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When foreign affairs were ruled by autocracies or diarchies the danger of war was in sinister purpose. When foreign affairs are ruled by democracies the huger of war will be in mistaken beliefs.”
— Elihu Root
With rare exceptions, American presidents have not burned office as experts in the theory and practice °f using their country’s power to enhance its national security and attain its external goals. U. S. history is replete with instances of options neglected, °f off-handed commitments supported by no more 'tan one man’s prejudices or intuition, and with Suestionable decisions of great consequence belatedly ^de on fragmentary data in atmospheres of crisis, fortunately, during recent years, reforms have oc- CUfred in the institution of the presidency, and in ^ civilian and military organizations supporting it, wtiich have corrected many of the flaws and gaps in 'tie national decision-making machinery. Today, the Structured National Security Council and its coun- 'erpart nonmilitary agencies arc fully capable of lay- ing before the President and his key advisors precise, up-to-thc-minutc assessments of the global geopoliti- Cal environment, together with the alternatives and °ptions available for coping with any conceivable domestic or foreign emergency. They do so routinely.
In parallel with this institutional growth, government leaders and the public have developed a mature bareness and appreciation of those basic facts of in- 'ernational life without which viable decisions cannot tie reached. Not only are the physical fundamentals ^ global power relationships—as defined long ago
■ Mahan and his successors—accepted as matters of c°urse, but many more recent postulates governing
the psychology of nations also are considered to be essential inputs to the decision-making processes. For example, it is now reasonably well accepted that:
► Whereas it is difficult to perceive basic local, national, and international realities in or about open societies, their perception is infinitely more difficult in closed societies. No two nations view themselves, other nations, and the world in exactly the same light.
► When dealing with those nations hewing to geopolitical misconceptions, one must either dispose of the fictions or accept them as realities for the purposes of the dealing.
Thus, in the years ahead, how well we fare in maintaining our national security and in attaining our international objectives will depend not only on how intelligently we exploit the geopolitical realities of the world, but also on how well we turn to our advantage the myths and fables other societies have been passing off as truth.
Such matters were understood only vaguely as the United States moved from isolation to international involvement and as the events of the two great wars first made it a world power and then, as hostilities ceased in 1945, thrust upon America the predominant role in the family of nations. At that moment, a combination of some naivete, the heady promises of lasting peace made in the new United Nations Charter and the flush of victory blurred our own—and many other nations’—images of the world to come. Our rose-colored glasses were shattered by several gratuitous Soviet slaps and we saw that country’s pugnacious posture in fuzzy, but no less ominous, outline. Camaraderie with the allies was quickly ended by Soviet paranoia over fraternization. Secrecy and haste to consolidate control over countries dcs-
20 U. S. Naval Institute Proceedings, August 1073
tined to become satellites offended Americans and menaced international harmony. At Yalta and Potsdam, Stalin repeatedly appeared to be inexplicably arrogant and unyielding. Some excused these and other enigmatic Soviet actions—how can one condemn the thrashings of a badly-wounded bear?—as being merely the natural reaction of a war-weakened nation which was seeking to position itself against potentially fickle friends who were likely to turn belligerent at any moment. Others thought that these were deliberately hostile actions which unmasked a malicious and treacherous society that seemed to be brazenly girding itself for the conquest of the world, as called for by Marxist-Lenin- ist dogma.
Unable to solve the riddle of Soviet intentions, the United States for many years after World War II conceived the Communist world to be unified and monolithic in ideology, hostile and aggressive in purpose, and dedicated totally to obliterating or devouring all before it. We came to see the Free World as a reverse image of the Communist one, with all the virtues of the former locked in mortal struggle with all the vices of the latter. This concept of opposing and opposite worlds dominated our foreign policy and shaped our defense posture for more than two decades. Faced with aggression, our logical response was to isolate this contagion and quarantine it within Communist borders. Promulgation of the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan in 1947 were the initial major moves to implement this strategy. Many others followed as we began working and spending to bring order, stability, and economic opportunity to those allied and friendly nations whose freedom and safety appeared to be intertwined with our own. A threat to any was seen as a threat to all; it would be countered by "cold” means if possible, but by hot war if need be.
