The traditional way of judging the need for U.S. forces was to determine what it would take to prevail in a specific contingency--such as a NATOSoviet global war--until about 1990, and since then in a conflict resembling the Gulf War. But the world is now too fluid, change too rapid, and the future too hazy for such a narrow method. The United States has already experienced, in a few short years, a wide variety of contingencies, violent and not, in which the U.S. military was used. Threats are constantly rising, ebbing, and shifting. In a world of flux, U.S. forces can help shape desirable change but might instead have to respond to undesirable change. For these reasons, this volume, like the report of the Quadrennial Defense Review, breaks from the old way.
But how, in a disorderly world, can the United States take a more comprehensive view of the need for its forces without importing that disorder into the setting of U.S. defense priorities and programs? To help solve this problem without ignoring change and uncertainty, this volume suggests a way of thinking about the post-bipolar world:
This way of "classifying" world politics and security lends itself to contemplating both futures. The overarching international goal of the United States is to extend the core and strengthen its norms, looking toward a commonwealth of freedom and security encompassing most of the planet and all the leading powers. To make progress toward this future, the United States must: (1) induce its core partners to take on more responsibility; (2) encourage those in transition to stick with reforms and integration; (3) weaken and, when threatened, defeat rogues (state and nonstate); and, (4) ease the humanitarian and transnational effects and causes of state failure. While U.S. military forces alone cannot produce such an international environment, they can play a key role as part of a wider U.S. political, economic, and security strategy.
But those forces must also be prepared for a deterioration in the world security environment, in which the vision of a commonwealth of freedom and security is eclipsed by a world of more dangerous rogues, large transition states turned hostile or chaotic, more frequent and messy state failures, proliferating transnational threats, and friends who flee from responsibilities.
This complex of requirements, imposed by the world as it is and as it could be (for better or for worse), constitutes a tall order, not only for U.S. forces but for those who plan, manage, and lead those forces. With this as the challenge, this volume has analyzed U.S. forces from three perspectives:
These perspectives correspond to the three elements of the QDR: shape, respond, prepare.
Broadly stated, Strategic Assessment 1998 concludes, first, that how U.S. forces engage internationally--not just how many are kept where--is key to shaping a world in flux. Second, if, despite its shaping strategy, the United States must use force, its current military capabilities are particularly well suited to defeat familiar enemies in a familiar way. This should come as no surprise, since the forces have specifically been designed to meet the threats we know. At the same time, they are adequate but less well suited for conducting peace operations and other small-scale contingencies (SSCs) and for overcoming the asymmetric strategies of outgunned adversaries. Third, preparations for the future should be motivated principally by the need for the United States to project military power globally despite the growing dangers to its forces from the spread of dangerous technologies, especially WMD. Finally, the United States needs to renovate its coalitions with core partners, lest it find itself with increasingly unilateral strategies, capabilities, responsibilities, and burdens.
The QDR has offered a framework for assessing U.S. force needs in this fluid world. Likewise, the recent versions of the "National Security Strategy" and the "National Military Strategy" take this broader, dynamic view, as does the report of the National Defense Panel. This is a fertile and formative moment in U.S. defense strategy. The challenges of the new era are being framed--challenges that Strategic Assessment 1998 seeks to sharpen and address.
Compared to the Cold War, the peacetime role of U.S. forces in the new era is as important but quite different. Instead of confronting, containing, and deterring a global power along a fixed line, U.S. forces must deter a changing assortment of threats in a changing variety of places, relying less on stationary presence at every possible conflict site and more on a credible ability to project dominant power wherever U.S. interests might face danger. At present, the United States has both the need and the potential, unless its will is doubted, to deter aggression without basing forces in the direct path of every possible aggressor. As chapter two explains, the United States must tailor its peacetime deployments both to support and to draw upon its global power projection strategy.
The concentration of U.S. forces in Western Europe and Japan can no longer be justified by some fear that these partners might otherwise be invaded. Rather, they are now critical locations, within the core, from which U.S. power can be projected. There is thus a need for change in the way the United States relates to these other core powers. They are now successful, wealthy, and secure partners who ought to share responsibility with the United States for the health, safety, enlargement, and norms of the core. This will require a shift in the military strategies and capabilities of these allies, stressing the protection of distant interests more and the defense of their (unthreatened) home borders less. The continued stationing of U.S. forces in Japan and Western Europe will make it more likely that when those forces are deployed to nearby or distant contingencies, U.S. partners will provide at least more support and perhaps forces of their own. This will be difficult to achieve in the case of Japan and Germany, but if the old protector-protectee security relationships are not transformed into more balanced partnerships--in deed, not just in name--they could soon outlive their usefulness. Recent steps in NATO and the Japanese-American security agreement point the way, but the transformation has only begun.
To that end, the United States, acting in part through the forces it operates abroad, must draw these partners into its peacetime preparations, plans, and contingency responses. To accomplish this, it must retain its partners' confidence, lest they go off on their own; yet, it should also keep asking them to shoulder more of the burden of global security. The United States must impress its partners with its military capabilities and resolve, which they obviously find reassuring, but it must do so in a way that does not make them feel either that the United States has hegemonic motives or that it will meet every challenge whether they help or not. If its closest friends conclude that the United States wants vassals, not partners, they might embark on divergent strategies or, alternatively, become content to be free-riders. If the U.S. body politic perceives allies evading responsibilities, burdens, and risks, it will favor unilateralist if not isolationist U.S. policies.
For the large transition states, especially China and Russia, the United States must leave no doubt of its ability to maintain stronger military forces and to prevail if they turn hostile and aggressive. But it is equally important to communicate that the United States has no intention, and no cause, to use its power against them unless they threaten its interests or peace. How U.S. power is demonstrated to these transition states, especially near their territory, is a crucial and touchy matter. The United States has told Russia, in effect, that it has no plans permanently to station combat forces on the soil of NATO's new members (as long as they are unthreatened, of course). In China's case, the United States has said that the purpose of U.S. forces in East Asia is not to "contain" China but to preserve regional stability. In both cases, the course chosen by a transition state should determine how U.S. forces engage. Accordingly, when Beijing attempted to intimidate Taiwan in 1996, U.S. power--in the form of two aircraft carriers--was interposed. But as China shows that it does not intend to pursue its regional goals by force or coercion, U.S. forces should increasingly cooperate with their Chinese counterparts, as they would with any core partner-to-be. Thus, whichever broad path China takes, robust U.S. forces need to be engaged in East Asia.
These cases illustrate how the United States must exercise its military superiority in a measured, sensitive way toward core partners and large transition states alike. Indeed, the same should be said for U.S. relations with all states, except for the rogues, who, by their own admission, would unhesitatingly threaten U.S. interests, values, and friends, were it not for U.S. power.
How can the United States use its power to shape the international environment in its favor without appearing hegemonic? How can the United States reassure its partners of its military prowess, will, leadership, and steadfastness, while also inducing them to take greater responsibility? How can the United States convince other powers, from its allies to China, that is does not regard their advancement as a challenge to itself?
