William F Perry. Foreign Affairs. Volume 75, Issue 6, November/December 1996.
Prevent, Deter, Defeat
Ralph Waldo Emerson noted that in times of revolution, “the energies of all men are searched by fear and by hope.” We are living in such an age of revolution. Our hopes are stimulated by the success of democracy around the globe since the end of the Cold War, the growth of new trade relationships, and the expansion of communications worldwide. Our fears are stimulated by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, ethnic hatreds that rip states asunder, terrorism by extremist groups, and regional aggression by rogue nations. The stark contrast between these hopes and fears makes clear that this new era is characterized by humankind’s increased capacity for both good and evil. This in turn makes clear that in addition to revolutions in politics, economics, and technology, there must also be a revolution in our thinking about security strategy. The United States, as the world’s sole superpower, militarily and economically, must lead the way.
During the Cold War, the threat of nuclear holocaust hung over our heads like a dark cloud, the West prepared to meet an armored assault in Central Europe, and proxy wars flared all over the world. These daunting threats have gone away, but they have been replaced by new dangers. Nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of rogue nations or terrorists who-unlike the nuclear powers during the Cold War-might not be deterred by the threat of retaliation. In Central and Eastern Europe, the difficult transition to democracy and market economies could lead to civil wars or even the reemergence of totalitarian regimes hostile to the West. Around the world, an explosion of local and regional conflicts, often rooted in deep-seated ethnic and religious hatreds, brings suffering to tens of millions. These conflicts do not directly threaten the survival of the United States, but they can threaten American allies and vital interests, particularly if the regional aggressors possess weapons of mass destruction.
These new dangers make protecting America’s security a different and in some ways more complex task than it was during the Cold War. Then, the United States structured its forces to deter a global war with the Soviet Union. All other threats, including regional ones, were considered lesser-but-included cases, and the United States assumed that its forces were capable of handling them. Today, while global conflict is far less likely, the danger of regional conflict is neither lesser nor included and must be taken explicitly into account in structuring U.S. forces.
In the post-Cold War security environment, U.S. strategy for managing conflict rests on three basic lines of defense. The first line of defense is to prevent threats from emerging; the second is to deter threats that do emerge; and the third, if prevention and deterrence fail, is to defeat the threat using military force. Like the Cold War strategy of deterrence, the strategy of prevent-deter-defeat relies on close cooperation with American friends and allies.
Today the United States has a unique historical opportunity to foster peace through preventive defense. As preventive medicine creates the conditions that support health, making disease less likely and surgery unnecessary, so preventive defense creates the conditions that support peace, making war less likely and deterrence unnecessary.
Twice before in this century America had a similar opportunity. After World War I, it rejected the League of Nations and chose to isolate itself from the world. Isolationism, coupled with the European victors’ strategy of reparations and revenge toward the defeated Central Powers, failed to prevent the conditions for future conflict. Indeed, it helped create them, and over 300,000 Americans died in a second world war.
After World War II, America chose the path of engagement, taking a leading role in creating the United Nations and promoting a postwar program of reconciliation and reconstruction in both Europe and Japan. The economies of Western Europe and Japan rebounded, democracy grew deep roots, and America’s military cooperation and strategic alliances flourished. The Marshall Plan, combining a vision of American world leadership with a deep understanding that what happens abroad affects America’s security stands as the epitome of preventive defense.
But George Marshall’s vision was only half realized, because Joseph Stalin slammed the door on Marshall’s offer of assistance. Within a few years the world was divided into two armed camps and nuclear weapons had made global war too terrible to contemplate. Thus deterrence, not prevention, became the overarching security strategy of the Cold War.
The Cold War is over, but the peace is not yet secure. While the world does not need another Marshall Plan, the United States is building on Marshall’s core beliefs that the United States must remain a global power and that the best security policy is one that prevents conflict. The U.S. program of preventive defense rests on the premises that fewer weapons of mass destruction in fewer hands makes America and the world safer; that more democracy and more free-market economies in more nations means less chance of conflict; and that defense establishments have an important role to play in building democracy, trust, and understanding in and among nations.
Reducing the Nuclear Danger
Nowhere is preventive defense more important than in countering the spread of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. A potential aggressor’s possession of weapons of mass destruction increases not only the lethality of any conflict but the chances of conflict arising in the first place. A nuclear-armed Iraq or North Korea would not just be a more deadly adversary in combat; it would be harder to deter and more likely to coerce its neighbors or to start a war in the first place. Rogue nations’ aspirations to obtain weapons of mass destruction are set against the backdrop of the disintegration of the Soviet Union in 1991. Instead of one nuclear empire, the region suddenly had four new states with nuclear weapons on their soil: Russia, Kazakstan, Ukraine, and Belarus. The depressed economies of those nations created a potential buyers’ market for weapons of mass destruction, including the materials that go into them and the work force and infrastructure that produce and support them. Unsettled political conditions in the four countries made safeguarding the weapons and materials potentially more difficult.
