A Security Strategy for the 21st Century

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

US President Barack Obama's security strategy is a clear departure from that of its predecessor and a decisive step towards solving the challenges of the 21st century and preparing us for the world of tomorrow, writes Javier Solana, the European Union's former High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy.

The following contribution was authored by former EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana.

Time and again in our nation's history, Americans have risen to meet –and to shape – moments of transition. This must be one of those moments.' So begins the National Security Strategy of the United States of America, presented before Congress on 27 May. As with the politics pursued in the Obama administration's 16 months of office – dialogue, international commitment, nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament – the document's strength lies in the position that it takes. 

"The Security Strategy is a clear departure from that of its predecessor and offers a wider conception of what national security represents for US President Barack Obama.

In the face of the major challenges of our times, Obama has taken a stand with a comprehensive doctrine. Indeed, the Security Strategy is almost a 'National' Strategy. Its thinking goes beyond the dominant, unilateral paradigm of its predecessor and includes a defence of international law. This is particularly noteworthy, given that none of the great treaties to create an international criminal court and a permanent war crimes tribunal were signed by the US during George W. Bush's presidency.  

Obama's approach to security is broader as well, proposing the 'three Ds' – defence, diplomacy and development – as indivisible parts of a whole. The military dimension of intervention abroad loses its privileged role, making way for the prevention of conflict and for peace-keeping and stabilisation missions.

In the fight against terrorism, the Strategy abandons the predominantly military viewpoint underlying the war against terror, and embraces a more significant role for the intelligence services. For the first time, precise reference is made to people liable to be a threat to US security. The US is not waging a war against terrorism; it is at 'war against a specific network, al Qaida, and its affiliates'. In this war, information resources are particularly necessary.

In order to guarantee national security, the Strategy is categorical – without giving in to the temptation of isolationism – in admitting the strategic value of the example and the importance of doing one's homework first. Obama steers clear both of interventions for humanitarian purposes and of attempting to export democracy by force.

There is no better way of exporting the values of democracy than by strengthening the US internally. Thus, an economic policy that tackles America's debt and deficit makes up the main portion of the Strategy. Backing competitive education, innovation, technology, energy and a more efficient and accessible healthcare system complements and reinforces Obama's leadership approach of setting an example with one's own policies.

An important example is removing the US prison at Guantánamo Bay from international limbo – one of his first initiatives as president".

To read the op-ed in full, please click here.

(In partnership with the Project Syndicate.)

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