In This Review

The Obama administration's first national security strategy paper is less a strategy paper than a statement of faith and a wish list. This was to be expected. The administration has its share of bright academics and think-tankers, people who often believe that the relationship between theory and policy is much closer than it is. They will, of course, learn better, like all those who have preceded them on the downward path from the sunny uplands of the academy to the meat grinder of history. Meanwhile, this document provides helpful insight into the mindset of the Obama administration in its early days. Although it contains what many will feel is an unseemly number of disparaging references to the last administration, in its transformational and Wilsonian ambitions (on issues such as nonproliferation), it is a document the Bush team can admire. Judging from the evidence here, the current administration shares the neoconservative belief that the world is ready to be fundamentally reshaped under U.S. leadership; the Obamans disagree violently with the Bushies on the nature of the reshaping and the tactics required to get there, but there is little sign here that the administration plans to draw in the United States' horns.