Prize Essay 1970
SECOND HONORABLE MENTION
Translating NATO strategy into dynamic policies which will support the interests of both the United States and NATO becomes doubly difficult—and the more imperative—as ever increasing numbers of Soviet warships appear in the Mediterranean.
The Mediterranean Sea in the early days of the American Republic provided the scene for some of the most glorious chapters in American naval history. The threat of Barbary pirates against American trade with the Middle East was permanently and effectively eliminated by tactics appropriate to the era—direct application of military force. The challenge today is not only a new threat to American political and economic interests in the Middle East but also a far more serious attempt by the Soviet Union to disrupt U. S. and allied strategic control of the entire Mediterranean flank. The elimination of the Soviet challenge is immeasurably more difficult. Tactics appropriate to the early 19th century are hardly applicable in the late 20th century. Yet the peace and stability of the world may be deeply responsive to developing events on the European southern flank.
Ancient Rome could not consolidate its organization of Europe until it defeated the contending power of Carthage. The Arab control of the southern flank, in the words of author-editor James Burnham, “inhibited free passage over the sea and kept Europe . . . dark for centuries. Long before Borodino or even Trafalgar, Napoleon’s failure was sealed by Nelson at the mouth of the Nile. To conquer Western Europe, Hitler invaded Libya; and Eisenhower, to defend and rescue Europe, had to begin with that same southern shore.” The focus of East-West confrontation has shifted once again from central Europe to the Middle East. The Russian pincer on Europe through the Baltic in the north may be closing through the Mediterranean in the south. A centuries old ambition for an opening through the warm waters of the southern sea is edging toward success.
The degree to which American strategists can respond imaginatively and constructively to the rise of Soviet maritime power in a region long dominated by the West is crucially important. NATO strategy in the Mediterranean mirrors U. S. strategic thinking; an analysis of the southern flank, therefore, must first examine the U. S. basic doctrine as it affects the Mediterranean region.
The foreign policy of a nation is strongly influenced by its geography. It is understandable, therefore, that the American view of strategy and the relation of war and diplomacy developed from long political and geographic isolation of the United States from the internal problems of Europe. The great good fortune of strategic position and political independence enabled the United States to remain free of involvement in the problems of our European forebears well into the 20th century. As a consequence, the American attitude toward war and peace developed in many ways which are unique among modern great powers. The dictum of Clausewitz that the purpose of military power is to achieve a political goal is largely rejected in America. U. S. policymakers traditionally displayed a sharp cleavage separating policy, and war as an instrument of policy. U. S. military leaders, with few exceptions, have not contributed significantly to the literature on theoretical doctrines of war and peace. In the American view, war interrupted political processes and did not, as Clausewitz claimed, continue those processes by other means. Morality forbade the use of power to coerce except for total ends, that is, for moral or ideological goals. War was not a tool of the politician nor was politics adaptable to the military skills. Wars were avoided vigorously until they were inevitable, then pursued just as vigorously toward total ends such as “to make the world safe for democracy,” or “unconditional surrender.” Wars which could be fought as national crusades received popular support in America: the War with Spain in 1898, World War I, World War II. Wars for limited objectives were uniformly unpopular: the War of 1812, the Mexican War, Korea, Vietnam.
Alexis de Tocqueville noted the cleavage in American thinking on war and peace as early as the 1830s. Statements of Generals Omar Bradley, Dwight Eisenhower, Matthew Ridgway and William Westmoreland give evidence that the traditional difficulties in relating war and policy extend into the current era. General Bradley said, “As soldiers we looked at the British desire to capture Berlin as complicating the war with political foresight.” Eisenhower criticized Churchill publicly and privately for his enormous preoccupation with the political role of the military. He sympathized with Churchill’s “concern as a political leader for the future of the Balkans . . . but as a soldier I was particularly careful to exclude such considerations from my recommendations.” Eisenhower’s book on World War II bears the title Crusade in Europe; one wonders how many European political and military leaders saw American participation in World War II as a crusade. Churchill clearly recognized the U. S. cleavage between policy and strategy. He learned early that when he talked strategy with his American ally he had to take off his Prime Minister’s hat and argue from his position as Minister of Defense. President Franklin Roosevelt as Chief of State would not confer with him or his military chiefs on such matters, reserving to himself the political direction of the war. Churchill shrewdly observed:
We can now see the deadly hiatus which existed between the fading of President Roosevelt’s strength and the growth of President Truman’s grip. In this melancholy void, one President could not act and the other could not know. The military chiefs . . . confined themselves to their professional sphere. The State Department had not been close enough to the heart of things to comprehend the issues involved. Indispensable political direction was lacking at the moment when it was most needed.
