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Read in the Spring Catalyst about the Range of Threats Facing the Military

The spring edition of The Catalyst: A Journal of Ideas from the Bush Institute focuses on the modern military, asking what asking what military does the nation need and how can it sustain that force?

Article by William McKenzie April 26, 2017 //   4 minute read

Yes, ISIS is a serious threat and terrorism remains a dangerous reality. But, interestingly, contributors to the latest issue of The Catalyst: A Journal of Ideas from the Bush Institute emphasize the tests today’s military face from traditional state-powers such as Russia and North Korea. They also focus on evolving fronts like cyber warfare.

The Catalyst devotes its just-released spring edition to the future of the modern military, asking what military does the nation need and how can America sustain that force? 

Before policymakers can answer those questions, they first need to understand the present dangers. That's why we asked former Defense Secretary Robert Gates and foreign policy analysts Thomas Donnelly of the American Enterprise Institute and Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution to discuss the threats they see ahead. 

You can read Secretary Gates’ interview here and the Donnelly/O’Hanlon conversation here. Meanwhile, here are some quick-takes: 

I would tell our military leaders and cadets at the academies that our biggest challenge was creating a military through training and equipment that had the greatest possible versatility for the broadest possible range of conflict and lethality. That’s a huge challenge. How do you prepare for everything? 

--Secretary Gates

There are six short-term challenges that are worrisome. The first is North Korea, partly because of its unpredictability and partly because of its rapid progress in its ballistic missile and nuclear programs. There is a risk of an action on the part of the North Koreans that results in us having to react in some way.

--Secretary Gates

As I said when I introduced Rex Tillerson at his confirmation hearing, the challenge for this administration is threading the needle between pushing back against Putin’s interventionism, aggression, and general thuggery and stopping a potentially dangerous downward spiral in the relationship.

--Secretary Gates

What are we trying to achieve? We need to know what success looks like before we decide the biggest impediment to success.

I would say success would mean defending and, where possible, expanding the liberal international system. The challenges are more global and systemic, so success will not be measured so much by turning back this challenge or that challenge.

--Thomas Donnelly

The [threat] I worry about most is North Korea. It often gets ignored because North Korea’s the hermit kingdom that’s always been a danger to the Korean Peninsula, but not so much to the region or the world. Now, it’s becoming more of the latter.

--Michael O’Hanlon

My guess is [Vladimir Putin’s] smart enough not to actually let all of his adventurism lead us into a great power war. But he’s playing a very risky game and he’s dancing around the edges of some core American vital interests, like the Baltic States. We have to prioritize him, and therefore Russia.

--Michael O’Hanlon

Our interests in Europe are not defined by whether we have good relations or bad relations with Russia or really any one nation.

We’re interested in there being what, fortunately, still basically exists in Europe, and that is the liberal democratic order. It’s better for us to judge where we are, and what we need to do, based upon the results that we want, or the outcomes we want.

--Thomas Donnelly

You can read more of The Catalyst here – and please leave us your feedback.