At the beginning of this year, the President of the United States and Secretary of Defense Panetta outlined our nation’s Defense Guidance and Priorities for the 21st Century. This new policy direction by our leadership sets new parameters for the U.S. military posture around the world while at the same time confirming long-standing principles of America’s security. When the world’s strongest military power, also a member of the world’s most successful military alliance, announces a new strategic focus, both our allies and our potential adversaries listen closely. Our allies, of course, not only listen, but are active partners in working with us on a strategy that protects the United States, our friends and allies, and world peace. Sounds good, so no problem, right?
Not so fast. With the Cold War long over, we approach 21st century security at the beginning of 2012 just as we emerge successfully from two deadly conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and with a strict budgetary mandate to reduce U.S. Government expenditures. So things are going to change and change is hard. Part of our new military security paradigm involves adjustments to a defensive posture that has served us exceedingly well since the end of WW II. Here in Europe, some analysts are concerned that a U.S. military focus on Asia and the Middle East leaves Europe vulnerable to security threats that still exist on this continent. Some also argue that along with military re-focussing, our diplomatic, economic, and even emotional attention will shift away from the transatlantic relationship. The final verdict by several observers seems to be that America’s Atlantic Century is over and Pacific America has begun. Part of Europe would bemoan this if it were true, but some would gladly wave us good-bye. “The U.S. is broke,” they say. “It has to scale back its military might and we should think about other potential partners.”
In the end, other than providing interesting academic fodder for discussion and publication, this is a lot of Sturm und Drang over very little Sturm. Our national and military leadership have taken a close look at the security threats to America and its allies and we have decided to adjust ourselves to those challenges; not to the exclusion of any one geographic region, but to the inclusion of all in relevant proportion. As a diplomat, I have always held my military colleagues in highest regard, both for their bravery in defense of our country, and also for their unequalled competence and success rate. I have also been a bit envious of their sense of purpose and strategic clarity. Their mission was always so clear. Their objective so obvious.
And so it is for 21st century U.S. Defense Priorities and Choices. Where should our military be? Where there is trouble or where trouble is most likely to strike. And how should we respond to trouble and with what kind of force? Again, modern experience and current budgetary reality teaches us that efficient, agile, technologically superior, and infinitely adaptable is the recipe for military success. That is what we are planning for, developing and maintaining, and deploying around the world. “Around the world” is most relevant for our European allies. We are of course not leaving Europe. We will maintain sizeable and most capable ground, air, and naval forces here. We are adding new capabilities such as missile defense. And we are sustaining our full nuclear triad of weapons as the ultimate deterrent to potential aggressors against us or our allies.
The U.S. has always been both an Atlantic and a Pacific power. We have always maintained deep interests in both east and west. We come, as Americans, from Europe and Asia and from the Middle East and from Africa and, and….Our best days as a nation are still ahead of us — as a most powerful ally in Europe and to our friends in any other part of the world, and as a champion of universal values of freedom and human progress.