For most of the last century, ideological divisions were clearly delineated, and geopolitical partnership efforts were well defined.
But the world has changed, and the challenges we face in the twenty first century are markedly different from anything the world has faced in the past. To meet these new challenges, we must reshape our priorities, formulate new defense strategies.
Speaking at the Institute of Peace, U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta noted that whereas in the past, the United States often “assumed the primary role of defending others and deployed large forces across the globe to fixed positions,” building partnerships will enable us to better meet a wider range of challenges.
The fundamental purpose of this new strategy, called “Building Partnerships In The 21st Century,” is to improve cooperation and build up our partners’ capacity. We must adopt a more collaborative approach to security both among United States government agencies, and among allies, partners, and multilateral organizations.
“As the United States helped turn the tide in Iraq and Afghanistan, confronted terrorism . . . . in Yemen, in the Horn of Africa and the Philippines, and participated in the NATO operation in Libya that helped bring down Gadhafi, the approach of working with and through others has only grown in importance to our mission of defending our country,” said Secretary of Defense Panetta.
"It is clear that even as we turn the page on a decade of war, the international security environment will remain complex and threatening. But as we look at each challenge we face, it is clear that we have many allies and partners who share an interest in helping advance a common security vision, and that we are more secure when they are more capable of helping us," he said.
As we respond to the challenges of the 21st century, our strength depends on our ability to govern, to lead, on capable allies and partners willing to help shoulder the burden of global security.