Academic journal article Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy

The Ultimate Defense

Academic journal article Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy

The Ultimate Defense

Article excerpt

In "Asymmetric Warfare" (FORUM, Summer 1999), Jonathan Tucker addresses an issue that will be hotly debated during the next Quadrennial Defense Review scheduled for 2001: the opportunities and threats posed by asymmetric warfare. For those who believe that the U.S. military is experiencing a revolution in military affairs, technological superiority will transform war by rendering opposing conventional forces impotent. For example, in the recent conflict in Kosovo, Serbian air defenses were relatively ineffective against the NATO bombing campaign.

The idea that, in war, one should attack adversaries' weaknesses, not their strengths, is ancient. But for the proponents of the revolution in military affairs, U.S. superiority is so overwhelming that potential opponents will be driven to extreme measures to offset U.S. technology.

Given the lack of conventional alternatives, Tucker notes, America's opponents might choose the desperate response of using chemical, biological or nuclear weapons--often referred to as weapons of mass destruction--against civilian, logistical, or military targets. Use of these weapons would have a significant and prompt effect on the political and military course of a conflict, at a minimum derailing America's high technology war machine.

By accurately reflecting contemporary policy concerns, however, Tucker repeats a common mistake made by strategists considering the threat of asymmetric warfare. Because the United States retains overwhelming dominance in its ability to escalate hostilities in any likely conflict, it is not in an opponent's interest to attack U. …

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