All this required the United States to augment its Cold War nuclear strategy of deterrence with a post-Cold War strategy of prevention. The most effective way to prevent proliferation is to dismantle existing arsenals-what former Secretary of Defense Les Aspin dubbed “defense by other means.” Under the Cooperative Threat Reduction program, created by Senators Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) and Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) in 1991, the United States has helped Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakstan remove over 4,000 nuclear warheads from deployment and dismantle more than 800 bombers and ballistic missile launchers. In January, I joined my Russian and Ukrainian counterparts in personally demolishing an SS-19 silo at the Pervomaysk missile complex in Ukraine. Pervomaysk was the crown jewel of the former Soviet ICBM system, housing 700 nuclear warheads aimed at targets in the United States. By June the missile field was a sunflower field (the flowers are a cash crop in Ukraine) and Ukraine had become nuclear-weapons-free. All nuclear weapons were removed from Kazakstan last year, and by the end of 1996 Belarus will be rid of nuclear weapons. Nunn-Lugar funds also help the former Soviet nuclear states secure the weapons and materials to keep them from finding their way into the global marketplace. Under Project Sapphire, for instance, the United States removed 600 kilograms of highly enriched uranium from Kazakstan to safe storage in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.
Ultimately, preventing proliferation means more than just dismantling Cold War nuclear arsenals. It also means leading the fight, as the United States did last year, for the indefinite extension of the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty; working to bring the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty into force; seeking ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention; working to strengthen the Biological Weapons Convention and the Missile Technology Control Regime; taking the lead in a range of international export controls to limit the flow of goods and technologies that could be used to make weapons of mass destruction; and enforcing sanctions against rogue nations bent on acquiring the weapons.
Sometimes preventing proliferation means employing “coercive diplomacy”-a combination of diplomacy and defense measures. In the United States used such a combination to stop North Korea’s nuclear weapons program. The diplomatic measures consisted of threats by the United States and other nations in the region to impose economic sanctions if North Korea did not stop its program and the promise of assistance in the production of commercial electrical power if it did. The defense measures consisted of a simultaneous beefing up of U.S. military forces in the region. The result is that while Pyongyang continues to pose a conventional military threat on the Korean peninsula, its nuclear weapons program has been frozen.
All in all, since 1991 the United States has been instrumental in eliminating or reversing nuclear weapon programs in six states: Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakstan, Iraq, North Korea, and South Africa.
Defense Engagement and Democracy
The United States has long maintained extensive contacts with the defense establishments of allies as part of an overall policy of maintaining overseas presence in times of peace. Today, however, the United States is expanding these ties to other nations to help enlarge the community of free-market democracies, understanding that this is good for America’s national security. Such engagement is a key element of U.S. preventive defense strategy.
Many nations around the world have come to agree that democracy is the best system of government. But important steps must be taken before worldwide consensus can become a worldwide reality. Most of the new democracies are fragile. Elections are a necessary but insufficient condition for a free society; democracy is learned behavior. Democratic values must be embedded in the key institutions of these nations if they are to flourish as democracies.
The Defense Department has a pivotal role to play in that effort. In virtually every new democracy-in the former Soviet Union, in Central and Eastern Europe, in South America, and in Asia-the military is a major force. In many cases it is the most cohesive institution in the country, containing a large percentage of the educated elite and controlling important resources. In short, it is an institution that can help support democracy or subvert it.
Societies undergoing the transformation from totalitarianism to democracy may well be tested at some point by a crisis, whether economic, a reversal on human rights and freedoms, or a border or an ethnic dispute with a neighboring country. If such a crisis occurs, the United States wants that nation’s military to come down on the side of democracy and economic reform and play a positive role in resolving the crisis, not a negative role in fanning the flames or using the crisis as a pretext for a military coup. This administration has sought to exert a positive influence on these important institutions through regular, working contacts with U.S. military and civilian defense personnel-a task made easier by the fact that every military in the world looks to the U.S. armed forces as the model to be emulated.
