Book Presentation And Reviews
Ashton B. Carter, William J. Perry (1999). - Preventive Defense: A New Security Strategy for America.
(Volume 1, Number 1, Spring 2000.)
18 tra 2000 06:21:00

Washington: Brookings Institution Press. pp. 243.
ISBN 0-8157-1308-8


 The United States of America is founding its national security and military strategies on three groups of activities, called preparing, shaping and responding. Responding capability refers to current readiness of the armed forces to engage and successfully annihilate open threats to national security. That readiness was assessed during the nineties according to the military capability in successfully waging and winning two almost simultaneous major theater wars, like the one in Korea and in The Gulf. The preparing aspect of the strategy refers to modernization, restructuring and continuous adaptations of the national security system, in order to maintain its high readiness and effectiveness against possible future challenges. The development, acquisition and exploitation cycle for major weapon systems lasts for twenty to thirty or more years. Download this article as PDF file That is only one of the many reasons why today's decisions have far-reaching consequences for the capabilities of the armed forces in the next decades. Environment shaping, sometimes called luck management, is also a way to prepare for the future. It consists of active engagement in world affairs to prevent the development of new major threats to American and international security.

With the fall of the Berlin Wall the only threat from the 'A-list' disappeared. The 'A-list' contains the most dangerous threats to the existence of the USA and Western world. The former Soviet Union had the capability to destroy Western values and Western order, but such an enemy to the West no longer exists. The major part of US defense planning is now directed towards maintaining the capability to wage two major theater wars. Such regional contingencies might endanger American interests and security, but would not question the existence of the United States. Therefore, wars of this type can be categorized in belonging to the 'B-list' of threats. Public interest seems to be oriented mostly towards the activities that deal with the 'C-list' of threats, like those in Bosnia-Herzegovina or Kosovo. However, the 'A-list' may not remain clear forever. One of the most important goals of the American security system is to keep the 'A-list' clear as long as possible. Dr Perry and Dr Carter argue that this is the essential element of the preventive defense strategy, which they theoretically developed at Harvard and Stanford universities and practically applied during their terms in the US government.

Questions such as "How might the post-cold war era end?" "How can the United States prolong this period of peace and influence?" "How can we ensure that if it must end, it ends gracefully, without cataclysm?" and "What is the character of the era that will follow it?" define the fundamental long-term strategic challenges of the post-cold war era. The authors have identified five challenges of that type, which might evolve into the 'A-list' of threats. They defined these dangers as follows:

- Russia might descend into chaos, isolation, and aggression as Germany did after World War I;
- Russia and the other Soviet successor states might lose control of the nuclear legacy of the former Soviet Union;
- China could grow hostile rather than becoming cooperatively engaged in the international system;
- Weapons of mass destruction will proliferate and present a direct military threat to the United States; and
- "Catastrophic terrorism" of unprecedented scope and intensity might occur on US territory.

If the US responds to these dangers in the right manner, it will be possible to realize George C. Marshall's vision of the world not of threats to be deterred, but of a world "united in peace, freedom, and prosperity." This is where the sixth key threat to American security lies. That threat lies in ignoring the previously identified five potential dangers because of temporarily advantageous power relations in the world.

Each chapter in the book is dedicated to one of the six security challenges. The chapters start with vivid and lively memories of Mr Perry at an event during his term as the Secretary of Defense, which is relevant to the topic. The main part of each chapter consists of the problem analysis, investigation of possible preventive strategies, description of already taken steps, and recommendations for future action. These discussions are case studies of preventive defense mechanisms. To be successful, preventive defense must combine all the instruments of foreign policy: political, economic and military. The exact type of actions and means used in a particular situation will depend on the circumstances, but because of the character of activities and capabilities of the American armed forces, preventive defense falls primarily into the military domain.

In the case of Russian and Central European stabilization, preventive defense requires fostering military-to-military cooperation, promotion of the Partnership for Peace Program, careful NATO enlargement, officer education, and appropriate economic assistance. In the case of preventing nuclear technology proliferation from the former USSR, the expert and economic assistance offered through the Nunn-Lugar program provided for denuclearization of the Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Intercontinental ballistic missiles are dismounted, nuclear material is centrally stored, and employment programs for nuclear scientists are launched. An important element of these efforts is arms control negotiations, which resulted in START treaties. These negotiations should be continued.

American relations with China are not sufficiently developed. Under the preventive defense agenda, direct military cooperation with China should be initiated, and China should be more actively involved in the search for solutions to global security issues. Preventive defense against weapons of mass destruction should rely not only on international anti-proliferation treaties, inspections and sanctions for those who do not obey prescribed norms of behavior. Active and passive defense measures must be developed, and unstable regions should be stabilized to decrease the incentive for proliferation and acquisition of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

Regarding the prevention of catastrophic terrorism, the intelligence collection system should be restructured, new analytical capabilities established, and new and more effective methods for tracking and prevention of that dangerous threat invented. Finally, preventive defense applied to the American armed forces is embodied in the preparing activities. The important role in that area is technological modernization coupled with appropriate doctrine improvements and force restructuring (which together forms the revolution in military affairs). Equally important are the changes in management of defense assets (so called revolution in business affairs), and sustainment of personnel quality, training and motivation.

The book deserves careful reading, because the problems described do not only influence United States security, but the stability of the whole international community as well. The book will have significant impact because of the high-quality analysis provided and because of personal influence of its authors. Dr Perry and Dr Carter today jointly lead a research project at Harvard and Stanford universities on preventive defense. Apart from being distinguished professors, they share significant experience in public service, industry and academia. It should be mentioned that William Perry served as the US Secretary of Defense from 1994 to 1997, and that Dr Carter acted as Assistant Secretary for Defense Policy in the same term. It was the time when the first Quadrennial Defense Review was prepared, which defined preventive actions aimed at shaping security environment as one of the three pillars of national security strategy.

The book is also thought provoking for readers from a small country such as the Republic of Croatia. The book shows how a global power like the United States views its own and global security in the coming decades. Due to the power and influence of the United States in the international community, its positions often define the frame for political activities to other players. In that sense, the authors' observations on NATO enlargement and the role of the Partnership for Peace are especially interesting. The authors pledge for the increased role of the PfP, which is too marginalized, and for the slower enlargement of NATO. In their view, that would help to avoid additional complications in relations with Russia, while at the same time provide some of the advantages that eastern European countries expect from gaining NATO membership.

However, a more profound lesson of the book may be in the method that the authors use to contemplate strategic problems of national security. Elements of this approach are: the classification of threats; focus on those threats that might cause the most serious consequences; the assessment of shaping options and means; analytical thinking; integration of all elements of national power; and long-term planning. Such an approach is applicable to improve the international and national security of many countries in different positions, and not only of a global power such as the United States.


Prof. dr. sc. Krešimir Ćosić
mr. sc. Dražen Penzar
Institute for Defense Studies,
Research and Development

Ministry of Defense,
Republic of Croatia
Bijenička 46, 10000 Zagreb, Croatia

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