Even in the White House, Eisenhower rejected a close interrelation of military goals and national policy, partly because of the cleavage in the power-policy function, partly because he saw politics as partisan and therefore tainted. His letter to Congress transmitting his Reorganization Plan #6 for the Defense Department in 1953 stated:
Basic decisions relating to the military forces must be made by politically accountable civilian officials. Conversely, professional military leaders must not be thrust into the political arena to become the prey of partisan politics.
The uniqueness in the American view is the persistence of the isolation of policy and power when American strategic interests extend far beyond those early geographic barriers, when the barriers themselves had been overcome by modern technology.
In maritime warfare, U. S. thinking has been dominated, almost to the exclusion of all others, by Alfred Thayer Mahan. Mahan, for all his great contribution to strategic thinking, also displayed the traditional American isolation of war and politics. At the peak of his career, during the war with Spain in 1898, Mahan was the authoritative voice in the War Strategy Board in the White House. Here was the ideal case of the scholar and world-famed theoretical strategist in a position to test his strategic theories in war.
At the outset of the war with Spain, Mahan strongly supported Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt’s plan to send Admiral George Dewey to Manila to attack the Spanish fleet in the Philippines. Dewey exceeded fondest expectations but his great victory created a major policy dilemma in the White House. When the news arrived in Washington, the President later confessed that he had to search a map to find both Manila and the Philippines; then he spent the night on his knees seeking Divine guidance as to what to do with them.
What political goal did Mahan and Roosevelt hope to achieve by the brilliant and daring action halfway around the globe from the primary theater in the Caribbean? What was accomplished by a campaign in Asia toward the objectives of U. S. policy toward Spain or Cuba? The alternatives presented by Dewey at Manila were awkward at best. The United States could not return the Philippines to Spain nor turn them over to France or Germany, our commercial rivals in the Orient. The islands were unfit for self-government and the possibility of a British protectorate was opposed by Congress, the press, and the U. S. people. The remaining alternative was U. S. acquisition. Lacking both ships and bases in the western Pacific, acquisition was a clear strategic liability. Whatever freedom of choice the President may have exercised was largely foreclosed by the initial decision to destroy the Spanish Asiatic fleet. Mahan interpreted the function of the War Strategy Board as “to give purely military advice on strategic movements of the fleet. It had no powers and hence no responsibility except for the expert advice given.” The President grumbled, “If old Dewey had just sailed away when he smashed the Spanish fleet, what a lot of trouble he would have saved us.”
Once again the hiatus between war and policy was apparent in both the political and military leaders. The development of national objectives was the task of statesmen, not of warriors. Mahan, conditioned by the geographic isolation of the United States, found the integration of military power into policy only casually necessary during the war, and the statesman, because of the war in progress, too largely ignored the political goal of military strategy. In traditional style, the statesman acted with little assistance or interference by the warrior. When he lost control and politics deteriorated into war, the army and navy were called in; military leaders used their skills to restore order without further reference to diplomacy. In the American system it is difficult to integrate military strategic planning with specific diplomatic or national policy objectives.
Political scientist Vincent Davis maintains that Mahan’s world stature in the field of strategy contributed further to the difficulty in modern strategic thought by his very domination of the field of maritime strategy. For 50 years, his theories provided an intelligent, internally consistent and popular rationale for a large and strong Navy. The Mahan strategy was intellectually satisfying not only because it was a masterful tying together of many complex factors but also because it seemed to obviate the need for further intellectual effort. His strategic ideas provided final sounding answers for the hardest questions that confront the military strategist, thus appearing to free subsequent planners from further consideration of these basic and difficult matters. With doctrinal concepts satisfied, it was natural to indulge the American fascination with technology and to devote the bulk of our energies not to strategy but to weaponry and the practical details of ship design, training and tactical planning, confident in the assurance of working within unassailable strategic guidelines. When changing concepts of modern war appeared to challenge basic assumptions of Mahan’s thinking, it has been particularly difficult both to recognize the changing circumstances and to avoid merely interpreting them in such a way as to support the doctrines of Mahan. These are the qestions [sic] which are now arising in our maritime strategy worldwide. Before examining the strategic problem of the Mediterranean, however, it is necessary to look at Soviet strategic concepts as they relate to modern planning by Soviet military leaders.
