Toward a ‘Concert for Freedom’

April 1, 2000

A high-profile panel chartered by Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen geared up to release another major report—a document that aims to lay the basis for a new American national security strategy in the early 21st century.

The so-called Hart–Rudman Commission moved in March to complete Phase 2 of a comprehensive, three-part national security review. Phase 2 focuses on formulating a strategy that matches ends and means, offering an overview of US interests and objectives. It proposes an attainable and supportable strategy for allocating resources and options for carrying out domestic and international security plans.

The panel’s Phase 1 report, unveiled in September, gave a future-threat assessment; it asserted that the United States will become increasingly vulnerable to attacks by rogue states and terrorists wielding Weapons of Mass Destruction. The Phase 3 report, due out in March 2001, will make concrete proposals for revamping the nation’s security organization.

The Hart–Rudman panel—named for its co-chairmen, former Sens. Gary Hart (D–Colo.) and Warren B. Rudman (R–N.H.)—was formed in 1998. It is supported by a study group of some 30 scholars, retired military officers, and former career intelligence and foreign service officials. The executive director of this group is retired Air Force Gen. Charles G. Boyd.

In January, the panel’s commissioners met behind closed doors for two days in Arlington, Va., to consider what, in the end, would be included in the final Phase 2 report. Commissioners were given a set of working papers, prepared by Boyd’s staff, listing major national objectives for the next 25 years and a host of issues to consider in forging a new national security strategy.

Already clear was the panel’s fundamental conclusion: Washington cannot and must not try to go it alone but instead act in concert with like-minded nations on a range of issues. This view was evident in a draft of the Phase 2 report circulating in March. “Our basic goals—freedom, prosperity, and security—cannot be achieved by American efforts alone. Nor do the American people wish to carry such burdens alone. Our national strategy thus confronts the necessity—and the opportunity—to help build new patterns of international collaboration. … We call our new strategy a ‘Concert for Freedom.’”

With respect to military strategy, the commissioners discussed whether the US should focus on major war, prepare for “teacup wars” and peacekeeping operations, or try to hedge against both possibilities. “Any military component” of strategy, say the papers, “must include” five key types of military forces. They are:

• Highly capable and secure nu-clear forces (though there is considerable debate on their proper size and nature).

• Heavy and lethal conventional forces—like today’s—that are constantly updated with modern technologies.

• Swift, lethal, high-technology intervention forces based on information advances and space-based support.

• Homeland security forces for handling national missile defense, counterterrorism, infrastructure protection, and border and airspace control.

• “Civil assistance” military forces specifically formed, equipped, and trained for peacekeeping, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and similar efforts.

Military space received unusually detailed attention. The working papers state that the United States must remain the premier space power in the coming decades.

“The importance of space cannot be overstated,” one paper says. “In the future, satellites could provide warfighters with a wide range of situational data and decisive weapons capability.”

The United States will remain dependent on space assets to conduct future smaller-scale contingency oper-ations effectively and affordably as well as to prosecute major wars. As a result, space assets will be prime targets for attacks from enemies.

The papers add that “it is critical” that the US, “as the leading information society,” prepare now “to protect its access to and use of space and to respond to any potential threats to its space systems, be they ground- or space-based.”

Accordingly, commissioners looked at a range of strategies for space. First, they considered an option called “minimal militarization,” which would promote international agreements curtailing the deployment of anti-space systems.

Hedging on Space

Another option, called “hedging,” would develop but not deploy space weapons until a need arises for their use. This approach would depend on US abilities to monitor other nations’ space activities, to give ample warning of an attempt to threaten US interests.

The third alternative, termed “strategic shift,” would involve moving away from “terrestrial military force structures to a significant investment in a space force structure.”

The papers pay special attention to emerging space threats. The papers note that “the Russians have worked to develop an [anti-satellite] capability and the Chinese are doing [research and development]. Coupling such technology with nuclear weapons poses a space environmental threat that could catastrophically degrade the space infrastructure.”

Accordingly, the United States must develop with its allies “an effective deterrence environment,” say the staff papers.

