A revolution in military thought has taken place within the last decade. This has occurred not only in the United States but also in the Soviet Union. The outward symptoms of this revolution can be traced step by step. The widespread disillusionment of the conventional military stalemate in Korea was followed by the Dulles doctrine of “massive retaliation.” The limited war philosophies of Ridgway and Taylor were followed by the current stress on counter-insurgency. A similar change in outlook can be traced in the U.S.S.R. from the classical “permanently operating factors” of Stalin, to the recognition of the dominance of surprise by Talenskii, to the “pre-emptive” seizure of the strategic initiative of Krasil’nikov, to the popular uprisings and wars of national liberation advocated by Khrushchev.
Compare this revolution in one decade to the “rules of the game” which endured for centuries when the “Concert of Powers” in Europe dominated the international system. It was an age when war was indeed a “continuation of politics by other means.” The ability to wage and win a war determined the position of the state. War was used as a court of last resort to enforce a decision on the member states of the international system. But the rules were implicit. The balance of power could shift from one place to another within the system. At no time could the very system itself be challenged.
These principles of war and doctrines of statecraft have withstood the test of time. Today, we still study Clausewitz, Schlieffen, Lyautey, Mahan, and even MacArthur, and try to apply their principles to the military strategy and tactics of our time. It is a tortuous and frustrating exercise. We are still convinced that the rules are valid. What we have failed to understand is that the situation has changed. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find situations or to visualize “scenarios” in which these war axioms can be made applicable.
At the basis of this revolution in military thought, which has swung from massive retaliation to national uprising and counter-insurgency in ten years, is the fact that the politically useable forms of power have changed. Power is as effective as ever: only its make-up has changed. If the forms of power do not permit its use in action to achieve desirable ends, then the forms may be outmoded. We may continue to plan on a nuclear strategy to deter war but we cannot conceive of it as a strategy to fight a war.
The changing nature of power is only gradually being understood and accepted. The deterrent role assigned to military power leaves a lot of questions unanswered. President Kennedy has said, “The primary purpose of our arms is peace, not war ... to deter all wars, general or limited, nuclear or conventional, large or small. ...” Premier Khrushchev has said, “The entire foreign policy of the Soviet Union is aimed at strengthening peace. We have used and will continue to use the growing might of our country ... to pursue a steadfast policy of combating the war danger and averting world war.” These two statements accent peace as a primary national objective and stress the deterrent role of military force. But they still leave each side frustrated in its effort to find politically usable forms of power to restrain or alter the will of the other.
Recognition of this change in the power make-up was first noted in Korea. Mac- Arthur, the last of the classicists, frustrated beyond measure at the restraint imposed upon his use of military power, plaintively objected to the political considerations which prevented him from “destroying the enemy’s military power and bringing the conflict to a decisive close in the minimum of time and with a minimum of loss.” The changing nature of power was again observed when the military might of Britain and France was checked at Suez. The invasion was stopped, not by the military defenses of Egypt or the rocket threats of the Soviets, but by the firm political pressure of the United States and by world opinion reflected by the official representatives of the governments in the international system.
Then there was Lebanon. There is no question about the political restraints which accompanied this successful show of force. Political preconditions were established long in advance of the landing itself. Even after the landing, a potentially explosive situation between the Marines and the Lebanese army was averted at an airport road junction when the American ambassador, Robert McClintock, interceded with the Lebanese Com- mander-in-Chief, General Fouad Chehab, and Admiral J. L. Holloway, Commander- in-Chief, Specified Command, Middle East. Together, on the spot, they resolved the crisis to permit the peaceable entry of American troops into Beirut. The significant point is that it was not the use of military force which made the operations a success; it was the restraint on its use by both sides. One can only speculate as to the damage to the prestige and position of the United States, as a leader of the Free World, had force and violence been employed to achieve our objective.
In another era, France with all her industry and armed might could hardly have failed to crush a rebellion in Vietnam or Algeria. Yet opposed by the new weapons and tactics of guerrilla warfare, handicapped by political indecisiveness and restrained by world opinion, France was finally compelled to grant independence. In another era, the United States would have moved in and overthrown Castro. In the 19th century, she never would have been restrained by an overdeveloped sense of virtue in the non-use of military force in the Bay of Pigs.
