The military’s 2018 National Defense Strategy (NDS) summary has been released. (1) This is the document that flows from the recently released National Security Strategy (NSS) and describes how the military will support the NSS. Let’s take a closer look.
The NDS starts with a promising premise – that we conduct our international affairs from a position of strength.
“…the Department provides military options to ensure the President and our diplomats negotiate from a position of strength.”
This is a time-proven and common sense maxim that, unfortunately, previous administrations forgot and abandoned. Our attempts to conduct our affairs from a weak position have proven to be abject failures.
The NDS next highlights an important observation and truth about today’s world – that lawlessness is on the rise.
“We are facing increased global disorder, characterized by decline in the
long-standing rules-based international order …”
Why is it important that we recognize this movement away from the rule of law? It’s important because it provides a moral and ethical justification for more aggressive action on our part. When a person commits a criminal act, they forfeit any ethical considerations we would otherwise extend to them. A burglar breaking into your home forfeits any expectation of a polite reception and accepts the fact they are subject to being killed with no discussion, notice, consideration, or trial.
So, too, with nations and terrorists. When a country flouts international law, it forfeits the protections that those same laws would otherwise provide. This is the basis for pre-emptive strikes, territorial incursions, clandestine military strikes, or any other action we deem necessary to ensure our national security. Recognizing this concept opens many more military options.
As the NDS puts it,
is a strategic
competitor using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors while
militarizing features in the China South China Sea. has violated the borders of nearby nations and pursues veto power over
the economic, diplomatic, and security decisions of its neighbors. As well, Russia ’s outlaw actions and reckless rhetoric continue despite United Nation’s
censure and sanctions. North Korea continues to sow
violence and remains the most significant challenge to Iran Middle East stability. Despite the defeat of ISIS’s physical caliphate, threats to
stability remain as terrorist groups with long reach continue to murder the
innocent and threaten peace more broadly.
There it is – all the justification that is needed to pursue more aggressive military actions.
Moving on, the NDS recognizes that we have become complacent.
’s military has no preordained right to victory on the battlefield.” America
The consequences are also laid out.
“Failure to meet our defense objectives will result in decreasing
eroding cohesion among allies and partners, and reduced access to markets that
will contribute to a decline in our prosperity and standard of living.” U.S.
And, the ultimate risk is bluntly stated, as well.
“It is now undeniable that the homeland is no longer a sanctuary.”
So much for the introduction to the strategy. To this point, it is an excellent document. Now, to the meat of the strategy – the specific goals and actions that the military will take. …………. And, now it all falls flat on its face.
The rest of the document, the heart of the document, is a collection of vague generalities along the lines of, “we will become more lethal”, with no specifics about how that will occur or, “we will be more agile”, with no specifics or definition. The document consists of nothing but this type of vague, generalized, useless PowerPoint babble.
Honestly, this concludes my review of the document since there is nothing of any substance to review. What a disappointment, especially after the fairly good NSS and the excellent introductory portion of the NDS. This document was not worth the time it took for the military to write it and not worth the time it took for me to read it.
Absolute garbage. I could not be more disappointed in our professional military.
Note: This is the public summary. One can only hope that the classified version has much more in the way of useful specifics but, somehow, I doubt it and, if it does, the military is making a huge mistake by failing to offer a better public description of the strategy. I’m not advocating giving away secrets but a basic description is necessary if the public is to buy in to the military and provide financial support. Further, there is a benefit in letting other countries know that we are preparing for them and, to an extent, how. This is called deterrence.
(1)National Defense Strategy Summary, 2018,