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Center for American Progress

The Choice: Global Domination or Global Leadership

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For most of America’s history as a sovereign nation, its citizens have considered security the norm and occasional insecurity an aberration. From now on, it will be the reverse. In the era of globalization, insecurity will be the enduring reality and the quest for national security a continuing preoccupation. Consequently, deciding how much vulnerability is tolerable will be a perplexing policy issue for the United States as the world’s current hegemon, as well as a cultural dilemma for American society.

The End of Sovereign Security

America came into its own during an era in which national sovereignty and national security were nearly synonymous. They defined international affairs. The international order of the last several centuries has been based on the premise of nation-state sovereignty, with each state the ultimate and absolute arbiter within its territory of its own requirements for national security. Though that sovereignty was legally defined as absolute, obvious asymmetries in national power not only necessitated major compromises, especially on the part of the weaker states, but also involved significant violations of some states’ sovereignty by stronger ones. Nonetheless, when the first global organization of cooperative states was established in reaction to World War I-the League of Nations-the abstract notion of absolute sovereignty resulted in the endowment of equal voting rights to all member states. Symptomatically, the United States, acutely sensitive about its sovereign status and aware of its geographically advantageous security situation, chose not to be part of that body.

By the time the United Nations was set up in 1945, it was clear to the major states that the realities of global power had to be accommodated if the organization was to play any meaningful security role. Still, the principle of equality of sovereign states could not be discarded altogether. The resulting compromise provided for voting equality in the UN General Assembly for all member states, and for a veto right in the UN Security Council for the five leading powers that emerged as victors from World War II. This formula was a tacit recognition that national sovereignty was increasingly an illusion for all but a few very powerful states.

For America, the linkage between state sovereignty and national security was traditionally even more symbiotic than for most other states. It was reflected in the sense of manifest destiny preached by the country’s revolutionary elite, which sought to insulate America from Europe’s remote interstate conflicts while representing America as the standard bearer of an altogether novel, universally valid conception of how a state should be organized. The linkage was reinforced by the awareness that geography made America a sanctuary. With two huge oceans providing extraordinary security buffers and with much weaker neighbors to the north and south, Americans considered their nation’s sovereignty to be both a natural right as well as a natural consequence of peerless national security. Even when America was drawn into two world wars, it was the Americans who crossed the oceans to combat others in distant lands. Americans went to war, but war did not come to America.1

After the end of World War II, with the onset of the largely unexpected Cold War with a hostile ideological and strategic foe, most Americans initially felt protected by the U.S. monopoly of the atomic bomb. The Strategic Air Command (SAC), with its unilateral capability (at least into the mid-1950s) to devastate the Soviet Union, became the nation’s security blanket, much as the two-ocean Navy had been earlier. SAC both symbolized and perpetuated the notion that security is inherent in America’s special position, even though insecurity had become the norm in the twentieth century for almost all other nation-states. To be sure, American troops in Germany and Japan were protecting others while also protecting America-but they were also keeping danger geographically distant from America.

It was not until the late 1950s, and perhaps not even until the Cuban Missile Crisis, that America was jarred into recognition that modern technology had made invulnerability a thing of the past. The 1960s saw a surge in national anxiety over the “missile gap” (with Soviet leaders deliberately claiming a greater capability for, and greater numbers of, their missiles than they actually had), demonstrated by growing fears that nuclear deterrence was inherently unstable, by a preoccupation among strategists over the possibility of a disarming Soviet nuclear strike as well as over the growing risks of an accidental nuclear discharge, and eventually even by an effort to develop new forms of technologically advanced space-based defensive systems such as anti-ballistic missiles. The intense national debate on these issues eventually led to a consensus that a relationship of stable deterrence with the Soviet Union was attainable only through mutual restraint. That paved the way in the 1970s for the ABM Treaty and then the SALT treaties, and in the 1980s for the START treaties.

These treaties were, in effect, a recognition that America’s security was no longer entirely in American hands but depended in part on accommodation with a potentially lethal antagonist. That the antagonist was similarly vulnerable and that its conduct seemed to be guided by a similar recognition of its own vulnerability provided a degree of reassurance, making the acceptance of shared vulnerability psychologically easier for the American public= To be sure, the arrangement did not eliminate the risk of mutual destruction, but its apparent rationality and predictability tended to soothe national anxieties. As a result, the Reagan administration’s attempt, in the early 1980s, to regain America’s invulnerability through the proposed Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI)-space-based defenses against a Soviet ballistic missile attack on the United States-failed to mobilize overwhelming public support.

This unexpected public moderation was doubtless partly due to the expanding American-Soviet d’tente, which further reduced fears of a nuclear collision, but it was also prompted by the public’s sense that the Soviet bloc and even the Soviet Union itself were facing a massive internal crisis. The threat was perceived as fading. Indeed, following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Soviet missiles ceased to be the subject of arms reduction agreements but instead became the object of American dismantling teams, with U.S. funds and techniques enhancing the security of the storage depots for the formerly awe-inspiring Soviet nuclear warheads. The Soviet nuclear arsenal’s transformation into a beneficiary of U.S. protection testified to the degree to which the Soviet threat had waned.

The disappearance of the Soviet challenge, coinciding as it did with the overwhelming display of technologically novel U.S. military capabilities in the Gulf War, quite naturally led to renewed public confidence in America’s unique power. The U.S.-led and technology-driven revolution in military affairs (RMA) spawned not only new weapons and tactics, which dictated one-sided outcomes of the two short wars in 1991 and 2003 against the Soviet-armed Iraq, but also a new sense of American global military superiority. For a brief while, America again felt almost invulnerable.

That new mood coincided with widespread recognition that the fall of the Soviet Union signaled a more drastic shift in the global distribution of political power. While the wars against Iraq in 1991 and in Kosovo in 1999 dramatized America’s widening lead in the application of technology to military purposes and its ability to strike at other nations with relative impunity, American preponderance increasingly was perceived abroad as not only military. It was at least as evident in the “soft” dimensions of power, in scientific innovation, technological adaptation, economic dynamism, and more intangibly in sociocultural experimentation. By the 1990s, many foreign commentators recognized America-sometimes with intense resentment-not only as the global hegemon but also as humanity’s unique (and often disturbing) social laboratory. The rapid dissemination of the new Internet connectivity was but one manifestation of the massive global impact of America as the world’s social pioneer.

In the process, America’s role on the world scene has become more “dialectical” than ever: the American state, relying on its dominant power, acts as the bastion of traditional international stability, while American society, through a massive and varied worldwide impact facilitated by globalization, transcends national territorial control and disrupts the traditional social order.

On the one hand, the combination of the two reinforces America’s established inclination to see itself as the model for everyone else, with American preponderance even increasing the country’s sense of its moral vocation. The U.S. Congress’s tendency to mandate the certification of other states’ behavior by the U.S. State Department is symptomatic of the current American attitude, which is increasingly cavalier toward others’ sovereignty while remaining protectively sensitive about America’s.

