Of all the spawn of modern technology, packaging is perhaps the most ostentatious. And as every husband knows, if he has followed his wife through a supermarket—- doing a man’s work and pushing the cart— the most alluring packages of our time are well-nigh irresistible. This we may call compulsive packaging. The ultimate weapon, in the war for supermarket sales, will be a package so compulsive that it deprives the housewife-shopper of the exercise of free will. It will be a package she reaches off the shelf involuntarily—irrespective of its contents or her husband’s food phobias. The packaging industry is believed to be near this technological breakthrough.
Moving quickly from supermarket to chancellery, and to the realm of national strategy, we find the same compulsive packaging at work. All of us, professional military men and laymen, but more especially laymen, are prone to judge alternative national strategies, as our wives do frozen TV dinners, by the glamor of the outer wrapping. And the chief difficulty here is the facile assumption that our basic strategic problem in the 1960’s is utterly novel, because the dominant weapons are so new. The wonder-weapons of this period of galloping technological change are undeniably fabulous in their novelty and intricacy, their range and power to destroy. And so, like a wrapper of tinted, printed cellophane, they obscure and distort the strategic problem inside. Yet it is much the same problem, in essentials, that our grandfathers had to grapple with, and had to solve in a context of 6-mile artillery ranges.
Here then is the recurrent dilemma of all national strategy. We cannot and dare not solve the strategical problems of the nuclear and rocket age by simply applying neat rules of thumb evolved by admirals and generals now gracing the plazas of Washington, D.C., in bronze. But neither can we focus on true strategy if we are bemused by weapons systems, which are but the tools of war. The effort must be made, therefore, to strip off the gaudy wrappings and discover in just what ways our contemporary problem of national strategy is like past problems. For wise policy-making is still, as it always was, a business of applying to new situations the principles found salutary in past experience.
Our central problem is to summon—or create—and then organize and deploy the forces and resources to contain, and if necessary vanquish, the Soviet bloc. This is a many-sided enterprise, embracing weapons development, the strengthening of our production machine, the nurture of a sturdy national spirit, the cultivation of allies, the conduct of a shrewd foreign policy respecting neutrals and prospective enemies, and so on. In this essay, our concern is chiefly with a single but pivotal component of that total strategy—the care and feeding of a great alliance system, one to surpass in all possible ways that of the Soviet Union.
In a subtle and paradoxical way, the nature of this problem of alliances has been changing in the postwar period. The change is best seen by labelling the year 1950 (somewhat arbitrarily) as the great watershed of postwar history. Before that year, the United States enjoyed a monopoly of nuclear weapons, plus other factors of superiority, but was handicapped by a weak, divided, demoralized West Europe, alarmingly vulnerable to Soviet seizure. Since 1950, there has come into being an equilibrium of nuclear power and delivery capacity—a balance of terror, as the phrasemongers like to say. But there also has emerged in this decade a strong, healthy, productive, integrated, and confident West Europe. In a decade, America lost a weapons monopoly but gained an alliance. This does not make wonder-weapons unimportant. But it does make our alliances more important, relative to weapons, than they had been.
The Communist alliance has grown in strength in the same interval, however, mainly by the addition of China and North Vietnam, but also by the better discipline and integration of the European Satellites, and by some extension of Soviet influence and power beyond Eurasia—in the Middle East, West Africa, and most lately Cuba.
All this argues the increased importance of our alliances, especially NATO. Yet there is another side to it—the concentration of destructive power and delivery capacity in the two super-powers, the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R. As postwar weapons systems of vastly greater cost and technological complexity have evolved, only those two powers have tried to stay seriously in the competition —striving for qualitative and quantitative superiority. Nearly all the power to work massive destruction, and nearly all the capacity to deliver such destructive force on target, is in the hands of Washington and Moscow. Their share of the total of such power in being may be of the order of 99 44/100 per cent, if we estimate by the yardsticks of (1) megatons of TNT equivalent of destructive power and (2) ton-miles per hour of delivery capacity.