MacArthur fervently stated in his testimony before Congress that “the minute you reach the killing stage,” politics has failed, “and the military takes over.” He was wrong. He was speaking of a by-gone era, of circumstances that do not exist today. The efficacy of military power as a technique of action has undergone a transformation. Certain forms, such as guerrilla war, have become more useful, while another form—total war— has become completely outmoded. In all gradations, war has become and will continue to be subjected to more political restraints than in the past. There is a fundamental reason for this. In the nuclear age, war is no longer limited by capabilities. Restraint is essential and a selection of means must be made. This is a political decision which is properly the responsibility of the political leaders—not the generals.
At the basis of this change in the nature of power is the character of the new international system. First, the international system dominated by only a handful of European countries, no longer exists. It was not a case of a shifting of the balance of power within the system, it was the challenge to and the destruction of the system in World Wars I and II. Today, the salient characteristic to the international system is not the confrontation of two dominant world powers, the United States and the U.S.S.R. It is the enormous increase in the number of participants, verging on universality. It is the fact that while the great majority of nations is aware of the implacable confrontation between the two dominant powers, they are not restrained in their actions by considerations of the “Cold War.” The underdeveloped states are motivated by a search for political independence, national identity in world affairs and an increase in the personal level of consumption. When internal changes within these states do not keep pace with expectations, the climate becomes ripe for revolution. Here the excess energies of the dominant powers often find release in supporting one faction or the other. Military power takes the form of insurgency and counter-insurgency and the outcome is often decisive.
Second, the ethical heritage of the states of the old order is not shared by the new states arising in the international system. Even the roots of legitimacy are different. For some nations, it is the consent of the governed; for others, it is anti-white imperialism; still others find their roots in the processes of Communist revolution. Principles of international law generally accepted for generations are openly challenged. Some states include 200 miles of oceans off their shores as part of their territorial waters. New states just do not accept our classical ways of conducting international relations. True, they have embraced the concept of sovereignty and its concomitant that each state has a right to go its own way without interference from without. But the stabilizing restraint of the superior war-making capabilities of the old “Concert of Powers” is lacking and the new states can indulge in more reckless behavior than before.
Third, new issues have replaced old ones. The very motivating forces of the new states in the international system are subjects of political action and discourse: industrial development, population explosion, food, “land reform.” The “mass man,” the mobs in the street, people stirred up by mass information media and propaganda, have become a significant factor in the rapidly changing development of social and political consciousness. New values have appeared in forms different from Communism and Democracy. Anticolonialism and neutralism have taken their place among ideologies. In certain cases like Hungary, military counter-revolutionary forces achieved a decision. In other cases, such as Suez, the Gaza Strip, the Dutch-Indonesian dispute, military power was not considered an appropriate means by which to settle the issues or to change the values.
Fourth, a whole new family of organizations and institutions has appeared: the United Nations, elaborate regional planning groups, structures for military alliances which operate in peacetime. These all have the effect of institutionalizing the search for consensus. No longer does the United States operate under the Monroe Doctrine. She must now consult with the Organization of American States which now shares in the responsibility for hemispheric security.1
Finally, there is the role of technology in the changing make-up of power. Survival today is not equated only with the technical advance in weapons, symbolized by the awesome destructive capacity of the H-bomb. Survival is geared as well to the ability of societies to adapt themselves to complex industrial networks, the revolutionary changes in transportation and communications, the rapidly changing patterns of social organizations. All of these changes are occurring so rapidly that man is having extreme difficulty in adapting himself and his institutions. As Toynbee stated, the human psyche is moving at a snail’s pace in comparison.
The international system has felt this impact. Technical experts in various fields are carrying out their functions largely uncoordinated by policy makers. Reliance on electronic computers in the discharge of administrative functions has made policy development even more difficult. The dependence on the answers that technology can supply has created a trend which stresses procedures and methodology in international dealings. Substantive resolution of conflicts await new technical developments—in fact are dependent on them. Take the disarmament negotiations, the conference on banning the nuclear testing. New technical development would call for a change in the basis of negotiations. Even in the armed forces, the traditional apparatus of policy formation and command has become exceedingly complex. The most pressing problem in the Department of Defense today is not manpower or weapons but is how to exercise command and control in the nuclear age.
