In 2017, President Donald J. Trump wrote his National Security Strategy outlining the views he thought were best fit to protect the U.S. While he had his successes, he also had his fair share of downfalls. This blog will access the liberal, identity, and realist perspective concepts found within the National Security Strategy. After a brief assessment of each perspective within the document, the overall realist perspective will be ousted as ineffective. While ultimately, a joint effort in liberal and identity perspective would have a longer-lasting and credible overall impact.
Liberal perspective “emphasizes repetitive relationships and negotiations, establishing patterns or institutions for resolving international conflicts” (Nau, 2018). As stated by Trump (2017):
“Diplomacy is indispensable to identify and implement solutions to conflicts in unstable
regions of the world short of military involvement. It helps to galvanize allies for action
and marshal the collective resources of like-minded nations and organizations to address
shared problems.… Face-to-face diplomacy cannot be replaced by technology.
Relationships, developed over time, create trust and shared understanding that the United
States calls upon when confronting security threats, responding to crises, and
encouraging others to share the burden for tackling the world’s challenges.”
These statements are rare instances of the liberal perspective throughout the entire National Security Strategy. They demonstrate the importance of diplomacy over military might.
The one area where the administration considers the identity of other nations is in Pillar II Promote American Prosperity. Note that the identity perspective “emphasizes repetitive relationships and negotiations, establishing patterns or institutions for resolving international conflicts” (Nau, 2018). Trump discusses U.S. trade relations and how they have impacted the U.S. economy. He considers how the U.S. in the past and other nations were motivated and proposes new policies to repair the U.S. economy and strengthen it. However, the result of those policies had the opposite effect.
“The Trump administration has repeatedly argued that foreign companies are paying for tariffs. But multiple studies suggest this is not the case: the cost of tariffs have been borne almost entirely by American households and American firms, not foreign exporters. While estimates vary, economic analyses suggest the average American household has paid somewhere from several hundred up to a thousand dollars or more per year thanks to higher consumer prices attributable to the tariffs” (Gertz, 2020).
The tariffs Trump imposed on China, as an example, did not benefit the American economy. Instead, it hurt it.
A realist perspective “sees the world largely in terms of a struggle for relative power in which strong actors seek to dominate and weak actors seek to resist” (Nau, 2018). Throughout the entire National Security Strategy, you can identify the realist perspective as the basis on which the document leans primarily. The document opens, outlining alleged enemies and providing reasons why the U.S. strength needs to be upheld.
“Adversaries target sources of American strength, including our democratic system and our economy. They steal and exploit our intellectual property and personal data, interfere in our political processes, target our aviation and maritime sectors, and hold our critical infrastructure at risk. All of these actions threaten the foundations of the American way of life” (Trump, 2020).
All of Pillar II is about American strength. The entire Trump administration could be defined using the realist perspective. Trump’s document is an essay on why the U.S. is not as strong as it was but how his policies will make it stronger. Military intervention is proposed in most areas. It reads like a terrified bully that wants to fake strength and prove themselves the strongest and most innovative. Any page at random can be select to identify an example of the realist perspective within this document. While the National Security Strategy projects strength in military might, it shows a weakness in internal areas such as education, biothreats, pandemics, and our domestic economy.
The identity perspective would have been the most effective way to communicate the introspection of Pillar II Promote American Prosperity. This section mentions our security in space, the internet, and heavily on U.S. innovation and achievements. Meanwhile, the rest of the document would have been best communicated using the liberal perspective since this perspective is interested in relations and institutions that will end the conflict. The U.S. needs to start seeing the other nations as their neighbors and not their enemies. There should not be a contest for who is better. The document fails to mention climate change, the most significant national security issue the U.S. is facing. However, it says protecting borders without examining why people are flocking to the borders. As more people become displaced due to immense climate change, the borders will become far more vulnerable. It would be in the best interest of the U.S. to work with other nations to tackle climate change now and create innovative solutions before needing up at war with the world over precious resources like water.
In conclusion, while you can identify moments of each perspective throughout Trump’s 2017 National Security Strategy document, there are moments of strengths and weaknesses. While Trump relies heavily on the realist perspective in his national security views, the document could have had a better standing if written primarily in other perspectives. Ultimately a joint effort in liberal and identity perspective would have a longer-lasting and credible overall impact despite the minimal progress made via the overwhelming realist perspective on which the National Security Strategy is found.
Nau, H. R. (2018). Perspectives on international relations: Power, institutions, and ideas
(6th ed.). Retrieved from https://content.ashford.edu
Trump, D. J. (2017, December). National security strategy (Links to an external site.).
Washington, D.C.: Office of the President of the United States. Retrieved from
Gertz, G. (2020, September). Did Trump’s tariffs benefit American workers and national
security? VOTER VITALS. Retrieved from