On the other hand, the combination of American power and globalization is changing the nature of U.S. national security. Modern technology is eliminating the effect of geographic distance, while multiplying the variety of means, the destructive radius, and the number of actors capable of projecting violence. At the same time, the reaction against globalization focuses resentment on the United States as the most obvious target. Thus globalization universalizes vulnerability even as it concentrates hostility on America.

Technology is the great equalizer of societal vulnerability. The revolutionary compression of distance by modern communications and the quantum leap in the destructive radius of deliberately inflicted lethality have punctured the nation-state’s traditional protective umbrella. Moreover, weaponry is now becoming post-national in both possession and reach. Even non-state actors such as underground terrorist organizations are gradually improving their access to more destructive weaponry. It is only a question of time before, somewhere, a truly technologically advanced act of terrorism takes place. In addition, the same “equalizing” process is providing poorer states such as North Korea with the means to inflict damage to a degree once restricted to a few rich and powerful states.

At some point, this trend could have apocalyptic consequences. For the first time in history, it is possible to contemplate a non-biblical “end of the world” scenario-not an act of God but a deliberate unleashing of a manmade, global, cataclysmic chain reaction. The Armageddon described in the last book of the New Testament, Revelation 16, could pass for a nuclear and bacteriological global suicide.2 While the probability of such an event may remain remote for some decades, the inevitable reality is that science will continue to enhance the human capacity for acts of self-destruction that organized society may not always be able to prevent or contain.

Short of such an apocalyptic outcome, the list of violent scenarios that could ensue as a consequence of international tensions or as byproducts of Manichean passions is bound to expand. Such scenarios, ranging from the more traditional to the more novel, include:

  1. a central and massively destructive strategic war, at this stage still feasible though unlikely, between the United States and Russia and perhaps in twenty or so years between the United States and China, as well as between China and Russia;
  2. significant regional wars fought with highly lethal weaponry, for example between India and Pakistan or between Israel and Iran;
  3. fragmenting ethnic wars, particularly within multiethnic states such as Indonesia or India;
  4. various forms of “national liberation” movements of the downtrodden against existing or perceived racial domination, for example by the Indian peasantry in Latin America, the Chechens in Russia, or the Palestinians against Israel;
  5. lash-out attacks by otherwise weak countries that have succeeded in building weapons of mass destruction and in finding ways for their delivery either against neighbors or anonymously against the United States;
  6. increasingly lethal terrorist attacks by underground groups against particularly hated targets, repeating what occurred in the United States on 9/11, but eventually escalating to the use of weapons of mass destruction;
  7. paralyzing cyber-attacks, undertaken anonymously by states, terrorist organizations, or even individual anarchists, against the operational infrastructure of the advanced societies in order to plunge them into chaos.

It is common knowledge that the tools for such violence are becoming more diversified and accessible. They range from highly complex weapons systems-particularly the various types of nuclear weapons designed for specific military missions, available to only a few states-to less efficient but still deadly nuclear explosives designed to kill large numbers of urban dwellers; and from nuclear explosives to chemical weapons (lethally less efficient) and bacteriological agents (less precisely targetable but highly dynamic). The poorer the state or more isolated the group that seeks to use these weapons, the more likely it is to resort to the less controllable and discriminating means of mass destruction.

Global security dilemmas in the early decades of the twenty-first century are thus qualitatively different from those of the twentieth. The traditional link between national sovereignty and national security has been severed. To be sure, traditional strategic concerns remain central to America’s security, given that potentially hostile major states-such as Russia and China-could still inflict massive damage on the American homeland if the international structure were to break down. Moreover, the major states will continue to refine and develop new weaponry, and maintaining a technological advantage over them will continue to be a major preoccupation of U.S. national security policy.3

Nevertheless, major wars between more developed states have already become a rarity. The two world wars, originating in the most advanced region of the world at the time-Europe-were “total” in the sense that they were fought with the most advanced means available, in order to kill both combatants and non-combatants indiscriminately. But each side still anticipated its own survival while pursuing the destruction of its opponent. Although total in their goal, these wars nonetheless were not suicidal.

With Hiroshima and Nagasaki giving “total” an altogether new meaning, and with the dissemination of atomic weapons among the major Cold War rivals as well as others, the notion of victory in a total war has become an oxymoron. This fact was acknowledged and institutionalized through the adoption by the United States and the Soviet Union of the strategy of mutual deterrence. Given that the nations that can best afford the most destructive weaponry are most often the ones that have the most to lose from using it, one can still envisage a total war between India and Pakistan, but no longer between France and Germany. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that total wars are becoming reckless acts that only poorer states can afford.

Wars among more developed states (however unlikely), and by developed states against less developed ones (more likely), will henceforth be fought with increasingly precise weaponry and will be designed not to totally destroy the opponent’s society (and thereby court counter-devastation), but to disarm the opponent and thus to subdue him. The U.S. campaigns in late 2001 against the Taliban and in 2003 against Iraq may be seen as a prototype for future military engagements waged with highly advanced weaponry capable of selectively targeting specific high-value military or economic objects.

Convulsive and percolating strife is becoming far more likely than organized, sustained, formal wars. War as a formally declared state of affairs has already become a thing of the past. The last solemn notifications that a state of war was about to ensue were issued to the Nazi government in Berlin by the British and French ambassadors on September 3, 1939, following the Nazi attack (without a declaration of war) on Poland. Since the end of World War II, the United States has engaged in two major wars involving nearly 100,000 American fatalities, about half a dozen relatively significant military operations with minor U.S. losses, and unilateral air strikes against at least three foreign capitals, without once declaring a formal state of war. India and Pakistan fought three bloody conflicts also without declaring war. Israel launched its preemptive 1967 attack against adjoining Arab states, and was itself attacked by them in 1973, similarly without any formal declaration. Iraq and Iran fought a bloody and protracted war in the 1980s without formally acknowledging the fact.

In contrast to the traditional international age, when they were formally declared and formally terminated, wars today are viewed as aberrant behavior much like domestic crime. That in itself represents a measure of progress. Nonetheless, in the era of globalization, “war” has given way to informal, pervasive, and often anonymous strife. This violence may be the result of geopolitical instability, such as that which broke out following the fall of the Soviet Union. In other cases, it is the consequence of ethnic and religious hostility, expressing itself through orgiastic mass violence as seen in Rwanda, Bosnia, and Borneo. Whatever its sources, such strife is currently widespread.4 The response to it sometimes involves reactive “police” actions such as in Kosovo in 1999.

In time, demographic pressures from the overpopulated poor regions against the richer areas may also transform illegal immigration into more violent migrations. In other cases, acts of organized violence could be the product of fanaticism fostered by non-state groupings and directed at the most obvious focus of their hatred, as has been the case with some terrorist organizations targeting America. Much of the foregoing might also be mobilized by some new integrative ideology, stimulated by resentments of global inequality and likely directed against the perceived bastion of the status quo, the United States (more on this in Part II).

