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Meeting the Challenges of Regional Security

Authored by Honorable Leonard Sullivan. | February 1994

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Cold war concepts of superpowers, alliance systems, nuclear deterrence and the accompanying military structures have lost their relevance. The problems and challenges of this diverse and disordered world might be better addressed by paramilitary or nonmilitary forces than by military institutions and forces structured and accoutered for traditional interstate conflict.

History may, indeed, record the 1990s as the beginning of the end of the supremacy of the nation-state as it has existed in western civilization since the French Revolution. Some states, like the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, and Czechoslovakia, have already dissolved into a number of ethnically-based nations. Germany and Yemen, on the other hand, have forsaken artificial political structures imposed by cold war necessities to unite into single nations.

Indeed, the world of the 21st century is most likely to experience further upward drift in sovereignty in which regional authorities enforce global laws of conduct over generally subnational organizations pursuing criminal activities.

The alternative to the United States as the world's policeman imposing a Pax Americana Technocratica is to establish a number of regional security apparatuses (RSAs). These RSAs will be charged with the collective enforcement of international laws and standards as well as those specific to the regions involved. Many of the technologies compelled and developed during the cold war may be useful when employed by appropriately structured RSA forces operating within new systems devised to meet a variety of challenges.


Post-cold war disorders more closely resemble crimes than wars, and seldom pit government against government in high-intensity combat. The crimes are generally gross violations of the growing body of international law, but not wars that can be won in the military sense. They must be countered by a combination of military, paramilitary, and civil agencies applying a variety of political, economic, and physical sanctions. The question is whether such global laws and conventions will be enforced by global, regional, or national authorities. Neither global responses by the U.N. nor unilateral responses by individual nations (including the United States) are appropriate. The best alternative is to evolve RSAs capable of maintaining law and order within "acceptable" levels of (inevitable) violence, using a new combination of "high-tech" civil and military resources specifically tailored to deal with these categorially different circumstances.

Altogether, the development of versatile RSAs for Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, and the Asia/Pacific region presents some fascinating alternatives to the now obsolete functions of NATO--and many unilateral roles and commands currently peculiar to U.S. forces. The United States would do well to encourage the formation and implementation of regional security apparatuses and to apply some of its now surplus technological creativity to augmenting their inspection, law enforcement, and paramilitary capabilities and to enhancing their effectiveness. The gradual transformation of both NATO and the U.S. Southern and Pacific Commands into RSAs would make excellent test cases.