Summary: Using U.S. Power More Effectively
In the post-Cold War world, there has been a considerable alteration of the instruments of U.S. power, that is, the means available to the U.S. government to influence the behavior of other governments. In part because of stricter resource constraints and in part because the threats have changed, some of the mainstays of the policy of containment during the Cold War--such as the strategic nuclear forces and foreign aid--are becoming less central. At the same time, the U.S. government is developing a more diverse set of tools, taking advantage of profound changes in the world setting.
We begin our analysis of the post-Cold War instruments of U.S. power by analyzing how the world is changing from the perspective of U.S. security interests. Then we discuss the instruments of U.S. power, starting with those that use persuasion rather than force and proceeding to those that require progressively greater use of force. Using this principle, we arrange the instruments of U.S. power into three groups: non-military instruments, political-military instruments, and warfighting instruments. This arrangement emphasizes the traditional national security issues, not because we wish to slight environmental security or economic security but because, as analysts of the National Defense University, we have decided to concentrate on the areas we know best.
The present world situation is characterized by its rapid pace of change. The world is undergoing three changes so sweeping that they may deserve to be called revolutions. A common characteristic of all three revolutions is that they make the world a more diverse place. Although this expanding diversity requires a more eclectic foreign policy approach, it also makes possible a wider variety of ways for the United States to work its will.
Geostrategic Revolution. Most apparent to analysts of international affairs are the geostrategic changes, which have several dimensions. With regard to relations among the major powers--which have historically been the main element in world politics--the long superpower confrontation during the Cold War is being replaced by a world of asymmetrical poles in which one (the U.S.) is much the strongest. The others powers, nevertheless, are important actors: the world has not become unipolar, as some imagined in the first moments after the Cold War. In the first blush of enthusiasm at the end of the Cold War, the great powers were all cooperating. Now, relations among some are cooler, and differences of perspective have become more pronounced. The hopes for a new strategic relationship between the U.S. and Russia are fading; Russia is feeling isolated and bitter about what is sees as others taking advantage of its temporary difficulties. China is feeling more powerful because of its spectacular economic growth; sometimes it acts like a normal player in international affairs, and sometimes it acts like the stereotype of the Middle Kingdom--not well informed about other states and assuming that it has a natural right to what it wants.
International Affairs Budget Authority
National Defense Budget Authority
Source: FY 1996 Budget and Concurrent Resolution for Fiscal Year 1996. All data refer to fiscal years.
Note: The FY-93 spike in international affairs funding was due to an IMF quota increase.
Another aspect of the global geostrategic scene has been the triumph of the idea of market democracy. While not always practiced, it is nearly universally regarded as the best way to run society. From this perspective, the world can be divided into three categories of states: those successful at implementing the goal of market democracy, those in transition from authoritarianism towards that goal (but at risk of becoming frozen with politicized economies and partially free political systems), and those troubled states that are falling further behind the rest of the world while in many cases struggling with ethnic and religious extremism. Some rogue states from among the troubled or transitional nations may be tempted to divert attention from domestic problems with external aggression aimed at establishing regional hegemony. The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, particularly nuclear weapons, could make particularly dangerous a major regional conflict with such a rogue state. At the same time, conflicts within troubled states are likely to be as frequent, and in some cases, those states will fail--their governments will cease to function effectively, and civil society will degenerate into near chaos. The U.S. will have neither the means nor the will to intervene in every such case, but it will conduct humanitarian and peace operations in areas of its historic and strategic interest as well as in situations of horrendous suffering that offend U.S. sensibilities.
Perhaps the most novel feature of the geostrategic scene has been the explosion of transnational problems, that is, problems that cross borders but do not stem from the action of governments. International crime, terrorism, sudden mass migrations, and environmental threats are not susceptible to the traditional tools of statecraft designed for relations among sovereign governments.
Reductions in Defense and International Affairs Funding From 1985 through 1996
In FY 1985-95, there was a sharp decline in national defense funding, that is, in the 050 account in the federal budget, which includes nearly all the DOD budget as well as defense-related expenditures by other agencies, mostly the Department of Energy. In FY 1996 dollars, the 050 account budget authority declined from $412 billion in 1985 to $271 billion in 1995, a 34 percent reduction.
The largest reduction ($90 billion out of the total reduction of $141 billion) was in procurement, which fell by 64 percent. In FY 1995, the Army bought no new tanks and the Navy bought four ships; the services are operating with the large equipment stock bought during the 1980s buildup. Obviously, this is not a sustainable long-term procurement level, and so five-year plans include an eventual upturn in procurement, which will place further pressure on the budget.
Despite the widespread impression that the FY 1996 national defense budget grew, in fact, despite the $7 billion added by Congress to the Clinton administration budget request, budget authority in real terms shrank by 2 percent between FY 1995 and FY 1996.
The international affairs budget also dropped sharply in 1985-95. In constant 1996 dollars, the international affairs budget (the 150 account) fell 46 percent, from $37 billion to $20 billion, over that time.
