What tools do we have to combat the long list of national security threats facing America?
Fortunately, we have many. They include military power, diplomacy and our like-minded partners, public and private, at home and abroad. The daunting challenge is to use them effectively.
Each tool has its advantages and limits. For example, our military can win wars, but it is not designed to create the institutions needed for peace and prosperity.
We simply cannot solve problems in the world without talking to other countries. And that includes our adversaries; we don’t make peace by talking only to our friends. Failing to talk means problems will fester and opportunities for peace will be missed.
In the use of these tools of power, we also need help. Issues like drugs, global terrorism, immigration and climate change all have a global dimension. So, without building trust in partners, and sustaining an international order that fosters cooperation, we will fall short.
That means strengthening international organizations like the United Nations, NATO, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. Many Americans doubt international organizations and prefer that the United States should go it alone. I don’t agree.
We need to strengthen them, not abandon them. They provide legitimacy, skills, relationships, and resources to support our efforts.
Clearly, to sharpen our tools to overcome these threats, we must identify and secure our core interests, and avoid unnecessary entanglements.
Sometimes we will have to just say no. Sometimes we will need a helping hand. Sometimes we should limit our involvement; for example, by providing aid instead of force. Sometimes we should let others carry the burdens.
Always we must confront the security threats and not let other events divert us.
The lesson here is that despite all the tools we have to combat security threats, we must persevere. We have fought some of these threats for a long time, using our finest minds and spending a lot of resources. Yet they continue in one form or another from one year to the next.
There are no quick fixes in combating threats to our national security.
By Lee H. Hamilton