Growing Global International Threats and Defense Strategies

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Henry Kissinger was not entirely incorrect when he said “today’s threats more frequently arise from the disintegration of state power and the growing number of ungoverned territories.” However, there are currently several threats are reemerging in the world from a strengthening of power. Some of these threats have been identified by the US government and the Department of Defense (DoD) in their security and defense strategies. 

I think the White House, and the DoD accurately assess the growing threats to global international and identify a few states that are competitors. The assessments they make are more appropriate for the current day than Henry Kissinger’s statement about how today’s threats arise. I will briefly discuss some of the applicable statements made in the National Security Strategy (NSS), and National Defense Strategy (NDS), then offer a couple of examples of growing global international threats.

The current white house administration’s NSS says “The United States will respond to the growing political, economic, and military competitions we face around the world.” Along the same lines the DoD’s NDS “acknowledges an increasingly complex global security environment, characterized by overt challenges to the free and open international order and the re-emergence of long-term, strategic competition between nations.” Essentially, there are rising state competitors that challenge global stability. 

These states are commonly referred to as near peer, or peer competitors. Both the NSS and NDS point to Russia, China, North Korea, and several other states as these competitors which requires a change in strategy to confront. This is a hot topic for discussion in the US military. The US military has been focused on conducting counter-terrorism all over the world for the last 15 plus years, and because of the growing threats from states that are peer or near peer competitors, there has been requirement to shift the focus more on the potential for a “high-end” conflict with these states.

The US and China are constantly dealing with relentless political, economic and military pressures, especially in the South China Sea with regards to Taiwan. Gen. Joseph Dunford said “If I look out to 2025… I think China probably poses the greatest threat to our nation… China is focused on limiting our ability to project power and weakening our alliances in the Pacific.” How is China attempting to weaken our alliances and power in the Pacific? They have done a few things that have the potential of achieving their apparent goals; China has constructed several military installations on top of coral reefs throughout the South China Sea, demonstrated multiple shows of force in the Taiwan Strait, and persistently increased political, and economic pressure on Taiwan in multiple ways.

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In a recent Foreign Affairs article, Caitlin Talmadge discusses the relationship with China, Taiwan and the US. The “Taiwan Relations Act states that the United States will “consider any effort to determine the future of Taiwan by other than peaceful means, including by boycotts or embargoes, a threat to the peace and security of the Western Pacific area and of grave concern to the United States.” Dunford envisioned, if these issues continue to ramp up, China could become a bigger threat to national security for the US, and its allies.

North Korea is another example of how a near peer competitor threatens global international security. North Korea is attempting to strengthen their position in the world by acquiring several different kinds of weapons. The NDS describes this situation saying, “Rogue regimes such as North Korea… are destabilizing regions through their pursuit of nuclear weapons… seeking a mixture of nuclear, biological, chemical, conventional, and unconventional weapons.” 

The white house pointed out that North Korea has spent “millions of dollars on nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons that could threaten our homeland.” I do not think that the simple fact of a state acquiring nuclear weapons automatically constitutes it a threat to global international security. There are states that do not have nuclear weapons but still pose threats to international security because of instability, terrorism, and extremism. However, if a state like North Korea acquires nuclear weapons, and the ability to target other states, it does present difficult problems for the US to maintain global international security. 

In another recent Foreign Affairs article, Scott D. Sagan describes the problems with a leader like Kim Jong Un acquiring dangerous weapons; “There is another reason to worry about nuclear weapons: the rise of personalist dictatorships in states that possess or could acquire the bomb… Personalist dictators can make decisions on a whim, which creates a grave challenge to the concept of nuclear stability.” North Korea already has nuclear weapons, therefore the US has shifted its focus to this near peer competitor to protect national and international security. This is a clear threat emerging threat to global international security.

In summary, I agree more with how the NSS, and NDS assess growing global international security threats rather than Henry Kissinger’s statement from a couple years ago. China and North Korea are good examples of state peer or near peer competitors because of their provocative actions. These types of threats are more pertinent for the current international order the US faces today.

 

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