America's Military Priorities

By Binnendijk, Hans | Strategic Forum, February 1995 | Go to article overview

America's Military Priorities


Binnendijk, Hans, Strategic Forum


Note: Opinions, conclusions, and recommendations expressed or implied in this paper are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Institute for National Strategic Studies, National Defense University, the Department of Defense, or any other government agency.

Conclusions

Developing National Strategy in Time of Transition

We remain in transition to a new international system following the Cold War, a transition that is likely to last through the decade. The nature of the new system will be determined largely by the health of America's alliances with Europe and Japan, by the outcome of Russian and Chinese transitions, and the rate of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

Developing a new grand strategy to replace containment has proven difficult precisely because the system remains in transition. Both the Bush and Clinton administrations have struggled with their international vision.

The Bottom Up Review was developed in the context of a strategy of "Engagement and Enlargement" that emerged as speeches during the first nine months of 1993. The crises with Iraq and North Korea in the autumn of 1994 confirmed the validity of the two major regional conflict threat envisioned by the Bottom Up Review. That concept may need to be amended in time, but it is appropriate for the interim.

The Nature of the Slowly Emerging International System

There are at least three ways in which one might envision the emerging international system:

The first is a geo-strategic assessment of the major powers. We are in an historically unique moment of relative cooperation among the great powers: the United States, the European Union, Japan, China, Russia and perhaps India. Generally, the major powers don't envision each other as current threats and are not building military establishments to either attack or defend against each other. Regional economic blocks are forming, but are not being used by the great powers to develop closed alliances. Spheres of influence do not appear to overlap in ways that could cause conflict. However, it is unclear how much longer these favorable conditions will last.

Another way to assess the emerging international system is to look at political and economic orientations of individual countries. From this perspective, the world can be seen as consisting of three groups. The dominant market democracies, a group much larger than the old "First World" of the Cold War, includes not just the OECD Countries, but most of Latin America, the "tigers" of East Asia, and gradually, parts of Central Europe. The success of the major transitional states, including Russia, China, India, and South Africa, is crucial to the future world order. Troubled states, primarily in Africa and the greater Middle East, are falling behind politically and economically and many are torn by rampant ethnic or religious tensions. These countries are the breeding ground for failed states and rogue states. The Administration's strategy of "enlargement" is most consistent with this perspective of the world order.

The third view looks at transnational threats. The porousness of international borders has positive effects: totalitarian regimes cannot last when they can no longer manage the flow of information to their people. But porous borders also mean that international crime, narcotics, disease, terrorists, illegal immigrants, pollution, and smugglers of nuclear material pose greater threats to our national security. Each has a greater impact on the average American than what happens in Somalia.

Combining these perspectives, there are grounds for both optimism and pessimism.

The grounds for optimism include:

* The major powers are at peace and there are few signs of exclusive spheres of influence or economic blocs;

* Most nations aspire to democracy and the market system; and;

* The U. …

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