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Growing up in a midwestern blue law Bible town, this observer had a lot of opportunity to listen to evangelists conducting revival meetings. Their theme was consistent: Love the Lord and thy neighbor as thyself. If we all gave to the poor and followed the golden rule as the preacher urged, society’s problems would be solved. We might even be able to do away with police and jails. It sounded like a good idea in that Sunday school class—the meek could inherit the earth right then and there.
But then came Monday. Three big black cars tolled through the town—part of the Capone Gang. The radio squawked reports of the bloody organized
gang fights in Cicero. Some folks obviously weren’t taking the preacher’s words seriously. And it was very comforting that we had a police force.
It’s not only the preacher whose advice is ignored. Our political leaders extol the public with eloquent words. A former President pleaded: "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” But too many individuals and special interest groups feel these words apply only to others. And when militant, self-serving factions generate violence in our streets, we rely on the state troops and reserves to restore order.
At the other end of the spectrum, the political- economic philosopher, Karl Marx, also developed a formula for utopia. Under Communism every man is to work according to his ability. Every man is to receive according to his needs. And under these self- effacing rules the government could wither away— just one big happy communal family. But human nature being what it is, it just hasn’t worked out like that in the Communist countries. It took Soviet tanks rumbling through Hungary and Czechoslovakia to shore up the system. China still bears the scars of the Red Guard’s orgy of power.
This is not to scorn the lofty principles and hopes of the preacher, politician, or philosopher. The U. S. armed forces long for peace and stability, law and order just as much as, if not more than, they. No rational man who has heard the bark, or felt the bite, of the dogs of war would ever unleash them again if a reasonable alternative existed. But just as the local police stand by to back up the teachers, preachers, and mayors when good intentions go awry, the armed forces stand by at the national level.
At the international level things aren’t quite as well
organized as they are at the local level. One can liken the countries of the world to a group of children playing in a sandbox, unsupervised. Pandemonium is inevitable until the smarter and stronger children discover it’s in everyone’s interest to establish rules of play and collectively enforce those rules. This enlightened self-interest is what the founders of the United Nations had hoped for. They established a set of rules for international conduct. (At least each nation agreed as to how others should behave.) But the United Nations couldn’t agree on how to set up the necessary enforcement mechanism—an international police force. So, even though the U.N. performs its role as an international preacher with skill and enthusiasm, enforcement of order is left up to the smart, strong kids in the sandbox.
Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., the federal government works with varying degrees of diligence and success to enforce the rules of international law and to protect the interests of this country. The State Department, in its diplomatic dealings, like the preacher and the philosopher, appeals to reason and the honorable instincts in man. Our role in the Defense Department is to back up the words of State with teeth to insure that would-be adversaries listen—because we, like the local policeman, are not overly confident that man’s reasonable instincts will prevail over his less honorable instincts of greed, envy, and mistrust.
The international situation is much more complex and difficult today than ever before. There are more sovereign countries—about 150, roughly three times the number at the end of World War II—and all of them are competing for their place in the sandbox. Also, there are more people, thanks to modern medicine and wonder drugs. When the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth, the world’s population wasn’t much more than America’s today. And the earth’s skyrocketing population will more than double in our lifetime. This rising population is taking its toll of the earth’s nonrenewable resources. As this adverse supply and demand situation worsens, man’s greed may cause him to abandon reason and resort to force. The seriousness of the situation was dramatized by the President, speaking of nuclear weapons: "Mankind already carries in its hand the seeds of its own destruction.”
But amidst all the uncertainties in the international scene, one point comes starkly into focus. Never has the United States needed strong armed forces—and most particularly naval forces—more than they are needed today. U. S. naval strength is the common denominator of the array of alternative options that are available to solve the international problems we face—problems on all fronts: economic, legal, political, and military.
Economically, the United States is becoming more and more dependent on foreign trade—trade that must be carried by merchant ships. Gone forever are the days when the United States produced more than it could consume. From a raw-material-surplus-nation we have become a raw-material-deficient-nation. And it’s not going to get better. By the time our children are as old as we are now, more than half our raw materials will have to come from abroad. Already, sources of strategically important materials such as tin, nickel, asbestos, industrial diamonds, rubber, and aluminum ore must be imported—in the case of those listed, over 93%. Too, much of our food is imported. In turn, we export large quantities of both manufactured goods and grain to keep the equation balanced. Five-and-a-half million Americans are employed in the import/export business.
Then there is the special problem of oil. Oil accounts for just under half of the U. S. energy supply. Americans use about 17 million barrels a day now. Thus far, the gasoline shortages and brown-outs have been only irritations—nasty but not calamitous. But our oil requirements are estimated to more than double before the end of the next decade.