Communist leaders studied Clausewitz far deeper than Western military leaders. Clausewitz’s observations on the interplay of statecraft and war fascinated the Marxists. Lenin appreciated in particular the statement, “A conqueror is always a lover of peace; he would like to make his entry into our country unopposed.” When Lenin analyzed On War, by Clausewitz, he stressed that “War is part of the whole, and this whole is politics . . . Politics is the reason, and war is only the tool, not the other way around. Consequently, it remains only to subordinate the military point of view to the political . . . War is a continuation of politics by other, i.e., ‘forcible’ means.”
Soviet strategists interpreted the Lenin statement as an important correction to Clausewitz—the restriction to “forcible means” radically changes the statement of the problem. Marxist-Leninists recognized that the various non-military means of conflict—e.g., ideological, diplomatic, economic, scientific, and subversive—must be considered in waging war. They thus submerged war within politics and the class struggle as a whole. The Soviet interpretation of war and policy, therefore, is a seamless web which bans control of strategy by the military, for example, where paramilitary or guerrilla operations are involved; these, equating with the class struggle, are reserved to the state or Party and not to the military. As a result, Soviet strategic planning in a closed bureaucratic system produces a far more closely-knit and cohesive master plan for the relation of war and policy than could possibly occur in the open political processes of Western parliamentary democracies. U. S. military planning also recognizes the political, economic, sociological and psychological elements of national strategy, of course, but when the objective is expressed in traditional moral/ideological terms, the result is a unique sens de voisinage founded in the belief that “peace is indivisible”.
Clausewitz’s viewpoint, therefore, differs from both the U. S. and the Soviet views. What concerned him was the domination of policy by military power as he saw it in the Prussian system; he sought to separate the military from the political authority. A political goal for military power was preferable to a military goal in a militarily dominated Prussian political system. U. S. planning evolved in the reverse of the Prussian model, in terms isolating power and policy, diplomacy and belligerency, peace and war. The core of the Communist conflict doctrine, by contrast, is Clausewitzian in precisely the sense that the core of Communist philosophy is Hegelian. Marx and Engels stood Hegel on his head; Lenin stood Clausewitz on his head. Where Hegel held that ideas determine political and economic conditions, Marx held that economic conditions determine ideas and hence determine political institutions. Where Clausewitz held that war is a continuation of politics by other means, Lenin and his successors have substituted the antithesis that politics is a continuation of war by other means.
The central idea of Communist conflict doctrine is thus Clausewitzian but it is Clausewitz upside down. It is a total integration of the elements of state power under state control solely for the purposes of the state. Military power is tightly welded to a political system just as is economic, cultural or diplomatic influence; but the goal is not a military but a Party goal. Clausewitz gave the Marxists a rationale for control of the military by the Party. Both the U. S. and Soviet models are antithetical to the Clausewitzian thesis. The U. S. view of strategy is a rejection of Clausewitz, the Soviet view a perversion of Clausewitz.
NATO strategy in Europe, mirroring American doctrine, is often stated as based on “deterrence, collective security and flexible response”. Translation of such a “strategy” into dynamic policies supporting both U. S. and NATO interests requires agility as well as flexibility. “Deterrence” is a negative or defensive concept based on dissuading an opponent on threat of retaliation. The strategy is “collective” in that it is agreed among the NATO allies, and is “flexible”, as the result of a change from “massive retaliation” which was adopted at the Brussels meeting of the North Atlantic Council in December, 1967. At German insistence, the defense of the Alliance is also envisioned “as far forward as possible.” It need hardly be stated that there are a great many difficulties in translating such a strategic concept into a dynamic and coordinated alliance plan. The adoption of the “flexible response” strategy itself was not possible in NATO until France opted out of the Council, but the defection of France from NATO also created major problems of strategy and policy which have been far too little publicized.
