New 'Peacekeeper' Military Strategy Raises Republican Ire

Article excerpt

IT used to be so simple: The US military's goal was to ward off the Soviet threat. But since the end of the cold war, US armed forces have been toting water for Rwandan refugees, "restoring democracy" in Haiti, and even aiding the decommissioning of Soviet missiles -- all in the name of peacekeeping.

But only last week, in its National Military Strategy statement, did the Pentagon formally add "peace engagement" to the principal missions of the US armed forces. By doing so it sharpened the debate over post-cold-war military and foreign policy and raised the ire of some Republicans in Congress.

Outlining the Pentagon's view of the threats facing the US, the Joint Chiefs point to a range of rising dangers including regional conflicts and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and conclude that the strategy of a shrinking US military must be one of "selective and flexible engagement."

While the Pentagon's top priorities are still nuclear deterrence and the ability to fight and win two near-simultaneous regional conflicts, the Joint Chiefs say, American forces must also be able to cope with "a broad range of potential challenges."

Activities designed to address such challenges by enhancing "regional stability" include: peacekeeping; humanitarian missions, such as carrying food to Sarajevo; military-to-military contacts, such as joint maneuvers with former Warsaw Pact nations; and other noncombat activities.

The new document appears to reflect what is already reality: the Clinton administration's use around the world of US troops in peacekeeping and other noncombat operations. "It seems ... that we are in a period now where we are able to use military power in ways that we could not in the cold-war era," says a senior military official.

That conclusion will not sit well with congressional Republicans, who are pushing bills to restrict or terminate US participation in UN peacekeeping operations. The House of Representatives passed one version of the legislation last month, and Senate majority leader Bob Dole (R) of Kansas is sponsoring a measure with some similar provisions. …