As a result of this dependence on rapid and unco-ordinated developments in technology, we are becoming uncertain of our goals. Goals are being shaped by the means at hand and are not the result of deliberate reflection on the part of policy makers. This uncertainty of goals is directly connected to the influence of world opinion—itself, a product of the technological advances in communications. The press and the radio play up each crisis with the same shrill emphasis. One gets the impression that there is no priority system, that all crises are of the same importance, except that maybe the latest crisis is a little bit more so. In this environment, the will is eroded by the seeming necessity to get everyone’s views on the matter before action can be taken. The political uses of instruments of coercion are restrained while the consensus of the world is taken.
Many of us realize that this radical change in the nature of the international system is at the bottom of the revolution in military thought. But there are still many who have not appreciated that the situation has changed, that there will be times when the efficacy of military force as a technique of action will be negated. There are still many who develop their military plans for various contingencies with the bland trust that they will be allowed to execute them under given situations without the imposition of political restraints. In short, there are still some who have not recognized the changing make-up of power.
Fortunately, there are responsible leaders in all services who do. They are the ones who have vigorously opposed the simplistic concept that air-atomic power could deter or repel limited aggressions. They are the ones who believe that military force could successfully deter only if it is commensurate with the provocation. To be commensurate, force must be controlled. To be controlled, the military must accept restraints. Finally, they are the ones whose perception has led them logically to the conclusion that the most effective use of military power as a technique for action will be found at the very threshold of violence where insurgency develops and insurrection threatens.
Four unique features stand out in this changing make-up of power.
First, while in certain cases, war has become less useful as an instrument of policy, it can by no means be abolished. Even total war— completely outmoded as a means to achieve political goals—will remain an ever-present threat. General war forces and nuclear weapons must be kept constantly ready. There is always the chance that man’s rational judgment will lead him down a chain of decisions that will leave him no alternative. For decisions are based on what man perceives, and what he perceives can be wrong. This is the danger of miscalculation. Besides this, is the question of irrational decision—more likely a decision by a third nation which sets in motion a chain of events in complete disregard of the calamitous consequences. This is the danger of “catalytic attack.” Finally, there is the danger of escalation from small violence to big.
Security is a psychic or value judgment. Security cannot be absolute. Risk to survival is a state of life. Each state alone determines the measures and the means for safeguarding its own survival.
Secondly, the changing nature of power will bring about more and more detailed political control of the exercise of military force. The fact that many in the United States are shedding their curious illusion that peace and war are separate and that military force can be considered “fracturable” from politics is a sign of growing maturity. Military power and politics have become even more inseparable. The redundancy of military power, the excessive capacity to do violence, has dictated more selection and control of its use. Military contingency plans that are drafted without the collaboration of the State Department and, in some cases, without the assistance of embassy officials, will inevitably be changed or even thwarted in execution. Despite the most detailed military and political preparation for the Lebanon landing, the State Department at the last minute forbade the landing of Honest John rockets because they had the capability of firing an atomic warhead as well as a conventional one. During Suez, Eden announced in Parliament that he had ordered the cruisers not to use their 8-inch guns during the shore bombardment to avoid unnecessary killing of civilians. Anyone attached to the Seventh Fleet during 1958 will recall the circumscribing instructions that were received from Washington during the Quemoy and Matsu flare-up. One has only to read the newspapers to appreciate the detailed political control that is being exercised from Washington and London over a straightforward operation like regulating Soviet military vehicle traffic into West Berlin. When the Soviets began to use armored vehicles instead of busses in their daily pilgrimage to their war memorial in the British sector, it took three weeks before political agreement could be reached. The question whether to break out ammunition or not perennially comes up as a matter of political decision when troops are deployed forward in an area where the situation is tense. It came up in 1961 in Berlin and in 1962 in Thailand.
