Ever since the Goldwater-Nichols Act was passed in 1986, the current president’s administration has been mandated to present an annual National Security Strategy to Congress. The Biden administration’s strategy is set to be released in the following months, setting the tone for America’s foreign policy and priorities abroad.
The National Security Strategy is an opportunity for the executive branch to get on the same page regarding the country’s most vital values, goals and plans. It forces the government to proactively address global issues and threats rather than react to situations when they are an immediate threat. At a time of high domestic divisions on issues, however, it is essential for the Biden administration to release a National Security Strategy to prioritize uniting the country on domestic values and aligning these values with U.S. foreign policy.
Government intervention abroad takes many forms. The United States promotes family planning, women’s sexual rights and domestic violence mitigation among its international initiatives. The U.S. government is the largest donor to family planning and reproductive health efforts globally. In addition to monetary aid, the U.S. has long engaged in peacekeeping efforts internationally with the goal of mitigating violence and conflict. However, the U.S. seems to be struggling domestically with these same issues.
A Siena College Research Institute study found Americans are extremely divided on voting rights, immigration, gun control and abortion, among other issues. Public Policy senior Sophia Dara shared similar feelings, saying she believes the U.S. is most divided on the “right to abortion and bodily autonomy, how (Americans) manage international conflict and how guns should be regulated.”
Despite there being a lack of domestic consensus on many social issues, the Siena College study identified three major common value areas: equality, liberty and progress. A large majority of those interviewed identified these as values they hold dear, regardless of political affiliation. The government should capitalize on these three shared values to build domestic strength.
Public Policy senior Jake Cohen said that “the U.S. has a responsibility of protecting democracy, but it should not come at the expense of forgetting infrastructural problems in the U.S.” According to the Pew Research Center, a majority of Americans believe that common values rather than common problems bring nations together. Biden’s National Security Strategy should make identifying and promoting American values a priority to bring the nation together so that it can be stronger on the global stage.
The United States should continue to invest in international human rights and equality initiatives. It should also keep in mind that being united and strong domestically is essential to having successful international initiatives. If the U.S. can’t promote its values at home, how can we expect other countries, allies or not, to respect American principles?
The U.S. derives much of its influence and power from its strong economy. However, the American middle class has struggled in recent years as income and wealth inequality has grown. Biden’s National Security Strategy should therefore prioritize investments in the American economy and middle class. By prioritizing workers over corporate interests, the U.S. can promote inclusive economic growth, closing the gap in income and health inequality, two initiatives the U.S. advocates for internationally. Investments in research, education and technology can also improve the lives of the American people.
When asked if she feels proud to be an American, Dara answered, “Sometimes. I think it’s hard to deny that we live in a country with great privilege and resources, which makes me feel lucky to live here. However, these opportunities are often limited to those in the top socioeconomic classes, leaving behind the rest of society. It can feel shameful to live here sometimes because of the barriers we put on BIPOC and impoverished people.”
The U.S. needs to address inequities in opportunity and invest in restructuring systems that exacerbate inequality to improve the lives of Americans and be a stronger player internationally. Choosing policies that put Americans before corporations, promote American social values and strengthen the U.S. economy should be vital priorities for Biden’s National Security Strategy.
Lizzy Peppercorn is an Opinion Columnist & can be reached at email@example.com.
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