In brief, America’s security dilemmas in the twenty-first century are coming to resemble the messy and diverse criminal challenges that large urban centers have been confronting for years, with percolating underworld violence both pervasive and normal. The risk inherent in this condition, however, is magnified by the technological potential of lethal violence to suddenly get out of hand and then massively escalate. Moreover, America’s ability to respond may be handicapped by the absence of an easy-to-define and self-evident source of threat. In essence, America’s isolated national security of the nineteenth century, which became defense through overseas alliances during the second half of the twentieth, is transmuting into shared global vulnerability today.

Under such circumstances and especially in the wake of 9/11, the rising inclination in America to seek enhanced national security is understandable. The quest for self-protection against existing, anticipated, suspected, and even imagined threats is justifiable, not only because of the unique global security role that the United States has assumed since the end of the Cold War, but also because of the degree to which America’s global sociocultural celebrity makes it the world’s center of attention. It follows that America has reason to seek more security for itself than most other nations require.

Even if we grant this point, to what extent is a narrowly defined national security conception feasible, in an age in which interstate wars are giving way to widespread strife? At what point does even a justifiable national preoccupation with domestic security cross the invisible line dividing prudence from paranoia? How much of America’s security is dependent on multilateral cooperation and how much of it can be-or should be-sought unilaterally? These simple questions pose extraordinarily complex and difficult national security choices, with far-reaching domestic constitutional implications. Ultimately, given the rapidly changing and dynamic character of both modern technology and the international setting, any answers will have to be contingent and temporary.

National Power and International Strife

The notion of total national security is now a myth. Total security and total defense in the age of globalization are not attainable. The real issue is: with how much insecurity can America live while promoting its interests in an increasingly interactive, interdependent world? Insecurity, while uncomfortable, has been the fate of many other nations for centuries. For America there is no longer a choice: even if socially disagreeable, its insecurity has to be politically manageable.

In reflecting on the security implications of this new reality, it is important to bear in mind the points made earlier. America is the world-transforming society, even revolutionary in its subversive impact on sovereignty-based international politics. At the same time, America is a traditional power, unilaterally protective of its own security while sustaining international stability not only for its own benefit, but for that of the international community as a whole. The latter task compels U.S. policymakers to concentrate on the more traditional U.S. role as the linchpin of global stability. Despite the new realities of global interdependence and the mounting preoccupation of the international community with such new global issues as ecology, global warming, AIDS, and poverty, the argument that American power is uniquely central to world peace is supported by a simple hypothetical test: What would happen if the U.S. Congress were to mandate the prompt retraction of U.S. military power from its three crucial foreign deployments-Europe, the Far East, and the Persian Gulf?

Any such U.S. withdrawal would without doubt plunge the world almost immediately into a politically chaotic crisis. In Europe, there would be a pell-mell rush by some to rearm but also to reach a special arrangement with Russia. In the Far East, war would probably break out on the Korean Peninsula while Japan would undertake a crash program of rearmament, including nuclear weapons. In the Persian Gulf area, Iran would become dominant and would intimidate the adjoining Arab states.

Given the foregoing, the long-term strategic alternatives for America are either to engage in a gradual, carefully managed transformation of its own supremacy into a self-sustaining international system, or to rely primarily on its national power to insulate itself from the international anarchy that would follow a disengagement. The instinctive response of most Americans to these choices is to favor some combination of unilateralism and internationalism. Concentration on the preservation of U.S. supremacy is evidently the preferred choice of the more conservative segments of American society and its elites, reflecting basically the interests of the traditional power structures and of the defense-oriented sectors of the U.S. economy. A willingness to devolve some power to like-minded partners in the construction of a global security system tends to be favored by those elements of American society usually identified with liberal causes, for whom the quest for domestic social justice can be empathetically projected onto its international equivalents.

Preponderance, however, is not omnipotence. Whatever the preferred formula, America still needs to consider carefully what regions of the world are most central to its security, how its interests can best be defined and effectively pursued, and what degree of world disorder it can tolerate. The task of making these judgments is rendered all the more difficult not only by the duality of America’s own global role, but also by the ongoing transformation of international politics. While the nation-state is still formally the primary actor on the world scene, inter-national politics (with emphasis on the hyphen) is increasingly becoming a seamless, messy, and often violently percolating global process.

Certain conclusions specific to America’s security flow from the above argument. The first of the principal threats to international security listed earlier (p. 12)-namely, a central strategic war-still poses a grave ultimate threat, but is no longer the most likely to occur. For years to come, maintaining stable mutual nuclear deterrence with Russia will remain a major security responsibility of U.S. policymakers. Within a decade or so, it is likely that China will also become able to inflict unacceptable damage on American society in the event of a central strategic war.

This security challenge is well understood by the American political elite. Thus we may expect that the United States will continue to make major and costly efforts to improve its own strategic capabilities. At the very least, these will involve improving the reliability, accuracy, and penetrability of U.S. strategic and tactical nuclear weaponry and various related support systems.

We should also expect, however, that the U.S.-pioneered, technologically driven revolution in military affairs will place increasing emphasis on combat versatility below the nuclear threshold, while seeking more generally to de-emphasize the centrality of nuclear weapons in modern conflict. The United States is likely to implement, unilaterally if necessary, significant reductions in its nuclear arsenal while deploying some form of missile defense. The inclusion of both Russia and China, in addition to traditional allies, in a serious dialogue regarding defense against fringe missile attacks from countries that otherwise lack a strategic capability might mitigate their fear that America is seeking through missile defense to regain the strategic superiority it enjoyed in the early 1950s.

The next threats to peace-significant regional wars, fragmenting ethnic wars, and revolutions from below-do not necessarily pose a direct threat to the United States. Even a nuclear war between, say, India and Pakistan or Iran and Israel, however horrible, is unlikely to precipitate a serious threat to the U.S. homeland. In any case, the United States would presumably use its political and even military leverage to prevent or contain such conflicts. The American ability to do so would depend in large measure on how energetic its preventive diplomacy was and how assertive and credible its threats to intervene to terminate regional violence.

The need to play that assertive role provides a major reason for the United States to maintain forces that are able-under the U.S. strategic umbrella-to engage in rapid and decisive intervention in local wars, no matter how distant from the United States. The key words here are “rapid” and “decisive.” In fact, the capacity to intervene rapidly and decisively is more important to U.S. security than the somewhat theoretical insistence of some military planners on maintaining a U.S. capability to wage two local wars (of unspecified duration) simultaneously. Being able to win a local war quickly provides a more credible deterrent against the eruption of another local conflict elsewhere than a costly effort to maintain the force levels required to engage in two local wars at the same time.

