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Underestimation of enemy intentions is dangerous and possibly fatal. In the rusn ‘ greet our primary adversary’s new leader as a man ready to improve relations between the Soviet Union and the West, it may be wise to remember the words of Solzhenitsyn: “Never has the Politburo numbered a humane or peace-loving man among its members. The communist bureaucracy is not constituted to allow men of that caliber to rise to the top.”
How often we have heard that we must not be se duced into paying attention to an adversary’s inte” tions, which are essentially unknowable, but t we must focus on his capabilities instead. However aP^ pealing, attempts at fashioning a strategy by considering capabilities only is too simplistic. As in many other area of analysis, the “capabilities versus intentions’’ quests is one of emphasis rather than of absolutes. .
Arleigh Burke Essay Contest —Second Honorable Mention
The difference in emphasis between capabilities and tentions depends on whether one is considering friends ° enemies. Regarding the former, intentions are almost e* clusively of concern. We have nothing to fear, for exam pie, from the British ballistic missile submarine f°rce'
Regarding the latter, enemies and possible enemies, cap^
bilities are prominent, and rightly so. Yet we ignore t*1 intentions of our adversaries at our peril. As our eriem* grow stronger, both their intentions and their capability weigh more heavily in the balance. Why that is so be comes clear if one considers that the Soviet Union once- not long ago, was very weak at sea, and consequently- broad menu of strategies was available for the U. S. to select from to achieve its objectives. If the opponent weak, strategy is devalued—one simply sweeps him fr0'._, the battlefield with overwhelming force. If the opponent i strong, the concern for his power, his instruments of 'var' must be very great. But because of his strength, his str egy also assumes greater importance, and strategies t will be successful against him are more critical, fewer number, and narrower in scope. .
Two additional prefatory points need to be made, hi - '
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^ate the enemy. Underestimation of enemy intentions is ^igerous and possibly fatal. We must conclude, there- re> that in order to feel secure, status quo states and ^■ances—those that have no designs for political control others—must be suspicious of expansionist powers. a ety necessitates that pessimistic estimates of an adver- ^ ry s intentions should be preferred to optimistic ones. econd, when your opponent is obsessed with secrecy, k*v*ning his intentions is quite difficult. Indeed, it has Cen written that Soviet secrecy is the driving engine of (, e arms race. The asymmetry in the levels of secrecy of e United States and the Soviet Union can be demon- rrated in a single telling example. The Soviet general sec- etary can be out 0f pUbiic view for months at a time with f 1 e media coverage, but if the U. S. President suffers 0rtl a mild cold, it hits the news in hours. Fearing both
strong Soviet capabilities and malevolent Soviet intentions, the West is forced to devote high levels of attention and funds to its defense.
If, then, estimating adversary intentions is important, how is it to be done? It is difficult enough to determine the intentions of your own friends or even family members, much less those of a secretive adversary. And, didn’t Winston Churchill say that Russian policy, that is intentions, “is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma?”
We must study our opponent to better understand how he thinks, how he approaches problems, and consequently what his intentions are. The spirit of such an enterprise resides in a conviction that we would make fewer mistakes if we knew what we do not know. Indeed, few people realize that the aphorism lifted from Churchill is incomplete. What Churchill actually said was: “Russian policy is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma; but
perhaps there is a key. That key is the Russian national interest.”1
In the art of war, influencing an adversary’s intentions has long been recognized as both preferable and superior to engaging his capabilities in open conflict. Indeed, Western military policy adheres to this precept in relying on deterrence to reduce the possibility of the outbreak of war, since influencing intentions is the central objective of deterrence.
Intentions, like capabilities, are subject to observation. Declaratory policy, the overall state structure (political, economic, cultural, ideological, etc.), and past and current actions comprise the major indicators of intentions. Conceptually, a state could adopt one of several options with respect to revealing its intentions. It might, for example, voluntarily provide no information whatsoever. In this case, adversaries are deprived of one source of information, but at the same time the state practicing such a policy foregoes any opportunity to influence others by means of the selective release of information. Other difficulties attend this course of action—the premium on espionage and defection is increased; the requirements of internal security are very high; and adversaries probably expect the worst and prepare accordingly. Although such an approach might be attractive, say, to Albania, it is an unlikely and unappealing option for a major power. The opposite course of action—complete openness—appears about as unattractive a policy option. In military affairs, such a course would be tantamount to suicide in the face of an aggressive, determined adversary.
