Courtesy Reuters

Coherent Defense Strategy: The Case for Economic Denial

One vital benefit which is struggling to emerge from the prolonged debate about President Reagan's military budget proposals is a recognition that this country and its NATO allies have until now, incredibly, lacked a meaningful and coherent strategy of defense against the Soviet Union. Appreciation of this fact may not yet fully have penetrated the Pentagon or been recognized by Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger. But it does appear to have reached the White House. The first indication of this came in a little noticed but potentially vastly important statement made by William P. Clark, the President's National Security Adviser, at Georgetown University last May 20. Our new strategy, he declared, would include "diplomatic, political, economic and informational components built on a foundation of military strength." In a limited application of this concept, he noted that "We must force our principal adversary, the Soviet Union, to bear the brunt of its economic shortcomings."

In this context, President Reagan's attempt at the Versailles Summit shortly thereafter to persuade our European allies to impose strict limits on new credits extended to the Soviet bloc, and his subsequent ban on the use of U.S. high technology components or licenses to help build the planned Soviet-West European natural gas pipeline, should logically be viewed as significant initial efforts to develop and implement the new, more comprehensive defense strategy projected by Mr. Clark. Unfortunately, they were neither presented nor received as such.

The stiff opposition and criticism the Reagan initiatives encountered, both abroad and at home, were based on quite other grounds. European leaders, at the Summit, agreed only to a toothless statement on the matter of credits. They later flatly refused to honor President Reagan's pipeline-related ban, calling it an invasion of sovereignty and incompatible with the continued supply of U.S. grains to the Soviet Union. Domestic critics faulted the initiatives as bungling efforts to wage economic warfare or to gain political leverage, which could not succeed, and which were creating a serious rift

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