With each new president, with each new change of administration, new policy makers come to the Pentagon with new ideas on how to get things done. Organizations are changed, directives are issued. But after matching the tremendously complex problem of the threat with the equally complex means we have for coping with the threat, the defense leaders in the New Frontier immediately took steps to revise the budget estimates.
The defense budget estimates for 1962 have been amended three times. The first request of 28 March 1961 was designed “(1) to accelerate the shift in emphasis in our strategic forces to weapon systems which could ride out an all-out nuclear attack, (2) to improve the command and control system so that our military forces would at all times, even under conditions of an all-out nuclear attack, be under the full control of constituted authorities, and (3) to improve and modernize our conventional or non-nuclear capabilities.’’’ The second request of 26 May 1961 was designed “to improve and modernize further the conventional or non-nuclear capabilities” and to accelerate work in outer space. The third supplemental request of 26 July had the purpose “(1) to increase substantially the strength and readiness of our conventional or non-nuclear capabilities, (2) to prepare for further mobilization of reserve forces if the need should become apparent, and (3) to increase further our strategic and air defense capabilities. These supplemental requests were granted by Congress and enacted into law on 17 August 1961. The defense appropriation for fiscal year 1962 was six and one-half billion dollars more than the year before.
It is quite clear from these budget facts that we are witnessing an important change in our military strategy. The specific and concrete emphasis on conventional or non-nuclear capabilities in each of the three supplemental requests clearly indicates the direction of the change. Further, it can be fairly stated that the specific occasions for these changes are the series of crises such as Berlin, Laos, and Cuba. But if we were to conclude from these obvious manifestations that the change in our military strategy is a radical or a sudden change, we would be dead wrong. We would be wrong because we have not fully understood the complex processes that operate on the domestic and international scene which, in the final analysis, determine our military policy and posture. We would be wrong also because we have not noticed that the Navy has been gearing itself for this strategy for the last 15 years.
The usual procedure in our military schools of higher learning for determining a good national military strategy is to go back to basic national objectives. Many frustrating but nonetheless beneficial hours are spent in discussion and in word mechanics to come up with a precise statement of national objectives agreeable to a whole committee. Proposed statements usually range from “national survival” to the “establishment of a world order based on the rule of law.” In a recent article, Paul H. Nitze, the Assistant Secretary of Defense, International Security Affairs, wrote that the fundamental purpose of the United States is laid down in the preamble of the Constitution. He quoted the specific words:
“ ... to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. ...”
He went on to point out that “the object of our foreign policy and, in turn, of our defense policy derives from this fundamental purpose. It is to promote and secure conditions in the world under which a nation with such purposes as ours can live and prosper. U. S. interests and U. S. security are thus dependent upon the existence, or the creation and maintenance, of some form of world order compatible with our values and interests.” (Italics added.)
This is as fair a statement of our national objectives as can be found. But what is the meaning of a “world order compatible with our values and interests”? Is it a supranational organization which can effectively govern the nations of the world in such a manner that our values and interests will remain secure? If so, this would clearly call for an offensive national strategy to create this world order— for it obviously does not now exist. Furthermore, it would imply that we, as a people, are not satisfied with our present status and that We think that our goal as laid down in the preamble of the Constitution can be better achieved under a world organization of our choice.
On the other hand, if we agree that we are advancing the process of achieving the union, justice, domestic tranquility, welfare, and blessings of liberty which are our objectives, then we do not want some outside group upsetting our apple cart. We are basically satisfied with our lot and if our relationship to the rest of the world order could be kept stable, our values and interests would continue to flourish.
Our national strategy must therefore be aimed at maintaining a stable relationship between the United States and the rest of the world order. In essence it is a defensive strategy. In its broad outline it is the same strategy that the United States has been following since World War II. Dean Acheson pinpointed the defensive nature of our strategy in his book, Power and Diplomacy: “The United States does not want military power in order to take what belongs to others, or to make anyone accept its overlordship. We have no dreams of conquest or pax Americana. But, unhappily, the possibility always exists that force may be used against us and our interests, or against the interests of our allies, or the interests of other nations whose independence is important to us. Military power is necessary to deter these interferences or, if they do occur, to stop them.”
In fact, a strong case could be made that even those idealists and moralists who cry for the United States to “seize the initiative,” not only to resist the encroachments of Communism, but to supplant Communism with our own brand of ideology—do not seriously advocate that we change the complexion of our national strategy to the offense. When President Wilson coined the slogan, “Make the World Safe for Democracy,” he did not imply that it was our mission to make the world both safe and democratic. He actually wanted the world order so arranged that countries which wanted to adopt our concepts of freedom and democracy could be allowed to do so.
