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Macmillan Childrens Publishing Group

Rogue States and Nuclear Outlaws

America's Search for a New Foreign Policy

Michael Klare

Hill and Wang


Rogue States and Nuclear Outlaws

Chapter One
The Remaking of U. S. Military Strategy

IF THE COLD War had ended in combat, the fall of the Berlin Wall on November 8, 1989, would have been its Normandy--the day on which enemy defenses started to fragment and the ultimate triumph of the United States became inevitable. The Soviet Union itself would survive for two more years, and large numbers of Soviet and American forces would continue to eye each other warily across the East-West divide in Europe, but from that day onward, there was never any doubt about the ultimate demise of the Soviet empire. Within days of the Wall's collapse, East Germany and Czechoslovakia discarded their Communist leaders, and reformist parties in Hungary and Bulgaria began a drive for power. By the end of 1989, the Warsaw Treaty Organization had ceased to exist as a functioning military alliance, and Soviet forces had begun their withdrawal to decrepit and unwelcoming bases in the crumbling imperial heartland.
At long last, official Washington could anticipate victory in its forty-year struggle to encircle, weaken and ultimately dismember the Communist bloc. For America's leaders, many of whom had devoteda lifetime to orchestrating the "containment" of Soviet power, this was a moment to be cheered and savored. "This is a remarkable event," Secretary of State James Baker declared. "It is the most significant event in terms of the East-West relationship since the end of the [Second World] War."1 Cheer as they might, however, these leaders could not entirely conceal from themselves the fact that the Soviet collapse spelled significant hardship for the American military establishment, no less than the Russian.
Throughout the Cold War era, the U.S. war machine had been trained and equipped for one all-consuming mission: to deter Soviet aggression in Europe while blocking Soviet inroads into contested Third World areas. To sustain this mission, a bipartisan consensus in Congress had allocated some $11.5 trillion in military appropriations between 1947 and 1989, plus billions of dollars on such related activities as nuclear weapons fabrication, foreign military assistance, intelligence collection, civil defense preparation, and military-related research. In further support, Congress had approved a peacetime draft, the formation of numerous military alliances, and the permanent deployment of hundreds of thousands of American troops at bases and garrisons abroad.
The Soviet threat also governed the shape and orientation of America's military forces. Every officer, NCO, and soldier was trained and equipped to fight against Soviet combat units, while the defense establishment as a whole was configured for high-intensity conflict with the Warsaw Pact. Every American weapon was designed with Soviet capabilities in mind. "It would be really impossible to overstate the degree to which our defense planning focused on the Soviet Union," Secretary of Defense Les Aspin later acknowledged. "It determined the size of the defense budget, the kinds of divisions we had, how we organized our forces ... even how we designed [our] weapons."2
Furthermore, the Cold War provided a mental map for military and civilian strategists--a cognitive system for dividing the world into friends and enemies, shaping a response to overseas crises, and providing a rationale for periodic military intervention abroad. Ashistorian Gaddis Smith suggested, "American leaders during this period were confident that they had discovered a grand historical pattern that showed what the role of the United States in the world must be." No matter the nature of the challenge to America's global interests, these leaders determined their response by defining the problem in terms of U.S.--Soviet competition.3
Although reluctant to admit it even to themselves, U.S. military leaders understood that for nearly half a century, they had lived in what amounted to a symbiotic relationship with the Soviet military. When the Soviet war machine grew in strength and vitality, American forces would be bolstered accordingly, with each increase in Soviet manpower matched by a corresponding increase in U.S. firepower, and each increase in Soviet firepower countered by fresh advances in U.S. technology. So long as the public perceived a significant national security threat from Soviet forces, Congress was ready to finance almost every weapon, program, or combat unit deemed necessary by U.S. strategists.
Because Soviet strength was still thought to be increasing in the late 1970s and early 1980s, most Americans favored President Ronald Reagan's proposals for a sizeable increase in military power. Pentagon spending rose from $143.9 billion in fiscal year 1980 to $294.7 billion in fiscal 1985, and new Army divisions, fighter squadrons, and naval units were added to the American military lineup. The Reagan administration also initiated the systematic modernization of U.S. nuclear forces, including the production and deployment of the B-1 bomber, the M-X intercontinental ballistic missile, and the Trident-II submarine-launched ballistic missile.
At the time of the Berlin Wall's collapse, the U.S. military establishment consisted of 2,124,900 active-duty personnel, of whom 766,500 served in the Army, 583,900 in the Navy, 579,200 in the Air Force, and 195,300 in the Marine Corps. In terms of basic combat units, this force comprised eighteen Army divisions, fourteen aircraft carrier battle groups, twenty-five tactical fighter wings, and three Marine Corps divisions.4 The Pentagon lineup also encompassed a wide range of specialized military commands, including nuclearweapons forces, logistical brigades, intelligence units, and communications teams. Each of these units, moreover, was linked to a supporting network of think-tanks, research organizations, industrial firms, and trade associations. At the close of the Cold War, this network encompassed some 30,000 large and small firms, employed some 3.3 million American workers, and divided up some $175 billion per year in military contracts. These firms conducted scientific research, designed and built major weapons, fed U.S. troops at home and abroad, and managed the paperwork of the world's largest bureaucracy. The entire apparatus--scientific, technical, educational, and industrial--was dependent on a substantial Soviet threat for its continued health and vitality.
