Courtesy Reuters


We have been accustomed, during most of the past 25 years, to think of our security in terms of the containment of Soviet expansionism, relying largely upon a comfortable superiority in military power. A number of developments now call into question the adequacy of this conception and of our understanding of the nature of effective power in the modern world.

Among these developments have been changes in the military balance. Our strategic superiority over the Soviet Union was first constrained by the emergence of a condition of mutual deterrence, and more recently by the growth of Soviet strategic forces to a level of approximate parity. Coincidentally, there has been a substantial increase in Soviet conventional military capabilities with a global reach.

What effects this change in the military balance may be expected to have upon political developments is made more difficult to calculate by the evident paradox of our unprecedentedly large military power and our declining political influence in the world, a paradox which points up the limitations of arms as a source of effective power.

Since the end of World War II, events have pushed us toward a less Soviet- centric view of our security problems. Against a background of rapid and uncharted political changes in the world, the Soviet problem is perceived less in terms of expansion through the territorial control of contiguous areas than as a competition for political influence on a global basis. One effect of qualitative changes in weapons technology has been to make the strategic competition into a closed game, somewhat apart from the competition for political influence. Concurrently, the accelerated pace of technological change has altered the geography of politics, bringing distant areas within reach; it has given greater significance to forms of power based on new industrial technology; and it has resulted in profound upheavals in the domestic social orders of nations.

The persistent strength of nationalism as the most potent single force in international politics has fragmented the two-color maps of the world

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