China’s New Vassal
How the War in Ukraine Turned Moscow Into Beijing’s Junior Partner
WHATEVER the problem--whether it concerns our military strategy, our system of alliances or our relations with the Soviet bloc--the nuclear age demands above all a clarification of doctrine. At a moment when technology has put within our grasp a command of nature never before imagined, we are driven to realize that everything depends on our ability to use power with subtlety and discrimination. In the absence of concepts that define the nature of power, its purpose and its relation to policy, the possession of it may serve merely to paralyze the will. All the difficult choices of the nuclear period--the nature of its weapons systems, the risks diplomacy can run, the issues for which to contend--presuppose a doctrinal answer before they can find a technical one.
This is particularly true of military strategy. Because we have won two world wars by outproducing our opponent, we have tended to equate military superiority with superiority in resources and technology. Yet history demonstrates that superiority in strategic doctrine has at least as often been the cause of victory as has superiority in resources. Superior doctrine enabled the Germans in 1940 to defeat an Allied army superior in numbers and at least equal in equipment but wedded to an outmoded concept of warfare. Superior mobility and the use of artillery, a better relationship between fire and movement, furnished the basis of Napoleon's victories. Similar examples were the victories of the Roman legions over the Macedonian phalanx, of the English archers against the mediæval knights. All these were victories not of resources but of strategic doctrine: the ability to break the framework which had come to be taken for granted and to present the antagonist with contingencies which he had never even considered.
Strategic doctrine translates power into policy. Whether the goals of a state are offensive or defensive, whether it seeks to achieve or prevent a change, its strategic doctrine must be able to define what objectives are worth contending for and to develop the appropriate force for achieving them. By establishing a pattern of response in advance of crisis situations, strategic doctrine permits a Power to act purposefully in the face of challenges. In its absence a Power will constantly be surprised by events. An adequate strategic doctrine is therefore the basic requirement of American security.
It may be argued, of course, that we do possess a strategic doctrine expressed in the decisions of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and of the National Security Council on the basis of which the force levels of our Armed Forces are determined by Congress. But the decisions of the Joint Chiefs and of the National Security Council give a misleading impression of unity of purpose. The officials comprising these bodies are either service chiefs in the case of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or heads of executive departments in the case of the National Security Council. As administrators of complicated organizations, they must give most of their attention to reducing the friction of the administrative machine both within their department and in the relation of their department to other agencies. The heads of departments do not stand above the battle of the bureaucracy; they are spokesmen for it. In fact, the departmental viewpoint is sometimes purposely exaggerated in order to facilitate compromise.
As a result, the conclusions of both the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the National Security Council reflect more the attainable consensus among sovereign departments than a sense of direction. Because agreement is frequently unattainable except by framing conclusions in very general language, decisions by the Joint Chiefs of Staff or the National Security Council do not end interdepartmental disputes. Instead they shift them to an interpretation of the meaning of directives. And departments or services whose disagreements prevented the development of doctrine in the first place will choose the exegesis closest to their original point of view. The seeming unanimity of our policy-making bodies only defers the doctrinal dilemma until some crisis or the budgetary process forces a reconsideration under the pressure of events.
Within the Department of Defense these problems are compounded by the obsolescent division of functions among the services and the predominant rôle played by fiscal considerations in setting force levels. The Key West agreement of 1948 confirmed the traditional division: each service was to continue with its primary mission of defeating its enemy counterpart; the mission of the Air Force is to dominate the sky, of the Navy to control the sea and of the Army to defeat the enemy's ground forces.
Until the end of World War II, this assignment of rôles represented distinguishable strategic options: the Army was in fact powerless on the sea beyond the range of its coastal artillery and the Navy could not project itself far inland. The Air Force was not yet independent and the range of planes was sufficiently short to permit the division of functions among naval and army air forces to follow roughly the division among the senior services.