However, the reduction was heavily concentrated in international security assistance (account 151), which went from $19 billion to $5 billion at 1996 prices, a 74 percent reduction. Between 1985 and 1995, the budget for all other international affairs items went from $18 billion to $15 billion (at 1996 prices). The budget for the conduct of foreign affairs and for foreign information and exchange programs actually increased in real terms. But the increase was modest, and the burden of work grew as the number of countries rose and as the world became a more complex place.
Information Revolution. Information technology has been improving roughly tenfold every five years, an unprecedented rate of change. Computers, faxes, fiber optic cables, and satellites speed the flow of information across frontiers, reinforcing the political trend towards increasingly open societies. No one can foretell all the ways in which information technologies will change traditional venues of national power, but certain useful themes are beginning to emerge. One is that access to information technology has become a prerequisite for economic growth, at least in developed countries. Another is that the ubiquity of global communication is creating new avenues for the interests, cultures, and values of the United States to radiate overseas, and vice versa. Yet another is that the extension of rapid communication and computer technological advances to the battlefield may make information-based warfare possible within a decade or two.
Revolution in Government. After decades of increasing state involvement in many areas of society in most countries, central governments have been on the retreat recently. Power is devolving: whether in Russia, the United States, the European Union or China, central governments are ceding more authority to regional and local governments. Central governments are also shedding functions, partly to reduce expenditures and contain budget deficits. Governments are also privatizing state enterprises, in line with the general mood that reliance on free markets is the way to boost growth. The power of international business has increased relative to that of governments. However, this shift may not diminish the ability of governments to mobilize resources to support perceived vital national interests, for instance, during wartime.
A phenomenon related to the decline of central governments has been less concern about the projection of national power abroad and more concern about domestic issues, especially the economy. In many countries, the argument is heard that only a strong economic base can provide the foundation for an active international role.
In the United States, the new focus on domestic issues has caused a decline in the resources available for foreign policy instruments. Between fiscal years 1985 and 1995, in real terms, funding for national defense fell 34 percent, and funding for international affairs fell 46 percent (referring respectively to the 050 and 150 accounts in the federal budget). The drop in international affairs funding was primarily in military aid; other international affairs funding fell 17 percent in real terms over the decade.
Both the Clinton and Congressional projections for defense and international affairs spending show continued reductions in real terms between 1996 and 2000. For national defense, the two agree on a 7 percent reduction. For international affairs, the Clinton budget projects a 23 percent reduction, while the Congressional concurrent resolution projects a 43 percent cut. Furthermore, the pressure for balancing the budget while protecting many domestic programs may push reductions for national security above the levels projected by either the administration or Congress. The lower resource levels will pose a serious challenge for exerting U.S. influence at the level of leadership, and over the full range of issues, that U.S. interests require and that the American public has come to expect.
Implications for the U.S. If the essential characteristics of the present strategic environment are uncertainty and change, historical experience suggests that the new world system may be more malleable now than it will be in a few years. International systems typically have had a life cycle in which the relations among the major powers start out flexible then become more rigid. The way in which the system is shaped tends to determine whether the major powers remain at peace. If past experience is replicated, then there is some urgency to focusing on international affairs now--to resolving the domestic debates about what the U.S. wants from the new world order and to maximizing the instruments of national power available to U.S. policymakers.
Three implications can be drawn from the new world situation for the instruments of U.S. power:
* A broader array of tools is needed to respond to the more diverse problems in the new geostrategic setting. The tools needed to strengthen market democracy are not necessarily the same as those required to deter rogues. Other tools are needed to deal with failed states, and yet others again to respond to transnational problems.
* Washington needs to stay on top of the information revolution as it changes established institutions and procedures. For instance, the world communications web brings an instant and increasing flow of news. Should Washington react passively, its agenda will be set by what is on the television screen, but if Washington changes with the times, it can use its direct access to world publics to influence events more quickly and surely than ever. Similarly, if the revolution in military technology from the information explosion is integrated into a new way of conducting warfare--a revolution in military affairs--then the U.S. can increase its domination of the battlefield. If the U.S. remains passive, however, then it could become vulnerable to a mid-sized power that uses information warfare to disrupt the information networks on which the U.S. depends.
* There are greater opportunities and more necessity for Washington to leverage its power. In the past, such leverage came primarily through allied governments. Now, other institutions are increasingly important. Private voluntary organizations (PVOs) provide humanitarian relief more effectively than do governments. Sometimes an eminent private individual can explore what a rogue government is prepared to do to cut a deal, without Washington having to provide the rogue the legitimacy that would come from direct contact. Private business, acting for its own interests without direction from Washington, can often be used to advance U.S. goals, as when investors stimulate economic growth that reinforces market democracy or that cements a fragile peace.
The Prospects for National Defense and International Affairs Funding in FY 1997-2000
The congressional concurrent resolution on the FY 1966 budget and the FY 1996 Clinton administration budget both present forecast for spending through at least FY 2000 plan, showing the overall government total and the amounts for each budget category, including nationla defense (account 050) and international affairs (account 150).
