[sixties-l] Imperial Power

From: Ted Morgan (epm2@LEHIGH.EDU)
Date: Tue Jun 04 2002 - 16:37:34 EDT

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    Re. the earlier discussion about whether or not the US was an imperial
    power, or whether or not some saw the US this way. Note this:
    Ted Morgan

    -------- Original Message --------

    > (From Harvard Magazine.)
    > The Future of War and the American Military
    > Demography, technology, and the politics of modern empire
    > by Stephen Peter Rosen
    > The people who run the American military have to be futurists, whether
    > they want to be or not. The process of developing and building new weapons
    > takes decades, as does the process of recruiting and training new military
    > officers. As a result, when taking such steps, leaders are making
    > statements, implicitly or explicitly, about what they think will be useful
    > many years in the future.
    > The soldier as "fighting system," outfitted in "Land Warrior" gear.
    > Courtesy of United States Department of DefenseIt is not easy being a
    > futurist. The first effort by the Bush administration to review defense
    > policy, in 2001, did not change much. It was "conservative," and assumed
    > that the world would change slowly and incrementally. Sometimes it does,
    > but often it has not, as events at the end of the Cold War and in
    > September 2001 demonstrated. In 2002, the war in Afghanistan will
    > encourage a harder look at that conservative approach. Yet it is not easy
    > to think clearly about how to change. Often, when we think we are making
    > bold leaps of imagination, we are only projecting the recent past out into
    > the indefinite future. Before September 11, much of the thinking in the
    > Pentagon about the future anticipated replays of the 1991 war against
    > Iraq, along with limited peacekeeping operations. After September 11, we
    > now act as if the future of war will be dominated by the fight against
    > terrorism. In both cases, there was a powerful tendency to assume that
    > what had happened most recently would continue to happen.
    > How might we try to think differently about the future for military
    > planning purposes? One useful way to begin is to identify trends^×ongoing
    > processes that have considerable momentum^×that are likely to continue into
    > the future with relatively limited, or only gradual, changes. Demographics
    > is one of them. The demographic decline and collapse of public health in
    > Russia are well underway, and it is hard to see how they could be reversed
    > in one generation. This is a trend that makes a resurgence of Russian
    > national power in the next 20 years unlikely. The aging and contraction of
    > the population of Europe and Japan are also striking, and make them
    > unlikely centers of power in the future. The position of Europe is
    > particularly interesting, since the countries across the Mediterranean
    > from Europe are growing in population, and there are already large Islamic
    > populations in Europe with higher birth rates than the non-Islamic
    > populations. The advances in information technology will continue, along
    > with the diffusion of the ability to construct nuclear, biological, and
    > chemical weapons. Politically, the dominance of democracies and
    > international institutions in Europe seems likely to insure relative
    > international peace, while the comparative rarity of stable democracies in
    > Asia^×from Turkey to Korea^×together with the social dislocations associated
    > with the process of industrialization and economic growth, suggest a more
    > turbulent future for that populous continent.
    > These observations have some obvious implications for defense planners.
    > The United States has begun to shift its military focus away from Europe
    > to Asia. The diffusion of technologies relevant to the construction of
    > weapons of mass destruction was the driving force behind efforts to
    > develop defenses against ballistic missiles, and the attacks of September
    > 11 and the anthrax attacks will increase the effort to thwart less
    > conventional ways of delivering these weapons as well. Countering such
    > weapons will mean not only shooting down missiles, but also finding and
    > perhaps destroying them before they are launched. Even before September
    > 11, a group of officers and defense intellectuals existed who advocated
    > military transformation, a "Revolution in Military Affairs," or RMA, a
    > term coined by Andrew Marshall, director of the Office of Net Assessment
    > in the Pentagon. That office, more than any other, tries to focus on
    > long-term problems of analysis and planning. RMA advocates argued that
    > rapid improvement in information technologies^×sensors, communications,
    > data processing^×would make it possible to find most large military
    > systems, such as air bases, aircraft carriers, and tanks, and to destroy
    > quickly whatever you could find.
    > Maximizing mobility: a prototype second-generation unmanned Predator B
    > surveillance craft in test flight
    > The General Atomic Aeronautical System, Inc.The events of September 11 and
    > thereafter would appear to strengthen their case. The use in Afghanistan
    > of small, covert teams of soldiers, supported by high-tech sensors and
    > long-range, highly accurate missiles, was very much like what RMA
    > advocates within the U.S. Marine Corps had proposed in 1994 in a concept
    > called "Sea Dragon." The use of unmanned aerial vehicles armed with
    > precision-guided munitions, another RMA concept, has actually been
    > employed in Afghanistan. Combining data collected from a number of sources
    > and sending it in real time to bombers in flight toward Afghanistan to
    > attack hidden or mobile targets was yet another RMA concept that was
    > accelerated as a result of the war. The possible need to find Pakistani
    > nuclear weapons, if the government of Pakistan turns against the United
    > States, will also increase funding for information technologies that can
    > obtain data about hidden weapons. The desire to identify and track
    > individuals who may be embarked on terrorist missions will also push
    > information technologies, probably combined with biotechnology, to the
    > point where specific individuals can be pursued. The fact that the United
    > States has such impressive military technology will lead adversaries who
    > cannot match our technology to find an equalizer. Terrorism may be one,
    > and nuclear weapons another.
    > But war is not primarily about geography and technology. War is about
    > politics, and the second way to begin thinking about the future of
    > America's wars is to see our political goals as clearly as possible. It
