United States National Military Strategy 2011 (NMS 2011) released on 8 February provides the pathways that the armed forces are likely to follow in the years ahead, thus an overview from an Indian perspective may be relevant. The US follows an institutionalized mechanism for outlining national as well as military goals and objectives. The President outlines the national security strategy last issued in 2010, the Defence Secretary issues a National Defense Strategy which was done in 2008 and also carries out a Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) once every four years with the one in 2010 being the latest in the series. The Military Strategy was last issued in 2004 and thus one was perhaps long overdue.
The process of evolution of NMS 2011 is based on US perception of strategy being a function of identifying ends, ways and means. The NMS defines ways and means rather than the ends, which are outlined in the National Security Strategy and the QDR. The document issued by Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff after a deliberate process of consultation thus underlines military commitment to contribute to clearly defined national objectives. This may contrast with the Indian scenario where armed forces leadership have complained of lack of sufficient clarity in defining national goals which can effectively contribute to developing a focused military strategy.
The NSS defines the military vision of fielding a joint force that defends the, “nation and allies”, and actively supports peace and stability in tandem with other elements of national power. There are three cornerstones of the NSS, full spectrum capability dictated by an uncertain security environment, higher joint direction and leadership and a concert of allies and partners. There is a notable shift in emphasis from fighting terrorism which was the main theme in 2004 to developing full spectrum capability. The emphasis on higher leadership is possibly due to effective management of current and future challenges in an era of budgetary constraints that the US military envisages in the years ahead.
The role of the military remains that of securing national interests globally by facilitating other US government agencies, act as a convener in a cooperative security paradigm and also a, ‘security guarantor’ to deter threats and challenges where necessary.
While emphasising pre-eminence of the United States, the NSS acknowledges a ‘multi nodal’, global architecture which is a seminal change indicating acceptance of interests and issue based partnerships with lesser emphasis on security blocs. This would provide greater scope for cooperation with countries as India without impinging on the core policy of strategic autonomy. A rising Chinese military profile, nuclear miscalculations in West Asia, climate change induced natural disasters, increase in threats from non states, competition related to energy and protection of the global commons comprising of trade and information highways are seen as components of the security environment.
These facilitate defining the core national military objectives as, ‘Counter Violent Extremism, Deter and Defeat Aggression, Strengthen International and Regional Security’, and finally, ‘Shape the Future Force’. The seminal change appears to be acknowledging terrorism as, ‘violent extremism’, thereby attempting to address roots of contemporary violence requiring military intervention. Despite this change of emphasis measures suggested to counter violent extremism are focused on the narrower paradigm of countering terrorism thereby indicating that the shift may be in rhetoric rather than strategy. Military tools for countering violent extremism are many, lack of clear identification seems to be a key deficiency in the NSS.
In deterring nuclear aggression apart from others, ballistic missile defence is seen as a core component to be operative in tandem with partner states. Again an omission here appears to be a strategy to meet the challenge from WMD weapons falling in the hands of terrorist groups and non state actors, given that this may be one of the more likely scenarios in the near future.
Given a perception of the increase in anti-access and anti-denial capabilities in countries as China and to some extent even North Korea and Iran, latter in the critical Persian Gulf oil SLOCs, there is considerable emphasis on this aspect termed as, defeating aggression. Space and cyber space also form a part of this domain and capability building to ensure unrestricted use of the global commons has been emphasised.
In terms of regional and international cooperation, the NSS clearly seeks, “expanded military cooperation with India on nonproliferation, safeguarding the global commons and countering terrorism,” as a component of building cooperative partnerships in Asia. Progressing a cooperative relationship with China while monitoring the growth of Chinese military power is another arm in this paradigm apart from strengthening existing coalition in North Asia with Japan and South Korea and building relations with diverse states in South Asia to include Vietnam.
Translating national objectives into joint capabilities by creating tailor made, networked forces in all domains, land, maritime, air, space and cyber is the overall theme. Second strike capable nuclear and special forces would be the other key components of capability given the wider nature of threats envisaged.
Finally the core area of emphasis is management of an all volunteer force which can achieve given objectives in an uncertain and diverse environment requiring matching capabilities. The dimension of human resources for meeting the military challenges with competition for talent would remain a core concern of the US military therefore the focus on higher leadership as well.
The United States NSS 2011 is a far more pragmatic articulation which takes into account the possible current and future challenges and capabilities than the one in 2004. This looks beyond currency of engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan, outlines core challenges conventional and sub conventional and provides a plan to meet the same.
The Indian military establishment must outline a road map to profit from American engagement by evolving a paradigm of cooperation without forsaking autonomy and balancing with our traditional partners to align national as well as global interests in the, ‘multi nodal’ world. Such an Indian military strategy or a blueprint will facilitate building deterrence and enable us to contribute to the global commons in a structured manner and is long overdue.
Brig Rahul Bhonsle, SM (Retd) is an independent defence analyst based in New Delhi
(Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the views either of the Editorial Committee or the Centre for Land Warfare Studies).