But with modern weapons, the traditional definition of primary missions amounts to giving each service a claim to develop a capability for total war. For the sky cannot be dominated short of a scale of attack on the opposing retaliatory force which will unleash an all-out conflict; control of the seas implies the destruction of industrial facilities and supply depots deep in enemy territory, as Admiral Burke testified before the Symington Committee; and the Army has declared a 1,500-mile missile essential for the performance of its mission. A division of functions among the services makes sense only if the functions in fact represent distinguishable strategic missions. If each service in the performance of its primary mission must carry out tasks inseparable from the primary mission of a sister service, energies will be increasingly absorbed in jurisdictional disputes. Nor can this problem be avoided by administrative fiat as has repeatedly been attempted. The inter-service rivalries are inherent in the definition of missions; they result inevitably from a division of rôles on the basis of means of locomotion in the face of a technology which makes a mockery of such distinctions.
As a consequence of the lack of doctrinal agreement, none of the services can be certain that a sister service's interpretation of what constitutes an essential target accords with its own. It is therefore convinced that it cannot relinquish control over any weapon which it believes important to the achievement of its mission. The only way a service can be certain that its targets will in fact be attacked is to seek to obtain every weapon that can be used against them, even if such a weapon already exists in a sister service. "If I was assured when we wanted to attack Russia on a strategic mission," said General Twining during the Symington Hearings on American Airpower, "that the naval carriers were assigned to General Le May, . . . fine. But that is not the case and I don't know where those carriers are going to be . . . so the Strategic Air Command has to be just as big, just as strong and just as ready, regardless of this Navy contribution."[i] "The primary function of the Air Force," said General Taylor defending the Army's development of a 1,500-mile missile, "is to destroy enemy air power and for the Navy to destroy enemy naval power. . . . If you accept the fact that the Army exists to destroy hostile armies, then any missiles which will destroy hostile ground forces should be available to the Army."[ii]
The rigid division of functions therefore exacerbates disputes among the services. Since no service can achieve its primary mission without defeating the enemy completely, each service will always consider its force levels inadequate and will be convinced that one reason for this inadequacy is a transgression by a sister service on its field of jurisdiction. Moreover, while the present assignment of rôles produces a duplication of some categories of weapons, it causes some others to fall between two stools. The disputes between the Army and the Air Force regarding the importance of airlift provide an illustration. The Air Force, charged with defeating the enemy air arm, must look on an investment in planes having no strategic or tactical combat effectiveness as a diversion of resources. The Army, on the other hand, cannot carry out its mission if it is not able to get into position rapidly. The present division of functions, therefore, produces either duplication or an inability to consider requirements in terms of over-all strategy.
Another factor which inhibits the development of strategic doctrine is the predominance of fiscal considerations in our defense planning. This is not even always a question of deliberate choice. One of the reasons for the emphasis on fiscal policy and technology has been that the former has been explicit and the latter impressively demanding. In the process of coördinating diverse policies, which is the primary function of the National Security Council, there always exists a clear fiscal policy, largely because governmental economy is the raison d'être of the Bureau of the Budget and because only one agency--the Treasury Department--is responsible for setting objectives in the fiscal field. But there is rarely, if ever, a clear National Security policy to oppose it. On the contrary, the contending services have been tempted to enlist the backing of the Treasury Department and the Bureau of the Budget by advocating their particular strategy as contributing to governmental economy. The fiscal viewpoint, therefore, often comes to predominate by default; in a conceptual vacuum the side with the clearest and most consistent position will gain ascendancy.
Whatever the reason, every administration since World War II has at some time held the view that this country could not afford more than a certain sum for military appropriations, overriding the question of whether we could afford to be without an adequate military establishment. Now the imposition of a budgetary ceiling is not inevitably pernicious; a removal of all budgetary restrictions would inhibit doctrine even more, because it would lead each service to hoard weapons for every eventuality--as occurred to some extent during the Korean War. And the proliferation of weapons systems unrelated to doctrine will cause strategic decisions--which always involve choices--to be made in the confusion of battle. The difficulty with our present budgetary process is that by giving priority to cost over requirement it subordinates doctrine to technology. Budgetary requests are not formulated in the light of strategic doctrine; rather doctrine is tailored and if necessary invented to fit budgetary requests.
