The Twin Dynamos of National Security

In 2012, Dr. Lamont Colucci was approached by U.S. News and World Report to write a weekly column on foreign policy and national security. This is under the aegis of World Report – Insights, perspectives, and commentary on foreign affairs. View the article on

In November, I started a series of articles about the issues that the next president will face, and how that commander-in-chief can unite international-relations realists and liberals into a new American renaissance in foreign policy and national security.

In continuation of that theme, there are two nonregional issues that the new president must ensure: energy security and military and diplomatic primacy.

Energy security. It is, after decades, in vogue to discuss national security and energy policy. Energy security is one of the most important aspects of national security to everyday civilians.

It affects the way they live their lives and brings peace and order when there is enough energy, and there are necessary means to access it. Various historical events such as the OPEC oil embargo from 1973-1974 have led the United States to take steps toward energy independence. However, there is a debate as to whether or not energy independence will ensure energy security. The United States Army has realized this and has stated concrete goals to achieve energy national security: “materiel, readiness, human capital, services and infrastructure – with targeted measures and metrics as guides. These goals are Inform Decisions, Optimize Use, Assure Access, Build Resiliency and Drive Innovation.”

A huge part of this equation is enhanced oil-recovery technology. These technologies have changed the global reserve of oil assessed in the past at 1.6 billion barrels to 10.2 billion barrels with enhanced oil-recovery technology. Domestically, we are already witnessing the 21st century oil boom generate prosperity for states like Colorado, Oklahoma, North Dakota, Texas, West Virginia and Wyoming. Current estimates indicate that by 2020, the United States will be the dominant worldwide producer of both natural gas and oil and achieve energy independence.

The energy policy of the United States must reflect its grand strategy and be based on some fundamental and permanent declarations and actions: The United States will not tolerate any power or group that seeks to deny its people access to petroleum; the United States is prepared to use hard power if that denial occurs; the United States seeks favorable trade relations in energy based on free commerce; the United States will not sacrifice its interests or values for that access; the United States will support pro-democracy adherents and groups that wish to replace despotic petrocracies.

Tom Friedman of The New York Times introduced the concept of the First Law of Petropolitics, stating that as the price of oil increases, so does repression and lack of change in places like Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia. The reverse is true as well. Oil profits fund military adventurism, nuclear weapons development, terrorism, oppression, extremism, secret police and tyranny. These nations will engage in some if not all of these without oil, but the pressure on them to curtail or slow such malevolence, combined with increased pressure domestically (due to economic trouble), will occur.

The United States will enforce the Carter Doctrine and free navigation; the United States will combine alternative energy sources with the opening of all viable petroleum sources domestically. It must mean that the war against nuclear power ceases and stops being dominated by the most childish aspects of pop culture.

This must become a permanent and declared strategy, and it must be enforced. Realists are clearly in favor of greater energy independence and liberals want to pursue methods that wean the United States from fossil fuels, but also the corruption of many of the nations we purchase oil from. The ability to aggressively pursue enhanced oil-recovery technology will give the United States the breathing room to pursue the most promising alternatives in wind, wave, solar tidal, geothermal and hydroelectric.

Primacy. The United States took a long road to military primacy, which has ensured world order, world commerce and world peace. It has achieved all three more than any territorial empire in the past and any international treaty or organization of the present or future. This not only means maintaining, and most likely expanding, the 11 Carrier Task Forces but all branches of the military, intelligence and even diplomatic services.

The stability of the international relations system is entirely dependent on U.S. military primacy and the Pax Americana. It must be the permanent strategy of the United States to ensure this primacy continues and expands. Linked to primacy is the development and deployment of a multilayered national missile defense that should ultimately cover our allies. There must also be permanence to the American way of war and a resurrection of the Weinberger Doctrine concerning overwhelming force. American national security at home, during violent riots and looting, and abroad, during war, is served best by swift and massive force. This always results in lower casualties for both U.S. troops and civilians.

There are two immediate ways this can occur. The first is to stop any attempt to reduce the defense budget to dangerously low levels. The defense budget must be based not on bean-counting but on the grand strategy of the United States designed to protect American vital and national interests. This should be a bipartisan and immediate commitment.

The second way is a reinvigoration of the U.S. space program under the auspices of NASA. This primarily revolves around the resurrection of manned space flight exploration and a realization that primacy and any future military conflicts will be won by the nation that realizes that a new strategic navalism will be in space: space weapons, space defense, spacecraft and, ultimately, platforms and bases. The nation that fails to do this will be entirely at the mercy of those nations that achieve space dominance. The evolution and history of military technology, whether it was the longbow, the cannon, the rifle, the tank or the aircraft carrier, has proved this for 5,000 years.

Domestic budget matters should not drive the dual mission of energy security and primacy. The next president’s mission is to create the conditions of continued American strategic preeminence. Realists and liberals both have reasons to ensure that the mission is achieved, and the abyss is avoided. The next president needs to be commander-in-chief, not “bean-counter-in-chief.”