These questions can be answered, in part, by how U.S. forces operate internationally during peacetime. The static concept of forward presence, Cold War-style, is inadequate for the challenge of shaping a dynamic world. The key is engagement: actively seeking to make contact, train, exercise, and operate with the forces of current and prospective (i.e., transition) core states. In time, the intensity and extent of such engagement should surpass stationary presence--and static measures of that presence--as the truest expression of U.S. involvement and as the most fruitful way to shape the international security environment.
Active peacetime engagement is hardly new. It aptly describes many aspects of U.S. overseas deployments during the Cold War, especially in NATO. It was later given strong impetus in the effort to encourage reform in the new democracies when Soviet communism collapsed. And it has been an increasingly important motive and mode of U.S. defense activities in the past few years. New or not, it is worth specifying why active engagement is the preferred shaping concept for the current era:
Active engagement is crucial to promoting defense reform and civilian control, which are in turn crucial to democratization among transition states from Eastern Europe to Russia to Latin America to Asia--half the world.
In concept, engagement means "to entangle, to attract and hold, to interlock, to mesh, to bind, to induce [another] to participate." In practice, it means a spectrum of activities in which U.S. forces and other defense organs cooperate with their counterparts. Different methods of peacetime military engagement should be emphasized across the spectrum of transition states and core partners. In all cases, the United States wants others to understand the qualities of its Armed Forces without flaunting their superiority. In addition, it wants to aid reform and build trust among transition states and to foster complementarity and greater burden-sharing among core partners. As transition states develop into core partners, for example, the way Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic are now, the content of engagement with them shifts to more organic and more sensitive cooperation.
Engagement relies more on what U.S. forces do than on their exact size. A squadron of naval combatants homeported abroad might once have been so important as a symbol of the U.S. defense commitment that its operations were of secondary significance. Now, however, if that same squadron is to produce the desired effects on the international security environment, what it does is critically important. Put differently, a platoon that continually works with a partner's forces may be worth a company that does not.
This is not to say that it matters little what forces, with what capabilities, are deployed where. Engagement is impossible without substantial U.S. deployments overseas, especially in East Asia and Europe, where the dual challenges of enhancing core partnerships and encouraging transition are greatest. In tailoring that presence, though, more attention should be given--and is already being given--to the uses of U.S. forces. U.S. interests argue for more combined exercises, involving not only allies but also transition states. Such exercises should bear on shared concerns: deterring rogues, defusing crises, conducting peace operations, delivering humanitarian relief in failing states, and combatting nonstate threats.
An increasing emphasis on active engagement also fits with plans to prepare for the longer term future. Chapter fifteen points out that as U.S. military doctrine, organization, and capabilities adapt in the information age, like so many other institutions, they should be more networked than they are now. Moreover, uncertainty about the location of future threats argues for a more dispersed approach, connected by information technology, and then concentrated when necessary in crises.
The globalization of trade, investment, and technology is producing a more robust, more integrated infrastructure, from air- and seaports to utilities, communications, transportation, and computing. So the distribution of U.S. military power in the world not only will be important but could be easier to support.
This vision, based on military necessity and technological possibility, dovetails with the concept of active engagement to shape the security environment. It suggests that the international deployment of forces will be a key feature of the U.S. posture of the next century, albeit with new purposes and patterns, and with rigidity replaced by interactivity. Engagement underscores the crucial role of core partners and transition states--not simply threats--in U.S. strategies to shape international conditions with its military capabilities.
Chapter two offers a view of basic U.S. security goals in each region. With the benefit of the analysis of those regions in chapters three to eight, it is possible to summarize how U.S. forces and related programs could help achieve those goals.
From a global vantage point, these strategies suggest an increase in the intensity and extent of interaction of U.S. forces with those of the core and transition states. U.S. forces should, over the long term, remain concentrated in Europe and East Asia, where the most important core and transition states are. Those forces should engage frequently in combined and integrated exercises, with particular emphasis on power projection, C4ISR, and joint doctrine. This, in turn, will remind rogues, from North Korea to Iraq to Iran, that the United States has able partners prepared to help defeat them if need be. When such rogues can threaten vital U.S. interests, as Iran and Iraq have the potential to do, the demonstrable ability of the United States to surge overwhelming power must be augmented by quick-response deterrent forces in the region. Finally, with transition states accounting for more than half of the world's population, U.S. forces and other defense programs and contacts should be energetically used in every region to encourage reform.
In sum, the forces that the United States deploys abroad should become more interactive, operate with greater flexibility, and emphasize key U.S. strengths. As they do, U.S. military and environment shaping strategies will be brought into harmony, the United States will be well-prepared for this era of uncertainty and change, and the American people will understand and support the rationale for U.S. deployment abroad.
The United States can be confident of its ability to defeat any rogue state that threatens U.S. and core interests with traditional military power--in fact, any two rogues nearly at once. The ideal scenario is brief and to the point: U.S. forces nearby establish at once that the aggressor is at war with the United States. A robust joint force is dispatched to the theater. With its predominance in speed, information, and lethality, the force maneuvers freely, destroys enemy forces and infrastructure, and renders the rogue defenseless. The more rational the enemy leadership, the quicker the surrender.
The ideal scenario is one-sided in capabilities, execution, losses, and outcome. American defense planning and management pay off in the smooth way key U.S. advantages--power projection, C4ISR, joint doctrine, lethality, and robustness--are integrated. To be sure, risks exist that not all will go as well as planned--logistics being one potential weak link in the chain. Moreover, a clever adversary exploiting a difficult (e.g., urban, wooded, or mountainous) battlefield could increase the uncertainty and losses facing the United States in a major theater war (MTW)--ample reason not to grow too attached to any specific planning scenario. But the chance that the United States would ultimately fail in such a conflict, unless of course its will fails, is extremely low.
M-1A1 tanks during Desert Storm
Since "fighting and winning the Nation's wars," in the words of former Joint Chiefs Chairman, General John Shalikashvili, is the benchmark of U.S. military effectiveness, today's situation is cause for some satisfaction. In a nutshell, the main interests of the United States are secure because none of its few outright enemies would likely dare such certain and complete defeat, and U.S. losses would be tolerable--if any casualty can be deemed "tolerable"--in the event that one did.
Of course, "snapshot" security is not good enough for the United States in the unsettled world described in this volume--a world of deepening U.S. dependence on a spreading world economy, of wily and fanatical rogues that will not readily abandon their causes, of giant transition states that could fail or become rogue-like if their reforms are abandoned, of failing countries whose human agonies cannot be ignored, and of amorphous nonstate groups with the means and motivation to threaten U.S. security. The years since the Gulf War show that crises smaller and thornier than the last major theater war (MTW) are the norm. And the determination with which rogue states are acquiring the means to make and deliver weapons of mass destruction confirms that they will not stand pat in the face of U.S. power but instead seek a way to deter the United States despite its advantages. A broad and flexible view of missions and threats is therefore imperative. And thanks to the high confidence the United States has today in its ability to prevail in a war against today's rogues, it can afford to prepare for other missions, other threats, and other futures.
