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Perhaps the eternal vigilance that the patriot considers to be the price of liberty—and the sailor considers to be the price of survival —will forewarn Americans in sufficient time to recognize and thwart an insidious threat that could shatter not only the Navy, but the U. S. ship of state as well.
The U. S. Navy is under attack. The source of this latest in a long series of similar ahacks is the United Nations.
Within the U. N.’s glassy-eyed building on the banks of New York’s East River, a datively small group with a very large name—The United Nations Ad Hoc Committee to Study Peaceful Uses of the Sea-Bed and the Ocean Floor Beyond the Limits 0 National Jurisdiction—is deeply involved in discussions which carry far-reaching ''^plications for the future of Free World seapower in general, and U. S. seapower in Articular. And, as usual, the cause is generally espoused and directed by people (and '""ions) who apparently know precious little and understand even less about the Principles, uses, and benefits of seapower. Sad to say, this is especially true of far too "lany Free World countries who seemingly do not comprehend the overwhelming egree to which their continued freedom and independence rest upon the main- <:,'ance of Western supremacy at sea.
^The Ad Hoc Committee emerged from an 18 December 1967 General Assembly '"solution, which in turn grew out of a Maltese suggestion. Motivation behind most the widespread support this suggestion received can be found in a desire common to j. the world’s small nations: they want a share of the wealth that will inevitably flow man’s ever-increasing ability to exploit the resources of the ocean floor. Having 11nesscd the race for space, aware that there is a striking parallel between that en- eavor and any similar race for “inner space,” these nations want to avoid being j. aPped in the role of envious bystander when the sea-bed’s cornucopia is ultimately °tced to disgorge its contents. Thus, knowing that they have little chance of success- competing with the United States and the Soviet Union in what promises to financially and technologically—an incredibly expensive drive to the deep ocean °or, the bulk of the world’s nations are seeking another alternative; one not available
to them in the reach for space. Their desires were best articulated by the Indians, who made their position perfectly clear in a draft resolution they offered for the Committee’s consideration:
The sea-bed and ocean floor and the subsoil thereof, beyond the limits of present national jurisdiction, are the common heritage of all mankind. As such, they are not subject to national appropriation and shall be used exclusively for peaceful purposes, for the benefit of all countries, particularly the developing countries.
Accordingly, the “have-not” countries seized upon the Maltese proposal as a sinecure. Even this portion of the proposal—exploitation of sea-beds resources for the benefit of all mankind and particularly for the developing nations—is, of course, open to challenge. Certainly Jacques Piccard spoke for many when he said:
You can’t have the little nations which control the U.N. squabbling over your rights to develop the ocean’s bottom. Those who get there first should control, just as when Commodore Peary and Admiral Byrd discovered the North Pole and parts of the Antarctic.
But, while this segment of the Ad Hoc Committee’s study task presents some rather
"The United States gained some of its earliest experience in naval disarmament by means of unilateral
self-inflicted surgery. ”
substantial moral, financial, and legal problems for the United States, the remaining portion harbors an outright threat to our very existence. Because that portion encroaches upon our ability to preserve the security of the United States—and ultimately that of the entire Free World—the words deserve particular attention: “. . . reservation of the seabed and ocean floor and subsoil thereof underlying the high seas beyond the limits of present national jurisdiction exclusively f°r peaceful purposes.”
This language, in itself, is enough to g‘ve pause to every knowledgeable advocate ol Western naval supremacy. What the Con1' mittee is doing to expand and extend this language, however, turns pause into panic- Led by the Soviet Union, a large group of n2' tions is bending every effort to transform “reS' ervation for peaceful purposes” into a flat prohibition against use for any military pur' poses whatsoever. As any alert sailor quickly recognize, this is a quite different kettle of fish, indeed.
Of course, this U. N. undertaking is no1 history’s first attempt to anchor the worlds navies permanently. Nor have such attempt always been fostered by international bodies- The United States, for example, gained some of its earliest experience in naval disarmament by means of unilateral, self-inflicted surgery-
Aided and abetted by Albert Gallatin, hlS cost-conscious Secretary of the Treasury) Thomas Jefferson proceeded to dismantle the fledgling U. S. Navy during his first term in office. But, even Jefferson’s efforts were no1 without precedent. Following the sale of tde frigate Alliance in 1785, the young country struggled through the next 13 years withouta single man-o’-war. Lessons that had been instinctively learned by George Washing' ton—the flexibility provided generally by sea" power, and the victory that French seapoWe* made possible at Yorktown—had already been forgotten.
