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Julius Caesar catapulted a first generation, stone-tipped, surface-to-surface ballistic missile in a counterforce attack against the hardened defenses of Alesia, in Gaul, in 52 B.C. The maximum effective range was about 50 meters and both the apogee and the accuracy, unfortunately, were about the same.
The fall of Alesia and the capture of the Gallic chieftain Vercingetorix virtually ended the seven-year-long Gallic Wars.
On the long march back to Rome and new glory, Caesar would weigh the strength and weakness of his catapulta.
But what of the defeated Vercingetorix? Made to sit like a dog at the feet of Caesar, what thoughts must have passed through the mind of this leader of genius who had rallied all Gaul, whose scorched earth policy had come so close to driving all Romans from Gaul? What might he have thought of the catapulta as, his armies routed, his cities destroyed, he was dragged in chains back to Rome for public humiliation? How might he have averted the terrible hardships of the siege? How might he have halted the rain of missiles on his walls?
Sometime during the few years remaining to him, the answer must have come.
In 1945 A.D., a mushroom cloud of red dust over Alama- gordo ushered in a new concept of vast superiority of the offensive weapon. The atomic and hydrogen bombs, soon molded into the intercontinental ballistic missile, raised destructive potential to unprecedented heights.
successful penetration of enemy defenses. in the past an attrition mechanism such as
antisubmarine or air defense barrier was
a single missile penetrates the defenses n ^ cost millions of lives. So vast and difllC
Scientists, strategists, and scholars freely proclaimed that no longer could there be a defense. And for almost two decades the words seemed prophetically true. People fell into the habit of assuming that the offensive supremacy was permanent.
Yet, like all previous military history, nuclear warfare at last appears to be developing into a cyclical struggle between the offense and the defense, the sword and the shield. The invulnerable missile is just now generating its counter, the antiballistic missile.
The Soviet Union first initiated a missile defense system, generally conceded to be because “Russians are traditionally defense minded.”
The Soviet doctrine emphasizes the long war almost exclusively. Future war is visualized as differing with the past in severity but not in essence. Soviet military thinkers think of nuclear war in traditional terms. Whether initiated by a Napoleon, a Hitler or a “power-mad imperialist clique,” they see war as again beginning with a devastating offense, but this offense will not destroy the people nor end the war. After absorbing terrible losses in the initial offensive, both sides will continue to resist with whatever they have left. After a long and brutish campaign, the traditional strategy of attrition and endurance will prevail. The superior will and discipline of the Russian people, aided by their unique geographic isolation, will prevail as they prevailed in 1812 and 1945.
The Napoleon-Hitler syndrome, the deeply ingrained defensive-mindedness of the Russian people, is only a partial element underlying the Soviet urge to build their missile defense system, crude and ineffective as it is often alleged to be.
Previously the United States, for complex reasons, had built and operated the various distant early warning defenses to counter a very modest Soviet capability in manned nuclear bombers. At a cost eventually reaching a billion dollars, the first elements of the warning line had become operational in 1957, just a few weeks before Sputnik raised all eyes heavenward in contemplation of an entirely new dimension of warfare.
Perhaps as early as 1959 and in the face of a then-existing U. S. nuclear missile capability against Russia not wholly unlike that of China today, the Soviet Union began erecting a primitive missile defense system around Leningrad. By 1961, Khrushchev was able to boast that his Soviet antimissiles could hit a fly in the sky. The U. S. capability by then was considerably more than fly-size, but American public debate over a “missile gap may have encouraged Khrushchev more than his own scientists and technicians.
The United States indulged in a decade- long public debate, not always relevant to the issue, before reaching its own decision 1,1 September 1967 to build a five-billion-dollar “thin” ballistic missile defense system.