Thirdly, as certain forms of warfare become less useful as a technique of action to achieve the aims of politics, the leaders both of the United States and of the Soviet Union have somewhat belatedly recognized the key role of military power in insurgency movements and in the measures to counter them. This is not to say that the principles of Mao and the techniques of the British in Malaya have not been studied and appreciated. But it is a fact that in the United States’ preoccupation with concepts of nuclear and limited war, and in the Soviets’ concern with overturning the sterile principles of Stalin, practical measures to support the concept of insurgency and counter-insurgency warfare have been largely ignored in these two leading countries.2
The latest modification to Soviet military thought to distinguish between world wars, local wars and the “just” wars of liberation or popular uprising portends some serious problems for the United States. First, the doctrinaire distinction was enunciated by Khrushchev himself. It is therefore gospel. Second, the classification of wars of liberation and popular uprisings under the category of “just” wars would imply that the Communists intend to run uprisings as a major military operation free from the logistical and organizational handicaps that have plagued such uprisings in the past.
The concepts of insurgency and counter-insurgency bear further examination. As Colonel Edwin F. Black pointed out in his excellent article, “The Problems of Counter- Insurgency,” (Proceedings, October 1962) there are five stages: “(1) infiltration (2) subversion (3) insurgency (4) insurrection and (5) full-scale civil or ‘national liberation’ wars.” Insurgency is the beginning of overt armed resistance against the government. It is, as has been pointed out, the threshold of violence. Timeliness is the essential element to nip it in the bud before it becomes a full- scale civil war as it became in Indochina in 1953 and in Algeria in 1955.
Counter-insurgency, however, is not solely a military problem. The closest co-ordination with the political, economic and psychological actions is essential. Counter-insurgency, Colonel Black defines, “is the technique of using, in appropriate combination, all elements of national power in support of a friendly government which is in danger of being overthrown by an active Communist campaign designed to organize, mobilize, and direct discontented elements of the local population against the government.” To treat guerrilla warfare only in military terms invites failure. The outbreak of insurgency, as Walt Rostow points out, is in itself, “prima facie evidence of a prior failure in civil policy.” The strengthening of the political and economic front is an essential element of counter-insurgency. Moreover, the very nature of military counter-insurgency operations calls for small units scattered over the entire area. If the citizens are not sympathetic, it will become next to impossible to win without an overwhelming occupation. The desirable political and psychological setting must be established as part of the campaign.
Fourth, as military power as a technique of action moves further down the spectrum, opposing sides will consciously attempt to keep the action local by establishing unambiguous limits that are recognized by both sides. Among such limits are sanctuaries—areas exempt from attack. Sanctuaries cannot be considered as absolutes, areas that are completely safe. The very existence of sanctuaries rests on the uneasy basis of threats and counterthreats, on the interpretation of each side of the statements and actions of the other. A sanctuary will remain inviolate only so long as the opposing sides perceive the relative advantages of refraining from extending the range of combat to include the sanctuary as outweighing the disadvantages. This perception is intrinsic.
The sanctuary will usually be strengthened by installing military defenses. It may, on the other hand, be weakened by deploying offensive forces within the area to be used in the event the sanctuary is violated. It depends on how it is perceived by the opposing side. For example, the deployment of Soviet SA-2 surface-to-air missiles into Cuba may be perceived by the United States as a move to strengthen the defenses of Cuba or it may be perceived as a preparation for further expansion elsewhere. If the latter, it may well weaken in the long run the sanctuary aspects that country might enjoy in time of war. Certainly, if the Soviets were to supplement this surface-to-air missile deployment with offensive tactical ballistic missiles, the United States, as well as Latin America, would have serious cause not to regard Cuba’s sanctuary as inviolate in the event Communist backed insurgency breaks out in the theater.3
Certain military writers distinguished between political sanctuaries and tactical sanctuaries. The latter is defined as an area carved out of the theater which by its nature would be nominally open to attack but which by the establishment of highly effective defenses has become too costly for the enemy to penetrate. Accepting this distinction as valid, a tactical sanctuary which is at the same time political would enhance its relative safety since the enemy would restrain himself on both military and political calculations.
By far the most important element in the dialogue between two opposing forces is in the unambiguous nature of the actions which are taken to establish the sanctuary. For example, air strikes at certain selective targets and not at other kinds are ambiguous. Likewise, since no one can be certain where a striking plane comes from, the point of origin cannot be used as a basis for establishing a sanctuary. Self-imposed restraints on one side not to strike any targets within a well-defined area are not ambiguous and these can be clearly understood.
