​NSS outlines a vision for 'renewal' of American leadership

By Haifa Said
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail China.org.cn, December 26, 2017
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U.S. President Donald Trump [Xinhua]

A confrontational and challenging tone can be obviously sensed in the document of the U.S. National Security Strategy (NSS) unveiled last week, as well as in President Donald Trump's speech that accompanied the announcement of the strategy. 

The "America First" leading headline underpinning the outlining of the strategy unquestionably shows that Trump administration is not going to accept the Russia and China-advocated multipolar world order where the U.S. would have to work on the same level with other major countries for the wellbeing, prosperity and peace of the world.

The Trump administration is probably determined to regain its role of "leading again on the world stage" unilaterally and not relinquish this "right" to any rivals in the international arena.

This is certainly suggested by the NSS reiterating the Washington superior view that only American leadership, strong and confident, can "benefit all," whereas "when America does not lead, malign actors fill the void to the disadvantage of the United States."

Washington would only accept and work on setting up a new "balance of power that favors the United States," with a firmer commitment to "allies and partners" who will be privileged to enjoy a role as a helping and contributing factor in realizing the NSS's four-element vision of protecting the American people and preserving the American way of life, promoting prosperity, preserving peace through strength and advancing American influence in the world.

Rising powers such as China and Russia are labeled as "challenging competitors" in the US's new balance of power and should be prevented from continuing to "aggressively undermine" American interests and ambitions around the globe.

The previous softer and warmer tones Trump used towards Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping seem to have vanished to be replaced by a new confrontational tone that shows no inclination for fully upholding the "win-win" cooperation principle promoted by President Xi. 

While the NSS doesn't propose hostility, collision or conflict towards competitors, it upholds the view that American interests should be prioritized, with demands made on both China and Russia to stop their unfair trade practices and informational and cyberspace challenges "harming" American interests.  

The "great partnership" that Washington could pursue with Moscow and Beijing could only be undertaken in a manner that "always protects [American] national security," the NSS document stated, falling short of mentioning Trump's often-repeated goal of establishing a constructive and cooperative partnership with the two rival capitals to tackle international problems.

The "principled realism" strategy, as termed in the NSS document, reiterates the exclusiveness of the American principles and values as "a lasting force for good in the world," and that those around the world willing to partner the U.S. in the pursuit of shared values and aspirations without challenging its interests are to benefit from the renewal of a strong, confident and sovereign America and reemergence of American leadership.   

To realize the renewal, the NSS lays out a more defiant approach to face political, economic and military challenges and dangers, including those posed by the nuclear threats of Iran and North Korea and the economic, political and military challenges of China and Russia that have built up their military power, grown their economies and expanded their influence at the expense of the shrinking American role, in addition to the threats of jihadist terrorists and transnational criminal organizations. 

The U.S. makes it clear it's likely backtracking on the former policy of "engagement" with rivals and their inclusion in international institutions and global commerce, dismissing as false the assumption that such a policy would turn those rivals into "trustworthy partners."

Instead, the NSS suggests a more bellicose approach, mainly through means of reasserting American military superiority and harnessing the power of data to defend national security interests. 

However, while the NSS implies a confrontational tone in featuring American competition with Russia and China, it remains to be seen whether this tone will be translated into real confrontation or be a constructive competition.

After all, the document does show aspects of "realism" in terms of the fact that economic completion, especially with China, is to be duly acknowledged and embraced in the international trade landscape.

Haifa Said is chief editor of the English Department at the Syrian Arab News Agency.

Opinion articles reflect the views of their authors, not necessarily those of China.org.cn.

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