Jefferson, who quite obviously had never learned these lessons in the first place, move*1 from maritime obtuseness to naval insanity- His machinations can, perhaps, be blamed 1,1 part on the sequence of history. Peace Wit*1 France came on 3 February 1801, Jefferson^ inauguration taking place a month later on March. The advent of peace, however, doeS not appear to be totally to blame, for the neW President brought with him to the office a*1 intense antipathy to all armaments, navieS especially. In 1799, he had written to Elbridge Gerry that he was “for such a naval force aS may protect our coasts and harbors. . ■ not] a navy, which, by its own expenses an
'he eternal wars in which it will implicate us, will grind us with public burthens, and sink us under them.”
After the inauguration, deed followed Word as the Jefferson-Gallatin team went straight to work to eliminate those public ‘burthens.” All but 14 of the country’s 34 uien-of-war were sold outright; seven of the
**. . . deadly paper torpedoes, fashioned with goose quill and parchment in the White House and Congress took a mounting toll o] the fleet. .. ”
rernaining ships laid up in ordinary. Men and officers were discharged by the score, and all 'v°rk was abruptly halted on the new nation’s sbips-of-the-line. Then, in place of a much Ueeded blue-water navy, capable of protecting American coasts and seagoing commerce abke, Jefferson substituted a fleet of shallow- ^ater gunboats, which turned out to be as '^effectual in war as his near-sighted Embargo ^ct of 1807 proved to be in preventing war.
short, the Jeffersonian policies of unilateral disarmament and self-denying embargo can be said to have led directly to the War of 1812— aud to have very nearly lost that war when it lnevitably arrived.
Subsequent to 1815, and again despite jessons the war years had brought so forcibly uorne upon the high seas as well as on ChesaPeake Bay and Lake Borgne, the U. S. Navy '''Us once more permitted to stagnate and define. A few frigates were retained in service aud the ship-of-the-line flowered for a brief Period, and even the small, fast cruiser began to disappear.
Between 1830 and 1860, piracy in the West Udies, African slave running, and the Mexi- cJn War saved the fleet from complete exaction. The Civil War generated a frantic °ut short-lived resurgence, and after 1865 the >avy was allowed to wither once again, "here enemy warships had failed, deadly paper torpedoes, fashioned with goose quill and parchment in the White House and the halls of Congress, took a mounting toll of the fleet and, by 1881, there was hardly a single U. S. warship fit to go to sea.
In 1921, the first large-scale international effort at naval disarmament appeared on the horizon and, for the United States, the paper torpedo lost its heretofore exclusively unilateral appearance. This time, the recurring American compulsion for self-inflicted maritime impotence was eagerly pushed along by nations who had no such altruistic disarmament aims—England and Japan. Very nearly exhausted by the immensely expensive effort required to defeat Imperial Germany, knowing they stood little change of matching America’s “Big Navy” act of 1916, the English proposed a naval limitations conference as a cheap and effective way to maintain their own naval supremacy. The United States not only fell into this trap, but President Warren G. Harding hastened to demonstrate his desire for peace by offering to host the meeting. It is therefore ironic that the naval disarmament conference—whose results would nail a lid on the coffin of U. S. naval aspirations— was convened in Washington, D. C., on 12 November 1921. The Japanese, still mindful of their spectacular victory at Tsushima, viewed the conference as a highroad to formal acceptance as a major, 20th century naval power. Manipulating the British and Americans skillfully, the Son of Heaven’s representatives drove a hard and astute bargain in in the process.
Since the United States had two oceans to defend, the Conference’s 5:5:3 ratio alone conceded naval supremacy in the Western Pacific to Japan. But this was not good enough for the Japanese, who signed the subsequent treaty only after the United States and England had renounced, additionally, any military strengthening of their possessions in the Far East. When the conference ended, the American and British delegations walked away from the table, blissfully unaware that they had just helped pour the first concrete on a road that would lead directly to the “day that will live in infamy.”