    > can be difficult for the United States to see itself accurately and to
    > state its goals objectively. Let us start with some basics. The United
    > States has no rival. We are militarily dominant around the world. Our
    > military spending exceeds that of the next six or seven powers combined,
    > and we have a monopoly on many advanced and not so advanced military
    > technologies. We, and only we, form and lead military coalitions into war.
    > We use our military dominance to intervene in the internal affairs of
    > other countries, because the local inhabitants are killing each other, or
    > harboring enemies of the United States, or developing nuclear and
    > biological weapons.
    > Coordinating battlefield information in real time during training
    > exercises, in a Humvee-mounted operations center
    > Joe BarrantineA political unit that has overwhelming superiority in
    > military power, and uses that power to influence the internal behavior of
    > other states, is called an empire. Because the United States does not seek
    > to control territory or govern the overseas citizens of the empire, we are
    > an indirect empire, to be sure, but an empire nonetheless. If this is
    > correct, our goal is not combating a rival, but maintaining our imperial
    > position, and maintaining imperial order.
    > Planning for imperial wars is different from planning for conventional
    > international wars. In dealing with the Soviet Union, war had to be
    > avoided: small wars could not be allowed to escalate, or to divert us from
    > the core task of defending Europe and Japan. As a result, military power
    > was applied incrementally. Imperial wars to restore order are not so
    > constrained. The maximum amount of force can and should be used as quickly
    > as possible for psychological impact^×to demonstrate that the empire cannot
    > be challenged with impunity. During the Cold War, we did not try very hard
    > to bring down communist governments. Now we are in the business of
    > bringing down hostile governments and creating governments favorable to
    > us. Conventional international wars end and troops are brought back home.
    > Imperial wars end, but imperial garrisons must be left in place for
    > decades to ensure order and stability. This is, in fact, what we are
    > beginning to see, first in the Balkans and now in Central Asia. In
    > addition to advanced-technology weaponry, an imperial position requires a
    > large but lightly armed ground force for garrison purposes and as
    > reassurance for allies who want American forces on their soil as symbols
    > of our commitment to their defense.
    > Finally, imperial strategy focuses on preventing the emergence of
    > powerful, hostile challengers to the empire: by war if necessary, but by
    > imperial assimilation if possible. China is not yet powerful enough to be
    > a challenger to the American empire, and the goal of the United States is
    > to prevent that challenge from emerging. China will be a major economic
    > and military power in a generation, if it does not collapse into internal
    > disorder as a consequence of economic, political, and religious grievances
    > now clearly visible. If Chinese political reforms are successful, and the
    > Chinese government ceases to be a dictatorship, it is likely that there
    > will be a large-scale movement of power away from Beijing toward the
    > provinces or regions that have their own ethnic or religious identities.
    > The government of China will concentrate on improving the lives of its own
    > people, and participating in the world order led by the United States.
    > Canadian-model wheeled personnel carrier used to speed eight soldiers in
    > combat
    > Joe BarrantineIf, on the other hand, China continues to grow in power, but
    > remains governed by a repressive dictatorship that sees enemies at home
    > and threats abroad, it may try to intimidate Taiwan or Japan or India or
    > South Korea. The United States could, if this problem emerged, wish to do
    > what it does now: reassure its friends in Asia that we will not allow
    > Chinese military intimidation to succeed. But this will be increasingly
    > difficult, militarily, in the future, if China grows stronger, since China
    > is geographically close to these countries, while the United States is far
    > away. To make our Asian allies feel secure, defensive capabilities^×to
    > neutralize offensive missiles, sea mines, and submarines, for example^×are
    > likely to be especially valuable, despite the fact that the United States
    > is now primarily in the business of generating offensive military power.
    > Our country will need a strategy that enables it to demonstrate, as
    > visibly as is possible, that it has the capability to defend its friends.
    > We may also want unconventional weapons with which to remind China that
    > activities that menace other Asian countries might do it more harm than
    > good. For example, more sophisticated forms of information warfare,
    > already visible in the interactions between Taiwan and China, might become
    > an important component of the American arsenal.
    > There is an alternative to empire. Instead of guaranteeing order around
    > the world, the United States could help other countries defend themselves.
    > The United States could, for example, decide that even though China should
    > not be allowed to use its military capabilities to intimidate its Asian
    > neighbors, we should not reassure those countries with American military
    > power. But if we choose not to defend these countries, we cannot be sure
    > they will continue to observe nuclear nonproliferation agreements. The
    > United States now uneasily tolerates British, French, Israeli, Russian,
    > North Korean, Indian, and Pakistani nuclear weapons. We may have to learn
    > to tolerate nuclear weapons in the hands of one or more additional Asian
    > democracies. In this world, the United States may choose to do less to
    > safeguard the Asian balance of power, but will have less influence in
    > Asia. Such a world may be riskier than the world we now live in.
    > But as Pericles pointed out to his fellow Athenians, they might think it a
    > fine thing to give up their empire, but they would find that empires are
    > like tyrannies: they may have been wrong to take, but they are dangerous
    > to let go.
    > ------------------------------------------------------------------------
    > Stephen Peter Rosen '74, Ph.D. '79, is Kaneb professor of national
    > security and military affairs and director of the Olin Institute for
    > Strategic Studies in the department of government.
    > The Future of War and the American Military, page 29, May-June 2002,
    > Volume 104, Number 5

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