Xi Jinping in His Own Words
What China’s Leader Wants—and How to Stop Him From Getting It
ON the morrow of the Presidential election the American people found themselves confronting a complexly interrelated series of urgent and difficult military problems--problems so urgent and difficult as to call, it would seem, for something like a complete review, and possibly revision, of our whole military policy. The hopes, passions and self-contradictory promises of the electoral campaign had served to intensify nearly all the grave issues involved. Unfortunately, the oratory (as is usual with American campaign oratory) had shed little light upon how, practically, these issues were to be met. It may be that with a fresh approach and fresh insights, avenues toward "an early and honorable peace" can be discovered. But it is safe to say that no policy can be discovered which will simultaneously satisfy the demands for an immediate withdrawal of American troops from Korea, an honorable peace there, support of the United Nations, a drastic reduction in military expenditure, a stronger and firmer military front against Communist infiltration and aggression, a full support of the Western European alliance, an intensification at the same time of the effort to arm and train Asians to fight "Asian" wars, and a reduction in the burden of military aid.
Such objectives are mutually exclusive; some will have to be abandoned or postponed in favor of others, and the task of choosing among them--of selecting the ends toward which the national energies and the national military potential is to be directed and of subordinating those others which cannot practically be realized--is a task in the redesign of the basic military policy of the United States. It is a task which we would have been compelled to face whether there had been an election or not. The election, so to speak, simply brought the chickens home to roost--chickens hatched in the inveterate confusions and evasions of American political life, in the half-measures and insubstantial hopes of the past few years, in the deep-seated American inability to understand either the rôle of power in the international world or the uses and responsibilities of the power over which we hold command. The election indeed brought the chickens home to roost; but sooner or later we would in any event have been obliged to look those ill-omened birds in the face.
"Military policy" is in itself an unfamiliar concept to American minds. We debate endlessly the details of military affairs--costs, strategies, inefficiencies, even such technical things as weapons systems and manpower usages--but seldom approach such questions on the large plane of underlying military policy itself. Military policy can be defined as the whole body of concepts by which a nation regulates and applies in practice its potentialities for bringing violent solution to the problems of world society. One does not have to read Clausewitz to understand that war is the application of violence to the solution of political issues which are otherwise insoluble. Military policy and military preparation simply define the ways in which a nation will organize and deploy its potentialities for violence and the ways in which it will apply these potentialities to secure a kind of international world which will seem tolerable to itself.
Ideally, military policy should be a self-consistent body of principle and practice, calculated on the one hand to mobilize the best military powers of the nation concerned as need may require, and calculated on the other hand to secure concrete and desired results, with the power thus mobilized, on the international stage. Of course, no real military policy ever actually fulfills these ideal ends. Particularly, no democratic nation, torn by all the conflicts and confusions of the democratic process, has ever worked out a policy that is more than a rough approximation to the ideal image. Nevertheless, the ideal must be assumed to be the goal of all the argument. It is this ideal toward which great numbers of Americans are now unhappily groping. In the deepest sense, the military problem now before the United States is the problem of reviewing and if need be revising all the various fits and starts of policy we have witnessed since 1945, in order to bring the whole body of policy and doctrine nearer to serving the ideal of what a rational military policy ought to be.
Since September 1945, American military policy has actually gone through several clearly-marked phases. We began with the headlong demobilization, which we carried through to the accompaniment of many pious expressions of the conviction that we should never demobilize again. We then spent some 18 months trying to organize a system which would provide a unified defense structure and (more important) a unified mechanism for national intelligence and policy-making, capable of controlling the military policy of the future. But by the time this had been achieved, in mid-summer of 1947, the world was already assuming a look of very present peril. We had no good answer for it. Our new military system was all set up on a future basis; it provided the organizational framework which might be necessary in order to mobilize for another total war at some distant time, but very little with which to meet the actual military problems of the increasingly ominous present. We watched, helplessly, as the long retreat through China began; we had no solution for Korea except to evacuate, set up a local government and hope for the best; initially, we had no reply to the processes of Communist erosion in Greece, Italy and France.