Another possibility would entail releasing only false information. Such a policy would necessitate careful internal segregation of reality from fiction, which would be no simple task. Time, of course, would increase the likelihood of exposure. Once that happened, credibility would fall to zero, and the state would effectively lapse into the “no information” category. For these reasons, this option does not appear promising either.
One other avenue presents itself: the state can offer part of its actual intentions for the consumption of outsiders, while maintaining the remainder under a cloak of secrecy. Because the requirements for security are reduced, the ability to disseminate information quickly and widely is enhanced, credibility is improved, and the possibilities for manipulation are significantly greater relative to the other
options. In fact, most states choose this policy option-
Those who ignore or devalue available informati from an adversary’s writings and speeches conjure up congenial mirror-image enemy who requires no effort understand because his value system and thought Prt cesses are presumed to be identical to their own.
Soviet authors on military affairs, unlike their Westef counterparts on the whole, evince a firm grasp on the ne cessity to study their enemy in all respects. The Sovie assert that, ‘‘A critical study of bourgeois military theory by military cadres of the socialist state is dictated by tn objective necessity of knowing the enemy, his actua^ strength and capabilities, his plans to utilize his f°rce^ 1 war.”2 The compression of intentions (‘‘plans to utih^ his forces”) and capabilities into one sentence illustrate vividly that the two are inseparable in the mind of ( author of that passage. .
From the Soviet strategist’s point of view, this “obJeC tive necessity” arises from the fact that the social systeI11^ of the two superpowers are fundamentally opposed, long as capitalism exists, according to the Comrnun' Party line, the struggle between socialism and capital's'1 must continue. There can be no compromise, no conves gence, no curtailment of vigilance. As Robert Bathurst a observed in his book Understanding the Soviet “The idea that there can be peace short of paradise °cClljS nowhere in Soviet Marxist literature. What does aPPear the idea of a continuation of the struggle on various >e els.”3 The Soviets, in brief, have not adopted the nurt® image. They state forthrightly that, “it is necessary 1 imagine the situation from the enemy’s point of view a° to perceive it the same way the enemy does.”4
To better understand Soviet military thought, it is "ecC.j\ sary first to attempt to fathom the concepts that foru1 1 underpinnings. Marxism-Leninism, the ideological su structure of the Communist Party of the Soviet Unl° ’ provides a concrete, coherent, consistent, and comprelie sive background from which the Soviet military extraC its ideas about the nature of reality. The party, as the r pository of truth, ensures that all interpretations are stan ardized; that is, through the various organs available to ; the party establishes the correct view on any issue a requires that it be assimilated, disseminated, and heedc There cannot be competing “truths,” for, as George Le nan noted nearly 40 years ago, “If truth were to be f°ul1
e Sewhere, there would be justification for its expression ‘n 0rganized activity. But it is precisely that which the remlin cannot and will not permit.”5 To a nonbeliever, the ideology might appear- inconsis- enL incoherent, fragmentary, and arbitrary—not to men- '°n illogical and light-years away from reality. The Soviet 1 ltf>ry, however, is obliged to act in ways that are ideo- gically correct, whether or not individuals personally or 0 Actively believe in the veracity of the ideology. Be- *Use °f this requirement and because the Soviet military Ust carry out a significant amount of training in Marx- Slh-Leninism, the Soviet military cannot help but de- °P certain habits. In part, to be sure, the very purpose lhe insistence by the party on ideological purity is to j-velop habitual modes of thought and a common frame Reference for analysis.
. °viet ideology claims to be scientific and based on saws. Asserting that it is also dynamic and flexible, it eks constantly to discover new laws. Laws lead to fore- .^ght. That is, laws permit prediction, a mandatory quality an era where, for example, actual experience with some eaP°ns cannot be obtained in training, with Marxism-Leninism, the Soviet fighting man is rrtle<T morally. He has strong ideological conviction that
wide, centralized planning and organization of scientific research, the goals and accomplishments of which are set and monitored by the party. He knows that the workers, the productive forces of society, will be defended.
Marxism-Leninism fortifies the Soviet military officer with a comprehensive methodology and outlook. This is not to say that all military policy is predicated on the prevailing ideology. It does indicate, however, that decisions must be provided a Marxist-Leninist gloss, one that maintains ideological purity.