Both plans call for national defense budget authority to be reduced by 7 percent in real terms by FY 2000 from the FY 1996 level. The Clinton administration budget provided detailed breakdown of its spending plans by category. Under those plans, further reductions in personnel are programmed in order to pay for increased procurement. Despite the increase, procurement will remain significantly below the steady-state replacement rate, that is, the average age of major systems will continue to increase. In other words, it may be difficult to sustain the planned force levels with the resources programmed for defense.
For international affairs, the FY 1996 Clinton administration budget plan programmed a five-year reduction of 23 percent in real terms, while the congressional concurrent resolution on the FY 1996 budget called for a cut of 43 percent at constant prices. That would bring the international affairs budget (at 1996 prices) in 2000 to either 58 percent or 69 percent below that of 1985, depending on whether the administration or congressional plan is adapted. In late 1995, a compromise funding level between the two plans was agreed to by the administration and Senator Helms (R-North Carolina).
Any of these plans for reduction will be a great challenge to absorb. It will be difficult to maintain much of a foreign aid program, especially if contributions to multilateral institutions and aid to Israel and Egypt are sustained at anything like current levels. At the same time, the reduced international affairs spending will not have much effect on the overall deficit. All spending on international affairs is less than 2 percent of the overall government budget. The reduction--the allocation in 2000 would be $4.6 billion less than in 1995 under the Clinton plan and $8.7 billion less under the Congressional plan--will be small relative to the size of the $190 billion FY 1996 federal deficit. While much of the reduction may come from the foreign aid budget, there is also strong congressional pressure to cut the budgets of State, USAID, ACDA, and USIA as well as to combine some or all of those agencies. Under both congressional and administration budget plans, the U.S. will remain in arrears to the U.N. throughout the rest of the decade.
Both the Clinton and congressional plans would mean tight resource constraints for national security. And the situation could get worse, because of the pressure for balancing the budget. Both political parties want the budget balanced. The Republicans want a large tax cut. The Democrats want to protect spending on programs like health, education, and the environment. It will be difficult to achieve that combination of goals, unless the economic situation is particularly favorable, with low interest rates to cut the cost of servicing the national debt and rapid economic growth to raise revenue and keep down the cost of programs like unemployment insurance and welfare.
If the budget is to be balanced while taxes are cut and spending on health, education, and the environment is protected, and if the economy performs at the historic average rather than exceptionally well, then it will be necessary to make further cuts in other spending categories. The great unknown is what will happen to health care costs and to other entitlement programs. Perhaps savings will be made, through more efficient programs and changes in the way benefits are increased as the consumer price index rises. Besides those programs, defense spending is one of the few large items available to cut. Therefore, it could well be reduced below the current agreed level. A prudent national security planner will include in his scenarios one in which budgets are reduced appreciably more than presently planned. The fact that the President and Congress agreed in the FY 1996 budget on a forecast level of defense spending for 2000 does not by any means assure that those resources will actually be made available when 2000 arrives.
While the changes in the instruments in U.S. power have generally been motivated by the evolution of the world setting--the revolutions in geostrategy, information technology, and the character of government--much has occurred because of conscious decisions by the U.S. government to reinvent the ways it does business. As the goals of U.S. foreign policy have become more varied since the end of the Cold War, the U.S. government has relied on a wider array of non-military instruments, including more vigorous use of some instruments that had been at most of secondary utility during the Cold War. At the same time, Washington has implemented innovations designed to reduce costs, taking advantage of changing circumstances to shed functions or institutions no longer needed while making more use of new opportunities.
Diplomacy. In the more fluid situation of the mid-and-late 1990s, the emphasis in diplomatic techniques is shifting from formal procedures, such as large semi-permanent negotiating delegations, to more ad hoc arrangements, such as contact groups, special envoys, shuttle diplomacy and liaison offices. The U.S. is also learning how to use to its advantage private and quasi-private diplomacy, such as former President Carter's 1994 missions to North Korea and Haiti. Instruments like recognition policy are being redefined, as in the case of using recognition as an inducement to encourage progress by Vietnam and North Korea (on POW/MIAs and nuclear non-proliferation, respectively). At the same time, much is being done to stretch dollars further.
There is new stress in the State Department: resources are declining; ambassadorial appointees sit idle for months owing to disputes between the administration and Congress; and the work load is growing as the number of countries and international crises increases. In this context, consideration is being given to organizational changes to a diplomatic structure that was created to serve the needs of a different time. One example of a change under way is the greater presence abroad of a wide array of U.S. government agencies: embassies have become less exclusively State Department preserves and more the locations for interagency functions under the looser leadership of the ambassador.