The American plan has potential imphca' tions, on the nation and on a great part of th® planet, far beyond any previously associated with a new weapon system. Technologic3^’ scientific, economic, and political fall0"1 could change the national way of life and the very pillars upon which our democratic process rests. Because of the gravity of th® further decisions yet to be made, it is vlt3 that the issues be placed in the clearest possi ble perspective. Discussion of the militarl considerations, therefore, should be precede by a look at those related technical, politic3 and perhaps psychological factors so deep1/ imbedded in this particular decision process
First of all, the technical factors are far yond merely “hitting a bullet with a bulled, or even, as the Defense Secretary Robert ■ McNamara stated, “choosing among th°1^ sands the one that is the real bullet as opp°se^ to the false bullets.” Necessary is the destru® tion of vast salvoes of missiles hurtHJ’ through space at five miles per second, ea equipped with glamorous aids to ensure
. . r tbe
cessful if it destroyed only 10 per cent oi ^
launch vehicles, the attribution must now
against not the vehicle but the missile its^
where even 90 per cent success is inadeq"
to prevent wholly unacceptable losses, Ij' ^
are the technical problems that virt113 every important scientific and technical visor to the Administration has recomrnen
enormous pressures on the decision
against an antimissile system. A defensive system to be even marginally effective against a heavy attack would be hideously expensive. And no defense system in sight can do anything but make the attack more expensive. The Secretary of Defense spoke of the futility *n spending “$4 billion, $40 billion or $400 billion—and at the ending of all the spend- lng—to be relatively at the same point of balance on the security scale that we are n°w.” Departing from his script in the San hTancisco address in which he announced the Administration plan, he added, “I know of nothing we could do today that would waste ‘n°re of our resources and add more to our
A defensive system such as the announced Piar>, despite statements to the contrary, achieves its major effectiveness when supplemented by a massive nationwide civil dense program. The cost of such a program is c°mparable with the cost of the antimissile sVstem itself. Such a civil defense program ,°uld require extensive participation by the flyilian population in quasi-military activities
^ peace and war. These exercises could ardly be organized and conducted as normal Peacetime routine, year in and year out, dhout profound effects on the domestic Political balance if not on the American po- *cal system as a whole. Only a very few ^ears ago, when U. S.-Soviet relations were lll0re strained than today, a fallout shelter
"Necessary is the destruction of last salvoes of missiles hurtling
through space at Jive miles
hr second ...”
r . Paign was proposed but unequivocally a .ted by the American populace. Their - ltude can hardly be expected now to evolve
°mestic political and economic factors
b Pnnrmrtnc nrpccnrpc r\rt flip rl*»r»icir»n jaers. Prominent news analysts, such as Reston, have challenged the White Se°Use decision as aimed not at the military Ur«y of the nation but at the political
security of the Administration. Contrary to earlier Administration policy, the Congress had repeatedly appropriated funds for certain items in an antimissile system dating back to the Eisenhower years. Legislators, too, appear to be buying immunity from attack by their constituents as well as by the enemy. But prior to 1967, these funds had not been obligated. When the Administration lost a number of seats in the 1966 Congressional elections, however, a post-election postmortem was held by the President in Johnson City. The resultant announcement by the President on domestic issues was overshadowed by the Defense Secretary’s statement that we would probably build an antimissile system—a course of action on which both before and since, he has expressed a considerable lack of enthusiasm. According to The New York Times, a high Administration official at that time reportedly stated that the President “could be crucified politically . . . for sitting on his hands while the Russians provide a defense for their people.”
The enormity of the economic influence on the policymakers is not difficult to understand. The 28 major contractors involved in the planned defense system have installations in home states of 84 per cent of the Senators and 40 per cent of the Congressional districts. If the 3,000 lesser contractors are added, it is clear that very few legislators and no office in the Federal government is free of involvement in strong cross-pressures in making its decision. Yet this is the American system of competitive free enterprise, of competing free ideas. The motives converge and interact throughout the decision process. This is the path toward reaching a concensus in a free democratic society. To modernize the language of an earlier era, Americans want neither annihilation nor taxation without representation.
Having reached a decision to build the “thin” defense, domestic political, psychological, and economic influences can be expected to exert further pressures to expand the system to a “heavy” defense. The Joint Chiefs of Staff have already made this recommendation. A former special assistant to the Secretary of Defense has questioned publicly whether it is really possible to resist the pressures to expand the new system. Yet the “heavy” defense, in turn, directly affects the strategic balance with the Soviet Union on the one hand, raising far-reaching possibilities of a newly destabilized armaments competition. On the other are equally serious questions of co-operation with our allies, who are perhaps unprotected by the “thin” system and unable financially to construct their own system of antimissile defenses.
