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From Draft NOtices, August-September-October 2001

Two War or Not Two War?

New Doctrine Perpetuates U.S. Hegemony

Carol Jahnkow

Once in office, George W. Bush quickly followed up on his presidential campaign promises to set in motion "an immediate, comprehensive review of our military" and to give the Secretary of Defense "a broad mandate to challenge the status quo." Beginning in February, media stories began to report that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld had begun this new broad review of the military.

Rumsfeld's review will bring significant changes in policy. U.S. military strategy since 1993 has revolved around maintaining the capacity to simultaneously fight two major wars. But according to Rumsfeld, the U.S. military has been "living a lie," with the two-war strategy stretching the military thin and preventing needed investment in equipment and strategy to help wage the wars of the future. This strategy has, he says, "brought us to a point where we don't have the forces to do it. It has brought us to a point where, because of the efforts to do it, we have slighted modernization and took a prolonged procurement holiday; we have slighted, in my view, transformation; and we have slighted things that affect the quality of our force."

What Rumsfeld seemingly proposes is a less ambitious role for the armed forces while not significantly cutting back on troops, programs and equipment. This approach is designed to keep everyone except the anti-militarists happy. It will ensure less risk to the soldier on the ground, at sea and in the air given the aversion of the U.S. public to seeing its men and women in uniform coming home in body bags, yet keep military spending at high levels.

Under Rumsfeld's proposed new strategy, the U.S. military would be required to concurrently carry out four broad missions: defend United States territory; prevent aggressors from taking hostile action by making them afraid of a response from U.S. forces in Europe, the Middle East, southwest Asia, northeast Asia and along the East Asian rim; "win decisively" in one major conflict; and conduct "small-scale contingencies of limited duration in other areas of the world."

On the surface, shifting away from the two-war strategy would seem to imply a smaller military, with potentially significant savings through personnel cuts, thus freeing up funds to modernize the armed forces. Don't hold your breath long on this one. Maintaining the capacity to deter hostile actions by threat of U.S. military power will certainly mean continuing to keep troops stationed overseas at current levels. And as more specific implementation plans begin to emerge, Pentagon officials are pointing out that a sizable increase in forces might be required because the military would need to prepare for a larger number of missions and "holding actions" in addition to the one major regional war.

And while you might scratch your head at the notion of defending the U.S. homeland and ask why Canada or Mexico would want to invade us, the inclusion of territorial defense as one of four top capabilities has serious implications. First and foremost, it is a justification for administration plans for a missile defense system and dangerous weapons in space. The choice of Air Force General Richard Myers, an expert in computer and space warfare, as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff further demonstrates the U.S. commitment to a ballistic missile defense system. If confirmed by the Senate in September, Myers will be the first non-Army general in over a decade to hold the military's top position. Myers will play a major role in U.S. national security planning and will implement Bush's plan to overhaul the military and prepare it for what the Bush administration perceives as "fast-emerging high-tech threats." Secondly, inclusion of homeland defense as a top priority officially gives the military domestic duties in battling terrorism, especially in the case of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons. Giving the military this kind of domestic power has dangerous ramifications for our civil liberties.

While no surprise to those of us opposed to militarism, a recent Washington Post article, "Empire or Not?", points out that maintaining U.S. power worldwide is the unspoken basis of U.S. strategy, with the U.S. actually expanding its global military presence since the end of the Cold War. Rumsfeld's "new" strategy will perpetuate, augment and extend U.S. hegemony.

And what would be needed to transform the U.S. military to meet Rumsfeld's requirements? Apparently more money. The defense budget proposal now before Congress for fiscal year 2002 would increase defense spending by $18.4 billion above an initial "blueprint" submitted in February and is approximately $33 billion over current defense spending. This represents the largest proposed increase in military spending since the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War. The Center for Defense Information points out that the vast U.S. military advantage to maintain a global presence and superiority does not come cheaply:

  • At $343 billion, the U.S. military budget request for FY02 is more than six times larger than that of Russia, the second largest spender.
  • It is more than 23 times as large as the combined spending of the seven countries traditionally identified by the Pentagon as our most likely adversaries (Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria).
  • It is more than the combined spending of the next 15 nations.
  • The United States and its close allies spend more than the rest of the world combined, accounting for roughly two-thirds of all military spending. Together they spend over 38 times more than the seven "rogue" states.
  • The seven potential "enemies" plus Russia and China together spend $116 billion, roughly one-third (34%) of the U.S. military budget.
  • Global military spending has declined from $1.2 trillion in 1985 to $809 billion in 1999. During that time the U.S. share of total military spending rose from 31% to 36% in fiscal year 1999.

None of us should be surprised at the Bush administration's rush to put its mark on U.S. strategy. Expanding U.S. global power in multiple ways, including spending more on the military, was to be expected from them. The challenge to us as anti-militarists is to expand our efforts to educate the public on what is really happening in this country and what the administration's policies really mean as opposed to what they say they are doing.

Information sources: Albuquerque Journal, 2001, "Defense Aims for Orbit"; The Associated Press, May 23, 2001, "Rumsfeld Works on Defense Strategy," Robert Burns; Center for Defense Information Web site, "The 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review: Here We Go Again -- or Do We?", "Coming Clean on the 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review," "Fiscal Year 2002 Budget," "Whither the Next National Military Strategy," and "World Military Expenditures" (; Foreign Affairs, May/June 2001, "The New Geography of Conflict," Michael Clare; Los Angeles Times, August 18, 2001, "Rumsfeld Blasts 2-War Strategy"; The New Yorker, July 16, 2001, "Dreaming About War: Someone in the Pentagon is staging a defense revolution and its not the generals," Nicholas Lemon; Reuters, August 24, 2001, "Bush Names Hi-Tech Arms Expert New Military Chief," Patricia Wilson; Washington Post, August 21, 2001, "Empire or Not? A Quiet Debate over U.S. Role," Thomas E. Ricks.

This article is from Draft NOtices, the newsletter of the Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (

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