The essential formula for making decisive intervention possible is to combine the technological advantages of the revolution in military affairs, especially in precision weaponry and massive firepower, with airlift sufficient for rapid deployment of troops capable of heavy combat. Such a standby capability would go a long way in giving the United States, which already controls the oceans, the means to react to almost any local conflict deemed threatening to significant American interests.

This capability is certainly within U.S. reach-and it is noteworthy that no other power in the world can even aspire to such a global-reach capability. That disparity in itself defines the uniqueness of America’s current preponderance, and the geopolitical advantages to the United States of having such a decisive capability are self-evident.

The security challenges facing the United States in its own homeland are less clear-cut and much more complicated. On the one hand, such threats are less direct and less self-evident than the ones already noted; on the other hand, they are elusive and could become more pervasive. It is in this murky area that the boundary between prudence and paranoia becomes more difficult to delineate, and the domestic implications for America become more complex.

Prior to 9/11, national concern was heavily focused on the possibility that “rogue” states such as Iran or North Korea might launch, or threaten to launch, a missile attack on the United States.5 The Clinton administration in late 2000 even named the date by which it thought the nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) threat from North Korea would become real-2005-and announced plans to begin construction of a radar site to support an eventual missile defense deployment designed to offset that threat. Subsequently, the George W. Bush administration made clear its determination to proceed with an even more robust national missile defense system, though the decision regarding its technological characteristics and coverage was to be discussed with the principal U.S. allies, as well as Russia and possibly China.

Both the Clinton administration and the subsequent Bush administration were responding to a genuine public worry that, at some point, hostile nations may acquire weapons of mass destruction as well as the means for their delivery. Both administrations were also sensitive to the political benefits of any scheme that seemed to revive America’s traditional sense of special security. Technologically innovative defenses that would mitigate the grim reality of mutual vulnerability were inherently appealing. There were also specific domestic interests advocating the merits of missile defense, ranging from the aerospace industry to constituencies concerned that Iraq or Iran might pose a serious missile threat to Israel. Missile defense was thus an idea whose time had come.

The potential security benefits of any missile defense system, however, have to be weighed against the benefits of offsetting other vulnerabilities. Every dollar spent on missile defense means one less dollar for coping with other threats to the United States. By itself, this is not a case against the development and eventual deployment of some missile defenses, given the synergistic relationship between offensive and defensive weaponry. It is, however, to argue that any missile defense deployment has to follow from a careful weighing of alternative U.S. security needs. This is especially so since some of the other threats could prove more troublesome.

For example, covert attacks from unknown sources pose a particularly difficult and politically disorienting challenge. It is far from evident that even a so-called “rogue” state with missile capability would be so foolhardy as to strike at America in a manner that conveys the attacker’s return address-as would clearly be the case with a missile launch. A missile attack would almost certainly provoke a devastating U.S. retaliation, which would also make any second strike against the United States less likely.

In contrast, a sudden nuclear explosion in some U.S. port, detonated aboard an obscure vessel-perhaps one of the more than 1,000 ships that ply the Atlantic on any given day-could annihilate the adjoining city without any perpetrator claiming credit or being available to receive blame. Such an undertaking would be less complex than the construction of a reliable warhead on an accurately guided ICBM, and would present a far graver challenge to American morale. Selecting a target for retaliation would not be as easy, while the fear of repetition would probably precipitate panic in every American city.

Much the same can be said of a terrorist act by a group determined to hurt, disorganize, and intimidate American society. The concentration of urban dwellers into congested spaces offers a particularly tempting target for an attack. If delivered anonymously, it would spark panic, perhaps precipitate overreactions directed at other states or religious and ethnic groups, and also threaten U.S. civil liberties. As the anthrax scare dramatized in the wake of 9/11, a large-scale release of bacteriological agents could unleash lethal epidemics and widespread hysteria while overwhelming existing U.S. disease controls. Similarly, a comprehensive cyber-attack on the computerized U.S. power grids, communications systems, and airlines could literally paralyze American society, provoking a social as well as economic breakdown. In brief, the highly congested and technologically interdependent character of modern society offers lucrative targets for anonymous but extremely damaging acts that are particularly difficult to forestall.

All of these threats-from the strategically familiar to the most unconventional-must be the objects of intensified contingency planning and maybe even preventive action. National security readiness has to be across the board, and it would be a mistake to over-dramatize one threat to the exclusion of others. The security enhancements that are urgently needed include, among others, the upgrading of domestic emergency readiness to cope with a significant attack on an urban center, improvements in the effectiveness of border controls against the insertion into the United States of components of weapons of mass destruction, and increased security of the nation’s economically and militarily vital computer systems.6

But for the real upgrading of homeland defense-rather than the mere shuffling of bureaucratic boxes-the top priority must be the acquisition of effective intelligence. Ultimately, it is impossible to make every national facility and every football game and shopping mall safe against terrorist attack. At some point, efforts to make them so will bog down under the weight of burdensome controls and excessive costs. Terrorists could have a field day simply by repeatedly unleashing false alarms-and they may already be doing just that, precipitating America’s unsettling color alerts.

A far more productive security posture would involve a major organizational and financial commitment to enhance national intelligence capabilities. That enhancement should focus on upgrading the technological means for surveillance and prompt detection of suspect activities, on more effective and widespread use of human recruitment to penetrate hostile foreign governments and terrorist organizations, and on aggressive covert activities designed to disrupt and terminate, at an early stage, plots aimed at America. Every dollar spent on active, preventive intelligence is probably worth more than ten dollars spent on across-the-board but essentially blind upgrading of security at potential terrorist targets.

Moreover, genuine national security readiness should foster public recognition that some degree of vulnerability is a fact of modern life. Scaremongering by interested domestic parties, with periodic media campaigns targeting particular “rogue” countries as America’s “enemy of the year”-Libya, Iraq, Iran, North Korea, and even China-risks creating a paranoid vision of America’s place in the world, rather than prompting a broadly gauged national strategy designed to channel global strife in a more stable and controllable direction.

Defining the New Threat

The dilemmas inherent in America’s new insecurity suggest that the United States is on the cusp of its third historically significant grand debate regarding its national defense. The first, which raged shortly after independence, was about whether the newly emancipated American state should even have a regular peacetime army, and what precautions should be adopted to counter the danger that its very existence could lead to despotism. The U.S. Congress was initially reluctant to approve a standing army, prompting Alexander Hamilton to warn (in the Federalist Papers) that without such an army “The United States would then exhibit the most extraordinary spectacle which the world has yet seen, that of a nation incapacitated by its Constitution to prepare for defense before it was actually invaded.”7

The second protracted debate, equally far-reaching in its consequences, was precipitated after World War I by America’s rejection of membership in the League of Nations. It culminated in the decision reached almost three decades later, after World War II, to undertake an open-ended U.S. commitment to the security of Europe, as expressed in Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty. This treaty’s approval by Congress involved a fundamental redefinition of the meaning and scope of U.S. national security: the defense of Europe was henceforth to be the front line in the defense of America itself. Alliance became the cornerstone of U.S. defense policy.