This enormous disparity between (1) the power of the two super-states and (2) that of all other states, allied or neutral, is so great that alliances might seem to be dwarfed. Giants such as these, one might assume, do not need allies. But that is by no means the case. Indeed, those are grossly misleading yardsticks. What the super-powers have is the capacity to destroy civilization on the Earth pretty effectively. But because this potential is so complete, it is fairly unlikely to be used. This holds, in the conditions of our time, even though there are about the globe some adventurers of personal ambition and irresponsibility, masked as premiers and dictators, quite capable of provoking a holocaust in the pursuit of their own petty but fanatic goals. Despite the fact that these adult delinquents are playing with matches in a global powder magazine, the nuclear stalemate seems to be markedly durable. And the result is to immobilize the vast bulk of the military power in being— the deterrent power, the use of which would ordain the ruin of the user quite as fully as his intended victim. In turn, this means the rivalry of the two giant power systems is transferred—sublimated, as one might say— from strategic wonder-weapons to the lower levels of international competition—to limited and localized war, to economic conflict, to rival aid programs, to propaganda and infiltration, to diplomacy.
So we are just about back where we were before the military technologists spelled out in weapons the implications of that pregnant equation E=MC2. Except for the high and rising burden of maintaining and improving our deterrent potential, and the ever-present hazard of an incident or blunder that may plunge the world into an atomic shambles, nuclear weapons and ballistic delivery systems are not doing anyone very much good —or very much harm. Indeed, for the purposes of strategic policy planning, it may be useful now and then to pretend that the fissionable atom.and the long-range rocket have been put back into Pandora’s box, and the key thrown away. (Strategic planners and weapons experts specifically charged with the development of deterrent power, however, are excused from engaging in this particular exercise of imagination.)
Now if, in accordance with these arbitrary assumptions, the deterrent capacities of the two super-powers cancel out, their alliances take on a new and crucial importance in their defense systems. However greatly they overshadow their allies in the TNT equivalent they keep stockpiled in their deterrent armories, neither the United States nor the Soviet Union overshadows its partners or satellites in production, area, population, military manpower, or such. For the purposes of rivalry at lower levels than nuclear missile war, the giants are themselves overshadowed by the coalitions they lead.
In short, nuclear stalemate and the resulting immobilization of the prime weapons of our age have the net effect of making both super-powers much more dependent on the alliances they have built. And as will be shown, this is far more true of the United States than of the Soviet Union.
It is time now to examine the two rival alliance systems, as to their composition, resources and characteristics. The United States took the lead in forming, and maintains the initiative in guiding or managing, a complex of alliances. This embraces NATO with 15 members encircling the North Atlantic Ocean, the Rio treaty system of 20 American republics, the alliance with Japan, the SEATO alliance linking five nations of Southeast Asia and Oceania with the United States, United Kingdom, and France. And, although not formally a member but merely an associated power, the United States plays a similar role in respect to CENTO, including Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, and Great Britain.
In this intricate, interlocking system, the great NATO coalition is the heart, while the other, peripheral alliances contribute variously to the strength of America’s anti-Soviet strategy. The Soviet alliance, in practical terms, includes the U.S.S.R., seven East European Satellites, mainland China, North Korea, and North Vietnam.
Superficially, the Soviet bloc is the greater. It covers 12,127,000 square miles, compared with 7,974,000 for the NATO system. It embraces a total population of 970,000,000, compared with 450,000,000 in the Western bloc. And if we could measure military strength by counting noses, which of course we cannot, the Soviet alliance would be the more potent. It has approximately 9,300,000 men under arms on active service. The total in the NATO nations is far less. Even counting in all the allies of the United States, NATO and other, there are about 8,700,000. By another sort of yardstick, economic resources and production, the Western-alliance looks far better.
Our concern here, however, is not the well- nigh impossible task of measuring the strength of these opposing blocs, but the much easier one of noting their basic and distinguishing characteristics. On this score, we find they differ profoundly in four highly important ways—in geographic nature, in the character of the bonds which hold them together, in homogeneity as to wealth and economic development, and in comparative rates of economic growth.
