Disaster PlanningHowever awful some future contingency might be, some military planner somewhere in Washington, DC, has probably already thought of it. War with Iran, war with China, war between India and Pakistan, a peacekeeping operation in a central African nation – the list of scenarios that could require deployment of US troops, or at least a threat to US interests that requires some type of response, is long.
Dr. Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution who spoke at the Air Force Association conference Sept. 13 in Washington, suggested a few that he believes are more likely than some:
1. Some scenario involving North Korea, including a collapse of the government there that creates a need to secure North Korean nuclear facilities.
2. A fight with China to protect Taiwan. "My sense is our Pacific Command plan is a bit too blindly escalatory, is prone to attacks on the Chinese mainland," O'Hanlon said. "This requires more thought."
3. Indonesia. A terrorist group could shut down the Strait of Malacca or other parts of the Malaysia straits, affecting the shipment of oil and other goods that pass through that area. This would be a much more serious situation than the piracy that already affects this region (see "Standing Watch").
4. An Indo-Pakistan war, perhaps caused by tensions over Kashmir and leading to the use of nuclear weapons. International control of Kashmir could be a solution to the problem.
5. A collapse of Pakistan, where unemployment, poor schools, and a general lack of opportunity could lead to some type of coup involving jihadists and which might require some type of intervention, say using special forces to help secure nuclear facilities. "I can't imagine any potential president, whether it be Howard Dean or Dick Cheney, not responding to the collapse of Pakistan," said O'Hanlon, who said political turmoil could also lead to government collapse in Iran (see "Chain Reaction") or Saudi Arabia, and be equally problematic.
Testifying at a recent hearing by the US House Armed Services Committee on the "goals and principles" of the 2005 QDR, Dr. Andrew Krepinevich, executive director of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, said the three main challenges the QDR must address are radical Islam, in an era in which small groups or even individuals can get their hands on weapons of massively destructive power; nuclear power in Asia, where unstable government regimes are competing for increasingly scarce sources of energy; and the rise of China, which is not the certain threat to the US that the Soviet Union was, but because of its economic power could be tempted – like any powerful nation is – to achieve its national goals through military might.
Of the various future scenarios, the country that seems to be most feared by US military officers is China. Whether talking about protecting satellite capability (see "Lost in Space"), the F/A-22 and other new types of fighter aircraft, missile defense, new naval ships (see "US Navy Sizes Up Future"), or any other big ticket program, a major justification always seems to be the threat that China may pose (see "US DoD Ponders China Threat"). A number of analysts also view China as a potential threat to the US directly, pointing to buildups in China's submarine fleet and development of new command-and-control technology, in keeping with the reforms underway within many Western militaries (see "The UK's Military Makeover").
Is China a real threat or just favorite topic for US warmongers? QDR developers say the review is supposed to be able to help the US prepare for any possible scenario. Based on talk by military officials, China appears likely to play a big part in their thinking on future threats.