sends a message that these are rules worth following, and robs terrorists and dictators of

the argument that these rules are simply tools of American imperialism.

Obtaining global buy-in also allows the United States to carry a lighter load when

military action is required and enhances the chances for success. Given the

comparatively modest defense budgets of most of our allies, sharing the military burden

may in some cases prove a bit of an illusion, but in the Balkans and Afghanistan, our

NATO partners have indeed shouldered their share of the risks and costs. Additionally,

for the types of conflicts in which we’re most likely to find ourselves engaged, the

initial military operation will often be less complex and costly than the work that

follows—training local police forces, restoring electricity and water services, building a

working judicial system, fostering an independent media, setting up a public health

infrastructure, and planning elections. Allies can help pay the freight and provide

expertise for these critical efforts, as they have in the Balkans and Afghanistan, but they

are far more likely to do so if our actions have gained international support on the front

end. In military parlance, legitimacy is a “force multiplier.”

Just as important, the painstaking process of building coalitions forces us to listen to

other points of view and therefore look before we leap. When we’re not defending

ourselves against a direct and imminent threat, we will often have the benefit of time;

our military power becomes just one tool among many (albeit an extraordinarily

important one) to influence events and advance our interests in the world—interests in

maintaining access to key energy sources, keeping financial markets stable, seeing

international boundaries respected, and preventing genocide. In pursuit of those

interests, we should be engaging in some hardheaded analysis of the costs and benefits

of the use of force compared to the other tools of influence at our disposal.

Is cheap oil worth the costs—in blood and treasure—of war? Will our military

intervention in a particular ethnic dispute lead to a permanent political settlement or an

indefinite commitment of U.S. forces? Can our dispute with a country be settled

diplomatically or through a coordinated series of sanctions? If we hope to win the

broader battle of ideas, then world opinion must enter into this calculus. And while it

may be frustrating at times to hear anti-American posturing from European allies that

enjoy the blanket of our protection, or to hear speeches in the UN General Assembly

designed to obfuscate, distract, or excuse inaction, it’s just possible that beneath all the

rhetoric are perspectives that can illuminate the situation and help us make better

strategic decisions.

Finally, by engaging our allies, we give them joint ownership over the difficult,

methodical, vital, and necessarily collaborative work of limiting the terrorists’ capacity

to inflict harm. That work includes shutting down terrorist financial networks and

sharing intelligence to hunt down terrorist suspects and infiltrate their cells; our

continued failure to effectively coordinate intelligence gathering even among various

U.S. agencies, as well as our continued lack of effective human intelligence capacity, is

inexcusable. Most important, we need to join forces to keep weapons of mass

destruction out of terrorist hands.

One of the best examples of such collaboration was pioneered in the nineties by

Republican Senator Dick Lugar of Indiana and former Democratic Senator Sam Nunn

of Georgia, two men who understood the need to nurture coalitions before crises strike,

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and who applied this knowledge to the critical problem of nuclear proliferation. The

premise of what came to be known as the Nunn-Lugar program was simple: After the

fall of the Soviet Union, the biggest threat to the United States—aside from an

accidental launch—wasn’t a first strike ordered by Gorbachev or Yeltsin, but the

migration of nuclear material or know-how into the hands of terrorists and rogue states,

a possible result of Russia’s economic tailspin, corruption in the military, the

impoverishment of Russian scientists, and security and control systems that had fallen

into disrepair. Under Nunn-Lugar, America basically provided the resources to fix up

those systems, and although the program caused some consternation to those

accustomed to Cold War thinking, it has proven to be one of the most important

investments we could have made to protect ourselves from catastrophe.