The predominance of fiscal considerations makes for doctrinal rigidity because it causes each service to be afraid that a change in doctrine will lead to a cut in appropriations. This is illustrated by a violent dispute in 1950 between advocates of strategic air power and a group of scientists at the Lincoln Laboratory of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who were accused of advocating a cut in our retaliatory force in order to build up air defense. The remarkable thing about this dispute was that the M.I.T. group explicitly denied underrating the importance of strategic air power; they insisted that their recommendations had been solely concerned with building up our air defense. Yet the partisans of strategic air power had psychology, if not logic, on their side. With a fixed ceiling on defense expenditures it was clear that any new appropriation was bound to lead to the reduction of existing forces; a new capability could in practice be developed only at the expense of an existing one.
As a result, budgetary pressures compound the inherent conservatism of the military and end in subordinating doctrine to the battle for appropriations. Each service pushes weapons development in every category without sufficient regard for the program of other services, and each service seeks to obtain control over as many different weapons as possible as a form of insurance against drastic budgetary cuts in the future. The predominance of fiscal considerations in our defense planning actually encourages a subtle form of waste: in the absence of an agreed strategic doctrine, it leads to the proliferation of partially overlapping, partially inconsistent weapons systems. Because to relinquish a weapons system may mean to relinquish the appropriations that go with it, every service has a powerful incentive to hold on to every weapon even after it has outlived its usefulness.
The doctrinal handicap imposed by the predominance of fiscal considerations is not compensated for by an increase in civilian control either within the Executive Branch or by Congress. The difficulty of effective control over military programs is due to two factors: the fiction of the yearly review of programs and their technical complexity. The yearly review is increasingly inconsistent with the realities of defense planning. The hiatus between development and procurement is several years in the case of most weapons; the introduction of a new weapon into a unit implies that all units will be so equipped over a period of time. Thus the first order for B-52s logically carried with it the obligation to continue procurement until all heavy bomber wings of the Strategic Air Command were composed of jet planes. Similarly, the beginning of construction of an aircraft carrier makes almost inescapable future appropriations to complete its construction.
In these circumstances, a yearly review does not bring about effective control; it does ensure, however, that no dispute is ever finally resolved. Each year the same arguments about the efficacy of limited war, airlift and the relative merits of carrier and strategic aviation are repeated, and they are not settled until some technical development outstrips the dispute or an administrative decision allocates rôles and missions which the losing service accepts only because it has every prospect of reopening the issue in the following year. In the absence of doctrinal agreement, inter-service disputes can be resolved only by compromises which may define merely the least unacceptable strategy or by adding to the number of missions and weapons systems.
The technical complexity of most disputes complicates civilian control and particularly Congressional control even further. Within the Department of Defense the multiplication of civilian officials, often in office for only a year or two, causes the Secretaries and Assistant Secretaries to become less agents of control than a device to legitimize inter-service disputes. Their short term in office makes it difficult if not impossible for them to become familiar with the subtleties of the strategic problems. Instead of being able to establish a unified concept, they become spokesmen for the professional staff on whose advice they are dependent.
As for Congressional control, the only forum where the over-all defense program can be considered is in the Appropriations Committee. A meaningful judgment by the Congress on the defense budget would presuppose an assessment of the military strength achieved by a given expenditure and the relationship of this strength to a set of national security objectives. Neither condition is met by current practice. To be sure, the budget is introduced by testimony of the service chiefs and their civilian superiors regarding the gravity of the international situation. But no attempt is made to show the relationship of strategy to events abroad beyond the general implication that the proposed program would ensure the security of the United States. In turn, the Congressional Committees can make their judgments only in terms of a vague assessment of the international situation: they will be hesitant to reduce the budget if they feel the situation too grave and they will be disposed to pare requests drastically when they think the situation is not as serious as represented.