A U.S. Marine CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter prepares to insert troops at Hat Yao, Thailand during Exercise Cobra Gold '95
Public Diplomacy. The ideology upheld by the U.S. during the Cold War--that of freedom, democracy, and the market--has triumphed worldwide in the realm of ideas, though it has not fully translated into practice in many transitional or troubled states. The role of public diplomacy is therefore evolving from the battle to win minds for the Free World to persuading foreign governments and publics to support more specific U.S. policies. In this task, the principal U.S. organization is the U.S. Information Agency (USIA), although there is increasing foreign attention to statements designed primarily for domestic audiences issued by spokesmen throughout the government. In a world saturated with information, the challenge for public diplomacy is how to communicate more effectively by enhancing and supplementing the increasing commercial information flow. USIA is becoming less a direct supplier of information and more of an organizer of the information. While the information revolution has made American television shows, movies, music, and brand names more pervasive, that does not necessarily translate into support for U.S. government policies. The direct government programs so important in the past, from radio broadcasts to cultural exchanges, are being refocused on those areas that private sector activity does not reach adequately. Meanwhile, Washington has stepped up its efforts to promote democracy, both through existing institutions like USAID and by relatively new quasi-governmental organizations like the National Endowment for Democracy.
International Organizations. Despite new concerns about multilateralism, the U.S. government is using international organizations and private voluntary organizations more often and in more varied ways to accomplish tasks that during the Cold War it might have done directly itself. The U.S. military has been working more directly with these organizations in places like Somalia, Rwanda, Haiti, and Bosnia. That has required both sides to adapt, given the considerable differences in organizational culture and approach (e.g., a command structure compared to a web of independent actors reliant on consensus-building). Contrast the close coordination between the U.S. military and PVOs in Bosnia with the distant and at times hostile relations in Vietnam a generation earlier.
Washington not only uses international organizations to address humanitarian concerns in disasters and genocidal ethnic strife, but also to mitigate the military threat to vital U.S. national interests from rogue states. In both of the most likely candidates for a major regional contingency, North Korea and Iraq, U.N. agencies were indispensable for verifying agreements about weapons of mass destruction, whereas during the Cold War, arms control agreements were generally verified by the U.S. directly. International Atomic Energy Agency on-the-ground inspections and, in Iraq, U.N. Special Commision-supervised destruction of nuclear, biological, and chemical (NBC) facilities show how important multilateral organizations can be for U.S. national security. At the same time, U.S. support for international organizations has been weakened since the immediate post-Cold War enthusiasm by continuing problems of bureaucratic inertia, wasteful spending, limited capabilities, and unmet (albeit exaggerated) expectations.
Economics. As in other fields, the trend is away from use of U.S. budget resources. So foreign aid is moving from direct bilateral budget assistance to new ways to mobilize resources for vital national purposes: consortia of concerned states, as for North Korea; international financial institutions, as for Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union; and tapping largely dormant U.S. government resources, as with the use of the Exchange Stabilization Fund to lend $20 billion to Mexico. But the larger story is that as security threats have declined, Washington has used existing economic instruments (like trade retaliation) more vigorously against allies, which may endanger alliances in the long term. All too often, however, economic instruments have little effect, in part because the U.S. is not committing sufficient resources to make an instrument like foreign aid more effective. In other cases, economic instruments have too much effect collaterally, that is, they have such broad effects that they inflict unacceptable political damage, as when the prospect of withdrawing most-favored nation status from China over human rights problems resulted in deterioration of relations across the board. When the U.S. is prepared to inflict heavy collateral damage, then a coercive economic instrument like sanctions can have noticeable effects over time. Witness how sanctions have weakened Iraq's ability to threaten its neighbors and encouraged Serbia to reduce support for ethnic Serb forces in Croatia and Bosnia.
Intelligence. With the end of the pressing need to focus on the activities of the former Soviet Union, the targets of intelligence activities have become more diffuse. Debate continues about what intelligence is most needed and which activities are most appropriate for secret government analysis. For instance, a host of ethical and methodological questions have arisen over the possibility of the intelligence community sharing information with U.S. business. To collect data on issues like regional conflicts and transnational problems, intelligence satellites are being given a broader range of capabilities and are being used publicly, for example to demonstrate war crimes in Bosnia. In many areas where policymakers want information, the information explosion has brought forth a vast amount of open-source data. By some estimates, 80 percent of the information used by the intelligence community comes from open sources. Policymakers are likely to get their first news on fast-breaking developments from CNN. The intelligence community is therefore devoting more attention to what its consumers want and how best to package and deliver it. Higher priority is given to analysis of the vast flow of information available, and less to the collection of data. Also, more attention is being given to meeting the needs of military commanders for timely intelligence attuned to the battlefield situations facing operational commanders.
Productive and Technological Base. Little attention is being devoted to the Cold War concerns about industrial mobilization and maintaining an engineering lead (e.g., in aircraft engines or tank armor). Partly that is because of the changed political environment, but perhaps more important is the swelling "third wave" that is making information technology the center of economic growth. Contrary to concerns that U.S. productive and technological power is on the decline, the U.S. is in fact the world leader in information technology, especially in the increasingly important software area. U.S. technological and productive might is as powerful an instrument for Washington as it has ever been. To be sure, the way that power will be applied to defense production is changing. More of the research at the cutting edge of technology is being done by the private sector and less by the government. Defense will increasingly piggyback on commercial developments rather than drive technology forward. As more funds go into electronics and as the production of major battle platforms (planes, ships, tanks) shrinks, more collaboration among firms, including with foreign firms, will be necessary to ensure the survival of the core capabilities, such as the ability to build aircraft carriers or nuclear submarines.
Arms control. Despite the end of the Cold War, Russia remains indispensable to successful arms control. The issues on which Russia's support is vital include working out new arrangements for European security to supplement the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe (CFE); solidifying the still-forming system for control of dangerous arms and dual-use technologies; and dismantling the Cold War nuclear weapons legacy, including the cooperative threat reduction program for greater security of nuclear material so as to forestall proliferation dangers.
At the same time, the focus of arms control has shifted from the Cold War concentration on Soviet missiles. The new priority is on nonproliferation of NBC weapons and missiles, building on the 1995 success in securing the indefinite extension of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). Mutually reinforcing arms control measures such as nuclear-weapons-free zones, a comprehensive test ban treaty, and a fissile-material production-cutoff treaty hold promise for strengthening the international non-proliferation regime. Meanwhile, the model of conventional arms control and confidence-building measures implemented with the former Warsaw Pact in the last years of the Cold War hold promise for application in other strife-torn areas of the world, such as Bosnia, Northeast Asia or the Levant.
U.S. Forces take control of Haiti's International airport, 1994
Defense Engagement in Peacetime. Cold War interaction with foreign militaries, other than alliance partners, often meant providing developing countries with equipment at favorable prices, so as to shore up their ability to meet potential Soviet-inspired subversion or outright aggression. By contrast, the 1990s have seen a drop in arms deliveries, especially those with an aid component but also sales on commercial terms; even the large post-Desert Storm agreements with Gulf Arab states have not translated into larger deliveries. The focus of defense engagement has changed to foreign military interaction, such as professional education and combined military exercises, and high-level defense diplomacy, such as quasi-diplomatic trips by the regional commanders-in-chief. Engagement by the Defense Department has broadened to cover nearly all armed forces in the world, including military-military contacts with governments leery of U.S. security policy objectives. At the same time that more efforts are being made and countries involved, there has been a drawdown in the number of soldiers with foreign-area expertise, as well as a reduction in the number of units most likely to participate in foreign military interaction programs (e.g., engineers, military police, and medical units). The challenge is to find ways to use the declining resource more effectively and innovatively than ever before.
Security Relationships and Overseas Presence. The core of U.S. security policy during the Cold War was its alliances, especially NATO, for collective defense against the pressing common external threat from the Soviet Union. Post-Cold War, the role of the alliances is shifting to becoming the cornerstone (politically and militarily) around which ad hoc coalitions can be formed. Such coalitions are, for the foreseeable future, the likely way in which the U.S. will fight in major conflicts. NATO's combined joint task force (CJTF) concept is the most telling example of the new role of alliances; the delays in implementing the CJTF illustrate the difficulty in re-directing Cold War institutions toward future requirements, even where there is a clear military utility (in this case, for crisis response beyond NATO's borders). While alliances like NATO provide the military nucleus for an ad hoc coalition, there may well be political utility in including a large number of states, even if many bring little value added to the military force. The coalitions may include uncertain partners, which can require a delicate balancing of the issues on which Washington agrees with that partner compared to differences on other matters, e.g., ensuring the Pakistani forces in Somalia are well equipped to replace U.S. forces there, but at the same time not weakening the military aid restrictions that pressure Pakistan to roll back its nuclear weapons program.
Meanwhile, as force structure declines and support (at home and in the host countries) for large overseas bases becomes more open to question, the importance of the growing dependence on pre-positioned equipment ashore and afloat will continue to rise. [and there may be a place for new approaches such as mobile offshore bases.] A major issue for sustaining the U.S. existing structure of alliances will be finding ways to strengthen their security components irrespective of differences on trade issues, which are likely to be an area of vigorous disagreement.
Peace Operations and Humanitarian Support. The typical Cold War peace operation was patrolling a ceasefire line. With the end of the superpower rivalry, peacekeeping operations have generally focused on resolving internal conflicts within states rather than cross-border aggression. The missions are thus more complicated and more controversial, since there is less control over armed elements and, in some cases, virtually no organized government with which to work. The most critical elements to the success of complex peace operations can be getting right the mix of responsibilities between the U.S. military and civilian agencies and PVOs, as well as coordinating actions in the field. In the more complicated settings, U.S. military involvement can make the difference between success and failure, because of the special skills the U.S. military brings, from C3I to special operations (including civil affairs and psychological operations), and because of its overall leadership and managerial capabilities. While recognizing its vital role, Washington resists the assumption that it will automatically assume a dominant role in every such situation, preferring instead to concentrate on how to enhance prospects for success with limited U.S. participation. The record of success is mixed at best in operations in the absence of a peace accord where the peace force is seen as either ambivalent or an antagonist, that is, in expanded peacekeeping and peace enforcement. The problem is to contain or end the fighting without becoming a party to the conflict and without assuming responsibility for nation-building afterwards.