Considerations such as these may have been
"In essence, China is either deterred or she is not deterred;
there is no partial state lying somewhere in between.”
the major elements in deciding to go ahead with the “thin” defense against the possibility of a Chinese nuclear attack, a defense specifically stated to be not against the Soviet Union. The decision to build a $5-billion defense against a nation currently without an intercontinental missile capability rather than against the nation with 500 to a thousand missiles already targeted on the United States, requires further examination. Not the least of the complications is the fact that Chinese missiles may overfly the Soviet Union en route to U. S. targets, which certainly poses a variety of interesting possibilities for all contestants.
It is true that the “thin” system can provide a desirable safeguard against the “rash and injudicious attack” stated to be within the Chinese capability perhaps by the mid-1970s. The “thin” system takes into consideration an irrational act by a potential enemy and adds protection against the improbable but possible accidental launch of an intercontinental missile by any of the nuclear powers. This in itself is a greater advantage than may be inferred. An accidental launch should not be confused with a random launch. Missiles maintained constantly “on target” can be launched accidentally but hardly randomly. An accidental launch is a missile on target, therefore, unplanned, but promising a major disaster and a grave provocation for heavy retaliatory strikes. The antimissile defense would largely avoid the need for dependence on an instant communication, command, and control system with the launching power and all other nuclear powers.
Senators Henry M. Jackson, Joseph S- Clark, Jr., and John O. Pastore among other critics of the “thin shield,” however, claim that it offers no defense against the most likely means of attack available to the Chinese. ItlS alleged that submerged submarines off our West Coast could deliver low trajectory mis* siles inside our radar screen, just as the Israel' Air Force sneaked through the Egypt'3'1 radar defenses. Massive underwater, mult'" megaton blasts of “dirty” bombs off our Wes1 Coast could capitalize on prevailing winds to sweep a cloud of deadly radio-activity at least to the Mississippi River. Bombs could 1"- carried into our harbors by shrimp or tun3 boats or perhaps into our cities by car rental agencies.
To these claims one must conclude that'' we place any faith in the doctrine of detet' rence, if deterrence “works,” it must be 3S' sumed that the Chinese cannot be foolish1 enough to risk total devastation of the"- country by launching such an attack on the United States. The same argument can hc made against the claim that the thin defend would offer no security to Alaska, for e*‘ ample, if it were to lie beyond our screen 3,1 hence be most vulnerable to a Chinese threat’ Whether or not Alaska is specifically Pr° tected, one must assume that if deterrence c3'1 prevent an attack at the heart of U. S. cit>cS or installations, it will prevent the attack otl the outskirts, with or without a specific fense against such a threat. In essence, Chi'1 is either deterred or she is not deterred; tnc is no partial state lying somewhere v tween.
This leads us to further consideration of1 military factors so deeply intertwined i" 1 antimissile problem. Not the least of thesC the strategic consideration of what kind 0 ^ nuclear war one envisions. A very high P ^ centage of our military and civilian strateg* are firmly convinced that one nuclear e*P ^ sion or provocation to nuclear war will resl in so-called escalation to total war. 0
Far too many people today recogn'Ze , intermediate steps between initiation < total response. Far too many would be h
idencfi d, and
ph S' r other clan71
t likely ie. Itis )ff our [•y inis- Israeli
mult1' ir West inds to vity at Duld be ir tuna - rental
l 111 th, these* nd °f
nize n°i on 4 be hatd
at the Chinese would make no change in 'geting after the U. S. system is deployed.
pressed to give any rationale whatsoever on bow to break off nuclear war at any level once *t had started. We have no concept other than Capitulation by the “other side” and even that may come too late. Since he, too, has the Power of obliteration, it may not come at all. One mushroom cloud brings on the total nuclear exchange and for what follows you can read all about it in the Book of Genesis.
