Feb/March 1997 THE IRANIAN Issue No. 9

From Gol Aqa satirical magazine published in Tehran
The Press: "Willian Perry describes the Persian Gulf as a dangerous region."
Perry to President Clinton: "Don's mess around with this cat. She's very dangerous!"

The boot for the cat

From "Defense in an Age of Hope" by former U.S. Secretary of Defense William J. Perry in the November/December 1996 issue of Foreign Affairs magazine (pages 73-74).

While preventive defense holds great promise, it is a strategy for influencing the world, not compelling it to America's will. Simply put, it will not always work. That is why, as Secretary of Defense, my top priority is maintaining strong, ready forces to deter and defeat threats to America's security interests.

The risk of global conflict is greatly reduced from the time of the Cold War, but as long as nuclear weapons still exist, some risk remains. The United States, therefore, retains a reduced but highly effective nuclear force as a deterrent. This deterrent hedge is compatible with significant reductions in American (and Russian) nuclear forces under START I and START II (after the latter's ratification by the Russian parliament), and with American support for the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

The nuclear hedge startegy is complemented by a program to develop a ballistic missile defense system that could be deployed to protect the continental United States from limited attacks, should a strategic threat to the nation arise from intercontinental ballistic missiles in the hands of rouge states or terrorists.

To deter regional conflict, the United States must maintain strong, ready, forward-deployed, conventionally armed forces; make those forces' presence felt; possess the credible capability to project decisive military force where American interests are threatened; and demonstrate the will to use it.

The United States is the only nation on earth today whose security interests are truly global in scope. Hot spots in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia can erupt with little warning, threatening vital American interests. Thus the size and composition of U.S. military forces are based on the need to deter and, if necessary, fight and win, in concert with regional allies, two major regional conflicts nearly simultaneously. The guiding principle is that the United States will fight to win, and win decisively, quickly, and with a minimum of casualties.

While the diminished threat of global conflict has allowed the United States to reduce its force structure by one-third from the Cold War high, the increased risk of regional conflict prevents further significant reductions. One of the paradoxes for defense planning in the post-Cold War era is that the increased risk of regional conflict necessitates very substantial conventional forces just when the diminished risk of global conflict is undermining the political rationale for a large standing army, air force, or navy.

The solution lies in innovative leveraging of forces, enabling the military to do more with less. Such leveraging allows the United States to execute its strategy with a force structure of about 1.5 million active duty personnel and 900,000 reserve personnel.

The most important way the United States leverages its force structure is by maintaining a significant portion of it overseas where it can positively shape the international environment and more effectively deter aggression.

Approximately 100,000 U.S. forces are forward deployed in Europe, with another 100,000 in the Pacific and 12,000 to 20,000 in the Arabian Gulf region, all in a high state of readiness. This presence demonstrates U.S. security commitments, underwrites regional stability, provides initial crisis response capability, and improves coalition effectiveness in the event deterrence fails.

In some regions, however, lack of basing facilities, political sensitivities, or cost considerations make other means of establishing overseas presence more dangerous. These include:

Pre-positioned equipment afloat and ashore in the Arabian Gulf region, for example, that allows the United States to insert a substantial deterrent force into the region, when needed, in a fraction of the time it took in 1990 when Iraq invaded Kuwait.

Carrier battle groups give the United States highly mobile deterrent forces ready for deployment anywhere in the world.

Marine Expeditionary Units and Air Expeditionary Forces fulfill a similar function, giving the United States almost immediate, self-reliant, self-sustaining presence tailored to and trained for the crisis scenarios they are likely to face. The units are also able to operate in the most austere environments, as shown in recent deployments in Liberia, Jordan, and Qatar. These forces demonstarte U.S. resolve and help prevent crises from developing into full-blown conflicts.


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