- The Washington Times - Monday, December 18, 2017

President Trump announced a national security strategy Monday that emphasizes U.S. economic prosperity and border protection, declaring as he revealed the plan, “America is in the game, and America is going to win.”

Mr. Trump’s national security strategy, required of each administration by a 1986 law, focuses on rebuilding the military and promoting “peace through strength” overseas. It spells out many policies that the president has already emphasized during his first year in office, such as demanding that allies pay more of their share for defense alliances, and reversing President Obama’s decision to prioritize climate change a national security threat.

“A nation without borders is not a nation,” Mr. Trump said in a speech in Washington. “A nation that does not protect prosperity at home cannot protect its interests abroad.”

The strategy also identifies China and Russia as rival “revisionist powers” that are challenging American influence, values and wealth. “We will attempt to build a great partnership with those and other countries, but in a manner that always protects our national interest,” Mr. Trump said.

Anthony Cordesman, national security strategist at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said the plan “expands on the classic themes of U.S. strategy — rather than rejects them — and commits the U.S. to playing its traditional role in leading the free world.”

“It also reflects the fact that President Trump may swing from position to position at times in his tweets and short statements, but so far has ended up closer to the center in shaping his national security positions than many of his critics take fully into account,” Mr. Cordesman said.

Civil liberties and human rights groups blasted Mr. Trump’s policies outlined in the strategy.

“This administration’s disregard for human rights, governance and the rule of law — traditionally a core component of the strategy — suggest that the strategy won’t be worth the paper it’s written on unless the administration takes a serious shift in its approach both at home and abroad,” said Andrea Prasow, deputy Washington director at Human Rights Watch.

Although Russia is accused of meddling in the 2016 presidential election and is under sanctions from Washington for its aggression in Ukraine, the president cited an episode last week in which the U.S. provided intelligence that helped Moscow thwart a terrorist plot by an Islamic State cell.

“They were able to apprehend these terrorists before the event, with no loss of life,” Mr. Trump said of Russian security forces. “That is the way it’s supposed to work.”

The president didn’t mention Russia’s interference in his election but added, “While we seek such opportunities of cooperation, we will stand up for ourselves, and we will stand up for our country like we have never stood up before.”

“We know that American success is not a foregone conclusion. It must be earned, and it must be won,” the president said. “Our rivals are tough, they’re tenacious and committed to the long term. But so are we.”

Despite the plan’s heavy emphasis on Mr. Trump’s tougher immigration policies and more robust border security, the document makes no mention of the wall that the president plans to build along the U.S.-Mexico border.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said the president’s strategy to place an emphasis on protecting the homeland has already netted positive results.

“President Trump has put America first,” Mr. Sessions said. “And he has taken action to do that by stopping immigration of people we can’t vet, holding cities and counties accountable that intentionally undermine federal law enforcement, and putting a bull’s-eye on gangs like MS-13. This year alone, the Justice Department has secured convictions of more than 1,000 gang members across America and arrested hundreds of members of MS-13.”

The president blamed previous administrations for engaging in “nation building” abroad and surrendering U.S. sovereignty to foreign bureaucrats. Much of his criticism targeted Mr. Obama without mentioning him by name.

“They neglected a nuclear menace in North Korea; made a disastrous, weak and incomprehensibly bad deal with Iran; and allowed terrorists such as ISIS to gain control of vast parts of territory all across the Middle East,” Mr. Trump said.

“On top of everything else, our leaders drifted from American principles. They lost sight of America’s destiny. And they lost their belief in American greatness.”

The president’s plan contains four “vital” national security interests to guide U.S. defense policy in the years ahead: protecting the homeland and “America’s way of life,” promoting U.S. prosperity, promoting “peace through strength,” and advancing American influence.

Despite the criticism of his predecessors, some analysts said Mr. Trump’s plan follows closely the basic foreign policy playbook of previous administrations in recognizing the importance of international alliances.

Nile Gardiner, a national security specialist at The Heritage Foundation, said Mr. Trump’s plan has a “distinctly unapologetic tone.”

“It takes a clear-cut view of the immense challenges faced by the United States from an array of actors from Russia, China and North Korea to transnational, largely Islamist terror networks,” he said. “In addition, the strategy emphatically rules out the idea of extending the hand of friendship to rogue regimes such as Iran. The projection of American leadership is front and center in the new strategy.”

Mr. Trump devoted much of his speech to tougher immigration policies, saying previous administrations allowed the U.S. border to become too porous.

“Over the profound objections of the American people, our politicians left our borders wide open,” Mr. Trump said. “Millions of immigrants entered illegally. Millions more were admitted into our country without the proper vetting needed to protect our security and our economy. Leaders in Washington imposed on the country an immigration policy that Americans never voted for, never asked for and never approved — a policy where the wrong people are allowed into our country and the right people are rejected. American citizens, as usual, have been left to bear the cost and to pick up the tab.”

Referring to his travel ban against eight countries, six of them predominantly Muslim, Mr. Trump said, “We have established strict new vetting procedures to keep terrorists out of the United States, and our vetting is getting tougher each month.”

Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project, said Mr. Trump’s immigration policies are hurting people around the world.

“It’s hard to take seriously a strategy with so many empty references to rights and the rule of law when every day the Trump administration’s actions violate both under the guise of national security,” she said. “From the Muslim ban to the dramatic surge in lethal strikes in majority-Muslim countries to deportation, surveillance, and vetting policies targeting vulnerable immigrants and minorities, Trump is doubling down on bigotry and injustice.”

Andrea Noble contributed to this report.


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