Not surprisingly, then, the end of the Cold War provided an enormous shock for American military leaders. Not only did it deprive them of an enemy against which to train and equip their forces, but it also eradicated the mental map that hitherto had explained world events and governed U.S. policymaking. "No longer could the question, 'Which course will most contribute to frustrating the Kremlin design?' be asked at every turn and be seen to yield the definitive answer on where the United States must go," observed Smith.5
For policymakers at the Department of State, this lack of a clear strategic template proved awkward and inconvenient, but not incapacitating. In lieu of a coherent grand strategy, senior officials simply improvised when faced with overseas crises. For planners at the Department of Defense, however, the end of the Cold War proved devastating. Without the Soviet threat to guard against, they had no basis on which to develop contingency plans, train troops, design weapons, or test their combat skills. As MIT professor and former Pentagon adviser William W. Kaufmann observed at the time, American military officers plunged into a severe "identity crisis," leaving the Defense Department mentally "rudderless" at this critical juncture in its history.6
"For almost all of my adult life," admitted General Colin Powell, the nation's highest-ranking military officer, "I worried, in one way or another, about World War III." This meant planning for a warwith "an empire that had worldwide ambitions, a worldwide strategy, and the ability to project power around the world." Suddenly, it was all "gone," said Powell; the empire that had appeared so menacing for so many years, and that had governed the lives and careers of all those who now commanded U.S. forces, had ceased to exist.7
Aside from its psychological effects, the collapse of the Warsaw Pact posed some very immediate practical problems for senior military officials. With the Soviet Union in disarray, public support for a large military establishment began to diminish, and every program in the defense budget came under intense scrutiny. Like all U.S. government agencies, the Department of Defense must obtain Congressional approval for its budgetary allocations on a year-by-year basis, justifying its spending plans anew each January. Unless a new rationale for these programs could be found, the Pentagon would soon encounter great difficulty in securing the funds needed to preserve them.
But no such rationale was at hand. Despite the billions of dollars that had been spent over the years to monitor Soviet activities and plan for all conceivable crises and contingencies, the Department of Defense had never given serious thought to the possibility of a world unmenaced by the Soviet Union. While lip service had been paid to the eventual resolution--through combat or otherwise--of the U.S.-- Soviet rivalry, no strategic plans had been devised for a post--Cold War period. As a result, no justification had been developed for the continued existence of a large military establishment. Military officials who had always been ready to offer a variety of rationales for the pursuit of one or another anti-Soviet program now found themselves at a loss to describe their long-range strategic vision.
In fact, during the preceding decade, the only people who had given any thought to the orientation and structure of the U.S. military-industrial enterprise in a post--Cold War period were the Pentagon's critics. From the late 1970s on, a vociferous antinuclear movement had called for a U.S.--Soviet freeze in nuclear weapons production, to be followed by the gradual elimination of all suchweapons. With the ascendancy in Moscow of Mikhail Gorbachev and the subsequent signing of new U.S.--Soviet arms control agreements, the antinuclear movement began to subside; however, other critics began to stress the negative economic consequences of pumped-up military budgets and to call for the reallocation of military funds to the civilian sector. Together, these two strains of thought represented a formidable challenge to the Cold-War-as-usual thinking that pervaded the military leadership.
In the late 1980s, as Gorbachev began to promote his policies of perestroika, a number of economists in the United States spoke of an urgent need for "reinvestment," "reindustrialization," and the "revitalization" of the faltering American economy. To accomplish this transformation, they argued, more funds would have to be invested in America's domestic infrastructure--schools, roads, universities, and so on--and less in military forces and installations.8 This argument received further credibility from the 1987 publication of Yale professor Paul Kennedy's The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers. Comparing America's current political and economic status to that of other great empires in decline, Kennedy argued that the United States could not avert irreversible decay unless it shed some of its overseas military commitments and channeled additional resources into the reconstruction of its domestic industrial infrastructure.9
The publication of Kennedy's book ignited a major debate in the United States over the tradeoffs between a costly, far-flung military establishment and a deteriorating infrastructure at home.10 Some pundits sought to ridicule the notion of a United States in decline, but many policymakers began to look closely at the potential economic benefits of a shift in emphasis from military preparedness to economic reconstruction.11 Even such former military leaders as Robert S. McNamara, the Secretary of Defense in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and Lawrence J. Korb, an Assistant Secretary of Defense in the Reagan administration, began to call for a significant decrease in military spending linked to fresh investment in America's health, education, and transportation systems.12
When the Berlin Wall fell in November 1989, these critics, unlikeU.S. military leaders, were already prepared to unveil sweeping alternatives to the nation's Cold War--oriented strategic posture. On December 11, 1989, McNamara and Korb told the Senate Budget Committee that U.S. military spending could safely be cut in half over the next five years, freeing hundreds of billions of dollars for domestic reconstruction. "By such a shift," McNamara testified, "we should be able to enhance global stability, strengthen our own security, and, at the same time, produce the resources to support a much-needed restructuring of the economy."13
Although most members of Congress were not willing to approve an immediate fifty percent cut in military spending, many were ready to consider a series of smaller, but nonetheless significant, reductions in Pentagon appropriations. "For the first time in a long time," House Budget Committee chairman Leon E. Panetta noted in early 1990, a major military spending cut "is on the table in a big way."14 Panetta's counterpart in the Senate, Jim Sasser of Tennessee, drew up a long list of military programs for possible cancellation or reduction, including the B-2 Stealth bomber, the mobile M-X missile, the C-17 cargo plane, and the Reagan administration's much-vaunted Strategic Defense Initiative (popularly known as "Star Wars").15 Other members of Congress, including such prominent Republicans as Senator John W. Warner of Virginia, also began compiling lists of possible program cuts.16
These disparate plans and proposals, which together fell under the rubric of a "peace dividend," left the Pentagon's leaders in an unaccustomed defensive position. With neither an obvious enemy nor a coherent post--Cold War blueprint of their own to fall back on, they faced the dismaying prospect of cuts in troop strength, weapons procurement, and the officer corps, on a scale not seen since the end of World War II. It had become clear that only one "enemy" was truly capable of wounding them: the supporters of the so-called peace dividend, who threatened to capture public opinion and overrun Congress.