That we do have an ideology of freedom with justice which is diametrically opposed to the ideology of Communism goes without saying. But from an operational and practical standpoint, this ideological confrontation is not nearly so important as the fact that the United States is faced by an implacable enemy who is not satisfied with his lot, who does not feel that his basic national objectives can be achieved in the present world order, and who consequently is striving to change this world order and to construct a new system more satisfactory to himself. In short, we are faced with an enemy whose strategy is offensive.
Now all this may be perfectly obvious—the statement of national objectives, the general character of the opposing strategies. It is, however, a necessary point of departure before our national military strategy can be arrived at. Here the matter gets a bit sticky. We can line up the full array of “givens,”— the political, economic, psychological factors; the military means and capabilities; the tactics that we may pursue under political circumstances that move from crisis to crisis in a rapid escalation to the “brink,”—the up to now fail-safe haven of diplomatic bluff. We can have the Rockefeller group, the Stanford Research Institute, the Johns Hopkins University, and the Rand Corporation massage all the data available and come up with some recommendations. In the meantime, the Joint Chiefs and the service planning groups can take a more practical and down to earth look at our military strategy from the standpoint of what we have in hand in the way of weapons and fighting manpower. All these things have been done and are being done continually and continuously. But this is not enough.
The truth is, no military or naval strategy that is worth the candle can be conceived without relating it to the general policy of the nation. Senator Fulbright claims that it is all but impossible in the modern world of nuclear weapons and cold war to separate the two; “to designate one neat area labeled ‘questions of military policy to be decided by generals’ and an altogether separate area of ‘questions of politics to be left to the politicians’.” Military strategy is inseparably related to the problems of politics, economics and technology and it must provide a course and means of action which not only will further the national policy, but which also will enjoy the consensus of the administration and the people. A military strategy that is not accepted will be ignored. A military strategy that does not provide coherency with the policies of the administration is no strategy.
Furthermore, the best military strategy, the best statement of the role and purpose of a service, the best naval doctrine for implementing national policy is of little use unless it is backed up by the human and material resources which are required for implementation. This is the important point of the 1962 New Frontier defense budget. Without a wide measure of public support, led by the administration and expressed by the will of the Congress, military strategy will remain geared to a static concept out of step with the changes in the general policy of the government and out of consonance with the kind of military power needed to alter the political will of an enemy.
Such was the situation prior to both World Wars. The naval strategic posture before World War I was built around battleships. Wilson decided in 1915 to increase the size of our battle fleet to deter Germany’s challenge to our neutrality and to be able to defend the nation in the event that the Allies were defeated. Public opinion was solidly behind this view; the American people did not want to get involved. On the other hand, little concrete preparation was made for the other alternative, for going to war on the side of the Allies. What were needed in this latter situation were destroyers to protect convoys from submarines, not from battleships. Battleships were not needed, as Britain still had the largest battle fleet in the world. The result was, we were prepared for the wrong kind of war. Our naval strategy was in effect out of step with the change in policy of the administration. Four days after war was declared, Josephus Daniels, the Secretary of the Navy, wrote in his diary: “O for more destroyers! I wish I could trade the money in dreadnoughts for destroyers already built.”
Between the two World Wars, American naval strategy was oriented to a possible war with Japan. The fleet was concentrated in the Pacific and naval planners attacked the problem of how to fight a war over the immense expanse of ocean. First, the Navy obtained authorization from Congress to increase its naval vessels by 20 per cent and its naval aircraft by 50 per cent. Obviously, additional overseas operating bases were needed, and the Hepburn Board was appointed to look into the matter. But the temper of the people and of the Congress in 1939 was such that only a limited number of the recommendations were approved. The request for establishing modest improvements to the harbor and seaplane facilities at Guam was defeated on the grounds that it was introduced as part of a defense measure instead of as part of a peacetime river and harbor improvement program! Public support in this instance was missing and the necessary resources to implement the naval strategic concept were not forthcoming.
Thus it is important that we look on the recent budget increase and its emphasis on conventional and non-nuclear capabilities in its true perspective. It is not a radical or sudden change in our strategic concept. It represents, at long last, an understanding and consensus that the military power balance has changed radically, that while a nuclear strategy may deter general war, it can no longer restrain the enemy from lesser aggressive adventures. It represents merely the final public acceptance of a strategy long recognized by some of our civilian leaders, by many of our military leaders and, I might add, by all of our top Navy leaders.
