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Four Info Threats
Forum, Number 35, July 1995
THE NEXT ENEMY
Martin C. Libicki, National Defense University
The Cold War offered military planners considerable
the threat was known, and the problem was generating a force
of sufficient size and sophistication to counter it. Today's
threats are varied and, for the most part, well below the
even a shrinking U.S. force can handle comfortably. Threats
twenty years out, however, must be taken seriously because
of the long
time required to complete a major systems acquisition; to
test, and institutionalize new doctrine; and to accomplish
organizational innovations necessary to use both
Future threats may be divided into four categories: peers,
terrorism, and chaos. ...
Few planners think it likely that the next twenty years will
reemergence of a nation that can pose a challenge to U.S.
power as broadly as the Soviet Union did. However, at least
countries (Russia and China) could conceivably be peer
the strategic level of nuclear weapons, space, and
Another avenue of future competition may be information
or should the United States hold other nations'
participation in the
world economy at risk? The United States might be able to
another nation's banking system but not without risk of
damage to the global banking system. Can physical war be
replaced by a
survival contest among rival information systems under
the United States should concentrate on developing defensive
The United States has the biggest stones, but also the most
its house. ...
A world of peer strategic competition would drive the
familiar directions towards: nuclear forces, satellites and
long-range warning systems; tactical ballistic missile
(including for allies); perhaps strategic defense systems
attack systems; air defense in general; information warfare
security; and robust command-and-control.
If the circumstances and logic of the Bottom Up Review hold
two more decades, U.S. armed forces will be sized and
primarily to engage in two simultaneous major regional
(MRCs). The usual suspects in such MRCs (e.g., Iran, Iraq,
Korea) are presently unsophisticated rogue states that
nuclear weapons and delivery systems. Conference
that U.S. forces could cope with the challenges of future
warfare, even if force levels continue to diminish. However,
events would make the United States rethink its strategy
weapons proliferation, and the sophisticated exploitation of
technology markets. ...
Alternatively, an MRC opponent may be able to avoid going to
nuclear threshold by a strategy which uses smart munitions,
command-and-control, and a variety of surveillance
unmanned aerial vehicles, third-party satellite
surveillance) to exact
damaging casualties on U.S. forces. ...
Against a sophisticated
regional foe, the United States might not want to use
platforms at all
but rely on a combination of stand-off attack forces, and
information-based warfare assets (for giving targeting data
coalition partners), coupled with special operations forces
liaison and other tasks.
Largely because of the limited capability that classical
instruments have in coping with terrorism, conference
kept returning to the threat that it may pose to U.S.
security. Incidents may range from the use of conventional
(e.g., what if the van in the World Trade Center explosion
parked in a more vulnerable spot), to nuclear or chemical
biological agents, and their analogue in cyberspace
Devices that can cause terror are getting easier to
transport and harder to detect. The equipment for
biological agents is inexpensive; the equipment for
computer agents is even cheaper. Many otherwise third-world
nations have very large computer-literate cohorts that make
potential information warfare powers. ...
Over the next two decades, states will continue to fail.
may create circumstances (e.g., refugees, malcontents, and
environmental damage) which topple other states. To cope,
States may need a robust capability to conduct peace and
A concentration on peace operations may also be a good
expand foreign military interactions. Improving
future coalition partners carries many advantages. Yet,
certain technological level of integration, the risk of
information on U.S. capabilities to what may be temporary
to be carefully managed.
If countering chaos were the primary mission of the U.S.
then they would have to become lighter and more mobile
often fail with little warning, and the United States
only in extremis). The Army and Marine Corps would have
while the Navy and Air Force would focus on lift. As
operations become the norm, some functions assigned to
may have to be shifted to active ones (e.g., to allow civil
assets to be used more frequently).