If the free nations want a certain kind of world, they will have to fight for it, with courage, money, diplomacy -- and legions. [1]

A nation that does not prepare for all forms of war should then renounce the use of war in national policy. A people that does not prepare to fight should then be morally prepared to surrender. [2]


America is not accustomed to political exploitation of military success. We carry the burden of Napoleonic strategy firmly established since the Civil War. [3] The decision was to be made on the field of battle with the statesmen merely formalizing a "fait accompli." I realize this is an oversimplification, but it does serve to illustrate what I believe is a flaw in the American approach to world violence.

We are living at a time when violence or threats of violence have permeated the very fabric of our lives. Never before have so many people lived in an environment so charged with the imminence of violence. As a nation or a community of nations we will always be faced with the possibility, if not the probability, of violence in some form -- spontaneous or premeditated. We must be prepared to respond in order to limit the collateral effects of violence. Most of the people of the world live with the specter of a nuclear holocaust which threatens to engulf them and destroy their way of life. Much has been written about the horrors of nuclear war, and the balance sheets of the statisticians tally cities by the tens and lives by the millions. More than ever, each of us, as an individual, is immediately concerned with conditions which might precipitate violence on this horrific scale. If there is one word or concept which captures the essence of our desires, it is the word control. "Control is what separates senseless violence from the purposeful use of force." [4] This, then, becomes the objective of our actions. We seek control in all areas of social interaction in the belief that if we have control we can gain our objectives without undue risk. Control, as I am using the term here, does not necessarily mean dominance -- it simply means an ability to positively affect action. Thus, in terms of the violence extant throughout the world, we seek to control it in order to limit its collateral effects.

How, then, can we control violence? What are the means at our disposal, and who has the authority to legitimately employ these means? In terms of domestic violence we have a body of law which can sanction and an instrument of the state which can use violence to control violence. "While violence breeds violence it can also act as a vaccine." [5] Our state and municipal police forces are the legitimate means of force used to maintain domestic control. Recent experience in the form of "strikes" and sick-outs" have demonstrated, albeit painfully, the result of not having the means to control violence. In the international arena where violence has been endemic we do not have an effective means of international control. "For where the power of law ceases, there war begins." [6] As a result, nations must depend on themselves or on powerful allies to insure their survival in the face of the aggressive forces of violence.

Since the dawn of time, men have competed with each other -- with clubs, crossbows, or cannon, dollars, ballots, and trading stamps... Anyone who says there will be no competition in the future simply does not understand the nature of man. [7]

The fiercest kind of competition is that in which one's continued existence is at stake. Oftentimes intense competition has been manifested in overt confrontation and violence. These primal struggles have taken a myriad of forms; however most can be classified as armed conflict. Thus, war in all its various manifestations may be viewed as a violent struggle with each side attempting to control or annihilate the other. In the context of a struggle, the concept of balance is crucial to understanding the application of force in the form of combat power. "The same Clausewitz who argued that the psychological unbalancing of the enemy is the most important factor in victory totally ignores this factor when discussing the principle of mass. Tragically, it has been his fate to be primarily associated with cataclysmic war and senseless slaughter, rather than with skillful strategems aimed not at the physical but at the psychological defeat of the enemy." [8] Balance or "equilibrium," [9] as used here, is dynamic and must always be viewed in relative terms. Furthermore, it can be grounded in two areas-- physical and psychological. Physical balance may be viewed as an objective reality; whereas, psychological balance is based on a perceived reality. For example, two boxers may be objectively measured by standards applied to their relative physical attributes; however, their psychological balance is difficult to measure. It may be understood as a created perception of reality which is accepted by the one holding it. The process by which the perception is created is essentially based on an interpretation of sense data, logical deduction, and, to some extent, intuition. [10] Thus, a sense of psychological balance is based on one's perception of reality which may or may not accurately reflect the objective reality. This is a crucial issue in that it is here that one's sense of balance may be manipulated and, in competitive situations, it often is.

In the "foq" of war a clear perception of the situation is often lacking, and the participants are vulnerable to being manipulated. [11] Violence in the form of combat is usually begun with both sides having some sense of balance and continues until one side or the other loses its balance-- physical, psychological, or both; or, there is a mutual recognition that an imbalance cannot be achieved through the use of force. Usually during the latter stages of the conflict the protagonists enter into a dialogue, during which they agree on a reality. Historically this has been the case; however, in recent times there has been a reticence on the part of protagonists to arrive at a consensus.