Moreover, they say, “Ultimately, because of the value of space systems to the US economy and the military in future conflicts, the United States needs to be prepared for attacks against US and allied space systems.”

The study group defines interests as “the most important factors or conditions that determine the fundamental well-being of [US] society.” They tend to change slowly over time, the working papers state, and can be divided into three categories: survival, critical, and significant.

In their view, the most basic are survival interests, without which the “continuation of the United States in its present form would be in jeopardy.” A threat to these interests may require a massive military response.

Critical interests are those which, if compromised, would greatly diminish the nation’s ability to satisfy its survival interests.

The least vital type, significant interests, are further removed from activities that directly bear on survival. Threats to significant interests affect US ability to shape international events.

The papers say that survival interests included basic territorial integrity, economic health, and the physical security of the United States and its citizens. Others are sovereignty and integrity of the federal government, in accordance with the Constitution.

The papers present a list of interests which the commissioners were to rate as survival, critical, or significant. For example, the panel members were invited to consider the relative importance of preventing genocide and mass murder, allowing or preventing uncontrolled immigration across American borders, and preventing the emergence of a hostile hegemony in a critical region of the world.

The six objectives presented in the discussion papers were defined as the “operational expression of interests,” to be carried out by national policies. In other words, they describe what a country has to do to secure its interests.

The first national objective presented to commissioners: Washington must “manage major power relations in such a way that heads off the formation of coalitions hostile to the United States.”

When a nation becomes as dominant as the United States in international affairs, notes one of the papers, other nations are provoked into forming coalitions to diminish such influence. “Indeed,” notes the study group, “the impulse to counterbalance American preponderance is already a feature of contemporary international politics.”

The Bandwagon Effect

In the study group’s view, the United States has powerful means to mitigate such efforts. “We have the leverage—instruments and advantages, both positive and negative—that can maximize other powers’ incentives to maintain ties with us and, indeed, to [get on the] bandwagon with us rather than to balance against us,” the working papers state.

Next, the primary objectives paper prompts the commissioners to consider adapting US alliances to deal with emerging threats and opportunities, as well as evolving political constraints.

The objectives paper indicates that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization should remain the “main pillar” of US strategy in Europe and that present alliances in East Asia are critical to achieving US interests in the area. However, the United States will face mounting pressure at home and abroad to enforce burden sharing and alter the ways it carries out military commitments.

It adds, “We will also need to adapt to allies’ desire for greater autonomy in circumstances where direct major power threats against them have been reduced dramatically since the origins of these alliances in Cold War times.”

A third objective deals directly with economic and social issues. Its inclusion in the paper underscores the Hart–Rudman Commission’s broad mandate to go beyond thinking just about military and mainstream foreign policy issues. The objective states that the United States must “gain mastery over the economic and social dynamics of accelerated glob-al integration.”

The trends fueling globalization must be placed under US policy control to the greatest extent possible, in coordination with key allies, the objectives paper states. “These forces must be harnessed to exploit the opportunities they present for an unprecedented spread of prosperity, while reducing the system’s vulnerability to financial crisis and social chaos.”

The fourth and fifth primary objectives are more traditional for a panel on national security issues. The fourth states the United States should work patiently to “expand the zone of democratic peace,” with special emphasis placed on “large, strategically situated, and culturally central countries such as Russia, Ukraine, China, Nigeria, Kenya, Congo, Indonesia, Egypt, Iran, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan.” The fifth objective: The United States should curb Weapons of Mass Destruction proliferation “through innovations in American diplomacy, military capability, and intelligence capacities.” The threat posed by WMD use against the United States and its allies will only grow in time, and the nation must be prepared to prevent, deter, or pre-empt their use, the objectives paper adds.

The last objective presented to commissioners calls for new ways “to manage the disintegrative political tendencies” on display in areas of what used to be the Soviet empire. Moreover, collapsing governments and ethnic violence throughout the globe threaten key US interests.