In response, some military officials chose to engage in what psychologists would characterize as "denial," a systematic refusal to faceup to the facts. Prominent among these officials was Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, who continued to identify the Soviet Union as the principal threat to American security. "While cooperative aspects of the U.S. relationship with the Soviet Union are growing," he observed in late 1989, "the United States must be prepared to remain in long-term competition with the Soviet Union."17 Even in 1990, with the Warsaw Pact in ruins, Cheney continued to emphasize the threat posed by Soviet expansionism. "Fundamental Soviet objectives in the Third World do not appear to have changed," he told U.S. commanders that February.18
Other senior officers, who could not hide from themselves the ominous implications of the Warsaw Pact's collapse, chose instead to engage in another time-honored response to budget cuts: interservice wrangling over the disposition of available funds. Suspecting that the defense establishment as a whole would be downsized significantly in the years ahead, these officers sought to ensure that their service--be it the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, or the Marine Corps--would be subjected to smaller cutbacks than the others. In particular, the Army fought with the Marine Corps over which service should be assigned the primary interventionary role in the post-- Cold War era, and the Navy and the Air Force fought over which service could best project power to distant conflict zones.19
But, while many officers joined Cheney in focusing on Soviet threat, or plunged into interservice disputes over roles and missions, some senior officials responded by seeking to invent a new raison d'être for the military establishment. Recognizing that Congress and the public would no longer support a Soviet-oriented military posture at a time of diminishing Soviet strength, these officers, led by General George Lee Butler of the J-5 (Strategic Plans and Policy) Directorate of the Joint Staff, set out to develop an alternative strategic outlook based on non-Soviet threats to U.S. security. In essence, they sought to reconstruct military strategy around a new guiding principle that would prove as reliable in the post--Cold War era as containment had during the Cold War period.20
The quest for a new strategic posture gained momentum in November1990 under the leadership of General Powell, the newly appointed Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. A long-term Army career officer who had risen through the ranks, Powell was no stranger to Washington policymaking circles. From 1983 to 1986, he had served as Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger's personal military assistant, and then had worked for two years in the White House as National Security Adviser to President Reagan. After returning to the Army as head of the Forces Command (the headquarters unit responsible for all U.S.--based land forces), Powell had taken over as Chairman on October 1, 1989, just five weeks before the Berlin Wall's collapse.
In the preceding years, Powell had become increasingly skeptical about the long-term prospects for a Soviet-oriented military posture. Now, with the disintegration of the Soviet bloc, he was determined to find an alternative. Invoking his authority as the nation's highest military officer, Powell ordered General Butler and his associates on the Joint Staff (the multiservice command team responsible for the development and execution of U.S. war plans) to devise a new posture that focused on threats other than those posed by the former Soviet bloc and that allowed for the preservation of a large military establishment.21
General Powell's formal instructions to the Joint Staff have never been made public. One point, however, remains certain: his insistence that the United States remain a global superpower, whatever military posture was ultimately devised.22 "We have to put a shingle outside our door saying, 'Superpower Lives Here,' no matter what the Soviets do, even if they evacuate from Eastern Europe," he declared. 23 According to Powell, this would require the maintenance of a powerful, high-tech military establishment equipped with a full range of modern combat systems. Although this establishment might prove smaller than that fielded during the peak years of the Cold War era, it must, he insisted, be similar to it in its basic structure and capabilities.24
In attempting to satisfy Powell's requirements, the Joint Staff soon ran into a major problem: the absence of clearly identifiable enemies of a stature that would justify the retention of a large military establishment. The Soviet Union was in terminal decay, and none of its constituent parts appeared destined, at least in the short run, to serve as a suitable replacement. All other major powers were either allies of the United States, or linked to it through trade and politics. While a number of smaller states, even some guerrilla bands, could be described as potential enemies, none possessed sufficient strength for the Pentagon's strategic purposes.
One possible response to this dilemma was to describe all of these minor threats as components of a large systemwide threat to global stability--and, on this basis, to reconfigure U.S. forces to fight an infinite number of police-type, low-intensity conflicts in the Third World. As General A. M. Gray of the Marine Corps suggested in 1990, the many insurgencies then smoldering around the world "jeopardize regional stability and our access to vital economic and military resources." To defend these resources, he argued, the United States must "maintain within our active force structure a credible military power projection capability with the flexibility to respond to conflict across the spectrum of violence throughout the globe."25
Such an approach, if adopted by General Powell, could have built upon the Pentagon's historic interest in guerrilla warfare and the strategy and tactics of counterinsurgency. After all, from the 1960s on, counterinsurgency in Third World areas had been viewed as the natural complement to containment in Europe. To resist what was seen as a growing Soviet presence in the developing world, the United States had adopted new strategies for fighting revolutionary movements in remote and inaccessible areas, and had employed these strategies in a score of countries, culminating with the 1965 U.S. intervention in South Vietnam. Though counterinsurgency had lost some of its prominence after the U.S. defeat in Vietnam, it had returned to favor during the Reagan administration under the rubricf "low-intensity conflict" (LIC). In its new guise, LIC included not only counterguerrilla warfare as seen in Vietnam and elsewhere, but also "pro-insurgency" (covert support for anticommunist guerrillas seeking the overthrow of Soviet-backed regimes), antidrug and antiterrorist operations, and other police-type activities.26
But while an LIC-based strategy might have appeared sensible to some officers, it was anathema to Powell--partly because it was likely to provoke resistance from those in Congress who found a "global policeman" role increasingly repugnant, but more critically, because it entailed no significant role for the high-tech forces that long had constituted the backbone of the U.S. military establishment. No conceivable assortment of guerrilla conflicts and overseas police missions could justify anything resembling the Cold War military-industrial apparatus.
Another possible approach was to dispense with the issue of enemies altogether, and adopt a military posture aimed at the "unknown." This approach was attractive precisely because it did not require the existence of an identifiable enemy (or group of enemies); rather, it allowed U.S. strategists, already experiencing difficulty in locating genuine enemies, to affirm the future emergence of unspecified security threats. "Faced with political instability and uncertainty in important regions of the globe," General Larry D. Welch of the Air Force suggested in early 1990, "the United States must provide forces capable of dealing with the full spectrum of potential conflicts, from nuclear war to the fight against illegal drugs."27
But this argument also failed to win General Powell's support, because it left U.S. forces without a clear-cut strategic mission. As a longtime Washington player, Powell understood that American lawmakers would seek a detailed justification--based on specific enemy threats--for every item in the military budget. A clearly identifiable and sufficiently menacing enemy would have the added benefit of isolating Congressional "doves" who were seeking to reduce military spending in pursuit of a substantial peace dividend.
