IFS Insights no. 1, February 2014
Title: Trends in U.S. security policy. Towards a more insular America?
Author: Michael Mayer
Number of pages: 75
The United States currently stands at a highly significant strategic juncture. Its leaders are contemplating substantial reduction in the US level of involvement in global security affairs and a consolidation of its deployed military assets. The combination of an unsustainable fiscal policy and political gridlock has forced tangible adjustments to US security policy. Recent trends have injected substantial uncertainty surrounding the ability and perhaps even the willingness of the United States to continue along its accustomed path of pre-eminence.
Mayer describes three key factors that influence US security policy formation: evaluation of the strategic landscape; decision-making regarding the nation’s defense posture; and the domestic political environment. In order to more fully understand the trajectory of U.S. security policy, the formal policy processes are separated from the substance of those policies. In this way, it should be possible to identify which aspects are temporally dynamic and which are more structural in nature.
Mayer identifies a number of recurring patterns (or trends) which, viewed collectively, suggest the United States may be undergoing a process of strategic adjustment. A greater acceptance of strategic risk regarding unstable regions, reductions to ground forces, growing reliance on unmanned systems, heightened budget pressures, and continued domestic political dysfunction will limit the ability of the U.S. to credibly project power abroad. This could have significant implications for NATO and Norway.