A neutral France, contiguous with traditionally neutral Switzerland and Austria, forms a wedge dividing the Alliance into its central and southern regions. The traditional defense in Western Europe against the threat from the East has always emphasized a “continental” or pure Clausewitzian or Napoleonic land strategy. Without France, however, such a strategy is questionable in a major engagement. The amputated southern flank, additionally, emphasizes the dominance of sea lines of communication throughout the Mediterranean basin and dictates a peripheral or maritime strategy. Spain—a strategic element of NATO if not a political one—is isolated by extremely rough terrain just as Italy, Greece and Turkey are isolated except by sea. Regardless of its political diversity, the peninsular geography of the region accents the strategic unity of the Mediterranean basin in a maritime strategy just as it does its strategic isolation in a non-maritime strategy. Only in the maritime view can it be visualized as a strategic unity.
Where the northern area comprises states generally wealthy, more powerful and with high standards of living, the southern region comprises states poor in resources, far less developed and with far lower standards of living. Defense policies in the north generally emphasize regional security among contiguous nations; in the south, individual security on a national basis by non-contiguous nations; in the north, the members are participants among equals, in the south they serve as host to the overwhelming maritime power of the United States. In the north the NATO states play leading roles in a major power confrontation; in the south they play minor supporting roles in a theater long dominated by British, French, Italian, and now U. S. strategic control.
We have considered above that a military strategy must serve a political goal; the next essential is that strategy must be founded in geography, must be a derivative of geopolitics. NATO strategy in the Mediterranean after two decades, however, is difficult to relate directly to either politics or geography, again because of the domination of technology over politics. On the southern flank of NATO, the concept of “forward defense” suggests the rimline of the Caucasus separating Turkey from the Soviet Union. Since 1956, under General James Gavin as deputy commander of the Southern European Command, Turkish appetites have been whetted for tactical nuclear weapons to defend that frontier. There are strategic and tactical considerations associated with static nuclear defenses, however, which have been little voiced by Turkish planners.
Turkey has successfully defended its eastern frontier for centuries against repeated Russian aggressions without reliance on atomic weapons. Even without the additional guarantee of the security of its borders which is conveyed by its NATO membership, it has little fear from direct Russian aggression across that frontier and no reason to believe that it cannot continue to maintain it as one of the most sterile in the world. Second, Turkish military officials, in their natural enthusiasm for ultra-modern weaponry, do not appear to have thoroughly investigated the full utility of modern conventional explosives for closure of mountain passes or interdiction of mountain roads and trails, nor do they appear to have studied the comparative effectiveness of conventional and nuclear weapons for this purpose. Third, the urgency behind the need for nuclear mines on the southern flank cannot be equated either strategically or politically with a similar need on the NATO central front. Whether or not nuclear mines are actually intended on the central front, the two fronts must be considered separately. Fourth, difficulty of command, control and release authority in emergency would prove a major drawback on both fronts, far more so, presumably, in a non-decisive or tactical land campaign in the south. Fifth, the problem of positioning or prepositioning nuclear weapons on a barren frontier has obvious practical difficulties magnified by the need for security before the crisis and for release of warheads when threatened with being over-run in a crisis.
Atomic mines, like atomic air defense and antisubmarine weapons, are “first use” weapons which require authorization by the U. S. President for release of warheads to national or tactical control. Under the circumstances likely to exist, it seems highly optimistic to assume that the necessary degree of control could be delegated to Turkish or theater officials consistent with a reasonable concept of early tactical use in war. Certainly the Soviet Union is aware of these problems; to expect that a Soviet attack across the frontier would be launched with deliberation sufficient to allow the requisite time for release of atomic weapons to theater control is wishful thinking. In sum, both military and political considerations in this region suggest use of conventional explosives either prepositioned or air delivered.
Greece, with a strategic problem to the north in Thrace and Macedonia not unlike that of Turkey to the east, favors consideration of Turkish planning on a broad regional basis. One would suspect that Italy, with the same psychological and political need, probably supports a similar approach. Yet, in the absence of a far more searching analysis of the unique advantages of atomic mines in frontier defense, circumstances hardly justify early use of nuclear weapons on any southern frontier. General Gavin’s recommendation was made immediately after his return from observation of the initial tests of tactical nuclear weapons in the Pacific. His enthusiasm for the new weapon was clearly technological rather than strategic or political. Nor has really hard thought on the problem yet become apparent in published accounts of Turkish, Greek or Italian planning.
