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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Defense Policy to See Big Changes

WASHINGTON -- In 1998, after terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, U.S. President Bill Clinton considered staging a commando raid against the presumed mastermind, Osama bin Laden, former U.S. officials and defense scholars now say.

But the idea was abandoned because of the risk of casualties and the military's hesitance to commit troops to the campaign against terrorism.

"Instead, we chose to shoot off a few missiles [at bin Laden] in the hope that he wouldn't change location -- but, of course, he did," said Michael O'Hanlon, a defense expert at the Brookings Institution.

That sort of thinking may be about to change. Last week's attacks inside the United States seem likely to have a profound, long-term impact on U.S. defense and foreign policies.

Among the policies suddenly up for re-evaluation are the following, according to defense and foreign-policy experts:

?The "no-casualties" approach to the use of military force.

During the 1990s, U.S. leaders grew increasingly reluctant to put troops into situations where some of them might be killed. Policymakers worried the public might not support casualties that occurred in distant locations whose importance seemed remote to ordinary Americans. These dynamics no longer apply. The threat to ordinary Americans now is as clear as the rubble in Manhattan.

?President George W. Bush's high priority on the development of a missile defense shield.

Within hours of Tuesday's catastrophes, critics of the initiative began arguing that the real threats to the United States don't come from missiles. Supporters countered that terrorists who hijack planes today might use missiles next time.

No matter how that debate plays out, however, the administration will almost certainly be required to give less attention to missile defense than it did before. Its energies will be consumed with counterterrorism and military retaliation.

?America's diplomatic relationships. The Bush administration has already put new emphasis on the importance of allies. Analysts say that in the coming months, U.S. ties with a range of countries -- notably Russia, China, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia -- are likely to change to take account of the administration's new preoccupation with combating terrorism.

"There is going to be a whole set of trade-offs," said James Steinberg, Clinton's deputy national security director and now at the Brookings Institution. "How much are we prepared to adjust our other policies in the interests of counterterrorism?"

For instance, Steinberg asked, would the United States relax its insistence that Pakistan become more democratic? "Or take China -- what might we do with China in order to get their help in putting pressure on Pakistan?" he asked.

China, which has had a long-standing strategic relationship with Pakistan, is intensely opposed to the U.S. missile defense program.

That sets up a rough trade-off, one the Bush administration would not like to make: The United States could back away from missile defense and gain help from China and Pakistan in a campaign against terrorism.

O'Hanlon predicted the U.S. defense budget would increase. "The Republicans will get their missile defenses and the Democrats will get their homeland defense priorities."