Landing craft air cushion (LCAC)
By stating that U.S. forces must be able to respond to small-scale contingencies (SSCs) and to asymmetric threats, the QDR has recognized that winning MTWs under current conditions is but one test of the sufficiency of U.S. capabilities. The QDR "raises the bar" by requiring that U.S. forces be able to respond to the multiple demands of the world as it is, instead of a simpler world. Having done so, confidence of success drops off, as expected, when plans depart from the principal mission and type of threat U.S. forces have been optimized to confront. This is evident in the contrast between the general bullishness of chapter nine and the concerns expressed in chapters ten and eleven. It also is the basis for the QDR's conclusion, reinforced by the National Defense Panel, that U.S. forces should be prepared for contingencies and adversaries other than wars with the rogues of today.
At least three lessons have been learned from Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, and other such experiences over the past five years. First, the conditions that cause states to fail--tribal, ethnic, and religious violence, government malfeasance, and economic desperation--are not disappearing and could spread. Second, despite congressional misgivings, American presidents of both major parties have taken the view--and in the end have prevailed--that the United States often cannot remain aloof from most large humanitarian crises. Although military forces are not the most suitable instrument for some aspects of the response to such crises, the danger or reality of armed conflict often makes a military component indispensable. Third, all the capabilities needed to respond effectively to multiple SSCs (e.g., peace operations, humanitarian relief, and large evacuations) are not inherent in a force designated to win major theater wars. If SSCs were merely small versions of big theater wars, there would be no need to stipulate that they be considered a different requirement.
The failing state phenomenon will not vanish, despite the impressive recent progress of the "global" economy. States with no ability to attract foreign investment, to add value, and to export to global markets can fall prey to rapacious corruption, crumbling infrastructure, tribal violence, and disintegration. Despite some recent promising signs in Africa, the pattern seen in Somalia, Liberia, Rwanda, Zaire, and Sierra Leone may not have peaked. Nor is this phenomenon confined to Africa, as Cambodia, Afghanistan, Haiti, Bosnia, and Albania indicate.
Additionally, rogues can end in collapse, as both North Korea and Cuba may. Even larger states in transition that fail to stay the course can see their progress turn to turmoil and fragmentation--Russia being of greatest concern because of its nuclear weapons.
Easing human suffering from state failure is not the only purpose to which U.S. forces could be put other than waging a major war. Other sorts of ethnic conflicts, territorial disputes, violent breaches of international law, insurgencies, and natural disasters could give rise to needs for peacekeeping, relief deliveries, sanctions enforcement, and even forcible intervention that the United States will opt to meet. Experience suggests that more than one such operation could be in train at any time. Non-state rogues and transnational threats (often due to failing states) cannot be countered by traditional combat operations. Moreover, the absence of both "life-threatening" adversary and clear delineation of vital interests that marked the Cold War has left the United States with a need for options short of the all-out destruction of enemy forces and infrastructure. Dangers to less-than-vital economic or security interests, or perhaps to core norms, could justify some involvement of U.S. forces to prevent or contain a crisis, especially if it could harm the long-term U.S. purpose in the world suggested above. This has been the case in Bosnia and Haiti (both of which of course could also be viewed as failing states).
Thus, the bright prospects for the core and most transition states do not readily translate into an end to calamities and crises short of war outside the core, in which the United States will opt to intervene, out of some mix of interest, responsibility, and moral impulse. Whenever the United States must decide whether or not to commit forces in such circumstances, the argument is made by domestic skeptics that U.S. lives and treasure should be sacrificed only to defend "vital" interests. But the decision reflected in the QDR is clear: the United States should have an ability to perform these missions. It may or may not get involved in specific crises, but it needs the option.
This will be a formidable challenge. The demands such operations place on U.S. forces differ markedly from those needed to defeat a rogue, as the contrast between the requirements set forth in chapters nine and ten--or between the Gulf War and the Bosnian operation--shows. At a basic level, of course, the ground, air and sea forces needed for large theater wars provide ample "raw materials" for these other needs. Moreover, C4ISR, joint doctrine, and sound defense management are crucial in both cases. But SSCs do not call for the projection of massive strike power to destroy enemy forces, infrastructure, and resolve. Generally, they entail small units, repetitive patrols, face-to-face contact, humanitarian deliveries, even-handedness, restrained rules of engagement, and performance of certain civil functions. (If Clausewitz considered war an extension of politics, he might have viewed SSCs as a reverse extension of war into politics.) Moreover, such operations are much smaller--as the name suggests--but more frequent than the huge but rare wars that U.S. forces have been designed to fight.
Broadly speaking, this is a fundamentally different class of military operation than major theater warfare. When a corporation finds itself in two different businesses, it is not necessary to spin one off, but it is crucial to manage the firm's operations and assets in light of this duality. So it is that the Department of Defense must manage forces in light of how different, operationally, the "typical SSC" is from the "typical MTW."
Small-scale operations are also more likely than large-scale combat to entail integrated multinational operations. Major wars tend to be fought when U.S. vital interests are directly threatened. Consequently, while it would prefer to be supported by a coalition, the United States must have the capability to wage such wars whether or not its partners join it. Small-scale operations, in contrast, tend to concern lesser stakes or less direct threats--in general, they are more discretionary than major wars. Those of the last five years, for example, have not involved the essential vitality or security of the United States, but rather disputes or human suffering beyond the core (though of some importance to the core). Because the argument for committing U.S. forces in such cases is often predicated on a sense of international responsibility, it is hard (though not impossible) to justify independent U.S. action. After all, others, starting with wealthy core partners, also have responsibilities--or should. Thus, while U.S. forces must be able to conduct major wars independently, they must be geared to carry out smaller operations multilaterally, while of course keeping open options to conduct the former multilaterally and the latter independently.
M-113 ambulance, Bosnia
Because of their purpose and character, small-scale operations often involve U.S. and international civil organizations. This has been the case in Somalia, Bosnia, and Haiti. At a minimum, this poses jurisdictional and coordination problems. At worst, it can lead to cross-purposes (e.g., between the use of U.S. air power and allied ground forces in Bosnia, before the Dayton Accords) or U.S. forces being called on to perform tasks best done by others.
Of all the challenges detailed in chapter ten, the most important and difficult are tailoring U.S. forces to succeed in frequent, even multiple SSCs without detracting from their ability to prevail in major wars; and preparing for multinational and civil-military operations, i.e., situations in which U.S. forces are not functioning alone and independently.
The first challenge originates from a paradox and points to a dilemma. U.S. military power is more likely to prevent large security problems than small ones. Outright aggression against vital national interests can normally be deterred by U.S. forces, but other international crises can occur regardless of those capabilities. So it can be assumed that SSCs will continue to be relatively frequent, irrespective of U.S. military strength. Major wars will be rare, thanks to U.S. military strength. If certain U.S. forces are earmarked and honed for the demands of SSCs, they will be used in live operations far more than those maintained only for major wars. This has been the case in recent years, less from design than necessity. The units of that overworked fraction will be under much greater stress while also, potentially, seeing their ability to fight major wars eroded, for example, because of gaps in combat training, equipment fatigue, and excessive demands on personnel.
