home :: North America :: USA :: Government :: International Relations and Defense :: National Defense :: Defense Policy
National Defense, Defense Policy
Strategic Defense Initiative, citizen army, Qaeda members, assured destruction, military operation
In its early history, the American government relied for defense on a small number of professional soldiers and a citizen army that could be quickly mobilized before an enemy reached its shores. Protected by two oceans and sandwiched between friendly Canada to the north and weak Mexico to the south, the United States developed without the kinds of military challenges that were common in Europe. Even after World War I, the United States slipped back into a comfortable isolationism.
But American policy changed after World War II, when the USSR developed nuclear weapons and missiles powerful enough to reach the United States. U.S. policymakers adopted the new idea of nuclear deterrence. The basic idea of this policy was to amass such a huge nuclear arsenal that even in the event of a full-scale attack by the USSR, the United States would still be capable of retaliating and completely destroying the Soviets. This idea became known as mutually assured destruction, or, appropriately, MAD.
With the adoption of this policy, federal budget outlays for national defense began to grow dramatically. By 1975 the United States was spending more than 25 percent of the entire federal budget on national defense. In the 1980s expenditures reached 28 percent, as the United States undertook a costly program to develop military weaponry based on sophisticated technology. One proposed program of this type was the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) introduced by President Ronald Reagan in 1983. This program would have used new technology, such as electronic beams and computer-guided missiles, to destroy incoming missiles. Congress balked at the cost of the program, which the media dubbed “Star Wars.”
With the end of the Cold War, military deterrence became less relevant to the United States. Acts of terrorism, such as the terrorist attacks that took place on September 11, 2001, were a more immediate threat to national security. To protect against terrorism, Congress in 2002 created the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) with a mission to prevent terrorist attacks and assist in recovery in the case of an attack. The DHS combined dozens of federal agencies, including the United States Coast Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the Secret Service.
The U.S. government also began a war on terrorism targeting both terrorist organizations and governments that supported them. Their first action was to lead a military operation with an international coalition into Afghanistan. There, they worked to eliminate al-Qaeda, the terrorist organization responsible for the September 11 attacks, and to topple the Taliban regime, the government that had given refuge and support to al-Qaeda. By 2002 the Taliban regime had fallen, and al-Qaeda members had scattered. The United States pledged to continue its fight against terrorism throughout the world.
Article key phrases: