President Donald Trump doesn’t get enough appreciation for the fact that the national-security policies he campaigned on, he is carrying out: withdrawing from the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the Iranian nuclear deal; renegotiating NAFTA; trying to have good relations with Russia; resetting the rules of international institutions, agreements, and relationships, including getting tough on allies. What he said he would do, he has largely done.
What his administration has not done is align its policies so that they are mutually supporting. The Trump-administration policies are contradictory, and undercut one another to an extent that verges on professional malpractice. So, for example, Trump bewails German dependence on Russian gas with respect to Germany’s participation in the Nord Stream 2 Pipeline while insisting we need better relations with the Russians, while withdrawing from the INF Treaty over bitter Russian objections, while expecting Russian support for more draconian sanctions against Iran, while insisting Russia continue “maximum pressure” against North Korea, while declaring his love for Kim Jong Un.
What this president desperately needs is a process for prioritizing and de-conflicting his objectives, determining the means to apportion to them, and developing strategies for aligning the ends, ways, and means. In other words, a strategic-planning exercise. Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska gallantly offered the administration the very tools it needs, in the form of a provision of the Defense Authorization Bill requiring the president to conduct a “Project Solarium” on cyber. Solarium was a 1953 strategic-planning exercise undertaken by the Eisenhower administration, generally considered the zenith of American-government strategizing. Experts on the process of national-security policy are near-unanimous in their admiration of it.