Gen. Duane Cassidy, USAF (Ret.), and vice Adm. Albert Herberger, USN (Ret.)
In the afterglow of victory in the Gulf War, a number of confident assertions were made about the military stature of the United States in the world. A popular one is that the United States now remains "the only superpower." This verdict reflects not only the demonstration of strength in Desert Storm, but also the perception of the economic and political difficulties afflicting the Russian Federation. The latter's status as a "former superpower" seemed confirmed by its essentially passive stance in the Gulf crisis.
Whether or not the verdict is premature, it begs a definition of "superpower." Basically, that term has been used in the past four decades to denote military power with two credentials: (1) massiveness and (2) effective global reach. In the popular mind, the term has been associated primarily with nuclear weapons and the means of their delivery. The Gulf War, however, is a reminder that much more complex factors are at work. Indeed, only by looking back to what is now alluded to as the "Cold War era" can we gain a clearer understanding of the military posture and strategy of the United States as they have evolved over the past four decades, and of the newly emerging challenges to that posture and strategy.
The Soviet Union emerged from World War II as the dominant power in Eurasia--the region the geopolitical thinker Halford MacKinder designated as the "heartland" of global power competition. Although weakened by the conflict, the Soviet Union, under Joseph Stalin, stood poised to exploit its geopolitical position toward the conquest of, or at least hegemonic sway over, the Eurasian landmass as a whole, particularly the rich industrial prize represented by Western Europe. In pursuit of this goal, the Soviet Union could look not only to the