In August 2005, I traveled with Senator Lugar to see some of this handiwork. It was my

first trip to Russia and Ukraine, and I couldn’t have had a better guide than Dick, a

remarkably fit seventy-three-year-old with a gentle, imperturbable manner and an

inscrutable smile that served him well during the often interminable meetings we held

with foreign officials. Together we visited the nuclear facilities of Saratov, where

Russian generals pointed with pride to the new fencing and security systems that had

been recently completed; afterward, they served us a lunch of borscht, vodka, potato

stew, and a deeply troubling fish Jell-O mold. In Perm, at a site where SS-24 and SS-25

tactical missiles were being dismantled, we walked through the center of eight-foot-high

empty missile casings and gazed in silence at the massive, sleek, still-active missiles

that were now warehoused safely but had once been aimed at the cities of Europe.

And in a quiet, residential neighborhood of Kiev, we received a tour of the Ukraine’s

version of the Centers for Disease Control, a modest three-story facility that looked like

a high school science lab. At one point during our tour, after seeing windows open for

lack of air-conditioning and metal strips crudely bolted to door jambs to keep out mice,

we were guided to a small freezer secured by nothing more than a seal of string. A

middle-aged woman in a lab coat and surgical mask pulled a few test tubes from the

freezer, waving them around a foot from my face and saying something in Ukrainian.

“That is anthrax,” the translator explained, pointing to the vial in the woman’s right

hand. “That one,” he said, pointing to the one in the left hand, “is the plague.”

I looked behind me and noticed Lugar standing toward the back of the room.

“You don’t want a closer look, Dick?” I asked, taking a few steps back myself.

“Been there, done that,” he said with a smile.

There were moments during our travels when we were reminded of the old Cold War

days. At the airport in Perm, for example, a border officer in his early twenties detained

us for three hours because we wouldn’t let him search our plane, leading our staffs to

fire off telephone calls to the U.S. embassy and Russia’s foreign affairs ministry in

Moscow. And yet most of what we heard and saw—the Calvin Klein store and Maserati

showroom in Red Square Mall; the motorcade of SUVs that pulled up in front of a

restaurant, driven by burly men with ill-fitting suits who once might have rushed to

open the door for Kremlin officials but were now on the security detail of one of

Russia’s billionaire oligarchs; the throngs of sullen teenagers in T-shirts and low-riding

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jeans, sharing cigarettes and the music on their iPods as they wandered Kiev’s graceful

boulevards—underscored the seemingly irreversible process of economic, if not

political, integration between East and West.

That was part of the reason, I sensed, why Lugar and I were greeted so warmly at these

various military installations. Our presence not only promised money for security

systems and fencing and monitors and the like; it also indicated to the men and women

who worked in these facilities that they still in fact mattered. They had made careers,

had been honored, for perfecting the tools of war. Now they found themselves presiding

over remnants of the past, their institutions barely relevant to nations whose people had

shifted their main attention to turning a quick buck.

Certainly that’s how it felt in Donetsk, an industrial town in the southeastern portion of

Ukraine where we stopped to visit an installation for the destruction of conventional

weapons. The facility was nestled in the country, accessed by a series of narrow roads

occasionally crowded with goats. The director of the facility, a rotund, cheerful man

who reminded me of a Chicago ward superintendent, led us through a series of dark

warehouse-like structures in various states of disrepair, where rows of workers nimbly

dismantled an assortment of land mines and tank ordnance, and empty shell casings

were piled loosely into mounds that rose to my shoulders. They needed U.S. help, the

director explained, because Ukraine lacked the money to deal with all the weapons left

over from the Cold War and Afghanistan—at the pace they were going, securing and

disabling these weapons might take sixty years. In the meantime weapons would remain

scattered across the country, often in shacks without padlocks, exposed to the elements,

not just ammunition but high-grade explosives and shoulder-to-air missiles—tools of

destruction that might find their way into the hands of warlords in Somalia, Tamil

fighters in Sri Lanka, insurgents in Iraq.

As he spoke, our group entered another building, where women wearing surgical masks

stood at a table removing hexogen—a military-grade explosive—from various

munitions and placing it into bags. In another room, I happened upon a pair of men in

their undershirts, smoking next to a wheezing old boiler, flicking their ashes into an