War and escalation in South Asia
The advent of two nuclear powers in South Asia, discoveries of nuclear trafficking, and insurgencies and terrorism that threaten important U.S. interests and objectives directly have transformed the region from a strategic backwater into a primary theater of concern for the United States. The United States, to a great extent free of the restrictions of earlier sanction regimes and attentive to the region's central role in the global war on terrorism (GWOT), has engaged the states of South Asia aggressively with a wide variety of policy initiatives. Despite the diversity of policy instruments, few are very powerful; indeed, only the U.S. military seems to offer many options for Washington to intensify further its security cooperation and influence in the region. This monograph highlights key factors in the region that imperil U.S. interests, and suggests how and where the U.S. military might play an expanded, influential role. The report notes that the current U.S. military force posture, disposition, and lines of command may not be optimal, given South Asia's new status in the U.S. strategic calculus, and suggests seven key steps the military might take to improve its ability to advance and defend U.S. interests, not only in South Asia, but beyond it, including the Middle East and Asia at large. Beyond the specifics, however, the broader message arising from this analysis is straightforward: the region's salience for U.S. policy interests has increased dramatically. It is therefore prudent to intensify Washington's involvement in the region and to devote the resources necessary to become more influential with the governments within the region. Given the area's potential for violence, it is also prudent to shape a part of the U.S. military to meet the potential crises emanating from South Asia, just as the United States once shaped its military presence in Western Europe for the contingencies of the Cold War.