Cover: Critique of a Brookings Agenda for the Nation on Military Strategy, Military Forces, and Arms Control

Critique of a Brookings Agenda for the Nation on Military Strategy, Military Forces, and Arms Control

Published 1968

by Albert Wohlstetter

General Suggestions and Evaluations

I am sympathetic to proposals to reduce military budgets. I believe there is a considerable amount of fat in ours that can be cut without harm. However, I would suggest taking as principal target the "General Purpose Forces" and, in a brief examination, I would not waste a great deal of effort on trying to cut our strategic offensive and defensive force. The latter involves much smaller budgets and is much better understood than any other part of the force. There are of course arguable choices about the strategic offense and defense force, but the arguments for drastic changes up or down have been mostly ideological and lamentably weak in information or reasoning or both. (There is some point in answering proponents of "strategic superiority" but not by advocating "parity" instead. Rather by showing the vagueness and irrelevance of both concepts.)

On the other hand, the very title of the General Purpose Force suggests the largely unanalyzed character of its objectives. I am predisposed to think that General Purpose instruments are frequently No Purpose instruments. And, in fact, the performance characteristics of our theater aircraft seem to have evolved mainly as the result of arbitrary or irrelevant criteria. The equipment and support costs of our ground forces, as well as the enormously expensive carrier task forces, seem to me to be much in need of a critical look.

But all of this suggests a quite different emphasis from the draft paper: It suggests (1) a focus on theater forces in the analysis as well as in the proposals for budget cuts; (2) critical attention especially to the costs and performance and objectives of theater air; (3) a stress on reducing "general support" costs overseas rather than withdrawing combat forces. I believe this would have much less disturbing political repercussions on allies and friends and offer fewer incentives towards neutralism and the spread of attempts by more countries at nuclear self-defense than the combination of proposals that the draft puts forth.

On arms control, the draft paper assumes a rather optimistic future degree of concordance between U.S. and Soviet moves and interests. Given such forecasts I think it would be a mistake to exclude the possibility that the inspection problem would also get somewhat more relaxed. I feel myself that the prospects for such concordance are longer range than the draft paper allows. But, whether such developments are rapid or slow, if they come, the state of secrecy in Russia will not be a constant, and wider responsible agreements on arms control will be feasible. For all its optimism on U.S.-Russian relations, the paper is rather pessimistic about the possibilities of inspection in Russia. In general, I would expand the analyses of arms control prospects to include more on the incentives of the small and medium powers and less on the U.S. and the Soviet union. But even for the Soviet case, arms controls need to be designed with much greater awareness of their implications for the touchy political links between the Soviet Union and the communist countries in Eastern Europe.

My detailed comments on the text indicate that the paper needs a great deal of work. Programs for reducing defense budgets and changing arms and arms control policies require much closer analysis and more information than the paper contains. The foregoing comments anticipate my answers to some of the five questions addressed to critics for evaluating the essay as a whole.

In answer to question 1: A better balance for the paper would involve a much more extensive and careful treatment of the problems of protecting friendly third parties against the threat or use of force by adversaries, and the interdependent role to be played in such protection by our General Purpose and our strategic forces. It would spend much less time on the analysis of the binary relation of nuclear deterrence between the Soviet Union and the United States — that is, the role the nuclear force of each has in discouraging attack on itself by the other's nuclear force. It would deal then explicitly with the problem of reducing the incentives of new countries to acquire the means of their own nuclear self-defense. (Such considerations are much broader than the signing of a non-proliferation treaty.) And it would have much more detailed indications of what military forces and operations are affected by the budget cuts it proposes, how they are related to the policy analysis, and how they compare with alternatives.

In answer to question 2: I think a good deal of the paper will be hard for an intelligent layman to grasp. There is a great deal of jargon: "credible first-strike capacity," "minimum deterrence," "assured destruction capability," "no-first-use," and so on. Many of these concepts, like "no-first-use," are introduced without explanation or without adequate explanation. Moreover for the professional as distinct from the layman, the concepts bristle with ambiguities. As the inventor of some of the jargon, (for example, the "first-strike," "second-strike" distinction) and as one who has tried using such distinctions both for laymen and for professionals, I would guess that neither would be happy with their use in the paper. The concepts chosen are especially ill-adapted to elucidating deterrence in the context of many nations some of which have nuclear weapons and some of which do not.

The answer to question 3 is that the author seems hardly to deal at all with "other interpretations and points of view different from his own." In particular he does not present and analyze the major policy alternatives with arguments pro and con. Where he does refer to alternative views these are not specified very carefully. Sometimes, as in the suggestion that somebody or other believes that we have to insure favorable outcomes in Latin America or Africa by whatever means and at whatever costs, the alternative view is a straw man.

On question 4, I think the essay can be condensed at several points. Section II on the international scene could be greatly shortened. And I have already suggested that the analysis of the binary nuclear relation contained in Section III has a good many defects, one of which is the undue emphasis it receives in relation to the rest of the paper.

On 5, the author writes well in general but, aside from the tightening and increased precision indicated by my detailed criticisms of the text, there are a few things that are worth watching in style: (1) an excessive fondness for some metaphors: for example, sharp edges and sharp bites; and (2) a considerable overworking of phrases and adverbs like "of course" and "certainly," indicating greater assurance than the subject matter and the examination permits.

Detailed Comments on Text

(In what follows, "p" stands for page; "P" stands for paragraph, including the first incomplete paragraph on a page; and "l" for line. I will follow the order of the paper in my comments but shall occasionally, where later pages are relevant at an earlier point, cluster references to them in parentheses.)

p. 1, P. 1, l. 1-6. I would delete "Despite ... weaponry," The oxymoron serves no purpose. Defending one's self frequently is costly and the success in defending one's self is not in spite of the cost but the result of this expenditure. The rest of the sentence overstates somewhat the exclusiveness of the past focus on Communism and its essentiality: In a world of many states with partially divergent as well as common interests, with nuclear weapons in the hands of several, even if none of the adversaries were Communists, our military policy would have similar aims. It would have similar aims also if our adversaries formed a communist monolith or several quarreling communisms partly hostile to each other as well as to us.

p. 1, P. 1, l. 6–7. I shall comment in greater detail on the three chief goals listed here. At this point, I would mention that the three goals cannot be put into one-to-one correspondence, as the paper later attempts, with individual segments of the U.S. military force. In particular, neither the strategic offense force nor the strategic offense and defense force taken together are limited to the first goal, that of defending and deterring against a direct attack on the United States. The strategic force has always furnished the bulk of the effective nuclear capability for deterring or defending against a nuclear attack on Europe or a massive conventional one. Similarly, for such attacks on parts of the world outside of Europe, like Japan. That this will continue to be so is recognized in the case of Europe on p. 32, P. 2, l. 13–15. However, the historical formulations on p. 2 and some of the policy proposals suggest the contrary — that deterring or defending against massive attack on places outside the United States has been and can be accomplished by theater forces. There are other important interdependencies among these three goals and the forces they require. It is a basic defect of the paper displayed at a good many places in it, that it neglects the interplay among the means and ends of protecting the United States and other parts of the world.

p. 1, P. 1, l 12ff. The third goal, protecting other parts of the world than Europe or the United States, is limited again to the case of Communist expansion and is said to be "... both later in time and lesser in importance." This statement is at best unclear. Does it mean that West Europe is more important than all the rest of the world outside the continental United States put together? Or just some smaller pieces than that? Europe is of course of great importance. But the scanting of everything outside Europe is popular now as a visceral reaction to Vietnam. The phrase "later in time" seems to shape past history to present emotion: Our interests in the Middle East, Asia, and in Latin America and our policy there had origins earlier than the paper suggests and were less derivative from Europe. Truman's memoirs make clear that he was incensed in December 1945 about Iran and other places where the Communists seemed to him to be on the march (meaning the Straits, Turkey, Japan, China, Korea, among others). Greece may have been tied in with Europe but Turkey was plainly thought of in connection with the Middle East. In fact it was an event in Asia, the Korean War, that made the NATO Treaty words into flesh. Line 24 mentions the "...Rio pact of 1947 covering 19 Latin American powers, ..." Its language about an attack against any member state being considered an act of aggression against all antedates the NATO Treaty and derives from the Act of Chapultepec in 1945.

Other examples could be multiplied but, to put it briefly, the statement is inaccurate. In accordance with the present national mood, it slights excessively all U.S. concerns outside of Europe.

p. 2, P. 2, l. 3–5. The first goal involves more than the nuclear strategic offense. It involves the nuclear defense force, that is, Package 2 as well as Package 1. Page 1 describes the goal as "... to deter and defend ...." The omission here reinforces the disposition of the paper to neglect damage limiting altogether, even in contingencies where it is quite feasible. And its tendency sometimes to identify such a "deterrence-only policy" as one that has already been adopted by the government. "Defense" like "deterrence" is affected by both offense and active defense forces.

p. 2, P. 2, l. 6-7. The statement that the size and composition of the force has been shaped by the concept of U.S. strategic superiority cannot be sustained. There was no single shaping concept throughout the history of our strategic offense and defense forces. And the notion of "superiority" like that of "parity" is too vague to give much of a shape to anything. The phrase "more effective force" begs all the questions about what is being effected. The "subtler" meanings of "superiority" are still too vague to be serviceable. Sticking with this notion would lose an excellent opportunity to accomplish one of the author's larger purposes, which is precisely to avoid the banal and polemical matching of megatonage, numbers of missiles, numbers of bombers, numbers of vehicles in general, etc., with various adversaries, and to consider what is essential for specified American objectives. Whether or not this positive suggestion is adopted the historical reference should be recognized to be plainly wrong. As someone who has been witness to or involved in a good many of the decisions on the subject since the Truman Administration, I can testify that no one conception determined the size and composition of our strategic forces. Truman, then Ike (Radford, Wilson, Gates), then Kennedy with McNamara displayed a succession of views. There were multiple effects, even at any one time, of contending conceptions — like those expressed at the beginning of the 1950's by the Chief Scientist of the Air Force, by the authors of the Lincoln Summer Study, and (quite different from either), by systems analysts working out second-strike capabilities self-consciously in distinction from people who talked about bomber gaps and missile gaps or Offense versus Defense.

p. 2, P. 2, l. 12. The statement that the second goal is reflected primarily in the long-run deployment of U.S. forces in Europe has the defects I have already indicated. These forces in Europe have indeed some relevance for the second goal, for countering the nuclear threat to Europe. But the forces outside the theater have always been, and, in my view, will continue to be the primary instrument for the purpose. Theater nuclear weapons have been in good part a response to the ambitions of the theater commander; and sometimes, (not independently of the theater commander's influence) a response to the desires of some of our European allies, in particular the FRG. However, their strategic justification, especially in anything like their present numbers, has never been persuasive. I should think that this is a point well worth emphasizing consistently in the paper. p. 34, P. 1, l. 13–15 suggests that these forces are redundant. I think they are and have been.

p. 3, P. 2, l. 1–3. Saying that the political scene and the technology of warfare will "go on changing in the same direction" is at best unclear. Neither the political nor the technical events surely have been moving in one direction with respect to any specified policy issue. Some of the ambiguities are made explicit in the paper itself. Others should be, but at this stage of the paper the statement is meaningless.

p. 3, P. 2, l. 6ff. The phrase "The argument of this essay" and its sequel is too unspecific to be helpful at this stage of the paper. And the rest of the paragraph helps give the paper a polemical or tendentious character. I would recommend deleting all of the paragraph with the exception of the second sentence ("Changes already experienced, etc ...."). It would be enough to qualify changes with "political and technological." This would follow the Brookings guideline to authors of these agenda.

p. 4, P. 1, l. 4. The reference here and elsewhere (e.g. pp. 9 and 12) to "vital interests' of the United States should be reconsidered if the paragraph is left in. Let me comment at this point on the later uses also. p. 9 talks of "... the vital U.S. interest in Western Europe..." p. 12 asks whether conflicts in Asia "... at the scale we have depicted, involve the vital security interests of the U.S. so that they must be settled favorably to us at whatever cost." And p. 13 asks, about struggles in Africa and Latin America, whether our interests are "sufficiently involved so that we must insure by whatever means an outcome of such struggles that we favor?"

