Friday, August 1, 2008

House Armed Services Committee: Skelton on the Principles for a National Strategy

House Armed Services Committee

Ike Skelton, Chairman

For Immediate Release: August 1, 2008

Skelton on the Principles for a National Strategy

Washington, DC – House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-MO) released the fifth in a series of speeches concerning the need for a comprehensive strategy to advance U.S. interests. Attached please find Skelton’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

“I rise to speak about how the United States can best advance its national interests by adopting a new strategy. In my prior speeches, I have asserted that we currently lack an effective strategy and that the next President should engage in a focused effort, in concert with Congress and the American people, to identify and adopt a new strategy early in his Administration. I have noted that we live in a time when the U.S. is the world’s preeminent power, but also in a time when transnational events are increasingly significant and in which several large nations, and some entire regions of the world, are returning to prominence. All of this stresses the international system.

“I have asserted that the U.S. should continue to accept the challenge of world leadership, serving as the world’s indispensable nation, just as we have for the free world since the end of the Second World War; that we should fulfill this role not to seek or to maintain power for power’s sake, but by earning the mantle of leadership. We should advance our national interests not at the expense of others, but wherever possible in cooperation with them, as part of an international system that offers fairness and opportunity to all nations.

“So, I advise the next President, whoever it may be, to embark upon a process modeled on President Eisenhower’s Project Solarium in order to develop a new strategy for America. In Project Solarium, President Eisenhower selected three of our nation’s top strategic thinkers to gather teams to study, propose, and report back to him on a national security policy. Should our future President follow this model, I recommend that he judge those new proposals against a simple set of principles:

1. The first priority of the federal government is the protection of the U.S. homeland and its citizens.

2. The foundation for continued U.S. leadership is the strength of our economy and our commitment to our values and principles.

3. Do not let an outside power dominate Europe or the Western Pacific, and in addition maintain freedom of the seas.

4. U.S. world leadership should be earned by virtue of the esteem other nations hold for us, engendered by our productivity and moral leadership, and not through a self-justifying hegemony which views the peaceful rise of other nations as an inherent threat.

5. Insulate the Western Hemisphere from hostile outside powers with a collaborative approach.

6. Transnational events that can undermine states and challenge or dislocate large numbers of people – the AIDS pandemic, terrorism, and global climate change to give a few examples – should be addressed by international coalitions coordinating globally, using the full range of national power.

7. Our military strength serves as both a source of deterrence for would-be aggressors, and reassurance for our friends and allies, but military action is a last resort. When it is used -- whether multilateral or unilateral -- strict adherence to the essential strategic tenets propounded by Sun Tzu and Clausewitz is mandatory.

“These principles do not in and of themselves define our strategy, for they leave many questions unanswered. What kind of international institutions, coalitions and alliances are essential? What red lines should trigger a certain U.S. response, even if it must be a unilateral response? How do we define what constitutes a fair opportunity to advance for those nations which perceive their current share of the world’s resources as inadequate? And what transnational events require a concerted international response?

“These are judgments for the next President; he should make them with input from a wide variety of sources. I ask all of my colleagues and all of those who have listened to these speeches to take part in a dialogue to help forge a new national consensus on a clear cut strategy that fulfills our principles and helps us answer these hard questions, ultimately guiding us to policies that are wise and just.”

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