Public disclosures of statements on discussions within the NATO Nuclear Planning Group suggest that the strategic problems in the South do not appear to have received the attention they have merited in other areas. There is an important need to satisfy the desire of Alliance partners for a real voice in nuclear planning throughout NATO, as well as in the circumstances surrounding release and in the final decision on use. But in view of the obvious reluctance of both the United States and the Soviet Union to release control of nuclear weapons to allies on either side—with one exception on each side—it seems highly unlikely that either would favor dissemination in the Mediterranean area for largely prestige purposes.
The critical strategic issue in the southern flank is not the nuclear defense in a continental strategy. The maritime threat posed by the Soviet fleet in the Mediterranean is potentially far more serious. With respect to Turkey, it seems fundamental that the Soviet Union must ensure continued support of its warships in the eastern Mediterranean in both peace and war. The Dardanelles can be kept open in war in three ways, by the neutrality of Turkey, by conquest and Soviet control of the Straits, or by alliance of Turkey with the Soviet Union. In none of these alternatives does the Turkish eastern frontier appear to be vital or even important. “Forward strategy” for Turkish military leaders, consequently, suggests that its eastern frontier is not nearly so important as the frontier in the West—and when a Turk looks west he sees only a Greek.
The chief Soviet objective in Europe is, in author Ray Garthoff’s words, to “advance the power of the Soviet Union in whatever ways are most expedient so long as the survival of the Soviet power itself is not endangered . . . seek maximum security at minimum risk to the Soviet Union.” Soviet strategic policy after Cuba and the fall of Khrushchev entered a dramatic new phase. Major Soviet goals now appear to be dual maritime pincers to outflank Western Europe in the North via the Baltic, in the South via the Mediterranean and thus to isolate the United States from Europe. In the field of nuclear weapons, vastly increased missile and anti-missile programs are clearly aimed to destroy their inferiority to the U. S. arsenal. The present Soviet chiefs appear unmistakably intent on making the next 50 years of the regime different from the first, initially by erasing the image of strategic inferiority to the United States, secondly, by a parallel attempt to improve the reach and mobility of Soviet general purpose forces. Strategic parity is necessary because in past crises, the closer both sides approached the threshold of general war, the more the Russians were obliged to recognize their own inferiority—even though nuclear power, whether Soviet or U. S. is politically negative except on the threshold of general war.
The second trend, the buildup of general purpose forces, was vitally necessary to meet the Russians’ newly acquired global maritime obligations. The Soviet merchant marine within a single decade came from unlisted to sixth in the world and now surpasses the U. S. active fleet. Key to this expansion is her sea line of communication through the Mediterranean. The overwhelming majority of her military equipment for export is staged out of the black Sea port of Odessa which is near the military-industrial complex in the Donets-Krivoi Rog area. All Soviet ships making passage on the Baltic, Black Sea, and the Far East trade routes stop at Gibraltar, as does the Cuba trade and the Antarctic whaling fleet.* Trawlers and fish factories operate continually from this port. Rights have reportedly been granted for new bases at Cadiz and Barcelona. Mers-el-Kebir, the former French naval base in Algeria with its airfield and extensive underground facilities, is now available to the Soviets and deserves much more attention than it is getting. Wheelus Air Force Base, once the scene of 13,000 landings and take-offs a month, passes from American to Libyan control on 30 June. The American-trained Libyan Air Force of 60 officers will soon have 100 sleek French Mirage jets to add to their nine American F-5’s. Should Libya accept closer ties with Egypt, which appears to be in Nasser’s interest, the danger of those jets flying combat missions to the East would be considerable.
Political goals dominate Soviet Middle East planning. Although self-sufficient in oil, Russia’s tanker fleet has had the fastest rate of growth in the world. The number of Soviet tankers has increased five-fold, the tonnage ten-fold since 1953; Russia has moved from unlisted to sixth place and ninth in tonnage. With closure of the Suez Canal in 1967, the Soviet Union attempted to capitalize on oil shipments to Western Europe. Its recently negotiated agreements to develop and exploit oil resources of Iraq, Iran, Syria and Egypt are important steps in its economic penetration of the Middle East. These arrangements are predominantly political. Middle East oil is acquired by bartering cheap Soviet manufactured goods and sold to Europe and Western markets for hard cash. Its vast fleets of dry cargo ships, tankers, and passenger liners stress new goals in world trade—and 99% of the imports of Greece, Italy and Turkey come by sea.
