It often will be in our national interest to proceed in partnership with other nations to preserve, maintain and restore peace. American participation in peace operations takes many forms, such as the NATO-led coalitions in Bosnia and Kosovo, the American-led UN force in Haiti, the recently concluded Military Observer Mission Ecuador and Peru (MOMEP), our participation in the coalition operation in the Sinai, military observers in UN missions in Western Sahara, Georgia and the Middle East, and the UN mission in East Timor.
The question of command and control in multinational contingency operations is particularly critical. Under no circumstances will the President ever relinquish his constitutional command authority over U.S. forces, but there may be times in the future, just as in the past, when it is in our interest to place U.S. forces under the temporary operational control of a competent allied or United Nations commander.
Not only must the U.S. military be prepared to successfully conduct multiple smaller-scale contingencies worldwide, it must be prepared to do so in the face of challenges such as terrorism, information operations and the threat or use of WMD.
U.S. forces must also remain prepared to withdraw from contingency operations if needed to deploy to a major theater war. Accordingly, appropriate U.S. forces will be kept at a high level of readiness and will be trained, equipped and organized to be capable of performing multiple missions at one time.
Major Theater Warfare
Fighting and winning major theater wars is the ultimate test of our Armed Forces – a test at which they must always succeed. For the foreseeable future, the United States, preferably in concert with allies, must have the capability to deter and, if deterrence fails, defeat large-scale, cross-border aggression in two distant theaters in overlapping time frames. Maintaining a two major theater war capability reassures our friends and allies and makes coalition relationships with the United States more attractive. It deters opportunism elsewhere when we are heavily involved in deterring or defeating aggression in one theater, or while conducting multiple smaller-scale contingencies and engagement activities in other theaters. It also provides a hedge against the possibility that we might encounter threats larger or more difficult than expected. A strategy for deter ring and defeating aggression in two theaters ensures we maintain the capability and flexibility to meet unknown future threats, while continued global engagement helps preclude such threats from developing.
Fighting and winning major theater wars entails three challenging requirements. First, we must maintain the ability to rapidly defeat initial enemy advances short of the enemy’s objectives in two theaters, in close succession. We must maintain this ability to ensure that we can seize the initiative, minimize territory lost before an invasion is halted and ensure the integrity of our warfighting coalitions. Failure to defeat initial enemy advances rapidly would make the subsequent campaign to evict enemy forces from captured territory more difficult, lengthy and costly, and could undermine U.S. credibility and increase the risk of conflict elsewhere.
Second, the United States must be prepared to fight and win under conditions where an adversary may use asymmetric means against us – unconventional approaches that avoid or undermine our strengths while exploiting our vulnerabilities. Because of our conventional military dominance, adversaries are likely to use asymmetric means, such as WMD, information operations or terrorism. Such asymmetric attacks could be used to disrupt the critical logistics pipeline – from its origins in the United States, along sea and air routes, at in-transit refueling and staging bases, to its termination at airfields, seaports and supply depots in theater – as well as our forces deployed in the field.
We are enhancing the preparedness of our Armed Forces to effectively conduct sustained operations despite the presence, threat or use of WMD. These efforts include development, procurement and deployment of theater missile defense systems to protect forward-deployed military personnel, as well as improved intelligence collection capabilities, heightened security awareness and force protection measures worldwide. We are also enhancing our ability to defend against hostile information operations, which could in the future take the form of a full-scale, strategic information attack against our critical national infrastructures, government and economy – as well as attacks directed against our military forces.
Third, our military must also be able to transition to fighting major theater wars from a posture of global engagement – from substantial levels of peacetime engagement overseas as well as multiple concurrent smaller-scale contingency operations. Withdrawing from such operations would pose significant political and operational challenges. Ultimately, however, the United States must accept a degree of risk associated with withdrawing from contingency operations and engagement activities in order to reduce the greater risk incurred if we failed to respond adequately to major theater wars.
The Decision to Employ Military Forces
The decision whether to use force is dictated first and foremost by our national interests. In those specific areas where our vital interests are at stake, our use of force will be decisive and, if necessary, unilateral.
In situations posing a threat to important national interests, military forces should only be used if they advance U.S. interests, they are likely to accomplish their objectives, the costs and risks of their employment are commensurate with the interests at stake, and other non-military means are incapable of achieving our objectives. Such uses of military forces should be selective and limited, reflecting the importance of the interests at stake. We act in concert with the international community whenever possible, but do not hesitate to act unilaterally when necessary.
The decision to employ military forces to support our humanitarian and other interests focuses on the unique capabilities and resources the military can bring to bear, rather than on its combat power. Generally, the military is not the best tool for humanitarian concerns, but under certain conditions use of our Armed Forces may be appropriate. Those conditions are when the scale of a humanitarian catastrophe dwarfs the ability of civilian relief agencies to respond, when the need for relief is urgent and only the military has the ability to provide an immediate response, when the military is needed to establish the preconditions necessary for effective application of other instruments of national power, when a humanitarian crisis could affect U.S. combat operations, or when a response otherwise requires unique military resources. Such efforts by the United States, preferably in conjunction with other members of the international community, will be limited in duration, have a clearly defined mission and end state, entail minimal risk to American lives, and be designed to give the affected country the opportunity to restore its own basic services.
In all cases, the costs and risks of U.S. military involvement must be commensurate with the interests at stake. We will be more inclined to act where there is reason to believe that our action will bring lasting improvement. Our involvement will be more circumscribed when regional