The prognosis for expanded peacekeeping and peace enforcement is uncertain. By its own account, the United Nations lacks the capacity to manage these ambitious missions, which means that they are only likely to occur where Washington opts to lead a coalition to undertake the action.
Unconventional Military Instruments. Unconventional threats to national security challenge U.S. interests through indirect means such as terrorism, subversion, narcotics trafficking, and massive sudden refugee flows. Some of these threats are a useful way for the weak to attack the strong. Lately, they have become more salient, both because of the demise of the Soviet Union and the trend towards a more open world economy and freer movement of people. Ultimately, regional powers intent on systematically challenging U.S. interests may sponsor or organize the most serious unconventional threats. The responses to meet these threats will include an enhanced role abroad for U.S. law enforcement agencies, e.g., the FBI in counterterrorism, the DEA in counternarcotics, and the INS in enforcing restrictions on massive immigration flows. In some cases, the military may be called upon to assist with these law enforcement functions abroad, e.g., in drug interdiction. Unconventional military responses, such as Special Operations Forces (SOF) can broaden the range of options open to decision makers reluctant to resort to higher cost military measures, and they can minimize the collateral damage associated with more destructive measures. Nevertheless, the unconventional instruments are politically sensitive and hard to manage.
Limited Military Interventions. In some ways, the new environment is seeing a return to the pre-Cold War experience. For instance, the use of limited air strikes to force a government to change its behavior, such as the 1995 strikes against Serbian forces in Bosnia, is the modern equivalent of gunboat diplomacy, and the enforcement of sanctions bears considerable similarity to the old practice of laying siege. During the Cold War, insurgencies were generally ideological, and the U.S. usually openly supported one side. Now, insurgencies and civil wars are more often between ethnic groups, and the U.S. goal is peace between the two sides, one of which controls the internationally recognized government. While interethnic conflicts are becoming more frequent, the U.S. public may not support involvement in many such cases, since those conflicts often occur in areas where narrowly conceived U.S. geostrategic interests are slight, though the challenge to U.S. values (such as revulsion against genocide) may be high. Where the U.S. does become involved, its goals will usually be limited, e.g., to stopping genocide. In light of the experiences with the U.N., especially in Somalia and Bosnia, a decision to intervene will depend crucially upon clear military objectives, acceptable arrangements for command and control, the willingness of like-minded nations to contribute, and judgments about the necessary duration and costs of the operation.
Classical Military Instruments. While U.S. forces are far more capable than any conceivable adversary, parts of the U.S. military (specifically, U.S. lift capacity) would be strained in the event of two nearly simultaneous major regional contingencies. Also, with the overseas presence of U.S. ground and air forces reduced by about 50 percent between 1986 and 1995, there is less margin for error in deciding where to deploy the remaining forces. And given that major equipment typically lasts decades and that relatively little is being procured, the U.S. equipment will for the foreseeable future be items designed for use against the Soviet Union, which will have to be adapted for use in new types of warfare for which they may or may not be most appropriate. But perhaps more important than new equipment is new doctrine, that is, knowing how best to fight. Substantial progress has been made in refining doctrine since the end of the Cold War. The service departments have published their analyses of how best to reorient their activities for the new strategic environment, in their respective reports: the Army's Force XXI, the Navy's Forward...From the Sea, and the Air Force's Global Presence. The military as a whole is placing more emphasis on multi-service (joint) operations.
A challenge for the U.S. armed forces--one that requires particular consideration--is that they may be confronted with innovative warfare techniques and employment strategies specifically tailored to exploit U.S. weaknesses and geographic constraints. A nation, for example, could choose to avoid challenging the U.S. in classical conventional battle by using or threatening to use weapons of mass destruction, sabotaging key automated information networks, or resorting to terrorism and guerrilla warfare tactics.
Emerging Military Instruments. Information technology provides the best opportunity for the U.S. armed forces to develop new instruments of military power over the medium term. But to take full advantage of the incorporation of advanced capabilities in new equipment (a military technological revolution), new operational procedures and organizations are needed (a revolution in military affairs). The U.S. is on the verge of integrating the various systems--forming what has been called a "system of systems". This super-system would be capable of seeing all relevant enemy assets on the battlefield ("dominant battlefied knowledge," in the jargon of the trade), communicating this information almost instantly to combat units, and striking at these targets with unprecedented accuracy. With insightful leadership and hard work, these instruments will allow the U.S. to exercise a high degree of control over the emerging global security structure through a unique ability to intervene anywhere in the world quickly, effectively, and at relatively low cost, as well as to strike simultaneously at targets far distant from one another. In some cases, that intervention will be done directly by U.S. forces, whereas in other cases, the U.S. may be able to achieve the same results by providing its allies with real-time intelligence, systems expertise, and other software.