Any doubt about the need for an identifiable enemy was firmly put to rest in March 1990 by Senator Sam Nunn, chairman of theSenate Armed Services Committee and an acknowledged ally of the military establishment. In a blistering attack on the Soviet-oriented military posture still officially embraced by Defense Secretary Cheney, Nunn charged that the Pentagon's proposed spending plans were rendered worthless by a glaring "threat blank"--an unrealistic and unconvincing analysis of future adversaries. "The basic assessment of the overall threat to our national security on which this budget is based is rooted in the past," he told fellow senators. If the Department of Defense hoped to obtain Senate approval of its proposed budget, Nunn warned, it would have to fill in the "threat blank" with a more plausible assessment of future security risks.28
To satisfy Nunn's concerns, military planners would have to produce a plausible array of enemies. But, while it was certainly possible to identify many countries with imposing military capabilities, and some with possible motives for picking a fight with the United States, none was nearly so powerful as even a weakened Russia, and all were either allies of the United States or sufficiently wary of American power to refrain from overtly provocative behavior. In fact, it would have been hard to imagine a global security environment in which the United States might appear less threatened by external enemies. To fill in the "threat blank" identified by Nunn, the Pentagon had little choice but to find a way to elevate some previously neglected potential threats into major adversaries.
But what countries could be selected to perform this role? Virtually the entire membership of the "Second World"--the original Soviet bloc--was seeking Western aid and advice and, in some cases, inclusion in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. That left the two other major camps in the original Cold War triad: the First World, consisting of the advanced capitalist powers, and the Third World, the underdeveloped states of Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
While the First World contained a number of potential candidates, including Germany and Japan, no senior U.S. official was prepared to say in public that our allies might someday become our adversaries. Although it was possible to imagine a future in which the United States stood at the brink of war with either (or both) of these industrialgiants, and many Americans might even be prepared to entertain such a distant possibility, it was politically inconceivable that Congress would accept such a prospect as the basis on which to maintain a large military establishment. By default, then, the Pentagon was forced to select its hypothetical enemies from among Third World nations.
The United States had, of course, experienced serious conflicts with Third World nations before. Throughout the Cold War period, Washington had clashed with Third World states whose leaders were seen as allies of, or surrogates for, the Soviet Union. In most cases, these encounters had involved the delivery of military aid and training to neighboring, pro--U.S. countries, or the deployment of military advisory teams. On several occasions, however, the United States had engaged in direct military action to resist or disable such regimes: in Korea (1950--53), Vietnam (1965--73), the Dominican Republic (1965), and Grenada (1983). But if the terrain in these encounters was the Third World, the enemy, in Washington's eyes, had remained the Second World.
American involvement in Third World conflicts reached a new stage in the 1980s, when, under the aegis of the "Reagan Doctrine," the United States provided covert assistance to anticommunist insurgents seeking the overthrow of pro-Soviet regimes in Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Libya, and Nicaragua. In each of these cases, the target state involved was characterized in official rhetoric as an adversary of the United States. But, here again, as in other instances of American involvement, the real target was Moscow. According to then Secretary of State George Shultz, the ultimate goal of the Reagan Doctrine was to knock out Soviet "surrogates" in the Third World and thereby shift the global "correlation of forces" in America's favor.29
Washington had independent reasons for targeting certain Third World states that it considered Moscow's allies. Some were suspected of supporting insurgent movements directed against allies of the United States; others had engaged in economic experiments considered injurious to American business interests. In all these cases, however,the military threat potential of these states--their ability to attack the United States and its principal allies--was said to be derived from their association with the Soviet Union. Left to themselves, these regimes might have been viewed as serious nuisances, but not as significant military actors. Thus, with the demise of the Soviet empire, states like Angola, Cuba, and Vietnam could hardly be viewed as major military threats to the United States.
If U.S. strategists were to identify any Third World countries as major enemies of the United States, they would have to establish a new basis--unrelated to Soviet power--on which to calculate the threat they posed. Fortunately for American military planners, the 1980s had witnessed the emergence of a new class of regional Third World powers--states with large military forces and the inclination to dominate other, weaker states in their immediate vicinity. It was this class of rising Third World powers that was chosen to replace the fading Soviet empire in Pentagon analyses of the global threat environment.
Members of this new class of states--Argentina, Brazil, China, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Pakistan, South Africa, Syria, Taiwan, Turkey, and the two Koreas--professed allegiance to a wide range of political and economic philosophies, but all had sought to acquire large arsenals of modern weapons and/or to produce weapons of mass destruction. Moreover, most had come to see themselves as threatened by other rising powers in their vicinity, and as needing in response to expand their own military capabilities. Some of these states sought to accomplish this by aligning with the West, some with the East, still others by playing one bloc off against the other, but all enjoyed some sort of arms-supply relationship with one or more of the major industrial powers.
Throughout the 1980s, as these states turned to the arms trade to build up their military capabilities, American strategists had viewedthem not as autonomous threats to U.S. security, but rather as pawns in the Cold War struggle for power and influence in vital Third World areas. So long as these states were seen as potential allies in the global competition with Moscow, Washington sought to strengthen rather than limit their growing military capabilities. From 1950 to 1990, under the Foreign Military Sales and Military Assistance programs, the United States sold or gave some $168 billion worth of arms and military equipment to Third World states. Most of this largesse went to such favored allies as Egypt, Israel, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Taiwan, and Turkey.30 The military (and associated contractors) also provided these states with the technology and equipment to produce sophisticated weapons on their own, and trained their personnel to operate and maintain modern military systems. In some cases, Washington even chose to overlook these countries' nuclear and chemical weapons programs rather than combat such activities and thereby run the risk of weakening their ties with the United States.31
As a result of this U.S. aid and comparable efforts on the part of the Soviet Union, the rising powers of the Third World ended the 1980s in a far more powerful military position than that with which they had started it. Between 1975 and 1990, Iraq increased its supply of tanks from 1,900 to 5,500. Israel's tank force grew from 1,900 to 3,800; India's from 1,700 to 3,150; and Syria's from 1,600 to 4,050. Pakistan increased its air fleet from 283 combat planes to 451; South Korea, from 210 to 447.32 Several of these countries also acquired nuclear and/or chemical weapons during this period, or added to existing stockpiles of such munitions.