Alternatively, all U.S. forces could be kept "multimission capable," in which case readiness for major wars would have to be maintained by forces engaged in SSCs. This way, the burden of responding to SSCs could be spread out across the entire force, and all units would have to be prepared for the different and frequent demands of such contingencies. The strain on particular forces could be eased, but U.S. forces as a whole would not be optimized either to fight wars or to conduct small-scale operations.
Whatever approach is taken, for budgetary reasons the United States will not elect to maintain a larger force structure than that needed to win two nearly simultaneous major wars. Consequently, it might have to face the additional problem of having to back out of a large peacekeeping commitment if a war looked imminent somewhere else. Would U.S. forces have left Bosnia if Saddam Hussein threatened Kuwait in 1997 (as he did in 1990 and 1994)? If so, what would have become of the NATO coalition, and thus the fragile peace, in Bosnia? If not, would the United States have had enough of the right forces in reserve to deter a second major war, lest North Korea, for example, have perceived an opportunity to attack the South? This illustration underscores the need to have forces of core partners available for both large wars and smaller contingencies.
Indeed, the second big challenge posed by SSCs is to be prepared for combined, or integrated, multilateral operations. This is a politically vexing problem. The United States has an interest in improving the capacity of the United Nations and other international institutions to perform peacekeeping, humanitarian relief, and the like; otherwise, it will be under intense pressure to take on the task itself whenever a large-scale human disaster occurs. Precisely because of the competence of U.S. forces, the worse the crisis, the greater the pressure for the United States to accept the bulk of the responsibility, overall command, and possible pressure to escalate if the crisis is not contained. Yet important voices in the United States doubt that the United Nations has, or should have, the practical or constitutional ability to handle such responsibilities.
Relatedly, Americans are not keen to see their troops operate under foreign commanders. But since the United States cannot insist on being in command if it does not provide a large contingent of forces, this stance means it must have the leading role or no role at all--not a good choice to have to make. It is easier to solve this foreign-command conundrum in Europe than elsewhere, because NATO is a capable multilateral military coalition that has the confidence of the United States; it has proven its competence in peacekeeping under trying conditions in Bosnia. Yet future needs in Europe appear to be limited to the Balkans, which, while serious, are unlikely to grow or spread. Meanwhile, the security challenge outside Europe is greater and growing. Therefore, the use of NATO forces beyond Europe will be one of the most important questions in national security policy in the years to come.
Chapter ten offers several ideas for improving operations that combine U.S. forces with civil entities. The answer is not to avoid such circumstances; most of the future's messy situations, especially those caused by state failure, will demand both civil and military responses. But an essential principle should be that U.S. forces not be thrown into every predicament merely because they are capable and civilian agencies are lacking. This is no way to use U.S. forces and no way to avoid the actions and costs needed to improve civil capabilities. Congress, DoD, and various civilian agencies--perhaps nongovernmental entities, as well--need to fashion a rational division of labor and management systems.
Because they involve peculiar operational demands, multinational and civil-military action, and often less-than-vital U.S. interests, SSCs (despite the innocuous term for them) present a substantial challenge for U.S. forces that are designed mainly to win big wars. The QDR identifies the issues that will need to be settled, e.g., withdrawing from SSCs in an MTW appears likely, but makes no claim to settle them. Unless the Bosnias and Haitis of the world are behind us, which seems unlikely, these issues will occupy U.S. defense leaders, resources, forces, and debates for years to come.
Just as the QDR recognizes that "winning the nation's wars" does not encompass all that U.S. forces must be prepared to do, it acknowledges that winning future wars could prove much tougher than defeating today's rogues.
It is important to remember several things about rogues: First, as a rule, they are not mere opportunists, ready to drop their reckless ambitions or destructive causes simply because they are frustrated by current U.S. project-and-strike capabilities. Second, it is virtually impossible to block altogether their access to the technologies--dangerous and otherwise--that are spreading across the world, partly through illicit trade but to a large degree via the integration of the global economy. Third, even though prospects are not bright for several of today's broken-down rogues--North Korea, Serbia, and Cuba--this class of actor does not face early extinction. Their future ranks might include new and larger ones, even one or more current transition states. They might include sinister and sophisticated nonstate actors, or networks, such as a South American cocaine syndicate, a Russian Mafia dealing in nuclear material, and Middle East terrorists dealing in truck bombs or deadly toxins. We should assume that rogues will have every incentive and considerable means to outflank, undermine, defy, disrupt, and even defeat available U.S. forces, potentially leaving the United States with military capabilities that are nominally superior but not fully able to defend U.S. interests and preserve international security.
Indeed, every key U.S. military advantage discussed in chapter nine could be weakened or neutralized, to a troubling degree, by any or all of the three salient asymmetric threats analyzed in chapter eleven--weapons of mass destruction (WMD), selective use of new military technologies ("cheap high-technology"), and information warfare (IW). Although the focus here is on the capabilities of possible asymmetric response, it is also important to plan for more threatening tactics, such as concealment, short-warning offensive, attacks on sea lanes, and coordinated attacks on U.S. interests outside the conflict theater. Indeed, it is the combination of more dangerous means and doctrines that makes planning for asymmetric threats imperative.
The striking message here is that the ability, and therefore perhaps also the will, of the United States to project power and destroy rogue targets without suffering unacceptable casualties could be undermined by a combina-tion of asymmetric threats. So the consequences of not planning forces to counter these threats could be grave, especially because not planning for them will make them all the more likely to happen.
To illustrate, imagine that the United States, along with its partners in the core and in the region, is again confronted with aggression in the Persian Gulf. This time, the enemy uses information warfare to destabilize the Gulf monarchies, disrupt U.S. military communications as it attempts to send forces, and interfere with computer and telephone systems in Europe and the United States. U.S. carrier battle groups find that thousands of cheap but effective mines have been placed in the Strait of Hormuz. And the adversary warns that its several hundred recently acquired, accurate (enough) missiles are armed with chemical warfare agents and can hit U.S. forces as well as allied bases and population centers in the region. In these circumstances, U.S. skill, muscle, and will could still yield eventual victory, but at considerable cost and perhaps without the political and material support of an international coalition. Unless it prepares to counter these threats, the United States might face and pay a severe price--in lives lost or interests damaged--if and when they arise.
Because a rogue might be acting out of fanaticism, irrationality (perhaps due to sketchy or skewed intelligence), or desperation, it could prove hard to deter from executing such threats. Moreover, since rogue regimes care little for their own citizens or even their soldiers (as Saddam Hussein showed), U.S. retaliatory threats might not work. In contrast, unless the stakes for the United States are so compellingly vital as to leave no choice, it could be deterred by the prospect of high casualties and uncertain success, despite its overall military muscularity. Strategically, then, the danger is that asymmetric responses, unless preempted or countered, could reduce the ability and resolve of the United States to project power to protect its own and core interests around the world. In essence, U.S. forces might not be able to fulfill their central purpose.
