The twentieth century was a century where the military force of a country played a significant role in its social, economic and political life. The advent of two world wars and a half-century-long ‘cold war’ made the military to be the focus of many societies. The so-called ‘conventional warfare’ required a big and powerful military force capable of delivering large-scale attacks toward other nations within a short period of time. Especially during the Cold War the military forces of many countries dramatically increased their volumes and capabilities.
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This essay aims to show that the twenty-first military force will be very different. In this century the military forces will be directed more toward peace and security maintenance issues in various localities around the world. The classical, conventional, large-scale war military force is no more necessary and not needed in this century. In fact, it would be very inefficient to have it since the new security dangers are of a different form and organization from that of the twentieth century.
Globalization has led to the gradual coming together of societies and nations. The national-territorial boundaries of a time are now being faded in many places. International agreements and organizations have led to the formation of new supra-territorial entities. Such entities commonly referred to as ‘unions’ have comprised the engagement of many states in it. The European Union is an example of that. But there are also other international organizations which comprise many different countries in it. This inter-connecting network between nations led to the fall of the previous paradigms where one nation’s state, or a group of nations states, considered enemies another nation’s state, or group of nations states. But obviously, economic and political integration has brought down the walls of division among ‘old enemies’.
Thus, many countries found themselves in no need any more of large bodies of military force. After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent fall of the Soviet Union and communism in many East-European societies, their large military complexes began to dismantle. A similar situation of dismantling and re-organizing began to emerge in the western countries. Large military bodies were not needed anymore since there was no ‘frontal enemy’ to be faced anymore. At this time the big dilemma of the future for military forces began to emerge in the public discourse.
But it was not long when the new scope and role for the military emerged. The terrorist attacks in Somalia and Kenya of the United States Embassies were just the prelude of what was going to come. The subsequent attacks on September 11th, 2001, showed that international peace and security was to be the new focus for the military forces. Unfortunately, the military forces of many countries were not ready for this challenge yet and were in the process of transformation. Since terrorism has no conventional gathered ground, naval, or air force, the military did not know how to respond. Terrorism has no well-known base and recruited force. Before it was easier for a military force to engage in actions since the enemy also had regular troops gathered at certain bases located in other nations. Now, the military faced themselves with a new type of urban warfare with an ‘invisible’ enemy and it had to fight with ‘civilians’ trained to terrorize other civilians.
But this type of warfare requested the utilization of many different resources at the same time. It could not be won only by using traditional ‘fire power’ over a certain objective. Since the enemy now is camouflaged within the civilian population, the military was not ready yet to conduct successful operations of this type. The various errors accepted even from the Pentagon on the war on Iraq are an argument for this claim.
The new objectives of the military forces around the world today are to be ready to prevent or correctly deal with terrorist or other security threats for their societies. In order to achieve this objective successfully, the military recognized that they need to have the collaboration of all different actors of society. Without the proper collaboration of all different actors of society, you run the risk of not distinguishing the ‘enemy’ from the ‘friendly’ and thus create panic and negative reactions from the public. This would worsen the situation within the society, or nations, the military was intended to protect. Another form of engagement for the military in this new millennium will be the helping of societies and nations in responding to natural disasters. Around the world, we see that natural disasters have and are causing very high damages to societies. Entire countries are being devastated by hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, tsunamis and earthquakes. The military intervention in the help of rescuing people the first hours after the natural event has been crucial many times. In the United States, the role of the military was crucial in helping the people of New Orleans after hurricane Katrina devastated the city. Without this help, many people would have suffered death or injuries. Thus, the role of responding to natural disasters should be another focus of the military in this century.
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