Goals & Values
Our national security has long been premised on maintaining the ability to overpower hostile states. Today, traditional state-based threats share space with non-state enemies such as terrorists. Diseases that reach our shores thanks to a warming climate could kill more Americans than warfare. Weak states and even allied nations can harbor radicals who use the internet and 24-hour media to organize and spread violence.
“What is clear to me is that there is a need for a dramatic increase in spending on the civilian instruments of national security – diplomacy, strategic communications, foreign assistance, civic action, and economic reconstruction and development.”
- Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Landon Lecture, November 26, 2007
We must use all the tools at our disposal: development aid and trade; our military and our allies; our reputation and diplomacy, to create a more stable, safe, and just world. Ensuring security and stability requires both a strong military and advancing America’s ideals of human rights, freedom, and opportunity. These goals are mutually supportive. Where political and economic freedoms are frustrated, poverty and anger will breed violence. Where insecurity is rife, the freedoms of economic growth and individual rights cannot be actualized.
We believe that our country faces real threats, from terrorists to nuclear-armed nations. Our leaders’ most basic role is to protect the people of the United States. As the world’s strongest country, we have a responsibility to assist in maintaining global stability. And as Americans, we are committed to our founding values of civil and human rights, equality of opportunity, and tolerance. These founding values should shape American policy at home and abroad.
Our ideas are guided by seven policy principles
Comprehensive policy coordination protects American national security. Protecting American national security requires coordinating strategies across our diplomatic, military, trade, aid, and intelligence communities both in Washington and abroad. These communities have previously operated as if they exist in different worlds. In fact, they are all distinct tools of the U.S. government that can and must be deployed together towards common goals.
Strong alliances protect American national security. Protecting American national security requires investing in strong standing security alliances, rather than ad-hoc coalitions. Our interests may at times require unilateral action, but America simply cannot solve today’s transnational threats without the ongoing cooperation of many nations who understand that we face shared foes. We are stronger with allies than without them.
Robust military and intelligence capabilities protect American national security. Protecting American national security will always require maintaining a robust capacity to use overwhelming force, including a strong military and intelligence apparatus. Strong military and intelligence services allow us to deter violence and diffuse threats. They provide teeth to our diplomacy, and are necessary for times when diplomacy fails and the threat warrants.
Legitimate international behavior protects American national security. Legitimacy — the sense among the world community that America is following accepted norms of international conduct — gains America allies, makes other nations less likely to question our motives, and encourages other states to cooperate in our endeavors abroad. Without legitimacy, the costs of promoting our security rise sharply.
Supporting democracy and freedom protects American national security. Protecting American national security requires us to consistently promote our deepest values of freedom and liberty — with actions as well as words. Democracies that abide by the rule of law and uphold minority rights are more stable, more likely to protect their citizens, and less likely to go to war with one another. They are also less likely to breed the anger and hopelessness that provide fertile recruiting grounds for terrorist leaders. Rights-supporting democracy cannot come at the barrel of a gun. America must instead engage with those inside oppressed countries to help their peoples build strong democratic institutions and liberate themselves.
Promoting development abroad protects American national security. Protecting American national security requires addressing state weakness, poverty, corruption, and social breakdown abroad. Terrorists and organized criminals take advantage of these conditions to further their aims, including the drug trade, arms smuggling, terrorist training, and human trafficking. States that lack the capacity to respond to internal crises can also pose inadvertent but equally deadly security threats, such as the spread of infectious disease. America must attack these threats with a serious investment in strategic development aid — aid coordinated with trade, diplomacy, and military assistance — to reduce poverty and build security abroad.
Open trade protects American national security. Protecting American national security requires promoting open trade by supporting multilateral free trade agreements and eliminating domestic protectionism. Trade is a key means of lifting countries out of poverty, encouraging non-corrupt government, and breaking authoritarian regimes’ control over their societies. A commitment to open trade requires an equal commitment to supporting labor rights at home and abroad. American workers displaced by trade should be protected through domestic policies that provide support, retraining, and create a competitive economy, not protectionism.