First, as to geography, the Soviet bloc is a much tidier enterprise. It is a compact, continental alliance. All of it lies in the Eurasian land mass; and save for Albania, its members are contiguous. In striking contrast, the U. S. alliance system is dispersed and oceanic in character. The North Atlantic Alliance is strewn rather fancifully around the perimeters of the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean Sea. Of the 15 members, the United States, Canada, and Iceland are separated from the others by oceanic space. Turkey, Greece, Portugal, United Kingdom, and Norway are separated from the remainder by water or by sizeable land areas of non-member territory. When the other alliances of the United States are taken into account also, the oceanic and dispersed nature of its defense system is still more marked. Indeed, nothing remotely like this global octopus of military agreements ever has been constructed in previous history, either in war or in peace.
As to the sanctions of the two alliances, the bonds that unite them, the difference is easily summed up. One is essentially coercive, the other not. The Soviet Union’s primary alliance, with the European Satellites, was built on outright coercion and is so maintained— as the suppression of revolt in Hungary in 1956 so tragically demonstrated. The tie with China is different. It rests mainly on (1) the isolation of China from the outer world, (2) China’s economic dependence on Russia, and (3) the bonds of Communist ideology. (These last, to be sure, are under strain, for Russian and Chinese notions of Communism are diverging markedly.) In the main, therefore, the Soviet alliance is founded on, and sustained by, coercion, both military and economic. The U. S. alliances, on the other hand, are without exception voluntary. They represent the free association of sovereign states that are equals, not in power and wealth, but in their complete freedom to make their own policies. As contrasted with the coercive system of the Communist world, the Western structure is one of consent.
Looking at economic homogeneity, we find greater disparities among the Western allies. In per capita income, the NATO nations range from the highest in the world, in the United States, down to a level one-fifteenth as great, in Turkey, and from the highest level of technology down to nations classed as underdeveloped. The Soviet bloc nations, while they average much lower in the maturity and sophistication of their economies, are more nearly on a plane of equality. In fact, several of the Satellite countries, such as Poland and Czechoslovakia, are on a higher level of economic development and living standards than is the dominant power, the U.S.S.R. This contrast is much more extreme when comparison is made between the Soviet bloc and the entire complex of U. S. alliance systems, not merely NATO.
Finally, there is the matter of economic growth. There are almost as many opinions about U. S. and Soviet economic growth rates as there are economists to study the problem. But for our purposes here, we may settle for the figures gathered by the Central Intelligence Agency and published by the Joint Economic Committee of Congress. These show the United States and its allies growing (in gross national product) only about half as fast as the Russian bloc.
Of all these four contrasts between the two great alliance systems, the most important surely is geographic. It is true today, as in centuries past, that an oceanic alliance of dispersed nations must respond to totally different strategic imperatives from those governing the conduct of a continental alliance. But the other three differences of characteristics also have important implications for America’s foreign and military policy.
Before exploring those implications, however, we must take note of the importance to each of the super-powers of their alliances. If we measure by numbers of men under arms on active duty, America looks to its allies for 71 per cent of the effective strength of the western alliances. But the allies of the U.S.S.R. contribute only 51 per cent to the Soviet bloc. If we measure by active ground-force strength, America’s allies contribute 84 per cent, those of the Soviet Union 59 per cent. In terms of operational aircraft, the United States looks to its allies for 41 per cent of the total of the Western alliance system, while Russia draws on its allies for only 24 per cent. In naval power, as measured by numbers of combatant vessels (a rough index, admittedly), America’s allies provide 57 per cent of the western total, and Russia’s allies but 23 per cent of the Soviet bloc total.
In respect to all these military yardsticks, therefore, the United States is more dependent on its allies than is the Soviet Union. Making an equivalent comparison of economic production is a treacherous task. But it can be said, using rounded figures, that the allies of the U.S.S.R. have together a gross national product around 60 per cent of that of the Soviet Union. And America’s allies (not counting their overseas possessions) have a gross national product equal to 120 per cent of that of the United States. In spite of the large sums of money allocated by the United States to aid its partners, therefore, the United States really is far more dependent on its allies, in economic terms, than is the U.S.S.R.