Such Congressional consideration of strategic concepts as does take place is usually produced by the dissatisfaction of some service with its budgetary allocations. Thus the B-36 hearings in 1949 resulted from the cancellation by Secretary Johnson of the Navy's giant carrier and the Symington Committee hearings on air power were the consequence of the budgetary ceiling imposed on the Air Force (and other services too) by Secretary Wilson. This procedure has the disadvantage of emphasizing the problems of one particular service and of obscuring the real difficulties which occur in the area of overlapping strategies. Moreover, even the hearings explicitly addressed to the problems of the rôles and missions of the services tend to be conducted in the familiar technical categories. Thus during the Symington hearings on American air power in 1956, relatively little attention was paid to the strategic concepts of the services; on the whole, the Committee was content to take the services at their own valuations. But a great deal of time was spent on the relative numbers of the Soviet and United States heavy bomber forces and the relative thrust of jet engines. These figures are important, to be sure, but their meaning derives from strategic doctrine. Without a concept of war--or at least of air war--comparative numbers mean little and the relative thrust of jet engines means less. The quest for numbers is a symptom of the abdication of doctrine.
In order to create a favorable climate for their budgetary requests, the services tend to emphasize the most ominous aspects of the United States security problem. Because of their awareness that there exists a greater receptiveness for programs which seem to offer total solutions, each service is encouraged to stress the part of its mission which poses the most absolute sanctions. Thus in 1951 the Army produced the "atomic cannon," a cumbersome, hybrid and already obsolescent weapon, in part to obtain access to the nuclear stockpile. Similarly, after the B-36 hearings, the Navy ceased to oppose the identification of deterrence with maximum retaliatory power; in fact, it adopted the theory as its own and in its budgetary presentations, at least, it has emphasized its contribution to the strategic striking force more than its less dramatic task of anti-submarine warfare. And Congressional hearings leave little doubt that even within the Air Force, the Strategic Air Command has the most prestige value.
Thus the budgetary process places a premium on the weapons systems which fit best with the traditional preconceptions of American strategic thought. It is not that the belief in the importance of strategic striking forces is wrong in itself; indeed, the Strategic Air Command must continue to have the first claim on our defense budget. It is simply that the overemphasis on total solutions reinforces the already powerful tendency against supplementing our retaliatory force with subtler military capabilities that address themselves to the likelier dangers and involve a less destructive strategy. A vicious circle is thereby set up: the more terrible we paint Soviet capabilities, the more we confirm our predilection for an all-out strategy. But the more fearful the consequences of our strategy, the more reluctant will the political leadership be to invoke it. In every crisis, we are obliged to gear our measures to the availability of forces instead of having in advance geared our forces to the most likely danger. And even with respect to the forces which we have available our hesitations are multiplied because the services do not agree among themselves about strategy either for limited or for total war, but particularly for the former.
The temptation in planning strategy is to substitute power for conception, to identify doctrine with the maximum development of strength. But a basic change in the nuclear age is that victory in an all-out war has lost its traditional meaning. With conventional technology, the side which could mount a superior offensive effort would generally retain a sufficient margin to impose its will. In a thermonuclear war, on the other hand, a superior offensive effort may prove strategically insignificant because even the weaker side may be able to inflict a degree of destruction which no society can support. The doctrinal challenge of the nuclear age is therefore the ability to use force with discrimination and to establish political goals in which the question of national survival is not involved in every issue. Strategic doctrine can no longer confine itself to the problem of providing the weapons for war; it must also relate them to the purpose of war.
Against the ominous background of thermonuclear devastation, the goal of war can no longer be military victory as we have known it. Rather it should be the attainment of certain specific political conditions which are fully understood by the opponent. The purpose of limited war is to inflict losses or to pose risks for the enemy out of proportion to the objectives under dispute. The more moderate the objective, the less violent the war is likely to be. This does not mean that military operations cannot extend beyond the territory or objective in dispute; indeed, one way of increasing the enemy's willingness to come to terms is to take away from him something which he can regain only by making peace. But it does mean that the conduct of a limited war cannot depend on military considerations alone; it must reflect an ability to harmonize political and military objectives. A "purely" military decision in a limited war is therefore a contradiction in terms.
