Top Ten Post-Cold War Myths
by Thomas P.M. Barnett and Henry H. Gaffney Jr.
As a mobile, sea-based containment force, the U.S. Navy will continue to play an
important role in the nation's foreign policy, but its missions will mirror the clustered responses in Iraq and
Yugoslavia, not the obsolete two-major-theater-war standard.
COPYRIGHT: The U.S. Naval Institute, 2001 (February issue, pp. 32-38); reprinted with permission
As we begin . . .
a new presidential administration, it is time to look over the recent past to see what we have learned about this new
era of globalization.
Americans entered the Clinton administration with a lot of hope about an outside world where
so many positives had emerged with the end of the Cold War.
The United States was the sole military superpower;
what could go wrong?
Depending on whom you listen to, either a lot or not too much.
Those experts who focus on the global economy see
plenty to celebrate, but most who track international security see lots of threatening chaos in the world.
these views be so different?
Are there no connections between global economics and security? How can the former
flourish if the latter is deteriorating?
We’ll say it up front: we don’t think international security has worsened over the past eight years.
Instead, we think
too many political-military analysts—in an attempt to justify the retention of Cold War forces—have let their vision
be clouded by a plethora of post-Cold War myths, the biggest of which is the two-major-theater-war (2-MTW)
It was the best strategy placeholder then-Secretary of Defense Les Aspin could come up with to put a
floor on force structure, but 2-MTW doesn’t capture the reality of the globalization era, the migration of conflict to
the failing states outside that globalization, and the continued technological advances U.S. forces are introducing,
which no other country pursues.
In short, it is not connected to the world at all.
In our decades-long hair-trigger standoff with the Soviets, U.S. strategists became addicted to “vertical” scenarios,
meaning surprise situations that unfold with lightning speed in a specific strategic environment that is, by and large,
By static, we mean all potential participants are expected to come as they are.
No one is really changed by
the scenario, and no evolution is possible in their response.
In this poker game, we expected everyone to play the
single hand in question straight up: no bluffing, no hedging, and no changes of heart.
In essence, we had to assume
the two main players were rational actors.
The only thing that seemed to change in this static picture was the race to
add better technology.
We always feared the Soviets had gotten there first, or were about to—a fear we
subsequently transferred to the rogues.
This approach made sense in the Cold War, when we had to make certain gross assumptions about how both Soviet