* The United States now enjoys a secure and promising position in the world, because of its economic, technological, and military strengths. The other most successful nations are its closest friends; its few enemies are comparatively weak, isolated, and swimming against the current of the information age. That current--globalization--is both integrating and extending the core of free-market democracies, thus favoring U.S. interests and winning converts to the norms of state behavior.
*Great uncertainties still exist: the future of China and other large transition states; the role of U.S. core partners, especially the nations of Europe and Japan; the spread of dangerous technologies, particularly weapons of mass destruction (WMD); the extent of state failures, like those of central Africa and the Balkans; the reach of terrorism, international crime, and other nonstate threats; and the security of economic resources. Because of its capabilities, the United States has considerable influence, and a crucial stake, on how these uncertainties are resolved.
*In the best plausible case, an expanded core or commonwealth of peaceful democracies could encompass most of the planet--with U.S. partners shouldering an increased share of the burden of defending common interests and norms. China would reform and integrate into the core, rogue states and nonstates would be defanged, state failures would be averted, and energy and infrastructure would be secure. In the worst case, U.S. friends could be free riders instead of responsible partners, China's reforms would founder, state failures would multiply, and rogues armed with WMD and nonstate actors would threaten the energy supplies and infrastructure of the core--leaving the United States superior but beleaguered. Well-armed enemies would be tempted to threaten the interests of the United States, using the fear of high casualties and possible attacks on the state itself to degrade America's ability to project power and national will.
*To improve the odds of reaching the desirable future, the United States should pursue four key interests to affect the design and use of its military capabilities:
*Based on the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), the United States should:
*U.S. shaping strategy should be one of presence plus...engagement. An interactive approach is needed to recast core partnerships, encourage yet caution transition states, and increase strategic and operational flexibility. What U.S. forces do will come to matter as much as how many are permanently based where. The involvement of U.S. forces with those of core partners and transition states should stress practical strengths--power projection, information dominance, strike capability, and excellence in defense management--not numbers or U.S. supremacy.
*The purposes of U.S. military engagement vary from one region to another. The main rationale in Europe (via NATO) and East Asia (especially Japan) should be to improve the military effectiveness and responsibility sharing of core partnerships (e.g., staging to less secure adjacent areas; expanding contact; conducting combined operations with China, Russia, and other transition states; fostering defense reform; and signaling that Americans are not deployed to threaten friends). U.S. forces in the greater Middle East should demonstrate the capacity to project overwhelming strike power and deter sudden aggression. Elsewhere--in Latin America, the former Soviet Union, and Africa--the objective of engagement is mainly to foster defense and political reform. In every region, engagement can improve cooperation against nonstate threats.
*U.S. forces are well-honed to respond to rogues in MTWs. As rogues in turn respond with asymmetric threats, or as SSCs persist, confidence in the adequacy of U.S. forces will drop unless they adapt. The QDR report correctly highlighted these two near-term concerns.
*The most severe asymmetric threats of the next 10 years are weapons of mass destruction, selective advanced weapons (e.g., surface-to-air missiles and sea mines), and information warfare (IW). Of these, WMD are the most dangerous because they can erode U.S. ability, will, and credibility to project power to protect national interests and international security. To counter such threats, the United States should:
*Small-scale contingencies present starkly different operational challenges than major theater wars. They require restrained, small-unit operations to prevent war. Because they are usually multinational, the United States should improve coalition preparations, especially in NATO. Because SSCs are seldom purely military operations, the United States should improve its civil-military coordination and capacity to provide and restore the civil infrastructure. SSCs place severe strains on the forces used, especially if those forces are also expected to be ready for MTWs. Thus, the United States should consider such options as spreading the responsibility for SSCs across more of the total force, segmenting and specializing forces for SSCs and MTWs, or developing some hybrid capability of these extremes.
* U.S. forces must also be prepared for a less desirable future. Three potential developments could pose serious and different military problems. The United States should consider these factors over the long term (1020 years):
* The United States is unclear but not clueless about the future. Globalization will continue, with important consequences: worldwide interests will still need protection; technology will spread relentlessly; transition states that abandon reform and integration will have economic, technological, and military handicaps; states with no place in the global economy could fail and spawn nonstate threats (e.g., in Africa and parts of Eurasia). In light of such "clues," the United States should:
The United States needs greater military contributions from, and improved capabilities with, its core partners.
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