The U. S. system is “oriented against a Chinese attack,” yet Chinese and Soviet mis- s,les against the United States, we have seen, aPproach from the same sector. Both Chinese and Soviet missiles overfly the Arctic, Canada, and our northern frontier. That the system is “oriented against China,” therefore is largely a semantic term. The reliability against China is much higher than against the Soviet Union, but this is only because the threat from China is much less. The same defense system operates against both countries, Dut a massive enlargement would be neces- SarV to gain a comparable effectiveness against the Soviet Union.
Further, the proposed system claims to be cHcctive against the threat of some 50 missiles 'vhich the Chinese are expected to have by the mid-1970s. But this effectiveness almost necessarily assumes that the Chinese would use
flr missiles as if no anti-missile defense fisted. On the surface it appears to suggest
nl_y in this manner would the defense j^hieve the effectiveness advertised. Should Chinese in fact plan an attack on the n*ted States, however, it is difficult to imag- f e that the “thin” defense would have no ef- j.ect on their planning. When a nation has a of relatively few missiles, the only logical ategy would be to target cities rather than ^o'tary installations. For the Chinese, the ob- « Us change of plan to counter the defense, cjt<jn» would be to decrease the number of e ?S targeted so as to increase the density on ti)! . target sufficient to overcome the anti- qj. S^e defenses and achieve the desired level
... cstruction of a fewer number of U. S.
Alternatively, the Chinese could capitalize }vjf t*e fact carefully and clearly explained by the ^cNamara that increasing or improving °tfensive forces is far cheaper and simpler
for the Chinese or Russians than equivalent increases in the defense for the United States. This we have already seen is the logic on which only a “thin” defense is economically justifiable in the first place and on which the heavy defense against the Soviet level of capability appears pointless and wasteful of our resources. The two clear alternatives available to the Chinese, therefore, are either to adhere to whatever timetable was originally assumed and to target fewer cities, or to delay the time-table sufficiently only to produce the additional sophistication or the additional number of missiles to overcome our defense. In neither case is it remotely likely that the Chinese would cease manufacture of missiles upon achieving the minimum force of which we see them capable by mid-1970. The “thin” defense, therefore, operates strategically as a means largely of prolonging our nuclear monopoly with respect to China.
The logical conclusion is that the potential threats from both China and the Soviet Union are essentially the same, differing only in degree, perhaps only in time frame. Since even a total defense could hardly be over 80 per cent effective, New York, Chicago, or Washington, for instance, can enjoy no fulsome security from our defense capability against either a Soviet or Chinese attack; for insufficient priority a San Francisco or a Fort Worth may be spared the Chinese attack. The “thin” system, in short, seems limited to
"The reliability against China is much higher than against the
Soviet Union only because the threat from China is much less.”
defense, although a useful one, against only the accidental, foolhardy or irrational attack. Against the threat toward which it is specifically oriented, its usefulness is marginal and transitory.
The issue can hardly be as categoric as it has been publically stated, a question of being considered provocative against China and not against the Soviet Union. The thousands of U. S. offensive missiles now zeroed in on
the Soviet Union should have already established whatever degree of provocation is involved. This is why the Russians had no observable reaction to the announced U. S. plan. The danger is provocation of a new arms race, not provocation of attack. How could a defense be considered provocative when such an awesome offense was already poised and targeted with aircraft, submarines and land-based missile forces on continuous round-the-clock alert?
The late Major General Nikolai Talenski, articulate Soviet commentator on nuclear strategy, argued that a missile defense is not provocative:
“Only the side which intends to use its means of attack for aggressive purposes can wish to slow down the creation and improvement of anti-missile defense systems. For the peace-loving states, anti-missile systems are a means of building up their security . . . the creation of an effective antimissile missile system enables the state to make its defenses dependent chiefly on its own capabilities, not only on mutual deterrence, that is, on the good will of the other side.” Soviet Premier Alexei Kosygin, at a London press conference last February, was even more to the point: “The system that warns of attack is not a factor in the arms race.” The gloomy result which can hardly be evaded, however, is that the radars and anti-missile sites of the fixed defenses themselves become additional targets
"The underlying fear in European capitals . . . is now to
see . . . a reversion oj the United States toward isolationism.”
of the first offensive attack. In a counterforce strategy this is axiomatic; it is only a little less so in any other strategy.