A war between major Powers can remain limited only if at some point one of the protagonists prefers a limited defeat to an additional commitment of resources or if both sides are willing to settle for a stalemate in preference to an assumption of continued risk. In either case, however, the protagonists retain the physical ability to increase their commitment. To the extent that both sides do increase their commitment the war will gradually expand until one or both Powers reach the limit of their physical resources--until the war has become total. To the extent that only one side is willing to run greater risks it gains an advantage. The ability to conduct a limited war depends therefore on an understanding of the psychology by which the opponent calculates his risks and on the ability to present him at every point with an opportunity for a settlement that appears more favorable than would result if the war were continued.
With a doctrine of limited war, many of the long cherished notions of warfare will have to be modified or abandoned. One of the cardinal principles of air strategy is that wars can be won only by dominating the air space completely. But any attempt to deprive an enemy of his retaliatory force would inevitably bring on all-out war. Confronted by the prospect that it will be completely impotent once its retaliatory force has been destroyed, a Power will almost certainly decide to use it to deprive its opponent of the means to impose his will. Thus the minimum condition for limiting war will be the immunity of the enemy's retaliatory forces.
Even control of the air over a combat zone will be increasingly irreconcilable with a policy of limited war, particularly if control requires deep penetration of enemy territory. For the enemy is likely to interpret any deep penetration as an approaching attack on his retaliatory force. In any war between major nuclear Powers, sanctuary areas immune to attack will be almost essential.
Limited war cannot be conceived as a small all-out war characterized by a series of uninterrupted blows mounting in intensity until the opponent's will is broken. On the contrary, it is important to develop a concept of military operations conducted in phases which permit an assessment of the possibilities for settlement at each stage before recourse is had to the next phase of operations. Paradoxical as it may seem in the jet age, strategic doctrine should address itself to the problem of slowing down, if not the pace of military operations, at least the rapidity with which they succeed each other. We must never forget that henceforth the purpose of strategy must be to affect the will of the enemy, not to destroy him, and that war can be limited only by presenting the enemy with an unfavorable calculus of risks. This requires pauses for calculation. Every campaign should be conceived as a series of self-contained phases, each of which implies a particular political objective, and with a sufficient interval between them to permit the application of political and psychological pressures.
Therefore, it will also be necessary to give up the notion that direct diplomatic contact ceases when military operations begin. Rather, direct contact is essential to ensure that both sides possess as much information as possible about the consequences of expanding a war and are able to present political formulas for a settlement. To the degree that diplomacy produces alternatives to expanding a conflict it will inhibit the decision to run greater risks. To the extent that military operations can be conducted in stages, it will give an opportunity for an evaluation of the circumstances which make a settlement advisable. Not the least of the paradoxes of the nuclear age may be that lack of secrecy may actually assist in the conduct of military operations, and that in a period of the most advanced technology battles will approach the stylized contests of the feudal period which were as much a test of will as a trial in strength.
Such a change in traditional notions of warfare will not be simple to bring about. On closer examination it may even prove technically impossible. But the discouraging aspect of so much of our thinking about strategy is its refusal to admit that the new technology requires a new order of tactics. Instead we tend to add nuclear weapons to existing strategy as merely a more efficient explosive. This will not only produce appalling casualities; it also may not be adequate to the challenges we will confront. Any progress in our manner of conducting war must therefore be preceded by a doctrinal revolution. We must recognize the new strategy conceptually before we can explore its technical feasibility. It is, to be sure, a tremendous task, but history will not excuse the inadequacy of the response by the vastness of the challenge.
Among the obstacles to an adequate response is the organization of our military establishment. To develop a strategic doctrine requires an administrative structure which leads officers to reflect spontaneously about questions of over-all concern throughout their careers. And this is impossible as long as there exists a division of functions among our services which is growing increasingly arbitrary. A strategy utilizing missiles is not necessarily analogous to air strategy because missiles fly through the air, any more than a 1,500-mile missile is a tactical weapon because it is fired like an artillery projectile.
It may well be that the separation of the Army and the Air Force in 1948 occurred two decades too late and at the precise moment when the distinction between ground and air strategy was becoming obsolete. Instead of making the Army Air Corps independent it would probably have been sounder to mix the two organizations more thoroughly. The separation of the two services was achieved to the detriment of both; different service academies, training schools and war colleges inevitably emphasize a particular aspect of strategy instead of an over-all doctrine in which traditional distinctions should be disappearing, in which the Army should begin to approach the mobility of the Air Force and the Air Force to develop the relative discrimination of ground warfare.
