A Narrative for our Nation and our Promise

In 2010, I had the privilege of participating in the first of two Highlands Forum meetings I attended that year. This first meeting was in Newport, RI, and hosted a small group of remarkable thinkers and professionals from diverse industry, academic and government organizations. You won’t find much about the Highlands Forum from the official website, but there is a publically accessible site that talks about its background and purpose when it was first established.[1]

One of the government folks I met in Newport was Captain Wayne Porter, United States Navy. At the time, Wayne was serving as a personal advisor to Admiral Mike Mullen, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I had several intimate chats with Wayne, including a marvelous breakfast in which we shared our thoughts about the effects of cyberspace and emergence on the nation and the rest of the world. During breakfast, Wayne shared with me some of the initial thoughts he and his office mate, Colonel Mark “Puck” Mykleby, United States Marine Corps, were working on in a paper they were crafting for the Chairman.

The title of the paper Wayne and Puck created was illuminating. Wayne called it “A National Strategic Narrative.” He explained that they decided to call it a narrative rather than a “strategy” because the nation had plenty of strategy documents (e.g., National Security Strategy, National Military Strategy, and a host of others). What America really needed, Wayne said, was a narrative (a coherent story) that served to remind us of who we were and how we should think about going forward in the future as a “whole of nation” (or government) to maintain the essence of what made America great.

Wayne’s ideas really resonated with me at the time and thanks to a new project to which I’ve been invited to participate, it’s more meaningful than ever. Add to that the work in which Chuck and I collaborate with Fulfilling the American Promise in the Connected Age, and the narrative becomes greatly relevant and compelling.

The “final” version of A National Strategic Narrative is available on the web, along with other supporting information about the project, but I’m reserving the remainder of this post to describe the priorities of the effort and compare it to some of the objectives of FAPITCA as we’ve presented them in this blog.

Wayne and Puck, originally writing under the pseudonym of “Mr. Y” (in memory of George Kennan),[2] assert that their foundation is “built upon the premise that we must sustain our enduring national interests – prosperity and security – within a ‘strategic ecosystem,’ at home and abroad….” This notion of a strategic ecosystem is also compelling and forms the basis of the remaining narrative. An ecosystem, as we’ve mentioned in a previous blog post, is energized by coevolution and emergence, and is another appealing way of expressing FAPITCA.

The Narrative proposes three “Investment Priorities” that align with FAPITCA. The first priority is “intellectual capital and a sustainable infrastructure of education, health and social services to provide for the continuing development and growth of America’s youth.” This priority is perfectly matched to the basis for achieving the American Promise: “freedom of access to an equal opportunity to succeed (or to fail).”[3] Investing in the social “infrastructure” of America empowers greater access to opportunity.

The second priority of the Narrative is “ensuring the nation’s sustainable security – on our own soil and wherever Americans and their interests take them.” According to Wayne and Puck, this requires us to think about American “power” as more than just defense and security, although these are vitally important areas. We should also think about America as a source of inspiration to our nation and the world for “domestic and foreign trade, agriculture and energy, science and technology, immigration and education, public health and crisis response….” This enables us to also observe national security through the lenses of our economy, the environment, our willingness to help other people and nations, and indeed our social fabric. This perspective can also link the Center of America to the rest of our world through Connected Age technologies.[4]

Finally, the third priority of the Narrative is to “develop a plan for the sustainable access to, and cultivation and use of the natural resources we need for our continued wellbeing, prosperity and economic growth in the world marketplace.” This priority has a clear connection to the second priority and speaks to sustaining a global ecosystem of natural resources that supports not only America but the whole world. In this way, America reemphasizes its role as a truly exceptional nation both in terms of leadership and stewardship of human and natural resources. This is consistent with one of FAPITCA’s key principles: “We are borrowing this land, culture and governance system from our progeny; what we pay back to them reflects on our legacy and lays the foundation for their legacy.”[5]

There’s quite a bit more to A National Strategic Narrative that deserves mention in this blog, and we’ll revisit it from time-to-time. Having the privilege of chatting with Wayne and Puck in years past makes this Narrative more personally meaningful as Chuck and I undertake our work with FAPITCA. I’m glad I recently rediscovered it and have a chance to cite it as an additional source for our effort. If the FAPTICA project makes sense to you, please read the National Strategic Narrative and understand where it could take us in Fulfilling the American Promise in the Connected Age.

Originally posted by Carl Hunt, 4/24/2014.


[1] The Highlands Forum is a remarkable effort that has informed the development of US strategy, research and development for over a decade, and is superbly managed by Dick O’Neill, Captain, US Navy (ret.). Some of the presentations at Highlands Forum meetings are also available on the public website.

[2] As a National War College alumnus, I appreciate the nod to George Kennan, who was a professor at NWC in the mid-1940s when he was forming thought about maintaining a balance of power with the Soviet Union, a paper called “The Sources of Soviet Power” which he authored in Foreign Affairs in July 1947, under the pseudonym of Mr. X.

[3] As quoted from the Principles of FAPITCA.

[4] As proposed in the FAPITCA Principles.

[5] As articulated in the FAPITCA Principles.

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