The simple dichotomy of national interests into "vital" and "non-vital" is woefully inadequate as an apparatus for analyzing the highly varied, multiple and sometimes continuously graded risks embodied in alternative courses of national action. Its use in the literature on international relations is confined mostly to tautology: one says that a country will not fight over x because it doesn't have a vital interest in x — where by definition a "vital interest" is one worth fighting over. But costs as well as interests vary more or less continuously and the interesting cases are not ones in which interests are defended "at whatever cost" and "by whatever means" — whatever such phrases mean. Such formulations set up straw men. (Is there anyone sensible who holds that even New York or Boston must be defended by any means whatsoever?) And express predisposition rather than the results of an analysis.

p. 4, P. 2, l. 1. "From our point of view? Our? The author's? That of the U.S.?

p. 4, P. 2, l. 1–3. "... the greatest changes in the international political scene have been those affecting the direct relations between the two superpowers, ..." But after saying this, the paragraph goes on to talk not of the relations between the U.S. and the SU but of the relations among the thirteen Communist countries and of the relations of the United States to the other countries in alliance with us. The sequence is puzzling. In fact, the binary relation between the two superpowers, and, in particular the binary nuclear relation between them, preoccupies the author too exclusively. Some aspects of this I shall discuss in connection with the strategic analysis. The consequence that the paper draws from disunity among the Communist powers to a blunting of hostility towards the United States is not logically necessary, nor are monoliths necessarily expansionist. Part of the competition among adversaries can be in terms of demonstrating resistance to American imperialism — as the Russians compete with China in supplying North Vietnam against us. In any case, the monolithic character of earlier Communism is exaggerated. The view that there was danger to the United States because there was a perfectly unified, precisely timed Communist conspiracy was wrong. The view that there is very much less danger, because there is no perfectly unified, precisely timed conspiracy is quite as much in error. And the two views have quite a lot in common: The notion that it is only or mainly unified, precise conspiracies that are threats. (Tojo, Mussolini and Hitler managed to be dangerous though far from perfectly united. And Hitler's own plans taken by themselves seem to have been vague, dispersed and opportunistic, and frequently absent; though not without danger for us and the rest of the world.) Nor should the paper link a "harsh Stalinism" in internal policy with "aggressive foreign policy" (see p. 6, P. 2, l. 3.) Stalin had a Stalinist internal policy but was extremely cautious in external affairs. Khrushchev was the reverse.

I have never held to a monolithic theory of Communism myself, nor have I thought that all of the interests of the United States and the Soviet Union were strictly opposed. Nonetheless, it seems to me that in spite of the paper's recognition that there are conflicts of interest between the U.S. and the Soviet Union it understates these, tends to treat them as mainly "ideological" (p. 5, P. 2, l. 3) (which, in one sense, means a false mask or apprehension of reality), or inconsistent with "the facts of military technology" (p. 6, P. 1, l. 2) and increasingly recognized by both sides to be so. It does not state the alternatives for development within the Soviet Union and the rest of the Communist world in anything like the variety and uncertainty called for. It cannot be excluded, for example, that Brezhnov and Kosygin may view the outside world somewhat like Khrushchev, and respond to the East European challenge with a measure of Stalinist tightening at home. And Khrushchev, it should be recalled, responded to an East European challenge by directly suppressing it in Eastern Europe at its source. The paper exaggerates the sensitivity of the Soviet regime to popular pressure.

This comment was jotted in the margins before the five nation invasion of Czechoslovakia on August 21st. It may be compared with the statement in the paper (p. 6, P. 2, l. 2ff and top of p. 7) that, among other unpredictable events, there might be a "widening of political conflict between liberalizing Communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union into Soviet military intervention a la Hungary. Nothing is so unpredictable as the political future: All of these are possible, but all seem outside the most likely course of events, which is the continuation of recent trends."

Even if this were "the most likely" case, it would seem poor strategy to take this as the sole basis for policy in so unpredictable a political world. I believe that a sober consideration of several political futures is in order in decisionmaking under such conditions of uncertainty. At least, it's what's called for in the Brookings guidelines for these Agenda.

p. 5, P. 2, l. 103. "... increasing mutual recognition by both super powers of their inability to use military forces directed at each other to achieve or advance political goals." Any use of military force? Even the searching of a boat passing through a blockade — as in the Cuban missile crisis? Even if this were true, it would be important to ask how it bears on the use by either side of threats or actual military force against third parties. The binary U.S.-SU case is only part of the story. If it were really true that neither side could use military force against the other, even to preclude the other side's advance into a new area, then this would seem to make it safer to make such an advance. There is a weakness of the analysis which shows itself later in a similar connection. It flows from the excessive focus on the bilateral military relations between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, which I have referred to earlier.

p. 6, P. 1, l. 1–2. The paper attributes the reduced hostility between the SU and the U.S. in part to their mutual "appreciation of the facts of military technology." Here, and elsewhere in the paper, it seems to me that the facts of military technology are presumed to be simpler and more certain than they are, and more univocal in their implication, both for military and foreignpolicy.

p. 7, P. 1, l. 5ff. The paper says here that a change in policy deemphasizing and even unilaterally reducing military means is "certainly a necessary condition of general movement in the preferred direction." The polemical "certainly" should be avoided, in particular, since on page 8 the preferred softening of relations between the East and the West in Europe is attributed to a number of factors of which the "First, is the great success of U.S. and NATO policies over the two postwar decades...." It is not obvious that a trend that is the result of a given foreign and military policy can continue in the same direction only if the policy is reversed.

The alternatives here, I think, need a great deal of elaboration. In particular, the consequences of some of the unilateral and bilateral policies that the paper proposes later on should be considered for their implications as to the spread of nuclear weapons to new countries. The process of lessening commitment by the United States to the protection of some of these third countries would offer, I believe, a strong incentive for their undertaking their own nuclear self defense. This is particularly true for example, as I will elaborate, for West Germany, given the policy suggested of reducing conventional deployments and at the same time adopting a "no-first use" doctrine for our nuclear weapons. But it would also be true, for example, in Asia and the Middle East.

pp. 9–13, Beginning P. 3. General comment on these pages: Their upshot is that in all the rest of the world outside of Europe, excepting Israel, armed conflicts are either unlikely or will matter too little to the U.S. for it to intervene. But the discussion of what matters is unclear (interests seem sometimes to be defined in terms of a past commitment in which case one could hardly reassess existing commitments to see how they fit our interests and capabilities; or they are defined in terms of the arousal of widespread public emotion in which case vox populi vox dei; or they are dichotomized into "vital" and "nonvital" with the difficulties previously discussed).

Moreover, the discussion of the likely military contingencies suffers from several defects. First, once again, only "likely" contingencies seem to be contemplated (see p. 12, P. 2, l. 16–20 which say neither an invasion by North Korea of South Korea nor of Taiwan by China seems "a likely contingency").

Second, in discussing the possibilities these pages ignore the fact that probabilities of various attacks or threats are conditional probabilities. And the conditions have to be specified more fully than simply to name the presence of the Seventh Fleet. While I would differ with some of these probability judgments in detail, even presuming that our present U.S. military policies were to continue, the more relevant point is that such plausibility as these expectations have rests on the assumption of something like the present U.S. military posture strategy and degree of engagement. But the paper proposes precisely to change that posture: to reduce the level of conventional forces: to adopt a policy of "no-first use" of nuclear weapons even in the event of a massive conventional attack on third countries (and, since, as we shall discuss, there are some ambiguities in "no-first use" as to whether it inhibits our using nuclear weapons unless we have been struck by nuclear weapons, the self restriction may apply even in the event of nuclear attack against a third party): to adopt a strategy of "Assured-Destruction Only" (meaning that we will prepare to retaliate with high confidence in the event that our strategic nuclear force is attacked, but will make no preparations or plans to limit the damage done to us even if our force had not been attacked but an ally had, and even when such damage limiting is quite feasible): to reduce defense budgets: pull back forces from Asia and Europe: and communicate in various ways our lessened engagement in Europe and the Third World. The paper neglects here what is says on p. 7: "...our own policy choice is a major independent variable in the system." If the risks of military action by our adversaries against our present friends and allies are much reduced, one should expect the likelihood of such action to increase.

Third, and finally, the specific probability judgments seem doubtful and excessively confident even then. For example, the chances of an invasion of India might be affected by extensive internal disorder in India. And a number of our friends and allies in Asia and elsewhere might find their military prospects drastically worsened by conditions of near civil war. The suggestion that Chinese invasion of India seems "impossible" is much too strong. It is too strong for other reasons besides the possibility of internal disorder. Shifts in alignments, for example, sometimes have a large effect on strategic situations — as the British discovered at Singapore after the Japanese had obtained air bases in Indo-China from Vichy France. Any event that drove Pakistan much closer to China could alter the possibilities of a Chinese invasion of India. China already has some men and materiel in Pakistan. A large prestocking and predeployment program would simplify their logistic problems. This contingency is merely offered as an example, of course, of the precariousness of such judgments of strategic impossibility. There are other probability judgments in these pages that seem equally dubious. Is the probability of a North Korean attack really smaller than the probability that the Arabs would overrun Israel?

p. 10, P. 1, l. 25–30. "But at the most anxious projection, these (Chinese nuclear) forces will not in the near future to which we are looking, reach a level in terms of size and survivability, to permit a Chinese government however faintly rational to run even a small risk of inviting attack by the strategic forces of the United States of the Soviet Union. For this period, both will maintain a credible first-strike capacity against China." Adequate comment on this statement would anticipate my comments on the strategic nuclear analysis contained in Section III. At this point, however, it is worth noting that the Chinese might hope that their nuclear forces would drastically decrease any U.S. willingness to engage its fate in that of a third country threatened or attacked by China, and this might be especially so if the U.S. could limit damage to itself only by striking first with nuclear weapons against China; and if it had an announced and seriously held policy of "no-first use" of nuclear weapons in almost any of its variant meanings. A great many Chinese political and military actions might appear to run no significant risk of inviting attack by the United States' strategic forces, including some actions that might look risky now. The notion expressed in the quoted sentence that a Chinese nuclear force would in such circumstances not have changed the distribution of risks seems quite untenable. I would also note at this point and elaborate later that the concept of "credible first-strike capacity" is misleading and inadequate in such strategic analysis, and not much use in any analysis — at least I have never found it of any use.

General Comments on Section III

pp. 13–28, Beginning P. 4. This section, which is central, contains a number of factual errors, including some about the past and some about the present, some substantial inconsistencies, and an analytical apparatus which is at once obscure to the layman and inadequate to sustain the weight of the conclusions drawn. Perhaps most important, it does not identify the principle alternatives to the policy suggested.

First, some errors of fact: (a) It isn't the case that "After the third McNamara budget, the emphasis on damage limitation vanished, to be replaced by deterrence,..." (p. 18, P. 2, l. 3–4). Deterrence for years before this had been regarded of first importance and, as Carl says, awareness of what was needed for deterrence increased, though not steadily, over time. Damage limiting was a second objective before the third budget, and after. This following quotes illustrate that:

From senate Hearings, Department of Defense Appropriations, Fiscal 1965, Part I, p. 30.

"The proponents of the overkill theory would, in effect, restrict our strategic forces to those required for retaliation against cities only with the calculation assuming near optimum conditions. This is not a new concept. I understand that it has been debated within the Defense Department for many years before I cam to the Pentagon, but I know of no responsible official within the Department who would support it today. To serve as a maximum deterrent to nuclear war, our Strategic Retaliatory Forces must be visibly capable of fully destroying the Soviet society under all conditions of retaliation. In addition, in the event that such a war is forced upon us, they should have the power to limit the destruction of our own cities and population to the maximum extent practicable."

From Senate Hearings, Department of Defense Appropriations, Fiscal 1966, p. 43.

"The strategic objectives of our general nuclear war forces are:

  1. To deter a deliberate nuclear attack upon the United States and its allies by maintaining a clear and convincing capability to inflict unacceptable damage on an attacker, even were that attacker to strike first;
  2. In the event such a war should nevertheless occur; to limit damage to our population and industrial capabilities."

From Statement of Robert S. McNamara before the Senate Sub-committee on DOD Appropriations, Fiscal 1967–71 Defense Program and 1967 Defense Budget, p. 51.

"The ultimate deterrent to a deliberate nuclear attack on the United States or its allies is our clear and unmistakable ability to destroy the attacker as a viable society. But if deterrence fails, either by accident or miscalculation, it is essential that forces be available to limit the damage of such an attack to ourselves or our allies. Such forces include not only anti-aircraft defenses, anti-ballistic missile defenses, anti-submarine defenses, and civil defense, but also offensive forces, i.e. strategic missiles and manned bombers used in a Damage Limiting role."

From Senate Hearings, DOD Appropriations, Fiscal 1968, Part I, p. 44.

"During the past several years, in my annual appearances before this Committee, I have attempted to explore with you some of the more fundamental characteristics of the general nuclear war problem and the kinds of strategic forces which it involves. I noted that our general nuclear war forces should have two basic capabilities:

  1. To deter deliberate nuclear attack upon the United States and its allies by maintaining, continuously, a highly reliable ability to inflict an unacceptable degree of damage upon any single aggressor, or combination of aggressors, at any time during the course of a strategic nuclear exchange, even after absorbing a surprise first strike.
  2. In the event such a war nevertheless occurred, to limit damage to our population and industrial capacity. The first capability we call 'Assured Destruction' and the second 'Damage Limitation.'"

Posture Statement before Senate Armed Services Committee, Fiscal 1969, p. 61.

"There are two major issues this year in the Damage Limitation portion of the Strategic Forces Program. The first concerns the deployment of an anti-ballistic missile defense and, the second, the future size and composition of the anti-bomber defense forces."

Quite aside from explicit statements of the kind quoted, there have been expenditures, deployments and operational plans that have been concerned with limiting damage. The newest active defense capability is that of the thin ABM to limit damage against attacks involving a small number of apparent incoming objects. This is intended, among other things, to limit damage against a small, unsophisticated force like that expected in China. Or against unauthorized or mistaken launchings by a larger power. The paper's preoccupation with the binary nuclear relation between the U.S. and the Soviet union predisposes it to ignore such damage limiting or to dismiss it. In this case, it leads to attributing the author's view to official policy.