To begin with we relied, without ever quite being able to admit it, on the supposed atomic monopoly. We did not, to be sure, provide anything like the apparatus of airfields, long-range bombers, escort fighters, interceptors and domestic air defenses that would be required actually to wage an atomic war; we did, however, establish the rudiments of such a system, and fell back upon the hope that its value as a threat would insure that there would be no major war. Perhaps the threat was effective--there was, at any rate, no major war--but the fact soon became apparent that it could not check the processes of infiltration, propaganda and armed intimidation by which the Soviet Union was in fact expanding its world power and undermining the American world position.
Something else was needed. Beginning with the "Truman Doctrine" of Greek-Turkish aid in March 1947, we tried throwing money and military advice into the worst breaches which seemed to be opening in the Western system; and, with the Marshall Plan, a general strengthening of the economic bases of the non-Communist world. But with the continuing collapse of China and with the rape of Czechoslovakia in February 1948, these policies seemed more and more plainly inadequate. In March 1948, President Truman called for the first serious, but still modest, effort at rearmament.
It was a recognition that we must be equipped with more than future threats of possible atomic holocausts. We needed some armed power immediately available and on the ground in the threatened areas of the world, capable of controlling present events rather than waiting until the world situation had become so intolerable that extreme and intolerable solutions would become applicable. But the case was not well understood--not even, perhaps, by the President himself. The emphasis was still on a "posture of defense" rather than on the actual weapons of defense itself. The whole issue was badly confused by the ardent advocates of "air power," always jealous of any diversion of funds from their favorite weapon; there was no real enthusiasm for a heavy military expenditure in an election year; and it was the President himself who finally put a fiscal "ceiling" on military spending which rendered any real rearmament virtually impossible.
Even when the North Atlantic Treaty was signed in April 1949, it still represented primarily a political rather than a formed and active military alliance. We knew that something should be done, but with the Louis Johnson economies we were still hoping to do it with mirrors. And then came Korea, in June 1950, to smash the mirrors once and for all.
Korea was suddenly seen to be an absolutely vital military position, but one for which we had provided no sufficient defenses and for which we had almost no available reinforcements. "Conventional" air bombing quickly proved altogether futile, and the atomic bomb was simply inapplicable. We scraped together just enough reinforcement, both moral (in the U.N.) and material (in the bits and pieces of largely untrained ground divisions which we threw in) to avert disaster. And we started at the same time upon a new military policy which might be better suited to the real exigencies of the times.
Initially, this policy may have tended to err on the panic side as much as the previous policy had erred in complacency. As the first tremendous supplementals were flung into Congress in the fall of 1950 and in early 1951, the vision at the back of most minds was that of a possibly imminent all-out Soviet attack upon the West. Perhaps this was just as well. Everything, as it turned out, was going to take longer than anticipated; "lead times" and production bottlenecks were going to make it considerably harder to spend the money than to appropriate it, and only by starting on the grand scale was enough momentum generated to carry through the effort on anything like adequate levels. But before the end of 1950, somewhat calmer perspectives had obtained. As early as December, General Marshall, recalled to duty as Secretary of Defense, had laid down the critical decision that the rearmament effort should be planned as a partial mobilization for the long pull rather than as a base for a possibly immediate total mobilization.
An important effect of this decision was to weaken the categorical imperatives of "purely military need" and restore a larger measure of policy control to the hands of the President and his civilian administrators. The Joint Chiefs of Staff, as was their duty, laid down a schedule of "force levels" appropriate to the partial mobilization policy. This called for 143 air wings, 21 Army and three Marine ground divisions, 16 Navy carrier air groups and about 400 combatant naval vessels. The Joint Chiefs have never explained in any detail the reasoning behind these numbers. One must infer that this was a reasonably balanced and expert estimate of what would be required to meet current military commitments in Korea and in the defense of Japan and Western Europe; to provide a training and mobilization base ample enough to support the full-scale mobilization which another total war would demand; and to provide enough naval instruments to enable us to make full use of the advantages which sea power would confer upon us in another war, and enough offensive and defensive air power not only to support the conventional arms, if need be, but also to wage "strategic" war of atomic mass destruction.