If the political bonus is worth having, Russia accepts terms which are otherwise unprofitable. When conditions are suitable, Soviet bargainers are as commercially minded as any international oil company. The international companies argue that this is unfair competition. The Russians pay no cost of entry into a market and the governments they exploit then force Western companies to handle Russian imports in Western-owned facilities, as has happened in India and elsewhere. Soviet trade practices once again emphasize the close co-ordination of economics and politics in its strategy, and makes clear the sheer contrast to the largely unco-ordinated political, military and economic policies of the Western powers.
*Of 2,231 non-military ship visits to Gibraltar in 1967, 952 were Communist vessels, about two-thirds of which were Soviet. Of 2,386 non-military ships at Gibraltar in 1968, 1,237 were Communist, three-fourths of which were Soviet. Despite the Spanish economic blockade of Gibraltar since 1964, which the Soviet Union has consistently supported in the UN, Russian sailors are the biggest spenders in Gibraltar. Thanks to the Communists, the NATO base is prospering economically notwithstanding the blockade. See Christian Science Monitor, 13 March 1969.
When the Soviet Union lacked conventional seapower capable of making its presence effective in trouble spots such as Cuba, it could make threats of nuclear war which were largely sterile. Only now is it developing a real military presence beyond the littoral of Eurasia. It is the “fleet in being” by which the Soviets are attempting to neutralize U. S. naval power just as the German High Seas Fleet neutralized its greatly superior British Grand Fleet in World War I while German submarines roamed the Atlantic. Today the U. S. Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean is overcommitted and unavailable for traditional “gunboat diplomacy.” Either to “avoid a problem” or to avoid the necessity of inviting both U. S. and Soviet ship visits, the Sixth Fleet is largely deprived of port calls even to traditionally friendly Lebanese, Greek and Turkish seaports. The fall of the Libyan monarchy effectively closed Wheelus Air Force Base to Americans and even Tunisia—with its pro-Western President Habib Bourgiba—the country receiving more American aid than any other in Africa, dares not allow the U. S. military presence. The southern shores are effectively closed to the United States.
The Soviet fleet, therefore, is developing into a potentially effective political force in the Mediterranean region. Gunboat diplomacy—or anti-U. S. gunboat diplomacy—has bought it an interest in strategic and political problems on the status of Gibraltar. The Soviet warships in Mediterranean waters are equipped with modern amphibious ships, helicopter assault carriers, and marine landing forces. The Lebanon crisis of 1958 was a carefully controlled U. S. exercise. Should a similar crisis occur today, Soviet and American marines may arrive simultaneously in the crisis area. A year or so hence, with continued U. S. withdrawal from overseas commitments and continued extension of Soviet penetration, the Soviet marine may stand alone.
Soviet objectives in the Arab countries are political. They want to raise their own prestige and influence, to retain control of the Arab military establishments and to create a military presence that is disadvantageous to the United States. By taking advantage of American indifference to the area they can work toward their objectives without risking a confrontation with the United States.
Yet Soviet successes in the Mediterranean have not been unqualified. The U.S.S.R. received only grudging recognition from Egypt for its major role in the Aswan Dam project. Soviet influence in Arab countries is exercised predominantly through control of the military establishments and in the wake of the Six Day War, the Arab military establishments have been thoroughly discredited. Soviet defensive tactics in the war, at Golan Heights and in the Sinai, were wholly unsuccessful. Using the historic perimeter defense planning of Leningrad and Moscow, it has been said that the defenses lacked only snow to make them successful in the Arab deserts.
Just as Nasser finds himself a prisoner of a fictitious Arab nationalism to which he committed himself, the U.S.S.R. finds itself in many ways captive of a fictitious militarism in Arab society to which it has committed itself. The Soviet Union is the single greatest loser in the continued closure of the Suez Canal. Yet its influence is not such as to exert sufficient pressure on either side to force a reopening. Nor should we overlook in the long view the increasing exposure of the Russian to the world outside the Iron Curtain, where the lure of more liberal societies and consumer goods may in time provide the fatal cancer which brings down the Communist system.
Insofar as Soviet economic goals in the Middle East are concerned, the primary question turns on whether a barter policy can compete in the long run with the vast investment of the British, Dutch, Americans, and others in the oil industry. The Russians are not interested in establishing refineries, fuel distributing and marketing networks; their sole aim is a barter deal on a government-to-government basis. Both the Arab and the Russian know that the vast economic and developmental resources so extensively needed throughout the region cannot come from the Soviet Union but must come from the West. Perhaps the crucial question turns on what the West really fears from Soviet penetration of the region. British, French, American, Italian, Greek, and Turkish navies have exerted strategic control of the Mediterranean region in varying degrees for centuries. If the West has so little influence over the Arab countries to show for all its presence, what does it expect the Russians will be able to accomplish? Will they not discover the same conditions as others have found, that an Arab cannot be bought—only rented, and that the upkeep and maintenance is very high?
