What can be done to advance American strength? The list is long and the mission is urgent. It starts with this: Strengthening America must become a priority. That is not the case at present as anyone who takes the trouble to read the Obama administration’s new 52-page National Security Strategy (NSS) will learn.

True, the document proclaims a “commitment to renew our economy, which serves as the wellspring of American power.” But can anyone seriously argue that America’s economic dynamism is being enhanced, rather than debilitated, by the accumulation of trillions in new debt, the granting of fresh entitlements and the promotion of such policies as “cap-and trade”? With that as preface, here are eight specific projects that would advance American strength:

  1. Promote economic growth. That can most effectively be done by lowering tax rates, cutting non-military government spending and improving the environment for risk-taking entrepreneurs and investors.
  2. Prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons. A nuclear-armed, oil-rich, terrorist-sponsoring, jihadist Iranian regime will be a very dangerous enemy. It’s past time to impose crippling sanctions. Also: Iran’s anti-regime movement deserves both moral and material support. Contingency plans should be prepared in case none of that works.
  3. Defeat al-Qaeda. Osama bin Laden and his not-so-merry band need to be hunted down not just in Afghanistan and Pakistan but wherever we find them. Al-Qaeda in Iraq has been decimated but not eliminated. Our troops should finish it off before shipping out.
  4. Fund and deploy a comprehensive, integrated missile defense system. We should make it clear to our adversaries that if they are building offensive missiles, they are wasting time and money: We have the technology, the hardware and the will to prevent their weapons from reaching their intended victims.
  5. Start on the road to energy abundance and diversity. To break oil’s monopoly will require building nuclear energy facilities, encouraging the production and importation of alcohol fuels, as well as the production of flexible-fuel, plug-in hybrid vehicles, and drilling for oil and natural gas in many places now off limits. Government should not pick winners; it should encourage competition among energy sources. Yes, do it in an environmentally sensitive matter. (But if the U.S. government can’t supervise and regulate offshore oil drilling effectively, surely the U.S. government should not be taking on additional responsibilities.)
  6. Know thine enemy. The National Security Strategy has not a word to say about how Iran’s rulers have fanned of Islamism since the 1979 revolution. Indeed, such terms as “Islamism,” “Jihadism,” “radical Islam,” and “Salafism” are now taboo. It’s as if Roosevelt and Churchill refused to talk about German Nazism, Italian Fascism or Japanese militarism for fear of offending Germans who were not Nazis, Italians who were not Fascists and Japanese who were not militarists.
  7. Think holistically. The NSS asserts that the U.S. is “fighting two wars,” one in Iraq, one in Afghanistan. Would it not be more strategically sound to grasp that we are fighting a single war with theaters in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia as well as Times Square, Fort Hood, and Northwest Flight 253?
  8. Face reality. The NSS insists that the U.S will pursue its “interests within multilateral forums like the United Nations—not outside of them.” The U.S. can pursue its interests within such forums as the U.N. all it wants; the result will be failure. The U.N. has long been under the control of regimes (e.g. Russia and China) and organizations (e.g. the Organization of the Islamic Conference ) whose aim is to weaken the United States.

Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

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