Michael P. Noonan is the director of the Program on National Security at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Earlier, I offered what I see as the four biggest international threats to the United States in 2013. As promised, here are the four biggest opportunities in that arena:
- A budget deal. A budget deal struck could be the first step towards a more functional political arrangement in Washington, D.C. Such a budget deal also could potentially lead the way toward crafting a defense budget that retains and builds the right capabilities to better provide for the common defense moving forward.
- Planning for a post-Afghanistan military. Yes, there will still be U.S. military personnel in Afghanistan after 2014, but there will be far fewer of them. The U.S. military needs to start to systematically investigate, study, capture, and retain lessons and tactics, techniques, and procedures from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and to integrate such lessons and training into military schoolhouses across the services and across the ranks. A pivot to the Pacific is no excuse to flush institutional memory and reboot as the services did post-Vietnam.
- Empowering the interagency. There is an opportunity to right-size resourcing for the other elements of American overseas power—particularly in the diplomacy, development, and intelligence arenas. This will be difficult—precisely because these efforts do not have the congressional constituencies of the military. But such a right-sizing is necessary. We need a strong military, but we also need the non-military elements that can either help enable the military tool or else allow it to remain sheathed.
- Syria. The United States should more actively help to orchestrate the removal of the Assad regime from Damascus while also seeking to limit the role of radical takfiri Salafists in a post-Assad Syria. Such an outcome would be a huge blow to Tehran. It will also be difficult. It may now be too late to be able to build up the necessary wasta (Arabic for influence or "street cred") to enable this, but it should be attempted.
- Read Daniel J. Gallington: Fracking, OPEC, and Violence in the Middle East
- Read Laurel Miller: Egypt's Constitutional Referendum Was an Opportunity Lost
- Check out U.S. News Weekly, now available on iPad.