it, specifically, that Reynolds typed that is not demonstrably true?

  15. Mister Bluster says:

    “I did try and fuck her.”
    “I moved on her like a bitch. And she was married. she’s now got the big phony tits and everything.”
    “And when you’re a star, they let you do it. You can do anything.
    Grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”

    Donald Trump
    President of the United States

  16. John430 says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl: If you don’t find his 1336 hrs posting infantile then join his derangement group.

    Oh, wait: You are one of the founding members.

  17. Franklin says:


    Prognosis: Incurable regression to infantilism.

    Finally, you really do understand our current President!

  18. Mister Bluster says:


  19. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:


    1336 hrs

    WTF does that even mean???
    Are you referring to the 1336 lies Denture Donnie has told since becoming President?

  20. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Just like Bunge, John 321 makes wild claims and when challenged spouts nonsense rather than address the challenge.

  21. Slugger says:

    How does the recent action regarding the embassy in Israel fit into this program? What material benefit does the USA derive from this action?
    Have our foreign policy actions since January advance the US position vis-a-vis China, Russia, or N. Korea?
    I will give Trump credit for letting the Syrian-Iranian-Russian coalition fight ISIS. Although, improving Iran’s stature in the Levant might not have been part of his plan.

  22. Mister Bluster says:

    the “Happy, happy! Joy, joy!” dance from the Ren and Stimpy show.

    You mean like this:

    But great as our tax burden is, it has not kept pace with public spending. For decades we have piled deficit upon deficit, mortgaging our future and our children’s future for the temporary convenience of the present. To continue this long trend is to guarantee tremendous social, cultural, political, and economic upheavals.
    REPUBLICAN President Ronald Reagan
    January 20, 1981

    That was almost 37 years ago. This is the future that President Reagan warned us about!
    And what is President Pud’s REPUBLICAN Party about to do?…

    The final GOP tax plan will add more than $1.4 trillion to budget deficits over 10 years.

    As for Bungles, like his Pumpkinhead boyfriend… he’s just a bloated sack of protoplasm

  23. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    It seems to me that it’s a document written to people who aren’t likely to read it, or even read about it in a newspaper or on the Internet. All of the “but” statements after the typical boilerplate national security statements are sops to his base. Interesting, as I noted, because who is less likely to read this document than a Trump supporter?

    Sad. Pathetic. Low Energy. And now add Unthinking.

  24. DrDaveT says:

    So, who was the brave staffer who snuck “improved carbon capture technologies” into the Priority Actions section without any of the climate change deniers noticing?

  25. MarkedMan says:

    So, James, sorry you had to do that. Analyze that POC, I mean. I went to the article hoping to see your usual insight, but no one can provide cogent analysis on a big pile o’ nothing. Here’s a serious question though: given that you have some insight as to how military officials view documents like this (not just Trump’s but all presidents), are they all treated about the same way? In other words, if it seems to me that this one is particularly egregious, can I be reassured in that none of them, including this one, actually affect policy?

  26. MBunge says:

    Are we going to get a post about the Politico story on Hezbollah and the Obama Administration? Or is that another thing ignored around here because it is about something other than Donald Trump being the source of all that’s wrong in the world?


  27. JohnMcC says:

    @MBunge: SQUIRREL!

  28. michael reynolds says:



    Mike, you back child molesters. You will never have any standing here. You are done.

  29. John430 says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl: No, numbnuts. It refers to the timestamp of Reynolds’ post on this thread. Do you read any of this stuff or do you just cut and paste what your masters tell you to post?

  30. John430 says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl: I’ve done none of what you mentioned, EVER. So…how’s that fake news business of yours doing?

  31. Veritas Caput says:

    @John430: Bill Clinton “didn’t have sex with that woman” either, remember?

  32. michael reynolds says:

    @Veritas Caput:
    Yes, and Caine killed Abel which is why murder is now okay. Right?

    Any more Breitbart idiocy you need to have demolished in three seconds or less?

  33. Veritas Caput says:

    @michael reynolds: By comparing John430’s statement to Bil Clinton’s, I am demonstrating that both statements have the same truth values.

    Do you get it now?

  34. Veritas Caput says:

    Let me explain it to you very carefully, Michael.

    “I did not have sex with that woman” is FALSE.
    “I’ve done none of what you mentioned, EVER.” is also FALSE.

    Therefore, John430 is as correct, righteous, and honest as Bill Clinton.

    What part of this has anything to do with Breitbart. Did you really think before posting that?

  35. John430 says:

    @Veritas Caput: Veritas Caput rushes to ad absurdum and ends with tuum est

  36. Veritas Caput says:

    @John430: Whatever you say…..Bill.

  37. John430 says:

    @Veritas Caput: Lacking an intelligent comment you just say whatever sh*t comes into your head.