Obtaining this acceptance has not been easy. For years the public had been lulled into a feeling of security based on our vaunted superiority in nuclear weapons and strategic air power. This feeling of security may have been justified at one time, but the strategic balance has changed so radically within the last decade that we have been hard put to make up our minds which way to go. This uneasiness and confusion has been reflected in the writings of serious scholars such as Kissinger, Wohlsetter, King, and Morgan- thau, by political commentators such as Joseph Alsop and Walter Lippmann, by partisan advocates both military and civilian. For a period, we frantically devoted our resources to strengthening our nuclear delivery capabilities and the neglect of our limited warfare capability was explained away by claiming that “if we have the strength required for global war, we could certainly meet any threat of less magnitude.” The fallacy of this was pointed out time and again by such military leaders as General Maxwell Taylor and Admiral Arleigh Burke.
In 1958, Admiral Burke stated, “Once having decided that prevention of an all-out attack on the United States represented the military facts of life, there was a temptation for us to try to make our military strength for strategic retaliation do the job of preventing the Soviets from any type of aggression... I am not . . . [challenging] the necessity for preparedness against a sneak attack. That is necessary. ... I simply stress that we must widen our sights to include the necessity for adequate preparedness against the more probable enemy courses of action. These enemy courses of action, which can be decisive in the long run, fall far below the flash point of general war.”
It is symptomatic of the frustration that we felt in the Navy that Captain Seim categorically stated in his 1961 Prize Essay that, “Americans are not ready psychologically to wage limited war.” In a more practical vein he might have then added that Americans also were not ready to allocate the necessary resources to fight a limited war. We can thank Castro, the Pathet Lao and, most of all, Mr. Khrushchev for bringing home finally in a series of crises the essential fact that ours is a defensive strategy, that nuclear weapons are not the answer to everything, that we must be prepared to meet aggression with force commensurate with the provocation facing us.
The change in direction of our military strategy to place more emphasis on conventional or non-nuclear capabilities has a special significance for the Navy. It has vindicated the foresight and decisions of our naval leaders who have worked incessantly to revamp and to reconstruct the Navy to meet its new role.
At the end of World War II, the largest fleet in history sailed the Seven Seas in solitary splendor with no place to go. The Japanese Navy had been sunk; the Soviet surface fleet was hardly considered a threat. No one could visualize a serious naval threat at any point on the globe. The classical naval strategic concept of the decisiveness of naval battles between opposing fleets was dead as a dodo. Another Coral Sea or Midway could only happen with the strategic confrontation of two great maritime powers. In 1945, there remained but one. The strategic concept which determined the structure of the U. S. Navy was no longer valid.
Public reaction set in. The defense budget was cut drastically and the services began to fight each other for a larger share of the meager resources. The people saw in the intercontinental bomber armed with atomic weapons a way to achieve maximum security with minimum involvement. In the public eye, the Air Force took over the role of the nation’s “first line of defense.”
Amid this demoralizing confusion, the Navy planners began to take stock and develop a new doctrine. The ocean was no longer a defense barrier to isolate us from our enemies. The sea was no longer Mahan’s “wide common” subject to the overbearing power and control of our great Navy for the purpose of driving the enemy flag from it. The sea, instead, was recognized as an indestructible, yet perilous, avenue over which our national power must be borne to the decisive periphery strips around the enemy’s land. Command of the sea was just as important as ever but the purpose had changed. Command of the sea was needed to obtain supremacy over land.
It was this salient strategic doctrine that shaped most of the Navy’s subsequent planning and development. Professor Samuel P. Huntington in his article, “National Policy and the Transoceanic Navy,” perhaps one of the most important articles ever printed in the U. S. Naval Institute Proceedings, put it this way, “This fact that decisive actions will now take place on land means a drastic change in the mission of the Navy.” It calls for “a real revolution in naval thought and operations. For decades, the eyes of the Navy have been turned outward to the ocean and the blue water; now the Navy must . . . look inland where the new objectives lie.” [May 1954, page 483.]
Korea was the first test of this new strategic concept. This limited war—limited, not in the sense of being small, but limited in the sense that it was fought under self-imposed limitations tacitly accepted by the two opposing sides—has been challenged as a real test of the new naval doctrine. True, there Were anomalies, political as well as military. True, we were never faced by determined naval opposition. But this in itself was of vast significance. As Admiral Carney pointed out, “without a mastery of the surrounding seas, the allied position in Korea would have been virtually hopeless.”