Soviet leaders repeatedly demand the complete withdrawal of the U. S. Sixth Fleet from the Mediterranean; Admiral Sergei Gorshkov predicts not only that Soviet sea power will dominate the area but also that it will reach “remote areas of the world’s oceans previously considered a zone of supremacy of the fleets of imperialist powers.” The pressure of events has apparently convinced Soviet leaders that “wars of national liberation” are just wars, relatively safe, and often provide unexpected opportunities to exert diplomatic and political pressure. It seems clear that the Soviet Union has learned the lessons of Africa and Cuba. And it is equally clear that it is using maritime power in its primary utility, as a means of control. It does not desire a major involvement on two frontiers, Asia and Europe.
Maritime power allows it the flexibility to exert pressure on Western interests in one area to relieve the other, to exert a desired level of power and yet to keep events from developing out of hand. Soviet maritime strength allows it to persist to the point of crisis with the United States knowing it can count on an extraordinary degree of forbearance on the part of American naval commanders. It is thus able to create, manipulate and control crises throughout the region. This is the strategy of controlled tension in the Mediterranean and at various points in the world to serve its own interests. It is a strategy which may make exceptionally difficult our own control in areas of primary strategic interest.
The limitations of nuclear deterrence as a strategy and the void in imaginative maritime planning in the Western alliance which thus ensues, is deeply disturbing. Political change between East and West and political developments within Western Europe have both undermined the traditional concepts of Western defense. Defense strategy within the Alliance remains too tightly tied to traditional concepts assuming early use of nuclear weapons in situations of increasing non-utility of such weapons in any but the most implausible of circumstances. It is no longer possible to emulate Napoleon and “defeat the sea from the land.” A continental or land strategy is no longer conceivable for the primary defense of the Alliance on either sea or land fronts; a defense tied inextricably to nuclear weapons is less and less plausible for either side on any front.
By contrast, the post-Cuba, post-Khrushchev strategic policies now being pursued by the Soviet Union could be highly effective. The possibility of outflanking NATO by sea, both in the north through the Baltic and in the south through the Mediterranean, appears plausible. Control of the Baltic has been conceded largely by default of the Western maritime powers; control of the eastern Mediterranean may be conceded largely by a similar loss of initiative in maritime affairs. Contesting the extension of control in the Mediterranean is the U. S. Sixth fleet, militarily far superior, but more and more limited as a political instrument. The need for wholesale reappraisal and close integration of U. S. political, military, and economic policies in the Mediterranean region is long overdue.
In theory, the central aim, whatever the means, must relate unswervingly in peace or war to the vision when peace is restored. The vision of Europe and goals of the Western Alliance are more and more non-military. The strategy on the central NATO front bears only a tangential relevance herein but the increasing stress on technical and economic interests as the importance of military measures recedes, must inevitably decrease the current emphasis on nuclear strategies. It seems only a question of time until all nuclear installations must be moved away from the cities, perhaps totally removed from the land front, so as to take both the nuclear offensive and defensive forces to sea. Perhaps the time is now ripe to anticipate seaborne and truly deterrent nuclear forces, U. S., British, French and others, under Alliance confederate control and with separate national or European control of warheads and targeting to accommodate unique national or European interests. The need is for limited European autonomy combined with more intensive NATO consultation and improved joint planning—such as we are just now beginning to see in the Special Nuclear Committee. Above all, the military leaders—primarily American who continue to dominate NATO strategy—must contribute to the theory on the role of power in policy so as to account for both the utility and the inutility of power in the formation of policy, in whatever form it may appear.
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 War College in 1959 and continued on the War College staff. He was the Joint Chiefs of Staff Representative at the Eighteen-Nation Disarmament Conference, Geneva, Switzerland, until 1964, when he was assigned to the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense. A Wilton Park fellow, Mershon scholar, and Ph.D. candidate (Ohio State University), he was a member of the faculty of the National War College prior to his retirement. He is now Director, Office of International Studies, University of Missouri.