Generation Y-Bother, Meet Mr. Y

May 1, 2011

by

Cover, "A National Strategic Narrative"

Neocons, your days are (please, God, please) numbered. Three weeks ago this Friday the Pentagon dashed off a short memo entitled “A National Strategic Narrative.” Penned by U.S. Navy Capt. Wayne Porter and U.S. Marine Corps Col. Mark, collectively “Mr. Y” in a nod to Secretary of State Kennan/Mr. X’s 1947  “Long Telegram” that laid out the logic of containment , the brief aims to “frame our National policy decisions regarding investment, security, economic development, the environment, and engagement well into this century.”

If the nod is more than smug auto-backpatting, we would all do well to read this fifteen-pager. Kennan’s 8000-word telegram (that’s sixteen pages, double spaced, class, and no monkeying with the margins) defined U.S. policy for decades. One can hope that this giddily lofty number will do the same. Some highlights (all emphasis is in the original):

“It is time to move beyond a strategy of containment to a strategy of sustainment (sustainability); from an emphasis on power and control to an emphasis on strength and influence; from a defensive posture of exclusion, to a proactive posture of engagement. We must recognize that security means more than defense [….] To grow we must accept that competitors are not necessarily adversaries, and that a winner does not demand a loser.”

“Our values provide the bounds within which we pursue our enduring national interests. When these values are no longer sustainable, we have failed as a nation, because without our values, America has no credibility. As we continue to evolve, these values are reflected in a wider global application: tolerance for all cultures, races, and religions; global opportunity for self-fulfillment; human dignity and freedom from exploitation; justice with compassion and equality under internationally recognized rule of law; sovereignty without tyranny, with assured freedom of expression; and an environment for entrepreneurial freedom and global prosperity, with access to markets, plentiful water and arable soil, clean and abundant energy, and adequate health services.”

“Our first investment priority, then, is intellectual capital and a sustainable infrastructure of education, health and social services to provide for the continuing development and growth of America’s youth. Our second investment priority is ensuring the nation’s sustainable security [….] This requires a different approach to problem solving than we have pursued previously and a hard look at the distribution of our national treasure. For too long, we have underutilized sectors of our government and our citizenry writ large, focusing intensely on defense and protectionism rather than on development and diplomacy. This has been true in our approach to domestic and foreign trade, agriculture and energy, science and technology, immigration and education, public health and crisis response, Homeland Security and military force posture. [….] Our third investment priority is to develop a plan for the sustainable access to, cultivation and use of, the natural resources we need for our continued wellbeing, prosperity and economic growth in the world marketplace.”

“An important step toward re-establishing credible influence and applying it effectively is to close the “say-do” gap. This begins by avoiding the very western tendency to label or ‘bin’ individuals, groups, organizations, and ideas. In complex systems, adaptation and variation demonstrate that ‘binning’ is not only difficult, it often leads to unintended consequences. For example, labeling, or binning, Islamist radicals as ‘terrorists,’ or worse, as ‘jihadis,’ has resulted in two very different, and unfortunate unintended misperceptions: that all Muslims are thought of as ‘terrorists;’ and, that those who pervert Islam into a hateful, anti-modernist ideology to justify unspeakable acts of violence are truly motivated by a religious struggle (the definition of ‘jihad,’ and the obligation of all Muslims), rather than being seen as apostates waging war against society and innocents.”

“It is time to move beyond a narrow Westphalian vision of the world, and to recognize the opportunities in globalization.”

A couple of points bear emphasizing here. First off, these are high-ranking military figures. High-ranking military figures pleading for a good hard look at “distribution of the national treasure” and echoing Eisenhower’s military-industrial warning. Progressives could not possibly have asked for a greater gift or for more perfect apologists. Is their message triumphant and vague? Clearly. Does it gloss over a range of our country’s flaws and historical sins? Without a doubt. But at the same time this narrative articulates a bold national vision that prioritizes investment in healthcare and education over military proliferation, decries rising xenophobia and willful ignorance and suggests that the State (capital S) is not an end but a means, all the while speaking the homebaked language of market competition, liberty and freedom that sells papers on both sides of the aisle. And did I mention they’re military?

By way of closing, consider Mr. Y’s catechism for shaping the world in which Generation-Y has come of age. Seems downright rosy,  pass the saccharine.

“As Americans we needn’t seek the world’s friendship or to proselytize the virtues of our society. Neither do we seek to bully, intimidate, cajole, or persuade others to accept our unique values or to share our national objectives. Rather, we will let others draw their own conclusions based upon our actions. Our domestic and foreign policies will reflect unity of effort, coherency and constancy of purpose. We will pursue our national interests and allow others to pursue theirs, never betraying our values. We will seek converging interests and welcome interdependence. We will encourage fair competition and will not shy away from deterring bad behavior. We will accept our place in a complex and dynamic strategic ecosystem and use credible influence and strength to shape uncertainty into opportunities. We will be a pathway of promise and a beacon of hope, in an ever changing world.”