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National Security Strategy sets forth a new framework for US policy in the region based on America’s unparalleled comparative advantage Image Credit: Gulf News

On Oct. 12 the White House released a much awaited National Security Strategy or NSS 2022, which is a document that sets forward the US administration’s approach to US response to global crises, how it plans to deal with allies in various regions of the world and its foreign policy foundations regarding both Russia and China and how it views its role in a changing world, among others.

The 48-page document makes for an interesting reading although critics say such a paper is usually issued at the beginning of the presidency and not more than two years later. Moreover, the document comes a few weeks before US voters head for the crucial midterm elections that could render Joe Biden a lame duck president for the remainder of his first term.

In addition, the release of the document was made as the US and Europe found themselves embroiled in the most serious crisis since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Critics also say that the NSS has been written after the fact; meaning that the authors had the luxury of looking at how the world has evolved since Joe Biden took office and were able to make corrections that can be aligned to current policy.

Why has the White House taken so long to deliver it is an open question. But now that the NSS is made public, one can examine it and hope to understand what this Democratic administration is trying to achieve in terms of its foreign policy.

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One of the most intriguing reads is the part about Russia. The NSS says that over the past decade Moscow wants to change the international order. But if the analysts and strategists knew this was going on, why couldn’t they predict Russia’s operation in Ukraine?

What the NSS misses big time is how the war in Ukraine has changed the discourse, the dynamics and the foundations of foreign policy across the world. The NSS talks about the US-European alliance, which is now under unprecedented strain as a result of an acute energy crisis, rampant inflation and financing a seemingly never ending war.

Facing new challenges

The Transatlantic alliance is facing new challenges as European voters and politicians cast doubt on this costly partnership. The reality is that America has the option to isolate itself from the rest of the world, focusing more on its southern hemisphere and the challenges it poses for the United States such illegal immigration and drugs.

It can afford to wash its hands off Europe just as some Trump surrogates suggest; saying that if they take the House of Representatives come November they won’t be signing blank checks to Ukraine.

The NSS also talks about preserving the existing international order, aka America’s standing as the world’s sole superpower. It talks about defending the UN Charter as well. On both counts the US track record is dismal. Let’s not talk about the invasion of Iraq or the humiliating pullout from Afghanistan. Under America’s watch the world several violations of the UN Charter.

The NSS has parts that are positive with regard to boosting international cooperation on climate change, energy security, arms control and non-proliferation, food insecurity and pandemics but if the latest US reaction to a technical decision by Opec+ to lower oil production is an indication, then one can see how impulsive US reactions can deviate from the written foreign policy commitments.

The part on the Middle East is of interest to us. It talks about eschewing grand designs in favour of more practical steps that can advance US interests and help regional partners lay the foundation for greater stability, prosperity, and opportunity for the people of the Middle East and for the American people.

It further talks about setting forth a new framework for US policy in the region based on America’s unparalleled comparative advantage in building partnerships, coalitions, and alliances to strengthen deterrence, while using diplomacy to de-escalate tensions, reduce risks of new conflicts, and set a long-term foundation for stability.

I know for sure that some of US allies may try hard to understand how its actions can be reconciled with its objectives. The NSS suggest a framework of five principles — all linked to common defence and regional cooperation. Countries of the region are already working along these lines without the need for outside help.

Osama Al Sharif is a journalist and political commentator based in Amman.