The QDR states that the United States should anticipate such asymmetric threats, rather than await them. It prescribes intensified efforts to counter nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons, to combat terrorism against U.S. forces, and to frustrate hostile information operations. The United States has thus signaled to rogues that it is already anticipating their next moves. If this signal dissuades them, so much the better. But because cannot be counted on, the full investment must be made.
Such initiatives should be viewed as part of a wider strategy to counter asymmetric threats having these elements:
*Focus. In judging the adequacy of current and planned U.S. forces to respond in major contingencies, it should be assumed that whatever asymmetric threats are within the means of adversaries will be encountered. While taking into account both the intentions and capabilities of transition states, the United States should assume rogues have hostile intentions and base its defenses on their capabilities. Thus, if North Korea can use nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons, the United States should anticipate that it will and evaluate U.S. forces and plans accordingly. In planning jargon, plausible asymmetric threats that could upset U.S. strategy and confidence should not be "excursions" but "best case." The entire military establishment, not just those charged with special responsibilities, needs to come to grips with WMD and other asymmetric threats.
F-4 dropping GBU-15 unpowered glide weapon
*Deny. U.S. efforts to shape the international security environment (of the sort discussed in chapters two through eight) should be targeted especially at the trends and actors that breed asymmetric threats. New strategies are needed to deny or at least retard the acquisition of those dangerous technologies whose spread can be regulated. Information technologies are of course hard to control, especially in an integrating global economy. The key is to make this a concern and responsibility for U.S. core partners no less than for the United States. For example, the United States does not want its partners to trade with Iran or other rogues in technologies that could be used against U.S. forces. Therefore, Washington might consider insisting that those same partners accept a greater role in the defense of shared interests (e.g., oil supplies) if threatened by those rogues using those technologies. This could help produce a more united front, both in restricting the technologies and in deterring the threat.
*Deter. It is critical that rogues that have and might consider using chemical and biological weapons are aware that the United States does not preclude using nuclear weapons in response to such attacks on U.S. interests. Otherwise, while such states might appreciate the risks of using or even obtaining nuclear weapons, they will be drawn toward chemical and biological weapons, which the United States has forsworn through international treaties. While such a retaliatory threat might be credible only vis-a-vis large-scale chemical and biological attacks resulting in U.S. casualties, this could augment defenses against more limited attacks.
*Defeat. Plans and initiatives to prepare for the more distant future (2018) should include concepts to trump asymmetric threats. Ballistic missile defense and defensive information warfare are thus high priorities. Instead of counting on deus ex machina solutions the answers might be found in the ingenuity of U.S. soldiers and strategists. Not only the weapons and platforms of U.S. forces but their doctrines, tactics, and organization should be critically evaluated in light of asymmetric threats. In particular, as the United States finds ways, using communications and sensor technology, to give small and dispersed units access to more and better stand-off precision strike power, it can sustain its ability to project power in the face of such threats--delivering force but not large forces--since deployment wouldl be easier and fewer troops need be risked on battlefields made more deadly by weapons of mass destruction and other rogue capabilities.
*Adapt. The way U.S. forces are planned, like the forces themselves, needs to become more adaptive--operationally and strategically. Rigidity could be as great a threat as the nastiest rogue--indeed, its unwitting ally. Fixation on one or two exquisitely specified operational scenarios could endanger U.S. interests and lives if the scenarios prove even partly wrong, perhaps because enemies have consciously worked around them. Desert Storm was unusual. The odds that war will be conducted, by both sides, as scripted by U.S. planners are about as good as a baseball game being played exactly as intended by the manager of the better team. Strategically, the basic suitability of today's forces, doctrines, programs, and plans should be tested against asymmetric strategies devised to neutralize them. Today's computing power provides the means to analyze a virtual universe of possible operational and strategic circumstances, to see where investment is needed to neutralize or hedge against the ever-changing capabilities and tactics of adversaries, current and future.
In sum, in a world of uncertainty and change, it is possible to bracket without affixing what it is that U.S. forces might be called upon to do. Versatility must not be sacrificed at the altar of total confidence in the ability to defeat the threat du jour. The U.S. defense establishment planned on responding to a defined threat throughout the Cold War, and then extended that habit for some years afterwards, with its attention exclusively on the Iraq and North Korea scenarios. The QDR signals an important departure, calling for the ability to respond to a full spectrum of crises. That call raises a number of tough but crucial questions, which this volume has tried to frame.
Predicting the world beyond 2008 today is probably no harder than predicting today's world was in 1988--in both cases, it is exceedingly hard. Policymakers may be just humbler now, and maybe a bit wiser, than before the changes of the last 10 years ambushed their confidence in precise prognostications. Perhaps, with a little hindsight, an understanding of how current conditions might affect the future is more possible now. After all, some trends detectable in 1988 could have helped explain broadly what ensued: Soviet communism was moribund; East Europeans were restless; the Persian Gulf was volatile; the Chinese economic system was being transformed; and East Asia had become a magnet for investment and technology. But because specific intervening events were unpredictable, and even suprising, so was today's world. Fortunately, those events were favorable to the United States, and its economy, technology, military capabilities, alliances, and political system proved robust and flexible.
Because predicting a "point" future in a fluid world is, well, pointless, preparing U.S. forces for the long-term future should not be based on such a prediction. Rather, the question is how those forces might need to be altered in view of all plausible future worlds. The method employed in this volume for tackling this question is to identify the principal axes along which international change--especially adverse change--would require a significant adaptation of U.S. forces. Thus, instead of specifying alternative futures, whether one or many, this study seeks to understand possible future challenges.
The Gulf War was fought against a relatively small foe (albeit with sizable forces on paper), one not especially shrewd in deploying its forces or exploiting U.S. vulnerabilities on an accessible battlefield. U.S. forces today are ideal for such a war. They would see and destroy most enemy forces, eliminate the danger to U.S. personnel and operations, demolish the enemy's infrastructure, and force a surrender. To prepare for the future, the Pentagon should examine how those same U.S. forces might fare and how they would need to be retailored if the United States had to face a larger or nastier enemy, possibly in messier conditions--tough terrain, crowded cities, or dense jungle, with unclear limits, lines of battle, and distinctions between combatants and civilians. When the United States faced some of these conditions in Indochina, it did not succeed. North Vietnam was a wily adversary, with substantial and well-dispersed forces that exploited unfavorable geography and other U.S. vulnerabilities, including America's flagging will.
Change along one, two, or all three of these axes is plausible. Numerous transition states are quite large--from China and India to Russia, Indonesia, and Brazil. While it is unlikely that any one of them would turn against the United States and the core, neither is it implausible that at least one would do so. Then, too, one or more current or future rogues could acquire and brandish a much nastier arsenal than today's Iraq or North Korea: an arsenal of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and delivery systems; cheap but "smart" weapons; of offensive information warfare capabilities. The failing state phenomenon, which can produce especially messy circumstances, could sweep across sub-Saharan Africa and afflict other regions such as South and Central Asia, North Africa, the Balkans, and even the Caribbean. Finally, dangerous nonstate rogues and other sub- and transnational threats could aggravate the security conditions in virtually any plausible future, because these dangers could be connected to the large transition states turned hostile, nastier rogues, or state failures.