In this effort, preventive defense employs a variety of tools that not only show nations how armed forces function in a democracy but also serve to build openness and trust between nations. For instance, the International Military Education and Training program, a joint Defense-State undertaking, sponsors officers from the former Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact countries (and elsewhere) at American institutions while they study the fundamentals of civil-military relations, such as how to operate a military in a democratic society under civilian control and with legislative oversight. Other officers attend the Marshall Center in Germany and the Asia-Pacific Center in Hawaii.
Another tool is teams of American military officers, enlisted personnel, and civilian defense officials dispatched to newly democratic countries to help them build modern, professional military establishments under strong civilian defense leadership. Since 1992 such teams have made thousands of contacts in more than a dozen newly independent nations. The contacts have encouraged Hungary to enact new laws placing its military under civilian, democratic control; assisted Romania in developing a new code of conduct for its armed forces based on the American Uniform Code of Military Justice; and helped Polish, Hungarian, Czech, and Bulgarian officers and senior military and civilian defense officials master techniques of national defense planning.
Multinational training exercises in peacekeeping, disaster relief, and search-and-rescue operations are an invaluable tool in promoting trust and reducing tensions among nations that have long been at odds. In addition, they enable forces from different countries to operate together more effectively, a vital benefit given the increasing frequency of combined peacekeeping operations.
Finally, confidence-building measures build trust between countries. Among the most important of such measures are ones promoting openness about military budgets, plans, and policies-something Western defense officials take for granted but which is entirely foreign to the traditions of many countries. Openness, after all, is an unusual concept in defense, for the art of war involves secrecy and surprise. The art of peace, however, involves exactly the opposite-openness and trust. Through openness about security matters, nations gain insights into each other’s strategic intentions, reducing pressure to engage in arms competition and chances for miscalculation.
Realizing Marshalls Dream
In Europe and Central Asia, these tools of preventive defense all come together in NATO’s Partnership for Peace, proposed by the United States in 1993 and inaugurated in 1994. PFP is integrating the fledgling democracies of Eastern and Central Europe, Russia, and the Newly Independent States into a new overall European security architecture. But the effects reverberate well beyond the security realm. Partners are also working to uphold democracy, tolerate diversity, and honor the rights of minorities and freedom of expression. They are working to build market economies, develop democratic control of their military forces, and respect the sovereignty of bordering countries.
In many of these nations, aspiration to NATO membership has become the rock on which all major political parties base their platforms. Consensus on that unifying goal makes compromise and reconciliation on other issues possible. Indeed, PFP is not just “defense by other means” but “democracy by other means,” and it is helping turn George Marshall’s dream of a democratic and unified Europe into a reality. To lock in these gains, NATO must ensure that the ties created under PFP continue to deepen, and proceed with its program of gradual but steady outreach and enlargement to the east. Equally important, for nations that do not aspire to NATO membership in the near term, PFP provides a continuing framework for security cooperation with NATO.
Preventive defense policies are also helping integrate Russia into a new European security architecture. Russia has been a crucial part of the European security picture for over 300 years and will remain a key player in coming decades, for better or for worse. The United States, NATO, and Russia are seeking to make it for the better through the U.S.-Russian “pragmatic partnership” (including Nunn-Lugar and other cooperative efforts), Russian participation in PFP, and the nascent special NATO-Russia security relationship.
Ironically, the blueprint for the special NATO-Russia relationship followed from working together during the course of 1996 in Bosnia, where Russian troops have served in the American Multi-National Division of NATO’S peace Implementation Force (IFOR). This participation has demonstrated Russia’s commitment to participating in a positive way in the future security architecture of Europe. At meetings in June in Brussels, NATO and Russia agreed to station Russian officers at alliance headquarters and subordinate commands and to send NATO officers to the Russian General Staff in Moscow, thus institutionalizing the liaison program begun through IFOR. More recently, Secretary of State Warren Christopher has proposed formalizing the emerging relationship between Russia and NATO.
Other positive signs are emanating from Bosnia. There, NATO and PFP nations are seeing the first benefits of combined peacekeeping exercises, which have allowed many partner nations to make valuable contributions to IFOR. The killing in Bosnia has stopped, elections have been held, and together, the 32 nations of IFOR are holding open the door to Marshall’s Europe for the peoples of the former Yugoslavia. Until late last year, to say that “the future history of Europe is being written in Bosnia” was to make a profoundly pessimistic statement. Today, however, it qualifies as guarded optimism.
