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U.S. Army Seminar on "The Future of the U.S. Military Presence in Europe"
Remarks as Delivered by Deputy Secretary of Defense John J. Hamre, University of Chicago Law School, Chicago, Illinois, Wednesday, August 04, 1999

Before I begin, let me also take this opportunity to pay tribute to [General] Wes Clark [Commander-in-Chief, European Command; Supreme Allied Commander, Europe] who is here. This is the first time I have had a chance to be before an American audience and appear with Wes since the end of the Kosovo conflict. It has not ended, actually, as we were discussing this morning. In fact, it is much harder now than it was before.

I have always wondered, in the great moments of American history, whether it is the pressure of the time or the remarkable talent that somehow appears providentially that gets us through a very tough time. I am not sure which answer is right. I just know that we had providentially the right person for a most complex task at a most important time.

This is the first time, and the only time in history, when NATO went to war, doing something that was, for all practical purposes, impossible. This was an alliance that had spent fifty years organizing itself for the political commitment to stand up against a great opponent, never feeling we were really going to go to war, but knowing that if we maintained our political consensus and kept the alliance resourced, we would be able to prevail over time. And that worked.

The alliance was never designed to do what we had to do in Kosovo, though. And if it hadn't have been for Wes Clark and his remarkable stewardship in a very complex environment, I do not think we would have succeeded. So, Wes, on behalf of the Department of Defense and the United States, we want to thank you for an absolutely splendid job. [Applause.]

To talk about this subject, which is really astoundingly large when you think of it, one has to step back and to frame this issue in its true magnitude. I think that there have been, in the history of the United States, probably five distinct epochs or periods of American security policy.

The first obviously was from the period of 1776 through probably 1812. It is a little hard to find a demarcation point for the first epoch. It obviously was the formation of the new Republic, and it didn’t instantly get formed, of course, at the end of the Battle at Yorktown. It took quite a while to form.

The early Congress almost immediately threw away its Navy, threw away its Army. Just earlier this week we celebrated the Coast Guard’s predecessor, the Revenue Cutter Service, which became the Navy de facto for a period of about 10 years, because the early Congress just said, "We don’t need a Navy now. And we don’t need an Army." They cut the Army down to fifty people. It became clear, by 1812, that that wasn’t a good idea. It became even more clear when the British sailed up the Potomac and set fire to Washington. We had to do something.

So that first epoch was one where we were getting our feet on the ground, getting ourselves organized, thinking about and developing a tradition that we were going to need to ground the Republic in for the rest of its history.

The second epoch has 1814-1818 period as the starting point and lasting, including the Civil War, perhaps through the turn of the century. In terms of our international security posture, though, this was a period when the United States was relatively free to expand into the inter-territories of the North American continent. And we were very content to simply grow into the heartland of America. We had relatively modest interests overseas, and we were largely sheltered by the British Navy.

So we were preoccupied with ourselves during that second epoch. And it ended, of course, with the Spanish-American War, when America entered its third period. This was an imperial phase, when we went out and intentionally captured territory overseas as parts of America.

That third period culminated in our expeditionary support for the Allied forces during World War I, when we, in an atypically American way, sent a large standing army overseas to get involved in what George Washington would have termed a "foreign entanglement." I am not sure there is such a thing as a foreign war anymore. But, nonetheless, it was always the perception that this was a foreign war, and we made a very conscious decision to get involved in an overwhelming way. World War I sealed up that third period.

However, America then retrenched and we moved into the inter-war years, the fourth security epoch. This is remarkably important. There was somewhat of a void in American history, in our military and security history. But this was enormously important in the broader sense, for it was the time when the two great forces of the 20th century emerged: international communism, on the one hand, and global recession, which led to the demise of national socialism in Germany, and ultimately then to World War II.

The fifth security epoch emerged from the ashes of World War II. We commonly characterize it as the Cold War. It was a time when the international security order had been shattered and in its place a new order emerged, initially, very bipolar in its character, which devolved significantly by 1960 but still characterized the second half of this century. Where you pick the ending point, I don’t know, but I think probably, for me, the ending point was those remarkably wonderful days in Berlin, in 1989, when the Wall was torn down.

I remember the first time I saw the Wall. It was ominous and frightening. I never thought, in my wildest imagination, I would live long enough to see it down. Then I remember going back another time -- we went down late at night -- and as we got closer, you could hear this sound "chink-chink-chink." People were chipping away the Wall to sell for souvenirs to tourists like me the next day. There were also other people painting it, because it was worth more if had paint on it. It was typical entrepreneurship at work.