On the other hand, the paper is puzzlingly inconsistent on that subject. On page 17, it says: "Since 1961, our strategic forces have been programmed in terms of deterrence-plus." But on page 18, it says: "In any event, until 1965 or even into 1966, it was possible for the Administration to deny any wider aim for its strategic posture than deterrence." The paper tends to treat the alternatives as if there were genuinely only two — deterrence-only, with no provision to limit damage in case deterrence fails, on the one hand, and, on the other, something that may be vaguely called "superiority" and which is sometimes identified as an ability to preclude damage to ourselves by striking first and destroying the Russians' nuclear strike force. Sometimes the paper suggests American policy has been deterrence-only since 1963. Sometimes it suggests it has been from the start and is now "strategic superiority." But at other points, as on page 17, it recognizes a "spectrum" of capabilities of which these two are at opposite ends. In fact, there are quite a few alternatives, including some that cannot be represented on a linear scale. Besides having the capabilities to limit damage in various contingencies against various adversaries without striking first, a strategic and offensive force may have a preclusive first-strike capacity against one adversary and not against another. Or a preclusive defense capability: the ability to limit damage to low levels without striking first. Indeed, while there are explicit statements suggesting that it is impossible to get a first-strike capacity, there are other statements that make it clear that the author believes we have one against China and others make it clear that he is thinking of the Soviet union when he is talking about first-strike capacity in general.

(b) Another error of fact. The paper says that neither we nor the Russians ever had a first-strike capacity against each other. Or perhaps it really means to say that neither side clearly saw that it did. The latter is a much less interesting point than the former since sophistication on these matters grew slowly. It is also less verifiable. The fact is, however, that we had a first-strike capability against the Russians when its forces were small and very vulnerable, and that, after that, there was a period when both sides had larger but very vulnerable forces and neither had a second-strike capability against the other. The systems analyses that demonstrated the vulnerability of American forces at these dates have been declassified and a study of them should dispel some of the legends that have grown up. These legends have helped to give rise to the belief that second-strike forces are easy, if not automatic, to achieve. And this has given rise to various minimum deterrence theories, including the theory of General Pierre Gallois which is the principal justification or rationalization for the spread of nuclear weapons.

(c) Several other statements, including the next to last sentence on the top of page 15, contain factual errors which can be corrected only by using classified information.

(d) The description of the change in our strategic force at the beginning of the Kennedy Administration, in spite of the author's privileged position at the time, is misleading. It was not a "tremendous acceleration" (p. 18) in the number of our strategic bombardment vehicles. It was a very large increase in our second-strike capacity. Aside from our heavy bombers, we had had at some times about 1500 medium bombers capable of and planned for use against the Soviet Union. (The bad habit of treating Soviet medium bombers as if they were not capable of reaching the United States on one and a quarter way missions is illustrated in this paragraph on page 18.)

The essential justification for the changes in our strategic forces at the beginning of the Kennedy Administration was the replacement of vulnerable vehicles by much less vulnerable ones, and the improvement of responsible and protected command and control. The fact that these were missiles succeeding bombers was less important. And the so-called missile gap was largely irrelevant. In fact, the substance of the changes made at the start of the Kennedy Administration had been proposed by systems analysts before "Sputnik" and before the expectations of the gap. And they were proposed by systems analysts who recognized that matching bombers or missiles was not strictly in point so far as deterrence was concerned; and said so. A great many myths are current about the importance of the missile gap and some are present in the paper.

Aside from such errors of fact, there seems to be a number of latent or indirect contradictions and some that are explicit and direct. For example:

(a) Page 17 states that " is as certain as any judgment in these matters can be that we can now or in the foreseeable future achieve..." a "credible" first-strike capability against the Soviets and implies the same about the Soviets in relation to us. Yet, on pages 22, 23, and 25, the paper suggests that the future technologies of multiple independently aimed re-entry vehicles raise precisely the frightening and ugly possibility that one or both sides might get a first-strike capability against the other.

(b) On page 21, it is said that, reassuringly enough, "...any significant change in deployments by either major adversary requires a long period of time, and announces itself, either explicitly or through intelligence means, in its early stages." But earlier, on page 20, the paper talks of the "...frightening possibility of multiplying greatly the number of warheads which one or the other side can launch, without changing the number of visible missile launchers."

(c) On page 18, it is said that it is "Unknown, and unknowable, at least for some time to come,..." whether the Soviet missile build-up responded to the growth in our own forces. On page 24, it is said that "...the scale of our reaction has probably been a major factor in stimulating the current Soviet build-up."

(d) There seems at least an implicit contradiction between the stress on what is unfortunately[1] termed "the self-deterrent effect of strategic nuclear forces," (the incentive to refrain from any military action against the other or even from political confrontations for fear that they might lead to the use of nuclear weapons) and the stress on page 27 on a policy of no-first-use of nuclear weapons. (Such a policy would, if successful, decouple any military action, no matter how large just so long as it were not nuclear, from a possible nuclear response.) The inconsistency, as suggested earlier, is compounded in Section IV where it is said (on page 32) that to deter a massive Soviet attack against Western Europe would continue to require, among other things, the threat of retaliation by the U.S. Strategic Nuclear Force. And massive attack here includes a non-nuclear attack.

The conceptual analysis in Section III centers on the relationship between the U.S. and the Soviet Union's strategic nuclear forces. It defines "mutual deterrence" in this way:

"...the United States and the Soviet Union have each... become increasingly aware that the chief utility of his strategic force was to prevent his adversary from using his own. This result was achieved primarily by offering the adversary the prospect that any attack by his strategic forces would be met by a counterblow so devastating as to convert a decision to attack into a suicide pact. So the strategic equilibrium commonly termed 'mutual deterrence' was recognized."

There is a little confusion in the gender of the possessive pronouns but the first sentence of the quotation clearly indicates that it is the adversary's strategic force that one's own force is immobilizing. The second sentence suggests, though it is not explicit, "that the attack by his strategic forces" that is contemplated is one against the strategic forces of the partner in the "suicide pact," the forces that the other member of the pair would use in a counterblow. The strategic equilibrium defined, then, is a purely two-termed relation in which the nuclear force of each member of the pair discourages attack on itself by the nuclear force belonging to the other member of the pair. This says nothing about discouraging nuclear attack by either on a third party. And nothing at all about non-nuclear attack.

Within this narrow context the paper defines "minimum deterrent force' as:

" which would provide high assurance of the survival, for use in a second-strike, of an effective, usable force large enough to inflict unacceptable damage on the adversary, defined in terms of some absolute level of expected casualties, urban and industrial destruction, etc."
And a "first-strike force" as:
" whose size, reliability, accuracy, control arrangements, etc. were such, in relation to the adversary's forces, as to make possible an attack that would, with a high degree of assurance, destroy essentially all of the adversary's force and still leave the attacker a substantial unspent reserve force...For a first strike to be further characterized as 'credible,' the relation of forces described above would have to be clearly perceived by both adversaries, and the 'high degree' of assurance involved might have to be set at 99 percent or more."

Several points are worth making. First, on these definitions something a good deal less than the "minimum" deterrent will deter the other side. For this purpose we don't need to assure ourselves or the Russians with high confidence that they would receive "unacceptable' damage. It is enough if they are not clear that we have less than a 1% chance of inflicting "major damage." Otherwise, their first-strike is not "credible."

Second, the attempt to define both "minimum deterrence" and "credible first-strike capability" in terms of some absolute levels of damage that are "major" (see p. 16), or "unacceptable" omits any reference to the alternative risks an adversary might face in a crisis when he may decide to strike or not to strike. But there may be crises when an adversary will feel that the probabilities are high that there will be a nuclear war whether or not he strikes. During the Cuban missile crisis, according to their own testimony, the top decision-makers in the United States believed that a nuclear war was very likely. According to one high source, as I recall, President Kennedy at one time thought there was a fifty-fifty chance that there would be a nuclear war in the following ten days. The risks that even a cautious man might undertake in striking may be compared with the risks in not striking. Something less than 99% assurance of no major damage might look better than a 50% or larger chance of near-obliteration. Phrases like "unacceptable damage' sound distressingly as if there is some large amount of damage which anyone would feel is quite acceptable, as if we all had a taste for damage or at least a considerable indifference. But the stability of a strategic equilibrium is measured by the shocks it can sustain, the crises in which the alternatives to striking look risky. It is not a yes-no matter.

Third, the attempt to reduce the problem of binary deterrence to near-certainty, to something like a yes-no matter, issues in definitions like that in the paper which presume that when the two opposing sides have the stated capabilities, mutual deterrence is almost perfectly safe in all foreseeable circumstances. Such unconditional mutual deterrence is sometimes mainly a simplification for presentation to a non-technical audience, such as the Congress. Sometimes it is a simplification for polemical purposes — say, an over-simple mode of argument put forth by the Secretary of Defense to counter another over-simple mode of argument advanced by the Joint Chiefs. But sometimes, especially among "minimum deterrence" theorists, it is held literally, as it appears to be in the paper. Then limiting damage in case deterrence fails seems at best redundant since there is no significant chance that deterrence will fail. That is at best. At worst, it may be held, an ability to limit damage to oneself is not simply redundant but bad since it may endanger the stability of strategic equilibrium.

Fourth, this last point, though a familiar part of minimum deterrence theory, and reflected here in the author's strictures against ABM, is not strictly compatible with the theory. Except in the sense that any statement is compatible with an inconsistent theory. For minimum deterrence theory is, I believe, quite incoherent. Proponents of minimum deterrence express both great confidence in its stability and an apocalyptic view of the consequences of its continuance. A good many of the principal proponents of the view have even given precise estimates of the probability of a nuclear war by accident or design in a specified period of years. These probabilities have been quite high. Even if they were much lower, however, they would call for a substantial effort to limit the size of the catastrophe, should it occur. If they were as high as has been stated, the nuclear powers would be in a continuous state of crisis and the strategic equilibrium would be suffering continual sizeable shocks. This paper illustrates a similar ambivalence about the stability of the balance, as my earlier comments indicate.

Fifth, even the narrow binary relation of mutual deterrence has a good many essential complexities neglected in the paper: the possibility of irrational decision, especially in the confusion of crisis; the question of what is a rational decision for one side after the other has launched a first strike against its strategic force, but before its cities have been destroyed; the relation of active defense both to the direct protection of strategic forces and to limiting damage for the civil society, and the relation of either role of active defense to deterrence; the possible continuing role of deterrence after the first strike or the first exchange; the complex role of uncertainty, etc. All of these are neglected, but a few bare indications suggest error on some. For example, uncertainty in some cases improves the stability of the deterrent. Contrary to the indications of p. 22, p. 2, this is the case for the active defense of an offensive force, as in the use of ABM to protect ballistic missile installations. If, in order to strike, the opposing side needs, as Carl assumes, a very high confidence of destroying essentially all ballistic missiles it is attacking on the ground, then this is made harder for it by uncertainties introduced through active defense of these missiles. The ABM would exact a "virtual" as well as an actual attrition.

But, sixth, by far the most important defect of this analysis is its essential limitation to the binary relation of mutual nuclear deterrence. The first-strike, second-strike distinction, when first introduced in the early 1950's, was useful for abstracting and analyzing key and much misunderstood aspects of what was even then a complex situation. Herman Kahn and the minimum deterrence theorists, including proponents of the spread of nuclear weapons, bowdlerized this distinction in the late 1950's, as the actual nuclear relations among nation states became increasingly more complicated. In the context of many nations, several of which have nuclear weapons and most of which do not, it should be clear that an unconditional binary mutual nuclear deterrence (a) is not feasible and (b) would make for instability of nuclear peace, not stability. Its infeasability is suggested by the fact that with all the enormous destruction that we might threaten against the Soviet Union, there are circumstances when we would doubt that it would stay deterred. And with reason. For example, would we be sure that it would be deterred if we bombed China? East Germany? Poland? We can stand not being able to deter the Soviet Union from responding to some acts we expect to avoid, or in circumstances that have a very good chance of not coming up. But this illustrates the footlessness of trying to achieve near-certain deterrence in all circumstances. And the essential nature of some of the remaining uncertainties.

This brings us to point (b): the fact that pair-wise unconditional mutual deterrence would make for nuclear instability in the many-nation system as a whole. Consider what it would mean if in fact an adversary could be quite certain that we would not respond in the event that he leveled a nuclear attack against one of our allies or friends. It would mean that that friend would have to undertake his own nuclear self-defense or be subject to nuclear coercion. It is precisely this line of reasoning that led Pierre Gallois and some of the other early minimum deterrence theorists, such as George Rathjens, to propose the construction of many independent nuclear forces in European countries (and, in the case of Gallois, everywhere). The draft paper is crucially deficient in its treatment of the political and military relations among the many nuclear and non-nuclear countries. The restricted strategic focus it typifies led me to write recently[2] that

"bilateral mutual deterrence is not enough to prevent the international system from deteriorating . . .In a many-nation world, including so far five countries that have exploded nuclear devices and about 130 that have not, unconditional deterrence, I would stress, is not a sensible goal. If each of the nuclear countries could unconditionally deter any other, this would mean the instability of nuclear peace, not stability. Any nuclear power could then threaten or safely use nuclear weapons against any non-nuclear one within range.

