Soon, if not now, thermo-nuclear tipped ICBMs will be able to spurt from Russian controlled territory to almost any point in the United States within thirty minutes or less. This thought is the source of many a nightmare throughout the country and the cause of much insomnia in Washington. Should the majority of our deterrent forces be caught on the ground or destroyed in the first onslaught of a general war, we would indeed “have had it” both as a nation and as individuals. This possibility has driven us to dispersal of SAC aircraft and missiles, rotating SAC aircraft from field to field, consideration of keeping a portion of SAC aircraft in the air at all times, the maintenance of SAC aircraft at many fields in the “cocked configuration,” the development, construction, and maintenance of complex defensive batteries to protect SAC bases, and the performance of many other acts, all of which are essential to prevent surprise and all of which are very expensive, but necessary now. Such acts and plans are essential because our deterrent forces are vulnerable to surprise attack. You cannot deter the calculating, aggressive controlling group in the Kremlin once you permit them to believe they can destroy a major portion of our retaliatory forces by an unexpected, devastating first blow.
If then our deterrent/retaliatory forces were relatively invulnerable, no matter what the Russians tried to do, we might in fact truly put behind us the frightening possibilities of general nuclear war. But how is invulnerability of one’s forces achieved? Probably invulnerability in the absolute sense can never be attained because never yet in the history of man has either a guaranteed defense or an “ultimate weapon” really been conceived.
Accepting this inability to attain perfection, what can be done? Well, at any given time one system of defense or offense is more effective, relatively speaking, than others to perform the same task. Our objective then must be to design, develop, and produce systems whose degree of invulnerability in relation to others is and will be for the longest possible period of time the highest attainable. Only by possessing systems of a high degree of relative invulnerability can we attain any stability in the level of forces necessary to deter.
But what is the nature of “deterrence?” First, it is the Russians who must be deterred. Whatever deterrence is, it is what the Russians believe it to be that must concern us. It is their history and the public statements of their leaders (“we’ll bury you”) that indicates the possibility of their initiating a surprise attack on the United States. We must, then, create a state-of-mind among the leaders of Russia that no matter how powerful their initial assault on us, we would have enough left to so devastate their homeland as to make an attack on us unprofitable. Only when such a state of mind is created, can it be said we are deterring the Kremlin. History also shows us that the desire for the safety and integrity of the Russian homeland itself generates probably the most powerful force, short of family loyalty, motivating a Russian. If then we can create a belief among the Russian leaders that we possess relatively invulnerable forces, the majority of which can survive a surprise attack, no matter how strong, and that these forces are powerful enough to destroy the major industrial concentrations of Russia, it is a fairly safe bet that the Russian leaders will be deterred.
At this moment in 1959 the United States £\. seems to have two avenues of approach toward attaining relative invulnerability for its deterrent/retaliatory forces, one avenue being the use of the “fortress concept” and the other the use of the “true mobility concept.” Because our deterrent/retaliatory forces consist now almost solely of the aircraft of the Strategic Air Command, and because these aircraft when on the ground are easily damaged, attaining relative invulnerability is a very, very costly business. The approach here is essentially the use of the fortress concept, i.e., making the SAC bases so “hard” and so well defended that some of them, and therefore some of the aircraft, are bound to survive and be able to retaliate. The same fortress concept is also being applied to the construction of some ICBM bases. This approach has no limit, however, and leads directly to an arms race by forcing the enemy to produce more of already tested thermonuclear weapons and to develop new ones of bigger and bigger yields. No matter how hard you make a base, and each degree of increasing hardness forces construction costs into a geometrically increasing spiral, an enemy can always assign enough of presently available thermo-nuclear weapons to destroy it. Of course, the bigger the yield of the weapons, the wider the area of devastation around the base. In short, the fortress concept of achieving relative invulnerability may be of temporary value, lacking anything else, but it leads directly to an arms race and is uneconomical and impractical in the long run.
