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September 11, 2001, a day we will never forget

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The US militar one year after 9/11

America's military establishment has certainly maintained significant stature since the al-Qaeda attacks of September 11, 2001. It was the US military that became post-9/11 avengers by leading counterstrikes against the terrorists and ridding Afghanistan of the Taliban. Since 9/11, the US also sent forces to Pakistan and the Philippines, lobbied for and helped intensify NATO military relations with Russia, and resumed military cooperation with China.

But it is more than remembrance of 9/11 that keeps this US global military activity expanding and maturing. It so happens that the six biggest challenges that US diplomacy faces today require military activity. These challenges are: The war against terrorism; Non-proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD), with emphasis on Iraq; The India/Pakistan dispute; The Israeli/Palestinian mess; The urging of more international alignments as the world's regions modernise, which may be the more important issue serving long-term global as well as US interests; and, Modernisation of the US military establishment, so that each of the above-cited issues has a greater chance of resolution.

As for the war against terrorism, Osama bin Laden may still be alive and leading terrorist cells in more than 50 countries. Unfortunately, the US-led anti-terrorism coalition that began after 911 has slowed down, with only a few countries contributing significantly, the US accruing manpower and equipment costs in larger doses than expected. It has also distracted US leaders from a process of military transformation encouraged before 911 by President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, creating dominance for systems and plans within the unconventional and special operations/ homeland security milieu in ways that could prevent proper modernisation of the more conventional forces.

Regarding non-proliferation of WMD, it has settled into a two-sided US policy: Contain Iran and North Korea on the one hand, and on the other put pressure on Iraq with the possibility of an invasion to dump Saddam Hussein and create what is referred to as "regime change". Meanwhile, it is US military forces that do most of the needed global anti-WMD surveillance. Now, were the Iraqi invasion question only a political one, finding the answer would be easy, basing the decision on Saddam's willingness, or unwilligness, to provide transparency and inspections and to give up his WMD dreams. However, a US attack against Iraq would demand more than US/allied air and missile strikes. Probably more than 200,000 ground troops would be needed to sweep Iraq and eliminate all Iraqi WMD sites and laboratories along with Saddam's regime. The US could not afford to provide more than 70% of this force and still maintain mission capability in other areas of the world.

The India/Pakistan dispute gets much of its importance from the two nations having nuclear weapons. Pakistan is also part of the terrorism issue and the WMD question in that intelligence sources claim al-Qaeda still operates there, and it is feared that they may get their hands on nuclear materials, This justifies US Special Forces operating in Pakistan .

Then there is the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, linked to both the war against terrorism and to the WMD issue in that Israel is a target and motivation for Saddam to seek and use WMD. A major concern is that a US/allied attack against Iraq could risk Palestinian terrorists joining Saddam as a fifth column, conducting suicide bombings against US/allied forces in the Middle East and/or against targets in the US and Europe.

And, the US must examine the direction of regional development the way a doctor looks for tumors in a mostly healthy body. As examples that are now unlikely, were the entire Arab world, or even the European Union, to solidify as an egoistic singularity seeking global dominance, the US would have a great deal to worry about. Therefore, the US needs to establish and maintain more coalition behavior within the world's economic and political regions, a primary aspect of which is US/allied military cooperation that requires more US/allied military equipment production, military market-sharing, troop mixes, and US/allied operations.

The thread holding together all of the military components needed to face the above-listed challenges is the US military itself and its ability to modernise. This will require US public willingness to fund research and testing to determine the feasibility of various national and theatre missile defence options, to send troop contingents swiftly against known enemies, to buy expensive systems that close all windows of vulnerability and not just those exposed to the threat of the moment. Yet this is where the US military could be in trouble, not because several generals and admirals have, as reported, been divided from their civilian bosses when it comes to strategic and tactical planning, but that such could disintegrate into "zero-sum contests" and disrupt the Pentagon's long range planning. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is now challenged as a leader to bring into focus the two sides, so that there is sufficient synergy from free debate. Otherwise, the web comprised of the above-listed challenges and responses could collapse, America much the lesser for it and failing to overcome.

The point being made here is that US troop and equipment deployments, military diplomacy and defence modernisation are as important to global stability today as after WW2 and during most of the Cold War.


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