The third debate is also likely to be protracted and divisive-at home as well as abroad. In essence, it involves the question of how far the United States should go in maximizing its own security, at what financial and political costs, and at what risk to strategic ties with its allies. Though it erupted into the open after 9/11, the third debate was already foreshadowed in the mid-1980s by the sharp domestic and international clash of opinions precipitated by President Reagan’s proposed Strategic Defense Initiative. That project reflected an early recognition that technological dynamics were changing the relationship between offensive and defensive weaponry, and that outer space was becoming the perimeter of national security. The SDI proposal, however, was largely focused on a single threat, the Soviet Union. The issue faded when the threat itself faded.

A decade later, the third major redefinition of U.S. national security focuses increasingly on the broader issue of societal survivability in a setting of almost inevitable diffusion and diversification of weapons of mass destruction, percolating global turbulence, and increased fear of terrorism. These conditions cumulatively create a much more intimate interdependence between the security of the American homeland and the overall state of global affairs.

Although America’s role in ensuring the security of its allies and, more generally, in sustaining global stability justifies it in seeking more security for itself than is practically attainable by other states, the fact nonetheless remains that total security has become a thing of the past. The defense of the territory of U.S. allies across the oceans no longer offers a distant shield for America itself. While this emerging reality has long been a source of concern to defense specialists, for the public at large it was the events of 9/11 that drove the truth home.

America’s security henceforth has to be seen as inexorably tied to the global condition. Not surprisingly, public priorities after 9/11 show a marked drop in idealistic concerns and a considerable increase in concern for one’s own safety. Nonetheless, readiness and planning for domestic and international security by themselves will not provide enduring security. The maintenance of a peerless and comprehensive U.S. military capability and enhanced domestic survivability must be reinforced by systematic efforts to enlarge the zones of global stability, to eliminate some of the most egregious causes of political violence, and to promote political systems that place central value on human rights and constitutional procedures. America from now on will be more vulnerable when democracy abroad is on the defensive, and democracy abroad, in turn, will be more vulnerable if America is intimidated.

A key issue in the third grand debate over America’s national security is how to define the threat. How one defines a challenge largely determines the response. Hence, the issue of definition is not just an intellectual exercise, but a strategically important undertaking with several dimensions. The definition of the threat has to provide the springboard for national mobilization. It has to define the stakes involved. It has to not only grasp the essence of the threat, but capture some of its complexity. It has to distinguish between immediate and longer-term tasks. It has to differentiate among long-term allies, opportunistic partners, covert opponents, and open foes.

Given that America is a democracy, the definition of the threat must also be easily understood by the public, so that it can sustain the material sacrifices needed to address the threat. That puts a premium on clarity and specificity, but it also creates the temptation of demagogy. If the threat can be personalized, identified as evil, and even stereotyped visually, social mobilization for a long-haul effort becomes easier. In human affairs, and especially in international affairs, hate and prejudice are much more powerful emotions than sympathy or affinity. They are also easier to express than a more authentic appraisal of the inevitably complex historical and political motives that influence the conduct of nations and even of terrorist groupings.

The public discourse in the United States after 9/11 highlights these considerations. The public reaction-as reflected in speeches by leading politicians as well as in editorials in the leading publications-has tended to focus primarily on terrorism as such, emphasizing its evil character and concentrating attention on the notorious personality of Osama bin Laden. President Bush was inclined (probably because of his religious propensities) to treat the threat almost in theological terms, viewing it as a collision between “good and evil.” He even embraced the Leninist formula that “he who is not with us is against us,” a notion that is always congenial to an aroused public mood, but whose black-and-white view of the world ignores the shades of gray that define most global dilemmas.

Intellectually more ambitious analyses of the events of 9/11 most often pointed, in a vaguely generalized fashion, at the Islamic mindset, which was interpreted as religiously and culturally hostile to Western (especially American) notions of modernity. To be sure, the administration wisely eschewed identifying terrorism with Islam as a whole and has been careful to stress that Islam as such is not at fault. Some of the administration’s supporters, however, have been less careful about such distinctions. They quickly launched a campaign suggesting that Islamic culture as a whole is so hostile to the West that it has created fertile soil for terrorist violence against America. This argument carefully avoided identifying any pertinent political impulses behind the terrorist phenomenon.

President Bush’s largely theological approach, in addition to its politically mobilizing effect, had the added tactical advantage of conflating into one simple formula several sources of the threat, irrespective of whether they were interconnected or not. The famous presidential reference to the “axis of evil,” made in early 2002, rhetorically lumped together the separate challenges posed by North Korea to the stability of Northeast Asia, by Iran’s longer-range ambitions in the Persian Gulf region, and by the unfinished legacy of the 1991 campaign against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. The increasingly ominous dilemmas inherent in these states’ efforts to acquire nuclear weaponry were thus encapsulated by the moral condemnation of three specific but not allied regimes (two of them in fact mutual enemies) and were linked to the American people’s painful and immediate experience with direct terrorism.

For the American people, the “axis of evil” will probably suffice for a while as a rough definition of the threat. The problem that arises, however, is twofold: First, since America’s security is now linked to global security and the campaign against terrorism requires global support, it is important that others, outside America, share this definition. Will they? Second, is such a definition adequate in its diagnosis, and does it provide an effective basis for a long-term and successful strategic response to the challenge posed both separately as well as jointly by terrorism and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction?

The difficulty is that the administration’s definition of what or whom Americans are being asked to fight in “the war on terrorism” has been articulated in a remarkably vague fashion. Matters have not been made clear by the president’s reduction (or elevation, depending on one’s vantage point) of terrorists to “evildoers,” otherwise unidentified, whose motivations are said to be simply satanic. Identifying terrorism itself as the enemy also blithely ignored the fact that terrorism is a lethal technique for intimidation employed by individuals, groups, and states. One does not wage a war against a technique or a tactic. No one, for instance, would have declared at the outset of World War II that the war was being fought against “blitzkrieg.”

As a technique of warfare, terrorism is used by specific people generally for decipherable political purposes. Thus behind almost every terrorist act lurks a political problem. Terrorism purposely relies on brutal and morally outrageous strikes against civilians, symbolic persons, or physical objects to achieve a political effect.8 The weaker and more fanatical the political extremists, the greater their inclination to adopt the most outrageous forms of terrorism as their preferred means of warfare. Their ruthless calculus is to instigate such massive retaliation by the stronger party that they themselves will gain increasing support and even legitimacy. To paraphrase Clausewitz, terrorism is politics by other means.

