As a result of the war on terrorism, the United States will have a military presence in the Central Asian countries Afghanistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgykzstan for the foreseeable future. In addition, the United States is sending military advisors or support to the Philippines, Indonesia and Yemen. According to Condoleeza Rice, the president’s national security adviser, the war in Afghanistan taught the United States that security relationships with countries worldwide — both prominent and obscure — would reap benefits if a crisis occurs. The United States may soon attack targets in Somalia and may even try to take down Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq. Conversely, only in Bosnia has the Bush administration pushed to cut back U.S. and NATO forces. In short, more than a decade after the Cold War ended, U.S. military presence overseas is still expanding rapidly.
Of course, staunch apologists for the administration will defend its policy flip‐flop by arguing that the catastrophic terrorist attacks on U.S. soil justify an expanding U.S. security perimeter. The apologists adopt the military perspective, believing that the United States should always “defend forward” and take the fight to the enemy. In addition, look at what happened when the United States abandoned Afghanistan after the Islamic rebels won their war against the Soviet Union, they say.
In the short‐term, it’s true that monstrous terrorist attacks on thousands of civilians deserve a robust military response. In the long‐term, in the age of catastrophic terrorism, an extended defense perimeter and repeated interference in the affairs of other nations could reduce U.S. security, rather than enhance it. With the demise of the Soviet Union, the benefits of profligate U.S. interventions overseas have declined and the costs have skyrocketed.
During the Cold War, to check the influence of a rival superpower bent on world domination, a better case could be made for U.S. overseas interventions. The costs of such interventions were actually lower than at present because the presence of nuclear weapons caused the two superpowers to manage conflict carefully — that is, each superpower would intervene only in peripheral areas rather than in regions perceived as vital by the other superpower. Now, the necessity of intervention is much lower and the conflict with radical, suicidal terrorists cannot be managed at all.
In addition, “defending forward” does not work as well against terrorists as it does in conventional wars with nation‐states. Terrorists can float from state to state, lurk in the shadows and strike the American homeland when, where and how they choose. In fact, an extended U.S. defense perimeter with its accompanying profligate military interventions can act as a lightning rod for retaliatory attacks by disaffected terrorist groups.
According to the Defense Science Board: