As the world changes dramatically, so does the nature of conflict and methods for achieving security. Even as nations increasingly find the costs of war unacceptable, stateless nations, such as al Qaeda, have found unconventional conflict attractive and insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan have shown the limitations of our Cold War large-scale force structures and weapons systems.
Chechyan separatists, Somali pirates, Mexican drug cartels, Pakistani Taliban, Turkish Kurds, Tibetan nationalists, and many others join al Qaeda (though not always as viciously) in representing the conflict of the new 21st century.
But they all have one thing in common: they are not afraid of nuclear aircraft carrier task groups, B-2 bomber wings, or big infantry divisions. Despite our massive military superiority (at least in traditional terms), this fact--plus the rejection of stupendous reward offers--illustrates why Osama bin Laden is still alive almost a full decade after 9.11.
From these circumstances, certain conclusions may be drawn: the prospects for major nation-state wars are sharply declining; the prospects for unconventional conflicts are increasing; we are much better prepared for the former than we are the latter; invasion of other countries almost inevitably guarantees commitment to costly, long-term counterinsurgency warfare; and long-term reconfiguration of our force structures (and their strategies, tactics, and doctrines) is imperative.
And a lot more thought must be given to our real mission in countries such as Afghanistan and countries such as Iraq before unleashing the dogs of war. That kind of great power intelligence, as well as a dramatic increase in our ability to anticipate threats and reduce them through a better understanding of history, culture, and local politics, will do more to make us secure than a new generation of massive Cold War weapons.
Welcome to the bright new century.
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