Accordingly, coping with terrorism requires a deliberate campaign not only to eliminate terrorists as such but to identify them and then to address (in whatever fashion may be appropriate) the political impulses that underlie their actions. To assert that is neither to excuse terrorism nor to urge its propitiation. Almost all terrorist activity originates from a political conflict and has been spawned as well as sustained by it. That applies to the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in Northern Ireland, the Basques in Spain, the Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza, the Chechens in Russia, and to all other groups.9

While new for America, terrorism is not a novelty elsewhere. It was widespread in Europe and Tsarist Russia from the middle of the nineteenth century to approximately the beginning of World War I. It involved thousands of violent attacks, including high level assassinations and the dynamiting of buildings. Perhaps as many as 7,000 officials and policemen were its victims in Russia alone, including even the Tsar. Elsewhere, its most spectacular manifestation, the assassination of Austro-Hungarian archduke Franz Ferdinand in Sarajevo, sparked World War I.

In more recent times, the British have been victimized by IRA terrorism over several decades, and civilian losses from IRA bombings in Britain number in the hundreds, including even senior members of the royal family. Top officials have been assassinated in recent years in several European states-notably in Spain, Italy, and Germany-and other examples could be cited at length.10 Both left-wing and right-wing terrorists have been active in Latin America, generating casualties in the tens of thousands.

Terrorism rooted in ethnic, national, or religious resentments is the most enduring and the least susceptible to simple extirpation. Generally speaking, terrorism derived from social grievances, even if ideologically reinforced by a dogma such as radical Marxism, tends to fade if the societies in question fail to embrace the terrorists’ cause. Social isolation eventually demoralizes some of the terrorists and exposes others to capture. Terrorism based more specifically on the support of an alienated and geographically remote social class, such as the peasantry, has shown greater endurance (as the experiences of China and Latin America demonstrate), particularly if backed by a guerrilla movement. But terrorism derived from shared ethnicity backed by historic myths and fired by religious zeal has proven to be the most resistant of all to simple physical suppression.

The terrorists themselves are doubtless irredeemable, but the conditions that foster them may not be so. This is an important distinction. Terrorists tend to live in a world of their own, cocooned within their pathological self-righteousness. Violence becomes not just the means to an end but also their raison d’tre. That is why their elimination is necessary. To make certain their ranks are not replenished, however, a careful political strategy is needed in order to weaken the complex political and cultural forces that give rise to terrorism. What creates them has to be politically undercut.

In the case of 9/11, it is evident that the political history of the Middle East has much to do with the terrorists’ outrage, and especially with the focus of their outrage on America. That political history need not be dissected too precisely because terrorists presumably do not delve deeply into historical texts before embarking on a violent career. Rather, it is the emotional context of felt, observed, or recounted political grievances that shapes their hatreds and eventually their actions.

In the Middle East, Arab political sentiment has been shaped by the region’s encounter with French and British colonialism, by the defeat of the Arab effort to prevent the appearance of Israel, by Israel’s subsequent treatment of the Palestinians, and by the direct as well as indirect projection of American power into the region. The last has been perceived by the region’s politically and religiously more extremist elements as a sacrilege against the sacred purity of Islam’s holy places (first in Saudi Arabia, now in Iraq), as hurtful to the welfare of the Arab people, and as biased in support of Israel against the Palestinians. The extremists’ political zeal has been fueled by religious fervor, but it is telling that some of the 9/11 terrorists led notably non-religious lifestyles. Their attack on the World Trade Center, the second within five years, thus had an evident political cast to it.

There is no escape from the historic reality that American involvement in the Middle East is clearly the main reason why terrorism has been directed at America-just as, for example, English involvement in Ireland has precipitated the IRA’s frequent targeting of London and even of the royal family itself. The British have recognized that basic fact and have tried to react to it on both military and political levels. In contrast, America has shown a remarkable reluctance to confront the political dimensions of terrorism and to identify terrorism with its political context.

To win the war against Middle Eastern terrorists, one must implement the two key dimensions of the effort: the terrorists must be extirpated, but simultaneously a political process must be promoted that confronts the conditions that lead to the terrorists’ emergence. This is precisely what the British have been doing in Ulster and the Spaniards in Basque country. It is what the Russians have been urged to do in Chechnya. Addressing these political conditions is not a concession to terrorists but an imperative component of a strategy to eliminate and isolate the terrorist underworld.

Hence, the American reluctance to recognize a connection between the events of 9/11 and the modern political history of the Middle East-with its strong political passions, nurtured by religious fanaticism and zealous nationalism, unstably coexisting with political weakness-is a dangerous form of denial. The U.S. inclination, in the spring of 2002, to embrace even the more extreme forms of Israeli suppression of the Palestinians as part of the struggle against terrorism is a case in point. The unwillingness to recognize a historical connection between the rise of anti-American terrorism and America’s involvement in the Middle East makes the formulation of an effective strategic response to terrorism that much more difficult.

Initial global support for America after the 9/11 outrage was, as noted earlier, both an expression of genuine empathy and an expedient affirmation of loyalty. It was not, however, an endorsement of the American interpretation of the nature of the threat. As that interpretation rhetorically took shape and was articulated in increasingly sharper language, culminating in the “axis of evil” formulation, the American perspective on terrorism increasingly came to be viewed as divorced from terrorism’s political context.

Not surprisingly, within six months of 9/11, the nearly unanimous global support for America gave way to increasing skepticism regarding the official U.S. formulations of the shared threat. That poses the risk that America could find itself increasingly isolated in coping with the political dimensions of the dangers that it faces. The threat, in the meantime, could even worsen as various means of inflicting massive lethality become more and more accessible not only to states but to underground organizations.

The linkage between terrorism and proliferation is a truly menacing prospect. But it, too, cannot be addressed on the basis of abstract formulations about “evil,” or by American power alone. Complicating the matter is the fact that the American record on nuclear proliferation is not that pure. The United States assisted Great Britain’s efforts to acquire nuclear weapons; it surreptitiously aided France’s; it winked at Israel’s and perhaps even more than winked; it acquiesced to China’s, India’s, and Pakistan’s; and it has been promiscuously unvigilant regarding its own nuclear secrets. When critics charge that the recent U.S. concerns with proliferation have been late in coming, they have a point.

America’s motives are also being challenged by the widespread suspicion abroad, especially in Western Europe, that America’s suddenly intense concern about proliferation is due only in part to the shock of 9/11. America’s preoccupation with Iran’s and Iraq’s potential acquisition of deliverable weapons of mass destruction, in contrast to its indifference to Israel’s possession of nuclear weapons, is seen as partly fueled by Israel’s understandable interest in disarming these states and in keeping them so. The inclusion of North Korea in the “axis of evil” was widely interpreted as a deliberate effort to obscure the narrower, one-sided American preoccupation with proliferation specifically in the Middle Eastern region.

Efforts by foreign states to link their own pursuits to the American war on terrorism have further blurred the definition of the threat, thereby posing the additional risk that the American war on terrorism may be politically hijacked by foreign powers. Notably, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel, President Vladimir Putin of Russia, and former president Jiang Zemin of China have all seized upon the word “terrorism” to promote their own agendas. For each of them, the vague American definition of “terrorism with a global reach” has been both expedient and convenient in their efforts to suppress the Palestinians, the Chechens, and the Uighurs, respectively.