It would still be the wisest course to move in the direction of a single service initially by amalgamating the Army and the Air Force. The strategic problems of the Navy may remain sufficiently distinct not to require integration and in any case resistance to complete unification in the Navy would be so bitter as to obviate its advantages. A unified service with a single system of service schools would force officers at a formative stage of their careers into a framework less narrowly addressed to the concerns of a particular service.
Complete unification among the services is probably out of the question. The persistence of bureaucratic forms and the traditions from which each service derives its strength would insure overwhelming resistance to the concept of a single uniform and a single system of service schools. It may even be that a single service would be too unwieldy and would still require a subdivision according to the strategic tasks which have to be performed. It may therefore be best to begin reorganization by creating two basic commands, each representing a clearly distinguishable strategic mission. The Army, Navy and Air Force would continue as administrative and training units, much as the training commands within the various services function today. But for all other purposes two basic organizations would be created: the Strategic Force and the Tactical Force. The Strategic Force would be the units required for all-out war; it would include the Strategic Air Command; the Air Defense Command; those units of the Army required to protect overseas bases; and the units of the Navy which are to participate in the retaliatory attack. The Tactical Forces would be the Army, Air Force and Navy units required for limited war. The Strategic Forces would probably be under Air Force command, the Tactical Forces under an Army officer. The training and doctrine of each Force should be uniform and its officers should attend the same technical and service schools. The schools would continue to be administered by a parent service but the curriculum and student body should be determined by the Force commander.
Such a division would reflect the realities of the strategic situation. While the Tactical Forces might be required in an all-out war and for such a purpose would come under the command of the Strategic Forces, the Strategic Forces should not be utilized for limited war and should be as self-contained as possible even for all-out war. The strategic striking force is the chief deterrent against all-out war; it must therefore be reserved for this contingency. This is particularly important during a limited war, because to the extent that our retaliatory force was expended in such a conflict, the enemy would lose his incentive for keeping the war limited. An aggressor who could tempt us to utilize our strategic striking force for limited war would gain a strategic advantage, however military operations ended. For to the extent that our retaliatory force suffered attrition in a limited war, our ability to deter the enemy from all-out war would be reduced--and thereby the sanction for keeping the war limited. To consider our strategic striking force as a dual-purpose force will weaken the deterrent to all-out war precisely when it should be strongest.
Moreover, the nature of the weapons, the planning and the concept of operations differ radically between forces useful for all-out war and those which should be ready for limited war. The weapons system for all-out war is designed to inflict maximum destruction in the shortest possible time. The weapons system for a limited war, on the other hand, should be flexible and discriminating. In an all-out war the targets are known in advance, in fact each crew of the Strategic Air Command is training for a specific Soviet target all the time. Everything depends, therefore, on the efficiency with which the plan for all-out war can be implemented. In a limited war neither the locale of the conflict nor the targets can be determined in advance. Everything here depends on the rapidity with which planning can adjust to a developing situation.
The strategic problem in limited war is to apply graduated amounts of destruction for limited objectives and also to permit the necessary breathing-spaces for political contacts. Hence a weapons system for limited war is basically different from a retaliatory force. Limited wars require units of high mobility and considerable firepower which can be quickly moved to trouble spots and which can bring their power to bear with discrimination. The capability for rapid deployment is crucial. For given the power of modern weapons and the speed of movement of military units everything depends on seizing a position as rapidly as possible because it will be very difficult to dislodge an enemy once he has become established. Since aggression is unlikely to occur unless the aggressor doubts either the capability or the willingness of its opponent to intervene, the ability to get into position rapidly even with relatively small forces can serve as a gauge of the determination to resist and contribute to the reestablishment of an equilibrium before either side becomes too heavily committed.
