Discriminate Deterrence

By Phil Smith-Eivemark

In January, a virtual Who's Who of military strategists recommended a course of future American military policy. The commission included such notables as Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, William Clark, and Fred Ilke. Its report, Discriminate Deterrence, sets out what could be the military strategy for the U.S. well into the next century.

Realizing that we are entering an era of improved Soviet-U.S. relations, with accompanying willingness to lessen the nuclear tensions between the superpowers, the report calls for enhancement of conventional weapons capabilities and for more forceful U.S. responses to "low intensity" conflicts in the Third World. While still casting the Soviets as America's mortal enemies and championing nuclear weapons as a last resort, the report acknowledges that the present U.S. doctrine has lost some of its focus in this new era of superpower relations. How, then, is the U.S. to keep its superpower presence in the world? The report sets Out three main goals to reorient American military policy:

  1. Shift emphasis from central Europe to the peripheries of NATO and the areas vital to U.S. interests in the Third World, particularly in Latin America, the Middle East and East Asia.
  2. Build up U.S. conventional capabilities to respond to "low intensity" conflicts in the Third World. These new conventional weapons should have the range, accuracy, and destructive power of present tactical nuclear weapons.
  3. The United States must enhance its ability to physically intervene with rapid deployment forces in any "hot spot" to counter Third World instabilities and perceived Soviet-inspired guerrilla forces. As well, the U.S. should increase aid to its allies and guerrillas fighting regimes unfriendly to U.S. interests.

The commission does not seem concerned about a possible repeat of the Vietnam experience. As a result, some observers believe that, by perceiving itself as the "free world's" policeman, the U.S. risks becoming involved in numerous bush wars that could easily escalate to much larger confrontations.

Ominously, this interventionist strategy has become prominent in the speeches of Michael Dukakis and George Bush. Therefore, barring the unlikely victory of Jesse Jackson, some hybrid of this report will likely become part of U.S. strategy.

Peace Magazine Jun-Jul 1988

Peace Magazine Jun-Jul 1988, page 11. Some rights reserved.

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