Leadership: Tailored Retaliation

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February 23, 2006: One of the new concepts being pushed with the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review is tailored deterrence - in essence, tailoring retaliatory measures to countries rather than using a one-size-fits-all approach. It is a geopolitical reflection of the old saying that if your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. The approach here is to add a variety of "tools" to the American "toolbox" - so as to effectively protect American allies and interests while exerting less operational effort, spending less money, and minimizing the risk to American forces.

One thing that is noted about the present strategic situation is that there are a wide number of potential opponents. Besides the usual suspects (Syria and Iran as state sponsors of terrorism), there are other potential adversaries. China is one, North Korea is another. Other threats could emerge anywhere at any time - Russia is one potential adversary/threat, as is the European Union (albeit highly unlikely).

Each of these potential threats is unique. What might keep North Korea from attacking will not deter Iran. Why is this the case? The best explanation is that each of these countries has a different weakness. China, for instance, lacks domestic oil sources, and can be easily cut off. They also rely on exports to the United States. China can be cut off, and take a serious hit if it attacked Taiwan. Iran, on the other hand, will not be deterred by cutting off imports. However, Iran's oil exports could be targeted, and that could wipe out the financial wherewithal for Iran's nuclear weapons program. Syria, the European Union, and Russia also have their weaknesses.

The Department of Defense is planning to maximize effects as a result of the 2006 QDR. This new policy of tailored deterrence is not only reflecting the reality of various threats, it also is going to be much more cost-effective. In essence, the United States is looking to get the most bang for the buck, and to inflict the most damage to an enemy's vital interests without causing harm to civilian targets. - Harold C. Hutchison (hchutch@ix.netcom.com)

 


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