Terror War Can't Fill Strategic Vacuum

By Hart, Gary | The Christian Science Monitor, August 3, 2004 | Go to article overview

Terror War Can't Fill Strategic Vacuum


Hart, Gary, The Christian Science Monitor


Although the cold war ended more than a decade ago, in August 1991, our political system has not yet produced a new, grand strategy for the United States to replace containment of communism.

Until Sept. 11, 2001, this failure might have been attributable to the lack of a common enemy. Since then, the strategic vacuum has been filled, but only partly, by the war on terrorism.

But it isn't enough for the world's greatest power - greatness measured in every traditional dimension of economic, political, and military power - to limit its strategic focus to crushing only one method (terrorism) employed by one radical fundamentalist network (Al Qaeda). Shouldn't we have a greater and nobler purpose in the 21st-century world?

Our new century is dynamic in four revolutionary ways: globalization, information, sovereignty, and conflict. Globalization and information technology are revolutionizing international markets and finance, and transforming whole economies and societies. They in turn are eroding traditional nation-state sovereignty and compromising the state's ability to provide economic and physical security. Weakening of the state's monopoly on violence has led to the transformation of war and fundamental alterations in the nature of conflict.

Neither an ad hoc approach - "We'll deal with these issues as they arise" - nor the Bush administration's "war on terrorism" is an adequate framework for defining the role of the US in the years ahead. The European nation-state is giving way to the United Europe, thus making restoration of the Atlantic Alliance problematic.

The Chinese and Indian economic explosions, national redefinition in Japan, and a nuclear North Korea all require fresh US policies on Asia. Elsewhere, failed states, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, epidemics, mass migrations, and global warming - the new agenda of the century - all require closer international collaboration and probably new international institutions.

A grand strategy is simply the application of a nation's powers to the achievement of larger purposes. I would argue we have three such purposes: to ensure security (for ourselves and, where possible, for others), to expand opportunity, and to promote liberal democracy around the world. And to achieve them, we can harness three powers - economic, political, and military - far superior to anyone else's. Our economy is larger than the next four or five largest national economies combined. We have an unrivaled diplomatic and political network. And soon we will spend more on our military than the rest of the world combined. …

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Terror War Can't Fill Strategic Vacuum
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