So long as U.S. military planners focused on the threat posed by Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces, few of the above developments were noted in the annual threat assessments prepared for Congress by the Department of Defense. Mention was made of Soviet arms transfers to the Third World insofar as they contributed to the net military power of the Soviet bloc, but this was seen as a peripheral problem compared to the continuing buildup of Soviet strength in Europe and at sea. Nowhere in these assessments was there a serious discussionof the growing military power of such friendly states as Egypt, India, Israel, Pakistan, South Korea, and Taiwan, or of the possibility that such states might someday serve as potential adversaries of the United States.
While military strategists were paying little heed to the growing strength of these emerging regional powers, other analysts outside of the U.S. military establishment (and sometimes critical of it) were paving the way for a new, post-Soviet vision of an all-encompassing enemy, based on the growing threat of weapons proliferation among Third World powers.
Measures to curb the "horizontal proliferation" of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons to weapons-seeking states were first proposed by arms control advocates in the 1960s as a natural complement to efforts to cap the "vertical proliferation" (increased production) of such weapons by the major powers. So long as the United States and the Soviet Union were continually adding to their arsenals of nuclear weapons and delivery systems, putting a stop to vertical proliferation had seemed by far the more critical of these tasks. However, with the signing of the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT-I) in 1972 and the prospect of follow-on agreements, arms control experts began to turn their attention to the challenge of weapons proliferation in Third World areas. India's test of a nuclear explosive device in 1974 gave added impetus to this concern.
The new emphasis on horizontal proliferation became further evident in the 1980s, with the publication of a series of books by Leonard S. Spector of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace on the nuclear weapons programs of such developing nations as Argentina, Brazil, India, Iraq, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, South Africa, and Taiwan.33 Similar studies by the Arms Control Association, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, and othersuch groups provided additional information on nuclear and chemical proliferation in Third World areas. But while these studies began to attract considerable interest on Capitol Hill, they had little immediate impact on military policy.
In the late 1980s, however, concern over the spread of advanced military capabilities began to grow in Pentagon-affiliated think-tanks and the U.S. intelligence community. The first significant expression of this concern appeared in Discriminate Deterrence, a January 1988 report by the U.S. Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy. The Commission, whose members included thirteen handpicked senior policymakers (among them former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger), had been established by the Reagan administration in 1986 to develop a long-term strategic blueprint for the United States.
Although the Commission focused most of its attention on strategies for countering what its members still saw as the growing military power of the USSR, it nonetheless devoted surprising attention to rising Third World powers. "In the years ahead," the report noted, "weapons production will be much more widely diffused, [and] many lesser powers will have sizeable arsenals" brimming with high-tech conventional arms, ballistic missiles, and chemical and nuclear munitions.34 These developments, the Commission claimed, would pose significant new threats to American security and complicate future U.S. military operations in Third World areas:
The [expanding] arsenals of the lesser powers will make it riskier and more difficult for the superpowers to intervene in regional wars. The U.S. ability to support its allies around the world will increasingly be called into question. Where American intervention seems necessary, it will [be necessary to] use our most sophisticated weaponry, even though this could compromise its effectiveness in a U.S.--Soviet war.35
In this and similar passages, a new theme was introduced to American strategic thinking: the prospect of high-tech, all-out war againstrising Third World powers not necessarily affiliated with the Soviet Union.
The Future Security Environment, a 1988 backup report produced by the Commission, reinforced such thinking. Its goal was to identify potential threats to U.S. security in the late 1990s and the early years of the twenty-first century. Not surprisingly, the report predicted that the Soviet Union would grow in power, remaining America's preeminent enemy for the indefinite future. But it also predicted that the economic and industrial might of certain rising powers--particularly China, India, South Korea, Taiwan, Turkey, and Egypt--would grow rapidly, investing these countries with significant military power.36 Even more significant, the report predicted that the most advanced Third World countries were likely to make impressive strides in military technology, enabling them to manufacture increasingly sophisticated munitions and delivery systems. "Along with increases in their military capital stocks," the report noted, "these developing countries will acquire a growing capacity to produce and export a wide range of weapons, featuring all but the most advanced technologies."37
The report concluded with an urgent plea that American strategists and policymakers devote more resources and energy to the study of rising Third World powers equipped with modern weapons. "A number of countries that will become increasingly important to the security environment are relatively neglected by U.S. analysts, certainly in comparison to the attention devoted to the Soviet Union," the report asserted. "Programs are needed to recruit young analysts and provide them with the language training and the opportunity to develop knowledge of Japan, China, Brazil, India, and other future regional powers." Such knowledge, it was argued, would prove essential to U.S. security in the years ahead.38
A similar outlook was articulated at that time by a study group convened by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a conservative, Washington-based think-tank. This group, which included such figures as former Army Chief of Staff General Edward C. Meyer and former Chief of Naval Operations AdmiralThomas Moorer, published its findings in a 1988 CSIS report, Meeting the Mavericks: Regional Challenges for the Next President. According to the report's authors, the "mavericks" of the title, a new class of Third World powers equipped with modern weapons and hegemonic ambitions, would "inevitably create new dilemmas for the conduct of U.S. foreign policy and pose new risks to U.S. national security."39 By acquiring large stockpiles of modern weapons, moreover, they would constrain greatly U.S. military options in the Third World. "More potent arsenals in the Third World will vastly complicate the problem of projecting power abroad, casting doubt on the ability of any power center to obtain satisfaction cheaply."40
At the same time, another group of analysts--senior officials in the U.S. intelligence community--began to speak out on the military dangers inherent in the emergence of well-equipped Third World powers. These officials joined their counterparts in the arms control and think-tank communities in highlighting the growing accumulation of modern weapons by Third World powers and warning of their accelerating progress in the nuclear, chemical, and missile fields. The first and most influential of these statements was a December 1988 speech by CIA director William H. Webster to the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, D.C. Predictably, Webster focused mainly on recent military developments in the USSR, but he surprised his listeners by noting that "the Soviet Union is certainly not our only focus." Another major concern was "the proliferation of advanced weapons," particularly ballistic missiles and weapons of mass destruction. "By the year 2000, at least fifteen developing countries will either have produced or be able to produce their own ballistic missiles," Webster noted. He also said that an even larger group of countries--twenty in all--was producing chemical weapons, and, in some cases, developing chemical warheads for ballistic missiles.41
Three months later, in a speech in Los Angeles, Webster broadened his discussion of proliferation threats to include nuclear weapons and biological warfare agents. He noted that in addition to the five declared nuclear powers, "several countries either possess a nuclear device or can fabricate and assemble one on short notice," while anumber of other countries were "developing key nuclear technology that could later be used for a nuclear explosive." Furthermore, he claimed that at least ten countries were working to produce biological weapons.42 Webster did not provide any specifics to back up these allegations, and much doubt has since emerged as to the accuracy of some of his assertions. Nevertheless, his statements, and those of other intelligence officials, added a new and frightening theme to public discussion of national security affairs.