So that epoch ended in 1989. Now 10 years into the next epoch. But what is it? What is this new period? That can be very hard to say, given that we don’t know the outer boundaries of the epoch, or roughly when it starts and where it is going. Yet that is the world we are currently in.

Now, we have been at this for 10 years, and it is still rather fuzzy. Although I think, even in the confusion, it is possible to see some of the main features that could likely discriminate this new sixth epoch of American security history.

While the United States has emerged as the only global superpower, it has not produced peace in any sense. This is not Pax Romana. Indeed, a disturbing tribalism seems to now characterize the international security order. I think there are forty or fifty active struggles going on around the world, some of them just dreadful. A kind of ethnic tribalism appears to be emerging as a dominant characteristic of this period.

Second, we see the emergence of strange and uncontrollable new transnational actors on the scene -- Osama bin Laden-type organizations -- that shift and move in and out of government structures. It is very hard to know how to deter these new actors in this era when they are not dependent on the normal structures of government, in and around which deterrence has evolved during the last fifty years.

Third, we have seen this very frightening devolution of the resources of violence of the old Soviet empire, and they have become more available in this new world. So, this huge arsenal of biological weapons and chemical weapons, the huge arsenal of knowledgeable scientists, is now starting to drift out and fall into the hands of very dangerous people.

These are very troubling sorts of dimensions to this new epoch. And it seems to me there are seven or eight very large, new forces that have emerged on the scene, truly transnational forces, such as the globalization of information, typified by the Internet, and the emergence of international crime. It is increasingly difficult to segment international crime from international terrorism. We could very soon see emerge on the stage the first narco-state if the situation continues to deteriorate in Colombia.

Another one of these transnational forces, frankly, is disease. I don’t think any of us realize how profound the changes could be in Africa if the AIDS epidemic continues in its current pattern.

There is also the transnational shift of jobs; not necessarily of workers, but of jobs. An American product today may have the computer chips made in China, the software written in India, the handsets made in Ireland, or the satellite made in Italy, and it is launched in Russia. And we call it an American telephone system. This is a profoundly different world, where the jobs have now gone international.

Also of concern is the global spread of armaments and the technology of armaments. As I mentioned, in large measure, but not entirely, this flows from the disintegration of the old Soviet empire. At the same time there are now some emergent rogue actors, such as North Korea, whose only source of political pride and cash is the sale of things like missiles.

What does this new security epoch mean? Well, it seems to me -- and I don’t know all the answers -- but we can tell now that stability is going to be an increasingly rare phenomenon in this new epoch. The previous epoch, the Cold War, was at least characterized by great inertia; huge forces that move very slowly. That does not appear to be the character of this new epoch.

Second, it seems to me that many of the international structures that were created to mediate and manage the security problems during the Cold War epoch are increasingly brittle, if not ineffective, in this new epoch. We recall how unnerved we all were during the Asian economic crisis, that the World Bank and the IMF [International Monetary Fund] couldn't handle it. There was an enormous amount of talk about having to reengineer the entire system. That seemed to have abated once the problem went away initially, but I am not sure the underlying factors have receded. After all, capital is more global today than at any other time in history.

The U.N. is increasingly road-blocked in the Security Council, because of the lack of consensus in a structure that requires consensus. So, it is usually the rare and even important but secondary mission around which the U.N. can cohere. When it comes to something big, like the Balkans, the U.N. cannot pull together. So, the structures of the Cold War era are increasingly irrelevant to this new period.

I think there is a question mark over NATO in this regard. I think that it was remarkable how NATO had evolved -- and Kosovo brought this about -- to envision this new structure of operations. Yet, I must confess, I am slightly worried about what I see in the aftermath here, in the political after-action assessments of Kosovo and NATO operations in Kosovo. When General Clark and I and others were at a NATO conference about a month and a half ago, I was struck by the absolutely consistent representation by other governments of what it was all about. They all said it exactly the same way: this is the first time in history that we went to war for an idea.

Now, that was very interesting to me. Because what they were saying was we could not find a transcending authority that would authorize or rationalize our actions, so we are defaulting to a transcendent idea to justify it. In other words, it is not noble to go to war for national interest any longer; you have to have a superseding human rights agenda to justify military action. I was startled by the uniformity of this thinking.

I would be interested in the views of General Clark and General Naumann on this, because it worries me, frankly, that creating political stability is not a sufficiently justifiable reason to go to war. Instead, we have to find some transcendent reason that justifies or moves democracy to act.