To indicate that the limitations of the fortress concept have been recognized to a certain degree, note that “dispersal,” “field rotation,” and “constantly airborne” are phrases frequently used today in discussing our deterrent/retaliatory forces. In fact, these phrases are merely ways of describing the other means of achieving relative invulnerability, i.e. by mobility. If aircraft or missiles are constantly on the move, the enemy’s problem is made more difficult because we all know a moving target is harder to hit than one standing still. Unless an aircraft is constantly airborne ready to go, how much mobility is really achieved by either dispersal of bases or field rotation? Airfields, especially those needed to handle the huge heavy aircraft of SAC, are complex, large, fixed installations. In themselves they are very expensive. To get dispersal you have to have lots of them and each has to have its complex defensive network to give it any chance of survival. This adds up quickly. The same reasoning applies to field or base rotation. As long as the field is fixed, it is immobile. The chances are excellent that the Russians know its location precisely, for such complexes cannot be hidden. Bases for ICBMs suffer the same disadvantages. Our huge liquid-fueled ballistic missiles are in fact more tied to fixed, complex, large, defended base sites than our aircraft. Land-based, solid-fueled ballistic missiles offer many advantages because of their characteristics of simplicity, reliability, and instant readiness for launching. But even though one builds thousands of launching holes for them all over the country and “rotates” the ones which are loaded, the concept remains essentially a static one. Like airfields and other ICBM bases, the launching holes are fixed, immobile, their location known to the Russians, and as our NATO friends say of IRBM bases, could act as “lightning rods” by collecting the attention of Russian missiles and aircraft on themselves and the surrounding countryside. In fact then, although we have discussed phrases whose meaning would imply mobility on the part of a system, we find really that with one exception we are still talking about the static, fortress concept. The one exception is the aircraft in flight, ready to go. Even they, however, must return to the breast of mother fortress within time measured in hours rather than months.
Real mobility is achieved only when the base moves with the system which it supports —not a slow, easily discernible monthly, weekly, or even daily movement, but a hidden, stealthy, unpredictable minute by minute movement. Such mobility is available today in nuclear-propelled submarines. Here is a base, covered by the opaque fortress of the sea, which is truly mobile in the sense that it is capable of constant, stealthy, unpredictable movement in a medium which hides it and covers 70% of the earth’s surface. It needs no costly, complex defensive system to protect it. Combine this truly mobile, self-contained base with a ballistic missile system using solid fuel and you will have a deterrent /retaliatory system which approaches having true invulnerability. In any case, this system possesses the highest degree of relative invulnerability for the least relative cost of any yet conceived. Happily the Navy is in the process of developing this combination into a system called the Fleet Ballistic Missile Weapon System, the first operating units of which will be available as early as 1960. This system puts together the nuclear-powered submarine and a 1,500-mile range, solid-fueled, ballistic missile, known as Polaris. Polaris and the nuclear- powered submarine, designed as an entity, provide us with a system which makes the very most of the mobility concept, while remaining hidden and drawing enemy fire away from, not toward, the United States.
At this point let us remember that so far in the history of civilization man has not produced a truly ultimate weapon and probably never will. For this reason alone, the United States must always have more than one weapon system designed primarily for the deterrent/retaliatory role. In other words, despite the many attractions of the Polaris system, others must supplement its contribution. This, however, should not be used as a license for the design, development, and production of an overlapping conglomeration of various types of deterrent/retaliatory systems. With these systems as expensive as they are, and they are truly billion-dollar monsters, there is a limit which we as a nation can afford.
There are some who would have us create forces plentiful enough to knock out every Russian air base, missile base, supply depot, headquarters, and rail head. There are myriads of such targets. When one counts the forces necessary merely to take them under fire, one is appalled. To these forces must be added the numbers necessary to allow for those destroyed by the initial surprise Russian assault, the attrition to be expected in penetrating Russian defenses, lack of 100% reliability, and maintenance, administrative, and logistic support. The total approaches the astronomical. Utilization of this “blunting” or “counterforce” concept requires proportional additions to our deterrent/retaliatory forces every time the Russians build a new missile or air base. In fact, this is the sort of unlimited, chase-your-tail philosophy which we are following now. And what is the sense of destroying an enemy ICBM base or bomber base after the birds have flown? The damage has been done and little gain is to be derived from destroying empty nests. The blunting concept then is an unlimited one in the sense that it does not permit the establishment of a foreseeable upper limit either on the size of American forces devoted solely to the implementation of our policy of deterrence or to the yields of the thermonuclear bombs carried by them. Continued use of this concept can lead only to demands for an ever increasing share of the national economy to provide the forces required to support it.
The blunting concept is wasteful and, if it is ever actually used, would probably so disrupt civilization as we know it, that what remains would be unrecognizable. Is there then a concept which is limited and which, if we are forced to execute it, will afford an acceptable chance for the continuation of a recognizable civilization? The answer is very definitely yes, for there is a calculable upper limit upon the relatively invulnerable forces necessary to create in the mind of the Russian leaders the image of being deterred. The basic calculation is simple and starts with a count of the number of major industrial concentrations in Russia. Given this number and the known damaging effect of a thermo-nuclear weapon of a certain yield, the number of megatons which must be delivered on target is revealed. Working backward from this figure and accounting for attrition (numbers of weapons lost while penetrating enemy defenses), less than 100% reliability, losses of “effectives” due to down time for maintenance, numbers of weapons needed to fill logistic pipelines and those needed for training, one arrives at the total number of weapons required.
