Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Well, this is a blast from the past:

Russia expressed regret today over the U.S. decision to begin deploying strategic interceptors to defend the United States from missile attack, a move Moscow said threatens to destabilize international security and lead to a new arms race.

The Russian Foreign Ministry also expressed concern that the development of such a system would divert resources from other real threats — above all the fight against international terrorism.
I think we're beginning to see the way things are going to move in the future. The war on terrorism is one of the key policies of the American government, but it's not going to be the only thing going on. It's certainly not going to bridge the gap between the United States and other governments, like Russia or the European governments, that are nominal competitors with the United States in the strategic realm and have clear differences in priorities. After all, most governments have more pressing priorities than international terrorism, although there's no doubt that it is a priority. Russia's no different: Russia's worried about an increasing US presence in what Russians consider their sphere of influence, and knows that this limited Star Wars capability may grow into one that eliminates Russian second-strike capability. That would allow the United States to operate conventionally across the globe, including Eurasia, without fear of Russian nuclear power being employed to tell the Americans to back off.

(This may not be an issue now, but sooner or later Russian interests and American interests will clash, and the U.S. has shown it is perfectly willing to employ military force to defend and forward its interests, a willingness that will only increase as long as the "Preemption Doctrine" is government policy. Heck, it doesn't even have to be Russia; there are a number of current nuclear powers whose interests could easily clash with the U.S. in the future.)

What makes this more interesting is the new role that the War on Terrorism will no doubt play in framing those much older priorities. We're already seeing it with the Chechnya issue; a conflict much older than the War on Terrorism that is nonetheless being (quite deliberately) recast as a part of it in order to ensure American support. This will likely continue; it's a fairly easy way of getting American support, and no rational government would ignore the opportunity.Sooner or later, though, we're going to see a conflict between an American interest in a region or government and another government labelling them as "terrorist" in order to get U.S. blessing for military action. At that point, there's going to inevitably be a choice made, and it's almost certainly going to be made in favor of the greater priority. This might be the end of the "War on Terrorism" as a visible entity.. although there will still be the "dirty underground war", the U.S. government will need to justify its actions and it will have to do so by throttling back the War on Terror rhetoric and pushing something else. (This wouldn't necessarily be the Bush administration, BTW, but some future administration.)

Of course, this could end up becoming a Huntington-esque "Clash of Civilizations". Some have argued that it must. That will change things somewhat, but won't change the inevitable problems of the conflict of real state interests and these more nebulous concepts of "civilizations"-- which, of course, is the main reason why Huntington's thesis is extremely problematic and has been sharply criticized by others in the field, not that you'd know it from the rhetoric heard nowadays. Sooner or later the United States is going to need to make a choice, and I think I know what that choice is going to be.

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