Presumably, again, the force levels were adjusted to a larger military policy which by 1951 had accepted the North Atlantic alliance as the foundation for European defense as well as the ultimate expectation of rearming Japan as a main bulwark of defense in Asia and the Western Pacific. Here was, at any rate, the numerical skeleton of a military policy which would put its main reliance on "conventional" methods of warfare, which would count heavily on the coöperation of European and Asiatic free nations to fill out the essential conventional armory and would support them strongly with money and materials in doing so, but which would also retain the threat value of atomic and mass destruction warfare as a final sanction of peace. It was, however, a skeleton only. It is not always realized that these JCS force levels (which remain unchanged today) are no more than a framework. On all the really vital issues--the rate of build-up to the prescribed levels, the kind and modernity of the weapons adopted, the schedule of manpower and material mobilization reserves--the JCS have been largely silent. The result has been to devolve a large measure of responsibility in these vital questions upon the civilian budget officers and administrators, and they have not hesitated to use their judgment and authority to a point at which the plaint of "civilian interference" is now sometimes raised.
The Joint Chiefs gave their opinion that mid-1954 would be a "critical" time with the inference that the whole rearmament program should be complete by then. But the President and his Budget Bureau, in late 1951, decided to "roll forward" the peak of the effort, with the result that in respect to some air and other important weapons the prescribed force levels will not now be attained until mid-1955 or even 1956. In early 1952 the Congress voted to stretch this "stretch-out" even farther. Most of the more damaging economies were ultimately restored, however, and essentially we now stand committed to the military policy evoked by the shock of the Korean War, except that we are not fully to attain the prescribed force levels until some time in 1956. The new military budget (to be presented in January 1953, and to control our military spending until June 30, 1954) has been constructed primarily on a "sustaining" basis. The big appropriations have already been made, though not yet spent, and the problem as it appeared toward the end of 1952 was that of maintaining on a continuous basis the structure of partial mobilization, of partial readiness both for a conventional and a mass-destruction war, and of more or less full readiness for such peripheral operations as events may require.
This is our present military policy. It has already taken us as far as it can go; and nobody is satisfied with it. It is under attack from every side and on diametrically opposed counts. It costs too much. It is inadequate to protect us from Soviet armaments. It is insufficient to save Europe and yet it involves us too deeply in commitments of men and money to Europe. It has not succeeded in ending the drain of life in Korea; equally, it has not restored the Korean Republic to freedom and full control of its territories. It is not firmly repelling Soviet imperialism or freeing the satellite victims; at the same time it is risking a third world war. It is wasting money in duplicative research into the new weapons; at the same time it is too conventional in its conceptions and does not give the new weapons the weight they deserve in strategic theory. It is badly organized. It is too much a product of service rivalries and conflicts, too little a broad-gauged adjustment of American means and capabilities to American political ends. The only agreement, in most of this, is that the policy is all wrong and we badly need a new start.
That a reëxamination is necessary is hard to deny. Some of this criticism is justified; some is merely cantankerous; some is no more than an expression of the inveterate human tendency to ask for miracles where no miracles are possible. A perfect military policy is no doubt beyond the capacities of fallible human political institutions. Yet we have reached a turning point. New decisions will have to be made in any event. Even if the election had not supervened, it would still have been apparent that we had come to the end of the policies hammered out under the stress of the Korean War in 1950 and 1951 and that we would have to review the whole position. The change of government makes such a review possible. What are the leading questions which the new administration must answer?
First, if not the most important, there is a basic question of organization. There is a widespread dissatisfaction today with the adequacy of the Joint-Chiefs system of military direction. The 1947 act, under which in essentials we are still operating, made elaborate provision for surrounding the Joint Chiefs of Staff with the apparatus of civilian review and control; yet the result has not been quite what was intended. Without relieving the military heads of their power, the act succeeded mainly in relieving them of responsibility. They are still the head and center of all military policy; but they do not appear so to the public and they are often able to avoid the public accountability which should go with their decisons. They are still too much a committee of rival heads of services rather than a board acting by genuinely joint and agreed findings. Unlike the British Cabinet, for example, they are under no joint responsibility; if they reach split decisions, there is no way of compelling unanimity, and if they are unanimous, there is no way of assuring that the unanimity is in a genuine national interest rather than in the interest of a working compromise between the rival services which they represent. The policies they may recommend--like the force levels, for example--are not subject to effective public scrutiny, while the policies on which they refuse to make recommendations --such as the date on which the force levels should be reached --cannot properly be determined by any other agency in government.