One caution is that the ability to use effectively the emerging military instruments will require serious attention to the protection of military information systems and critical civilian systems, to avoid retaliation in cyberspace. There is considerable interest in how the U.S. might conduct information war, for instance, against an opponents' communication system. But it is not apparent how vulnerable to such war are prospective U.S. opponents; a country like North Korea seems unlikely to be heavily dependent on modern computer technology.
Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction. The end of the Cold War was accompanied not only by a diminished perception of the Russian threat but also by an increased perception of the threat posed by regional powers. Regional rogues in possession of NBC weapons is a danger that has to be considered despite the vigorous U.S. program to prevent proliferation. Therefore, more attention is being devoted to how to counter weapons of mass destruction. The first choice is deterrence, but achieving deterrence in a regional context is more difficult than the Cold War task. A rogue with a few NBC weapons may decide to use them as weapons of choice, whereas during the Cold War, the Soviets may well have considered NBC weapons to be a last resort. Furthermore, with the biological warfare and chemcial warfare conventions and the de-emphasis of tactical nuclear weapons, it may be difficult to threaten response in kind against a rogue with a few NBC weapons. Because of the problems for deterring regional rogues, more emphasis is being given to defensive measures. Some of these defenses are passive, including intelligence to identify the NBC capability of potential adversaries. The need for active defenses, like the Theater High-Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), to protect U.S. forces becomes clearer as ballistic and cruise missiles become more available to emerging powers.
The end of the Cold War produced within the United States an understandable tendency to place greater emphasis on domestic concerns, resulting in calls for cuts in the budgets for most of the instruments of U.S. power, as well as for reorganization or fundamental reform of many foreign policy institutions. Five general conclusions can be drawn about applying U.S. power in the new environment:
New Ways of Applying U.S. Power. Enhancing the capability of the U.S. government to exercise influence abroad does not need to mean buying more of the same old product. The present foreign-policy and national-security establishment was created largely during the Cold War and reflects the priorities of that era. Different ways of doing business are being developed to draw upon the untapped strengths of the present organizations even while shifting resources away from areas that are no longer so relevant or practical. An important example is the reorientation of NATO away from defending against an imminent Soviet attack towards being a vehicle for enhancing stability and security beyond NATO's present borders. In pursuit of this new purpose, the Partnership for Peace (PFP) program provides a means to draw upon NATO's unparalleled expertise at security and military cooperation. PFP also can improve the prospects for NATO expansion by building confidence among NATO's existing members in the capabilities of the new members and confidence in Russia about NATO's intentions.
Tomohawk Cruise Missile Launch
In the changed strategic environment, vastly expanded use will be made of some instruments applied more sparingly in the past. One example is the use of international consortia to mobilize the resources and the political will needed to respond to regional threats. While the U.S. was the only country able and willing to take the lead in resolving the dispute about North Korea's nuclear intentions, the issue was of vital concern to Japan and South Korea, so it was only natural that the U.S. should ask them to play the major role in the Korean Peninsula Energy Development Organization (KEDO) set up to provide North Korea with a less threatening means of meeting its energy needs.
The new ways of applying U.S. power are particularly important for issues such as transnational threats, which are becoming more important relative to the long-standing concerns about aggressive and destabilizing states. One development has been greater use in international relations of certain U.S. agencies which in the past had a lower profile, e.g., the FBI helping prevent nuclear smuggling, the DEA active in drug source and drug trafficking countries, the INS involved in sensitive decisions about refugee status. Issues like global warming and ozone depletion would similarly bring the EPA into negotiations over international treaties.
As part of the diversification from the traditional Cold War pattern of conducting national security affairs, the Department of Defense and the military services are being assigned a much wider array of tasks and are developing new ways of doing business. Some of these tasks, like foreign military interaction and humanitarian operations, were secondary functions during the Cold War that have now become more important and for which new techniques are being developed. Other tasks are new, like promoting respect abroad for democratic civilian control over the military. As for new ways of doing business, many come primarily from the ongoing information revolution. The technological base for the change is driven primarily by commercial capital rather than by governments. Militaries will not control the direction and pace of the advancing computer and telecommunication industries. The payoff for the military will come in adapting for its purposes what is developed in the commercial world.
Phasing Down Use of Some Instruments. At the same time that the U.S. is diversifying by more often bringing into play a wide range of instruments (some new, some used only sparingly in the past), the U.S. is reducing its reliance on some instruments that were central during the Cold War period. In particular, the U.S. is placing less importance on its weapons of mass destruction. The U.S. is giving up its ability to retaliate in kind against those who use chemical or biological weapons; it has dramatically reduced reliance on tactical nuclear weapons; and it is dismantling much of its Cold War inventory of strategic nuclear weapons. In addition, the U.S. has effectively ended military aid except to Israel and Egypt, other than minuscule amounts for military education and training.