Preventive Defense Worldwide
Successful examples of preventive defense are by no means confined to Europe, Russia, and Central Asia. Last year in Williamsburg, Virginia, for example, the United States hosted the first-ever Defense Ministerial of the Americas, allowing the 34 democracies of the Western hemisphere-all the nations save Cuba-to join in building a zone of stability in a region once destabilized by Cold War tensions. Again, the tools include joint training and education programs, information sharing on defense, and confidence-building measures. Whereas in Europe the United States and NATO have taken the lead in promoting these activities, in the Americas a consensus has shaped them and Washington has encouraged them. The process continued this year with Argentina hosting the second Defense Ministerial of the Americas in early October.
In the Asia-Pacific region, preventive defense means maintaining strong alliances with America’s democratic allies, such as Japan, South Korea, and Australia; fully participating in multilateral security dialogues, such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Forum; and pursuing a policy of comprehensive engagement with China, including the Chinese military. In the best case, engaging China’s military may allow the United States to have a positive influence on this important player in Chinese politics. At the very least, engagement between the military establishments will improve mutual understanding and lower the chances of a conflict arising from a misunderstanding.
What makes preventive defense work, whether in Russia, Europe, the Balkans, the Americas, or the Asia-Pacific, is American leadership. No other country in the world has the resources, the will, and the prestige to reach out to so many corners of the globe. At the same time, no one should think that preventive defense is a philanthropic venture-it is not. Preventive defense involves hard work and ingenuity today so that the United States does not have to expend blood and treasure tomorrow.
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 strategy 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 rogue 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 advantageous. 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. In addition to the gulf, the United States also maintains pre-positioned equipment in the Indian Ocean, Korea, and Europe.
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, selfreliant, 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 demonstrate U.S. resolve and help prevent crises from developing into full-blown conflicts.
Central to the United States’ ability to leverage its force structure is its airlift and sealift capability, which makes possible rapid transportation of troops and their equipment to distant theaters. Quick deployment of forces to a crisis decreases the likelihood that they will actually have to be used and increases chances for success if force is necessary. No other country in history has had the ability to project force to any corner of the globe as quickly and as efficiently as the United States in the 1990s.
While being able to fight and win is essential, that ability alone cannot deter conflict. Deterrence stems from military capability coupled with political will, both real and perceived; credibility is as important as military capability. Deterrence failed in 1990, when Iraq doubted America’s political will to defend Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. America demonstrated that will through a costly but highly successful war to evict Iraqi forces from Kuwait. In contrast, deterrence succeeded in October 1994 when Iraq again moved forces to the Kuwaiti border. This time, within a few days the United States had deployed 200 fighter aircraft, an armored brigade, a Marine Expeditionary Unit, and a carrier battle group to the theater, creating a presence that had taken many weeks to assemble in 1990. Faced with that presence and the lessons of Operation Desert Storm, Saddam Hussein sent his brigades back to their barracks.
Deterrence can fail, however, particularly against an irrational or desperate adversary, so the United States must be prepared to actually use military force. America’s ability to fight and win conflicts in the post-Cold War era rests on two attributes of U.S. forces: readiness to fight and the capability to employ modern technology.
Readiness comes from recruiting high-quality people, training them to succeed, and retaining them for full careers. The worldwide shift to all-volunteer forces from conscription-based ones reflects other nations’ appreciation of what the United States has achieved through its all-volunteer force. Recruiting requires an investment in time, energy, and resources. The U.S. military is able to compete with civilian employers by offering fair salaries, solid benefits, challenging work, and an opportunity to serve. A decent quality of life, including adequate housing, health care, and other benefits, is critical to retaining top-quality recruits for the duration of their careers.
Bringing troops to a competitive edge requires a commitment to intensive training that makes full use of growing simulation capabilities, integrated with realistic field experiences. Whether engaging in armored combat at the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, a Red Flag exercise at Nellis Air Force Base, “virtual reality” urban warfare training at Fort Polk, or any other of a wide variety of training experiences, military personnel prepare for missions in realistic “scrimmages” designed to be “harder than the game.” Knowing that most mistakes occur in the first experience of battle, the U.S. military attempts to ensure that that first experience is actually a practice. It also ensures that troops are trained, ready, and equipped to protect themselves against attacks by terrorists and those who would use, or threaten to use, nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons to counter the United States’ conventional military superiority.
Well-trained, high-quality, professional forces allow the United States to fully exploit modern technology. The lesson of Desert Storm was that the United States should seek not only an edge but an “unfair” competitive advantage over its opponents. It saves lives, not only of American troops but also among allies, noncombatants, and even adversaries. Technology can give the United States such an advantage while introducing revolutionary changes in other areas that will affect force planning, costs, and strategy.
