The new National Security Strategy (NSS), unveiled by the White House in December 2017, is based on the acceptance of a global dynamic defined by competition. This NSS reflects the approach of English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes—intentional or not—who viewed the sacrifice of individual liberty as an acceptable trade off for increased security and the chance for survival.
The existing divisions within our country, however, make it difficult for citizens to identify and agree upon shared values and objectives. It is essential for our nation and its allies to agree on these shared values and objectives and view them as worthy of the required sacrifice.
Differing Viewpoints Often Cause Allies to Be Seen as Rivals, Not Partners
Our differing viewpoints often cast our allies as rivals working at odds with the United States (also a Hobbesian notion) rather than as partners that meet their responsibilities. This situation has produced a certain wariness with respect to trust and cooperation between the U.S. and all of its allies.
This situation requires the U.S. to take on a more substantial burden if we are to remain competitive. We must harness our national assets, akin to the total mobilization of WWII and during the Cold War. Once we coalesce, our marshaled resources will enable us to compete successfully and achieve shared objectives.
The alternative is to consider partnerships with national leaders who may not share our values or objectives. Regardless of the approach, identified areas of agreement should be made explicit and mutually beneficial. That may reduce the number and type of opportunities for true collaboration and create unusual partnerships, but it would also ensure that all actions would remain in our national interest.
How Trump’s National Security Strategy Reflects Basic Hobbesian Objectives
The four pillars of the NSS reflect support for taking action according to three primordial objectives identified by Hobbes: safety, gain and reputation. Here is how each NSS pillar relates to each Hobbesian objective:
- Protect the homeland, the American people, and the American way of life. (safety)
- Promote our prosperity. (gain)
- Preserve peace through strength. (safety)
- Advance American influence. (reputation)
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