Academic journal article Homeland Security Affairs

Resilience: The Grand Strategy

Academic journal article Homeland Security Affairs

Resilience: The Grand Strategy

Article excerpt

Homeland security does not have a Grand Strategy. There have been national strategies. There are a plethora of operational strategies. In The Edge of Disaster, Steve Flynn recommends resiliency as an over-arching goal. 1 Many have murmured agreement and the word is increasingly common in speeches and other pronouncements. But as an official with responsibility for resilience recently asked in private, "What does it mean?"

The military historian and theorist B.H. Liddell Hart argued, "While the horizon of strategy is bounded by the war, grand strategy looks beyond the war to the subsequent peace." 2 The grand strategy of the United States during the Cold War was captured in a single word: containment. The meaning of containment prompted considerable contentiousness, even while the insight the term provided is widely credited with strategic success.

There is no serious dispute that George Kennan's 1946 Long Telegram is the origin of containment as the touch-stone of our Cold War strategy. Recently, I authored a Long Blog 3 trying to make strategic sense of resilience. Kennan eventually reworked his original, which Foreign Affairs published as "Sources of Soviet Conduct." 4 I appreciate the invitation from Homeland Security Affairs to offer a similar reworking of the Long Blog.

In his Long Telegram, 5 George Kennan outlines five related understandings. He observes reality, gives context to his observations, projects these findings on official policy, acknowledges the role of unofficial policy, and offers practical deductions... or what I would call strategy. I will follow the same organizational schema:

(1) Basic features of post-war Soviet outlookrisks to the United States;

(2) Background of this outlookperspective on risk;

(3) Its projection in practical policy on official level;

(4) Its projection on unofficial level;

(5) Practical deductions from standpoint of U.S. policy.

Kennan urges readers to recognize a Soviet take on reality. Kennan's argument aims to engage, manage, manipulate -- choose your verb -- the orientation of our adversary. Sixty-plus years later, the most serious risks facing the United States are where a range of threats, some traditional and some novel, interact with several vulnerabilities Kennan did not face. Where Kennan focuses intently on the Soviet threat, our threats are more numerous and nuanced. The recent National Intelligence Strategy (NIS) is helpful in scanning the horizon. 6 Can we derive the same sort of logical policy premises that Kennan found?


The principal risks are as follows:

1. According to the NIS there are four nation-states that present a "challenge to U.S. interests." These are Iran, North Korea, China, and Russia. None present the near-peer level of competition offered by the Soviet Union immediately after WWII. Individually or in concert these competitors can constrain the U.S. But even in unlikely combination these nation-states do not present the clear-and-present danger the Stalinist superpower seemed to threaten. (This shift, more a matter of human will than fewer warheads, also demonstrates the importance of keeping the nuclear genie contained.)

2. Violent extremist groups, insurgents, and transnational criminal organizations "increasingly impact our national security" according to the NIS. But the capacity of these groups to threaten the U.S. with catastrophic harm is modest. We should not discount the potential terrorist or even criminal use of WMD. 7 But a reasonable and sustained application of the precautionary principle should suffice to manage this risk (see Cass Sunstein). 8 A debate regarding the specific meaning of reasonable and sustained could be entirely worthwhile.

3. The global economic crisis has been identified by Dennis Blair, director of national intelligence, as the "primary near-term security concern" for the United States. …

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