Second, and growing out of the first, there is a question of the correctness with which our present military resources are allocated as between the various arms and services. Speaking very generally, the present scheme is one for a conventional defensive structure, backed by a certain allocation to the mass destruction weapons. We know that immense strides are being made in the unconventional weapons systems both of offense and defense. On November 16, the Atomic Energy Commission announced the successful completion at Eniwetok of an experiment in "thermo-nuclear research," which, if it does not mean a completed hydrogen bomb, certainly means that a hydrogen bomb will soon be with us. On the other hand, we also know that very great strides have recently been made in the defense, through electronic guiding and warning systems, against airborne nuclear attack. Are all these developments really being absorbed in the doctrines of the several services, and are their plans being corrected and emended in accordance with the new facts?
Third, are we really following a rational global strategy even by the light of conventional military force? Our policy is based upon the concept of creating European forces to sustain the main brunt of Soviet pressure in Europe and, ultimately, Asian forces to sustain that pressure in Asia. Are we doing enough to see that those forces are coming into being, or to reinforce their weaknesses? A defense, any defense, is useless unless it is sufficient. There is grave doubt as to whether the European defense, organized under NATO, can be made sufficient. NATO will meet its 1952 goals of 50 divisions and 4,000 airplanes, ready or in prompt reserve. It seems impossible that it can meet the 1953 tentative goal of 94 divisions. If so, what does our military policy do? Should we greatly increase our monetary and material aid? Should we write down the goals in view of our own powers of nuclear threat and the indications that a major war is not now in the purview of Soviet policy? Or should we abandon the entire European experiment and concentrate our whole effort on arming the Eastern peoples to meet the Soviet threat in that area of the world?
Fourth, there is Korea. Here we have in fact resorted to violent means to secure decision for an otherwise insoluble issue between the Soviet empire and ourselves. And at this writing no decision has been achieved. Are we to abandon the fight? Are we to continue, as we have been doing, rotating our men into the front lines and accepting the small but steady toll of casualties as the inescapable cost of maintaining our power position? Or are we to invest in a greatly increased military effort in the hope of forcing a military conclusion? Despite all suggestions about stepping up South Korean forces, utilizing the Chinese Nationalists from Formosa, intensifying naval blockade or air bombing, this would seem pretty well to exhaust the list of possible choices. Perhaps new forms of action can be devised, or it is possible that the Chinese Communists themselves will abandon the struggle? Short of this last, we must put our whole operation in Korea on a much firmer, more realistic basis of policy than the American people have as yet seen worked out.
Fifth, there is the underlying question of military costs, which is bound up in one way or another with all the others. The public is expecting a drastic reduction of military spending. Some reduction there will be, under present policies, in the course of the next two years, as the big initial effort of rearmament is completed and the new defense structure moves to a "sustaining" basis. It is difficult, however, to believe that any great amount of "waste and extravagance" can be squeezed out of the system without seriously impairing its military efficiency. It is possible that something can be done through redesign of the system itself. During the campaign, for example, General Eisenhower suggested that there could be a more economical use of military manpower. He also suggested that the weapons system could be revised and simplified. Others have seriously considered the potentialities of the new weapons. If, for instance, it becomes possible to replace most or all of our defensive fighter squadrons with pilotless guided missiles, the savings might be very great.
Yet for every such possibility of reducing costs, there are demands which must greatly increase them. Definite scientific advances have only recently opened up the possibility of a really effective defense against air-borne nuclear attack; but to install such defenses will require not less money but greatly increased expenditures. The scale of our present contribution to the NATO forces is being more and more insistently called in question. If it is really necessary to create a 94-division European Army with corresponding air forces, we shall certainly have to provide more arms to our allies and probably a greater commitment of our own manpower. This last would be possible if we established a true ready reserve, equipped and organized for prompt mobilization as a fighting force, behind our present active divisions. But no effective reserve of the kind exists, and to create one would call for much heavier expenditures of money and effort than we are now prepared to contemplate.
In summary, we have not really worked out a consistent and long-range military policy or given our military planning the support of the informed and agreed public understanding which it demands. There is no firm agreement on the organization of our military power, on the internal design of the system, on the scale of the effort which we should put into it, on its integration with our allied military systems or on the practical uses, in the present contexts of the cold war, to which we should put our formed military strength. On all these questions the new Administration must, in some way or another, render its decisions. It is unlikely that they will be complete or fully self-consistent or farseeing. But the answers must be found; and out of them will come the new shape of American military policy, the new formulas determining how the American people will organize and apply their military potential to the creation of a world which will seem tolerable to them.