On July 31, the US Department of Defense announced the 2008 US National Defense Strategy, which mainly includes two guarantees and one change. The US military promises to win the long-lasting anti-terror war and its dominant position in the conventional military field. In order to win unconventional wars, such as the anti-terror war, the US military should shift from a heavy reliance on military force to making use of both hard and soft power.
According to this strategy, the US military considers the war on terror its core mission, in which, Iraq and Afghanistan are obviously the central battlefields. It has also been proposed that in order to deal with the challenges initiated by potentially stronger countries to the US-led international order, particular attention should be given to potential adversaries - China and Russia; and the United States should strive to establish partnership with China and Russia.
As a guiding document for future US military and security strategies, the 2008 US National Defense Strategy inherits the strategic thinking of the US National Security Strategy in 2002 and 2006, and the 2006 US four-year assessment report. It continues to give top priority to the war on terror, but it no longer focuses on pre-emptive military strikes; rather the emphasis lies on the use of soft power and international cooperation to eliminate terrorism. This shift has profound international and domestic context.
In foreign relations, the United States is still bogged down in the quagmire of the Afghanistan and Iraq war. The US military has lost more than 560 people in the Afghanistan war and more than 4,100 in Iraq. The two wars have cost the United States almost $860 billion. Although the US keeps on sending more troops to Afghanistan, the security situation continues to deteriorate. A recent report by the US Department of Defense pessimistically said that frequent attacks by the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda have pulled the country into a "long-lasting state of rebellion." The central government is not capable of controlling any areas beyond Kabul at all. In Iraq, potential danger still exists despite gradual recovery. The chaotic situation in Afghanistan and Iraq gives room and reason for the terrorists. In addition, within the United States, the war’s high cost has incurred a huge wave of criticism and increasing voices for withdrawal from Iraq. From this point of view, this strategy echoes public opinion.
The status of the Afghanistan and Iraq war makes the United States gradually realize that pre-emptive military strikes may help achieve short-term victories; but these will not win the support of people in occupied areas and the international community. Therefore, as outlined in the 2008 US National Defense Strategy, in order to ultimately win the war against terrorism, the United States must strengthen its soft power which includes stronger international cooperation with its allies, promoting reconciliation between different factions in Afghanistan and Iraq, and providing a basic living infrastructure to local people. The change in the US defense strategy will have an important influence on the future direction of this international situation.
By People's Daily Online