The point is that since Korea, this concept of utilizing command of the sea to obtain supremacy over the land has been validated first at Lebanon, when the United States landed troops at the appeal of the Lebanese government, and again in the Taiwan Straits when the U. S. Navy convoyed Nationalist Chinese forces to the 3-mile limit off Quemoy. In each case, tacitly self-imposed limitations governed the tactical situation. Under the umbrella of the nuclear “Balance of Terror,” it is hardly conceivable that restraints would not have been exercised.
There is nothing incompatible with the naval strategic concept of projecting our national strategy, which is basically defensive. For it is in defense of the free countries overseas that our strategy is aimed. There is nothing incongruous in the display of initiative such as we took at Lebanon and in the Taiwan Straits. Both were essentially defensive operations which kept the Communists from achieving their ends. The essence of a true defensive naval strategy is not so much to act as to be always ready to act: not so much to make war as to be always ready for war.
Our naval strategy depends not only in the conceiving of the purpose but in the allocation of means to achieve this purpose. The application of naval power against land requires four categories of forces. First, there are the forces needed to assure a sustained capability of keeping open the sea routes through which our military power must necessarily be channeled. The threat here is not an opposing surface fleet, but hundreds of modern submarines and land-based jet planes. The Navy has expended the greater part of its resources during the last 15 years in building a superb antiair and antisubmarine warfare capability. The F4H is the fastest fighter plane in the world today; the Terrier, Tartar, and Talos missiles ships are entering the Fleet in great quantities. Support carriers with special ASW aircraft and helicopters are prepared to search out and destroy enemy submarines. Destroyers and cruisers armed with ASROC, with the latest homing torpedoes, with the most up-to-date detection equipment operate to defeat the submarine menace.
The second category comprises forces built around the new attack carriers of the Forrestal-class, whose planes can strike swiftly hundreds of miles inland, with precision and discrimination, with conventional or nuclear weapons. In general war, these carrier task forces present a mobile and strongly defended weapon system, hard to locate and hard to destroy, capable of devastating retaliation. In limited war, naval task forces built around these attack carriers are the quickest and often the only means of bringing air power to bear, of assuring strategic mobility until bases and airfields are seized or established.
The third category comprises the fleet- based landing force of the Marine Corps which can be put ashore quickly and, under the protection of the carrier task forces, can be put ashore against determined enemy resistance. The development of the new concept of vertical envelopment by the use of carrier- based helicopters makes it possible to land troops well inland and away from enemy waterline defenses.
The fourth and final category is the important fleet of Polaris submarines which can launch nuclear missiles to the very heart of the enemy land. Here is a truly fantastic weapon system that can be dispersed, hidden and protected, that still can advance and attack without sacrificing any of these defensive features. By exploiting the characteristics of the seas, we have developed a weapon system whose mobility and invulnerability are the best assurance that the enemy will refrain from escalating a limited military contest into a general war.
The remarkable thing here is the achievement. Under the leadership of such vigorous chiefs as Sherman, Carney, Fechteler, and Burke we have built an entirely new Navy. The significant thing is that it is a Navy built for a purpose. It is a Navy geared to a meaningful strategic concept. It is a Navy that enjoys wide political confidence and public support.
During the mid-Fifties, when our defense was geared around the nuclear deterrent and the announced policy of “massive retaliation,” the Navy never lost sight of its new purpose and new strategic concept. Other services and other nations were placing their complete reliance on nuclear weapons. The British Defence White Paper for 1957 frankly stated that “The overriding consideration in all military planning must be to prevent war rather than to prepare for it.” It went on to state rather curiously, “the role of naval forces in total war is somewhat uncertain.” During the same period, the U. S. Navy conceived and developed the Polaris-submarine weapon system and consistently maintained the dual requirement for its ships to fight in either nuclear or non-nuclear environments. Interchangeable warheads, missiles, and torpedoes, both nuclear and conventional, were called out. Carrier-based aircraft acquired equal facility for delivering on-the-target bombs of either type. Sidewinder and Bullpup missiles were developed to enhance our conventional capability—missiles that have since been adopted by the Air Force as part of its arsenal. The Navy consistently maintained the mobility of its Fleet and its logistic forces and eschewed reliance on fixed overseas bases subject to political restraints of other countries. As a result, the Navy and the Marine Corps are today in an excellent position to adapt to the stronger and more balanced posture called for by President Kennedy. The naval strategic concept or guide for action had already been established.
