The United States has sought to strengthen the post-Cold War international system by encouraging democratization, open markets, free trade, and sustainable development. These efforts have produced measurable results. The number of democracies, as a percentage of world states, has increased by 14% since 1992. For the first time in history, over half of the world’s population lives under democratic governance. Our national security is a direct beneficiary of democracy’s spread, as democracies are less likely to go to war with one another, more likely to become partners for peace and security, and more likely to pursue peaceful means of internal conflict resolution that promote both intrastate and regional stability.
The globalization of trade and investment, spurred by new technologies, open borders, and increasingly open societies, is a critical aspect of the 21st century world. United States efforts to expand trade and investment with both traditional and new trading partners fuel growth in our economy. United States efforts to extend market reforms to former adversaries and neutrals also enhance our security by increasing economic cooperation, empowering reformers, and promoting openness and democracy overseas. Economic freedoms routinely facilitate political freedoms. In addition to these opportunities, economic globalization also presents its proponents with tough challenges, such as assisting countries that embrace but are nonetheless left behind by the dynamics of globalization or working with countries that reject these dynamics for fear of losing their cultural or national identity.
Preventing conflict has been a hallmark of U.S. foreign policy under a strategy of engagement. All over the world, the United States has selectively used diplomatic means, economic aid, military presence, and deterrence as tools for promoting peace. We also assist other countries to develop their own defense capabilities through our foreign assistance and security assistance programs. In doing so, we have focused on the threats and opportunities most relevant to our interests as well as our values, and applied our resources where we can make the greatest difference.
Responding to Threats and Crises
The persistence of major interstate conflict has required us to maintain the means for countering potential regional aggressors. Long-standing tensions and territorial division on the Korean peninsula and territorial ambitions in the Persian Gulf currently define the main tenets of this requirement. For the foreseeable future, the United States, preferably in concert with allies, must have the capability to deter — and if that fails, to defeat — large-scale, cross-border aggression in two distant theaters in overlapping time frames.
Globally, as a result of more porous borders, rapid changes in technology, greater information flow, and the potential destructive power within the reach of small states, groups, and individuals, the United States finds itself confronting new threats that pose strategic challenges to our interests and values. These include the potential use and continued proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their means of delivery, proliferation of small arms and light weapons, threats to our information/cyber security, international migrant smuggling and trafficking in persons, and the ability to disrupt our critical infrastructure. As a result, defense of the homeland against WMD terrorism has taken on a new importance, making coordinated Federal, state, and local government efforts imperative. The Domestic Preparedness Program has received significant resources to address immediate threats to our security. Ongoing efforts on National Missile Defense are developing the capability to defend the fifty states against a limited missile attack from states that threaten international peace and security. Prevention remains our first line of defense to lessen the availability of weapons of mass destruction being sought by such aggressor nations. To that end, we continue to work with Russia to control possible leakage of former Soviet nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons materials and expertise to proliferant states.
We are also vigorously pursuing a strengthening of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the Chemical and Biological Weapons Conventions, the Missile Technology Control Regime, and entry into force of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty at the earliest possible time. Other persistent threats to our security in peacetime include international terrorism, drug trafficking, other organized crime, and environmental degradation. The United States has made great strides in restructuring its national security apparatus to address new threats with diplomatic, economic, and military tools.
Fragmentation of a number of states, which helped lead to the collapse of the Cold War’s bipolar alignment, has caused turmoil within several regions of the world. This turmoil, a result of re-awakened ethnic and religious divisions and territorial ambitions, has reignited old conflicts and resulted in substantial bloodshed. U.S. leadership in steering international peace and stability operations has restored and maintained peace in a number of locations. We have been more inclined to act where our interests and values are both at stake and where our resources can affect tangible improvement, as in Bosnia and Kosovo. In each of these instances, atrocities against, and the expulsion of, people in the heart of Europe undermined the very values over which we had fought two World Wars and the Cold War. Left unchecked, they could have spread elsewhere throughout Europe and harmed the NATO alliance. We thus saw that our interests and values were affected to a sufficient degree to warrant U.S. military intervention in both Bosnia and Kosovo.
As we look to the future, our strategy must therefore be sufficiently robust so that when we choose to engage, we can do so to prevent conflict, assist failing states, or counter potential regional aggressors as necessary.
Preparing for an Uncertain Future
Meeting this widening array of new threats to our security will require us to transform our capabilities and organizations. Within our military, this transformation has taken several forms: focused science and technology efforts; concept development and experimentation by the Services, combatant commands, and the Joint Staff; robust processes to implement change; and new approaches to foster a culture of bold innovation and dynamic leadership.
The process of transformation must not end solely with defense. Preparation must also include diplomatic, intelligence, law enforcement, and economic efforts if we are to meet the new threats that rapidity of technological change brings to the hands of adversaries, potential and actual. Our government is therefore implementing interagency approaches to formulate, and then execute, policy and plans for dealing with potential contingencies. In addition, preventative diplomacy, often undergirded by the deterrence of our full military capabilities, may help contain or resolve problems before they erupt into crises or contingency operations.
The elements of engagement — adapting alliances; encouraging the reorientation of other states, including former adversaries; encouraging democratization, open markets, free trade, and sustainable development; preventing conflict; countering potential regional aggressors; confronting new threats; and steering international peace and stability operations — define the Nation’s blueprint for a strategy of engagement. These elements support three strategic concepts for engagement: shaping the international environment, responding to threats and crises, and preparing for an uncertain future. The blueprint and the concepts it supports have served the United States well in a rapidly changing world. Refined by experience, the strategy is a wise roadmap for national security in the 21st century.