We anticipate during this year (2022) that the Biden/Harris administration will enact its National Security Strategy and related documents. These strategic missives signal the administration’s commitments and priorities and are intended to guide the development and acquisition of capabilities and tools with which the United States hopes to shape the global environment. Given how the US government organizes and budgets for national security, the direction set by these documents will define the US approach for the 2020s.
This Spring 2022 issue of Orbis is devoted to the myriad national security risks facing the United States and how the country could formulate more effective national security strategies in response. We begin with a conversation with former Undersecretary of Defense Dov Zakheim, who discusses the implications of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan for the future. The themes he identifies – the “triple challenge” of dealing with China, Iran and Russia; the risks of “Eurasian simultaneity” (in the face of coordinated action on several theatres); and the persistent threat of terrorism and other transnational challenges – are covered in greater depth in the articles and essays that follow. In particular, Zakheim points to the need to change the way Americans think about national security, as well as the culture of how we equip and equip ourselves to meet new challenges.
Zakheim’s opening conversation is followed by Ali Wyne’s contribution: how to assess the competitive pressure from Russia and China? More importantly, can we develop criteria to determine when, where and how we will challenge Beijing and Moscow? This editor then provides an overview of recent conversations on social media regarding challenges facing US national security by Orbis authors and readers. Finally, we end this section with a conversation between Clint Watts and John Conger on the national security implications and challenges of climate change and environmental change.
Zakheim’s commentary on the maritime orientation of American policy is explored by James J. Wirtz, Jeffrey Kline and James Russell, who want to start a “maritime conversation” with America. Terrorism remains a key objective for US national security, according to Zakheim. Michael Boyle’s article amplifies this point. He argues that counterterrorism does not take place in the context of a global war on terror, but in an era of great power competition.
Zakheim referred to what he described as the “triple challenge” facing America in the 2020s: Russia, China and Iran. The Triple Challenge Paradigm informs the next series of articles in this issue. On Russia, Andrew Michta asks how Europe is going to deal with the “Russian question”. And Alexander Kessler, building on the “emerging technologies and national security” theme of our special Fall 2020 issue, gives us an introduction to Russian hypersonic gliding vehicles. On Iran, Ray Takeyh assesses “the age of Ebrahim Raisi” and how Iran’s new president differs from his reformist predecessor – and what that means for the future of the Persian Gulf. Dominic Tierney, meanwhile, asks why US efforts end up helping Iran — and complements Takeyh’s efforts to assess what that means for future talks between Tehran and Washington. On China, Ryan Martinson returns to the maritime theme, but from China’s point of view and how Beijing defines its “ocean aspirations”. Meanwhile, Lawrence Rubin, editor of the aforementioned special issue on emerging technologies, joins Michael V. This to examine whether China can use the provision of high technology – in this case, 5G networks – like the one of the tools to advance “digital”. authoritarianism” in the world.
Finally, Chris Miller reviews two new books: Brendan Simms and Charlie Laderman’s Hitler’s American Gamble: Peral Harbor and Germany’s March to World War as well as Ian Ona Johnson Faustian market: the German-Soviet partnership and the origins of the Second World War– an event which some fear will have echoes for the 21st century. As we determine the contour of global affairs shaped by technological and environmental change and the re-emergence of great-power competition, we hope that the contributors and themes appearing in this issue will help clarify the questions facing national security strategy. of the United States must respond.