Clearly, this past record generates some-
thing less than unbounded confidence in U. S. ability to emerge from the current United Nations exercise with our seagoing shirt still intact. And just as clearly, never before in our history has American supremacy at sea been more vital to the security of the United States.
That importance stems from a basic fact of life in this latter half of the 20th century: we live in a bipolar nuclear world. Communist China may one day make it tripolar, but that time is most probably on the order of a decade away. Accordingly, we can—at least for the moment—focus our attention on the threat emanating from the Soviet Union.
In the current atmosphere of mutual strategic nuclear deterrence, U. S. security depends predominantly upon the assured destruction provided by a reliable second- strike capability and, therefore, upon the Polaris and oncoming Poseidon ballistic missile systems that constitute the backbone of that U. S. capability. And, because substantive sea-bed discussions have, so far, been directed solely to the issue of the ocean floor itself, and have not extended to the superadjacent waters, any incipient danger to the U. S. fleet ballistic missile force can be set aside for the present. Lest one think, however, that these submarines have been overlooked by the Committee, it would be wise to note an amendment to the Soviet-sponsored “prohibition,” offered by the United Republic of Tanzania. (Fortunately, neither the Soviet resolution, nor the Tanzanian amendment have been acted upon, as yet.)
(1) Declares that the sea-bed and the ocean floor and the subsoil thereof, underlying the high seas beyond present national jurisdiction, should not be used by any State or States for any military purposes whatsoever.
(2) Requests the ENDC [Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Conference] to consider, as a matter of urgency, the question of (a) banning the use of the sea-bed and ocean floor beyond the limits of national jurisdiction by nuclear submarines; (b) banning of military fortifications and missile bases on the sea-bed and ocean floor.
In light of the Tanzanian amendment, perhaps it would be well to digress for a moment to consider briefly—-in admittedly broad
terms—the role of seapower and its potential application during the latter half of the present century. The experience of two world wars, the Korean “Police Action,” and the guerrilla campaign in Vietnam combine to remove any lingering doubt about the utility of a modern naval force in any kind of war fought with conventional weapons. As f°r
rrA close examination of events since 1945 reveals that the Soviet record hci$ been anything but brilliant/'
nuclear war—strike missions of SSBNs and carrier aircraft aside—one can, to be sure? only speculate. Nevertheless, it seems entirely
probable that in a post-strategic-nuclear-exchange world, Fleet units might very well constitute the most viable and potent military power surviving the devastation. But between these two extremes, there lies a vast area wherein seapower has a critically important role to play; one which is too little understood by the layman, the politician, and the in' tellectual alike.
That role is best typified by the traumatic days of October 1962. Today, as during the dark period of the Cuban missile crisis, that role does not encompass merely an American capability to defeat the Soviets at sea, ah though this is an essential element. Rathe!; the Cuban crisis suggests that the prim6 commodity offered by the modern naval fleet is the most vital factor of all in the therniom1' clear era; time to think. It is the key to avoid' ance of runaway, uncontrolled escalation.
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What renders “time to think” indispensable in the missile age, is the unpredictability ot the current Soviet leadership, coupled with a most dangerous myth: Soviet infallibility itl political decision-making. Throughout the course of the Cold War, those who have been uninformed—and, in far too many instances; those who have been informed, but incredibly unthinking—have credited the Soviet Union with an unbroken record of carefully cal'
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elated, cunningly devised, and universally hecessful political decisions. This same group 'as postulated an invariable corollary: Weston initiatives have been essentially nonexis- *er>t, while responses have been tardy, fuming exercises in futility. Hardly any assessment could be less accurate.
A close examination of events since 1945 Weals that the Soviet record has been anything but brilliant. Gains, by and large, have leen achieved through application of raw, 'rute force, quite without regard to the long- Wm political consequences. In case after Case, failure to think the problem through 4head of time, and an apparent insensibility l° the political facts of life have redounded to Produce stunning losses for the Soviets.