When growth rates are taken into account, this contrast is reinforced. The over-all gross national product of the U. S. blocs is roughly double that of the Soviet coalition. We in the West have a generous lead in total production. But as we have seen above, the U.S.S.R. has almost twice the growth rate of the United States. Russia’s allies, however, have about the same growth rates it has, while some of America’s more important allies (West Germany, for example) have growth rates fully equal to that of the Soviet Union. Consequently, when we count in the alliances on both sides, America’s position is considerably better, in comparison with the U.S.S.R. To generalize, the U.S.S.R. is gaining rapidly on the U.S.A. in production, but the whole Soviet bloc is not gaining nearly as rapidly on the complex of western alliances.
On all counts, military and economic, therefore, America finds itself more dependent on its allies than does the Soviet Union. And as we project the Soviet challenge farther into the future, given the divergence of growth rates, it is clear that America’s relative dependence on its allies will become greater over the decade ahead.
How do the super-powers depend on their allies in other respects—strategic and geographic? At first blush, it would seem that the importance of America’s allies has been reduced by weapons changes. The Polaris fleet ballistic missile system, the aircraft carrier with planes of augmented power and range, and the intercontinental ballistic missile-— mainly products of nuclear and rocket technology—all tend to reduce America’s need for, and the value of, overseas bases. Overseas allies therefore would appear to be less vital. But if we persist in our earlier hypothesis— that the nuclear stalemate is likely to hold— then we cannot downgrade overseas allies very much, even though the military bases on their territory are downgraded for the purposes of major war.
Deterrent power, although absolutely vital to the national safety, does not make up for the contributions made by our allies, save as that deterrent power actually is used in hostilities. Only in general nuclear war would America’s virtual monopoly of destructive and delivery power dwarf its allies to relative insignificance. If, as appears more likely, economic rivalry and local conflicts are to be the planes of competition, we are left with the conclusion that America is more dependent on its coalition members than is the U.S.S.R. on its allies.
Now it is appropriate to seek a comparative appraisal of these two giant alliance systems in terms of the four differences remarked above. First there is the contrast of an oceanic with a continental alliance. Military history is loaded with such comparisons. A continental alliance of contiguous states has the advantage of shorter interior lines of communication. It has a shorter defense perimeter. Provided it embraces a diversity of climates and resources, as the Soviet alliance does, it is quite self-contained and does not need such elaborate and vulnerable systems of supply over great distances.
An oceanic alliance, on the other hand, represents a great dispersal of targets, reducing vulnerability to enemy action. It has the special mobility of sea power, and the means of threatening attack from a variety of bearings, forcing the enemy to spread his defenses thin. Here the oceanic alliance imposes on its rival the handicap about which Napoleon complained so bitterly when he faced the British fleet with his land armies, and the handicap that Nazi Germany incurred as the Allies prepared Operation Overlord in early 1944. An oceanic alliance has a further flexibility enabling it to transfer the conflict to wholly new theaters, when circumstances make this advantageous. An oceanic alliance, furthermore, requiring emphasis on mobile sea forces, makes it possible in the atomic age to develop an elusive deterrent power, invulnerable to surprise or other attack—as the United States is doing with impressive speed and efficiency in the fleet ballistic missile weapons system. And while it is secondary, it is worth noting that members of an oceanic alliance have at their disposal a much more economical logistical system.
On balance, however, the plus and minus items pretty well cancel out, as between oceanic and continental alliances. We should not count on any overriding, inherent superiority of our alliance system because it is dispersed and maritime. What we can do, and must, is to recognize that each type of alliance ordains an emphasis on certain kinds of weapons, and varying degrees of dispersion or concentration in their deployment. With an alliance system dispersed around the globe, the United States is obliged to lavish a large part of its technical brains, money, and other resources on development of sea and air-sea power, leaving to the Soviet Union the privilege of building up numerical superiority in ground forces—a privilege it has exercised, and which should not alarm us unduly. All the reasons why an oceanic alliance requires this concentration on sea and air-sea power are familiar, and do not need to be repeated here.