The point of departure, therefore, for an effective response to the threat of terror plus proliferation is to recognize that both are connected to specific regional issues. All the talk about “terrorism with a global reach” cannot erase the national origins of the terrorists, the specific focus of their hatreds, or their religious roots. Similarly, the threat of proliferation, and especially its linkage with state-sponsored terrorism, is predominantly regional and not global.

It follows, then, that North Korea’s increasingly dangerous pursuit of nuclear weapons and its propensity to proliferate can be effectively addressed only in a Northeast Asian regional context, with the interests of South Korea, China, and Japan individually as well as collectively taken into account. The “axis of evil” formula notwithstanding, any attempted solution will have to recognize and respond to the special interests of the region’s key countries. Indeed, America’s insistence on engaging North Korea-in striking contrast to Iraq and Iran-in a regional multilateral dialogue about proliferation reinforces the point.

The answers to both terrorism and proliferation cannot come without America, but they clearly cannot come from America exclusively. The war on Middle Eastern terrorism will bring the actual elimination of terrorist organizations only when they lose their social appeal and therefore their recruitment ability, and when their financial backing dries up. This victory is likely to be apparent only retroactively. Proliferation will be brought under control when suspect national efforts are either subjected to effective international controls or halted by the duress of outside force. The active involvement of America will be critical to both outcomes, but achieving them will be much easier if American initiatives command genuine international support.

To be sure, the United States has the power to crush North Korea or any Middle Eastern state, to help Israel maintain its security as well as territorial control over the entire West Bank and Gaza, to support punitive antiterrorist military actions against Syria, to deter the Egyptians or Saudis from committing hostile acts against itself or Israel. Any additional military operation against Iran could be confined to selective strikes against any Iranian facilities engaged in WMD production, thereby limiting the scale of the required military effort.

Steps of that kind might deal with the issue of proliferation, at least in the short run. Whether they would cure the terrorist impulse is more doubtful. They would certainly foster intensified resentment of America and be viewed as a manifestly colonial effort to impose a new order on the region. Moreover, they would very likely breed strong international repudiation, especially in Europe, not to mention the Islamic world. America’s position in Europe could thereby be jeopardized, while the “war on terrorism” would become an exclusively American and largely anti-Islamic enterprise. Samuel Huntington’s vision of a “clash of civilizations” could thus become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Last but not least, a policy of unilateral compulsion would breed an international state of mind in which the surreptitious acquisition of WMD would become a high priority for states unwilling to be intimidated. Such states would then have an additional incentive to assist terrorist groups, which, fueled by a thirst for revenge, would be even more likely to anonymously unleash weapons of mass destruction against America. Survival of the fittest, always inherent to some degree in international politics (though gradually mitigated by international conventions guiding the conduct of states), would thereby become the law of the global jungle. In the long run, that could prove to be the fatal undoing of America’s national security.

That is why one argument made in the course of the third grand debate about America’s security-that it should denigrate the Atlantic Alliance in favor of a new “coalition of the willing”-is so misguided. Though not stated openly, it involves an attempt by a highly motivated group within the Bush administration and within the more conservative political circles to execute a strategic “coup de main” to alter America’s fundamental geopolitical priorities. In effect, this group seeks to provide the rationale, the motivation, and the strategy for a new American-led global coalition, replacing the one that America shaped after 1945 during the Cold War.

The cement of the Cold War coalition was opposition to Soviet power, based on shared values and a rejection of Communist dictatorship. The coalition’s critical expression was the Atlantic Alliance (formalized through NATO), followed by a separate defense treaty with Japan, and its purpose was to contain any further Soviet expansion. The eventual collapse of the Soviet Union, in 1991, signaled the historic triumph of this democratic alliance, but it also raised the question of the alliance’s future mission. The answer, for the last decade or so, has been to enlarge the alliance itself while gradually seeking to widen its outreach beyond Europe.

The terrorist strike of 9/11 has created the opening for those who feel strongly that the states that are somehow in conflict with Muslims-be they Russia, China, Israel, or India-should now be viewed as America’s natural and primary partners. Some even argue that America’s goal should be to reorder the Middle East, using America’s power in the name of democracy to subordinate the Arab states to its will, to eliminate Islamic radicalism, and to make the region safe for Israel. That perspective is shared domestically in America by various right-wing, neoconservative, and religiously fundamentalist groups. Fear of terrorism gives this orientation a powerful public appeal.

Unlike the earlier coalition, however, this strategic formula offers little prospect of political endurance. The partnership would be opportunistic, organized around tactical goals rather than lasting common values. At best, it is likely to be a short-term arrangement-one that could only destroy, rather than replace, the grand democratic alliance that America successfully promoted for more than forty years.

The risks of such a realignment could be compounded by a rhetorically exuberant redefinition of America’s strategic doctrine. President Bush signaled a growing inclination to do just that in his speech of June 1, 2002, at West Point. The White House press office distributed it by email to various members of the foreign policy community with a note stating that the speech “articulates a new doctrine for American foreign policy (preemptive action when necessary to defend our liberty and defend our lives)…. The West Point speech represents the convictions and cast of mind of the President and his Administration….”

In the speech, the president dismissed traditional deterrence as irrelevant to the post-Cold War dangers of terrorism and proliferation, and declared his determination to “take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans, and confront the worst threats before they emerge.” It is noteworthy that he left “the enemy” unidentified, thus reserving the widest possible latitude for an arbitrary choice of target. The newly proclaimed doctrine of preemptive intervention did not specify what criteria would be used to determine what is terrorism, nor did it clarify under what conditions proliferation would be viewed as an evil justifying preventive military action by the United States.

In essence, the United States was arrogating the right to identify the enemy and to strike first without seeking international consensus on a shared definition of the threat. It was replacing the established doctrine of mutual assured destruction (known as MAD) with the new concept of solitary assured destruction (which might be labeled SAD). Not surprisingly, the shift from MAD to SAD was seen by many as strategically regressive.

The conflation of two distinct concepts, preemption and prevention, did not help matters. In Chapter 5 of the 2002 National Security Strategy document issued by the National Security Council, entitled “Prevent Our Enemies from Threatening Us, Our Allies, and Our Friends with Weapons of Mass Destruction,” the two terms are used interchangeably. The Deputy Secretary of Defense further blurred the issue by stating to the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) on December 2, 2002, that “Anyone who believes that we can wait until we have certain knowledge that attacks are imminent has failed to connect the dots that led to September 11.”

Yet the distinction between preemption and prevention is significant for international order, and it should not be obscured. It involves the difference, for example, between Israel’s decision in June 1967 to preempt the Arab attack for which Arab forces were completing their deployment, and Israel’s 1981 air attack on the Osiraq nuclear reactor in order to prevent Iraq from eventually acquiring nuclear weapons. The former responded to an imminent threat; the latter prevented a threat from arising. Similarly, the U.S. attack on Iraq in 2003 was perhaps preventive against some future “grave and gathering threat” (as President Bush put it) but certainly not preemptive of an imminent Iraqi strike.