Within a short time, the Berlin Crisis of 1948 simultaneously confirmed our belief in the correctness of this analysis of Communist intentions and verified our estimate of the necessity for a strategy of quick and positive responses to every appearance of aggression. Thus, in 1950, when the Republic of Korea was attacked by the Communist North, containment of the forces of total aggression, even to the point of open conflict, seemed essential and proper, not just to save that particular ally, but to prevent other free nations from thereafter falling—as one prominent American put it, "like dominoes.”
In retrospect, the "Two Worlds in Conflict” concept and our strategies and initiatives to cope with its manifestations seem to have worked reasonably well throughout the 1950s. The ascendencc to power of the People’s Republic of China early in this era confirmed
our suspicions of Communist malevolence, malfeasance, and perfidy. But history is not static and, by the earl)' 1960s, signs began to appear that some things in the Communist world (as well as in our own) were not quite as we had thought them to be, or had changed or were changing from what they had been. As time passed, the evidence of change mounted. Even so, revision of our concepts of an enemy, long tempered by years of Hot War and Cold War, did not come quickly. It is the way of men and nations alike to hold to old patterns until a significant event triggers movement, and then change comes swiftly.
The succession of President Richard M. Nixon in 1969, following bitter debate over the "hot,” although undeclared, Vietnam war, was such an event. It focused the national awareness not just upon the realities of the two Vietnams, but also upon broader aspects of relations within and outside the Communist bloc. Many of the nation’s key leaders, including the President, became convinced that the Communist world was no longer unified and monolithic, and they believed that it ceased to project the intensity of hostility and aggression that it did in earlier years. Instead, they came to regard the Communist bloc as being under great stress from internal forces which seemed to be sapping both its appetite and its capacity for external adventures.
Recognizing these changed circumstances, the new Administration began a search for alternative strategic* which it believed would prove more responsive to current U. S. national interests and opportunities than those of the Containment Doctrine. These took form as the Nixon Doctrine, the formulation of which began at Guam in 1969 and continues today. Its application already is manifesting distinguishable differences m power relationships in the 1970s from that which prevailed in the 1960s.
Viewed in the light of the Containment Doctrine, the escalation of aggression by North Vietnam, which began early in the 1960s, appeared then to be )c[ another centrally-directed, Korean-like probe, tilting the dominoes, testing the climate for worldwide ag- gression and justifying commitment of more than half-a-million American ground troops to hurl back the aggressor and rescal the Iron and Bamboo Curtain* That may have been exactly the way it was then; but, today, taking into account the major changes which have since taken place within the Communist world, the continuation by North Vietnam of its military effort to conquer the South obviously is locally-inspir^ rather than externally-directed. Under such condition* the tenets of the Nixon Doctrine devolve upon the victim the primary responsibility for its own defend
The New Geopolitics 21
and encourage others to assist reasonably with materials, but only sparingly, if at all, with men. Accordingly, American forces were repatriated from Asia at a pace, in a manner, and under arrangements calculated to avoid strewing politico-economic wreckage in the area which later could embroil the United States in renewed hostilities.
It is apparent that the Nixon Doctrine is basically an ongoing effort to accurately perceive the world not only as it now is, but also as it changes and evolves. Implicit therein is our exploitation of those fictions and myths which realism decrees should be treated as fact. Then, based upon these understandings, U. S. policies, doctrines, and strategies are conceived, modified, or discarded so that we can more quickly and efficiently respond to current realities, evolving challenges, and emerging opportunities. The Nixon Doctrine places heavy reliance on negotiation, partnership, and strength as techniques for forwarding U. S. national interests. It recognizes defense priorities in the following order of importance: first, continental defense; second, protection of lines of communications; third, maintenance of alliances; fourth, protection of U. S. overseas interests, and fifth, the capability to assist indirectly or directly in local conflicts, if, when, and where advisable.