Next, we must evaluate the two alliance systems as coercive and non-coercive. Here Americans are dangerously liable to self-deception. For years, we have been telling each other, comfortingly, that a coercive state, held together by naked police power, is both brittle and inefficient, lacking as it does the incentives of free men. We have heard it repeated countless times that satellite states, recruited by military power and held in fief by coercion, are restless, unreliable, and reluctant to play their assigned roles.
It is altogether natural that free men should think all this. We glory in our freedom, and draw strength from it. But in making strategic decisions of awesome gravity, we cannot trust in glib clichés or cheery assumptions. We must look at the facts, at realities. And the truth is that the Soviet economic advance in the postwar period gives no evidence that enslaved men—as we call them from our citadel of freedom—cannot be efficient producers, gifted scientists, skilled technologists, and patriotic, loyal citizens. From some time looking about in Russia, and from much other evidence, I am obliged to believe that the Soviet Union is in no more danger of serious disaffection or civil war than is the United States, and that the Soviet people are no more likely to break under the strain of adversity in cold or hot war than are the American people. In a word, we cannot build a viable strategy on the defects of the Soviet system, on the hypothesis that it will collapse.
The coercive alliance is different, to be sure. The Poles, Hungarians, and others have made clear their distaste for the Russians and for Communism, in various ways. But the larger fact is that the satellites, and even China, are being fitted into the great coalition of the Marxist world with fair success. Year by year, their economies are being made to dove-tail advantageously. And through diverse compromises, the antagonism of the European satellites towards Communism is being mitigated. Thus some fairly stable political societies are being forged—by making economic ties with the U.S.S.R. more attractive, and by excusing the satellite nations from the obligation to enforce Communist principles all down the line. So we cannot assume that a crisis would bring the satellite peoples flocking to our side—or even that they would be wholly reluctant allies of the U.S.S.R.
Neither can we ignore the creakings of the NATO coalition, or the tendency of some of our allies to drag their feet in the common defense. Furthermore, there are some advantages in a coercive coalition in which the Kremlin arbitrarily assigns certain weapons to appropriate allies, never worrying about what armament its amour propre may demand. And there are undoubted advantages in an economic system by which governments can force industrial growth and high arms production at the expense of the living standards of the people.
In the U. S. alliance complex, by contrast, the jet fighter plane has been a status symbol. It is politically risky to tell any government, however primitive its facilities and however meager its skills, that it cannot have a squadron of jets. In the Western alliance, furthermore, all sorts of crucial decisions must be made by cumbersome committees, with due regard for each government’s deference to public opinion at home. It is perhaps just as well that even in America, with its fairly high percentage of gross national product allocated to defense costs, we have such a fabulously high gross national product to levy upon. If we were obliged to ask of the American people as great a sacrifice of living standards as the Kremlin requires of the Russian people without asking, it would take superb gifts of leadership at Washington to dramatize the need for such sacrifice in peacetime.
There is a corollary to this contrast of coercive and non-coercive alliances. Because they are coercive, because they are police states, the Soviet bloc nations have the means of maintaining a high order of secrecy within their boundaries, compared with what the free-world nations can achieve. As a result, the U.S.S.R. can rely on fixed missile bases with much greater confidence than can we. The U.S.S.R. can conceal much more easily the quantities and characteristics of its newer weapons, as well as their locations. And not least, it can conceal from its own people and associated peoples the true cost to them of armament production, weapons development, heavy industry expansion, and technical education—four of their high-priority enterprises that come out of living standards. Finally, and perhaps the most important of all, a coercive political system at the core of a coercive alliance, can by the fiat of a few leaders decide how much of the total resources of the alliance are to be used for precisely what purposes. It can concentrate any desired share of its money, materials, technical brains, labor and production capacity on any project, or any segment of its total geopolitical effort.