Preemption can be justified on the grounds of supreme national interest in the face of an imminent threat, and thus almost by definition it is likely to be unilateral. It requires extraordinarily good intelligence to justify (at least retroactively) such an arbitrary act. Prevention, in contrast, should be preceded if possible by the mobilization of political pressure (including international support) in order to forestall the undesirable from occurring, and should involve a recourse to force only when other remedies have been exhausted and deterrence is no longer a credible alternative. Failure to discriminate-especially on the part of the superpower, which has the greatest means for deterrence-could precipitate a contagion of unilateral “preventive” wars masquerading as “preemptive.”

Ultimately, the worst effect of any such far-reaching alteration in alliances and doctrine could be on America itself. It would transform both America’s historical role in the world and the way the world views it. Rather than continue as the beacon of liberty for the politically awakening peoples of the world, America would come to be seen as the leader of a new “Holy Alliance” that lacks a balanced concern for order and justice, security and democracy, national power and social progress. It could produce hegemonic isolation, with old friends cavalierly antagonized and new ones neither truly sharing America’s basic values nor capable of becoming genuinely comprehensive partners in coping with the sources of global violence. An isolated America, despite its might, would then be prey to various hostile constellations, comprising not only its enemies but its former but forlorn allies as well as its new but fickle friends.

The fundamental threat facing both America and the world is increasingly violent political turmoil that could end in global anarchy. Terrorism is one of its ugliest manifestations. Proliferation of weapons of mass destruction is one of its greatest dangers. But both are symptoms of a basic global malady. Only the persistent pursuit of a global strategy that addresses the underlying causes of global strife can reduce America’s current national insecurity. That calls for the mobilization of worldwide support on a scale that dwarfs even the alliance that defeated the totalitarianisms of the twentieth century. American global power is this strategy’s necessary point of departure, but it cannot be its historical destination.


1 After Pearl Harbor, the war with Japan was fought on the distant Pacific Ocean islands.

2 “And the seventh angel poured out his vial into the air; and there came a great voice out of the temple of heaven, from the throne, saying, It is done.

And there were voices, and thunders, and lightnings; and there was a great earthquake, such as was not since men were upon the earth, so mighty an earthquake, and so great.

And the great city was divided into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell….

And every island fled away, and the mountains were not found.

And there fell upon men a great hail out of heaven, every stone about the weight of a talent: and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail; for the plague thereof was exceeding great. (King James Version)

3 For example, the very success of America’s RMA has spurred China to pursue its own “RMA with Chinese characteristics”-described as “people’s war under high-tech conditions”-in what some Chinese military leaders and experts consider to be “a major strategic transformation.” See Kung Shuang-yin, “Achieving Development by Leaps and Bounds in National Defense,” Ta Kung Pao, May 31, 2003. (Author’s Note: Throughout book, all quotations from non-English titles are translations.)

4 According to the annual report on world conflicts prepared in 2002 by the Interdisciplinary Research Programme on Causes of Human Rights Violations (PIOOM), Leiden, Netherlands, there were twenty-three ongoing “high-intensity conflicts” in the year 2001, which consumed some 125,000 human lives, in addition to seventy-nine “low-intensity conflicts” (which consumed from 100 to 1,000 lives each) and thirty-eight “violent political conflicts” (ranging from 25 to 100 fatalities each). Only about thirty-five countries were listed as relatively free of violent political strife.

5 In general, a great deal of vigilance is warranted in regard to so-called intelligence information about the development of weaponry by other countries, especially when such information originates from foreign sources. A case in point is the story headlined, “Iran May Be Able to Build an Atomic Bomb in 5 Years, U.S. and Israeli Officials Fear,” which appeared in The New York Times, datelined from Tel Aviv January 3, 1995. It quoted “a senior official” as asserting that “If Iran is not interrupted in this program by some foreign power, it will have the device in more or less five years.” Seven years later, on March 19, 2002, the Director of Central Intelligence testified before Congress that “most Intelligence Community agencies project that by 2015 the US most likely will face ICBM threats from North Korea and Iran…. Tehran may be able to indigenously produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon by late this decade.” Moreover, the experience of all existing nuclear powers is that numerous tests are needed to acquire a reliable nuclear warhead and a reasonably accurate delivery system. Such tests are nearly impossible to conceal. The only exception may have been Israel, which is said to have acquired a covert nuclear arsenal, but Israel has been the informal beneficiary of the technological know-how acquired by tests conducted by the United States and, in earlier years, also by France. Even so, Israel is widely suspected of having conducted in the late 1970s at least one joint nuclear test with the then-white-supremacist government of South Africa.

6 Two citations from Stephen E. Flynn’s article, “America the Vulnerable,” Foreign Affairs (January/February 2002), 63-64, illustrate the scale of the problem: “most of the physical plant, telecommunications, power, water supply, and transportation infrastructure on U.S. territory lies unprotected or is equipped with security sufficient to deter only amateur vandals, thieves, or hackers…. In 2000 alone, 489 million people, 127 million passenger vehicles, 11.6 million maritime containers, 11.5 million trucks, 2.2 million railroad cars, 829,000 planes, and 211,000 vessels passed through U.S. border inspection systems.”

7 Gregory J.W. Urwin, “The Army of the Constitution: The Historical Context,” in …to insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence…, ed. Max G. Manwaring, 45 (Carlisle, PA: Strategic Studies Institute, 2000).

8 Another way of putting it: “terrorism and its associated asymmetry emerge when fragments of a marginalized self-appointed elite are frustrated to the point of violence by what they perceive as injustice, repression, or inequity…. These individual men and women are prepared to kill and to destroy-and perhaps to die in the process-to achieve their self-determined objectives.” Max G. Manwaring, The Inescapable Global Security Arena, (Carlisle, PA, Strategic Studies Institute, 2002), 7.

9 In a study of suicide terrorism from 1980 to 2001, University of Chicago political scientist Robert Pape found that, of the 188 separate attacks he identified, “179 could have their roots traced to large, coherent political or military campaigns.” He also noted that “there is little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any religion for that matter. In fact, the leading instigator of suicide attacks is the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, a Marxist-Leninist group whose members are from Hindu families but who are adamantly opposed to religion (they have committed 75 of the 188 incidents).” See Robert A. Pape, “Dying to Kill Us,” The New York Times, September 22, 2003.

10 To cite the case of Italy alone: Franco Ferracuti, “Ideology and Repentance: Terrorism in Italy,” in Origins of Terrorism, ed. Walter Reich, 59 (Washington, DC: Woodrow Wilson Center Press, 1998), counted no less than 14,569 acts of terrorism in Italy between 1969 and 1986, with a total of 415 deaths. The peak year, 1979, experienced 2,513 terrorist incidents.

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