A combination of larger foes, nastier foes (state or nonstate), and messier battlefields would pose especially severe and complex challenges for U.S. forces. In the worst case--unlikely but usefully provocative--the United States and its (possibly shaky) core partners might be confronted with a budding alliance of a powerful, hostile China, an aggressive, nuclear-armed Iran, and a desperate, nuclear-exporting Russia, or a global network of vicious terrorists and criminals. Such a combination would possess nearly every type of weapon fielded by the United States and would be poised to control most world oil and gas supplies of Southwest and Central Asia. U.S. territory would be no sanctuary, and the ability and will of the United States to project power successfully would be in doubt. Simultaneously--and not unrelated--Africa could become a cauldron of famine, refugees, and genocide. This case illustrates that it would not take a single "peer challenger" to confront the United States with a worldwide set of threats.
Chapter fifteen details the sorts of adaptations U.S. forces might need to undergo if change occurs on any of these three axes, but also adaptations that ought to be undertaken in any case, because they would help the United States in virtually any plausible future. One conclusion drawn from that analysis is that the United States needs agile warriors, versatile forces, flexible systems, and adaptive institutions. While this is certainly so, the search for hints about how the United States could be better prepared for the future need not stop there.
Every step taken by the U.S. defense establishment--new weapons systems, tactics, R&D--into the space of plausible futures will inevitably imply a sense of direction and a view of which of these three axes is of greatest concern. Because the problems that could crop up along these axes are different and require different responses, the United States needs to invest wisely. With a defense budget of approximately $250 billion, it cannot prepare for the worst case on every axis. Making a beeline toward a single-point future is not wise, so Washington should watch for signposts to help adapt its plans and forces. What can be decided when the direction and signposts suggest that plans are on the right bearing should be decided--but planners should defer when not confident of the need or effect. This is the essence of adaptive planning.
Today's conditions contain a lode of information about plausible futures that can help in gaining a sense of direction. Some are obvious but nevertheless enduring and strategically significant facts: the United States is separated by vast oceans from its leading economic partners; population growth is greatest outside the core; the world's primary source of energy is fossil fuel; many of the world's political borders do not conform to ethnic distinctions; illegitimate governments will, over time, become unstable. Information technology reduces the importance of distance in industry, politics, and warfare. But the particular characteristic of world affairs that will most define the future security environment is globalization. It is to the new era what bipolar confrontation was to the old.
The integration of the global economy is manifested in the growth of trade, the quest of investment capital for competent low-cost labor, the diffusion of technology and knowledge, and the enhancement of the systems and networks that process and move information. These are not easily reversible processes, especially because they bring rewards--greater economic efficiency, prosperity, and freedom--that condition human behavior. In the information age, disintegration of the world economy borders on the implausible, not only because it would be cataclysmic but also, to some extent, impractical. Even if nation-states reverted to mercantilism, multinational enterprises utilizing information networks will not be brought back into national confines.
As it proceeds, globalization will affect U.S. security in four basic ways:
*The United States will have increased global economic interests. As a consequence of its integration in the world economy, which will include in time at least a portion of the states currently in transition, the United States will be concerned with crucial markets, product sources, energy sources, infrastructures, and flows that make the global economy function. These interests will take traditional geographic forms (e.g., key countries, oilfields, and borders), as well as new functional forms (e.g., financial and transport systems). On the assumption that there will still be rogue states and failing states--not all current transition states will succeed--threats to those interests will persist. The United States will therefore continue to depend vitally on its ability to project power to defend them.
*The spread of technology will be hard to control. For the most part, this is desirable, as it strengthens and extends the global economy upon which the United States thrives. But it cannot be confined to the core. "Controlling information technology" is an oxymoron, because it is so pervasive in civil economies, so crucial to the globalization of multinational enterprises, and so fungible. Rogues and nonstates will have an ever-growing access to technologies that are or could be dangerous. While they will be hard-pressed to create or master these technologies and will remain generally backward compared to the countries in the core, they can use them asymmetrically to damage international security and U.S. interests.
*The transition states will probably gravitate toward the core. Transition states--even the largest of them--will find it difficult to develop and sustain "world class" economic, technological, and military capabilities if they abort their reforms and fail to integrate into the world economy. Integration does not guarantee that such states--most importantly, China--will embrace the values and adopt the international norms of the current core democracies. But it does suggest that they will increasingly identify with the overarching U.S. interest in the vitality and security of the world's economic core. If they reject that basic interest, they could create severe security problems, becoming, in effect, large rogues, able to use technology destructively even if they cannot master it economically. But they would have difficulty becoming peer competitors and mounting a broad strategic challenge to the United States and to the interests and norms of the core.
*Uneven and incomplete globalization will exclude states and regions. Globalization is, in large part, driven by combining information technology, high-potential labor, capital, and the demands of world markets. There are signs that this phenomenon is not spreading uniformly and will not soon occur throughout the entire world. Where it does not, economic exclusion and decline can result. This is, of course, the danger in parts of Africa, where it has already contributed to state failure and where demographic and food-production trends are unfavorable. Even in states that reform and integrate, large sectors and strata can be left out--and thus left to deteriorate or turn against the successful, posing increased transnational threats. As globalization progresses, this undertow will create "messy" situations that the United States and its core partners will find hard to ignore.
The first three "clues" about the future, taken together, suggest that the most salient defense challenge to be faced by the United States over the next 20 years will be to project power globally to defend core interests threatened by adversaries with increasingly destructive means at their disposal. The destructive means of greatest concern are WMD. Today's breed of rogue state, having acquired technologies to pose asymmetric threats, or less likely, today's large transition states turned hostile, could have both the incentive and improved ability to hold the United States at bay. Such adversaries could disrupt or deter U.S. power projection both by posing greater dangers to U.S. forces in the theater and by threatening to attack the United States itself, which has been a sanctuary since the end of the Cold War. Thus, the United States will find it both more important and more hazardous to defend its global interests, even in the absence of a new global challenger.
This power-projection challenge should energize plans and preparations for the future, unless and until conditions point in a different general direction. This does not mean that future adversaries will be no larger than, say, Iraq or North Korea. But more important than sheer size is how shrewdly rogues turn available technology, especially WMD, against U.S. vulnerabilities and its public's strong aversion to casualties. The best illustration of this is the case of China, with its ability to turn aggressive in Asia while preventing a successful U.S. intervention. If so disposed, China might seek the means to destroy U.S. forces projected near China and threaten the U.S. homeland if China proper is threatened, thus affecting both the ability and will of the United States to use its power in the region. This example is in essence a "high end" variant of the power-projection challenge.