For considerations such as these, European and other experts consider the “China- oriented” anti-missile plan to be merely the first step toward a massive system against the Soviet Union, a system which, in Mr. McNamara’s own words, would be “no adequate shield at all—but rather a strong inducement for the Soviets to vastly increase their oWa offensive forces. The result would be only a mutually offsetting expenditure of about $40 billion each for the Soviet Union and the United States without any gain in security) because each nation’s offense could penetrate the other’s defense.”
The underlying fear in European capital whose security for two decades lay under the umbrella of the American strategic nuclear capability, is now to see an apparent weaken' ing in U. S. faith in deterrence. They see 3 reversion of the United States toward isd3' tionism leaving themselves relatively vl1^’ nerable and undefended against the seven or eight hundred Soviet intermediate range ba1' fistic missiles targeted on Western Europe Europe’s close, crowded cities and nearnesS to the Soviet Union—with corresponding1, shorter times of flight—makes the technolog ical problem far more difficult and the abilj to defend far less. The conclusion seems n1 escapable that the proposed system, whethe it is posed by the Chinese or the S°vl threat, is at best only a partial answer to very difficult problem. j
One major strategic factor has been oinittc. almost totally in the foregoing, however. I ^ is the extra-territorial element of the sea a” outer space itself. The sea is the clement wh America is so fortunate and the Soviet so disfavored. It is on and in the sea that m11 of our answer may be found. With a la11 area far smaller and an industrial concen tion far greater than that of the Soviet Un1 it was only natural that we moved our 1 01 <
forces out to sea. The vast ocean areas gra° near invulnerability in their depths and r moved from the continent the hail of coun fire which fixed installations on land 111 ^ inevitably have drawn to the heard3^ Even though the technological problei»s vastly greater, we must first look to the -sca relative invulnerability of our strategy e fenses as well as our offenses. The vastc0li- seas are available to all, yet open to the trol of any. The oceanic moats are the j( natural defenses of the United States, al1 . ( is seaward the country must look for its 1 defense effort.
Defenses based at sea have moo— ■ $ to threatened areas depending 1
eir own : only 3 lOllt $4® ind the ;ecurity> enetrate
capital | ider the nuclei weaken- ey see 3
;ly vul' I
seven °r > nge bah Europe- nearnesS(
. Soviet ver to 3
at ninth a l3°d ncentr3'
r Pol3rlS granted and re; counter nd »f
egric ^ vast 6* the 0011
c and 1
ibility ng l,P
... enge. Defenses based at sea can more llkely ir
enses based at sea are far less provocative a new arms race. Defenses based at sea do themselves become the target of the first
r>y offensive. Defenses based at sea can be
uvt uvv>^iv |yuuiuv/iij tw jy 1 v/t'yw
k neutral countries from nuclear blackmail fc ^hina or the Soviet Union. Lastly, de- Al]S(;s based at sea can be developed with
is p!) an<d co,,lcl therefore save not only what
lvigorate our alliances in new,
A graduate of the U. S. Naval Academy in the Class of 1939, Captain Schratz had extensive duty in submarines during World War II. During the Korean conflict he commanded the USS Pickerel (SS- 524) and then served in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations until 1954. He graduated from the Naval *»ar College in 1959 and continued on the War Col- e"c staff. He was the Joint Chiefs of Staff Representa- llVe at the Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Con- erence, Geneva, Switzerland, until 1964, when he ?vas assigned to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of cfcnse. A Wilton Park fellow, Mershon scholar, and a ll. candidate (Ohio State University), he has been a aiember of tlie faculty of the National War College
s‘nce August 1966.
and Nagasaki and the drain on Japanese economy are both strong constraints against a nuclear program, yet Japan’s natural enemy on the China mainland and the factor of national prestige, so important to the Japanese, will operate in the opposite direction. Because of Japan’s island position, its close proximity to the nuclear threat from both China and Russia, its densely concentrated population and industry and its deep national abhorrence of another devastation by nuclear weapons, it may be that whatever natural desire the Japanese have to produce a nuclear weapon could be sublimated in a nuclear antimissile defense system. Japan can make one of the best technical and political cases of any country for deploying an antimissile system. There would seem to be considerable reason to believe that a regional, sea-based security system could fill that need, and further, that such a system could be developed in co-operation with the United States.