The division of our forces into a Strategic and a Tactical Force would reflect the real nature of the strategic problem we confront: the necessity of being protected against all-out war as the prerequisite of all other measures and the capability to fight limited war as the form of conflict where the cost is commensurate with the issues actually under dispute.
In such an organization, too, the Joint Chiefs of Staff would change their character. They would be composed of a Chairman, the Chief of the Tactical Forces, the Chief of the Strategic Forces, the Chief of Naval Operations (to represent operations such as anti-submarine warfare which do not fit into any of the above categories). Such a group would in its very nature be more oriented towards doctrine than the present Joint Chiefs of Staff. The Chief of each Force would represent an integrated strategic mission and not a means of locomotion. Since service chiefs would continue to administer the traditional services, the Chief of each Force would be freed of many of the routine problems of administration which, as Admiral Radford pointed out before the Symington Committee, make the Chairman the only member of the present group who can give his full attention to problems of over-all strategy.
The advantage of the proposed organization for the conduct of military operations is demonstrated by the fact that joint commands reflecting the same basic concept have been set up in every recent war in which we have been engaged. The new organization would create in peacetime the structure which the requirements of combat would impose on us in any case. To be sure, there would be a possibility of the same contest over appropriations as now between the Chiefs of the Strategic and the Tactical Force. And there would be the same temptation to invent doctrine to support budgetary requests. But with each Force representing a distinguishable strategic mission, self-interest and requirements of strategic doctrine would be in harmony.
In attempting to channel military thought towards doctrine, it would be desirable, however, to relieve some of the pressure inherent in the almost incessant process of either preparing, negotiating or justifying budgets. A great deal would be gained by an extension of the budget cycle for defense appropriations to a period of two years. Thus the military budget would coincide with the term of the House of Representatives. And, as we have seen, many of the essential commitments for major procurement of necessity extend over several years.
To be sure, in its initial stages such a procedure might sharpen inter-service rivalries because commitments would now be more fundamental. But bringing the inter-service disputes to a head would produce healthy consequences in the long run. The failure to resolve current doctrinal disagreements and the pretense of harmony at each budgetary hearing cause the conflict to rage by subterfuge, by planned leaks to newspapers or to Congressmen. A two-year budgetary cycle would free the service chiefs from the constant pressure of short-term considerations; it might encourage planning to turn from the essentially defensive task of justifying force levels to the consideration of the purpose of those forces.
With the emergence of an agreed strategic doctrine within the Department of Defense, the whole process of formulating security objectives within the Executive Branch would gain in balance. An explicit Department of Defense position would then confront the fiscal position. With a better structure for producing strategic decisions and a longer interval between budget hearings (the latter, though helpful, is not essential), inter-service disputes would lose a great deal of their intensity. Doctrine could then be built on the only sound basis: a concept of the nature and the possible goals of war.
In the absence of a generally understood doctrine, our actions will of necessity prove haphazard; conflicting proposals will compete with each other without an effective basis for their resolution. Each problem, as it arises, will seem novel and energies will be absorbed in analyzing its nature rather than in seeking solutions. Our services will find it impossible to make a meaningful choice among the mass of new weapons with which their research and development programs will soon overwhelm them. We will continue to cede the initiative to others and our course will become increasingly defensive.
Many of our problems in the postwar period have been produced by our failure to accept the doctrinal challenge. We have tended to ascribe our standards of reasonable behavior to the Soviet leaders; we have had difficulty in defining our purposes in relation to the revolutionary forces loose in the world. Above all, we have had a penchant for considering our problems as primarily technical and to confuse strategy with the maximum development of power.
One of the paradoxical lessons of the nuclear age is that at the moment when we are acquiring an unparalleled command over nature, we are forced to realize as never before that the problems of survival will have to be solved above all in the minds of men. In this task the fate of the mammoth and the dinosaur may serve as a warning that brute strength does not always supply the mechanism in the struggle for survival.
[i] U.S. Senate, Study of Airpower, Hearings before the Subcommittee on the Air Force of the Committee on Armed Services, 84th Cong., 2nd Sess. (Washington: G.P.O., 1956), p. 1840.
[ii]Ibid., p. 1285.