In recent years, many Western observers of the Soviet Union have speculated on the erosion, even the death, of the Marxist-Leninist ideology. If that is so, there is no inkling of it in the publications of the Soviet military or in government pronouncements, newspapers, or periodicals. Every 20th-century major totalitarian state has required a monolithic, theoretically pure ideology to support and sanctify its excesses. Communism cannot exist without Marxist ideology. The words of Alexander Solzhenitsyn are revealing:
“It is said, for example, that the Soviet leaders have now given up their inhumane ideology. Not at all. They haven’t given it up one bit. Others say that in the Krem-
e cause of communism is just. He is class-conscious and t^u'PPed with the latest and most advanced scientific and Zoological knowledge and armament. The Soviet offi- , r appreciates the value of propaganda and agitation to eut(ress the spirit of his followers in a situation where, for t Zmple, nuclear weapons might be used. He knows how °Ppose bourgeois theories and generate hatred for the Oemy wjthin himself and within his subordinates. That e very best, technologically advanced weapons will be ls to fight with is assured by the fact that there is state-
The influence of Marxism-Leninism is still strong today, as is evident by the 1984 May Day parade in Red Square. The Soviets believe that with this ideology, the Soviet fighting man, opposite, is armed morally. Indeed, the Soviet military is obliged to act in ways that are ideologically correct.
lin there are some on the left, some on the right; they are fighting with each other, and we have to behave in such a way that we don’t interfere with those on the left. This is all fantasy; left, right. There is some sort of a struggle for power, of course, but they all agree on the essentials.”6
As long as the Communist Party of the Soviet Union maintains its position as the single source of power in the state, positions in military, foreign, and internal policy will be perceived against the backdrop of Marxist- Leninist ideology. This judgment seems secure when viewed in the light of the observation of Zbigniew Brezezinski nearly 20 years ago, that if the Soviet empire is to crumble, ‘‘the ideology must first be denied both victories and enemies, a difficult and paradoxical task since denial of one can be construed as the manifestation of the other.”7
To a study of the nature of modem war through Soviet eyes, we must bring a dialectical methodology, a materialistic outlook, and a few assumptions. If the cause of so
cialism is just, and if socialism seeks peace, it follows t a socialist state will employ its armed forces only re tively, never aggressively. The consistent, long-ran^ Soviet political goals of ridding the world of nude j. weapons, establishing zones free of nuclear weapons abolition is not possible, and various other arms contr interests continue to be espoused. Nevertheless, war possible, and Lenin’s thesis describing war as an intel1^ tional extension of state policy by violent means remai valid under contemporary conditions. This close conn<jc tion between war and politics remains one of the fun mental principles of Marxist-Leninist thought, and hent> a basic precept of Soviet military thought. 0
Wars are the result of a deliberate political decision achieve discrete political goals by force of arms. PohtlC goals, in turn, derive from the policy of the classes wag1 the war. Because a political decision precipitates a w ’ wars cannot be spontaneous or automatic in the Marx)S Leninist view.
The goal of war is to secure the objective. Politics de mines the objective, and politics alone selects when a vV.(s is to be initiated and the instruments to be employed m conduct. All means available to the state will be sU*7°r(|ie nated to the quest for achieving the objective, and military will unquestionably remain subordinate to political leadership during the course of the war. Tn points are well enough established to be taken for grante The armed forces, in this scheme, constitute the decis means for pursuing the goals of war but do not preciplW
Although not repudiating the link between nuclear war d Policy, another branch of this argument says that nu- ar weapons cannot serve as an instrument of policy for capitalist states because the correlation of forces has ' ted to the Soviet side. That is, the Soviet nuclear arse- a has now become strong enough to remove the nuclear j ar °Ption from the capitalist agenda of ways to further its Perialist policies. Imperialism remains as a force in the th f ,to be reckoned with, however, and while it exists, n5re *s still a danger of war. Thus, war is not inevitable.
hat is inevitable in the Soviet catechism is the ultimate ■ ITIPh of socialism and communism over capitalism and
e war. In the Soviet system, success in war is said to be |*Ssured because military strategy receives its guidance and uPp°rt from state policy.
