Knowledge is power.
That adage is a reminder that not all power comes from having the largest muscles or biggest weapons. Sometimes in fact, most times brains can be more powerful than brawn.
As the Cold War era draws to a close, there is considerable debate among American politicians concerning the future of the U.S. military as well as U.S. intelligence operations. Some believe spending for both entities should be cut severely. Why, some critics say, does the U.S. need the CIA in a post-Cold War world?
Experience tells us, however, that the more cuts are made in military expenditures, the more important intelligence reports become. If military resources are limited, it becomes even more vital to know where to direct those resources. What weapons will the U.S. military be called upon to counteract? In what regions are military conflicts most likely to flare? Are there political or diplomatic moves that could prevent a military encounter? All of these are questions that need to be addressed both by official diplomats and by less above-board means of information-gathering.
There certainly is no absence of intelligence targets. The primary focus of the CIA may no longer be the Soviet Union or Eastern Europe, but there certainly is a need for reliable information about other world hotspots. It's a cinch, for instance, that Iraq's Saddam Hussein isn't going to give American diplomats any reliable information about the internal operations of his country. And even in countries with which the U.S. has reliable diplomatic ties, the best or at least the most complete information about what's going on inside a country may not necessarily come from official sources.
In short, the best way for the U.S. to minimize the need for military intervention and make sure any use of military forces is well-aimed and successful is to know as much as it can about what is going on around the world. And agencies like the CIA will continue to play a vital role in supplying that information. That sort of intelligence is perhaps even more important to promoting world peace than any military weaponry could ever be.