In 1948, for example, the Russians were [htcntly oblivious to the import of the em- lfyonic Western European Union. They ^ared everyone in Western Europe half to ^eath by clamping a blockade around Berlin m>d, for their troubles, they got the North Atlantic Treaty Organization; a thorn which tlley have been trying for 20 years to remove.
jWrdly had the Kremlin leaders recovered r°m this one, when they ordered the Soviet ^legation to walk out of the United Nations 'ecurity Council, thereby providentially 'faring the way for the U. N.-sponsored Wlitary action which thwarted subsequent ■J°rnnnmist aggression in Korea; a move they otherwise could easily have prevented.
Hy picking up the ideological gauntlet j'hich Mao Tse-tung threw down, the Soviet union helped to fracture the theretofore ^onolithic character of the international °mmunist movement. And, in Cuba, Nikita Khrushchev initiated a game of nuclear, tfble-stakes poker, which, if he had taken the hfne to analyze the problem fully, he would We known could only be lost unless he was PrpPared, from the start, to call a raise convulsing the entire American strategic nuclear ,°rce. Most recently, the brutal Soviet move jmto Czechoslovakia further shredded what htle remained of international Communist Un*ty and, more importantly, jolted a totter- Irig NATO back to life.
^ It seems clear, then, that the Soviet record as not been nearly as sagacious nor quite so successful as some would have us believe. On the contrary, it has been marked by precipitate actions, failure to assess realistically probable long-term consequences, and a political immaturity—or insensibility—which cannot but confound Western attempts to predict with any degree of confidence the probable Russian response to a contemplated Western course of action. It is this unpredictability that poses the two greatest current risks of nuclear war—accident or miscalculation.
What could bring this fact of present-day power politics more acutely into focus than the recent invasion of Czechoslovakia? No one will question the smoothness and precision of the Russian military occupation. Its efficiency came as an unsettling shock to the detente- mesmerized West. But the political ineptness of the move, and its “shoot-from-the-hip” nature, joined forces to destroy a budding Western confidence in the “rationality” of the new Kremlin leadership.
Precisely because this Soviet unpredictability exists, the Free World must, for its own safety, ensure that the Russian rulers have time to think before they are forced to take a next step in any East-West confrontation. If
"If automatic, uncontrolled runaway escalation ... is
to be avoided, the crisis script must be played out in slow motion
automatic, uncontrolled, runaway escalation to the unthinkable strategic nuclear exchange is to be avoided, the crisis script must be played out in slow motion. To be sure, we have no assurance that time thus supplied to the Soviets will be used sensibly, but we do have abundant evidence, on the other hand, tending to prove that their miscalculation quotient is dangerously high when they find it necessary to react in short order. This is, perhaps, the foremost lesson to be learned from the 1962 Cuban missile crisis.
A second and only slightly less important lesson emerges with the knowledge that sea- power offers a means of exerting graduated pressure, in a controlled time-sequence', a scenario the predominant power can freely manipulate. Herein is the essence of escalation control, and it is this sort of flexibility which the Free World will surrender only at its own extreme peril. For this reason alone, the deliberations in the Ad Hoc Committee are of unprecedented importance to the interests of the Free World.
Armed with this background, one can then examine the thrust of the Committee’s work to date and attempt an assessment.
First of all, the Committee swiftly moved beyond its original terms of reference with the initiation of the drive to convert “preservation for peaceful uses” to a “prohibition” of all military use. The Soviet Union, fully aware of the present impossibility of achieving meaningful verification of national adherence to such prohibition, and acutely conscious of the closed-versus-open-society advantage it possesses, jumped to the forefront of the prohibition movement.
rrSurely, we will not ignore the innumerable occasions when the U. S. Navy triumphed over enemy fleets
only to succumb to paper torpedoes. ”
Specifically, Yakov A. Malik introduced a Soviet draft resolution to this effect, expressing the hope that the Committee would pronounce itself on the matter by requesting the General Assembly to call for prohibition of military uses of the sea-bed. Unfortunately, the Soviets are vociferously supported in this stratagem, not only by the Eastern European claque, but also by a large number of poorly informed, unperceptive Free World countries in addition to a horde of completely uninformed “Third World” nations, as well.
