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Trump National Security Strategy Aims to ‘Regain Momentum’

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis "I think, is going to take a different approach to military conflict," said Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and a former Naval military strategist.

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Trump’s New National Security Strategy: Economics Trumps Military, Human Rights

“The National Security Strategy is to be commended for acknowledging the reality that the United States is enmeshed in a long-term competition with China and Russia for international influence. It is also to be commended for highlighting the fact that the challenge is a multi-dimensional one,” says Tom Mahnken at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. Importantly, he adds this caveat: “We will now need to see the extent to which this emphasis is reflected in investment in national security, diplomacy, and economic policy.”

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Don’t call Trump strategy a ‘return to sanity,’ aide says

That approach could assuage some of Trump’s longtime Republican critics. “It’s in the mainstream of conservative Republican thinking wrapped up in a lot of America first rhetoric,” said Eric Edelman, a former Undersecretary of Defense for Policy in the George W. Bush administration.

In the News

Expert: EMP Weapons Are a “Loony Idea”

Bryan Clark, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, was more direct.

“Most of our systems are not hardened against EMP. Some older analog or Cold War-era systems are,” Clark told The National Interest.

“It is unclear whether a high atmospheric nuclear explosion would cause a significant EMP effect at lower altitudes and whether North Korea could execute such an attack without also affecting their own capabilities.”

Mark Gunzinger, an air power analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments and a former Boeing B-52 strategic bomber pilot, told The National Interest that the Pentagon been expect such asymmetric threats, but needs funding to address the challenge.

“Over the last decade, DoD [Department of Defense] has expressed its growing concern with ‘hybrid’ threats posed by potential aggressors with a mix of conventional, unconventional, and asymmetric capabilities including WMD [Weapons of Mass Destruction],” Gunzinger said.

“This will require funding to upgrade DoD's forces and weapon systems, including capabilities that can operate in WMD environments.”

On the specific issue of North Korea, Gunzinger said that an EMP would impact Pyongyang’s force too—but conceded that U.S. forces are probably more vulnerable to such effects.

“It is likely that NOKO's use of a relatively unsophisticated EMP weapon over the Korean Peninsula would affect their own forces and possibly their battlespace command and control infrastructure,” Gunzinger said.

Asked directly if U.S forces—which rely heavily on networks and advanced sensors are likely to suffer more—Gunzinger said that was a distinct possibility.

“Quite possibly, yes.  Just didn't want to get into it too deeply,” Gunzinger said.

“It could have a crippling effect on military systems and networks that aren't appropriately hardened.  Let's not forget the impact it could have on our allies...”

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Trump faces hurdles to military build-up

The passage of the NDAA shows an “appetite for more defense spending if you don’t have to make any difficult compromises,” said Katherine Blakeley, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. “Republicans are going to have make difficult compromises because the Democrats in the Senate hold all the cards.”

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Avoiding the ‘Thucydides Trap’

From Ukraine to the South China Sea, the past several years have reminded us that international peace and stability are not givens. The great issues of war and peace, order and disorder, are returning to the forefront of global affairs. My end-of-year reading list is thus made up of books that help us understand the causes and consequences of global upheaval -- and that underscore the exceptional role America has played in holding back the forces of chaos over the past 70 years.