"American success is not a foregone conclusion," warned our 45th commander in chief as he unveiled his "America First National Security Strategy" on Dec. 18, 2017.
Key to American success — and to a supremely excellent national security strategy — is President Trump’s acknowledgement that a "radical Islamic ideology" is motivating many of our enemies. Another key to success will be the conformance of President Trump’s "National Security Strategy" to what C.S. Lewis coined as, "the principle of first and second things."
First things are core values that define who you are. Second things, e.g., survival and money, are also very important to almost all people. According to the Principle of First and Second Things, if you only focus on second things, as important as they are, in the end you fail to achieve those second things — and in the process, you lose your first things. "You can’t get second things by putting them first," wrote Lewis in 1942; "you can get second things only by putting first things first."
Plato wrote essentially the same thing in 360 B.C.: "there are two different kinds of good things, the merely human and the divine; the former are consequential on the latter. Hence a city which accepts the greater goods acquires the lesser along with them, but one which refuses them misses both."
A more recent first things expert, professor Peter Kreeft of Boston College, explained the principle using the most basic of all second things to make the point: "The society that believes in nothing worth surviving for — beyond mere survival — will not survive."
Recent presidents generally ignored American first things, e.g., core American principles such as Compact Theory, Popular Sovereignty, and Subsidiarity, which underlie our Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. Instead, they focused mostly on second things, e.g., money and survival — priorities for even atheist criminal thugs and Islamist jihadists.
In his forward to our new "National Security Strategy," President Trump announced: "We have recommitted ourselves to our founding principles and to the values that have made our families, communities, and society so successful."
The first paragraph of the first page of the new "National Security Strategy" begins with this unapologetic recitation of American first things: "An 'America First National Security Strategy' is based on American principles, a clear-eyed assessment of U.S. interests, and a determination to tackle the challenges that we face. . . . And it is grounded in the realization that American principles are a lasting force for good in the world."
The new "National Security Policy" then proclaims, "'We the People’ is America’s source of strength," followed by this veritable parade of American first things: "The United States was born of a desire for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — and a conviction that unaccountable political power is tyranny. For these reasons, our Founders crafted and ratified the Constitution, establishing the republican form of government we enjoy today.
"The Constitution grants our national government not only specified powers necessary to protect our God-given rights and liberties but also safeguards them by limiting the government’s size and scope, separating Federal powers, and protecting the rights of individuals through the rule of law. All political power is ultimately delegated from, and accountable to, the people."
Not since Ronald Reagan has an American president so courageously and publicly reaffirmed American first things.
This courage sets the stage for what the ancient Chinese philosopher Sun Tzu described as supreme excellence in warfare: "To fight and conquer in all your battles is not supreme excellence; supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy’s resistance without fighting."
And to help us achieve such a supremely excellent result, our new commander in chief, in stark contrast to the willful blindness of prior presidents, identifies our various jihadist enemies as "linked by a common radical Islamist ideology." The new "National Security Strategy" describes this ideology as "wicked," "barbaric," and "evil."
The new strategy also indicates that, "To prevail, we must integrate all elements of America’s national power — political, economic, and military."
So now the implementation phase begins, but the foundation for success is well laid.
Aside from China, Russia, and North Korea, the new "National Security Strategy" explains that, "jihadist terrorist organizations present the most dangerous terrorist threat to the nation." Accordingly, our commander in chief should fulfill his campaign promise that, "one of my first acts as president will be to establish a commission on radical Islam — which will include reformist voices in the Muslim community who will hopefully work with us. We want to build bridges and erase divisions."
In building those bridges, to quote President Trump’s foreword to our new "National Security Strategy," "We will never lose sight of our values and their capacity to inspire, uplift, and renew. . . . This 'National Security Strategy' puts America First."
Joseph E. Schmitz served as a foreign policy and national security advisor to Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign. The opinions expressed in this article are his personal opinions. Schmitz served as Inspector General of the Department of Defense from 2002-2005 and is now a Partner in the law firm Schmitz & Socarras LLP. He graduated with distinction from the U.S. Naval Academy, earned his J.D. degree from Stanford Law School, and is author of "The Inspector General Handbook: Fraud, Waste, Abuse, and Other Constitutional ‘Enemies, Foreign and Domestic.’" Read more reports from Joseph E. Schmitz — Click Here Now.
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