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National Defense Strategy 2008

At the same time, we will seek other ways to encourage Russia to act as a constructive partner, while expressing our concerns over policies and aspects of its international behavior such as the sale of disruptive weapons technologies and interference in and coercion of its neighbors.

Both China and Russia are important partners for the future and we seek to build collaborative and cooperative relationships with them. We will develop strategies across agencies, and internationally, to provide incentives for constructive behavior while also dissuading them from destabilizing actions.

Deter Conflict

Deterrence is key to preventing conflict and enhancing security. It requires influencing the political and military choices of an adversary, dissuading it from taking an action by making its leaders understand that either the cost of the action is too great, is of no use, or unnecessary. Deterrence also is based upon credibility: the ability to prevent attack, respond decisively to any attack so as to discourage even contemplating an attack upon us, and strike accurately when necessary.

For nearly half a century, the United States approached its security focused on a single end: deterring the Soviet Union from attacking the United States and our allies in what could have escalated into a global thermonuclear catastrophe. To that purpose we built our deterrent upon a diverse and survivable nuclear force, coupled with a potent conventional capability, designed to counter the military power of one adversary. Likewise, our assumptions and calculations for shaping deterrence were based largely upon our understanding of the dynamics and culture of the Soviet Union alone. All potential conflict was subsumed and influenced by that confrontation and the fear of escalation within it. Even so, there were limits. Military capabilities alone were, and are, no panacea to deter all conflict: despite the enormous strength of both the United States and the Soviet Union, conflicts arose; some were defused, while others spilled over into local wars.

In the contemporary strategic environment, the challenge is one of deterring or dissuading a range of potential adversaries from taking a variety of actions against the U.S. and our allies and interests. These adversaries could be states or non-state actors; they could use nuclear, conventional, or unconventional weapons; and they could exploit terrorism, electronic, cyber and other forms of warfare. Economic interdependence and the growth of global communications further complicate the situation. Not only do they blur the types of threats, they also exacerbate sensitivity to the effects of attacks and in some cases make it more difficult to attribute or trace them. Finally, the number of potential adversaries, the breadth of


their capabilities, and the need to design approaches to deterrence for each, create new challenges.

We must tailor deterrence to fit particular actors, situations, and forms of warfare. The same developments that add to the complexity of the challenge also offer us a greater variety of capabilities and methods to deter or dissuade adversaries. This diversity of tools, military and non-military, allows us to create more plausible reactions to attacks in the eyes of opponents and a more credible deterrence to them. In addition, changes in capabilities, especially new technologies, permit us to create increasingly credible defenses to convince would-be attackers that their efforts are ultimately futile.

Our ability to deter attack credibly also reassures the American people and our allies of our commitment to defend them. For this reason, deterrence must remain grounded in demonstrated military capabilities that can respond to a broad array of challenges to international security. For example, the United States will maintain its nuclear arsenal as a primary deterrent to nuclear attack, and the New Triad remains a cornerstone of strategic deterrence. We must also continue to field conventional capabilities to augment or even replace nuclear weapons in order to provide our leaders a greater range of credible responses. Missile defenses not only deter an attack, but can defend against such an attack should deterrence fail. Precision-guided munitions allow us great flexibility not only to react to attacks, but also to strike preemptively when necessary to defend ourselves and our allies. Yet we must also recognize that deterrence has its limits, especially where our interests are ill-defined or the targets of our deterrence are difficult to influence. Deterrence may be impossible in cases where the value is not in the destruction of a target, but the attack and the very means of attack, as in terrorism.

We must build both our ability to withstand attack – a fundamental and defensive aspect of deterrence – and improve our resiliency beyond an attack. An important change in planning for the myriad of future potential threats must be post-attack recovery and operational capacity. This, too, helps demonstrate that such attacks are futile, as does our ability to respond with strength and effectiveness to attack.

For the future, the global scope of problems, and the growing complexity of deterrence in new domains of conflict, will require an integrated interagency and international approach if we are to make use of all the tools available to us. We must consider which non-lethal actions constitute an attack on our sovereignty, and which may require the use of force in response. We must understand the potential for escalation from non-lethal to lethal confrontation, and learn to calculate and manage the associated risks.


Win our Nation’s Wars

Despite our best efforts at prevention and deterrence, we must be prepared to act together with like minded states against states when they threaten their neighbors, provide safe haven to terrorists, or pursue destabilizing weapons. Although improving the U.S. Armed Forces’ proficiency in irregular warfare is the Defense Department’s top priority, the United States does not have the luxury of preparing exclusively for such challenges. Even though the likelihood of interstate conflict has declined in recent years, we ignore it at our peril. Current circumstances in Southwest Asia and on the Korean Peninsula, for example, demonstrate the continuing possibility of conflict. When called upon, the Department must be positioned to defeat enemies employing a combination of capabilities, conventional and irregular, kinetic and non-kinetic, across the spectrum of conflict. We must maintain the edge in our conventional forces.

