US National Defense Strategy’s New Cold War

On January 20th, CBS News’ top story was headlined “Terrorism no longer the military’s top priority, Mattis says” and read: “Maintaining a military advantage over China and Russia is now Defense Secretary Mattis’ top priority.”

The Trump Administration had issued a crucial document on how it will implement America’s national defense two days earlier. This document, the National Defense Strategy 2018 (NDS18), continues the hostility toward Russia that has characterized U.S. foreign policy since Barack Obama’s second term, but added to the U.S.’s global belligerence by tacking on some hostility toward China for good measure.

The NDS follows up on the National Security Strategy 2018 (NSS18) issued by Trump in December 2017, but, in keeping with his prior commitment to leaving to the generals the implementation of his national security policy, the Pentagon has now issued the NDS, which is signed only by Trump’s Secretary of Defense James “Mad Dog” Mattis. It offers considerably more information on what the practical meaning of the earlier NSS may be.

Ultimately, the meaning appears to be that the U.S. is ratcheting up tensions with nuclear-armed powers and that “radical Islamic terrorism” is replaced by Russia and China as the U.S.’s top security concern. Despite the fact that on the campaign trail, Trump’s talk had focused on “radical Islamic terrorists,” castigating Democrats for not using this term, this appears now to be little more than bumper-sticker posturing to win votes.

In a continuation of Obama’s National Security Strategy 2015, which had accused Russia 18 times of “aggression,” Trump’s NDS18 effectively declares economic war against Russia (as if economic policy was within General Mattis’s portfolio). But the NDS18 goes even further to now include China as also being America’s enemy….

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