How inclined would the Russians be toward launching a surprise assault on the U.S. if they knew that before they were through, the majority of their industrial concentrations would be rubble? You know the answer as well as I do. The point, therefore, is quite simple, if we are willing to face the problem realistically. Unless we do, either defense costs will continue to accelerate like a fast riding shot of a lunar probe or our forces will be inadequate not only for deterrence but for limited war as well.
We have accepted as a fact that should a general (all-out nuclear) war occur, it will come about as a result of a surprise attack made upon this country by Russia. For such an attack to stand any chance of success, it must be a co-ordinated, overwhelming assault; that is, at the very start Russia must commit the majority of her strategic forces. Since the only thing left to us then is to retaliate, should we retaliate with our surviving forces against empty bomber and missile bases? I think not, for surely this is an act of closing the barn door after the horses have gone. What do the Russians care if you destroy empty missile and air bases? If you shoot at enough of them, and they are numerous, you would undoubtedly destroy a great deal of Russia in the bargain. Presuming sufficient of our forces have survived the initial assault, the prospect of being able to destroy the majority of Russia with this remainder should be an effective deterrent. But this is such a costly, inefficient, wasteful way to do it.
We found out in World War II that when you permit an enemy no option other than “unconditional surrender,” you must destroy his country by a fight to the finish. We know that if the German people had had an option short of unconditional surrender, such as afforded the Japanese, they would have in all probability overthrown Hitler and sued for peace. And what happened? Hitler used the unconditional surrender ultimatum to strengthen his hand and prolong the struggle to its bloody, wasteful end. Germany became a power vacuum. There was utter destruction everywhere, and the nation had ceased to exist as an organized entity. As you know, the problem of divided Germany still has a mortgage on the future. Indeed, Western Germany is no longer a mound of rubble; far from it. But who supported much of her recovery? You, John Doe, taxpayer.
And what is the point of this discussion of Germany? Just this—as horrible as the possibilities of general nuclear war may be, one must, if there is to be any future at all, examine the conditions which might exist after a nuclear exchange. Let us assume we come out of it with the advantage, however that may be defined. And let us assume that we have adhered to the blunting concept of retaliation wherein every ICBM, IRBM, and long range aircraft base, every critical supply depot, headquarters, etc. belonging to the Russians was thoroughly clobbered by our nuclear weapons. You could put what was left of Russia through a sieve. Then what? Could the world possibly readjust to such a calamity? Perhaps, but not in this century.
In other words, the blunting concept is an uncontrollable, unconditional surrender ultimatum which permits neither us nor the Russians any room for maneuver. It leads directly to a spiraling arms race which the directed, controlled Russian economy can probably afford for a longer time than ours can. Eventually the strength of the Russian assault could far outweigh the forces we must maintain for both defending ourselves and retaliating, not to mention fighting limited wars.
This is a pretty gloomy picture but it does not have to be so. Let us recall the Russian’s predilection for the safety and integrity of his homeland, the value of possessing a deterrent/ retaliatory system of high relative invulnerability, that the industrial concentrations of significance in Russia do not exceed 200 in number and are not only the centers of Russian industry but governmental organization, communications, stock piles and population as well. Put these facts together and we begin to see the possibilities of fielding forces to implement our national policy of deterrence which we can afford and upon which there is a fixed, and calculable upper limit. Stability of deterrent/retaliatory force levels can be achieved and, furthermore, the foregoing facts can be combined in such a way as to provide for the first time flexibility and the important element of control to the application of our national policy. National policy, therefore, need no longer remain straight- jacketed by the all-or-nothing, massive retaliation blunting concept. Maneuvering room can be provided within which our government can negotiate internationally from a position of controlled and flexible strength.
Assuming that we wish to damage the surprise initiator of a general war only enough to force her to capitulate and that revenge is not our only motive, here is a controlled and flexible way in which this can be done without forcing us into national bankruptcy. Starting with the number of industrial concentrations which we deem sufficient to be convincing and working back through the simple calculation discussed above, we come out with the size and types of forces necessary to insure the destruction of the industrial concentrations selected. The size and cost of such forces is a very small percentage of those necessary to execute a blunting type of retalitation. We then should bend every effort to create, maintain, and replace, as the weapons obsolesce with time, the force levels and types necessary to destroy the selected industrial concentrations. Being assured that these forces possess high relative invulnerability, we should then make it known to the Russians through diplomatic channels what they could expect in the way of retaliation should they initiate general war.