Rogue states will remain a threat to U.S. regional interests. Iran and North Korea continue to exert coercive pressure in their respective regions, where each seek to challenge or reduce U.S. influence. Responding to and, as necessary, defeating these, and potentially other, rogue states will remain a major challenge. We must maintain the capabilities required to defeat state adversaries, including those armed with nuclear weapons.

Achieving Our Objectives

We will achieve our objectives by shaping the choices of key states, preventing adversaries from acquiring or using WMD, strengthening and expanding alliances and partnerships, securing U.S. strategic access and retaining freedom of action, and integrating and unifying our efforts.

Shape the Choices of Key States

Although the role of non-state actors in world affairs has increased, states will continue to be the basis of the international order. In cooperation with our allies and friends, the United States can help shape the international environment, the behavior of actors, and the choices that strategic states face in ways that foster accountability, cooperation, and mutual trust.

Shaping choices contributes to achieving many of our objectives. It is critical to defending the homeland by convincing key states that attacking the United States would be futile and ultimately self-defeating. Our deterrence posture is designed to persuade potential aggressors that they cannot meet their objectives through an


attack on the United States and that such actions would result in an overwhelming response. Our posture and capabilities also contribute to deterring conflict of other types, particularly with potential adversary states. We can also promote security by helping shape the choices that strategic states make, encouraging them to avoid destabilizing paths and adhering to international norms on the use of force, the promotion of peace and amity, and acting as good stewards of the public good within their own borders.

We shall seek to anchor China and Russia as stakeholders in the system. Similarly, we look to India to assume greater responsibility as a stakeholder in the international system, commensurate with its growing economic, military, and soft power.

Prevent Adversaries from Acquiring or Using Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

There are few greater challenges than those posed by chemical, biological, and particularly nuclear weapons. Preventing the spread of these weapons, and their use, requires vigilance and obligates us to anticipate and counter threats. Whenever possible, we prefer non-military options to achieve this purpose. We combine non-proliferation efforts to deny these weapons and their components to our adversaries, active efforts to defend against and defeat WMD and missile threats before they are unleashed, and improved protection to mitigate the consequences of WMD use. We also seek to convince our adversaries that they cannot attain their goals with WMD, and thus should not acquire such weapons in the first place. However, as the NSS states, the United States will, if necessary, act preemptively in exercising its right of self-defense to forestall or prevent hostile acts by our adversaries.

Reducing the proliferation of WMD and bolstering norms against their use contribute to defending the homeland by limiting the number of states that can directly threaten us and dissuading the potential transfer of these weapons to non-state actors. As we and our partners limit WMD proliferation, we will deny terrorists a potent weapon and contribute to bringing the fight against violent extremists to a successful conclusion on U.S. terms.

A number of hostile or potentially hostile states are actively seeking or have acquired WMD. Some may seek them for prestige or deterrence; others may plan to use them. Preventing such regimes from acquiring or proliferating WMD, and the means to deliver them, contributes to promoting security.

Fortunately, the ranks of the nuclear powers are still small, but they could grow in the next decade in the absence of concerted action. Many more countries possess


chemical and biological weapons programs – programs that are more difficult to detect, impede, or eliminate. These countries will continue to pursue WMD programs as a means to deter, coerce, and potentially use against adversaries. Shaping the behavior of additional states seeking or acquiring weapons of mass destruction will require an integrated, international effort.

Technological and information advances of the last fifty years have led to the wide dissemination of WMD knowledge and lowered barriers to entry. Relatively sophisticated chemical agents, and even crude biological agents, are within the reach of many non-state actors with a modicum of scientific knowledge. Non-state actors may acquire WMD, either through clandestine production, state-sponsorship, or theft. Also of concern is the potential for severe instability in WMD states and resulting loss of control of these weapons. In these cases, the United States, through a concerted interagency and partner nation effort, must be prepared to detect, tag and track, intercept, and destroy WMD and related materials. We must also be prepared to act quickly to secure those weapons and materials in cases where a state loses control of its weapons, especially nuclear devices. Should the worst happen, and we are attacked, we must be able to sustain operations during that attack and help mitigate the consequences of WMD attacks at home or overseas.

Strengthen and Expand Alliances and Partnerships

The United States also must strengthen and expand alliances and partnerships. The U.S. alliance system has been a cornerstone of peace and security for more than a generation and remains the key to our success, contributing significantly to achieving all U.S. objectives. Allies often possess capabilities, skills, and knowledge we cannot duplicate. We should not limit ourselves to the relationships of the past. We must broaden our ideas to include partnerships for new situations or circumstances, calling on moderate voices in troubled regions and unexpected partners. In some cases, we may develop arrangements limited to specific objectives or goals, or even of limited duration. Although these arrangements will vary according to mutual interests, they should be built on respect, reciprocity, and transparency.

The capacities of our partners vary across mission areas. We will be able to rely on many partners for certain low-risk missions such as peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance, whereas complex counterinsurgency and high-end conventional operations are likely to draw on fewer partners with the capacity, will, and capability to act in support of mutual goals. We will support, train, advise and equip partner security forces to counter insurgencies, terrorism, proliferation, and other threats. We will assist other countries in improving their capabilities


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