In the past, the U.S. government carried out directly many functions that it no longer has the resources to do, or at least to do on a scale that can make as substantial an impact on a broad front. Examples include radio broadcasting and financing economic development. While Washington continues to fund radio broadcasting (especially Voice of America) and some foreign aid expenditures, the U.S. government plays a much smaller role in these areas than it did in past decades.
Working With the Private Sector. As the private sector grows in previously state-dominated societies and as U.S. firms operate more on a world scale, the U.S. government has increasing opportunities to make its influence felt through the private sector. The challenge for the U.S. government is reinventing institutions designed for the old way of doing business, so that the government can take advantage of new opportunities rather than staying stuck in the old rut. So, for instance, Washington's role will be making sure that the CNN reporters who provide the first news about a crisis have ready access to in-depth background briefings. Similarly, the Defense Department will be increasingly incorporating into military uses the information technologies developed by business.
The power of the private sector is an important element in accomplishing U.S. goals abroad. But the private sector cannot be expected to carry the burden of defending U.S. interests. The pervasiveness of American popular culture (such as music, movies, and brand names) and the strength of American high-technology industries (such as computer software and aerospace) add to U.S. power, but they cannot be the basis for U.S. global leadership on many vital security issues. Sports figures and rock musicians cannot stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons. No matter how much the economy and popular culture become globalized, there remains an important role for the traditional government activities in foreign affairs and national security.
Applying Instruments for Limited Ends. During the Cold War, the ever-present competition with the Soviet Union meant that on each issue of international affairs, the most vital interests of the U.S. might come into play, as that issue became part of the global chess game. In a multipolar world of uncertainty and ambiguity, the U.S. government will often engage to promote limited U.S. interests. Given the limited character of what is at stake, it may not be credible for the U.S. to threaten to use, if need be, the full panoply of instruments it commands. For instance, nuclear deterrence against the Soviet Union was relatively straightforward compared with the problem of deterring a rogue actor like Mohammed Farah Adeed from disrupting a peacekeeping operation like that in Somalia.
There will be more situations in which Washington makes a small commitment but is not prepared to commit more. An obvious example is economic aid; compare the billions that followed the Camp David treaty between Israel and Egypt with the modest sums committed after Israel's accords with Jordan and the PLO.
Peace and humanitarian operations represent particularly difficult challenges for the military. As in Somalia, the commitment may start out as strictly limited but, through mission creep, evolve into a broad mandate that requires more forces and resources than the U.S. or the international community had expected. If the alternative to mission creep is withdrawal--which may be tempting if the initial effort results in an appreciable number of casualties--the perception of weakness can have a high cost for U.S. influence in other situations. The image of failure in Somalia has not been fully offset by success in Haiti. Even sticking with the original limited mission may cause problems, since the U.S. public may be dissatisfied if the U.S., once engaged, withdraws without addressing the underlying structural problems that caused the crisis. Despite such problems with large expanded peacekeeping missions, the U.S. is certain to continue to play an active role in humanitarian and peace operations: the relatively small resources required will often justify the potentially high benefits.
Coordinating Among Instruments. While coordinating the agencies of the U.S. government has always been a problem, the challenge is growing for several reasons. During the Cold War, coordination among U.S. agencies and policy instruments was simplified by the overwhelming priority given to containing Soviet communism. In the post-Cold War era, there is less clarity about which goals are central and which are peripheral. For instance, considerable effort has been needed to develop and implement a government-wide approach towards strengthening security cooperation with Japan at the same time the U.S. was vigorously pushing Japan to be forthcoming on trade issues. And because a wider array of policy instruments is being used, there are more agencies among which policy has to be coordinated.
As foreign policy goals become more complex and a greater variety of instruments are brought to bear on any one problem, interagency coordination and clear policy direction become all the more important. Close coordination among agencies and consultation between the administration and Congress are potent force multipliers. To this end, attention is being given to drawing lessons from earlier complex crisis management efforts.
In complex contingency operations which combine military and relief missions, coordination among agencies is complicated by the different time horizons on which each works. For instance, the military is often well positioned to respond quickly in a crisis, while USAID specializes in building indigenous capacities over the longer term in the partner country. The two time horizons do not necessarily meet easily, which can place unexpected additional strains upon military resources or jeopardize the success of the mission. For example, the military was able to quickly restore electricity for Haiti's capital city of Port-au-Prince but was not in a position to keep providing the electricity until USAID could help the local utility become strong enough to run all the aspects of a modern electrical supply system, from power generation to customer billing.
In sum, despite growing resource constraints, the U.S. government still has an impressive array of instruments to use to influence other governments. It is actively adapting those instruments to changing circumstances. While there are certainly shortcomings in the ways in which post-Cold War Washington applies the instruments at its disposal, Washington has had good success at achieving its goals, and the efficiency with which resources are used is improving steadily.
Table of Contents
Strategic Assessment 1995