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US Military Strategy Paper Changes Priorities, Not Fundamentals
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In a major military strategy blueprint sent to the US Congress on Monday, the Pentagon unveiled its evaluations and visions in areas of strategic priorities, war planning, resources allocation and force structure for the entire US armed forces in next 20 years.

The 92-page paper, called as the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), is the first released report of its kind, since the United States declared its global war on terror in 2001.

Therefore, it is not surprising that anti-terrorism takes much of the center stage of the document.
In comparison with the two previous QDRs, this one, for the first time, calls for shifting strategic priorities from conventional wars to terrorism, the weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and the so-called "countries at strategic crossroads."

However, the changes were seen by many analysts as an adjustment and refinement process, rather than a fundamental overhaul.

While the new QDR underlines changes which reflects the ongoing war in Iraq and the threat of terrorism, the essentials of US military doctrine are left largely intact, they said.

Terrorism reshapes priorites

Obviously, the protracted war in Iraq and the ongoing worldwide campaign against terrorism have changed much of the US military thinking and the new QDR is full of imprints of these events.

The document begins with the declaration, "The United States is a nation engaged in what will be a long war."

"Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, our nation has fought a global war against violent extremists who use terrorism as their weapon of choice, and who seek to destroy our free way of life, " it follows.

US Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, who is in charge of drafting the QDR, said the military must changes its Cold War-era ways and refocus on "asymmetric challenges."

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld summarized the strategic objectives outlined in the QDR in four priorities, namely, defeating terrorist networks, defending the homeland in depth, preventing the acquisition or use of WMDs and shaping the choices of "countries at strategic crossroads ", a term refers to nations which the Pentagon perceives as potential rivals.

The first three targets are all key elements of the war on terror and the QDR envisions three major measures to meet these goals, including strengthening the special forces, establishing coordination headquarters to counter WMD threats, and earmarking 1.5 billion US dollars to protect the homeland from potential attacks of chemical and biological weapons.

In the previous QDR released in 2001, the Pentagon laid out the so-called "1-4-2-1" formula for wartime force planning.

It requires the US military to have enough forces to defend homeland; operate in four "forward regions" in the world; "swiftly defeat" adversaries in two overlapping conventional wars; "win decisively" one of them.

However, the Iraq war has forced changes on the mindset. Rather than operating in the four "forward regions", the US troops now should operate around the globe, said the new QDR.

The harsh realities in Iraq also led to the document's acknowledgement that the terms of "swiftly defeating" or "winning decisively" may be "less useful" for an unconventional conflict.

The QDR also urges the military to accelerate important organizational changes to create more agile and expeditionary forces which can win wars with a smaller number of people and few more sophisticated weapons.
The document also reaffirms the need to restructure troop deployment and military bases around the world, envisioning the military could send troops to any hotspot worldwide instantly in the future.
Attempting to create an "one-size-for-all" force to deal with various challenges, the QDR stresses that from now on, the war planning should be based on capabilities rather than threats.

Various constraints

Some US analysts said although the new QDR made a number of important adjustments and proposals, the implementation of these new ideas won't be easy, due to various constraints.

First of all, the soaring budgetary deficits and the Bush administration's tax cut initiatives have limited the financial resources for making a broad range of changes.

Steve Kosiak, a researcher at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment (CSBA), a Washington-based thinktank, said to achieve the QDR goals, the Pentagon has three choices: adding money, cutting weapons or reducing troops.

However, none of them seems easy under current circumstances.

Loren Thompson, a military analyst with the Lexington Institute, another thinktank, doubted the QDR's claims on the capability of waging overlapping wars around the world.

The realities in Iraq have already demonstrated the fact that the US military has been seriously stretched, and conducting a similar-size campaign elsewhere is viewed as unrealistic by many analysts.

Fundamentals left intact

Over the years, the Pentagon has made many policy and strategy changes responding to different global environments.

However, reading through all the strategy papers the US military has released in recent years, one can still find the common clue. That is, to maintain the military advantage and secure the country's place in the world, which is the same ultimate goal underneath various policy initiatives.

The new QDR still reflects some unchanged fundamentals and principals.

One of them is to go on offensive. The US military has long believed it should preempt any enemy attack and the new QDR's emphasis is calling for an operation range around the globe.

Secondly, the new strategy blueprint cuts none of the major weapon programs, which shows that the Pentagon planners still regard absolute advantage in weapons and military power as one of the most crucial measures to keep the country's leading place.

The QDR also reaffirms the importance of military alliance. The document said "alliances are clearly one of the nation's greatest sources of strength," and the United States "places great value on its unique relationships" with countries such as Britain, Australia and Japan.

(Xinhua News Agency February 8, 2006)

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