Before DoD Budget Announcement: AEI's Tom Donnelly on President Obama's Defense Strategy

As the Pentagon unveils its new budget numbers today, you might be interested in what AEI expert Thomas (Tom) Donnelly recently wrote about the administration's defense strategy (full text here):

"Beginning with the Libya intervention, the president has been charting a new direction for American strategy and acting with great energy to create a fait accompli that will make it difficult for a successor to reverse course…"

"The president vowed in his defense guidance that the American military will be the "best in the world.” That much is true. But the problem, since 9/11, has not been the quality of the force but its quantity."

Donnelly analyzes the ‘leading-from-behind’ Obama Doctrine and finds that it consists of three main tenets:

  • A smaller, secret, and 'silent' approach to the Long War in the greater Middle East

"The signature instruments of the silent war are remotely piloted aircraft--drones. U.S. conventional forces will no longer be in the regime change or counterinsurgency business but will man an increasingly offshore framework with limited strike capability and, if needed, the ability to patrol contested waterways like the Strait of Hormuz."

  • A 'Pacific pivot' that would deter China from the temptations of aggression but ask allies to carry much of the burden

"To the degree that the Obama pivot represents a new seriousness in responding to the security challenges of China's rise as a global great power and its provocative military modernization, it's a long overdue development". . . "But its promise to continue to make the necessary investments to ensure that we maintain regional access and the ability to operate freely in places like the South China Sea where Beijing has become more intimidating is not borne out in the resources provided."

  • A restructuring of the U.S. military to forestall any future return to a more ambitious--and more traditional--form of American leadership

"[The Obama administration] doesn’t just seek a rebalancing of U.S. strategy, it intends to make a permanent retreat, by removing the military means of mischief. With a smaller force, we'll resist the temptation to fight wars just because we can.”. . .[T]he damage done to American military power are already being felt in the world. The greater Middle East, never stable to begin with, is undergoing an epoch-defining political change--who knows where the Arab revolts will end, or what a nuclear Iran would mean?--while having its American security blanket ripped away."

Tom Donnelly is the director of the Center for Defense Studies. He previously served as a professional staff member for the House Committee on Armed Services. He can be reached at or through

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