The way U.S. military leaders regard technology has changed profoundly over the last 20 years. During the Cold War the United States developed the concept of the reconnaissance strike force, key to its “offset strategy”: a combination of stealth aircraft, precision-guided munitions, and advanced surveillance technology to offset superior numbers of Soviet forces. Some military leaders and outside experts believed that such advanced technology was too delicate or would not work in the fog of war. But the concept proved itself in Desert Storm, crushing the Iraqi military force with very low U.S. losses. Skeptics became believers. Today military commanders are finding myriad uses not only for smart weapons but also for smart intelligence, smart communications, and smart logistics, which are built on the same advanced information and telecommunications technology.
Some critics, including the U.S. General Accounting Office, continue to question the effectiveness of high-tech weaponry, particularly precision-guided munitions. In examining the cost and impact of these weapons in isolation, the critics ignore the synergy created when precision weapons are combined with air dominance, superior battlespace awareness, and focused logistics-the vital elements of what is called Force Dominance:
Air dominance allows U.S. strike forces to devastate opposition ground and naval forces, while ensuring that U.S. ground and naval forces can operate without fear of opposing air forces. Key to air dominance are stealth technology (which allows many U.S. aircraft to evade opposing air defenses and interceptors), the superior performance of U.S. interceptors and their air-to-air missiles, and the U.S. ability to quickly suppress the enemy’s ground-based air defenses.
Precision strike forces permit the United States to destroy enemy fixed targets with one or two weapons instead of engaging in barrage bombing of area targets. They also permit the destruction of critical mobile targets including missile launchers and armored columns. Desert Storm amply demonstrated the overall effectiveness of the first generation of precision-guided weapons, despite their vulnerability to opposition countermeasures and adverse weather. The second generation will overcome these limitations and allow the achievement of true “fire and forget” capability.
Superior battlespace awareness means giving U.S. commanders complete, real-time knowledge of the disposition of all enemy and friendly forces and denying such knowledge to enemy commanders. The U.S. military is working to achieve this superior awareness by tying together information gained from national sensors, the Global Positioning System, and tactical sensors and delivering the resulting picture into the hands of tactical commanders through digital encrypted communications.
Focused logistics results from applying advanced technologies to logistics efforts, giving rise to the ability to track supplies around the globe, knowing what each shipment contains, its location, and time of arrival at the location where it is needed. That capability can provide a decisive warfighting edge. It can also be a real manpower and cost saver, cutting the “tail to tooth” ratio by at last freeing the military from the need to maintain large stockpiles at every echelon in a theater. Precision-guided munitions will also indirectly affect logistics because ratios of one or two shots per kill (instead of dozens or hundreds) mean that old estimates of weapons supplies go out the window. If a target can be hit on the first few shots, the military can achieve huge savings in costs and manpower, since there is little need to build, store, transport, and guard massive supplies of weapons.
Desert Storm demonstrated that when the numbers of forces were roughly equal, American technological advantages gave the U.S. military the ability not just to offset an opponent’s power but to dominate. Today Force Dominance is the goal of the U.S. military, and there is little question that it can be developed to great effect. Desert Storm showed the potential with only the first generation of systems and concepts. Today the United States is moving to the second generation and developing the operational concepts, doctrine, and tactics that go with it. Nevertheless, we have still, in my estimate, accomplished only a fraction of what is possible with the new technologies already within reach.
To access the new information technology that makes Force Dominance possible, it is absolutely critical that defense acquisition reform proceed. The current acquisition system limits the Defense Department’s access to the largely private commercial sources where the new technologies are being developed-directly, by erecting regulatory barriers, or indirectly, by decreasing the ability to purchase and employ new generations of technology in a timely way. Full implementation of legislative and regulatory changes enacted two years ago will allow the department to save literally billions of dollars as well as to rapidly incorporate cutting-edge technology into the military’s weapons systems.
The American Obligation
In the unstable environment of the Cold War’s wake, the United States has not only the opportunity but the responsibility to help ensure a safer world for generations of Americans. President Clinton has said, “As the world’s greatest power, we have an obligation to lead and, at times when our interests and our values are sufficiently at stake, to act.”
The prevent-deter-defeat strategy supports American global leadership in this new era. Important parts of the program, however, need to be better understood by both the national security community and the American public. We as a nation need to gain a firmer grasp of the pivotal role of preventive defense and the complexities of deterring and defeating threats in the world today. Only such understanding can give rise to the broad-based public support within our own democracy that is crucial to achieving the strategy’s ultimate goal: a safer post-Cold War world characterized not by the realization of our darkest fears but of our greatest hopes.