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In the just-met (May 9, 2013) Annual Naval War College Dinner and Philip A. Crowl Memorial Lecture at the Washington Navy Yard, the Honorable Dr. Richard J. Danzig addressed the “unpredictability” of the current world’s instability under widely varied threats. He also equated the current Information Technology evolution to the Gunpowder that shaped mankind’s warfare. The Clausewitzian
principle of policy and war was mentioned as in possible modulation. Conversations on the floor, among military scholars—who by and large engage daily in the services of the nation in the primal Washington, seem to reflect the prevailing concern over the precarious day-to-day basis of the nation’s course ahead. Here’s one attendee’s ‘view’ on the tentative world.
To state the obvious, today’s indeed “unpredictable” global instability stems from: the unceasing terrorist insurgencies despite the declared ending of the ten-year “war on terror”; the pernicious internecine conflicts in sectarian countries; the vigilance-consuming threats from the rogue states’ uncontrolled nuclear activities; the localized territorial insistences between long culturally contentious nations; and, lastly among the “major” nations, the analysis-defying geopolitical maneuvers and charades to mask the economy-paced military power “rises.” These instability-causing situations are spread across but unlike in the dichotomous World War and Cold War times in separate directions over the globe. The escalating Information Technology evolution with its “cyber threat” and “drone warfare” impositions adds immediacy and urgency to the unpredictability. Of note is the consequential inability of any nation’s leader(s) to set a definitive policy of the nation, for the immediate as well as practicably foreseeable future—let alone a wishful scheme for sacrosanct peace in the world.
Having thus to resort to day-to-day and hands-on administering of the nation’s defense has become a universal modus operandi. A case in point: a direct single-channel order given by the president of the United States to the special operations team on site that shot Osama bin Laden.
In the absence of a firmly set(table) geostrategic policy of the nation the military has had to define and ready the defense postures of its armed forces—in turn, of the nation—based on its own assessment of the relative military strengths vis-à-vis the rest of the world and similarly of the likely confrontational situations. While the final decision for action of the nation rests with the Commander in Chief and the national leaders, it is clearly based on what the military is capable of and ready for. And that depends directly on the defense budget of the nation. Here then enters the final element of the global instability concern: the current dire strait of the economy of the nation and the world as a whole—the “sequester,” as an immediate situation.
Thus, defense of the nation becomes defense of the nation’s economy. The observed “pivot” of the U.S. defense emphasis toward the Western Pacific is obviously a geopolitical message on China’s rapid “rise” to the No. 2 economic nation—behind the No. 1 U.S. It is less of a direct security measure against the much speculated China’s military buildup which is characteristically reverse-engineering based, thus deliberate and not-immediately-alarming. Elsewhere, the 2011 Secretary of Defense approved “Air-Sea Battle concept” places the principal U.S. defense posture in “the freedom of the global commons that underpins our global economy.” See “Breaking The Kill Chain” by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. J. Greenert and Chief of Staff Air Force Gen. M. Welsh ( Foreign Policy.com, May 16, 2013), which defines the ‘global commons’ as “those areas of the air, sea, cyberspace and space that no one ‘owns’ but upon which we all depend.”
Operating in the global commons allows the de facto superpower United States to maintain its “forward presence” and “show of force” geostrategic postures without sovereignty issues. Admiral Greenert and General Walsh continue: “Air-Sea Battle will assure continued U.S. freedom of action and with it our ability to deter aggression, maintain regional stability, dampen crisis, and assure our allies and partner.” Does that sound like a proposition to directly address the unpredictable global instability situations enumerated at the outset?
And this may be when and how ‘fighting’ war turns—or has begun to turn—to ‘preventing’ war. The military could deter adversary’s aggression without fighting war by remaining absolutely ready to fight and win war. That requires the same ‘war-fighting’ wherewithal including the costs—except of course for the combat attrition only if or yet to come. War prevention is defense in every sense of the word and in real time. All the training, operations & maintenance and most importantly the ever continued advance of technologies—to remain on the leading edge of mankind’s warfare capability—must be maintained.
Prevention of war may call for extra smart geopolitics as in the “Smart power = Soft (diplomacy) power + Kinetic (military) power” theory of Harvard’s Joseph Nye. The nation—or the military now at the core of the nation’s geo-strategy—not only has to anticipate the ‘move’ of the potential adversaries but beyond to “smartly” understand and stay a step ahead of their underling goals and will (to ‘fight’) as well as the powerful cultural/ethnic forces that drive those nations beyond calculus. That is policy as prevention of war by other means.
The United States Navy’s presence in the global commons must be defended, i.e., funded. Because it is the only predictability in the “unpredictable” world.
THOMAS S. MOMIYAMA
U.S. Senior Executive Service, retired
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