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Obama’s National Security Strategy Released, Includes Global Health, Food Security Priorities

“The Obama administration on Thursday released a sweeping statement of its national security goals,” the Los Angeles Times reports. The 52-page document “calls for the United States to strengthen international institutions, to heed treaties and norms, and to build stronger ties to allies, including to the emerging powers of India, Brazil and China. It says the United States needs to manage the emergence of new powers, while pressuring other nations to shoulder more of the burden of international problems,” according to the newspaper (Richter, 5/27).

“The overarching goal of Obama’s National Security Strategy, intended to guide U.S. military and diplomatic policy for years, is to eliminate the need for the U.S. to strike first or take unilateral military action,” the Associated Press writes, noting that the policy puts “heavy emphasis on the value of global cooperation, developing wider security partnerships and helping other nations defend themselves.” The strategy also outlined the importance of improving the U.S. economy for national security “through better education, national debt reduction, a stronger U.S. clean energy industry, greater scientific research and a revamped health care system,” the news service reports (Gearan/Loven, 5/27).

In an introduction to the strategy (.pdf), President Barack Obama writes that the U.S. Armed Forces “will always be a cornerstone of our security, but they must be complemented.” Obama adds, “Our security depends on diplomats who can act in every corner of the world … development experts who can strengthen governance and support human dignity.”

Part of the document focuses on promoting national security through global health and related efforts. “The freedom that America stands for includes freedom from want. Basic human rights cannot thrive in places where human beings do not have access to enough food, or clean water, or the medicine they need to survive,” the document states, noting the U.S. role in assisting with efforts to achieve the U.N. Millennium Development Goals.

The strategy cites examples of how the U.S. aims to “promote dignity … through development efforts.” They include, the Global Health Initiative (GHI), U.S. food security programs and leadership in humanitarian crises, such as “Haiti’s devastating earthquake.” The U.S. “has a moral and strategic interest in promoting global health. When a child dies of a preventable disease, it offends our conscience; when a disease goes unchecked, it can endanger our own health; when children are sick, development is stalled,” according to a section of the document that focuses on the GHI.

On food security, the document states that “[i]nstead of simply providing aid for developing countries, we are focusing on new methods and technologies for agricultural development. This is consistent with an approach in which aid is not an end in itself – the purpose of our foreign assistance will be to create the conditions where it is no longer needed.”

Another section of the document discusses supporting the rights of women and girls. “Women should have access to the same opportunities and be able to make the same choices as men. … We are promoting child and maternal health. We are combating human trafficking, especially in women and girls, through domestic and international law enforcement. And we are supporting education, employment, and micro-finance to empower women globally” (5/27).

According to the Washington Post, the “report is the first that Obama has prepared under a 1986 law requiring the president to present Congress with an annual strategic statement. Most administrations have only sporadically adhered to the requirement; George W. Bush issued two national security strategies during his presidency, in 2002 and 2006.” The release of the document coincided with a speech by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, which focused on the “diplomatic elements of the doctrine” and a briefing on the strategy by James Jones, Obama’s national security adviser (DeYoung, 5/27).

The Washington Independent features an interview with Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, who wrote the report (Ackerman, 5/28).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.