Our earlier strategy called for an always ready response to every opposition initiative and therefore demanded full manning of all the Cold and Hot War ramparts. In contrast, current doctrine does not insist that every move by the other camp be treated with equal alarm. It thus permits assignment of increasingly limited resources according to carefully calculated orders of need.
From this perspective, our Southeast Asia troop withdrawal, Vietnamization of that war, and the vigorous campaign to end it by strong diplomatic and extended military pressures on Hanoi can be seen to fall squarely into the new fifth priority concept of limited parnership with allies engaged in local conflicts. And, whereas the older Containment Doctrine assigned top priority to multiple areas of defense, the Nixon Doctrine realistically highlights continental defense as America’s first priority. To this end, the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks were begun in 1969. They aimed first to freeze nuclear stockpiles at levels assuring mutual deterrence, and thereafter in the ongoing SALT II negotiations to reduce their size and cost. Knowledgeable observers believe the initial agreements negotiated in Moscow will extend for several years the time during which the continental United States will remain secure from nuclear attack. At the same time they do nothing to allay the growing uncase with which members of
the Sino-Soviet bloc have come to regard each other’s nuclear capabilities.
As a sign of the times, it is interesting to note that the Soviet and U. S. strategic stockpiles now regulated by SALT may constitute the last remaining vestiges of our former all-pervasive bipolar concept of the world. Polycentrism in Communist and noncommunist countries alike has become the order of the day. Its ubiquitous influence has flooded the international scene since the U. N. decision in mid-1971 to seat the People’s Republic of China and to give it Nationalist China’s former permanent membership on the Security Council.
Those acts gave the lie to the fiction of a lurking conspiracy led by the United States to "unleash Chiang” Kai-Shek upon mainland China. They undermined the foundations of the Peking regime’s violent, long-standing anti-American propaganda campaign. They caused Mao’s minions finally to focus their undivided attention upon the many conflicting ideological, geographic, and historical forces which serve to repel the Chinese and Russian societies from each other. Peking’s leaders at last were forced by these events to acknowledge that their basic danger stems not from the United States and its allies, but from the pincers of Soviet power steadily encircling China from the north, from the west, and from the south. Top Chinese officials are lately reported to have but two reactions to Soviet Russia: "hatred and fear.” The realignment of the two Chinas at the United Nations also has forced Moscow to see more clearly the collision course being set by Mainland China’s need to expand into the same vast spaces of the Siberian heartland that the Soviet Union feels it must occupy if it is to fulfill its own destiny. That nation’s regard for the P.R.C. is mutely expressed by the presence of 49 Red Army divisions along the disputed 7,000-mile-long Sino-Soviet frontier.
The leaders of the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China have become increasingly aware of the costly implications of this diametric opposition of their basic future interests. In the Communist world, the fostering of continued fighting in Vietnam once seemed a cheap and easy means to nettle the United States while demonstrating fealty to the legend of Marxist solidarity. Then, as the Sino-Soviet rivalry came into sharp focus, continued support of Hanoi by the Soviet Union appeared counterproductive to its need for calm in the West during a time when prudence suggested that Soviet attention ought to be directed primarily toward the East.
Similarly, the P.R.C. came to see that its basic security interests were substantially disserved by keeping open channels for military aid to Hanoi which also functioned as conduits for further extension of Soviet influence at China’s southern border. For these reasons,
22 U. S. Naval Institute Proceedings, August 1973
Washington could safely estimate that both countries had come to recognize that an end to the Vietnam war would be in their own self-interest and that the mining and closure of Haiphong Harbor by the United States to forward that end would be accepted with the equanimity that it actually was. President Nixon’s later visits to their capitals constituted tacit admission, by both, of their self-interest in gradually normalizing relations with the United States. They also served as occasions to offer each party parallel presidential assurances of U. S. neutrality and evenhanded treatment during the indefinite duration of their Siberian contest.
In that conflict, both powers understand that permanent domination of the vast territory involved can be assured only by massive settlement, development, and industrialization. They know that unprecedented capital investments will be demanded and are preparing to make them. Recently, the Soviet Union exhibited unusual goodwill in settlement of the German issue, and its remarkable acquiescence to Egypt’s abrupt demand for withdrawal of Soviet forces probably signaled the start of a new era of relaxation in the Mediterranean. Moscow’s diplomats moved to dampen rather than to fan the flare-up of Arab-Israeli tensions which followed tragic events at the Munich Olympic games. They appear serious about achieving a mutual and balanced reduction of forces in Europe.
