GIVEN THE LARGE NUMBER OF U.S. military forces deployed around the world and the casualties sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan, it is easy to miss that the military does much more than engage in combat. On any given day, military engineers dig wells in East Africa, medical personnel provide vaccinations in Latin America, and Special Forces mentor militaries in southeast Asia. By doing so, the United States seeks to improve its international image, strengthen the state sovereignty system by training and equipping security forces, preempt localized violence from escalating into regional crises, and protect U.S. national security by addressing underlying conditions that inspire and sustain violent extremism.
Far from preparation for major war, these activities rely on a unique blend of charitable American political culture, latent civil–military capacity, and ambitious military officers who see the strategic landscape characterized by challenges to human security, weak states, and nonstate actors. Furthermore, changes are informed by U.S. partners that conceive of their militaries as forces for good and not simply for combat. The United States has been slow to catch up to European governments that see the decline of coercive power and the importance of soft power today. This chapter analyzes the debate about U.S. power, explores the shift from traditional to human security challenges, and explains why weak states matterfor U.S. national security. Fundamentally, this chapter offers theoretical support for the movement beyond preparation for warfare and embeds security assistance in contemporary U.S. military strategy.
U.S. foreign policy activism over the last twenty years has revived interest in power and the nature of security. For decades some scholars have been forecasting the end of U.S. primacy and waiting for the unipolar moment to end.1 Taken to the extreme, these behaviors can give way to a tripolar world composed of the