On Friday, April 8, as members of the U.S. Congress engaged in a last-minute game of chicken over the federal budget, the Pentagon quietly issued a report that received little initial attention: “A National Strategic Narrative.” The report was issued under the pseudonym of “Mr. Y,” a takeoff on George Kennan’s 1946 “Long Telegram” from Moscow (published under the name “X” the following year in Foreign Affairs) that helped set containment as the cornerstone of U.S. strategy for dealing with the Soviet Union.
The piece was written by two senior members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CAPT Wayne Porter, USN and Col Mark “Puck” Mykleby) in a “personal” capacity, but it is clear that it would not have seen the light of day without a measure of official approval. Its findings are revelatory, and they deserve to be read and appreciated not only by every lawmaker in Congress, but by every American citizen.
The narrative argues that the United States is fundamentally getting it wrong when it comes to setting its priorities, particularly with regard to the budget and how Americans as a nation use their resources more broadly. The report says Americans are overreacting to Islamic extremism, underinvesting in their youth, and failing to embrace the sense of competition and opportunity that made America a world power. The United States has been increasingly consumed by seeing the world through the lens of threat, while failing to understand that influence, competitiveness, and innovation are the key to advancing American interests in the modern world.
Courageously, the authors make the case that America continues to rely far too heavily on its military as the primary tool for how it engages the world. Instead of simply pumping more and more dollars into defense, the narrative argues:
By investing energy, talent, and dollars now in the education and training of young Americans — the scientists, statesmen, industrialists, farmers, inventors, educators, clergy, artists, service members, and parents, of tomorrow — we are truly investing in our ability to successfully compete in, and influence, the strategic environment of the future. Our first investment priority, then, is intellectual capital and a sustainable infrastructure of education, health and social services to provide for the continuing development and growth of America’s youth.
Will our politicians listen?
This of course comes to light in regards to the outrageously huge defense expenditures the US takes part in. But defense has many different faces and can be used strategically in many different ways other than just pure military might. Domestic energy keeps our cash in our country, thereby choking the money supply for irrational behavior overseas in some of our “less friendly” nations. Better teachers lead to better students which in turn leads to a smarter workforce and better innovation, essential components for a sound, growing economy. Social service and health, reduce crime, wasteful spending and harmful behavior among citizens. Providing a higher quality of life while burdening the budget of ones government much less. A better, less forceful investment now can lead to a much better ROI tomorrow.
$1.5 Trillion. Thats the amount we currently spend on defense (domestic and international efforts). Imagine what could happen if just 1/4 of that could go into domestic energy production and education. $375 billion a year more than triples the current budget for energy and education in this country.
For what it’s worth, this is an opinion coming from someone that happily works within the US defense industry.