In the event the Russians accidentally initiate a general war, let us hit back instantly and hard by destroying two or three of the predesignated Russian centers. With the assurance, however, that the great majority of our forces would survive, we need not and should not immediately retaliate with the major portion of them. Instead, we should proclaim immediately which additional Russian concentration (or concentrations) will be destroyed unless their attack ceases forthwith. If the attack does not cease within the specified time limit, the concentration is then destroyed. In effect, this policy provides for graduated and controlled retaliation. It provides room for negotiation and hopefully does not reduce entire nations to rubble. Does this sound somewhat familiar? Although the situation was far from being directly comparable because the enemy did not possess atomic weapons, it is illustrative of the fact that this policy is the same one which the United States used to negotiate a surrender from the Japanese.
Adoption now of a policy of “finite deterrence” or “controlled retaliation,” such as outlined above, would lead to large immediate and future savings of materials, manpower, and money. A portion of such savings could and should be used to augment the capabilities of our services to fight “limited wars.” As the horrors of general war and the inevitable devastation which we could inflict on their industrial centers are brought home to the Russians by a U. S. policy of finite deterrence, the possibilities of such a war occurring become more remote. Under such conditions, highly mobile, instantly ready, hard-hitting forces for “putting out fires” assume ever increasing importance. With a manageable, calculable upper limit on the relatively invulnerable forces necessary to implement a national policy of finite deterrence, we then can afford not only to keep them at peak efficiency, but also to provide and maintain those necessary to successfully handle limited wars.
Of course, there will be immediate objections from many sources to the adoption of a national policy the expressed intent of which is to concentrate our retaliation, when required, on the industrial centers of the aggressor. Some of these objections will come from those genuinely motivated by considerations of religious morality. To those all that can be said is that yes, it is a horrible prospect. Indeed, any amount of nuclear exchange is horrible to contemplate. The controlled retaliation concept suggested herein, however, would, if it ever had to be put into action, cause far fewer world-wide casualties then would the massive retaliation, blunting concept now in vogue. In other words, if any policy which contemplates the use of thermonuclear weapons can be said to be in accord with generally accepted concepts of morality, the one which causes far fewer total casualties can be said to be the more moral.
Others, who genuinely fear that a controlled retaliation concept will not afford the degree of deterrence necessary to prevent the Russians from initiating general war, will quite naturally object. This is desirable, for only if such a vitally important problem is debated on the highest plane by our best people, can our Nation be guided safely through the shoals of a nuclear age.
There will be still others objecting vociferously who will not be motivated so genuinely but will attempt to wear the guise of one who is. They will be struggling for a temporary advantage perhaps in the political arena, perhaps in the jungle of competition in industry or in putting forth a particular point of view held dearly by a partisan group within one of the Services. These groups could become particularly noisy and dangerous should it appear that a major reduction in government expenditures for deterrent/retaliatory weapon systems were to be made possible by the adoption of a policy of finite deterrence, controlled retaliation. It would be essential to identify and separate such groups from those with honest beliefs. This would be extremely difficult, but not impossible, and must be attempted by an examination of motives and by having an informed, alert public.
As indicated earlier, a national policy of finite deterrence/controlled retaliation presupposes that our weapon systems designed for this application possess inherently high relative invulnerability to a surprise assault. It has also been shown that this characteristic is maximized in systems possessing real mobility and the ability to remain concealed. It followed that the Navy’s Fleet Ballistic Weapon System (Polaris plus the nuclear-powered submarine) possesses inherent invulnerability to a considerably higher degree than any other system conceived, under development, or in existence of the same purpose. Remembering that man has not, and probably never will, conceive an “ultimate” weapon, it is apparent that, despite differences in the degree of invulnerability between systems, we cannot afford to concentrate our total effort on just one weapon system for deterrence. It is equally apparent, however, that the major portion of our available effort should go toward developing, producing, and maintaining the systems promising invulnerability in the highest degree and which draw enemy fire away from, not toward, the United States. Only then can we achieve a greater degree of stability in the force levels necessary to backup a national policy of graduated deterrence /controlled retaliation. And only this policy provides the degree of flexibility and control so essential to our Government in international negotiations to prevent general war. Simultaneously, this policy will provide sufficient conventional forces to permit our Government to negotiate from strength in brush fire situations in the face of blackmail threats of general war. And finally, should general war accidentally occur, this suggested policy of controlled retaliation is the only one which affords hope of civilization, as we know it, surviving the holocaust.