"War" and "military strategy" are concepts which have been defined and studied throughout recorded history. [12] For my purposes, however, I will use Grotius' definition of war "...war is the state of contending parties..." [13] and add that it is a violent state. "War is thus a type of violence." [14] "Strategy is the comprehensive direction of all the elements of power to control situations and areas in order to attain objectives." [15] Furthermore, "The understanding of power and force and their effective use is critical to the understanding of strategy. [16] The formulation of strategy is extremely important in that it specifies the opponent and provides a purpose for using violence. Strategy, therefore, provides the definition of victory [17] --national survival (a state of balance), or domination of the opponent (a state of imbalance). By the same token, it defines defeat. For example, the French grounded themselves in the Maginot line prior to World War II. "They had hoped to sit behind the Maginot Line and let the Germans batter themselves senseless .... " [18] In a sense, in by-passing it the Germans created a defeat according to the French definition. Our public commitment to a forward defense in Central Europe may in fact, be defining victory and defeat for us. "On this calculation, the Warsaw Pact peacetime force is enough to make a breakthrough likely if peacetime NATO forces are deployed forward, with only the two French divisions and the Canadian brigade as reserves." [19] "...NATO's forward forces should not be designed to resist Pact attacks without giving ground-- this reguirement can never be met against a force of comparable size designed for penetration of a narrow main attack sector." [20] (Emphasis added.)

It is in the formation of military strategy that the interface between the military and civilian leaders takes place. "Politically, we must insure that our civilian leadership is fully informed of the capabilities and limitations of our military power. Part of the problem in the past was that our civilian leaders were misled by our failure to tell them the hard truths, the unpleasant realities, our shortcomings as well as our strengths." [21] However, the primary responsibility for the formation of strategy in our democratic society rests squarely with civilian leadership. "In its fuller meaning, strategy is defined as the art of mobilizing and directing the resources of a nation or community of nations--including the armed forces--to safeguard and promote its interests against those of its enemies actual or potential." [22] (Emphasis added.)

Vietnam is a perfect example of the political leadership not understanding the instrument of violence and, therefore, using it inappropriately and not exploiting battlefield success. Battles were won, but the war was lost. As in all wars the defeat was ultimately moral rather than physical. "...defeat results not from loss of life, save indirectly and partially, but from loss of morale." [23] Military objectives were achieved; however, they were not exploited by the American political leaders to attain more important political objectives. Indeed, some have argued that there were no clear political objectives. "While the 'objective' was repeatedly stated by the President and Secretary of State, it was never done so in terms that would produce conceptual unity in the conduct of operations." [24] If we accept the Clausewitzian view that war is a continuation of political intercourse [25] and that battle is a means of continuing that intercourse, [26] it should be recognized that success at the lower level may not always achieve the result desired on the higher level. Military objectives must support the political objectives "for they are only the means to a political end," [27] and the political leaders must understand the instrument they are using in order to be able to exploit the success which results from its use. Furthermore, it must be understood that war, in essence, is "the state of contending parties" [28] in which the involved parties intend to use violence in order to establish control, for "the aim of war is some measure of control over the enemy." [29]