The March draft report, however presented a slightly different collection of five principles: ensure US domestic health and international leadership; ensure the integration of Russia, China, and India into the international system; build cooperative global economic, environmental, health, and legal systems; adapt existing regional alliances and friendships to new global realities; and help create new means to deal with the disintegrative tendencies around the world.

The Next 25 Years

The bulk of the remaining working papers are devoted to an exploration of US potential strategies for the next 25 years. (The study group defines strategy as the “systematic relations of means to ends,” and it encompasses interests, objectives, and policies.)

They encouraged commissioners to examine strategies for dealing with transnational threats, economic strategy, and energy security strategies, as well as strategies for Greater Europe, East Asia, the Greater Near East, Russia, the future US military, homeland defense, and space.

As other national security studies have pointed out, the United States will face increasing transnational threats from rogue states and terrorists and those who foment ethnic conflict. Moreover, those threats are exacerbated by vulnerabilities to information warfare and the possible use of Weapons of Mass Destruction. “Also likely is a profusion of other kinds of transnational problems such as global criminal activities, drug trafficking, humanitarian disasters, and environmental dangers,” the working papers state.

Vulnerability to transnational threats could lead to the strengthening or creation of new multilateral institutions and mechanisms to address those threats. The United States, the working papers predict, “will face the strategic choice of whether to act unilaterally or cooperatively with others, either in alliances or partnerships, through regional groupings or in global forums. That choice will depend on the character of the threat, the willingness of others to cooperate, the capabilities of international institutions, and the prospects for success.”

At the same time, there is likely to be a continuing debate on the efficacy of a wide range of multilateral approaches and on whether the United States should gravitate toward unilateral responses to emerging threats. Furthermore, policy-makers are less apt to rely on the United Nations to address transnational threats. “The United Nations seems not to have the legitimacy or military wherewithal to manage large and complex peace-enforcement missions in dangerous environments,” the papers state.

Unilateral action, however, is risky, and the study group leans toward concluding that the United States should take that option only as a last resort. The working papers prodded commissioners to consider whether developments in international law could provide a firm basis for multilateral action, a move that would raise questions about the erosion of US sovereignty.

“Our traditional faith in the development of international law and institutions needs to be balanced against the principle of sovereign decision so long as the nation-state—particularly the American nation-state—remains the unit of democratic accountability,” the working papers say.

Boyd’s staff identifies three strategic alternatives for commissioners to consider for responding to trans-national threats: “reassertive multi-lateralism,” which would involve the sacrifice of some measure of US sovereignty; “multilateralism but with reservations,” which calls for weighing proposals for multilateral activity on a case-by-case basis; and a “pull back from multilateralism.”

Reassertive multilateralism would accelerate US efforts to enhance or build institutions for international cooperation. For example, the strategy would reinforce the UN’s role in conducting peacekeeping missions, embrace international law as a means of curbing human rights abuses, and strengthen arms control regimes. “Treaties, conventions, and international bodies with the powers of arbitration would be a principal vehicle for carrying out American policy and satisfying US grievances,” state the working papers.

Multilateralism with reservations would not involve a major change in strategic direction, the papers state. It would mean backing existing commitments for international cooperation but remaining cautious about sacrificing sovereignty.

The final option calls for pulling away from multilateralism, opposing extensions of international law or expanding UN authority. It would encourage forming limited alliances with other nations without placing any major restraints on the United States.

Economic and Energy Strategies

Economic strategy will play a greater role in shaping US national security strategy during the next 25 years, as global economic integration, or globalization, accelerates. In addition, economic competition will have a “higher profile” during that time frame than the kind of military competitions that defined earlier times, the working papers state.

Moreover, the US government will have to promote a robust domestic economy to remain a global power. A possible recommendation is “top-to-bottom” education reforms to main-tain the country’s competitive edge in science and technology.


Most of the work of the commissioners in this area will focus on addressing issues related to globalization. For example, they could declare their view as to whether it is best to maximize the country’s ability to act unilaterally when it comes to trade and monetary policy, even though such an approach might retard US growth in the long term by slowing down globalization.