This is not to ignore the advantages of a voluntary alliance of free peoples. They are many, and they are great. But our concern here is simply to emphasize that the non-coercive system of the West is not so superior (in terms of military advantage) as we usually have assumed.
The prime implication of the Western “alliance by consent” is simply that we must respect the mores of a free society, that we must take infinite pains to make known to all the Western alliances the full measure of their danger and their obligation. Another implication is that the United States must respect the sovereignty of each ally and not only consult in advance of decisions on common policies, but accept the principle of joint decision. In an alliance of free democracies, the democratic process must be honored at the highest level of that alliance. The U.S.S.R. generally can impose a policy on its allies. The United States always must exercise leadership through persuasion.
This brings us to the relative homogeneity of the Soviet alliance system, and the lesser uniformity of the Western. The Kremlin can get away with quite ruthless and oppressive exploitation of the Poles, Czechs, and Hungarians, for example, not only because it has the coercive power, but also because they are somewhat better off as to the state of their industrial or agricultural development and their living standards. It can exact fairly uniform sacrifices of all the peoples of the bloc, because they are nearly all of them at a medium-low level—and have little means of protest. The United States can make no equivalent demand of its allies, even its NATO allies. This is best seen by comparing annual national product per capita. For recent years, it ranges from $2,600 in the United States and $1,900 in Canada downwards to an average of about $1,000 in the western European member states, and on down to perhaps $150 in Turkey. If we extend this comparison to various Asian and Latin American allies, the discrepancy becomes downright spectacular. (In Pakistan, for example, with $65 a year per capita, the average income figures out at about 2.2 per cent of the American.)
One clear imperative for our oceanic alliance on this score is simply that the United States, by virtue of its wealth and because of these extreme disparities, must pick up the tab for an enormous share of the total burden of the Western coalition. We cannot (and do not) ask our partners to contribute to the common defense a uniform percentage of national product. We can ask only for some rough equality of sacrifice, which is a totally different concept—and leaves America with a much thicker slice of the over-all burden. There is a secondary but not unimportant point in addition. Because of this great diversity within the Western alliances, their major members have a special obligation to use an inordinate measure of tact in dealing with their lesser allies.
We come finally to economic growth rates as a factor of comparison. Here it is worth careful note that the Soviet bloc is growing faster than the Western bloc, on any basis of measurement. But the advantage of the Soviet bloc is much greater when we use the yardstick of industrial production than when we measure gross national product. The U.S.S.R. and satellites have been growing by 7 ½ per cent a year, against 4 per cent for the United States and its allies, in gross national product. But in industrial production only, the Soviet bloc has been gaining by 10 ½ per cent, against 4 ¾ for the United States and allies. This distinction is both important and ominous. It suggests that the major western countries may be growing mightily in production of the goods and services people buy and enjoy, but which are not all essential to survival. It suggests further that the Soviet Union and its allies are achieving their greatest gains in the production of what the Kremlin leaders have decided is crucial for victory in the great, prolonged conflict with the Free World. You don’t win wars, hot or cold, with stereo hi-fi, automatic clothes washers, or station wagon living. This conclusion is borne out by all one sees in any first-hand look at life in the Soviet Union. The Russians and their subject peoples are putting first things first—not from the standpoint of satisfying human wants, but from the standpoint of achieving mastery in tomorrow’s world, whether by war or other means.
Just what this requires of us in the leadership of our oceanic alliance of free peoples is not an easy matter to set down. We do not have the option, open to the leaders of the Soviet Union, of making a priority list and then funnelling a pre-determined percentage of our total resources into arms production, weapons development, technical education, basic research, and expansion of heavy industry. We are limited to democratic solutions for such dilemmas—solutions compatible with the ground rules of a free society. But solutions, we must find. They are the price of survival.
One plain implication for all of us concerned with the oceanic alliance is that we must throw away the opiates we have been using in the West. We must abandon, for instance, the glib assumption that a dispersed, oceanic alliance is inherently superior, and the corollary notion that a voluntary association of free democracies is more effective because it is morally superior. These ideas may be correct. We all want to believe they are— for if they are not, the long-run hopes of free men are dim indeed. But if these comforting assumptions are true, it will be sufficient for some historian to take note of it in 1985 or 1990. Given the facts as they are in 1960, we cannot afford to plan policies except on the most realistic of assumptions. And a genuine realism may look to many like pessimism, so accustomed are they to wishful thinking.
It was a level-headed patriot who said a long time ago: “Trust God, but keep your powder dry.” We might paraphrase his words today, in the infancy of the atomic age: “Let us go on believing that ours is the truth and the right; but let us not assume that pure hearts will make up for a deficiency of scientific research, or solid industrial growth, or superior weapons in readiness.”
Our power of choice in America is limited. We cannot escape great and growing dependence on our prime alliance. We cannot avoid its being a dispersed, oceanic alliance. Neither can we turn to a coercive political system at home or a coercive alliance beyond our shores. We cannot wave a legislative wand and suddenly convert large productive resources from non-essential consumer goods to the stuff of national survival. In short, we cannot deny the realities of geography nor can we deny the genius of a free society.
What we can do—and must do increasingly —is to perceive with utmost clarity the true nature of the alliance system on which our security and our very survival rest—and go on from there. The more clearly our people grasp the meaning of an oceanic alliance, the more readily they will sanction and support the build-up of ample sea and air-sea power, the cement of any such alliance. The awesome rivalry of the super-powers is shifting from a nuclear suicide pact to sundry forms of limited, localized, and surreptitious war. As Americans in numbers perceive this, they will demand the reinforcement of mobile sea and ground forces geared to the quick emergencies of limited-objective warfare. And the more our people apprehend the special, built- in handicaps of a free and open society, stripped of secrecy and unable to conceal such things as missile bases, the more quickly they will back up the building of a mobile, invulnerable deterrent power.
The more sharply our people sense the limitations and inhibitions of an alliance of consent, in contrast to a regimented or coercive alliance system, the more cheerfully they will go along with generous arrangements for our smaller and less affluent allies and partners overseas. When the great disparity of living standards among the western partners is brought vividly home to Americans, they will shoulder more gladly their king-size share of the total burden of the common defense.
We must take care to look inside the tinted, printed cellophane wrapping, and to see the strategic problem itself, not just the distracting charms of space-age weapons systems. We must grasp the fact that our central task, while we are advancing resolutely in weapons technology, is to organize the infinitely varied resources of the committed Free World.
It has not been a simple enterprise to pry into the secrets of the atom, and out of its mysteries to fashion the amazing new tools of war. But it is more baffling still, and more challenging, to face a great galaxy of nations— rich and poor, large and small, made up of opinionated, perverse and fallible human beings—and to marshal them and their resources in the service of a strategy conservative of their general interest.
What this means is that our central strategic problem is not really military at all. It is political, for it is concerned with enlisting the energies and loyalties of millions of people, dispersed in space, divided in language and national tradition. Atoms, although elusive, behave according to discoverable laws. Men behave according to compulsions that defy complete analysis. By the same token, weapons systems can be built to specifications, although it may be laborious. But an alliance is much more like an opera company, stacked with prima donnas. Our chief unfinished business, therefore, is not so much perfection of the tools of war, which is an application of science, but the care and feeding of an oceanic alliance, which is an infinitely tedious and exacting art, demanding dedication, patience, and humility.
A graduate of Ohio Wesleyan and the School of Military Government at Columbia University, Mr. Hessler served as an information officer with fast carrier task forces and at CinCPac Headquarters during World War II. Since the war, he has had frequent assignments with U. S. Armed Forces overseas as a civilian correspondent and writer on military matters. Three times winner of the Naval Institute Prize Essay contest, author of Operation Survival, a study of American military policy, and Our Ineffective State, as well as numerous articles in national magazines, Mr. Hessler is a foreign news analyst on the staff of the Cincinnati Enquirer.