An update on A National Strategic Narrative

This article was written for PopTech by Captain Wayne Porter. It serves as an update on A National Strategic Narrative (pdf), authored by Captain Wayne Porter and Col. Mark Mykleby, which proposes that the United States must refocus its foreign policy priorities and invest less in overt militarization and more in education, development aid, and sustainability infrastructure. For more on A National Strategic Narrative, watch Porter and Mykleby's PopTech 2011 talk.  - Ed.

At the PopTech 2011 conference, Puck Mykleby and I were offered the extraordinary opportunity to share our perspective on America’s positive trajectory in the 21st century as reflected in our “National Strategic Narrative” [published online by the Woodrow Wilson Center for International Scholars in April 2011].   The response we received was not only personally gratifying, it validated for us the willingness of American citizens to recognize that the world’s greatest challenges offer the greatest opportunities, that our values and hope trump fear and victimization, and that the antidotes for anxiety and decline are education, innovation, and hard work.

Puck and I have been asked many times since our presentation, by a wide variety of people, what they might do to play a more positive role in pursuing the sustainability of our national prosperity and security - at home and abroad - in a complex global environment.   We can’t pretend to have a formulaic response to that because the actions each person chooses to take are based upon what they feel most passionate about.

In the National Strategic Narrative we offer three priorities we believe are imperative for sustainable prosperity and security in this interconnected Age of Uncertainty: a commitment to improving the education of our youth; a broader understanding of “security” and the tools required to achieve that; and, the development of, and access to, renewable resources for a growing global population with dreams of a better future.  America has a leadership role to play in this new strategic environment, and that begins at home.  We’ve heard too much about blame and not enough about responsibility.  It’s time to focus less on entitlement, and more on enlightenment. 

Since we spoke at PopTech, Puck and I have been working in our own ways to close the “say-do gap” we addressed in the Narrative.  Puck has been working at a company called LRN in New York to help foster ethical behavior in the private sector, while pursuing an initiative he created with environmentalist David Orr called the “National Sustainable Communities Coalition,” the goal of which is to create a network of “full spectrum sustainability” communities across the country.  He is also a senior fellow at New America Foundation where he has joined others in establishing a “Sustainable Majority” around the concept of sustainability as our national strategic imperative.   Of note, a Commentary in the Armed Forces Journal recently cited “A National Strategic Narrative” as “The year’s highest-profile bid to create a successor to Containment…”

On November 30, 2011, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta signed a memorandum provisionally establishing a “Chair for Systemic Strategy and Complexity” at Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, and naming me as the Chair’s first occupant.  The intent is that for the next three years I will attempt to demonstrate the efficacy of applying system and complexity theory – as discussed in our Narrative - to better understanding issues of national interest.  These issues run the gamut from energy, the global economy, and the environment to shifting demographics and cultural changes; from cyberspace to nano technologies; from the potential of outer space to complex oceanographic and terrestrial ecosystems.  I can think of no other institution better equipped to do this than Naval Postgraduate School (NPS).  NPS is a first-class academic and research facility offering Master and doctoral degrees to some of the brightest young officers in our military, led by a top quality faculty that spans the interdisciplinary spectrum from Systems Engineering and Applied Sciences to Information Technology; from Operations Research to Defense Analysis; from National Security Affairs to alternative Energy and oceanography/meteorology; from robotics to sophisticated virtual modeling.   What better place than NPS to demonstrate the application of critical and innovative thinking to problems of strategic complexity?

The uncertainty of this century represents an exciting opportunity for a new generation of Americans to revitalize our economy and to re-establish America as an anchor of values and hope for the rest of the world. Puck and I would encourage all of PopTech’s network to find the challenge that most stimulate their imagination and to seek positive avenues to achieve our loftiest goals.

Watch Captain Wayne Porter and Col. Mark Mykleby's PopTech 2011 talk:

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