In his latest weekly column, Fourth District Congressman Ike Skelton, D-Lexington, outlines the need for the United States to have a national strategy to advance its own interests:
Since World War II, the United States has been “the indispensable nation”, playing a critical leadership role and standing today as the world’s dominant economic, political, and military power. But our nation’s ability to sustain this leadership role is jeopardized by the absence of a comprehensive strategy to advance U.S. interests.
It hasn’t always been this way – the U.S. has implemented successful strategies before. During World War II, U.S. strategy focused first on the War in Europe, and deferred some effort from the War in the Pacific until the Nazi threat was contained. During the Cold War, both major political parties supported a strategy of containment to confront the Soviet Union. At other times, our nation has pursued less successful strategies, such as isolationism during the period between the two World Wars.
While no strategy is perfect, America’s recent experience has revealed the pitfalls of taking part in world affairs without an underlying strategic framework to guide us. We find ourselves unable to agree upon and set national priorities for taking on the major challenges of our time. Inconsistent and contradictory policies hinder our ability to address threats and work together with our allies. We do our country no favors by squandering our national power in this way.
America’s next President will have the opportunity to chart a new course for our nation and to develop a strategy suited for today’s rapidly changing world. To start, the new President would do well to follow the example of President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who shortly after taking office commissioned the Solarium Project to review strategies for dealing with the Soviet Union. After a competitive process in which three teams of advisers promoted the merits of three strategies, President Eisenhower decided to continue the policy of containment developed by President Truman.
Beyond leading a Solarium-type approach to national strategy, the next President should fully consult with Congress to ensure that any new strategy for America can attract support across the political spectrum.
Ultimately, determining the critical interests a strategy is designed to protect depends upon the place America occupies in the world. But it would be a mistake to abdicate the United States’ world leadership role. Today, no corner of the globe is too distant or too remote to be beyond our interest. Places as remote as the Hindu Kush are home to those who would attack us and our allies. Regional clashes, such as the recent conflict between Georgia and Russia, have serious ramifications for U.S. interests. And potential flashpoints – the Taiwan Strait, the India/Pakistan Line of Control, and the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, to name a few – would not respond well to a world leadership vacuum.
Developing a new national strategy will not be an easy assignment, but in the words of the song from World War II, “we did it before and we can do it again.” With Presidential leadership, developing a comprehensive national strategy will become a priority.