Letter: US 'missions other than war'

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The Independent Online
rom Mr Harlan K. Ullman

Sir: Richard Dowden ("No deserters in the global army", 7 February) should have read my book In Irons: US Military Might in the New Century more carefully before launching his diatribe against it. The salient points of the book, which were entirely missed, call for changes in the US defence posture through strengthened alliances, new strategic assessments and lower force levels.

Instead, Mr Dowden focuses on what he euphemistically calls "peace-keeping". My book notes that "peace-keeping" is a far broader category, which may include humanitarian, nation-building and even civil-war preventing functions. These broader tasks are referred to in the US as "missions other than war". Some of these missions may not be solvable by military forces. For better or worse, these missions are not very popular with the American public. After 50 years of deploying an average of half a million Americans abroad to defend other states and bearing the brunt of casualties as well as defence budget expenses through the Cold War, the US public believes that other governments should now take a greater share of the load in dealing with these "peace-keeping" tasks.

Mr Dowden seems entirely unaware that the domestic realities in the US are likely to restrict future US action. To cope with these realities, I argue for the US to concentrate on the role of supplying the "strategic sinews" - the lift, logistics, command and control, training and, as necessary, protective forces - that are essential in conducting these "other than war missions".

The truth is that in many cases, such as Rwanda, the US will not be able to bring to bear military capability and troops beyond these strategic sinews, unless there is an overwhelming or decisive reason for rallying public support. Instead of assuming a viscerally anti-American posture, it would be far better to use a full appreciation of these realities in encouraging as much US "engagement and enlargement" activities, as the Clinton administration defines them, as possible.

Yours faithfully,

HARLAN K. ULLMAN

The Killowen Group

Washington, DC

17 February

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