Webster and his colleagues found a receptive audience for their concerns on Capitol Hill. Beginning in 1988, several Congressional committees held extensive hearings on proliferation issues. At a February 1989 hearing, Judge Webster spoke at length on the dangers of chemical weapons proliferation; at another, in July 1989, the Carnegie Endowment's Leonard Spector testified on the spread of ballistic missiles and nuclear weapons. These hearings attracted considerable attention from prominent members of Congress, many of whom, including Senator Nunn, delivered ringing denunciations of nuclear and chemical weapons proliferation.43
By the end of 1989, Pentagon officials desperate to identify a credible military threat to American security had at least these warnings to draw on for ammunition in the fight for Congressional funding. Although concern over the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (or WMD, as they were increasingly termed by U.S. strategists) to Third World countries had developed originally as a complement to deeper worries about U.S. and Soviet weapons programs, it now took on a life of its own, as military planners came to the realization that they could gain support for a large military establishment by lending their own weight to Congressional warnings. Once largely indifferent to the problem of WMD-equipped Third World powers, they now picked up the proliferation issue and made it the centerpiece of their new strategic outlook.
In early 1990, Pentagon officials began to substitute the threat of Third World proliferation for the Soviet threat in their statements on global security. Just as communism once had been described as asinister, alien ideology that inevitably would provoke conflict between East and West, proliferation now was described as an insidious and growing threat to national and international stability. "The increased lethality of weaponry and the proliferation of force in the developing world make regional conflicts more rather than less likely," Army Secretary Michael P. W. Stone declared in January 1990. "As more developing countries gain significant military capabilities, they may resort more readily to force in settling local disputes."44
From such analyses, military planners posited a new enemy type: aggressively-minded Third World powers armed with nuclear and/ or chemical weapons and the means of delivering them to distant lands. In place of the now discredited Soviet threat, military officials began to speak of "well-equipped regional powers" and Third World countries "armed with 'First World' weapons."45 While none of these states by itself could be said to pose a Soviet-style global threat, a group of such states might be described as doing so, especially when their growing arsenals of nuclear and chemical weapons were thrown into the equation.
In April 1990, the first, and in many ways most articulate, expression of this outlook appeared in Sea Power magazine. Writing on "the strategic army in the 1990s and beyond," Army Chief of Staff General Carl E. Vuono began:
Because the United States is a global power with vital interests that must be protected throughout an increasingly turbulent world, we must look beyond the European continent and consider other threats to our national security. The proliferation of military power in what is often called the "Third World" presents a troubling picture. Many Third World nations now possess mounting arsenals of tanks, heavy artillery, ballistic missiles, and chemical weapons. At least a dozen developing countries have more than 1,000 main battle tanks, and portable anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles are widespread as well ... .
The United States cannot ignore the expanding military powerof these countries, and the Army must retain the capability to defeat potential threats wherever they occur. This could mean confronting a well-equipped army in the Third World.46
Here, General Vuono touched on all of the main themes in what would become the Pentagon's new strategic concept: the emphasis on future Third World battlefields; the emergence of well-armed Third World powers; the growing pace of WMD proliferation; the risk of conflict with these states; and, of course, the resulting need to retain a large U.S. military establishment.
Vuono was not able to indicate precisely which nations he believed would threaten U.S. interests in the years ahead. However, in this and similar statements, he and other senior officers alluded to the growing power of several prominent Third World countries, including Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Pakistan, Syria, and the two Koreas. Such states were said by Army officials to "have undergone a dramatic qualitative and quantitative expansion of their military forces," and to have sought nuclear and/or chemical weapons. These developments, they noted, "will make warfare in developing countries a more dangerous proposition."47
At first, discussion of this outlook focused largely on the military capabilities of rising Third World powers, particularly their holdings of modern weapons. Before long, however, this discourse came to focus as well on these nations' political character. Several of these states were now described by U.S. strategists as "rogues" or "outlaws" because of their "anti-Western orientation" and their involvement in what was characterized as "illicit proliferation activities"--that is, activities that violated the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty and other nonproliferation agreements. Such activities, it was argued, constituted a fundamental threat to U.S. and international security.48
American history has a long tradition of demonizing the alienOther, extending from the vilification of native peoples during the Indian Wars to the anticommunist hysteria of the Cold War period. For decades, the "Communist threat" had been depicted as far more than a distant military challenge: in countless popular venues, the Communist had been given terrifying embodiment as the subverter of public order, the instigator of riots and rebellions, and the enemy of traditional American values. Such images had helped to mobilize public support for a large and potent military establishment, and for periodic U.S. intervention in contested Third World areas. But the demonizing tradition developed over almost a half-century of the Cold War now seemed anachronistic. To insure the survival of a large military, American leaders began constructing a new demonology based on WMD-equipped Third World powers.
Investing Third World states with a high degree of menace did not, in 1990, seem an easy proposition. Many of the states in question, including Argentina, Brazil, Egypt, India, Israel, Pakistan, South Korea, and Taiwan, were allies of the United States or seen as relatively friendly powers; others, including Iran, Iraq, Libya, Syria, and North Korea, were viewed as unfriendly by most Americans, but not as significant threats to U.S. security. None of these countries had a nuclear arsenal even remotely close to that of the Soviet Union, and none possessed bases and naval forces stretching significantly beyond its territory, let alone around the globe. These states were not even linked by a common ideology that could be described--as had Soviet-style communism--as inimical to basic American values.