There is also the problem of defining these terms. Between “peaceful” and “military purposes lies a vast chasm of difference. Sys' terns designed solely to defend a nation again51 external attack (a Texas Tower, for example would likely be permitted under the fornid heading, but manifestly forbidden under the latter. So, indeed, would an early-warnin! radar ship—anchored in international water5 in order to provide highly accurate position information to an anti-ballistic missile sys ten1. Bottoming of a Polaris or any other sub' marine—for any reason at all—would coO' stitute violation of a treaty responsive to the Soviet resolution. Strict interpretation of tbe Tanzanian amendment would seemingly oU1' law bottom-navigation, not only by nuclei submarines, but by any warship whatsoever' These examples are representative; the p°s' sibilities are nearly unlimited.
It therefore seems apparent that Wester1' naval flexibility and supremacy stand t0 suffer irreparable harm if the Ad Hoc Con1' mittee’s labors produce the kinds of liniita' tions that are inherent in the language G11' rently under consideration. And, while tbe challenge thus posed to U. S. and Wester11 naval dominance is sufficiently ominous undel present circumstances, the possibility that the Committee might focus its attention on the waters above the sea-bed, the superadjaceU1 waters, carries implications that are noth111:? short of disastrous. That such a possibility exists is evidenced by a recent United Natio115 press release.
On 20 June 1968, the U. N. report (GA.3600) a Russian draft resolution whlCl would “request the Eighteen-Nation DlS armament Committee [sic] to consider ^ question of prohibiting the use of the seas “n oceans beyond the territorial waters of the riparial1 States for military purposes.” [Emphasl* supplied] Other U. N.-published versions 0 the Soviet resolution do not contain this a] encompassing language the prohibition these instances being restricted to the sea-be and the ocean floor. It seems clear, ho'v ever, that the general thrust of the Co111^ mittee discussions increasingly points, toW3r the kinds of naval limitations that could dc? troy Western supremacy at sea.
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A graduate of the U. S. Naval Academy with the Class of 1946, Captain Hanks served in the USS St. Paul (CA-73) from August 1945 to January 1949. He was assigned to AirASRon 892 in 1951-1952 and to the NROTC Unit at Oregon State University from 1952 to 1954. He was operations officer of the USS Arnold J. Isbell (DD-869) from 1954 to 1956, and for ComDesRon Eleven in 1956-1957. He was executive officer of the USS Floyd B. Parks (DD-884) in 1960— 1961, and commanded the USS Boyd (DD-544) from 1961 to 1963. Following two years on the staff of ComCruDesPac, he attended the Naval War College and, since 1966, has served first as Assistant for NATO Affairs, and now as Deputy Director for Nuclear Planning Affairs in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense (International Security Affairs.)
Dr. Robert A. Frosch, recently Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research and Development, said: “The Navy is concerned . . . that proposed sea-bed regimes might eventually result in claims and restrictions on the use of superadjacent waters. ...” Too, given the alacrity with which the present Committee jumped, from contemplation of peaceful uses, to recommendations for a complete ban on the military use of the sea-bed, and the information set forth above in the wording of the 20 June press release, one can, perhaps, be forgiven for observing that “concerned” and “might” ought to be replaced with “scared” and “will.”
Moreover, the present danger from international pressures is compounded by forces at Work within our own government; essentially bureaucratic in nature, but nonetheless insid- tous. For, if the growth of national government reveals anything at all, it is that no agency has ever deliberately striven to put itself out of business. As a matter of fact, the standard bureaucratic view of the future was Unwittingly enunciated by the matron who, when asked if she intended to grow old gracefully, replied that, on the contrary, she Planned to fight every step of the way.
There is no current evidence to show that the U. S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency is an exception to this theorem. Basking in the sunlight of the limited test-ban treaty, still hoping for universal acceptance of the nuclear nonproliferation treaty, temporarily unemployed as a result of the setback to the projected talks on strategic arms limitations caused by the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, ACDA quickly shifted its main attention to the U.N. sea-beds proposal, seeing therein virgin, promising territory for disarmament exploitation. Thus, we find ourselves again in the position we occupied almost 50 years ago when we took our seat at the naval limitations conference table in Washington. Once again, international pressures have joined with zealous forces within our own government to jeopardize the one arm of U. S. national defense which is still manifestly and dominantly superior to its Soviet counterpart: the Navy.
