/ Published October 13, 2010
Under the Eagle’s Wing: A National Security Strategy of the United States for 2009 by Gary Hart. Fulcrum Publishing, 2008, 128 pp.
Former senator Gary Hart presents a national security strategy that is based on creating a “global commons composed of liberal democracies that will further economic integration and collective security” (p. xx). As the co-chair of the US Commission on National Security for the Twenty-first Century, Hart expands in this slim volume on the work completed in the 2001 report. While addressing and expanding on some of the US Commission’s recommendations, Hart focuses on the role the United States needs to assume to lead the global commons effort. As a former US senator for the state of Colorado from 1975 to 1987, current professor at the University of Colorado, distinguished fellow at the New America Foundation, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, Hart possesses the necessary experience to write with authority on national security issues. This new US national security strategy takes into account “economic transformations brought on by globalization and the information revolution, the reality of failed and failing states, nonmilitary threats from pandemics and mass migration, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, climate alterations, and the emergence of stateless nations” (p. xix). It also addresses everything a solid national security strategy should address, but Hart advocates a new approach that is guided by America’s constitutional principles.
This new approach would have the United States become the “Watchman on the Tower.” Much like the “city upon a hill” analogy, the United States is the focal point being watched by the world. As a superpower, America needs to embrace the role of a watchman and be on the lookout for over-the-horizon threats. Once detected, the United States must provide warning to its traditional allies and friends and work with like-minded liberal democracies to address impending dangers. But this watchman role does not spring solely from America’s pre-eminence in economic, political, and military power. Hart contends the United States must reclaim the moral authority that has been lost over time. “These truths concerning liberty, justice, and rights permeate the American character and hold us, in the eyes of the world, to account” (p. 3). When the United States acts unilaterally, arrogantly, and without principle, the nation loses the ability to lead. America loses credibility as it engages with oligarchies and dictatorships in exchange for natural resources and/or security accommodations. Hart believes the United States can reclaim a true world leadership role if it is guided by constitutional principles. Additionally, those states outside the global commons can join in the benefits of such global goods as a security umbrella if they adopt such liberal democratic principles as the “rule of law, gender equality, transparent economics and electoral processes, a free press, and opposition politics” (p. 7). The most difficult part involved in implementing this strategy is making common security attractive enough for these types of regimes to change.
The benefits of the global commons are achieved with US leadership sharing the burden of supplying these goods with traditional allies and friends. This includes those liberal democratic states in Europe, Asia, and North Africa. Hart recommends new international institutions and organizations that will supplement but not replace existing ones. For example, Hart proposes the creation of a new security architecture (Concert of Liberal Democracies) that would consist of 60 liberal democracies in which, unlike current security arrangements (NATO), US allies would share more of the burden and one in which the United States would allow allies more of a voice in the alliance. Additional new security and economic and political architectures are also proposed by Hart to include a global democracy security organization, an expanded international atomic energy agency, a zone of international interest in the Persian Gulf, financial lending institutions, an Asian treaty organization, an organization of petroleum importing nations, and a cyber protective corps. This aspect of Hart’s work is the most problematic. By focusing on 60 liberal democracies, he believes that “nations sharing common values and similar political and economic institutions are able to reach consensus, and thus act, more quickly” (p. 9). However, such current organizations as NATO and the European Union consist of like-minded states, and yet consensus is not guaranteed and not at all quick. The logic of advocating additional new architectures of security, economy, and diplomacy is understandable. Starting fresh with new ideas, change is possible. Nevertheless, the practical aspects of implementing this strategy must be considered. Resources are a zero sum game, and adding a new layer to the existing system to provide global commons will prove difficult to implement. Hart does not consider the possibility of modifying existing architectures to implement his strategy. Organizations like NATO and the European Union could be expanded to include other liberal democracies from Asia and North Africa and renamed to reflect its new membership composition. A fuller examination of those possibilities, even if dismissed, would provide further justification for his approach.
Despite this criticism, Under the Eagle’s Wing provides hope—hope that US leadership can be restored and its moral compass can be re-oriented to point once again to the constitutional principles of America’s founding fathers. In this work, the good of the global commons is weighed against the hegemonic ambitions of an imperial power. Hart offers a national security strategy where “enlightened engagement seeking common interest” is the path to pursue. This volume provides a road map for “shared security burdens” and “multinational participation” that needs to be read by more than academics and civilian and military leaders. More importantly, this work provides the basis for a healthy debate among the general public on the direction of US foreign policy. Under the Eagle’s Wing is a comprehensive examination of America’s conscious and how we plan to treat our fellow human beings. For this reason alone, it is a useful and worthwhile book to have on hand.
Under the Eagle’s Wing: A National Security Strategy of the United States for 2009 by Gary Hart. Fulcrum Publishing, 2008, 128 pp., $14.95.
Col Peter McCabe, USAF
Air War College
"The views expressed are those of the author(s) and do not reflect the official policy or position of the US government or the Department of Defense."