To secure public backing for their long-range strategic plans, military officials focused increasingly on the most threatening characteristics of the least friendly powers, attempting to portray these nations' military plans as posing a clear and present danger to American security interests. At the same time, they began to ascribe to the leaders of these states violent and immoral intentions of a sort long identified with Soviet leaders. The officials hoped in this fashion to define a strategic environment that would compel legislators to relinquish dreams of a substantial peace dividend in return for enhanced national security.
Out of this process came what might best be termed the Rogue Doctrine--the characterization of hostile (or seemingly hostile) Third World states with large military forces and nascent WMD capabilities as "rogue states" or "nuclear outlaws" bent on sabotaging the prevailing world order. Such regimes were said to harbor aggressive intentions vis-à-vis their less powerful neighbors, to oppose the "spread of democracy," and to be guilty of circumventing international norms against nuclear and chemical proliferation. National Security Adviser Anthony Lake said in 1994 that "these nations exhibit a chronic inability to engage constructively with the outside world," evidenced in their "aggressive and defiant behavior" and their "misguided quest" for weapons of mass destruction.49
In constructing this new demonology, U.S. officials drew heavily on the "international terrorism" literature generated during the Reagan era. The early 1980s had witnessed a number of dramatic terrorist actions against American citizens abroad, and the need to combat such violence had become a major theme in President Reagan's foreign policy discourse. In 1984, this rhetoric changed dramatically: instead of focusing on the terrorist organizations considered directly responsible for such incidents, the administration began to focus its opprobrium on "state-sponsored terrorism"--the support of terrorist activities by hostile Third World countries. "States that support and sponsor terrorist actions have managed in recent years to co-opt and manipulate the phenomenon in pursuit of their own strategic goals," Secretary of State George Shultz averred in 1984. These states, he said, sought to use terrorism "to shake the West's self-confidence and sap its will to resist aggression and intimidation."50
Shultz did not identify the states in this category, but President Reagan was more forthcoming. In a much-publicized 1985 speech, he named Cuba, Iran, Libya, Nicaragua, and North Korea as the leading members of "a confederation of terrorist states." Most of the terrorists attacking U.S. citizens abroad, he argued, were "being trained, financed, and directly or indirectly controlled" by a core group of "outlaw states" seeking to undermine America's foreign policy objectives.51
Reagan's speech provoked much discussion about the nature of terrorism and the appropriate manner of combating it. Some analysts questioned the concept of "state-sponsored terrorism," contending that it diverted attention from the underground organizations directly involved in terrorist activity. Others argued that Reagan's list was constructed for political reasons alone, to provide a rationale for attacking certain states considered hostile by the administration, while ignoring others, such as Iraq and Syria, that were known to be harboring terrorists but were seen by Washington as potential allies.52 Nevertheless, the concept of "outlaw states" engaged in pernicious anti-American behavior became a familiar theme in administration rhetoric.
As the 1980s drew to a close, U.S. officials began to describe WMD-SEEKING Third World powers in terms previously applied to terror-sponsoring states. "A dangerous proliferation of high technology has begun," Secretary of State-designate James Baker told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in early 1989. "Chemical warheads and ballistic missiles have fallen into the hands of governments and groups with proven records of aggression and terrorism." To counter this new peril, he argued, vigorous nonproliferation efforts were needed.53 From this point on, U.S. leaders increasingly employed "rogue," "outlaw," and "renegade" imagery when speaking of hostile, WMD-equipped Third World powers.54
This imagery, although hastily manufactured in response to the sudden collapse of Soviet power, proved surprisingly effective, tapping into American fears of nuclear weapons and malevolent Third World leaders. The Rogue Doctrine played particularly well on Capitol Hill, where several prominent senators, including Sam Nunn of Georgia and William Roth of Delaware, had already begun describing weapons-seeking states in the Third World as an emerging peril. By the spring of 1990, senior Pentagon officials and many members of Congress had begun using a common analysis and terminology to describe the threat posed by a new type of enemy.55
From 1990 on, the general model of a "rogue state" ruled by an "outlaw regime" armed with chemical and nuclear weapons becamethe standard currency of national security discourse. All that was required was the emergence of a specific "demon"--a particular ruler of a specific state--to bring the newly developed doctrine into vivid focus and thereby forestall an even more terrifying enemy, the Congressional advocates of a peace dividend, from launching a full-scale attack on the U.S. military establishment.
Having filled in the "threat blank" identified by Senator Nunn in early 1990, senior Pentagon officials began to develop a strategic blueprint to guide the development of military policy and justify the preservation of a near--Cold War military apparatus. Hoping to have a new strategic blueprint completed and ready for public airing by the early summer of 1990, Powell's staff worked throughout the winter and spring of that year to produce the necessary plans and concepts.56
The Pentagon's new strategic plan now rested on the assumption that in the absence of a significant Soviet threat, the greatest danger to U.S. security would be posed by well-equipped Third World hegemons. It was further assumed that some of these countries would be tempted to attack fundamental U.S. interests in the years ahead, and that the military would be called upon to engage and defeat such states in combat. The only tasks remaining were to determine the nature and scale of the threat posed by these countries and calculate the type and number of U.S. forces that would be needed to overcome them.
From the perspective of U.S. strategists, many of the rising Third World powers bore considerable resemblance to the pre-1990 Warsaw Pact countries of Eastern Europe in that they possessed fairly large armies with substantial numbers of serviceable (if not always very sophisticated) tanks, artillery pieces, and combat planes. (See Table 1.1.) Many of these states also possessed ballistic missiles ofone type or another, along with chemical and/or nuclear weapons. This was heartening news for American military officials, as it could be used to justify the retention of heavy tank units, artillery brigades, fighter squadrons, and other high-tech forces in the U.S. military lineup. It also provided a rationale for the preservation of a nuclear arsenal and the application of "Star Wars" technology to defenses against future Third World ballistic missile attacks.
