One of the most important lessons not only of the Cold War but of the new conflicts beginning in the late 20th century is the value of collective military capabilities. NATO is the archetype of the way to pursue collective defense. First, there is the integrated military command structure. Second, there was the willingness of each member to contribute available military capabilities to the collective effort. Third, there is the ongoing program to improve the interoperability of national forces. Based on its preparation and experience, NATO members were able to participate alongside U.S. forces in the first Gulf War and provide a collective response to the threat posed by the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan.
The U.S. needs to think how it can extend the concept of collective security and collective capabilities beyond what has been accomplished by NATO. Defense spending is projected to decline significantly across the Free World. The U.S. force posture will inevitably shrink. This means that the “fire brigade” once provided by a surfeit of U.S. military power uncommitted to a particular region or contingency will diminish or even vanish. At the same time, the threats to U.S. security and that of its friends and allies, if anything, is growing. Greater attention to collaborative self defenses will be necessary.
The U.S. needs to begin to develop a new strategic architecture for the maintenance of collective security in regions of interest. This architecture should be based on a division of labor. Clearly, local allies, including European NATO, will have to do a better job of rationalizing their reduced defense expenditures so as to get more for their money. The same is true for other U.S. allies such as Japan, South Korea and the Gulf states.
The future U.S force posture will consist of a limited quantity of so-called silver bullet systems such as the F-22 fighter, DDG 1000 destroyer, Virginia-class attack sub and Aegis missile defenses. The U.S. needs to think how it might alter its force posture as well as its foreign military sales to better ensure a sensible distribution of capabilities to support the new architecture of collaborative self-defense.
For example, what about creating a mobile missile defense force based on the current sea-based but future land-based, transportable Aegis/Standard Missile 3 configuration currently planned for limited deployment in Europe? This force would be deployed as needed based on prior negotiations and planning conducted with U.S. regional allies. In fact, one such grouping could be deployed in each critical region. NATO could even pay for and man its own mobile theater missile defense force, leaving the U.S. to address threats elsewhere. Or there could be a sharing of the costs to support critical capabilities, something that Europe is already attempting to do in a select number of areas such as theater lift.
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