The challenge, whether from China or sundry smaller rogues, follows the logic of the more immediate asymmetric threats identified in the QDR and analyzed in this volume, especially the WMD threat. Therefore, by anticipating the near-term need to respond to asymmetric threats in designing its forces (chapter eleven), the United States can get a head start in preparing for the more distant future (chapter fourteen). Moreover, because it takes time to reap results from R&D and other investments needed to be able to project power against nastier adversaries, such a focus ought to be a high priority now.
But what if the size of an adversary were to become the dominant problem for the United States (e.g., a hostile China that not only can frustrate U.S. power projection in its vicinity but can threaten core interests on a wide front). One reason this might be considered improbable is that for China to have that sort of power it would probably be so integrated into the core that it would not be inclined to threaten the core. Even in such a case, the United States could "scale up" its forces, increasing end-strength, force structure, and weapons and platform production. This would be an enormous undertaking, to be sure, but it would not require as much time as does creating the means--new technologies, institutions, doctrines, and structures--to counter the nastier adversary.
Moreover, because the probability of a global challenger is low and the costs of "scaling up" high, investments to prepare for it should not be undertaken unless and until there are warnings that one is emerging. In the meantime, measures to address the power projection challenge will also have value if the adversary turns out to be large (e.g., the WMD threat to U.S. forces and territory). This suggests that the military problems posed by size alone should not drive U.S. preparations for the future, though the United States must be adaptive enough to change course if the world develops in a way considered unlikely here. In short, Washington should watch for but not substantially prepare for a significantly larger foe.
The "principles for force 2018," which carry forward ideas in Joint Vision 2010, are in line with this logic. They call for an emphasis on the ability to "project force, not just forces," based on a system of systems that would give the United States advantages in illuminating the world, staying out of sight, and relying on "plugged in" coalition partners. Simply put, the United States can extend its ability to project power to defend its global interests in the face of nastier, better armed (including WMD) adversaries by giving small, networked, and rapidly deployable forces all the remote firepower they need to destroy larger enemy forces. It might also have to rely on nuclear deterrence against not only nuclear but also biological and chemical threats.
Of course, it is quite plausible that the challenge of the nastier (possibly larger) rogue will be aggravated by having to fight it on a more ambiguous, less visible ("messier") battlefield, where the problem is not as simple as destroying armor and facilities in the open. Such a battlefield might not be within easy range of littoral strike forces or standoff platforms; it might hamper joint operations; and it might not lend itself to "high-tech" C4ISR and weapons. The terrain and accessibility of future battlefields are as diverse as the range of possible future enemies. U.S. forces must be able to deploy and destroy enemy forces in unfavorable surroundings, not just ideal ones. While this will tax U.S. "information dominance," the answer is not to abandon that as a goal but to invest in achieving it even when conditions are poor.
The fourth "clue" presented above suggests that power projection against more dangerous enemies is not the only concern about the future that should inform current U.S. preparations. Because of uneven globalization, economic exclusion, and political instability, SSCs will continue to crop up, and they could be both larger and messier than those of recent years, particularly if state failures become more catastrophic. "Crash landings" by North Korea and Cuba, for example, could be extremely dangerous. Subnational and transnational rogues will pose unconventional threats. At least some U.S. forces (e.g., special operations, security services, light and agile mechanized units) might have to be tailored for these threats and contingencies rather than for major wars.
Thus, without embracing one specific view of the future, it is possible to identify--and important to prepare for--two broad classes of problems in the "future space" that require long-lead preparations: projecting power against WMD-armed adversaries, and conducting a wide range of operations (MTWs and SSCs) on messy battlefields and/or against transnational threats. These two concerns could tend to pull U.S. forces in two quite different directions, thus requiring that the dilemma described earlier--to specialize and devote a part of the force for small-scale operations, or not--be resolved.
During the Cold War, the yardstick for judging the adequacy of U.S. forces was rough
across-the-board "equivalence" with Soviet forces. (The United States led
in some categories such as naval forces and the
Soviet Union in others such as tank armies.) While arbitrary from a purely operational military standpoint, this standard was widely accepted and indeed deemed crucial by the United States both for its peacetime global competition with the Soviet Union and for acting with confidence in crises.
With the end of the Cold War, U.S. military superiority has become a fact of life, accepted at home and abroad. Indeed, the resiliency of public support for a quarter-trillion-dollar annual defense budget can be explained not by the intricacies of MTWs, SSCs, and environment shaping, but by broad sympathy with the idea that maintaining unmatched military capabilities is worth the cost. To some, this is a prerequisite of U.S. international political leadership. To others, what matters most is that U.S. forces never enter a war they cannot win, with the lowest possible casualties. Still others believe that it is important strategically for the United States to preserve the so-called "unipolar moment." In any case, having backed into military superiority, thanks to the collapse of the other superpower, the United States now must learn to use it wisely.
The national preference for unmatched military capability gives the U.S. Department of Defense the fiscal resources needed to meet its more specific operational requirements. A fortunate alignment thus exists between the political consensus favoring military strength and the sufficiency of U.S. forces relative to various threats, none of which begins to compare to U.S. capabilities. There has been no need to define "superiority" or its purposes. Yet the more the QDR's two important additional considerations bearing on the adequacy of U.S. forces are considered--environment shaping and preparing for the future--the harder it is not to ponder military superiority: What is it? What good is it? How much of it is enough? How does Washington want others to regard it? How should it be used?
In approaching these questions, it is helpful to recall the U.S. "equity" in the world introduced in chapter one: the health, expansion, and security of the democratic, free-market core and its norms of responsible state behavior toward other states and their own citizens.
These interests and norms are linked: the stronger the core, the more its norms are likely to be respected; the firmer the norms, the better the outlook for the core's health and security. As the core grows, deviations from its norms become more isolated and, because of gathering strength, more easily defeated and punished.
Consider a future in which China, Russia, and all other major transition states come to identify with the key interests and norms this volume has stressed--unlikely and certainly beyond the means of the United States to bring about, but not implausible by 2018, and certainly worth striving toward. The few remaining rogue states would have nowhere to turn and much to lose when violating the norms and threatening the interests of what by then would be a nearly global core. Such an "outcome" for the period considered in this volume would obviously be of enormous benefit to the United States, which is at the heart of the core and second to none in its commitment to the norms. Simply stated, a larger core with widely respected norms is a favorable world for the way of life, quality of life, and global interests of U.S. citizens. Therefore, the goal of an inclusive commonwealth of freedom and security, based on norms, could animate U.S. strategy in the new century, as suggested by the 1997 National Security Strategy.
Make WMD Acquisition and Use Seem Futile and Risky
- Use nuclear deterrence for nuclear and high-end biological and chemical threats. More explicit declaratory policy is required.
- Employ theater missile defenses (TMD), equipment, and counterforce to defend battlefields and signal preemptive options.
- Pursue ideas to project force with smaller and dispersed units.
- Reduce dependence on vulnerable routes and bases.