The flexibility of the ideology knows of no better exam- e than its assimilation of the question of nuclear weap- ns- Does it not seem that nuclear weapons break the link politics and war—that no rational policy can con- the use of nuclear weapons to underwrite its ac- '"nplishment? The Soviet response: “It is quite evident at such views are a consequence of a metaphysical and scientific approach to such a social phenomenon as war, are a result of idealization of the new weapons. It is e 1 known that the essence of war as a continuation of 0 'tics does not change with changing technology and “lament.”8
fCe to national liberation movements, and resisting the Q0rts of imperialism to quash revolutionary movements regimes. If the major powers should collide, the onus, Qj-fliis framework, must rest with the aggressive policies I ."ttperialism, not with the constructive, progressive pol- !es of the peace-loving Soviet state. Since politics deter- lnes when and where a war is to begin and what weapons ,re to be employed in the course of the war, Soviet authors ave little to say about either the proximate causes of war
or how a war might start, beyond the standard assumption that the imperialists will be the instigators.
The onset of war may be by forces of either nuclear or conventional weapons, depending on the correlation of forces before the war. As a war progresses, moreover, a change in the correlation of forces can create conditions for a change in tactics or the application of various types of weapons. With regard to suggesting limits to the conflict—interwar bargaining points—Soviet authors are reticent, influenced undoubtedly by the fact that the concept “limited war” is a criticized bourgeois theory.
The limits of war, rather, are fashioned by the nature of the political goals for which the war is being waged. There is a presumption throughout Soviet military thought that if war occurs between capitalism and socialism, the political goals of war will be unlimited. It will be an all-out war, having no logical boundaries or discontinuities.
The keystone of Soviet military thought and the basic premises of Soviet military science are that war is possible and war is political. The importance of these seminal ideas cannot be overemphasized, for all else originates in them.
From these considerations, the Soviet military has adopted a damage-limiting philosophy of waging war. Preemptive attacks from the tactical to the strategic levels, destruction of enemy nuclear weapons as a first priority, massive air defense deployments, and nationwide civil defense measures all limit damage to the motherland. Taking the initiative with bold, swift maneuvers that concentrate efforts and move expeditiously into the depth of the enemy’s defenses at the same time prevents him from attacking and razing socialist territory.
Thus, the Soviets conclude that military strength has political value. In pursuing policy goals short of war, they acknowledge that military strength may not guarantee political success, but they are convinced also that military weakness ensures political impotence.
As military capabilities improve, so also do available options for the employment of armed force. Intentions can, therefore, become more varied. But nothing in Soviet military thought leads to the conclusion that war cannot be avoided, or that war is desirable. Soviet authors are not bellicists; they are pragmatists who apparently have faith in traditional military principles traceable at least as far back as Sun Tzu, although no Soviet author would make the connection to that Chinese philosopher.
A few conclusions can be reached concerning Soviet intentions:
- The Soviet Union will strive to achieve and to maintain military superiority over its adversaries. Marxist-Leninist ideology requires no less. Military doctrine is founded on this maxim, and all available evidence of Soviet capabilities confirms it.
- If war should erupt, the Soviet intention is to win. The Soviets can be expected to strike hard, based on a belief that the initial period of a war can be decisive to its course and outcome. Moreover, there is unanimity among Soviet authors that secrecy and surprise are central to a successful wartime engagement. The Kremlin must be either greatly mystified or amused at military planners who hope to win a war by only the narrowest of margins—as if a team
ought to plan to win 4-3 or 6-5 rather than 11-0.
- The Soviet military intends to capitalize on whatever political advantage flows from their increasing capabilities. As the ability of the Soviet Union to project power beyond its borders grows, so also do Soviet spokesmen demonstrate greater interest in the role of their armed forces in the absence of open hostilities. Military support for wars of national liberation has become an acknowledged possibility. The publications of Admiral Sergei Gorshkov, Commander in Chief of the Soviet Navy, reveal the intention that the Soviet Navy should spearhead the global manifestation of Soviet power.
- From the publications of the Soviet military, it can be deduced that there is no intention of “liberalizing” internally, and no atrophy of ideological fervor is apparent. Moral-psychological tempering of the armed forces has evidenced no waning in emphasis; if anything, its intensity has increased. The Soviet armed forces, comprised as they are of an overwhelming majority of Communist Party and Young Communist League members, are ostensibly not the place to look for a weakening of the grip of Marxism- Leninism on the Soviet Union.
