The Declining Threat to U.S. Interests

by Thomas J. Hirschfeld


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This Note identifies generic global and regional U.S. interests, suggests what threats to those interests remain, and postulates additional future risks the United States might face that might have military implications. The author argues that the world is fundamentally different from the world of the 1890s or the 1920s. For example, while the conquest of nature was still one of the agreed purposes of civilization, now its preservation is an agreed global purpose. He further argues that while military technology was only lethal then, now it threatens to annihilate species. These changes suggest that the most identifiable threats to U.S. interests are not amenable to military solutions (e.g., refugee and migration flows, drug problems, social unrest, unfriendly transnational political movements, ecological disasters, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and medical emergencies) and that instability may be a pervasive and unpleasant prospect, but not necessarily one which need involve American armed forces much.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Note series. The note was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1979 to 1993 that reported other outputs of sponsored research for general distribution.

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