ABCD 2011

From the Cold War and Hot Peace to the Long War and Beyond: What Are Our Armed Forces (Good) For?

This year marks twenty years since the collapse of the Soviet Union and ten years since the September 11 attacks. Both of these seismic strategic events triggered wholesale reconsiderations of what our armed forces were for. While preparing them to defend national and allied territory has remained the bedrock of our thinking about their purpose, many argued during the 1990s that crisis response and peace support operations should receive more emphasis in defining our force structures. Counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency became the most important concepts after 9/11. Meanwhile, unconventional uses of power by state and non-state actors and the prominence of non-military security issues have made finding a suitable, balanced and affordable role for the armed forces a continuing challenge.

ABCD 2011 was dedicated to reflecting upon the evolving role of military force and the implications of change and continuity for its utility. We also discussed the latest trends in the strategic environment and the questions of what war is and what constitutes peace in the age of ‘hybrid threats’. These theoretical considerations were used as a basis for a debate about developments in European defence and options for small Allies. The U.S. military presence in Europe has served as an indispensable part of Europe’s deterrence and Allied operational capabilities. With the decrease in U.S. presence, the questions of how to get ‘more Europe’ in security and defence and how to strengthen the transatlantic bond need to be considered once again.