The military has sometimes been accused of succumbing to the “determinative importance of means” and of exploiting the technological possibilities of nuclear weapons simply because they are possibilities, without defining the strategic purposes for which they would be used as an instrument of national policy. There is some measure of truth in this. The revolution in technology within the last 20 years has so far outstripped the pace of social and political developments that technology has in certain cases dictated policy. A case in point is the pronouncement of “massive retaliation.” This was a direct product of the impact of nuclear weapon technology and it is significant that, in each crisis since the phrase was first used, we have modified both our declarations and our actions to constrain deliberately the use of nuclear weapons.
It is difficult to keep from becoming obsessed with means. In their day-to-day work, the military man, the diplomat, and the nuclear physicist deal with nothing else. Each naturally would prefer to see his field determine the total action. We Americans move from crisis to crisis, from brush fire to brush fire. Last year it was the Congo, this year it was Cuba and Laos and more recently Berlin. Small wonder we are accused of not knowing where we are going or of taking action often incompatible with our goals. Small wonder we must at times select our immediate goals by judging the chances of success of achieving these ends with the means at hand. With a basically defensive strategy, it is most difficult to seek opportunities to achieve tangible U. S. goals around the instability created in the Congo, in the Taiwan Straits, and at Berlin. Instead, we are forced into adopting a resolute and inflexible posture to cope with the demands of an aggressive enemy. Admittedly, this is not to our liking. Admittedly, the dangers are acute. But from a military point, anything less or anything more could be disastrous. If we do less, we would be forced into a position from which bona fide negotiations would be difficult if not impossible, and we would chance a subsequent crisis that would be even more dangerous. If we do more, we would, to use Max Way’s phrase, “be trying to make a profit during an earthquake.” Both courses are unworthy of us. We have neither to sacrifice our principles nor accept psychological paralysis in the face of the enemy’s every move; nor do we have to indulge in illegal interventions nor adopt the Communist tactics with a view of beating the Communists at their own game. If we “face up to the risks and live up to our word,” as President Kennedy has said, “we shall be neither Red nor dead, but alive and free.”
We must recognize clearly that in one area our national interests and those of the enemy do overlap. Neither one of us wants a mutually destructive nuclear war. In this estimate, not only are capabilities important but intentions are crucial. Let us keep it that way. While we are gearing our naval strategy to respond more to the lesser military, economic and diplomatic actions which are a part of the enemy’s campaign of “creeping aggression,” let us not forget that capabilities and intentions do go together and that they do change. We must never lose our capability of inevitably striking back with certain devastation.
We should keep clearly in mind that our national purpose is, in Senator Fulbright’s pithy words, “a process to be advanced rather than a victory to be won.” Occasionally, we will have setbacks. But if, in the long run, our democratic values are defended and expanded throughout the world we will be truly advancing our national objectives.
As a practical operational objective the United States should “not demand,” as Professor Charles O. Lerche, Jr., facetiously put it, “that the U.S.S.R. be converted to Christianity, democracy and the two-party system.” We should at a minimum be satisfied if we can establish some self-executing guarantees of civilized behavior on the part of the Communist governments in a relatively stable world order. Even this limited objective is difficult to attain in the face of the terror, subversion, promises, propaganda, and armed aggression of the Communists. It cannot be attained merely by being strong and resolute. It can be attained if we add a wise program throughout the world for improving human life, for advancing social reform and for furthering the democratic process. It can be attained if we convince these nations that our ideals and intentions transcend purely national interest, that our concepts of liberty, justice, and human dignity are acceptable to all free people.
As we work to advance these purposes, the U. S. Navy will play an increasingly important role. There is a growing conviction among Americans that situations such as Lebanon, Laos, VietNam, and Taiwan Straits may increase rather than lessen. This was mentioned by former Secretary of the Navy Connally when he spoke to the Washington area Navy and Marine Corps officers last April. He pointed out specifically that this awareness was reflected in President Kennedy’s amendments to the 1962 budget. He then went on to pay a sincere tribute to the Navy and to the Marine Corps for having shown “the ability and the versatility to meet our changing national defense needs.”
The “fighting edge” of the Navy and Marine Corps will unquestionably remain sharp and ready only so long as the naval strategic concept keeps in step with the policies of the government, only so long as the Fleet provides the kind of power needed to support and back up our political freedom of action, and only so long as the public accepts and supports the Navy’s contribution to the over-all power needed to restrain or alter the political will of the enemy.