Such conciliatory moves seem to be in response to a perceived need for detente with the West while the problem in Asia is dealt with. From the Soviet standpoint, these are the kind of things which can contribute to the creation of a comparatively benign international climate conducive to buttressing their Asian ramparts from domestic resources, from profits growing out of expanded trade, and even from borrowed Western capital. The Chinese, on the other hand, move ever more inscrutably to clear their decks for economic battle, but P.R.C. placidity on the Taiwan issue and the rapidly evolving political and industrial rapprochement with Japan arc two of many indicators that China, too, intends to flex growing economic muscle in the years ahead.
There is talk by these two countries of a formal renunciation of the use of force against each other, and there is hope that this conflict which finds the world’s two largest armies facing each other can be resolved without warfare—but there is no assurance that it will be. Soviet strategists have pointedly discussed the doctrine of pre-emption in nuclear war, while the key political and industrial areas of Mainland China long have been protected by the most extensive underground defenses extant.
It docs not follow that the United States and others may relax simply because the world’s two most popu
lous countries are in serious contention. In this lawless world, many separate forces of disharmony, in addition to those stemming from the struggle between Communism and Capitalism, abound between nations. Those underlying the Arab-Israeli war are but one example. Moreover, there is no assurance even that the two principal contenders will choose to devote all their capabilities to be worrisome exclusively to each other. Communism’s dogmatic hostility to competing systems remains an underlying fact of international life which can swiftly surface above intramural disputations whenever pragmatism and the self-interests of Moscow and Peking fall into momentary coincidence. Nevertheless, the emergence and growth of Sino-Soviet tensions over the Eurasian land mass serve, while they continue, to moderate those between East and West. They provide this nation and others a respite to address unrelated concerns.
Of course, for many millions of individuals everywhere, Communists and non-Communists alike, the world will never lose its bipolar image, the intensity of Cold War will not diminish, and global Hot Wat will be forever imminent. And, it is possible that the nation’s leaders have, indeed, been deliberately deceived by a clever enemy masking its solidarity behind a disguise of disunity. If that is the case, or if the unexpected occurs, or should dangers revive through the passage of time, then they must be faced. However, it becomes increasingly difficult for most individuals to interpret the significant events of these beginning years of the current decade except in terms of the consequences of growing Sino-Soviet alienation and disharmony. Therefore, it seems provident for the country to take advantage of the possibilities while they I#1 for advancing U. S. domestic and overseas interests afforded by this probable condition of low international threat.
Already, national priorities have been reordered and defense spending has been pared to a level appropriate for a period of respite from serious external exigencies This is obvious when the defense budget, adjusted h,r pay changes and exclusive of retired pay for Fiscal Year 1964, the year prior to the Vietnamese buildup, |S compared with that for current Fiscal Year 1973- ln constant 1973 dollars, the 1964 expenditure was S^ billion, while that for 1973 w ill be less than $73 bilh°n' a cut $5 billion below the previous peacetime level- For these comparison years, this reduction is equivalent to a decline in defense outlays from 9.7% to 6.5# 0 the gross national product, from 44% to 31% of thc Federal budget, and from 30 to 20% of public spending It has been absorbed completely by domestic program- and tax cuts. Thus, the elimination and cutback 0 bases and the reorganization of command structure
The New Geopolitics 23
now underway Servicewide should not be regarded as 1 response to the ending of the war in Southeast Asia, but instead as a reshuffling of available defense dollars ■n order to allocate them in closer accord with the revised order of defense priorities called for under the Nixon Doctrine.