It is well known that the U. S. Navy is currently very much interested in a sea-based antimissile system. Early reactions from industry have been highly encouraging. Sea- based defense units can sweep the cone of fire from China and the Soviet Union. Additional units, to increase the coverage, could be stationed off China, in the Japan Sea, the North Pacific, and the Mediterranean. Should political circumstances indicate, the units could be shifted strategically or tactically—or technically, such as against a fractional orbital launch—for greater effectiveness. The attractiveness of such a concept is obvious. The advantages of the sea-based system already show promise of being as far-reaching for strategic defense as the Polaris submarine now serves for strategic offense. Using a combination of both surface vessels and submarines, the system would achieve the capability of polar operations through Arctic ice when required and of near indefinite durability on station in the free seas as a normal routine.
This is not to suggest that defense against a sophisticated missile attack, sea or land based or from space itself, is just around the corner. Quite the contrary. Vast technological problems are still a very long way from solution. Militarily, for a very long time to come, there will be no possibility of wholly defending any target against a determined nuclear attack. In fact, with or without the best possible defense, nobody can win a nuclear war in any meaningful sense. Even though the emphasis once again is shifting toward the defense, technology limits the currently visualized systems to an attrition mechanism which would be potentially effective against an unsophisticated or haphazard attack but ineffective against any other, and very expensive in either case. Because of the cost in national resources and, potentially, on the individual freedom of the American people, the issue is heavily tinged with both politics and economics at every turn. America is a long way from achieving a missile defense capability other than through continued faith in deterrence itself. This faith is hardly mis placed. Yet vast technological and political change allows no blind reliance on any concept without hard scrutiny as to its continued relevance in the emerging world, the world as it is. One’s horizons cannot be limited to his land frontiers. One’s glance must contemplate both the distant seas and the encompassing heavens lest his grasp truly exceed his reach.
Currently, the only real defense in a nuclear war is not to fight one.
The 20th century Caesars of nuclear warfare have devised their deadly efficient catapults t° storm the defensive walls of any enemy city. The defenders now realize, as Vercingetorix was made to know, how inefficient and penetrable are their stoutest barricades. Only too clear is the thin range of safety they can hope to assure the populace. As the enemy catapults are being assembled the latter-day Alesian defenders belatedly see, as Vercingetorix must finally have seen, the weal' ness of defenses located wholly within the land perimeters, within the cities and villages themselves- As with the beleaguered tribes of Gaul—with the threat so near at hand—we must raise our eyes to look beyond the walls and to visualize how real security might be achieved by capitalizing on the broad moats beyond the walls. The inherent defense capability in their friendly waters may prevent the missiles from ever reaching the last ditch defenses on land. Whether against ancient Rome of modern Cathay, the outer defense perimeters must lie far beyond the land itself. The potential ad' vantages which the sea offers in the way of military invulnerability, political stability, and d‘P' lomatic harmony appear to be unsurpassed.
hanging political circumstances in any part the globe. Defenses based at sea reduce the Motivation to surprise attack, no matter how Rational. Defenses based at sea constitute dense in depth which is militarily infeasible to intercept enemy missiles before they de- y multiple warheads, decoys, and other uctration aids, and therefore can greatly ai,ce the number of incoming targets which , Ust he handled by the terminal defenses on tlef ^ccausc 1*1C festive invulnerability,
of ' hot ener
into strategic positions to protect allies
?°s and neutrals for the mutual security of and
rej \ °P the unity of our Atlantic alliance but tiy Vl^orate our alliances in new, co-opera-
I^fense arrangements. sidenr ^lustration of the last point, let us con- p0r ^lc case of Japan. Now rising to great traCr status in Asia, Japan is once again at- esUbr *tS °Pcn sca frontiers and the reIts ^ . ment of its world maritime position. a drapidly *ncreas*ng stature may stimulate
greatSlre ^or the status symbol of a modern Jhg natlon, possession of nuclear weapons.
CcP psychological scars from Hiroshima