Document Type


Publication Date



Security Studies



Publication Title

The British Army Journal


A former US Army Chief of Staff once observed, “If you don’t like change, you are going to like irrelevance even less.” These words are more relevant than ever as the United States and its military continue to deal with three enormous changes that have occurred over the past 20 years or so. These dramatic shifts have fundamentally altered how the nation considers its national security policy.

The first great change was the end of the Soviet Union, which had been the nation’s primary adversary and focal point throughout the long Cold War. During these four decades, Americans viewed this confrontation as central to national security. It dominated thinking, strategy and the development of military forces and associated doctrines. The second change was precipitated by the terrorist attack on 11 September 2001. The assault on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon not only revealed the vulnerability of the United States to asymmetric attack, but also forced a dramatic reassessment of American national security strategy. The nation soon embarked on the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq, which have now been the longest wars in America’s history. Finally, the third major shift was the economic downturn of 2008 – the most serious economic dislocation since the Great Depression.


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