We had some of this here in the United States, didn’t we? There was a great deal of questioning in that regard. So at the very time when we are confronting a world that is more tumultuous and less stable, the traditional basis on which democracies are willing to go to war appears to be eroding. Now they are willing to do so only for larger values. Ask yourself, how long is the staying power of public support when you start taking casualties in such an environment?

Now, every bit of this was just the introduction to my speech, which was the question of the seminar: What is the future of the Army in Europe? And what is the future of the United States in Europe?

Well, let me just say at the outset, I don’t know all the answers. I think the question is very important but still a subset of a broader question: what is America’s security posture going to be in this sixth security epoch? Should we organize and orient ourselves around the residue of the previous epoch? Or, do we shift radically to something that is new that we don’t yet understand?

Now, we have a real live, active, ongoing debate in Washington on the subject of the F-22. The F-22 is a weapon system designed at the height of the Cold War. One of our strongest committees and best friends on Capitol Hill just decided we should live without it, because it’s holding us back. Should we fight to get the F-22 back, because it is going to be necessary for the war, or is it a relic of the previous epoch and it is keeping us from resourcing what we would really need to do for the future?

This is a very real question. It is a very tough question. A year ago, Congress created something called the National Defense Panel. The National Defense Panel criticized us for spending too much time stuck on the Cold War past. Supposedly, we are just like Bud Light -- you know, same flavor, fewer calories. We’re just a little smaller, but we are doing exactly what we did during the Cold War.

This is keeping us from re-tooling ourselves for the security challenges of the next epoch. It is hard to know what they will be; when three or four times in the last four years we have had to mount two nearly simultaneous operations. Tell me the time when we will not have to worry about Korea or we are not going to worry about Europe. We have not seen such a time in the last four years, at least while I’ve been at the Department of Defense. Yet, are we stuck, continuing to buy the past, rather than to engineer ourselves for the future?

As it relates, then, to the Army, it is not clear to me what the answer is. If we are in a long period of transition, where we are now is not where we are going to be in ten years. But if the challenges of today are unavoidable, then we would want to hang on to the current situation. The Army needs to be in Europe right now, because it remains and represents the connective tissue that holds together the security future of Europe.

I am worried, as I said earlier, that the public support for forces in Europe seems to be atrophying. What this means for the Army is that while it remains this connective tissue, what is it connecting? What will it be connecting in ten years?

I think we have -- this as a sideline -- a national requirement to try to keep our allies firmly engaged in the debate. This is why we are willing to talk very intensively with them about these European defense initiatives, where they want to have autonomous capability to be able to act on security initiatives apart from the United States. I am deeply skeptical any of that will ever happen because they are not buying what it takes to do that. But I am glad they are talking about it. The worst thing that could happen is for them to say: we won’t ever worry because the United States will come in if it ever gets serious. That would be a very serious step in the wrong direction.

So the Army has to transform itself, while at the same time being that connective tissue, holding the structure together in Europe for the time being. But, if the Army only holds onto nostalgic versions of its grand past, it is going to atrophy and die. I don’t think that holding on to the great Army that existed -- and it was marvelous -- that existed through the seventies and the eighties and into the nineties, and simply becoming a lighter, smaller version is all that is going to be necessary for our security in this epoch.

I remember Butch saying at one of those meetings, "Okay, we spent a couple of days crying about it, now let’s go on with it." Then he would have the sad task of engineering the removal of much of the Army structure in Europe. He was exactly the right guy at the right time to do it; you know, unemotional, forceful and direct.

I think we need the same sort of mindset today, as the Army is going to have to change itself. It cannot simply be what it was and think that it is going to be relevant for this new, complex world that is emerging. At the same time, it has to serve the indispensable function of holding together a continent that right now is a bit adrift in thinking about its security requirements.

Now, this is the time when we should hand the discussion off to the panel of experts, who are going to have the answers.

I would like to again render my thanks to the Army, to the Army Academy, to the U.S. Army Association, and, of course, to the Harris School, for hosting this conference. I think it is enormously important.

It bothers me that we don’t have CNN cameras that are broadcasting this to America. This is a national debate, and unfortunately it is only being carried on by a very small group of people. Not unlike the way that the churches and monasteries kept knowledge alive during the Dark Ages. [Laughter.]

As the world goes its way, someone has to be thinking about the terrible business of war and security and safety and peace in the future. That is why you are here, and I am very grateful to have been invited to be included in the conference. Thank you very much. [Applause.]