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Gunboat Diplomacy in a New World Order: Strategic Considerations for U.S. Naval Intervention in the Twenty-First Century

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Master's thesis

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With the dissolution of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact, the threat of global war has all but been eliminated. At the same time, the Third World is experiencing a rising tide of instability, brought about by economic and social inequities, religious fundamentalism, and resurgent ethnic and political rivalries, and fueled by increasing military capabilities caused by the proliferation of advanced-technology weapons. As a result of these changes, U.S. security strategy is turning from its Cold War focus on global containment to the protection of U.S. interests against regional instabilities. The most dramatic confirmation of this change in direction was the announcement by the President on 2 August 1990 of a new National Security Strategy which would focus on maintaining stability and responding to regional crises, rather than on preparing for a global conflict against the Soviet Union. The past decade offers numerous examples of U.S. intervention in regional instabilities and crises that achieved varying degrees of success. Many of these interventions provide important lessons for the future in terms of how and when to use naval forces, and what the risks are to the national interest if a given mission fails to achieve its military or political objectives. This study is an examination of U.S. naval strategy and its evolving focus on crisis intervention, and how recent uses of U.S. naval force illustrate the need for a reevaluation of naval intervention and its implementation in a new world order. To this end, three specific uses of U.S. naval power in the last decade are instructive the U.S. intervention in Lebanon from March 1982-March 1984 U.S. naval operations off Libya from August 1981-April 1986 including the 1986 air strike on Tripoli and the Persian Gulf tanker escort operation of 1987-1988.

Subject Categories:

  • Government and Political Science
  • Humanities and History
  • Naval Surface Warfare

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