"Commitments for protection against nuclear coercion or attack, whether tacit or explicit, formal or informal, unilateral or in alliance arrangements or in the form of the United Nations collective security agreement, are a necessary element of stability on the international scene. Long-range commitments and defenses that make the risks of commitment commensurate with what is at stake are essential."

Consider from this point of view, the remainder of the draft paper has many limitations. In fact my marginalia on the second half of the paper are quite as detailed as those on the first. There is, however, no time to set these down. With a few exceptions, the essential outlines of what I would say are indicated in the foregoing. I would recommend particular attention to clearing up the treatment of "no-first-use" on pp. 26-27, and the inconsistency of this proposal with other sections of the paper. Perhaps one point should be ,made on this matter, in addition to those already suggested: Page 27 confounds a policy of "no-first-use" of any nuclear weapons with a policy of "no-first use" of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. This is part of the paper's tendency to make a one-to-one correspondence between segments of our force and the three goals announced on p. 1. I happen to agree with the author that the ,many thousands of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, at best, are most;y redundant. No adequate strategic framework was ever developed for their use. However, this problem of deployment should be attacked directly, whether unilaterally, or in terms of some arms control agreement. If tactical weapons in Europe serve no good purpose, or if large numbers of them serve no good purpose, they should be removed. On the other hand the paper goes much too far when it suggests that "there is wide agreement among competent students of the question" that we gain nothing significant by having an option to use tactical nuclear weapons on Europe. A very large number of anlysts and officials in Europe, for example, in the United Kingdom and West Germany, maintain that we do. A reduction in conventional combat divisions in Europe is likely to multiply the number of these European analysts and officials. And if conventional forces are reduced and "no-first-use" applies to strategic as well as tactical nuclear weapons, moves toward neutralism and nuclear self-defense are likely to increase in Europe and elsewhere.

Appendix: Military Strategy, Military Forces and Arms Control


Despite our vast and costly military establishment, the world-wide deployments of our forces, and the sustained, fearfully successful program of continuous technological revolution in weaponry, the fundamental aim of our military policy since the end of the second World War has been defensive: to contain the advance of Communist power led by the Soviet Union. Our military strategy has been shaped by three chief goals, all interrelated, but nonetheless of different importance. First, was to deter and defend against a direct attack on the United States. Second, was to deter and defend against both a direct attack on Western Europe. and the use of the threat of military force, including the threat of attack on the United States, as a weapon in the indirect conquest by political means of some or all of Western Europe. Third, and both later in time and lesser in importance, was the prevention of any expansion of Communist power in any part of the world, especially when it took the form of the "takeover" by Communists, with overt or covert assistance from the Soviets, of the government of a previously non-Communist state. This policy had its origins in the events in Europe in the first years after the end of the war; by the end of the Korean war in 1952, it had settled into a hard mold from which it is only just now shaking loose. It has been given formal expression in the series of multilateral and bilateral treaties binding the United States in mutual defense pacts with nearly 50 nations, several of which are involved in more than one treaty, beginning with the Rio pact of 1947 covering 19 Latin American powers, and including NATO, with 15 members (1949), SEATO, 8 members and 3 protocol states (1954), CENTO, 4 members and U.S. "association" (1955), and bilateral defense treaties with Japan, Taiwan, South Korea, and Spain.

Each of the three major goals has been reflected in a corresponding aspect of the level, structure and deployment of U.S. forces. The first goal has led to the creation and maintenance of a long-range strategic striking force, equipped with thermo-nuclear weapons, and capable of world-wide action; though in practice its bombs and missiles have been targeted mainly on Soviet and Chinese targets. The size and composition of the force has been shaped by the concept of U.S. strategic superiority. In its crudest form this means a larger and more effective force than that of any opponent or combination of opponents; in practice, than that of the Soviet Union, which even now remains the only other nation with significant long-range striking power. The subtler meanings of the notion of strategic superiority will be explored below. The second goal is reflected primarily in the sizable long-run deployment of U.S. forces in Europe under the North Atlantic Treaty. These forces constitute a major military establishment in all arms: the equivalent to 6 divisions of combat ground forces, several battalions of medium and short-range missiles with nuclear warheads plus support troops; an air force of some 900 tactical aircraft and _____000 men, disposing of a very large number of tactical nuclear weapons, and the 6th Fleet in the Mediterranean, a major fleet built around two carrier task forces of some ______combat vessels and _____000 men. Indeed, the combined U.S. forces in Europe form a more powerful military establishment than that of any nation save the Soviet Union.

Reflections of the third goal in our military deployments are more diffuse, and have been more variable in time and are thus less easy to specify precisely. The very size of the total forces we maintain, other than strategic offensive and defensive forces and those committed to NATO, is perhaps the most important expression of this third goal. So are such specific deployment as two divisions in Korea, ground forces short of a division in strength in Okinawa, and naval and air forces in Japan; so are the size and far westward patrol range of the Seventh Fleet in the Pacific; the existence and mission of Southern Command - formerly CINC South - in Panama; the restructuring of the U.S. strategic reserve under CINC Strike, in order to create a capability for rapid response with "conventional" ground and tactical air forces on minimum notice any place in the world; the world-wide network of military assistance agreements and military training missions both within and without the framework of mutual defense treaties. Finally, of course, the most recent powerful and pointed expression of this third goal has been our commitment of more than half a million American troops to a war in South Vietnam, to halt and reverse the partly political, partly military process by which the joint forces of the guerrillas in South Vietnam, and the Communist government of North Vietnam had begun to take over the South.

Both the international political scene and the technology of warfare have been changing rapidly in the recent past; both can be expected to go on changing in the same direction in the near future. Changes already experienced and those in prospect require a reexamination of the goals of our military policy and the purposes and nature of the forces and deployments related to them. It is the argument of this essay that the proper conclusion of such a reexamination is that our security interests and needs require great changes in both the underlying rationale of our military terms. The new political and technical realities point to the futility of a quest for security merely or primarily through increased military strength, and to the increasing importance of political factors and arms control arrangements and agreements in meeting the security needs of the United States. Indeed, by giving weight to these factors in the next five years, we have a better prospect of achieving higher levels of real security; i.e. facing lower risks of harm to the United States and its vital interests, with smaller armed forces and lower military budgets, than we do by continuing to follow the line of our past policy in a changed situation.


From our point of view, the greatest changes in the international political scene have been those affecting the direct relations between the two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Union. The Soviet Union is no longer the unchallenged leader of a unified bloc of thirteen Communists governments - all but Cuba forming a contiguous mass from Eastern Europe to East and South-East Asia. Nor is it still the political headquarters of a single world-wide Communist movement controlling a network of legal and illegal Communist parties, exercising significant political influence in many important countries in both the third world and the U.S. Alliance system. The political and ideological split between the Soviet Union and China has not simply bifurcated the Communist world, it has shattered it into fragments. And even the largest and most powerful fragment in both economic and military terms - the Warsaw pact grouping (minus Albania) - though still led by the Soviet Union, no longer shows the unity of purpose and unquestioning submission to Soviet leadership it once did. So the fundamental U.S. military posture of defense against an aggressively expansive Communist bloc is no longer appropriate. On the other side, of course, our own dominant role within the American Alliance system has also receded, though it never equaled that of the Soviets in terms of command. The result is that the edge of the U.S.-Soviet confrontation is much less sharp, as allies on both sides take a political stance between those of the two superpowers.

On the military side of the confrontation, there has been an increasing mutual recognition by both superpowers of their inability to use military forces directed at each other to achieve or advance political goals. The succession of crises involving some greater or lesser degree of Soviet-American confrontation, Berlin in 1961, Cuba in 1962, the Middle East in 1967, has underlined the reality and strength of the political constraints on the direct use of military force. These constraints are essentially the product of the nuclear age, and changes in military technology have continued to operate so as to reinforce them. Their working will be examined in some detail in the discussion of strategic forces below.

These changes, profound as they are, have by no means removed the forces of conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union. Mutual ideological hostility still exists on both sides, but it is especially important in the Soviet Union, where it has a much more significant role in the internal political process than its essentially episodic and peripheral - though occasionally destructive and powerful - one in that of the United States. Direct U.S.-Soviet conflict of political interest over the German settlement in all its ramifications remains, although it too has become less sharp. Neither side accepts the legitimacy of the role and activities of the other in the underdeveloped world, but the tendency, respectively, to interpret ever action in terms of Communist aggression and conspiracy, or capitalist encirclement and neo-imperialism has diminished somewhat in intensity, again perhaps more here than there. All these conflicts, however, are moving more toward those traditional among great powers, and losing their intense flavor of religious war.

These changes are the result not only of mutual appreciation of the facts of military technology; they also reflect deeper political currents within both the United States and the Soviet Union, currents that are flowing with equal or even greater strength within the other NATO and Warsaw Pact countries as well. In any modern industrialized nation in which the government is responsive to popular will - whether through the mechanisms of democracy or through other less sure and sensitive means - the primary pressures of popular opinion will ordinarily be focused on internal problems of economic and social welfare. Extraordinary events and circumstances are required to sustain wide public interest in foreign policy. This fact is well enough recognized in respect to the United States; it is gaining recognition in the post-war democracies of Western Europe. But the governments of the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies, far as they are from democracy, are increasingly becoming subject to and responsive to popular pressures and demands, and so the same political forces that give primacy to internal problems are operating to some degree on them. Expensive and risky foreign and military policies face a continuous demand for political justification in popular terms, a demand that becomes increasingly difficult to meet on both sides.

All kinds of events could occur to reverse these trends, such as, for example, a sudden change in leadership in the Soviet Union and reversion to harsh Stalinism combined with a "hard line" aggressive foreign policy; the political victory of a coalition of Goldwater Republicans and Wallace Democrats in the United States, with a commitment to maintaining U.S. world-wide "military superiority"; the widening of political conflict between liberalizing Communist regimes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union into Soviet military intervention a la Hungary. Nothing is so unpredictable as the political future; all of these are possible, but all seem outside the most likely course of events, which is the continuation of recent trends. Further, from our own perspective of the analysis of alternatives for United States policy, our own policy choice is a major independent variable in the system. A policy of deemphasizing military means in foreign policy, holding back further increases in our own forces, and, even to some degree (as we shall detail below) reducing them unilaterally, and actively seeking arrangements and agreements, both bilaterally with the Soviet Union, where appropriate, and multilaterally, that permit further reductions in the military forces on both sides is certainly a necessary condition of general movement in the preferred direction. The argument to be developed below is that it is in fact a less risky choice than its alternatives, though obviously not risk-free.

In pursuing this path, we should not expect that the Soviet Union will quickly and simply forgo all efforts to project its power in diplomatic, economic, and military terms into the non-Communist parts of the world; any more than that it will abandon its efforts to maintain the borders of the present Communist world, or continue to seek whatever degree of unity under its own leadership over whatever part of it that appears feasible. Quite the contrary, we should anticipate continuing evidences for some time of Soviet efforts at playing the role of world power: furthering deployments of Soviet ships outside the waters adjacent to its territory, such as have recently been observed in the Mediterranean; wider patrols of Soviet missile-launching submarines; continued arms shipments on credit terms and military training missions dispatched to countries of the third world. In none of these areas would the level of increasing Soviet activity reach the level of our own for some time, even if that had already begun to decline. What can be anticipated is that first, those forces which have increasingly limited the political effectiveness of our own activities in these directions will operate in the same way on the Soviet efforts. And second, that the Soviet leadership, which - for all its ideological commitments - appears to be a group of rational men capable of attending to the facts of experience, will learn from this experience, however slowly, even as we have ourselves.

The relations of East and West in Europe have displayed the same tendencies toward softening, perhaps to an even greater degree than bilateral U.S.-Soviet relations. The central item in this chasing is the increasingly low probability assigned to the prospect of a massive Westward military movement by the Soviets and their Warsaw pact allies by European government on either side of the dividing line through Germany. Even the understandably nervous and dissatisfied government of the Federal Republic, with the strongest cause to be discontented with the European status quo, does not act in terms of military budgets and force levels as if it gave high priority to the military threat. This change, which has come about fairly gradually over the last decade, is of fundamental importance. Some of the NATO partners, especially the U.K., never believed that the pressure of Western military power could bring about a new settlement that would reunify Germany; some of them, including the Scandinavian countries and perhaps France, were content with the status quo. But Germany and the United States, which both desire a change in the status quo, have come slowly to the recognition that any change can come safely only through political means, and that such change was least likely when the two alliance systems confronted each other as if at the brink of war. This change in view, in turn, is the product of a number of factors. First, is the great success of U.S. and NATO policies over the two postwar decades: the nations of Western Europe are prosperous and confident; despite a variety of internal troubles they feel successful and secure as they hardly expected to in the first years after the end of the second World War. On the other side, the Communist regimes of Eastern Europe are more disunited and more torn by internal pressures than the most confident observer would have predicted a decade ago. The Communist parties of Western Europe have become increasingly cautious in their attempt to survive and retain political relevance in an atmosphere of economic growth and even some increase in economic equality and social mobility. All these changes have robbed Communism of the dynamism it appeared to possess in the first decade after the War, and increased the confidence of the Western European nations in themselves and in their capacity to deal with the Soviets and their allies in political terms. Another consequence of the success of our policies, of course, is the increasing assertiveness of European governments, and their decreased willingness to accept American leadership unquestioningly.

