US National Security Strategy and the Imperative of "Geopresence"

By Martin, Gregory S. | Air & Space Power Journal, Summer 2003 | Go to article overview

US National Security Strategy and the Imperative of "Geopresence"

Martin, Gregory S., Air & Space Power Journal

The LAST TWO years have brought a number of unforeseen developments to the world stage, and with them have come major challenges for American foreign policy-even aside from the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., on 11 September 2001. In Europe alone, the scope of political and military changes taking place may be the largest since World War II. For example, in 2002 alone we have witnessed substantial government shifts in both Western and Central Europe, unparalleled expansion and integration by the European Union, unprecedented enlargement and restructuring of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and new patterns of international cooperation and relationships resulting from the US-led global war on terrorism (GWOT).

These historic events, transitions, and circumstances obviously have contributed to the way we now think about national defense and foreign policy, and their impact is clearly present in President George W. Bush's new National Security Strategy of the United States of America (NSS), unveiled last September.1 The past 18 months in particular have served to solidify the new defense perspectives and themes evident in this new strategy. If nothing else, we now recognize that the world is inherently a much more dangerous place than we had imagined after the Cold War, and with that realization the Bush administration's national security and defense strategy is significantly different than the interim strategies we pursued for more than a decade.

At the heart of this strategy is the new awareness described so well by President Bush: "The gravest danger to freedom [now] lies at the crossroads of radicalism and technology."2 This crossroads highlights the new challenges before us in a much less certain world, where we face both state and nonstate adversaries and where our military operations increasingly cross multiple theaters and unified commands, occurring both in and out of alliance areas. If nothing else, the attacks of 11 September awakened us to the fact that no longer are our country and global interests threatened only by nation-states with organized militaries and the advanced technologies of war. Now there exists a much more fleeting and dangerous set of international actors bent on radical change, who may possess the means to effect that change. This new enemy is a supranational entity-one without borders, postured in a network of execution nodes that hide in a global array of shadows, and able to conduct operations on a global scale.

This new understanding, in turn, has helped create a defense posture that clearly has moved from the traditional threat-based model that guided strategic planning for over half a century to a new capabilities-based model that concentrates on identifying and arranging the required means to meet the new security challenges. During the Cold War years, we developed a very refined process by which we analyzed the enemy's force structure; his operational, strategic, and geographic laydowns; and his operation of forces and weapon systems in a tactical environment. We then built, positioned, equipped, and trained our forces to fight that known enemy forward with both operational and strategic reserves based in the United States. This threat-based approach served us well in our preparations to conduct war-fighting operations against the Soviet Union and other similarly equipped forces (e.g., Iraq during Operation Desert Storm), but it did not prepare us as well for conducting operations in so-called low-intensity conflicts (e.g., Lebanon and Somalia).

As we departed the Cold War era and entered what seemed to be a period of "simmering peace," we increased our attention on being able to conduct military operations other than war. In many cases, this required developing special capabilities that we had previously assumed were lesser abilities residing within our threat-based force structure. More so than ever before, our military today must be able to conduct operations across the full spectrum-from nuclear deterrence and high-end conventional warfare to lower-end, yet potentially volatile, peacekeeping, humanitarian, and noncombatant-evacuation operations-and it must have the capability to execute those operations rapidly, anywhere in the world. …

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