Courtesy Reuters

The Myth of Security

THERE is a basic paradox in coupling the word "defense" with modern military means and methods. The atomic bomb, the long-range plane, the giant missile have demolished so many "security" concepts that defense, measured by any military yardstick, has become chiefly a reflex of retaliation. In a search for defense, men have broken the boundaries of space and solved many of the mysteries of nature. But, ironically, they have made themselves less secure than before. The rise of nation-states, the growth of populations, the industrial revolution and a new technological revolution have made war "total." "Defense" is completely incompatible with the realities of modern warfare, and if it dominates the military thinking of a nation it is a term synonymous with defeat. No theory of limited liability, of defensive strategy or tactics, can win the war of tomorrow.

Man's attempts to limit the destructiveness and outlaw some of the horror of war are not likely to succeed unless power is linked to reality. The great general problem of the twentieth century, as of all past centuries, is to harness justice with power, idealism with realism. Moral factors -- the ebb and flow of intangible forces, the surge of national wills, the things of the spirit, man's consciousness of right and wrong -- are realities and cannot be omitted from any reckoning of power which pretends to be trustworthy. But the fact remains that though moral scruples, embodied in such international laws as the divided peoples of the earth have come to accept, may serve as deterrents to aggressor nations, the fear of a swift counter-punch -- retaliation in kind -- is in the present state of affairs the weightiest argument against aggression. The American military problem is how to land that counter-punch. That is the problem of "defense," and it obviously has many aspects.

But before the strategic problem confronting the United States can even be posed, Americans must examine and dismiss some of the errors and half-truths that color our

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