To insure that the oil and other raw materials from throughout the world are fed into our hungry industrial machine will require a strong naval force, capable of keeping the sea routes open. To suggest that our merchant ships would have free and unimpeded access to conduct international commerce on the sea without naval protection is like suggesting that the American trucking industry could fairly conduct commerce throughout the United States, Canada, and Mexico without local, state, and federal enforcement of safety, commerce, customs, and highway regulations.
International legal problems challenge the United States as well. For over 150 years, the United States supported the rule of international law that allowed each coastal state a three-mile limit for its own exclusive use of the oceans. Following World War II, the Soviet Union began enforcing its claim to 12 miles. The U. S. held out for three. Several countries saw this lack of great power consensus as a chance to grab huge fishing zones. Some claimed that the three-mile limit was never a rule of law; others claimed it was archaic.
Guinea, in central Africa, for example, claimed 130 miles. Many Latin American countries claimed 200 miles. South Korea followed suit with a similarly large zone. Ecuador and others have been seizing and firing on U. S. tuna clippers for some time.
The U. S. has repeatedly and unsuccessfully appealed to the International Court of Justice. What makes the problem more sticky is the fact that most of the countries involved are our allies.
On Hugging a Bear, Take Care 21
As populations increase, and grazing and farm land is converted to other use, the protein of the sea will play a greater role in the world’s diet. The more America relys on protein from the sea, the more it will have to protect the rights of American fishermen on the high seas. This is but one more problem whose solution may require a strong naval force.
Meanwhile, this country has worked out a compromise solution with the Soviet Union and other trading nations calling for 12 miles—international legal problems make strange sea-bed-fellows. But this compromise is eyed by some of the have-not countries as a superpower plot to dictate terms and deny them their fair share.
Then there are the political problems which result primarily from our position of world leadership. When World War II ended, we found ourselves in the number one slot. Americans never consciously aspired to be number one. But the combination of political freedom, a national competitive work ethic, abundant resources, and good climate provided the ingredients. Three major wars force-developed America’s resources and produced a large, strong set of national muscles. In 1945, there was no doubt or turning back the clock.
Being number one is a bitter-sweet proposition. As in the game, "King of the Mountain,” we have become everyone’s target. Countries that once admired and praised the United States, now label us as imperialists. Friends chide, and enemies deride.
What does being number one mean? It means two cars in the garage, two refrigerators, two TVs, two bathrooms. It means a higher standard of living- more creature comforts, more civil liberties, more education, more leisure—than any other country on earth, in this or any other time.
What does it cost to be number one? It means defending what we have against those who would take it away. It means shouldering responsibility for a lion’s share of the world’s problems. When a typhoon, earthquake, flood, or avalanche strikes a far away place—it means dispatching a U. S. rescue and relief team. When a call comes for help, it may mean landing the Marines— honoring our treaty commitments. It means an increased share in the effort to maintain stability.
There are those who would shed the responsibilities of number one. Unfortunately, they are not as ready to forego the comforts and conveniences that go along with being number one. Even more unfortunately, they don’t understand that there are direct economic, political, and military relationships between the bitter and the sweet of being number one.
This writer is very happy that America is number one, and would like to see America stay on top for
a long time. Perhaps we have made what historians will label mistakes but, by and large, America’s leadership has been benevolent. Even during our days of overwhelming nuclear superiority, America did not use her power ruthlessly or callously. But what if the superpowers’ roles had been reversed? How might the Soviet Union deal with the nations, including our own, should she become number one? These questions do not produce reassuring answers, so the safest course to steer is the one we’re on. One of the best ways to stay on top is through a strong Navy. U. S. warships with their missiles and aircraft are very visible and tangible evidence of our commitment to support our allies and maintain stability. If, on the other hand, our allies or neutrals perceive us weakening, they may hitch their wagon to a brighter star. A red star, perhaps?
A military challenge faces America—the growing Soviet military and naval might. Since 1969, the U. S. and the U.S.S.R. have been negotiating to put a reasonable lid on the nuclear arms race. In 1969, the U. S. had a comfortable margin in strategic weapons. The Soviet tactic was to build missiles at breakneck pace during the seemingly-endless Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT). Meanwhile, the U. S. had no ongoing programs to expand our strategic forces. So, by the time we signed the interim SALT Agreement, freezing missile launchers and construction at their May 1972 levels, the Soviets had "out-missiled” us by a ratio of 3 to 2, and their production lines were still operating. But we could honestly justify the agreement on the grounds that we had three times as many strategic bombers as they. Also, because we have multiple independently-targeted reentry vehicles, or MIRVs, roughly twice as many of our nuclear warheads could reach Soviet targets. So there existed what we called "essential equivalence,” and it was not so much what we froze, but what we forestalled, that made the agreement palatable.
