President Trump’s National Security Strategy Non-Doctrine: An Assessment


Series: American Political, Economic, and Security Issues
BISAC: POL040010

President Donald Trump never developed a National Security Strategy or Doctrine. Rather he went from issue to issue, challenge to challenge, and position to position without a detailed framework or plan. Trump used unpredictability and disruption to achieve his goals and objectives, with the principal objective being playing the game better, harder, and tougher while reducing the costs and risks for American global leadership. Trump’s national security approach promoted American sovereignty, military interests, and deals that advanced America first rather than reinforcing alliances that were of marginal value to our interests.

President Donald Trump’s transactional personalized approach to other world leaders in many instances ignored American values and interests. This was clearly the case with respect to his relationship with MbS of Saudi Arabia, Kim Jong-Un of North Korea, Vladimir Putin of Russia, and even the president’s failed attempt to pursue Sayyid Ali Hosseini Khamenei of Iran. His willingness to accept and embrace positions taken by foreign adversaries over those of his own national security team, allies abroad, or even allies in the Congress defined Trump’s approach to national security policy which preferred short term gains for him rather than securing the long term interests for the United States. Trump believed that keeping allies and adversaries perpetually off balance accrued to the benefit of the United States. America First and foremost meant that the president did not have to apologize for anything the United States did under his leadership, and he saw no adequate substitute for American power while insisting that our regional allies and coalitions bore a greater share of the burden in providing for the common defense, and he believed that we were vulnerable if our allies were resolute or unprepared.

Trump’s National Security Non-Doctrine has transitioned to the Biden Presidency which seeks to renew American engagement in the world in ways that reinvigorate the global norms for cooperative behavior. The United States’ allies and adversaries remain the same today as they were four years ago and unilateral policies are highly unlikely to advance America’s main goals; rather, they are likely to undermine its security and prosperity. President Biden has emphasized that multilateral engagement remains in America’s interest as the best strategy to securing peace and prosperity.

I reflect in the first chapter on the recent scholarly research of Frank Ninkovich, Mel Gurov, and Robert Jervis as it relates to Trump’s approach to national security policy and issues and how my approach is distinct from theirs with respect to the themes and issues examined in my manuscript. I also reflect upon my personal interaction and conversation with H.R McMaster on the significance of the National Security Strategy Report of 2017, and the highly limited and questionable role that it played for the Trump Administration.

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Table of Contents



Chapter 1. Introduction

Chapter 2. The Heightened Role for Trump’s Generals

Chapter 3. The Forever War in Afghanistan

Chapter 4. The Intractable Conflict in Syria

Chapter 5. Congress’ Role in National Security Policy Under Trump

Chapter 6. Trump’s Decision on Iran, North Korea, and Russia

Chapter 7. Conclusion

Appendix A. Current Map of Yemen War Status

Appendix B. Map of War Torn Syria

Appendix C. Senate Joint Resolution

Appendix D. House Joint Resolution

Appendix E. Executive Order on Revocation of Reporting Requirement

Appendix F. Executive Order Imposing Sanctions with Respect to Iran


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