Not all of the news was equally gratifying. At some point, U.S. officials came to realize that none of these rising powers possessed sufficient military strength to justify the retention of anything close to America's Cold War military establishment. They recognized that even the most powerful of these states could be defeated by a force of under one million U.S. soldiers, or less than half of the existing American force. An American strategy based on preparation for combat with any one of these powers would thus entail a military establishment much smaller than that fielded in the Cold War era. As this was unacceptable to Powell and his staff, they came up with a novel solution: they argued that this large field of potential adversaries might someday produce various combinations of paired enemies, and that the new strategy, therefore, would call for a U.S. capability to fight simultaneously against two such enemies. This still would not justify a force as big as that needed to defeat the Soviet Union--a force that large would never have won the support of Congressional leaders, anyway--but it would come as close to this as Powell's staff thought politically possible.
So it was decided: American forces would be reconfigured to conduct a continuing series of military engagements with rising Third World powers, whether operating singly or in pairs. This would require the maintenance of a U.S. force about three-quarters the size of that maintained during the Cold War era. In addition, the Pentagon blueprint called for a significant enhancement of America's "power projection" capability, the ability to bring U.S. military power to bear on remote and unfamiliar battlefields.57
The Powell plan also incorporated certain assumptions regarding the manner in which U.S. forces would be expected to fight in future clashes with rising Third World powers. Rejecting what senior officers viewed as the incremental approach to the application of force during the Vietnam War, the new strategy called for the rapid concentration of military power and the use of superior firepower to stun and disable enemy forces at the very onset of battle. "One of the essential elements of our national military strategy," Powell explained, "is theability to rapidly assemble the forces needed to win--the concept of applying decisive force to overwhelm our adversaries and thereby terminate conflicts swiftly." This, in turn, required the continued possession of "technological superiority" in weapons and support systems and a robust capability for "strategic mobility," or the rapid deployment of U.S. forces and equipment to distant battle zones.58
On this basis, Powell and his staff began to identify the actual forces theoretically needed to implement such a strategy. Because an individual regional conflict probably would require a U.S. commitment of approximately half to three-quarters of a million soldiers, a war against two such powers presumably would require a total commitment of at least one to one and a half million troops. Adding to this the need for specialized nuclear forces and a reservoir of "contingency forces" for unforeseen emergencies, the total manpower requirement arrived at was approximately 1.5 to 1.75 million active-duty personnel--significantly fewer than the 2.1 million soldiers in the existing force, but far more than the numbers envisioned in many of the proposals for a downsized military establishment.
Figuring in this manner, Powell and his staff settled on a plan calling for the conversion of the existing Cold War military apparatus into a "Base Force" of approximately 1.6 million men and women. Included in this force would be 12 active Army divisions (down from 16 in 1990), 12 aircraft carrier battle groups (down from 15), 15 tactical fighter wings (down from 22), and 3 Marine Corps divisions (no change). Also included was a large assortment of "power projection forces"--Marine amphibious groups, Army airborne units, and other mobile forces used to deliver American power to distant battlefields. According to Powell, a military establishment of this size and type would be sufficient to conduct two major regional conflicts simultaneously and to permit simultaneous U.S. participation in isolated peacekeeping or low-intensity operations.59 (See Table 1.2.)
Although smaller than the Cold War military, the Base Force nevertheless would satisfy Powell's requirement for a superpower-type capability. The plan would leave Washington with a fleet of 435 combat ships, along with a sizeable inventory of combat planes. With twelve aircraft carrier battle groups, moreover, the United States would still be able to project military power to virtually any point on the earth's surface. In addition, the plan allowed for the retention of some of the heavy armored divisions, bomber wings, and other high-tech forces previously intended for all-out combat with the Warsaw Pact.60
By retaining a significant array of heavy combat forces, the Powell plan would also insure a need for continued acquisition of new, high-tech weapons systems, thus preserving a significant portion of the military-industrial apparatus built up during the Cold War era.
Not every military contractor could be saved in this manner--with twenty-five percent fewer forces, the armed services inevitably would be forced to cancel some weapons programs--but the Base Force would still generate a substantial requirement for new aircraft, missiles, armored vehicles, and so on. Furthermore, to enhance U.S. power projection capabilities, the Department of Defense would need to procure additional cargo planes, amphibious assault vessels, supply ships, and helicopters.
The strategic blueprint adopted by General Powell and his staff in the spring of 1990, known as the "New Strategy" or the "Regional Defense Strategy" in Pentagon documents, was submitted to Secretary of Defense Cheney in May, and then forwarded to President Bush for his inspection.61 In June, the New Strategy received formal White House approval, and the forthcoming fortieth anniversary celebration of the Aspen Institute (a high-level study group on national security affairs) in Aspen, Colorado, on August 2, was selected as a suitable occasion for announcing the plan to the American public.
In his Aspen speech, Bush reiterated many of the themes expressed in General Vuono's April 1990 article and in other statements by top military officials. "In a world less driven by an immediate threat to Europe and the danger of global war," he noted, "the size of our forces will increasingly be shaped by the needs of regional conflict and peacetime [military] presence [abroad]." In line with this new posture, with its emphasis on regional conflicts beyond Europe, "America must possess forces able to respond to threats in whatever corner of the globe they may occur." To satisfy this need, he argued, "we will have to have air- and sea-lift capacities to get our forces where they are needed, when they are needed."62
Bush's speech was meant to provide American citizens with a glossy overview of the Pentagon's new posture. Many additional months would be needed to paint in the fine detail, and it was not until early 1991 that Congress had an opportunity to discuss the plan with senior Pentagon officials. Nevertheless, the broad outlines of the new U.S. strategic posture were in place by the early summerof 1990. As General Vuono later put it, "the second of August 1990 will be remembered for generations to come as a turning point for the United States in its conduct of foreign affairs--the day America announced the end of containment and embarked upon the strategy of power projection."63
By an extraordinary coincidence, this was also the day on which the Iraqi forces of Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.

Copyright © 1995 by Michael Klare