Some say it is difficult to figure out what the U.S.S.R. is up to. Russian leaders speak of the need for arms control. In July 1973, the leading Communist party journal praised detente and declared it unlikely that the world would ever return to the Cold War. Yet, on the same day the article was published, the Russians successfully tested a new MIRV. Consider this: if the Russians "MIRV” all their missiles with several warheads each—remember, they have almost 50% more launchers than we—this would upset the equivalence and would be unacceptable for the U. S. Meanwhile, Mr. Brezhnev has been explaining his detente policy to his Eastern European satellites by assuring them that although he intends to go along with the West in economic matters, the U.S.S.R. will continue to build
U. S. Naval Institute Proceedings, July 1974
up its military strength. And, when they feel strong enough, the Russians will adopt a tougher foreign policy.
It is not difficult to figure out what the Russians are up to. Their blueprint is clear. They are out to be number one—politically, economically, and militarily. They are building a new strategic submarine, a new strategic bomber, six new strategic missiles, and their goal is to float a superpower navy second to none, complete with amphibious forces and carriers. They already have more naval ships than we, although ours are larger and displace considerably more tons. They intend to unfurl the Hammer and Sickle off every foreign shore; obtain access to foreign markets and raw materials; and never again experience naval humiliations, such as the Cuban missile crisis. And to achieve superiority, the Soviet Union appears to be "using” detente as a tactic. This could work for them if it served to slow down U. S. technology.
The Russians are tenacious and ambitious. They will press on every quarter to achieve their goals. If they meet weakness, they will exploit it. If they meet strength, they will respect it. The Russians, history proves, thoroughly understand and respect strength and they are developing a keen, new awareness of naval strength. Our Navy must be every bit as strong, man- for-man and plank-for-plank, if our country is to cope with this new challenge.
True, our country faces economic, legal, political, and military problems. But we need not despair. We need only remain strong and deal with each problem from a position of strength. In negotiating international issues—whether on fish, oil, or missiles—one doesn’t have diplomatic credibility when dealing from weakness. Conceptually, there is nothing wrong with detente. Considerable good could come out of it— provided we don’t let it hypnotize us like the snake does the bird. We had better be as tough and strong as the bear if we undertake to hug one.
But as great as our need is to remain strong, not since the close of World War II has there been so much pressure to disarm and cut back. "The Vietnam War is over,” say some reporters, "so cut the armed forces.” "The Russians are serious about detente,” say some legislators, "so cut the wasteful, cushy Defense budget.”
Much of this criticism is misguided, uninformed, and unfair. One of the current myths about the defense budget—that defense is gobbling up an excessive share of our national resources—is dispelled by simple facts. This year’s defense budget (1974) is $79 billion— almost the same as it was six years ago. If you take inflation into account, it is almost one third less. In
terms of what that money will purchase, this is the lowest budget since the Korean War. Six years ago, defense spending was 42.5% of overall federal spending. This year it is down to 28.4%. As a percentage of gross national product, the defense budget has dropped, in the same period, from 9.4% to 6%. Yet there are heard indignant outcries about the runaway defense budget. These voices fail to acknowledge that inflationary factors apply just as much to guns as they do to butter.
In one sense, success has been our worst enemy. For a quarter-century we have avoided what was once thought to be an inevitable World War III. So we hear, "Who needs another nuclear carrier; who needs Trident”, and so on. But this is wrong, and dangerous thinking. It overlooks the simple fact that it has been this very strength—this kind of seapower—that has provided the security we have started taking for granted. Our strength has been so successful that many now wonder why we should spend money to be strong. A paradox. But remove the strength, and see how soon the pushing and shoving starts. We still live in that international sandbox.
In these days, when we’re trying to operate on an all-volunteer-force basis, the antimilitary sentiment that often appears in the media, and is often heard during Capitol Hill debate is working against us. No young man wants to join an organization that is constantly under attack or ridicule—he wants to join one that enjoys public esteem.
Unless dedicated young men of sound character are attracted to Service careers, we can soon expect armed forces composed of and led by second-raters. That could undermine our security—and in the longer run, our freedom.
The Nation, the Navy, and the Armed Forces need public support now more than ever—active and vocal support. Those who influence public opinion and draft the laws of the land must be reminded that many still believe that the surest and safest way to guarantee peace and stability in this world is for America to remain strong. A strong Navy is essential to this mission. And the support of the public is essential to a strong Navy.
Captain Swarztraubcr holds a baccalaureate degree from Maryville College, and a doctorate from The American University; he is a graduate of the Navy’s Officer Candidate and General Line Schools. He served in the amphibious forces, an aircraft carrier, and four destroyers, most recently commanding the guided missile destroyer Decatur. During 1968-1969, he commanded "brown-water-Navy” forces in Vietnam, successively as Commander, River Squadron Five and Commander, Task Force Clearwater. While serving in shore duty assignments he acquired a career subspccialty in political-military strategy and planning and is now an advisor to the Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff in the fields of Soviet affairs, arms control, research and development, and strategic/nudcar planning.