To the Editor:
Stephen S. Rosenfeld expresses an oft-repeated criticism of military planning when he asserts that the Clinton Administration’s new national-security strategy is making America “Ready For The Last War” (January 15). But he is wrong on at least four counts.
First, he says the strategy is too concerned with preparing for big regional conflicts. All of the external threats to U.S. survival that arose in the 20th century– imperialism, fascism, communism– began as regional aggression that was not contained in a timely manner. Maybe the future will be different, but we shouldn’t dismiss the experience of the last hundred years.
Second, he says that “the principal threats” to American interests are now coming from global “anarchy and chaos”, manifested as drug trafficking, disease epidemics, organized crime, nuclear hustlers, emigration floods, irridentists and so on. Couldn’t most of this have been said in the 1920s, during the brief pause between World War One and the rise of fascism? It might be prudent to wait a while before reorieting national military strategy to focus primarily on terrorists and latter-day rum-runners.
Third, even a cursory look at what the military is buying indicates it is not living in the past. The Air Force, for example, is investing in items like the Airborne Laser for intercepting ballistic missiles, the stealthy F-22 fighter for achieving air superiority, and the Joint Stars surveillance plane for tracking the movements of armor on the ground. These are all revolutionary systems easily adapted to new challenges. That doesn’t sound like preparing for the last war to me.
Finally, Mr. Rosenfeld needs to acknowledge the difficulty of developing a coherent strategy for addressing new threats that have barely begun to emerge. Where should the policymakers place their bets– information warfare, nuclear terrorism, chemical and biological weapons defense, infrastructure attacks, drug traffickers, failed states, ballistic missile threats? Any one of these dangers could become our worst nightmare, or they could recede into obscurity.
It’s easy to pick apart strategic plans when the future is so unclear. I personally would like to hear more from the administration on defense against nuclear attack and the military uses of space. But Clinton’s people have done a good job of dealing with a diverse array of amibigous threats. Let’s at least agree that nobody has come up with a better plan.
Loren B. Thompson
Chief Operating Officer
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