There is a minimum level of defense effort below which no nation can fall for long without arousing the bloodlust of predators. Unless, in the first place, creating the U. S. nuclear deterrent capability was unnecessary and a foolish miscalculation, any subsequent failure to maintain it at the level needed for nuclear parity inescapably will force Soviet leaders to evaluate the wisdom of pre-emption. On the other hand, so long as mutual deterrence is maintained, it operates as a strategic umbrella beneath which crises involving conventional armaments probably can be orchestrated to fairly high intensities without undue risk of nuclear backlash. Thus, should the West’s conventional defenses be sadly neglected, Moscow and Peking might realistically entertain a temporary moratorium on their °wn controversy in order to seize an opportunity to forward their still-common eventual goal of Marxist universality. In this context, the Soviet Union’s conciliatory efforts for a detente with NATO are not inconsistent with the recent strengthening of its Red Army forces in Europe. This buildup has a dual purpose: first, to protect that country’s Western flank while it is engaged in the East; and second, to preserve its military and political options to maneuver westward again if irresistibly easy opportunities are presented.
Given circumstances in which bluff or blackmail are likely to succeed, and, should they fail, the cost of following through militarily seems reasonable, neither Soviet Russia nor Communist China can be expected to ignore opportunities to buy substantial advance- mcnts in objectives at bargain basement prices. In fact, the same can be said of almost all nations, and it means that even if Communist threats dissipate entirely, there still will be other dangers presented by other countries. Over the long haul, a constant ebb and flow of interna- tional tensions is guaranteed indefinitely by the impending world energy, population, and food crises Jlone. The need to stay prepared for an inevitable flow after any ebb in tension will long remain.
The world’s nuclear powers incur unique risks and heavy expense for their atomic arsenals, but, deterred except as a last resort from initiating the strategic use °f these special weapons, their need to maintain suitable conventional forces is no less than that of the nonnuclear weapons states. With regard to conventional atms, no nation can hope to survive unless it maintains 3 defense base high enough to deter nonnuclear attack and wide enough, if deterrence fails, to support the
fast expansion of its survival capability. For the United States, this is not an inconsequential task. It regularly demands a burdensome share of the national budget. And, when danger is not imminent, it is difficult year after year to persuade the Congress to keep on providing substantial arms outlays to maintain it. It would be ironic if an increasingly niggardly defense budget someday weakens us to the point of inviting a conventional attack upon ourselves and key allies, as in Western Europe, against which attack the only viable alternative to surrender is an early resort to our outdated stockpile of crude and highly radioactive tactical nuclear weapons. It would be even more ironic if the adoption of new force postures and tactical doctrines, clearly and cleanly capable of deterring that kind of attack before it ever begins, remains blocked by the persistence of an anti-nuclear psychosis that bars the introduction of a new generation of discrete, substantially fallout-free, tactical warheads based on newly emerging pure hydrogen fusion technologies.
In the future as in the past, the keystone of U. S. national security will always be a willingness by the American people to support a thoroughly modern military force capable of coping with any emergency, strategic or tactical, nuclear or conventional.
The clarity with which molders of the Nixon Doctrine and their successors analyze changes in the geopolitical climate, and the ingenuity of their suggested responses to such developments, will be meaningful only for as long as the military establishment capable of implementing them is maintained. Yet, military preparedness is not an American tradition. During the extended ebb in international tension experienced by the United States between the two World Wars, for example, defense was only marginally supported. The Selective Service Act of 1940 was enacted by but one vote, and early World War II GIs had to drill with wooden guns.
Two generations of war and danger have built up a momentum of public support for adequate defense budgets which has not yet run out, but the existence of antimilitary sentiment today is obvious and growing. The critical test of the Nixon Doctrine is still ahead. It will be necessary to devise effective means to maintain that momentum during another probable period of extended respite from imminent external threat.
A graduate of the University of California at Berkeley, Rear Admiral Hosmer attended law school at the Universities of Michigan and Southern California, where he received the degree of Juris Doctor. During World War II, he saw combat duty in all war theaters. Returning to civilian life, he went to work for the Atomic Energy Commission as a lawyer at the Los Alamos Scientific Laboratory. Elected to the House of Representatives in 1952, he has been re-elected 11 times. His Congressional District, California’s 32nd District, includes Long Beach and western Orange County.