The carrier task force proved to be an effective sanctuary in Korea. It was a clearly defined entity (area) which enjoyed tactical as well as political strength. Obviously, the enemy saw advantages in not launching attacks against this major element of U. S. power. It was matched on our side by respecting the sanctuary north of the Yalu. Nationalist Chinese aircraft engaged Communist aircraft over Quemoy and Matsu, but neither attempted to bomb or strafe the airfields in the other’s territory. In each case, the action communications which established these sanctuaries were clear and unambiguous and the sanctuaries remained inviolate because the opposing sides perceived advantages in such restraints.
Taken together, these four features of military power in today’s world provide a philosophical framework and doctrinal basis for some alterations in our military strategy— particularly in the lower part of the spectrum of war where force is still a useful technique of action to restrain or alter the will of the enemy. These special features have some implications for the Navy.
First, we should carry out our planning with the close collaboration of responsible team members from the State Department and in full appreciation of the fact political considerations will be imposed on the detailed execution of a contingency plan. It should be standard practice to establish in advance local joint operations centers with embassy personnel wherever insurgency threatens the objectives of the United States. As pointed out before, timeliness is the essential element to nip insurgency in the bud. Detailed joint planning would facilitate the timely execution of plans by providing a clear definition of objectives and of the restraints to be expected. It will at least allow questions of tactical doctrine to be thrashed out in advance. The soldier will know beforehand whether he will be allowed to go into a potentially explosive situation with guns loaded or not.
Second, the presence of American forces on the scene leaves the enemy with little illusion that the United States will stand aloof from involvement. If U. S. forces are located at too great a distance from the initial insurgency or insurrection, the enemy may believe that he can face us with a fait accompli while we are making up our mind. If the enemy succeeds in toppling the government, then intervention by us against the new government becomes an act of war. Thus it is an essential requirement that we have sufficient numbers of ready combat troops to check Communist aggressions locally before they can get out of hand.
Normally, we should have sufficient warning through the Communist machinations of infiltration and subversion to move in army technical advisers and troops to the threatened area. But where these forces are not on the spot, it is essential that we be prepared to move them in fast. Fleet Marine forces in the area are ideal for this purpose.
The complexity and costliness4 of deploying troops by air from the United States may engender reluctance to intervene and create delays. In Lebanon, it was far more timely and less provocative to send Marines ashore where their presence had already been accepted in liberty parties than to make the initial landing by troops air-lifted from the continental United States. The sluggish flow of troops by air would have given the newspapers and radio time to stir up the populace. The reception might have been entirely different.
Some serious consideration should be given to changing the amphibious lift so as to enable the Marines to exploit their concepts of vertical envelopment. In counter-insurgency operations, one is hardly likely to find opportunity to carry out a classical amphibious landing against organized opposition. Rather, the requirement would call for rapid dispersal of small teams to capture selected strong points in the countryside. The present lift provided the Marine Corps is based on World War II concepts. The amphibious ships are woefully inadequate to meet the fast deployment potential of the Marine helicopter assault teams. More LPH’s and LPD’s are required.
On the other hand, the Marine Corps could well begin to look at counter-insurgency as a principal mission. Historically, the Corps has been ideally suited for this job. But ever since World War II and the unification debates which followed, when the Marine Corps won its new status as a fourth service in the military hierarchy—it has preferred to think in terms of so-called “limited warfare” and divisional size amphibious assaults. Within recent years, however, some rethinking has been going on. Regrouping into smaller units and training to handle the difficult and “unconventional” problems encountered in counter-insurgency warfare is a matter that should be stressed.
There is another aspect to this U. S. presence. The rimlands bordering on Communist land masses are not nearly so vulnerable as the geographical relationship implies. Interior lines of communications over which great masses of troops and supplies can travel rapidly just do not exist in many areas. In some cases, reinforcements can be transported better by sea or by air. The Navy would do well to reactivate the classical concept of sea blockade and make it applicable to the air also. This is a controlled type of military action which could work well around a sanctuary.
Third, a military force which can carry its sanctuary around with it has a decided advantage. As pointed out before, our naval task force can possess this feature. It has political as well as tactical strengths. However, if we wish to employ it as a sanctuary which will enable us to move right up to the three mile limit with impunity, then we must be prepared to impose limitations on ourselves as far as the enemy is concerned. Perhaps we can recognize certain rights of sanctuary for the enemy or we can hold back on the employment of certain military means such as tactical nuclear weapons. The point is, this matter should be thought out in advance and it should be a part of our various contingency plans.
