President Trump’s Dec. 18, 2017 "National Security Strategy" compares favorably with those of his immediate predecessors. Trump’s has "teeth," per J. Brodsky in The Hill (the hill.com) on the same day the president spoke.
While this post concurs with Brodsky, what happens when the American mouth barks, our teeth show, and we growl, yet the international community still fails to be deterred? Such a situation occurred when the U.N. General Assembly adopted a resolution on Dec. 21, rejecting the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. Despite threats of U.S. funding cuts, 128 countries voted in favor and only nine voted against. Another 35 "brave" countries abstained.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Niki Haley had warned in U.N. Security Council debate, "The United States will remember this day in which it was singled out for attack in the General Assembly for the very act of exercising our right as a sovereign nation.
"We will remember it when we are called upon to once again make the world’s largest contribution to the United Nations. And we will remember it when, so many countries come calling on us, as they so often do, to pay even more and to use our influence for their benefit."
Team Trump can’t punish virtually the entire world, including our main allies and friends, as well as countries receiving U.S. assistance, because we have our troops on the ground in 2016 and going into 2017. Those numbers are 8,400 in Afghanistan; 6,000 in Iraq.
We cannot discipline Afghanistan. Withdrawing assistance from the Afghan government, one of the largest recipients of U.S. aid ($5 billion), would make little sense, when we are fighting in the longest war in U.S. history, 2001 and counting. And what about Egypt ($1.2 billion), Jordan ($1.2 billion), or Iraq ($5.2 billion)? No! Not so fast!
Now, how does President Trump compare with his predecessors in meeting the legal obligation of the Goldwater-Nichols Defense Department Reorganization Act of Oct. 1, 1986?
Trump, Clinton, Bush, and Obama
Note the stark contrast between Trump’s America First doctrine of the Dec. 18, 2017 "National Security Strategy" (NSS) and NSS documents of prior U.S. presidents.
The first sentence Trump's NSS states, "The American people elected me to make America great again. I promised that my Administration would put the safety, interests, and well-being of our citizens first"
Now consider Bill Clinton’s two NSS documents— of 1994 and 2000.
The name of the first is quite a revealing contrast to Donald Trump’s America First focus. Clinton’s "National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement." And it declares "Our nation can only address this era’s challenges and opportunities if we remain actively engaged in global affairs."
Clinton’s second NSS reveals a tougher tone than the first, reflecting uncertainty in the transition from 1990s into the next decade, "A National Security Strategy for A New Century." And the new president has learned on job, facing wars in Bosnia and new challenges elsewhere human rights, and respect for the rule of law." Although there are values in the Trump NSS, they are not about human rights and respect for the rule of law.
(For an elaboration of need for Trump to incorporate human rights into his policies, see my piece, in The Hill, "Without Human Rights, Trump’s Security Strategy Won’t Measure," posted about Noon before his 2:00 pm NSS address.
Now on to President George W. Bush.
As Brodsky states, "The Bush administration’s first National Security Strategy made only fleeting references to Iran [in contrast to Clinton] . . . Its 2006 version took a more comprehensive view—focusing of course on the nuclear issue but also on 'block[ing] the threats posed by the [Iranian] regime while expanding our engagement and outreach to the people the regime is oppressing'" — but again, with scant detail on how to accomplish such goals.
In my Newsmax article of Dec. 12, "Trump Must Call Out Iran’s Abuses in Wake of Jerusalem Speech," suggests a way to reach out to the Iranian people, "Mr. President, deflect attention away from Jerusalem by calling attention to human rights abuses of Tehran. Your NSC staff is aware Iran specializes in detaining political prisoners, as evidenced by the following volume, and as stated on Dec. 10 in "Human Rights Day and Iran’s Suppression."
A book by the National Council of Resistance of Iran is titled, "Iran: Where Mass Murderers Rule: The 1988 Massacre of 30,000 Political Prisoners and the Continuing Atrocities."
I agree with Trump’s NSS statement, "Economic security is national security." That said, there must also be a human rights component to our national security. President Trump: Rip a page out of President Gerald R. Ford’s playbook on the crucial role of human rights in facilitating the collapse of the USSR.
Now think about the third basket of The Helsinki Final Act. It emphasizes human rights, including freedom of emigration and reunification of families divided by international borders, cultural exchanges, and freedom of the press.
Soviet leaders wanted to focus on the first basket. It includes 10 principles, covering political and military issues, territorial integrity, the definition of borders, peaceful settlement of disputes, and implementation of confidence building measures between opposing militaries.
But western countries, led by the United States, won the day. How? By getting human rights into the Final Act, we laid the seeds for human rights broadcasts and pierced the Iron Curtain, ultimately leading to the fall of the Wall separating East and West Berlin. Human rights became the long spear in the tent. As the Bible states, when, as a young man, King David slew Goliath the giant, the King took his armor and put them in his tent and used the long pole (1Samuel 17:54).
Now on to President Barack Obama.
Regarding Obama, Brodsky states, unlike President George W. Bush, "The 2010 Obama NSS concentrated on engagement with Iran’s government — something sought 'without illusion.'" Ditto for 2015, when the White House was testing its Interim Joint Plan of Action [nuclear deal with Iran], while negotiating a final nuclear deal, all while declaring the nuclear file as the greatest source of instability and violence in the Mideast and putting the regime’s meddling in the neighborhood on the back burner.
Brodsky is spot on. Fortunately, Trump’s NSS places the nuclear deal on the back burner and Tehran’s interventions in Yemen, Iraq, and Syria on the front.
The Way Forward
First, and most importantly, this study shows when you issue threats, their credibility is lessened when there is no practicable means to implement them. Team Trump warns those voted against us, we would cut their funding, and they know there is not the slightest chance we would follow up. The irony is Trump criticized Obama for not following up on his threat to bomb Assad’s chemical weapons. So, Trump could take a page from his own playbook.
Second, when Trump’s National Security Council and the NSC staff draft his NSS, they, pay due respect to documents of past presidents. Trump does contrast his approach to Obama but not others, except implicitly in a reference to "peace through strength."
Third, which is last, but not least, think human rights as the long pole in the tent. Putin is just as vulnerable to accusations of violating human rights of his citizens as were his predecessors. President Trump, exploit this vulnerability. If not you, who? If not now when? Now is the time, and you are the man.
Prof. Raymond Tanter (@AmericanCHR) served as a senior member on the Middle East Desk of the National Security Council staff in the Reagan-Bush administration, Personal Representative of the Secretary of Defense to international security and arms control talks in Europe, and is now Professor Emeritus at the University of Michigan. Tanter is on the comprehensive list of conservative writers and columnists who appear in The Wall Street Journal, Townhall.com, National Review, The Weekly Standard, Human Events, The American Spectator, and now in Newsmax. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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