Such a vision of a desirable future underscores the special importance of the current core partners and transition states in American strategy. The cohesion and increased international responsibility of the former and the reform and integration of the latter are the paramount objectives of the United States. And of course, U.S. success in aligning its closest and most capable friends, the EU and Japan, with its global strategy is indespensible for the goal of encouraging large transition states, especially China and Russia, to stay on a course of reform and moderation.
Principles of Force 2018
To decide now what would be the best U.S. force for the year 2018 would be both premature and unnecessary. The need may change as signposts become more readable. But it is not too soon to consider the general directions in which the DoD needs to move (and is already, to some extent, moving) to ensure the effectiveness of U.S. forces 20 years from now. The following principles are offered in this spirit:
- Project Force, Not Just Forces. U.S. forces will soon be able to destroy a large share of an adversary's invasion force by standoff strikes and the rapid insertion and retraction of ground units. Because similar capabilities are proliferating globally, it is important to change according to a schedule the U.S. chooses rather than one others choose.
- Drive Cycle Time Down. The greater the speed with which the United States can project force decisively, the greater the deterrence. At the operational level, a goal for 2018 is for the United States to be able to project force in all contingencies within a single day anywhere in the world. At the tactical level, a goal of U.S. forces is a cycle of operations--showing up, completing a mission, and dispersing--that can be measured in minutes.
- Illuminate the World. To support force projection and reduced cycle times, the United States needs a system to illuminate most of the world all the time. This system requires establishing, maintaining, and exploiting a network of strategic and operational sensors.
- Keep the Magazines Full. Precision weaponry is getting cheaper as the cost of electronic components falls, even as the cost of operating platforms grows. The United States must be prepared to use very large numbers of precision weapons in a slugfest with a capable opponent.
- Use What's There. The more the United States can empower local allies, the less work it will have to do itself, and the smaller the risks of exposure. The same is true for using facilities: at the same time that militaries everywhere are shrinking, the world's commercial infrastructure for moving materiel and information is growing. Using this infrastructure will allow U.S. forces to do more and do it more quickly.
- Defend What is Depended On. Most commercial infrastructure is not well protected against physical or information attack. While this problem is mitigated by the sheer profusion of infrastructure, some critical nodes may have to be secured.
- Connect With Friends. The System of Systems--the emerging U.S. federation of sensors, switches, and processors--is becoming a core competence of its military. Careful attention needs to be given to enhance adaptiveness and create links to core partners, civilian agencies, and even transition states.
- Never Stop Learning. The DoD needs to evolve concepts and tactics more quickly than any adversary can evolve countermeasures. Every core competence should be continuously and critically examined. To deal with an uncertain world, doctrine must always be challenged for relevance.
This line of reasoning has two important implications for planning U.S. forces and their role in the world. First, although those forces are designed for operational contingencies mainly involving rogue states (in the case of MTWs) and failed states (SSCs), their role vis-a-vis the main U.S. core partners and transition states has profound strategic importance. Second, and related, how U.S. military superiority is presented to both partners and transition states is a crucial and delicate matter. In neither case is it helpful to suggest that the goal of the United States is to maintain primacy relative to them.
What, then, is a sound rationale for maintaining superior U.S. military capabilities? Promoting and protecting the norms and interests of the core present a major challenge for the United States as it approaches the new century, arguably as great as the challenge it faced in 1945. Superior military capabilities are a necessary, though not a sufficient, condition for the United States to fulfill this purpose. By the same logic, maintaining the capacity to promote and protect this equity against plausible threats--such as, projecting power when and where needed, even against WMD-armed rogues--is a reasonable standard for U.S. military sufficiency.
It is a standard that does not necessarily require treating the growth in the power of others as a challenge--only if their actions threaten the U.S. stake (its interests and norms). This is both the most principled and most practical way of dealing with the rise of China. It does not mean that the United States is determined to frustrate China's goal of becoming more powerful, but it does mean that the United States will maintain an ability and, if need be, will act to protect its own stake in the world. Moreover, because U.S. partners share the interests and norms that comprise that stake, making it theirs, too, the United States should regard the growth of their power, and of course their responsibilities, as desirable, not somehow threatening to its standing. In this sense, superior U.S. military capabilities are not intended to preserve a pecking order but to advance increasingly shared purposes. The U.S. motivation is thus quite the opposite of hegemonic.
In practice, as this volume has emphasized, U.S. military power is all the more likely to be accepted and thus useful in promoting U.S. interests and norms if the United States actively engages that power cooperatively, e.g., to promote coalitions in the core, to help transition states reform, and to encourage an understanding that U.S. power is threatening only to those that threaten the U.S. stake. Such a concept for overseas deployments, and for environment shaping in general, dovetails with American purposes and with the world of fluid challenges and opportunities.
In closing, the QDR is a significant and timely departure from a way of thinking about the need for U.S. military capabilities that has served well in the past but is no longer right--namely, reliance on a known enemy (or two) to motivate both plans and public support for U.S. forces. This is a hard habit to break. But with the possibility of North Korea disappearing as a threat if not as a state, the habit is best broken now. The United States does not require an enemy to justify maintaining and improving its military capabilities. Those who believe that it does would either slash U.S. defense spending or find a new enemy, neither one being the right course for national security. Rather, the United States needs forces, with the qualities discussed in this volume, mainly because globalization increases the U.S. stake in the world while also placing more destructive means within reach of any number of states and other actors that could threaten that stake. The United States needs forces able to respond to the current security environment, to prepare for a less secure world, and to help shape a commonwealth of security and freedom.
Global Engagement of U.S. Forces: A New and Enduring Rationale
The United States has a fundamental stake in the vitality, security, and expansion of the world's democratic, free-market core. To protect its stake, and as the leading partner of this core, the United States must engage its forces internationally in peacetime, even as they are kept ready for war.
By engaging abroad, U.S. forces can improve the compatibility of allied forces, thus building stronger partnerships, better burden sharing, and political cohesion within the core. They can also encourage reform and cooperation among states in transition--partners-to-be--including China and Russia. They can deploy rapidly to deter attacks by rogue states, improve multilateral responses to genocide and other humanitarian disasters in failing states, and develop cooperative solutions to transitional threats.
In light of these purposes, and the fact that U.S. forces cannot be kept everywhere they might someday be needed, most of those stationed abroad should be in Europe and East Asia (where most are anyway, as a legacy of the Cold War). There they can readily engage core partners (NATO allies, Japan, and Korea) as well as key transition states (Russia and China). Thus, in Europe and East Asia, U.S. forces can both strengthen and extend the core.
From bases in these regions, U.S. forces can be projected into areas where dangers to the core from rogue states and failed states are greatest, especially in the Middle East and Africa. And by virtue of their engagement in Europe and East Asia, they can be supported and joined by the forces of core partners, thereby sharing the burden and risk now faced by the United States.
Because the world has become so fluid, it is now essential for U.S. forces to interact regularly and intensively with those of core partners and increasingly with those of transition states. In light of this, and the fact that the United States can move its forces with great speed, the static presence and precise size of U.S. forces overseas are becoming less important than how actively they engage and what they do.
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