Document Created: 23 August 2007
Air & Space Power Journal Fall 2007
Securing America’s Future: National Strategy in the Information Age by Daniel M. Gerstein. Praeger (http://www.greenwood.com/praeger.aspx), 88 Post Road West, Westport, Connecticut 06881, 2005, 288 pages, $44.95 (hardcover).
Daniel M. Gerstein’s Securing America’s Future presents a compelling argument for redesigning the country’s national security strategy to better fit the needs of society in the information age. The core thesis, “elements of power other than the traditional or hard power political-military-intelligence components . . . must become coequal partners in the national security process” (p. 3), calls for more balanced treatment of national security across the 11 elements of power that he discusses. Colonel Gerstein contends that America still clings to vestiges of policies developed in the industrial age. However, because the country is transitioning to the information age, it must gear both the domestic- and foreign-policy engines accordingly.
While addressing complex political concepts and strategies, the author also explains each element of power and the historical perspective behind the United States’ current geopolitical position as a “hyperpower.” The introduction claims that the text is divided into two parts, but there are actually three. The first describes America’s current status, the second defines traditional elements of power, and the third critiques the government’s existing direction for national security in the twenty-first century.
Gerstein does an exceptional job of drawing readers in by opening his analysis with three fictional scenarios, each presenting either a domestic or international threat to US national security. The stories prime the mind and highlight the well-supported opinion that current policies indeed derive from a bygone age. Next, the author dedicates a good portion of the book to backstory and historical perspective, which not only serves as a review for avid amateur historians or political scientists, but also offers invaluable information to readers uninitiated in global politics and grand strategy. The supporting data is extensively researched and packed with figures (the appendices are virtual treasure troves of data and bibliographic bread crumbs).
The book’s real force comes from the last half of the argument, which plainly outlines Gerstein’s proposed way ahead, including a very insightful and arguably accurate assessment of America’s strategic need. The government must use all of its symmetric and asymmetric resources to survive and effectively counter future threats from other states or nongovernment actors. The author promotes using “soft” elements of power to shore up the more traditional “hard” powers of the Department of Defense, the former including science and technology, economics, culture, human rights, education, and, most importantly, information. Critics argue that the United States already leverages these powers globally. The more subtle point is not if America uses the soft powers but if it uses them effectively. Gerstein clearly depicts an image of bureaucracies that consistently fail to communicate and issues a plea to regain efficiency as well as integrate, coordinate, and synchronize across the spectrum of government agencies and the “tools of state.”
Securing America’s Future—carefully researched and complex, yet aimed at a general audience—reinvigorates the concept that an organization should always strive to use every asset at its disposal to obtain its objectives. Daniel Gerstein calls for changes in national security strategy that will allow the United States to harness all the elements of power and aggressively meet the new demands of the information age. Both novice and expert can use this book as a catalyst for dialogue and as a foundation for further research.
Capt Raymond P. Akin IV, USAF
Los Angeles AFB, California
conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the
author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of
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