None of these conclusions could have been reached by peering, however intently, into the policy or strategy mirror. Yet the mirror image has endured in various forms in the West for decades. It is simpler and far less painful to ascribe to an opponent’s intentions or strategies that are congenial, rather than to expend the effort to study him. We should not reject Soviet concepts because they fail to
reflect ours. The challenge presents itself clearly: effort expended to study our adversary acts as a against serious error in time of war.
‘Quoted in Edward Mead Earle, ed., Makers of Modern Strategy: ®
from Machiavelli to Hitler (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 19 ’
364-88. • „ nfV.l•
2A. S. Milovidov and V. G. Kozlov, eds., The Philosophical Heritage ■* -ceS Lenin and Problems of Contemporary War, trans. and published under the a Lce of the U. S. Air Force (Washington, D.C.: U. S. Government Printing 1975), p. 116. R.i.;
3Robert B. Bathurst, Understanding The Soviet Navy: A Handbook (Newp°r » Naval War College Press, 1979), p. 20.
4V. V. Druzhinin and D. S. Kontorov, Decision-Making and Automation: . pofCC Algorithm, Decision, trans. and published under the auspices of the U. S. Air (Washington, D.C.: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1975), p- 41. -nt( 5“X,” “The Sources of Soviet Conduct,” Foreign Affairs, July 1947, rep
Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Warning to the West (New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1976), p. 36.
7Zbigniew Brezezinski, The Soviet Bloc: Unity and Conflict (Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 1967), p. 512. , e(j.
8V. D. Sokolovskiy, Soviet Military Strategy, ed. by Harriet Fast Scott,
(New York: Crane, Russak & Co., 1968), p. 15.
Captain Barnett is currently the director of the Strategic Studies C®
SRI International. He received his AB degree in economics from # ^
University and his MA and PhD degrees in international relations ^ the University of Southern California. Captain Barnett has comma the USS Buchanan (DDG-14). Previous jobs include Head, Strategy Concepts Branch of the Strategy, Plans, and Policy Division, Op Deputy Director, Politico-Military Policy and Current Plans OpNav; and Head, Extended Planning Branch, Systems Analysis sion, OpNav. •
Arleigh Burke Essay Contest
The U. S. Naval Institute is proud to announce its second annual Arleigh Burke Essay Contest.
Three essays will be selected for prizes. Anyone is eligible to enter and win. First prize earns S2.000. a Gold Medal, and a Life
Membership in the Naval Institute. First Honorable Mention wins S1.000 and a Silver Medal. Second Honorable Mention wins S750 and a Bronze Medal.
The topic of the essay must relate to the objective of the U. S. Naval Institute: "The
advancement of professional, literary, an. scientific knowledge in the naval and mad time services, and the advancement of •" knowledge of sea power.” . .
Essays will be judged by the Editoria Board of the U. S. Naval Institute.
112th Annual Meeting of the membership of the Naval Institute- Letters notifying the award winners will be mailed on or about February 1986, and the unsuccessful essays will be returned to their authors on that date.
- All essays must be typewritten, double-spaced, on paper approximately 8Vf x 11". Submit two complete copies.
- The winning and honorable mention essays will be pub lished in the Proceedings. Essays not awarded a prize may deselected for publication in the Proceedings. The writers of sue essays will be compensated at the rate established for Pur' chased articles.
- An essay entered in this contest should be analytical and or interpretive, not merely an exposition, a personal narrative, ora report. Caution: Do not exceed 4,000 words!
Deadline: 1 December 1985
 Essays must be original, must not exceed 4,000 words, and must not have been previously published. An exact word count must appear on the title page.
- All entries should be directed to: Publisher, U. S. Naval Institute, Annapolis, Maryland 21402.
- Essays must be received on or before 1 December 1985 at the U. S. Naval Institute.
- The name of the author shall not appear on the essay. Each author shall assign a motto in addition to a title of the essay. This motto shall appear (a) on the title page of the essay, with the title, in lieu of the author's name, and (b) by itself on the outside of an accompanying sealed envelope containing the name and address of the essayist, the title of the essay, and the motto. This envelope will not be opened until the Editorial Board has made its selections.
- The awards will be presented to the winning essayists at the