It is well worthwhile to seek out means to persuade or coerce the enemy into recognizing U. S. naval vessels as sanctuaries. The task of deploying our forces ashore would be made immeasurably easier, there would be no requirement to provide additional protection for our logistic and underway replenishment vessels, our aircraft could run more sorties and penetrate further inland. Of course, there is always risk, but the risk must be calculated. It is worth noting that in 1958 our naval vessels were able to convoy the Chinese Nationalist ships to within a few miles of Quemoy. Our oilers were able to cruise around in the Taiwan Straits within 30 miles of Communist China with no more protection than 3-inch guns and 6-inch hoses.
Planning alone is not enough. Even if we have a recognized sanctuary in our naval task forces and we do not have the weapon systems and forces that are useable in fighting at the lower end of the spectrum, then we can do little more than steam back and forth in a show of force. The insurgent is not frightened by our heavy attack aircraft with nuclear bombs. He would be seriously concerned though if we could maintain air patrols in his rear to intercept supplies and reinforcements being brought in by plane. He would be at a considerable disadvantage if we were able to establish small, well-defended hard points in the territory which could be used as a base for counter-guerrilla action.
The establishment and maintenance of air superiority over the objective area would be invaluable until these points are established. Surface-to-air missile systems are superior means for this. But until they are in place, air superiority must be established by interceptors. A weapon system based on the concept of the now defunct Eagle-Missileer would be excellent. It would be self-sufficient and it would reduce to a minimum the associated ground equipment required for control of other types of air superiority aircraft. Such a weapon system could capitalize on the latest techniques for detecting, tracking and destroying low-flying aircraft. Most important, it could do this over a much longer period of time than can our current interceptors.
Finally, political control, the Marine Corps vertical envelopment tactics and the sanctuarial aspects of a naval task force need to be tied together by a command-control- communications link. Because of the nature of counter-insurgency warfare, which covers political and economic as well as military operations, it is essential that naval and Marine forces be connected to the U. S. joint political-military operations center in the area. This would call for assignment of ranking naval and Marine officers ashore with the embassy who can direct the operations afloat.
In many ways this is a radical departure from current concepts. Yet if CinCSpecCom- ME had not shown up on the scene at Lebanon, tragic and unnecessary fighting might have resulted. Each potential trouble spot in the world today should have senior naval and Marine officers, familiar with the political-military situation, earmarked for deployment ashore at a moment’s notice.
The changing nature of power has many implications for the Navy. But the one thing that stands out is that there has been a decided change. While we must be prepared at all times to deter war, as President Kennedy has said, we must not lose sight of the fact that there still will be situations in the lower end of the spectrum of war when U. S. armed forces can be employed usefully as a technique of action to achieve political ends. We must also be prepared for this. When the time comes, we must act boldly and on time.
1. Witness the numerous efforts of the United States to get the Latin American countries to go along with a tough stand. Only when Cuba became a direct threat to her security did the United States act unilaterally. It is noteworthy that the Monroe Doctrine was not mentioned by the President by name but only alluded to indirectly. It is also significant that when the chips were down, the rest of the hemisphere rallied to the United States.
2. It must be recalled that insurgency or guerrilla warfare, tactics employed by Mao and the peasants to gain control of large areas of Nationalist China were strictly a Chinese innovation and did not conform to the ideological doctrine of the Soviets, which claimed that the revolution would come about through the working class.
3. This was written before President Kennedy established a quarantine against further arms shipments to Cuba. Nevertheless, Cuba still serves as a valid example of the way a sanctuary may be strengthened or weakened in the eyes of the opposing side. Similarly, the Philippines may be considered a possible sanctuary in the event of war between the United States and China over some area, say, Indochina.
4. Some estimates indicate that it is 40 times as costly to transport a combat division with its supporting elements 8,000 miles by air as it is to transport it by ship. This would perhaps be worth it, if it were not for the fact that the United States keeps Marine forces afloat with the Sixth and Seventh Fleets in the forward areas.