Assessing Our National Security

Sometimes, it’s important to look at the big picture to get some perspective. In 2008, there was no New START treaty with Russia, Osama bin Laden remained at large plotting terrorist attacks with Al Qaeda, and Libyans were still under the dictatorial rule of Muammar Gaddaffi.

On Monday, the Center for American Progress in Washington, DC hosted Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, for “A Discussion on the Obama Administration’s National Security Policy”. During the one hour talk, Rhodes discussed everything from nuclear security to the global economy, focusing both on victories made in Obama’s first few years as well as longer term goals the administration hopes to achieve in the future.

In Rhodes’ words, the “greatest danger the U.S. can potentially face is a nuclear weapon or materials in the hands of terrorists”. He underlined Obama’s dedication to the vision he outlined during his Prague speech in 2009 – one of a world free of nuclear weapons - and cited the historic achievements of the New START treaty, which significantly reduced U.S. and Russian nuclear arsenals, as well as the dual track approach the administration has taken with Iran.

As Rhodes explained it, the administration remains open to negotiations, but is committed to continuing the international pressure intended to push Iran back into compliance with their obligations as a party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. This policy leaves Iran accountable to the entire international community, and makes the issue not just one between Iran and the U.S., but between Iran and the rest of the world.

This policy has been the subject of much recent criticism and debate, notably in a column today by’s Glenn Greenwald.

In addition to his discussion of nuclear weapons policy, Rhodes emphasized the more targeted approach the Obama administration has taken on terrorism, which involved changing the mindset from a “war on terror” to a focus on individuals, specifically Al Qaeda and their associates. This tactic allowed the military to make an exit from Iraq and cut troop sizes in Afghanistan in half, and most importantly, brought an end to the long hunt for the most dangerous man in the world.

Rhodes admitted that the administration has not moved forward on every single issue it hoped to pursue. But he hopes, as do we, that the U.S. can permanently adopt a policy of leading by example.

The full discussion from Monday’s event can be viewed on CAP’s website here.

Photo by gregwest98 on Flickr