One is constrained at this point to state parenthetically that there is no quarrel herein with the basic objectives of these disarmament moves. No one—least of all the professional military man who has experienced at first hand the horrendous effects of war—can but applaud the aim of promoting peace; of eliminating the danger that some small, innocuous conflict will lead inexorably up the escalatory ladder to the ultimate disaster of a full-scale nuclear exchange and the possible extermination of all mankind.
Nevertheless, one can also be excused for pulling the General Alarm handle when efforts to achieve these laudable objectives promise to so weaken our defenses and, simultaneously, to so discredit America’s determination to defend itself that aggression is likely to be encouraged rather than discouraged. It is submitted that, given the present state of world affairs, this would be the worst possible time to empty the nation’s powder horn and hang its musket over the fireplace.
Rather, this is the time to breathe life back into that vigilance which, to the sailor is the price of good navigation, and to the patriot is the price of liberty itself.
Such vigilance must be carefully and effectively directed toward the preservation of those defense interests which we currently conceive to be indispensable to the continued maintenance of U. S. security. Assistant
Secretary Frosch described the naval portion of those interests on 7 October 1967, in an address at the Second Mershon-Carnegie Conference on Law, Organization, and Security in the Use of the Ocean:
(1) Sea basing of strategic deterrent: Future design of sea based deterrents following Polaris/Poseidon may take many forms. Underwater silos, for example, are a possibility. Should that be so, it may be that the maritime nuclear powers would like to keep the continental shelves and deep ocean available for some use by such military systems. This, however, would not necessarily be a bar to use of these areas of the ocean bottom also for exploration and exploitation of natural resources.
(2) Warning and surveillance systems: The rules for military use of the sea should not forbid installations on the bottom for the detection of submarines. . . . The rules should not deny freedom of the seas for deployment of strategic detection and warning devices.
(3) Other units deployed on the sea floor: The further extension of military capabilities to the sea-bed is a clear possibility. . . . The right to deploy units on the sea floor in international waters for the purpose of inspecting for mines or other impediments to the legitimate exercise of the freedom of the seas in particular seems useful.
(4) Protection of nationals engaged in sea floor activities: One other military possibility to be noted specifically is protection of those engaged in exploitation of the sea. United States capital is unlikely to be risked unless it is United States policy to protect the investments against foreign or piratical invasions. This will be a Navy and/or Coast Guard mission.
From the above listing, it is readily apparent that the United States has a huge stake in the outcome of the U.N. sea-beds discussions. If American interests are to be properly safeguarded, it is essential that our very best talent be assembled to deal with the problem. In the Ad Hoc Committee’s councils, the U. S. Navy’s voice must come through loud and clear. Above all, it must come through effectively. The security of the American people, and that of the entire Free World, demand that we retain undiminished the deterrent power of our fleet
ballistic missile force, the escalation-control
capability provided by the U. S. fleets in general, and the incomparable ability of those fleets to fight and win a conventional war. We simply cannot afford to sacrifice any of these advantages, which we now enjoy, by entrusting them to a small group of unqualified or irresponsible zealots who dash blindly down the disarmament path in the hope that luck will steer them around the stretches of quicksand lying in wait for the unwary.
Surely, after almost 200 years of bitter experience, we have finally learned the hard lessons of international power politics.
Surely, we will not ignore the innumerable occasions in our past when the U. S. Navy triumphed over enemy fleets only to succumb to paper torpedoes launched by politicians who did not—or would not—understand this insular nation’s monumental dependence upon seapower.
We do not live in those long-gone days when national folly proved to be painful, but less than fatal. This is the thermonuclear
age, and the 30 minutes that separate us from annihilation are made all the more sinister by the distinct possibility that our allowance oi mistakes may very well be already exhausted-
We have no choice but to navigate today s reef-strewn seas of naval limitations with extreme prudence and hardheaded pragmatism, for errors made now stand to wreck not only the U. S. Navy, but the American ship' of-state, as well. And, given the destructive power of present-day nuclear weapons, it lS highly unlikely that there would be very much left to salvage from such a wreck.