None of this has changed the vital U.S. interest in Western Europe, nor the disproportion between the present military power of the Soviet Union and its allies and that of the Western European nations apart from the United States. But it has changed the immediacy and character of the military element in U.S.-European relations in a way that is highly relevant for our military policies.

The Chinese-Soviet split and the expansion of the American commitment to South Vietnam to the level of a major ground war have highlighted the position of China in U.S. security policy. Old feelings and anxieties arising out of the "loss" of China in 1949 have been revived, and a variety of semi-official and even official pronouncements in recent years interpreting our role in the war in Vietnam as a necessary step in the containment of the aggressive, expansionist foreign policy of the Peoples' Republic has reinforced these sentiments. This essay is written on the assumption that, by the time it reaches publication, the war in Vietnam will be clearly on the road to settlement, along lines which promise - at best - a neutralist, Communist-oriented government in South Vietnam, moving toward closer relationships with the D.R.V. It is from this assumption that we view the evolution of international relations and U.S. security interests in South and East Asia. The major feature of the Asian scene will continue to be the presence and voice of Communist China, by far the largest power in the area of the world in terms of population, located centrally so that it borders on a great number of other states, the strongest militarily of all the regional states and the only one possessing even a few nuclear weapons. Yet, despite its central position and its relative military strength in comparison to its neighbors, China, during the near future, will remain a basically weak nation, in no way comparable to the two superpowers, and inferior in economic potential to Japan and the large industrial nations of Europe. China will undoubtedly continue to build up her nuclear forces, and develop a modest missile capability, at a pace determined to some extent by internal political events. But at the most anxious projection, these forces will not in the near future to which we are looking, reach a level in terms of size and survivability, to permit a Chinese government however faintly rational to run even a small risk of inviting attack by the strategic forces of the United States or the Soviet Union. For this period, both will maintain a credible first strike capacity against China. The limitations of Chinese military strength go much farther than this: large as her army is, she has only a low capacity to project her power much beyond her own territory and the areas immediately adjacent to it. With a tiny Navy, made up mostly of coastal defense vessels, and a rapidly obsolescing air arm whose major element is a defensive fighter force, China's military power is important chiefly in a defensive or internal context. Chinese foreign policy since the effective end of the Soviet alliance reflects no different estimate of her own strength; she has been as cautious indeed as she has been violent in exhortation and denunciation.

Even after the settlement of the war in Vietnam, major points of conflict between China and the U.S. will remain, which are unlikely to be settled soon. Chief among them is the issue of Taiwan, and what China views as the occupation of Chinese territory by a puppet government managed and supported by the U.S. Even if we can stop pretending that Taiwan is China, and move to a "two-Chinas" policy, or even beyond that to a "China plus independent Taiwan" policy, and try simply to avoid for as long as possible facing the problem of China's right to a Security Council seat, it is unlikely that China will change its position. But it is equally or more unlikely that Chin a will try to reoccupy Taiwan by force, as long as elements of U.S. forces are deployed in and near the Formosa Strait.

Further, China will certainly continue to exercise propaganda and political pressure against the non-Communist states of Asia, and even occasional military pressure on the vulnerable borders of such adjacent ones as India and Burma. Her influence on the large overseas Chinese communities in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and the Philippines will continue to provide a means of creating political unrest in all those countries; she will continue to hold Hong Kong under threat.

Nor are the prospects for untroubled peace in Asia, aside from the activities of the C.P.R., good. North Korea will probably continue border harassment and infiltration against South Korea. North Vietnam will continue to seek to expand its influence in South Vietnam and Laos, probably successfully, and in Thailand and perhaps Cambodia, with much less certain prospects of success. Peace between India and Pakistan will continue to be uneasy; so may it be between the Philippines and indonesia, and Indonesia and Malaysia.

Despite these alarums and excursions, the fundamental questions for the United States remain two. The first is whether such conflicts, at the scale we have depicted, involve the vital security interests of the U.S. so that they must be settled favorably to us at whatever cost. The second is, short of such a broad commitment, what, if anything, can we do about controlling or preventing them by military means. Our answer to the first question is, No; and accordingly, the second can be answered in the course of considering future military deployments in the Western Pacific and Asia. There are, of course, some contingencies in Asia that we would and should view as threats to vital U.S. interests. The most important of these are a direct attack on Japan or a massive invasion of India. Both seem impossible for the Chinese to undertake alone, and inconceivable as joint Soviet-Chinese enterprises. The continued independence of South Korea and Taiwan, unless they should choose otherwise, are also vital in view both of our past commitments, and our success, after long and expensive efforts, in building up both into viable, self-supporting states. But here again, neither the repetition by North Korea of the 1950 invasion, this time without Soviet, and probably even Chinese help, nor the invasion by China of Taiwan in the face of the Seventh Fleet seems a likely contingency.

In the rest of the world, only Latin America shows a reasonable prospect of relative peace and this only in terms of international wars. Coups and revolutions will probably be as frequent in the next eight years as they have in the past eight, and there is no guarantee that they will not be more violent. Africa will probably continue to display coups, civil wars, and guerrilla struggles against the white powers of the Southern tip. It is not unlikely that some of these will erupt into international wars. But here as in Latin America, we must answer the double question: Are our interests sufficiently involved so that we must insure by whatever means an outcome of such struggles that we favor? Short of that, what can we accomplish by what kind of military force?

Only in the Middle East are the prospects of renewed war so high, and the degree of American commitment clearly so great as to raise the prospect of U.S. military intervention, if all else failed, and the Arab countries were really about to overrrun Israel. Perhaps, by the end of the four to eight year period we have in prospect, military struggles between black majorities and white minorities in Sourthern Africa might arouse the profound and widespread emotions among the American public that the defense of Israel does now. But, with these exceptions, the general answer to the first of our two key questions appears to be in the negative for the rest of the third world.

In sum, if we compare the likely prospects in the next presidential term of, say eight years, with the experience of the past eight years, we see a significant change. It is not, alas, that the prospects for disorder on the international scene in general are less, and for world-wide peace greater. Rather it is that there is a prospect for less U.S. involvement in violence, that in turn arises directly from the prospect that the U.S.-Soviet confrontation can be less salient in both international politics and in the internal politics of both great powers.


The changes in the world political picture we have sketched in the preceding page affect our whole military posture, since they alter its underlying political rationale. The most striking changes in military technology, current and prospective, are those that affect primarily the capabilities of the strategic forces of the United States and the Soviet Union, both offensive and defensive. These changes call more sharply into question the concept of "strategic superiority," which has long had wide currency, if not official standing, as the basis of our military policy. Further, even apart from this question, these technological changes are making more delicate and difficult for both sides the task of maintaining an effective deterrent balance.

Over the past decade both the United States and the Soviet Union have each, more or less, become increasingly aware that the chief utility of his strategic force was to prevent his adversary from using his own. This result was achieved primarily by offering the adversary the prospect that any attack by his strategic forces would be met by a counterblow so devastating as to convert a decision to attack into a suicide pact. So the strategic equilibrium commonly termed "mutual deterrence" was recognized.

For our (or the Soviets') strategic forces to provide effective deterrence, they must be in such numbers, of such nature and so deployed as to be capable of delivering the required counterattack after the other side has struck; thus effective deterrence is measured by the usable strength of the survivable second-strike force. We were perhaps earlier than the Soviets in recognizing this, but we were far from perceiving it from the first. Once we recognized the need, we sought survivable forces in different ways as technological possibilities changed over the period. Increase in the size of the force, geographical dispersal to increase the number of targets presented by a given force, active defense, hardening to survive attack, warning and movement capability to take advantage of warning, all played a part in the quest for a secure second-strike force. If surviving forces are to be usable, equally essential requirements are imposed for ensuring the survival of a complex network of reporting and communication facilities, command organization and commanders, all of which occasion their own technical and organizational problems. With missiles having displaced aircraft as the most important component of the second-strike force for both sides, hardening to ensure survival through an attack, combined with concealment and mobility for the sea-based portion of our force, provide our main means of ensuring survivability. The Soviets, with — at this moment — smaller and less effective seaborne forces, rely more heavily on hardening.

Strong and survivable long-range striking forces provide each superpower with something more in relation to the other than deterrence against direct nuclear attack, though the precise specification of the extra effect is difficult. First, they provide a substantial incentive for each nation to refrain from initiating any military action against the other, lest the conditions under which rational calculation can be expected to dominate decision and action disappear in one or both. These incentives become stronger the larger the forces and interests involved, thus leading to a kind of built-in brake on the growth of military incidents in situations where the military forces of the superpowers face each other directly, or could readily do so in their worldwide movements. By extension, the same incentives operate with respect to political confrontations that might in turn lead to military action, but more weakly the more remote the military steps appear to be in the chain of potential actions and reactions. Together these effects add up to a kind of indirect or second-order deterrence, which cold tend to stabilize the behavior of the two superpowers in relation to each other over a wide range of actions, and deter unilateral attempts by either to change the status quo forcibly or suddenly. This might be called the self-deterrent effect of strategic nuclear forces.

However, the history of the last two decades makes the strength, steadiness and symmetry with which these incentives have operated questionable, and emphasizes their relation to broader military and political contexts. In the earlier part of the period, the Soviets seem to have acted at a higher margin of risk than the United States; more recently, the reverse appears to be true. These changes are not the simple consequence of shifts in the balance of strategic forces; on the contrary, any shift has probably moved steadily against the United States over most of this period.

In analyzing the concept of effective deterrence and trying to understand on what relation of forces it depends, it is conventional and useful to examine it in the context of a spectrum of possible strategic purposes and the striking forces appropriate to them, that stretches from what might be termed a credible first-strike at one end, to a minimum deterrent at the other. A first-strike force would be one whose size, reliability, accuracy, control arrangements, etc. were such, in relation to the adversary's forces, as to make possible an attack that would, with a high degree of assurance, destroy essentially all of the adversary's force and still leave the attacker a substantial unspent reserve force. In this context, the sense of "essentially all" of the adversary's force is that whatever residual might escape destruction could not inflict major damage on the attacker or prevent his reserve force from being used to a very substantial extent. For a first strike to be further characterized as "credible," the relation of forces described above would have to be clearly perceived by both adversaries, and the "high degree" of assurance involved might have to be set at 99 percent or more. In such circumstances, it is just conceivable that the superior adversary could use this power for what has been termed "compellance," as opposed to deterrence: the threat of a strike used as a means of compelling specified behavior by the adversary. Just after the second World War, when the United States still have a monopoly on nuclear weapons and expected to maintain it, there were some who argued in favor of policies based on "compellance." Whatever the wisdom of the policies, the forces then at our command were never such as to provide that power in relation to the Soviets; it is doubtful if there ever was a moment when they were; and it is as certain as any judgment in these matters can be that we cannot now or in the foreseeable future achieve it.

At the other end of the spectrum, a minimum deterrent force would be one which would provide high assurance of the survival, for use in a second-strike, of an effective, usable force large enough to inflict unacceptable damage on the adversary, defined in terms of some absolute level of expected casualties, urban and industrial destruction, etc.

Since 1961, our strategic forces have been programmed in terms of deterrence-plus. We have never sought a first-strike capacity, and indeed from his first budget message, the Secretary of Defense denied both the possibility and desirability of attaining one: secure Soviet striking capacity was, and would be maintained at a high enough level to make a U.S. first-strike irrational. But, in the first two full budgets of the Kennedy Administration — which laid down guidelines governing the size of the strategic striking forces that are still in effect today — the programmed missile and long-range bomber forces were larger in relation to projected Soviet forces than would have been required for minimum deterrence alone, even allowing for a generous margin of uncertainty on the growth of Soviet forces, their effectiveness and the post-attack performance of our own programmed forces. The margin over deterrence was justified in terms of the idea of "damage limitation," should deterrence fail — a contingency that could not be ignored. Were sufficient warning of preparations for a Soviet strike or actual launching of one to be available, U.S. missiles could be launched against Soviet missile sites and airfields, thus limiting to an extent depending on warning time the damage that the Soviet strike would inflict.

A large enough effort at "damage limitation" of course shades off into a first-strike posture; a small enough one becomes indistinguishable from the safety margin for deterrence. After the third McNamara budget, the emphasis on damage limitation vanished, to be replaced by deterrence, under the terminology of "assured destruction," referring to the capacity of our strategic forces to survive a Soviet attack and achieve with high probability a level of death and destruction in the Soviet Union that would rule out nuclear war as a rational policy for them.

The decision of 1961 and 1962 called for the build-up by 1965 of a U.S. strategic force of nearly 1,800 missiles capable of reaching Soviet targets; somewhat more than a third were to be submarine-launched. In addition, some 600 long-range bombers would be maintained. This was projected against an expected Soviet force of fewer than a third as many missiles and a quarter as many bombers capable of reaching the United States. Further, the Soviets were expected to possess an equal number of shorter-range missiles and a much larger number of medium bombers that could be used against European targets. Unknown, and unknowable, at least for some time to come, is whether the Soviets' original force goals in 1961-1962 were as modest as our estimates of them at the time — or even more so — and whether their rapid recent build-up, discussed immediately below, was a response to the tremendous acceleration in the growth of our long-range striking forces that the Kennedy Administration brought about. In any event, until 1965 or even into 1966, it was possible for the Administration to deny any wider aim for its strategic posture than deterrence, to argue the futility of seeking to achieve a first-strike force, and yet to avoid the sharp edge of the question of whether we were maintaining "strategic superiority" over the Soviets.

