The mission of the National Security Network (NSN) is to strengthen American national security by helping to create and advance progressive policies for exercising American power and addressing global challenges. NSN concentrates on bridging the gaps in thought and action between policy experts and policymakers, and between Washington politics and the American public, and challenges misguided, overly militarized conservative approaches foreign policy. We promote a selective, pragmatic international engagement that emphasizes diplomatic and economic tools, along with a responsible use of military action, to ensure America’s security and promote American values. Accomplishing these tasks requires combining strategic communications with policy expertise to achieve outcomes across policymaking circles, Congress, and the media.
What we believe
The current global environment is marked by a fluidity that leaves the direction of change unclear. The balance of power between nations is in flux, with the role of China looming over global power structures, and the infusion of ideas and technology are transforming entire societies. A progressive vision for securing America’s interests in the world calls upon the United States to harness the powers of change to lead the global system towards a better future that is more secure, more just and more prosperous for Americans and the world. In the U.S., voices calling for retrenchment and disengagement compete with outdated visions of the U.S. as a sole superpower able to impose its will on any crisis on the globe. NSN supports a more realistic approach that both recognizes that the U.S. must remain engaged –or risk that power vacuums will be filled by potential adversaries — and acknowledges that the U.S. cannot solve every problem alone.
Progressive national security policy is guided in promoting selective engagement by following principles that apply the values of wisdom, justice and strength to challenges and opportunities facing the United States and the world. While these values apply uniquely to each situation, a number of principles capture what they demand of us in our current historical moment:
American power abroad is derived from our strength at home. A strong society is one where citizens have fair access to education, healthcare and the resources necessary for their wellbeing, including spiritual and intellectual capital. A strong society also depends on a robust civic culture that practices and demonstrates American values like human rights and the rule of law as an example to the rest of the world. Without these strengths at home, the United States will be unable to continue to lead the global community.
To be effective, the United States must work collaboratively with other nations to achieve collective outcomes. The challenges and opportunities facing the United States — climate change, economic security, crisis response and protecting the global commons — are all challenges that must be addressed by the international community at large. This requires a new style of American leadership that takes responsibility for bringing other nations into consensus in a way that is based in mutual trust and mutual respect. It also requires the United States to work with its expansive network of allies and to create new friends. Such cooperation makes America more powerful, more secure and increases – not decreases – American freedom of action.
Achieving results also requires having the right tools used in the right way. This means placing a greater emphasis on all dimensions of American national power – economic, diplomatic, military and even cultural – and cultivating each over the long term. Today, the United States is at serious risk of becoming over dependent on its impressive military to the detriment of other capabilities, especially diplomatic resources. When force is required, it must be applied effectively, efficiently, justly and only after seriously exhaustion of alternatives. Not obeying these strict requirements for use of force lead to military adventurism, the disastrous legacy of which continues to the haunt the United States today.
Securing American interests depends on setting the right priorities. The United States remains the most powerful country in the world by most measures. But America’s interests are not unlimited, nor are her resources to advance those interests. Making the right choices therefore depends on an honest distinction between vital and non-vital national interests. Making the right choices also depends on an honest understanding of our own capacities, the capacities of our partners and the capacities of those with whom we disagree and the cost and benefits of various courses of action. Without following these simple steps, American foreign policy will be based on erroneous beliefs, waste resources and risk dangerous unintended consequences.
A progressive foreign policy must be built on a strong foundation of respect for human rights and justice. Any decisions to act in the name of U.S. security interests must take into account the long term promotion of universal values that will create stable and prosperous societies. Progressive foreign policy will not shy away from explicitly promoting basic political, economic, and social rights and will recognize that short term gains from supporting non-democratic rights-abusing regimes will have longer term costs to both stability and American credibility. The U.S. should serve as a role model by striving to create a just and accountable system at home and by aiding democratic forces abroad where possible. Progressive are also committed to a role for government in ensuring a level playing field through appropriate economic regulation and working toward greater economic rights and security in all nations.