Do Americans Still Want The US to Be the World’s Security Leader? – By Kevin Baron (Defense One) / Nov 7 2019
The post-Trump awakening of political activism is inspiring, but seems to end at the border. We’re teaming up with CNAS to find out why.
What do Americans want? Since President Donald Trump’s 2016 election, well, Americans seem to want a lot. There’s been an awakening of political activism in this country, on both sides of the aisle, of people speaking up and speaking out. But the issues that appear to be most engaging — race, gender, health care, education, immigration — are, with the exception of climate change, mostly domestic. When it comes to global security, the nation clearly is less engaged; some want the U.S. out of world affairs entirely. Why?
We need to understand better what Americans know and think about the U.S. leading global security, what they’re doing about it in their own lives, and what’s needed for the future. Defense One is teaming up with the Center for a New American Security, or CNAS, for a yearlong series of articles, commentaries, and events seeking to do just that. We’ll send reporters across the country to look into why Americans think the way they do, and to describe how Americans are working in their own ways on U.S. security challenges, in government, at schools, on factory floors, in boardrooms, in technology labs — even in Hollywood. We’ll feature commentaries from top thinkers at CNAS and beyond. Ultimately, we intend to collect a body of work that shows what Americans really believe, what they want, and what’s needed to deliver it.
Understanding what Americans want can be complicated. Support for getting out of “forever wars” is high, but so is support for fighting terrorists and keeping a large U.S. military presence abroad. Americans want the United States to stay engaged; applications for the Foreign Service and other national security jobs are down. And the national security influencer set has struggled to influence Trump voters. Despite widespread sympathy and U.S. military support for Syrian Kurds, last month Republicans fell in line with the president’s decision to pull U.S. troops. Public approval for the military has rarely been higher; the proportion of the public who has served in uniform has rarely been lower. Technology giants with long histories of government contracts for military and intelligence work are battling their own employees over whether it’s ethical and good to work toward the national security interests of their own country.
A Defense One article posted Wednesday is a good example: “Google Wants More Work from the Defense Department” says the headline, but the subhead adds, “A senior vice president ruled out working directly on weapons programs, but said other areas are fair game.” In other words, working with the military is okay, as long as it doesn’t directly help the military do what militaries exist to do.