Recent changes in Soviet deployments have given a new bite to this question; corresponding and anticipatory changes in our own have raised even broader questions of how stable our deterrent posture will be in the years ahead.

The last two years have shown significant changes in the Soviet strategic forces. The number of their intercontinental and submarine-launched ballistic missiles have grown rapidly. As of late 1967 — a estimated by Secretary McNamara in his 1968 budget presentation — the number of land-based missiles had grown to 750, or nearly half our total, and most of the growth had taken place in the previous year. This indicates that the number might well continue to grow rapidly. The total number of Soviet missiles targetable against both the United States and NATO countries is already nearly equal to the total number of U.S. missiles that can reach Soviet targets. Further, there are some suggestions that the Soviets are currently building up their missile submarine fleet both qualitatively and quantitatively, so as to achieve — like the United States — a substantial force protected from a first strike by concealment and mobility.

In addition to these changes in offensive forces, the Soviets have deployed an anti-ballistic missile defense system around Moscow. They may be extending this deployment further, but if so, they are doing it slowly rather than rapidly.

So far, we have not responded to these developments by planning an increase in the number of our missile launchers. Rather, we have concentrated on programs for upgrading our present forces by replacing existing missiles with new ones designed to use present launching platforms. The new missiles will be superior to the old in three respects. First, they will be significantly more accurate, which means that a smaller warhead can be used to achieve a particular level of destruction against a specified target. Second, they will contain a variety of decoys and other penetration aids which will make more difficult the defensive task of an ABM system. Finally, and most significant, they will ultimately contain several independently aimed warheads within a single missile (MIRVs or multiple independent reentry vehicles). These, in turn, again make the task of the defensive ABM more difficult. In addition, they raise a new, and as we shall see, somewhat frightening possibility of multiplying greatly the number of warheads which one or the other side can launch, without changing the number of visible missile launchers.

In addition, of course, we have made the decision to deploy a "thin" ABM system, emphasizing primarily area defense against light attacks, a so-called anti-Chinese defense, although the debate in the Senate on the appropriations for this system (June, 1968) cast serious doubt on this rationale.

While the recent and projected changes in Soviet and American strategic forces have not altered the fundamental strategic situation from one of mutual deterrence, they may have set in motion forces which will undermine the stability of the relation in coming years. Within the Congress, pressures are already beginning to mount for action to offset the large increase in numbers of Soviet missiles, so as to maintain a margin of "strategic superiority," rather than accepting "parity." As the planned deployment of the ABM system goes forward, Congressional and public pressures to upgrade it can be expected to rise; this would be done by adding local defenses of missiles and cities to the present area-defense system. We will then face the task of publicly and explicitly accepting strategic "parity" with the Soviets, or in the alternative, giving in to these pressures and beginning a new set of developments in our strategic forces, with consequences that are unpleasant to contemplate.

The core of the case for accepting "parity" has already been put, but it bears repetition, and a little elaboration. In essence, we cannot expect with any confidence to do more than achieve a secure second-strike capacity, no matter how hard we try. This capacity is not usefully measured by counting warheads or megatons or, above some level, expected casualties. Whether the result comes about with twice as many American as Soviet delivery vehicles — as has been the case in the past — or with roughly equal numbers, or even with an adverse ratio, does not change its basic nature. Further, any significant change in deployments by either major adversary requires a long period of time, and announces itself, either explicitly or through intelligence means, in its early stages. The other, therefore, has notice and time within which to respond. The present level of research, development and production capacity for weapons of both superpowers is such that each has the power to respond to a change in the deployments of the other in a way that leaves it "satisfied" with its new position in relation to the adversary. Each, accordingly, must anticipate such a response. And so the arms race would go on. The expected result of the process can be no more than a new balance at higher force levels, larger expenditures and, most likely, even more unthinkably high levels of destruction in the event that the forces were ever used.

Moreover, there is another and even more troubling consequence of following the competitive path: the stability of mutual deterrence becomes far less certain in a rapidly changing situation. Deterrence is at bottom a political and psychological concept. It rests on the perception and interpretation of the military situation by political decision-makers; and it is as much open to influence by changes in their operating environment or the attitudes they bring to their perceptions as by changes in the hard technical facts. This inevitably marks it with a certain elusiveness. How great a capacity to wreak death and destruction on an adversary is enough? Can it be measured in absolute terms in millions of dead and acres of destruction, or only in the fractions of his population, industry and urban area? If one rival's destructive capacity grows while the other's remains constant at a high level, does this reduce the effectiveness of the latter's deterrent? Questions such as these clearly have no unique, well-defined answers that hold for all decision-makers in all circumstances. What is clear is that constant or slowly changing force structures, whose technical performance characteristics are reasonably well understood — subject, of course, to the important fundamental limitation that they have not been and never can be tested in a realistic way — provide a much more stable basis for mutual reliance on and acceptance of deterrence than a rapidly moving process of qualitative and quantitative competition.

The behavior of a whole defensive system in action is difficult to predict, since it depends heavily on specific details of design of both offensive and defensive weapons which are not likely to be well known to both offensive and defensive weapons which are not likely to be well known to both adversaries. The effects of the interaction of two strikes, in which offensive and defensive forces on both sides are involved, multiply the uncertainties. Thus, the "adequacy" of any particular second-strike force becomes harder to assure with confidence, and the impulse to compensate for uncertainty by building larger forces will make itself felt on both sides.

Further, current technical developments in weaponry present the possibility of introducing significantly new elements of uncertainty into the situation, which in themselves, even in the absence of further continuing change, would diminish the stability of deterrence. Anti-ballistic missile defenses constitute one example; another is the multiple, independently aimable warheads carried by a single missile. At present, each adversary has a reasonably clear idea of the other's deployments, with enough detail to permit a confident estimate of the balance of forces. Once MIRVs become widespread, it becomes much more difficult for each side to know how many warheads, as opposed to launchers, the other has. How great the uncertainty will be depends, of course, on the specific technical possibilities: two warheads per missile would create one situation; ten, quite another. In the absence of submarine-launched or equally mobile land-based missiles, the latter situation could give rise to the ugly possibility of each side's possessing a first-strike capability against the other, provided the accuracy of the independently aimed warheads permitted successful attack on hard targets.

These frightening possibilities still lie in the future. For the present, and the next year or two ahead, nothing that is currently happening or in the prospect justifies anxiety for the continued effectiveness of the U.S. second-strike capability, or its continued power to perform its primary function of deterring the Soviets from using their nuclear forces against us. None of the evidence on the Soviet build-up points beyond an effort to move close to a crude equality with us in numbers of offensive missiles. There is no evidence of a wide program of ABM deployment; indeed, nothing beyond the Moscow system seems to be happening. this is certainly no more imposing than our own proposed defensive system, which we believe to be too weak to affect our calculation of Soviet deterrent capabilities.

The rapidity of the recent build-up in Soviet forces tempts some to project that build-up into the future, and see it as a race for "strategic superiority." The absence of official announcements of force goals by the Soviets — such as the Secretary of Defense makes in his annual budget presentations — reinforces the temptation; and the demonstration of the illusory nature of such a goal seems an insufficient response. Yet our past experience with the projected "bomber gap" of the early fifties and the "missile gap" of 1959–61 shows the problems of such interpretations. In both these cases we clearly overreacted. In the first, the result was our concentration on the creation of a very large, expensive and vulnerable bomber force, while the Soviets moved on to missiles. In the second, the scale of our reaction has probably been a major factor in stimulating the current Soviet build-up. If our aim remains that of maintaining deterrence, we can clearly afford to wait for the event, rather than begin now to respond to our projections of the future.

The decision (July, 1968) of both our own and the Soviet governments to initiate talks on a "freeze" in the deployment of strategic weapons speaks for an acceptance of something like the line of argument above by both governments. Yet it is clear that an agreed freeze would present a host of difficult political and technical problems. First would be the question of how much reliance we would be willing to place on unilateral — i.e. intelligence — verification of Soviet deployments, rather than seeking agreed inspection procedures. Second, equally important and eve more difficult to resolve, is the question of whether and to what extent to seek control over technical improvements in existing warheads and vehicles and the research and development efforts leading thereto. No risk-free solution to these problems is likely to be found even in conceptual terms, much less in terms of negotiable arrangements between the two countries. Third, and probably most important and most difficult is our political problem in accepting a Soviet claim to some kind of "equality" in strategic forces, under a freeze, however defined. There is a widely shared popular feeling that our wealth, our power, and our virtue entitle us to be "first", and any claim to equality by the morally and economically inferior Soviet Union is presumptuous if not dangerous. The new administration must conquer this sentiment, or be prepared to ignore it, since it is difficult to see how we can expect to persuade the Soviets to accept a freeze under which their position is defined as "inferior."

Yet difficult as these problems are, the alternative prospects arising from the uncontrolled forward thrust of technical change in weaponry are much greater. The more successful the development of MIRVs in terms of both the number of reentry vehicles carried by a single warhead and the accuracy with which they can be directed, the more difficult it becomes to be confident about the security of a deterrent force. Wider deployment of ABMs compounds the difficulty by adding to the uncertainties of both sides as to the effectiveness of their own and their rivals' forces. Under such circumstances, arms-control agreements in turn may become much more difficult to reach, since an atmosphere of mutual distrust and fear will hardly promote the success of what will at best be difficult negotiations.

All signs point to the coming of a time when the stability of mutual deterrence can no longer rest reliably on mutual watchfulness and forbearance, without explicit arms-control agreements over strategic weapons deployments. We must do everything to take advantage of whatever respite we have to move forward to such agreements, and the fact that we have taken the initial step of agreeing to open discussions with the Soviets on the general question of a "freeze" is most encouraging.

The present and near future offers a peculiarly favorable moment for such a discussion. A freeze at something like next year's numbers, combined with a ban on completely new systems would allow each side both fixed, hardened land-based and mobile sea-based offensive systems, as well as some modest defensive deployment; yet would prevent both the widespread deployments of mobile land-based systems that would otherwise be likely to occur as the natural counter to MIRV and the move to "thick" ABM systems of very high cost. Large scale deployments of mobile missiles in turn, because of the problems they would create for unilateral surveillance, or even for effective agreed inspection, would act as a further destabilizer in the strategic competition.

Both the technical complexity and the political sensitivity of the issues involved in a freeze are such as to make likely a long and difficult period of negotiation. In the meantime, two simpler steps in the direction of controlling the strategic arms race would make worthwhile U.S. initiatives, both in themselves, and for the contribution they can make to the important purpose of continuing the sense of forward motion in this area which the non-proliferation treaty has recreated. The two steps are a no-first-use declaration, and a complete test ban treaty. The first of these has a number of important virtues in the current situation, and the drawbacks we have seen in it in the past reflect the hangover of an outmoded strategic view. The fist advantage of a no-first-use declaration is that the Soviets have been proposing it for some time. The second is that China has now begun to talk about it, and this is the only arms control measure in which she has shown any interest. France also might join in such a declaration, making it, with Britain's certain adherence, the first arms-control agreement involving all the nuclear powers. This in turn would go some way to meeting the anxieties raised among many of the nations without nuclear weapons by the non-proliferation treaty. India in particular has expressed fears about permanently disadvantaged position in which that treaty puts her in relation to nations with nuclear weapons, especially China. Finally, the step is simple, involving no technical problems and almost no negotiation, and could readily be initiated by a new U.S. administration as its first dramatic move in the further control of nuclear weapons.

In the past, U.S. opposition to such a declaration has rested essentially on the view that it involved the renunciation of an important component of U.S. power, a cost not justified by whatever political advantages it might bring. But, if we examine the political realities that always constrain military action, then it is hard to believe in the likelihood or importance of situations in which we would wish to initiate nuclear warfare against non-nuclear nations. The constraints in relation to our first use of such weapons against China are not precisely the same, but they are closely similar. Whatever extra degree of deterrence against Chinese military actions not involving nuclear weapons we might sacrifice by such a declaration seems a small cost indeed, in the context of any realistic examination of contingencies in which we might find ourselves again engaged in a military conflict with China. France and Britain, of course, are not a problem; this leaves only the question of the effect of such a declaration in relation to the Soviet Union. As far as the U.S.-Soviet Union strategic confrontation goes, if our analysis above is all persuasive, we give up nothing. The question thus finally reduces to whether or not we gain significantly by having the option to initiate tactical nuclear war in Europe, when the Soviets have the same option. A full discussion of this question is somewhat complex, but there is wide agreement among competent students of the question that the answer is No, certainly if looked at from the point of view of the Western European nations. In a situation in which the probability of large-scale military action is in any event very low, whatever increase in deterrent power that such an option provides is far outweighed by the vastly increased expectation of destruction and civilian casualties all over Europe, should both sides use tactical nuclear weapons. None of these arguments meet the point that is sometimes made of the dangers of making an open-ended commitment that binds us into a remote and unforeseeable future, when all the considerations that now seem most relevant will have changed. This, of course, is a "let us not try, we might fail" argument; it is precisely the purpose of shaping the future to provide a more agreeable prospect that justifies the effort and the risk.