Commissioners could recommend a managed approach to promoting global economic integration or an aggressive one.

The managed, or incremental, approach “might produce maximal US control and decision-making independence over the issues that will matter most to us in the next 25 years,” although it would limit unilateral economic policy actions.

The working papers also look at energy security strategies for the coming decades, with a special emphasis placed on US policy in the Persian Gulf region. Specifically, commissioners were asked to consider the importance of maintaining access to Persian Gulf oil even if the use of force is required.

The papers suggest that US presence in the region may not prove worthwhile if it invites a dramatic rise in terrorist activities against US forces, leading to a withdrawal. A withdrawal may also be in order, given a regime change in Iraq or dramatically improved US–Iranian relations.

The commission could recommend forming an “international military coalition under the aegis of the UN or a separate military entity” to share the burden of securing the oil supply.

During the January meetings, commissioners engaged in discussions of various regional security strategies. The working papers outline three approaches for northeast Asia, which will be the home of two of the four largest economies—Japan and China—by 2025.

China is likely to become the dominant economic and military power in the region, the papers state, while Japan may boost its defense capabilities and seek a more active role in foreign affairs.

The papers do not make firm predictions about North and South Korea. However, they do say that reunification could mean a permanent withdrawal of US forces in the region. In addition, Japan would “assert a more independent role, less deferential to the United States and less accommodating to the US military. A pivotal issue [for the entire region] will be the possible deployment … of a Theater Missile Defense (TMD) system to Japan or Taiwan.”

One of the alternatives examined for the region is to withdraw US forces incrementally to avoid war. On the other hand commissioners could recommend maintaining the existing structure of alliances in the region or altering the US–Japan defense pact by making “Japan a more equal partner in the alliance.”

The panel also examined possible strategies for dealing with Russia, which faces its own uncertain political future.

Capital flight, the absence of the rule of law, and the subsidization of unproductive businesses have caused Russia’s economy to falter. Progress toward democratization seems to have been stopped and nationalism has crept into its foreign policy.

Those trends have “disappoint[ed] the hopes of many in America that a democratic Russia would automatically be ‘our friend,’ ” the papers state. “Russia’s calls for ‘restoring multipolarity to the international system’ are a thinly disguised call for building counterweights to Ameri-can dominance.”

Commissioners were presented with three options: isolate and weaken Russia if political and economic reforms there fail and totalitarianism returns; build a partnership with Russia, which could involve further US financial support for the country; and treat Russia as a competing major power and use diplomacy, trade policy, and arms control measures to balance US–Russian relations.

Basics of the Commission

The US Commission on National Security/21st Century is chaired by former Sens. Gary Hart (D–Colo.) and Warren B. Rudman (R–N.H.) and boasts a bipartisan senior advisory board that was chosen to draw from a wide range of military, foreign affairs, economic, and academic expertise. Its work is expected to examine all aspects of US policy that can play a role in defending the nation from future threats.

Panel members, or commissioners, include:

Anne Armstrong, former counselor to the President, Nixon and Ford Administrations, and former US ambassador to the United Kingdom.

Norman R. Augustine, former chairman and CEO of Lockheed Martin.

Former Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker (R–Kan.).

John Dancy, former NBC News White House, Congressional, and diplomatic correspondent.

Retired Army Gen. John R. Galvin, who served as Supreme Allied Commander Europe and is now dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.

Leslie H. Gelb, president of Council on Foreign Relations.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R–Ga.), who first proposed starting up the panel.

Former Rep. Lee H. Hamilton (D–Ind.), director of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.

Lionel H. Olmer, former undersecretary of commerce for international trade.

Donald B. Rice, former Secretary of the Air Force.

James R. Schlesinger, former defense secretary, energy secretary, and director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Retired Adm. Harry D. Train II, former commander in chief, US Atlantic Command.

Andrew Young, former mayor of Atlanta and US ambassador to the United Nations.

Keith J. Costa is a reporter for “Inside the Pentagon,” a Washington–based defense newsletter. This is his first article for Air Force Magazine.