Assessing America’s National Security Threats

Assessing America’s National Security Threats


The United States faces significant dangers and opportunities in the coming century. Malicious actors have harnessed new technologies such as drones, missiles, and offensive cyber weapons to threaten and, in some cases, attack America and its allies. Jihadist terrorist organizations are pursuing more destructive capabilities and are growing in strength as the United States disengages from protracted counterterrorism operations abroad. Since the end of the Cold War, US foreign policy and national security strategy have suffered from strategic narcissism—the tendency to define complex challenges and opportunities abroad only in relation to the United States and to underappreciate the interests, emotions, and aspirations that drive and constrain rivals, adversaries, and enemies.

Former US National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster designed and delivered the 12 lectures of Assessing America’s National Security Threats. A retired US Army lieutenant general; military historian; and expert in international relations, international security, and diplomacy, H. R. McMaster has packed this course with compelling histories, striking firsthand accounts, and contemporary case studies. Together, you will examine the risk of nuclear proliferation on the Korean peninsula. You will investigate the threats in new security domains like space and cyberspace, as well as how hostile actors like Russia and China operate within them. You will explore how Afghanistan and Pakistan sit at a global epicenter of jihadist terrorism. You will dive into the ideologies that drive Iran’s theocratic dictatorship and its aggression toward the United States, Israel, and Israel’s Arab neighbors. Ultimately, this course is designed to help restore strategic competence through the study of history and a deep understanding of the challenges and opportunities we face as well as the policies and strategies needed to secure a peaceful and prosperous future.

In Assessing America’s National Security Threats, you will discover real solutions to complex problem sets and viable alternative strategies designed to overcome challenges, take advantage of opportunities, and build a better future for generations to come. Ask and answer these questions: How can the United States best protect itself from malware and other cyberattacks? What does strategic competence even look like? And does the private sector have a role to play when it comes to maintaining advantages in defense technologies, combating human rights abuses, and countering aggression abroad? Assessing America’s National Security Threats is as concerned with developing and implementing sound strategies as it is with describing and understanding complex challenges and opportunities, a distinctive feature of this groundbreaking course.

Detailing Danger: America and Its Adversaries

Assessing America’s National Security Threats uses history, contemporary affairs, and firsthand experience to help you thoroughly investigate and understand present-day security problems. Reconstruct the events—some recent, some ancient—that have shaped the world that we live in. Assess the logic behind foreign policy approaches to arms control and nuclear nonproliferation, war, humanitarian disasters, cyber warfare, and more. And take notes as H. R. McMaster details his own experiences in national security, from the White House to battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq, painting a holistic picture of how foreign policy and national security strategy are developed at the highest levels of government and implemented overseas.

Assessing America’s National Security Threats rejects strategic narcissism and emphasizes strategic empathy—an effort to understand challenges and opportunities from the perspective of others. Each lecture examines the factors that drive and constrain rivals, adversaries, and enemies. In 12 sharply organized, innovative lectures, you will explore the internal politics, ideologies, and socioeconomic conditions of states, including:

  • China. Understand why China has made such enormous investments in space and cyberspace and what drives the Chinese Communist Party’s effort to perfect its technologically enabled police state.
  • Russia. Explore how dictator Vladimir Putin consolidated power in Russia and investigate how the Kremlin sows dissent abroad and undermines confidence in democracies.
  • North Korea. Consider why the Kim family regime in North Korea is so intent on developing nuclear weapons and long-range missiles, and how its ambitions threaten the security of its neighbors South Korea and Japan and the security of the United States and other nations around the world.
  • Iran. Investigate the roots of Iranian aggression toward Britain, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and its other Arab neighbors, and understand how Iran’s four decades of proxy wars relate to its nuclear ambitions and the ideology of the Iranian Revolution.
  • Pakistan. Understand why Pakistan finances terrorist groups while posing as an ally of the United States. Explore the effect that Pakistan’s support for the Taliban and other terrorist organizations had on security within its own borders and in Afghanistan.

From the Korean peninsula to Eastern Europe, get to know the historical and contemporary figures relevant to the most important geostrategic competitions of this century. Dive into the events that have shaped the course of international affairs across the world. Explore the tools that malicious actors use, both within and beyond their own borders, to undermine democracy, sow confusion, and fund terror. And examine multifaceted, global threats that are not specific to states, such as terrorism, cyber threats, and climate change. In just 12 carefully crafted lectures, you will emerge with a more complete picture of the forces and factors that will shape our future.

Moving Toward Strategic Competence

With a clearer understanding of threats and opportunities at hand, explore American responses past, present, and future. How have previous administrations responded to war in Vietnam, terrorism in the Middle East, and aggression from North Korea? And what can we learn when we break down the decisions, probe the logic that drove them, and evaluate the successes and failures of American foreign policy across decades? Assessing America’s National Security Threats not only walks you through the policy decisions, military campaigns, and treaties that have defined the last 50 years, but it also equips you with the tools to judge whether they made America a safer place.

This course makes a grounded projection into the future. H. R. McMaster has years of experience under his belt, from participating in Gulf War military campaigns to advising the president of the United States on matters of national security. You will have the extraordinary opportunity to construct foreign policy solutions with one of the world’s foremost foreign policy experts and to see what diplomacy can and should look like from his point of view. General McMaster will help you explore alternative approaches to US relationships with Iran, Afghanistan, China, and others. You will also learn how to apply terms like “strategic narcissism,” “strategic empathy,” and “strategic competence” to modern foreign policy making. And you will see how we can interrogate hardened but ineffectual approaches to national security threats and instead move toward a strategy that is well-informed and historically minded.

You will finish the course with a portrait of the national security threats facing the United States today, and a deep understanding of how those threats developed. You will judge for yourself the successes and failures of American foreign policy, from Vietnam to the wars in Afghanistan and Ukraine, and be able to talk intelligently about new aspects of national security like climate change, energy security, space, and cyberspace. And you will be able to develop your own approach to foreign policy and national security to overcome challenges, take advantage of opportunities, and build a better future for generations to come.

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