The complete test-ban has some important substantive virtues as an arms control measure as well as the symbolic ones it shares with a no-first-use declaration. If widely adhered to, it would reinforce the inhibitions the non-proliferation treaty places on a movement to nuclear status by states not now possessing nuclear weapons. If reached soon, a complete test-ban would also impose a considerable restraint on the further development of ABM and MIRV by the superpowers, and thus serve as a general dampener on the arms race. However, reaching agreement on a complete test-ban is far from simple. As of this moment, the United States requires some minimum level of on-site inspection rights, preferably adversary inspection, while the Soviet Union insists that external detection means are sufficient to police the treaty. Technically, the U.S. case appears to be the sounder, in that identification of at least a significant range of underground tests as such, in distinction from natural seismic events, still depends on on-site inspection. The key question, which deserves a fresh examination, is whether the risks of systematic deception are small enough to justify accepting an uninspected test-ban; or whether some device in the treaty such as the right to request an on-site inspection in respect to a "suspicious" seismic event as a challenge to a statement of compliance, in place of a provision for a quota of on-site inspections by right, can bridge the gap between U.S. and Soviet positions.


Next to our strategic forces, our commitment to NATO is our most important military deployment. It too has been affected by a changing political context, and, though to a much lees important extent, by changes in military technology.

Currently, NATO forces on the Central front are roughly in balance with the opposing Warsaw Pact forces west of the Soviet Frontier, measured in terms of capacity to fight a conventional ground war; indeed, the NATO forces immediately available probably have some qualitative superiority on the Central front, especially in terms of aircraft. This has now been the case for several years. Further, the total forces and total military budgets of the NATO powers (excluding U.S. forces in Vietnam and the expenditures in support of them) are greater than those of the Warsaw Pact nations. Table 1 below gives a selection of the most important relevant measures.

Table 1. NATO and Warsaw Pact Defense Budgets and Military Strengthsa 1968 Data

Items NATOb Warsaw Pactc
Total defense budget (U.S. prices $ billions) $75 About $50 (or 2/3 of NATO Budget
I. Armed Forces Manpower
Total men under arms (000s) 6,300 About 4,300
Total Army personnel (000s) 3,600 About 2,900
Troops in division forces combat-available in
a. the Center Region on M-day (000s) 680 About 620
b. all Regions on M-day (000s) 900 About 960
II. Aircraft
Inventory value of tactical combat aircraft; nominal cost (U.S. prices $ billions) 27 About 16
Tactical aircraft inventory 11,000 9,000

aSOURCE: Department of Defense, Office of Assistant Secretary for Systems Analysis.

bDoes not include U.S. costs in Vietnam.

cFor this purpose the PACT comprises USSR, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland and Rumania.

On the critical central front region, the largest component of NATO's ground forces is German, followed by those of the United States. In tactical air power, the United States has the largest force, with Italy and Germany next. In addition, of course, the Untied States forces in NATO dispose of a vast array of tactical nuclear weapons, currently some 7,000 in number. The Soviet forces also have a sizeable nuclear component at the tactical level, but its precise magnitude is not known. Together, there are clearly enough nuclear explosives deployed in tactical formations to destroy most of Europe, without the assistance of strategic forces on either side.

If we consider not only the statistics of military deployment, but also the less measurable but more important factors of political will, the advantages on the side of NATO are even stronger. For all their disagreements and divisions, the will to self-defense of the European members of NATO is clear. By contrast it is difficult to conceive of enthusiastic Polish, Hungarian, and Czech participation in offensive operations directed westward across the frontiers of the Federal Republic. Further, these political factors bear on the vital question of the speed with which additional forces can be generated on both sides and brought to bear after M-day. Soviet advantages of proximity are at least canceled, if not outweighed, when the political problems of large-scale movement through the territories of the other Pact countries are taken into account, as well as the rapidly increasing capability of the United States to move troops and equipment by air from their U.S. bases directly to Germany.

These large NATO deployments reflect the preoccupation of the military planners of NATO with containing as well as deterring a massive conventional attack by the Soviets and their allies on the central front without the use of nuclear weapons. This in turn is fed by two different sets of politico-military concerns: the desire of the Germans for a "forward strategy," so that any attack is met, and if possible, repulsed at the borders of the Federal Republic before the attackers can occupy any substantial part of its territory, and the anxieties of U.S. and British defense planners — especially the political chiefs of defense departments — about the consequences of the use of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe.

The first of these has been more or less constant since the Germans have found their political voice in the alliance. The second, however, represents a more recent development, and a turn away from a previous policy of relying on the heavy use of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe, which was initiated in the mid-fifties, and, at the time, with only grudging acceptance by our allies. As we came to recognize that the game of tactical nuclear weapons was a two sided one, and both to calculate the consequences of their bilateral use and contemplate the difficulties of drawing the line between large-scale use of nuclear weapons in Europe and general strategic warfare, we tired, beginning with the 60's, to deemphasize nuclear weapons. We set an example for the alliance in building up conventional strength, and urged the others, especially the Germans, to follow it.

Over the same period, however, and indeed beginning rather earlier, the likelihood of a massive Soviet attack, as perceived by politicians and publics in Western Europe, declined sharply to very low levels. Parliaments became increasingly unwilling to vote increases in military budgets, or to extend periods of military service. We have argued above that this perception is correct, and accordingly, the current strategy must be evaluated in the light of it. To be sure, the need for deterrence has not disappeared; but the mans are no longer the same. Three necessary elements remain: first, the American commitment embodied in the Treaty; second, enough involvement of American troops on the Central front to make it clear to the Soviets that the commitment will be honored, and that no military action on any significant scale in Europe is possible without engaging the United States in war; third, a large and capable enough U.S. strategic striking force, in relation to that of the Soviets, to continue to rule out the rational choice of war by them.

In addition to their role in continuing to deter a massive Soviet attack, no matter how unlikely, the U.S. troops in Germany have at least three other important functions. First, is that of assisting in maintaining ground access to West Berlin and Western rule in West Berlin. The availability of properly deployed American forces in enough strength so that "incidents" on the Autobahn or at the Berlin boundaries can be met with a proportionate, but not an undue response, and so that the response is clearly American, provides an ever-present reminder to the Soviets of the dangers of attempting to change the situation of West German ones, and raise the level of what would otherwise be a trivial incident to a serious confrontation or even a conflict. The Americans in West Berlin serve a corresponding function with respect to the possibility of incursions by East German police or troops, the use of Soviet forces for political intimidation, and the like. Both these functions will remain vital until the political arrangements governing the relations of West Berlin, the Federal Republic, and the G.D.R. are clearly accepted by all the parties involved. Second, is that of maintaining a presence and a forward deployment sufficient to reassure the Germans of our continued commitment to their defense. While this is inseparably connected with their prime task of representing our commitment to the Soviets, it, so to speak, plays to a different audience. Finally, U.S. troops in Germany assure other members of NATO that immediate management of the alliance's confrontation with the Soviets is not solely in the hands of the West Germans. This is an important element in alliance solidarity, whose value even the German government itself accepts.

While all these functions are separable for analytical purposes, the demands they make for U.S. forces are by no means additive. The tasks of garrisoning West Berlin and providing enough mobile force to make clear that access to West Berlin cannot be closed off without a major military confrontation require some two to two and one-half U.S. divisions: one-half in Berlin, one ready for deployment at the Autobahn approaches and to move along it if necessary, and perhaps one as a general reserve. Another division added to this would make possible enough forward deployment of U.S. troops in Southern Germany to meet the double responsibility of reassuring the Germans and the other NATO members. On this analysis we now have about twice as large a ground combat force in Germany as we need. General supporting forces and air forces are probably less than proportionally larger than necessary, while units now manning a large variety of tactical nuclear weapons could usefully be viewed as even more redundant. Altogether, at a crude estimate, present U.S. forces in Europe — excluding the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean — are on the order of 30 to 40 percent larger than would be needed to meet the current strategic requirements of the Alliance, if these were defined in politically realistic terms.

If U.S. force reductions of any sizeable magnitude were made, they would almost certainly be paralleled by some reduction — though not necessarily a proportionate one — of force levels and budgets by the European members of NATO, occasioned by the inability of the U.S. to continue its customary pressure in NATO for large budgets and stronger forces. Thus, any changes that are made must be considered in terms of their total effects on NATO's deployments.

The availability, so to speak, of surplus forces, and the recognition of the disadvantages of current Western deployments of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe opens up two kinds of interesting possibilities for arms control arrangements affecting Europe. First is the parallel reduction of forces on the Central Front, matching U.S. troop reductions with withdrawal of Soviet forces stationed west of the Soviet borders, and those of other NATO members with those of the Eastern European countries. Second is the creation of a denuclearized zone taking in some substantial part of the area on both sides of the dividing line in Germany. Both of these are items which, in one shape or another, have long figured in Soviet arms control proposals and propaganda, and which we have steadfastly rejected. Our past attitude rested on both military and political grounds. Militarily, these changes appeared to undermine the forward strategy by removing from the Central Front both the troops and weapons on which it was based. Further, our removal of troops across the Atlantic could not be compared with a Soviet removal to just behind its own Western borders, some 700 miles from the dividing line. Politically, they were viewed as threatening the unit of the NATO alliance at two levels. Until fairly recently, discussing them would have appeared to be a sharp reversal of U.S. strategic doctrines; in a dangerous situation such a reversal would have been alarming, especially to the Germans. On a more ideological level, the negotiations that such proposals would have required were viewed as "equating" NATO and the Warsaw Pact, or involving the recognition of East Germany.

Today the military grounds are no longer relevant to our current strategic concepts and the appraisal of the military balance which they embody. While the particular political objectives raised in the past are not now apposite, there are significant political problems that discussion of such proposals would raise. They turn essentially around the role of the Federal Republic in any arms control negotiations involving troop reductions and nuclear free zones. It has always been difficult for Germans to accept bilateral U.S.-Soviet discussions on matters that concern it so intimately; it is also difficult for them to negotiate a forum in which the G.D.R. appears as a legitimate party, and it is difficult to see how negotiations of the requisite sort could be carried on if all the Alliance members on both sides participated. This is not to say that a process of negotiation cannot be found, but to emphasize the central role of the relations between the Federal Republic and the United States, and the views of the F.R.G. government in any such process.

Further, there is the difficult problem of how far it is wise for the United States and NATO to move unilaterally on force reductions and redeployments of tactical nuclears, and how far changes should be restricted to those on which there are reciprocal undertakings by the Warsaw Pact nations. A case for some unilateral action exists; partly because of domestic political pressures in the United States, partly because such action may provide an important initial impetus to the negotiating process. Yet, if there are to be negotiations, we cannot simply give away our bargaining position, and too much unilateral change can make negotiation appear unnecessary to the Soviets.

In the area of strategic nuclear forces, bilateral U.S.-Soviet discussions are clearly appropriate, and the arms control issues themselves are central to the discussions. In the area of European military deployments, arms control problems are inevitably closely linked to the larger political issues of the German settlement, and their character and pace depend heavily on the views in the Federal Republic about how to regulate its relations with the G.D.R. in particular, and the Communist governments of Eastern Europe in general. Therefore, negotiation on the arms control issues cannot be separated from broader political negotiations on Germany and European settlement. These in turn will bear heavily in the political relations between the German Federal Republic, the United States, and the other members of NATO. The most immediate context, in which those issues will be discussed, in turn, is that of the renewal of the North Atlantic Treaty in 1969, and its 20th anniversary. It is of the greatest importance that the discussions on the renewal, both internal and international, are conducted with full consciousness of the needs and opportunities in the area of arms control.


The foregoing discussions of the strategic military balance and the needs of NATO dealt with situations in which the basic military and political considerations governing the possible use of force can be translated into the kind of quantitative terms necessarily involved in decisions on force levels and budgets on the basis of a reasonably coherent and explicit rationale, dominated neither by arbitrary political assumptions nor by forecasts of complex chains of future contingencies, though to be sure, neither can be entirely dispensed with. When we consider the level of military forces required for other purposes, however, namely the general purpose forces for world-wide use and strategic reserves, and the supporting level of air-lift, sea-lift, general overhead, training and reserve forces, we move to an area much more difficult to deal with in quantitative terms. However, we can make some progress by dividing the problem in two, and considering first East and South Asia, and second the United States strategic reserve and whatever can be said about other supporting forces.

At the present, of course, our deployments in Asia are dominated by the war in Vietnam. We have some 550 thousand military personnel in South Vietnam, nearly 100 thousand more in Thailand, in SAC units engaged in bombing Vietnam, and naval personnel in South East Asian waters. This total is a little short of 20 percent of our total armed forces; it is also only a little short of the whole increase — 700 thousand men — in the size of the forces since the levels planned for 1964, the last year before we began the sharp increase in our military commitments in Vietnam.

In addition, we still maintain two army divisions in South Korea, about one-half a division in Okinawa, some air force units in Japan, Okinawa and the Philippines, and Seventh Fleet forces over the whole of the Western Pacific.

Assuming that the Vietnam war is settled in a way that involves the total withdrawal of all American forces from the country — at some near future, but unspecified time — what do the political prospects outlined above demand in the way of military commitments? It is clear that there will continue to be a need for some American forces in South Korea, for deterrent purposes. However, one division will certainly suffice, and with it as backing and symbol of support, South Korean forces are adequate for defense against the possibility of another invasion. The second, which we have considered withdrawing for some time, now functions essentially as a trade for South Korean troops in Vietnam. Considerable naval deployments in the Western Pacific will still be needed to perform the general function of deterrence and low-key political support of neutral and allied countries against Communist threats of the use of force, and the particular one of protecting the independence of Taiwan. These functions, of course, involve not only the direct presence of the Seventh Fleet, but also the less visible total power of the United States. Deterrence on this basis can be expected with high confidence to continue to be effective in relation to Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, and Indonesia, as far as external threats go, in view of the low capability of the military forces of the Asian Communist nations for overseas or long distance operation and their overall strategic weakness.

Given a fair degree of internal unity and economic growth, the same can be said about India. Its own military capabilities for defending its border with China are not negligible, and the logistical problems for the Chinese of mounting an invasion of India that reaches at all deeply into the plains beyond Himalayan foothills are formidable. With sufficient political will, it can make unattractive to china a reputation of the frontier attack of October, 1962, as long as American, and perhaps even Soviet assistance seems possible in the offing. Without the political underpinning, of course, even a large U.S. force would be of little help. There is a case of moving some Seventh Fleet forces westward into the Indian Ocean, and the Bay of Bengal, simply to make the American military presence more visible. The question of what basing problems this would present must be faced; and if it cannot be done either without forward land bases at all, or using only Australian bases, it is doubtful if the gains would compensate for the political problems created by the bases.

On the other hand, the effectiveness of such peripheral deterrent forces for Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, and Singapore is less certain, and depends very much on the course of internal political developments in those countries, as well as in China and North Vietnam. But the lesson of Vietnam is that even much larger and more immediately present forces may be incapable of restoring a political balance that has once tipped far enough in favor of insurgent forces of the left, especially when they can draw on outside encouragement and support. The further lesson of Vietnam is that the nation does not believe we have a vital interest in trying to redress such a balance with whatever means. To say this is not at all to condemn the countries of the South East Asian peninsula to Chinese or North Vietnamese domination, or even to Communist governments. It is merely to recognize the limitations on the instruments available to the United States to affect the result, in one way or another, and, above all, the weakness of military force in this respect.

The only area outside of Asia in which we have recognized a more than marginal possibility of U.S. military action on short notice is in the Middle East. A renewal of the Arab-Israeli conflict might conceivably occur in circumstances that would generate a strong demand for U.S. military action to save Israel. But such action, to be effective, must be as much symbolic as forceful: it must warn the Arab states and their Soviet supporters not to take or allow a next military step, and return the conflict to the political and diplomatic level. As long as we maintain sizeable naval forces in the Mediterranean, we will have that capability; it seems most unlikely that we would in advance deploy forces to do more. Further, the general state of relations between the Soviet Union and the United States will be an important factor in determining the likelihood of renewed major conflict in the Middle East; if the whole perspective of this paper is correct, that likelihood will be diminishing rather than increasing.

At present, the United States strategic reserve contains more than five divisions on active duty, as well as tactical air force and naval units. In addition, of course, there are substantial forces occupied in logistic, training, and administrative functions in the United States. On the basis of the foregoing discussion, it appears safe to suggest that after the kind of redeployments considered above, a reserve force of five active divisions would be ample. This would make some allowance for higher probability of movements to Europe, in the light of the reduced forces in place there; offset against a lower probability of other movements, in line with the reduction of our commitments.

In addition, of course, there would remain a mobilization base of reserve units, which at present stands at eight divisions, with one to two months interval required to bring them active status.

These forces would be more than adequate for whatever contingencies might demand a show of force or the dispatch of forces for peace-keeping purposes under international auspices. This rules out the notion that we should be capable of emergency interventions in substantial force on short notice on a world-wide basis, and, more particularly, in the two areas far from the deployments we have considered: sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. In both these areas, arguments against such a conception exactly parallel to those made above with regard to Asia are applicable, only more strongly, since neither is a near a large or Communist power.


The change in the appreciation of the balance of costs and advantages of U.S. military action outside of Europe and the corresponding changes in deployments sketched above would themselves reduce the potential for American involvement in violent conflicts. However, with some few exceptions, they would not work toward reducing the likelihood and level of violence along with the prospects of our own participation in it. Yet, the expectations of combined violent conflict all over the world is sufficiently high to make it an important problem to devise means to reduce and control it. The significance of the problem depends only in part on the risks that violent conflicts may spread, and that ultimately the superpowers may become partisans of one or another side. But beyond that, international order and peace are important ends in themselves — though not always all-important ones — and the United States has some responsibility for attempting to shape its policies to serve these ends.

Unfortunately, useful specific prescriptions in this area are few indeed; but two areas of possible value are worth mentioning. One is the control of the international traffic in arms; especially the larger conventional weapons such as tanks, heavy artillery, combat aircraft, combat ships and the like. Only the United States, the Soviets, and a few of their allies, especially the United Kingdom, France and Czechoslovakia, have so far had major roles as suppliers in this trade; the Chinese have played only a small part. Much of the supply, especially that provided by the United States and the Soviet Union, has been a by-product of military assistance agreements, alliances, and the like; little of ordinary commercial transactions. The most promising measure of arms control applicable to most of the world outside the major alliances is the regulation and limitation of this trade. At the outset two steps commend themselves: a reporting scheme for registering with the United Nations transactions in some defined categories of arms; and a large reduction in our own part of credit sales, military assistance programs, and the like. On balance the effect of these programs outside NATO has been such as to commend their termination or sharp reduction simply in our own interest, irrespective of wider agreements. The record of return on similar investments by the Soviets is equally or more dismal; whether they have learned the lesson remains to be seen. The competitive element on both sides has been sufficiently strong, however, to justify some hope that our initiative might have wider effects.

The other measure, or rather set of measures, is the strengthening of the peacekeeping capacities of the United Nations. A variety of ways of doing this have been discussed at great length. All depend on the political agreement of the great powers; so far this has been lacking. But clearly, an important use of detente is to renew these efforts, perhaps with a greater realization on both sides of their potential significance. Assuming such agreement, a particular path that seems promising enough to explore is the earmarking by a large number of member nations of specific formations for United Nations duties, and their training to this end. The Canadians have pioneered along these lines, and they can offer much useful experience. Joint training exercises of such contingents drawn from several nations could be a valuable next step in the process of moving toward the creation of usable international peace-keeping forces.


In summary, the proposals we have sketched here in varying degrees of detail look to a substantial reduction of the role of military force in our foreign policy, and consequent and corresponding reductions in the scale of our military establishment. In part, they are offered as a recognition in our force structure of what have already become the facts of international politics. In part, particularly in respect to the control of strategic weapons and deployments of both nuclear weapons and conventional forces in NATO, they are offered as areas for important U.S. initiatives in foreign policy, on the grounds that our policies should determine our weapons, and not vice versa.

Ideally, it would be desirable to measure our proposals in terms of their effects on future force structures and military budgets. It is extremely difficult to do this with any pretense of accuracy on the basis of publicly available figures, since they do not, as a matter of principle, show either the details of deployments, in terms of men and weapons, or the costs associated with particular elements and deployments of the forces. Nonetheless, the figures presented in the unclassified part of the annual military posture statements made each year since 1961 by the Secretary of Defense to the relevant committees of the Congress provide a basis for some crude estimates.

First, we have tried to translate the scattered estimates of changes for particular areas into an integrated figure for the total size of the armed forces. To do this, take the planned size of the force for FY 1964, before the dispatch of U.S. combat troops to South Vietnam, as a standard. That figure was some 2.7 million, and it included substantially larger deployments in both Europe and the Pacific than we are contemplating as a target for the future. Accordingly, it seems reasonable to conjecture that the total force size could be held to no more than 2.5 million, and might be pushed down to as low as 2.2 million, or about 1.3 million less than its present level.

To do a corresponding estimate on the budget, two sets of figures have been used as bench marks: the proposed budget for FY 1969, and the actual budget (in terms of Total Obligational Authority) for FY 1964, with costs classified by military programs. FY 1964 wads the last year in which the budget did not reflect heavy commitments in South East Asia. Based on these and other data presented in the FY 1969 document, Table 2 (p.45-A) was constructed. It offers two alternate bases for estimating future outlays. The total of column 3, 1964 expenditures in 1969 prices, is d$62 billion; this could serve as a crude estimate of the post-Vietnam level of expenditures. Further, since the major increases in 1969 compared with 1964 are those in accounts strongly associated with the war in South East Asia, the plausibility of this figure is reinforced. A somewhat more refined and much more speculative set of figures is set down in column 6, to represent expenditures in 1969 prices for some future year when the reductions and redeployments suggested above have come into effect. Four items show substantial reductions as compared with 1964: strategic forces, general purpose forces, supply and maintenance, and military assistance. The 30 percent reduction in the costs of strategic forces is set down to reflect the institution of a freeze, and the beginning of force reductions via the phasing out of obsolete weapons. The costs of general purpose forces, and supply and maintenance, going chiefly to them, are reduced 20 percent, roughly in proportion to the maximum reduction in force levels shown above. The military assistance program is reduced to a nominal level. Four accounts show small reductions, 10 percent or less. That in intelligence and communications reflects the assumed reduced needs of smaller and less widely deployed forces; that in research and development the slowing down of efforts to create new strategic weapons systems. With a smaller active force, guard expenditures are left at 1969 levels to allow for fighter readiness and greater manning levels. Finally, air/sea lift is left unchanged, as mobility relative to smaller forces assumes more importance. The total is $11 billion (in 1969 prices) less than the 1964 figure, a very considerable saving, and the smallest defense budget in a decade.

So large a reduction raises two questions: Are the estimates realistic? When could we possible reach 197X? The first has already been answered in the negative: these budget estimates are not in any detailed sense realistic, but as indicating a possible order of magnitude, they are not implausible, either. The second question is, of course, not susceptible of a categorical answer. It depends, first, on how quickly a settlement can be reached in Vietnam; second, and equally important, on the progress of arms control negotiations. Neither expenditures on strategic forces, nor on deployments in Europe, could be reduced to the extent implied by these figures without some successful arms control negotiations. The results need not necessarily be embodied in informal treaties; this is especially true for force reductions and weapons redeployments in Europe, but changes of this magnitude are unlikely to be considered as safely attainable simply by U.S. unilateral action.

Table 2

(1) (2) (3) (4) (5) (6)
Program Package FY 1964 TOA $ billions FY 1964a TOA $ billions 1969 prices FY 1969 TOA $ billions (4) - (3) Synthetic Budget FY 197X $ billions 1969 prices
(1) Strategic forces 9.3 11.1 9.6 -1.5 7.8c
(2) General purpose forces 17.9 21.7 35.2 +13.5b 17.3c
(3) Intelligence communications 4.3 5.0 6.3 +1.3b 4.5d
(4) Air/Sea Lift 1.1 1.3 1.8 +0.5 1.3
(5) National Guard, Reserves 1.9 2.5 3.0 +0.5b 3.0
(6) Research and Development 5.0 6.2 5.1 -1.1 5.6d
(7) Supply and Maintenance 4.1 4.9 7.3 +2.9b 3.9c
(8) Training 5.5 6.8 9.8 +3.0b 6.1d
(9) Administration 1.2 1.3 1.7 +0.4 1.2d
(10) Military Assistance 1.3 1.3 2.7 +1.4b 0.3c
Total 51.6 62.1 82.5 +19.9 51.0

aDerived from column 2 by assuming each account experienced the same degree of price increase. Total taken from FY 1969 presentation, Table 1.

bIncrease 1969 over 1964 in 1969 prices heavily influenced by activity in Vietnam.

cLarge reductions from 1964 levels.

dSmall reductions from 1964 levels.

Finally, it can be asked, does not the whole structure of argument that has been erected in these pages really depend on a fundamental assumption of Soviet benevolence and good faith that does not correspond to the facts? To which the answer is, reliance on neither the benevolence nor the good faith — in the sense of sheer moral obligation — is involved. Rather, it is the expectation that both the Soviets and ourselves are capable of recognizing shared interests in an increase in international stability, a decrease in the prospects of the use of force, especially when either of us is involved, and a relief from the economic burdens of rising military budgets. Both sides have already begun to make this recognition, and guide their policy by it. What is here urged is that its importance is so great, and the consequences of the alternative course of our seeking military superiority present so grim a prospect, as to demand our putting the direct pursuit of these interests at the center of our security policy for the next period ahead.


  • [1] Unfortunately since Carl Kaysen (August 1, 1968) doesn't mean that U.S. strategic forces deter U.S. strategic forces or that Russian strategic forces deter themselves, I believe he means that each side is deterred from lesser actions for fear that it might lead to a sequence of actions in which ultimately the other side would use nuclear weapons against it. In any case the presence of the other side's strategic forces are essential to his meaning.
  • [2] "Strength, Interest and New Technologies", Adelphi Paper No. 46, (Institute for Strategic Studies, London, March 1968), p. 13 and p. 14.


I want to thank all who commented orally or in writing on the Kaysen manuscript: Bruno Augenstein, Fritz Ermarth, Mac hoag, Fred Ikle, Al Latter, Andy Marshall, Harry Rowen, James Schlesinger, Leon Sloss, and Ciro Zoppo. The comments were most useful in preparing my own critique.

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