The military power of a nation is the combined potential of all the services to actualize force in the form of combat power. Combat power, therefore, is the actual instrument which is used to gain control. Not all the potential military power of a nation may be actualized at any given time. For example, in Vietnam--"We were losing the political war and we did not have the power in usable form to invade North Vietnam." [30] The ultimate objective of combat power (if the intent is control) is the opponent's mind; more specifically, it is his perception of reality. "For the issue of any operation of war is decided not by what the situation actually is, but by what the rival commanders think it is." [31] If we can, we want to create a reality for the opponent that will allow us to control him. During non-violent periods political leaders attempt to create a reality that will convince a potential opponent not to resort to violence. The political approach usually assumes rationality;--To the rational actor, the availability and use of military force has utility only so long as expected gains exceed expected costs." [32] This rational "cost-benefit" approach is, of course, nothing new. Hugo Grotius, in 1634, wrote: "This is conformable to what was said by Augustus, that no war should be undertaken, but where the hopes of advantage could be (shewn) to overbalance the apprehensions of ruin." [33] The perception we hope to create, therefore, is that the potential opponent cannot win now-and, it must be remembered: "...the opponent's perception of one's commitment is decisive" [34]--but, that he may win at some time in the future. "In terms of policy, one would combine a strong military posture (LOSE NOW) with Machiavellian manipulation of Nation Y's 'Value of Peace' (WIN LATER)." [35] I wish to emphasize, of course, that this is a "created perception" and not the actual reality. "We would like the Soviets to perceive a WIN LATER outcome, although we naturally hope that reality is quite different from that perception." [36] If the opponent perceives a no-win situation now and no-win in the future, he may be willing to risk a possible loss now rather than a certain loss later. This created reality is the product of skillful political action which exploits our national strengths and the opponent's weaknesses. [37] Military power as a potential--that is, as potential combat power--is one of the tools the political leaders may use. [38] Admiral Arleigh A. Burke clearly understood the Soviet use of this tool: "They have shown--and they now show--a rare skill in the psychological use of good military strength. They have often gained their ends without having to commit their forces, and that is important." [39] When violence is imminent or has occurred, then actualized force--combat power--is used to achieve the degree of control desired. "Power must be recognized by others if it is to function, whereas force functions by itself." [40] In a violent environment the objective is still the opponent's perception of reality and, therefore, his mind. As always, the ultimate objective is control.

Let us turn now to a descriptive model of the violent instrument of political control - combat power.

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1. Fehrenbach, This Kind of War, p. 705. [ Return ]

2. Ibid., p. 701 [ Return ]

3. See Russell F. Weigley, The American Way of War: A History of United States Military Strategy, (New York: Macmillan Publishing Co., 1973). "Indian campaigns early encouraged the nation that the object of war is nothing less than the enemy's destruction as a military power. The Civil War tended to fix the American image of war from the 1860s into America's rise to world power at the turn of the century, and it also suggested that the complete overthrow of the enemy, the destruction of his military power, is the object of war." p. xiii. [ Return ]

4. Clarke, Strategy and Policy, p. 6. [ Return ]

5. B. H. Liddell Hart, The Revolution in Warfare,(London: Faber and Faber Ltd., 1946), p. 81. [ Return ]

6. Grotius, The Rights of War and Peace, p. 75. [ Return ]

7. Fehrenbach, This Kind of War, p. 704. [ Return ]

8. Clarke, Strategy and Policy, p. 59. [ Return ]

9. Wylie, Military Strategy, p. 88. [ Return ]

10. For a fuller discussion of how perceptions are formed, especially in international relations, see: Robert Jervis, "Hypotheses on Misperception," World Politics, No. 20, 3, 1968, p 454-479. This point--that it is "perceived" reality which forms the basis of our decisions and thus our actions--is made by Luttwak. See Edward N. Luttwak, The Political Uses of Sea Power, (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974), p. 39. [ Return ]

11. A classic example of this was provided during the Battle off Samar, October 1944--"...the overmatched Americans managed to put three of Kurita's cruisers into sinking condition and luckily kept him convinced that he was facing battleships and fleet carriers. At 9:11 A.M. he lost his nerve and turned back toward San Bernardino Strait." Russell Weigley, The American Way of War, p. 303-304. For a complete discussion of this action see Samuel Eliot Morison, History of United States Naval Operations in World War II: Leyte, June 1944-January 1945, (Boston: Little, Brown and company, 1958). "Thus, partly from what he knew, but still more from what he imagined, Kurita reached the conclusion that his prospects in Leyte Gulf were both thin and grim, and that he had better save the rest of his fleet, possibly to fight another day." p. 300. [ Return ]

12. Some have argued that it has not been studied enough: "The study of war as a branch of knowledge, requires the method of work that prevails in a University as well as the attitude of mind which is inculcated there. But it is not likely that these needs will be fulfilled until men of learning change their attitude of mind towards war, and learn to regard it as a branch of knowledge worthy of exploration," B. H. Liddell Hart, The Ghost of Napoleon, (London: Faber and Faber Limited, 1933), p. 146. [ Return ]

13. Grotius, The Rights of War and Peace, p. 18. [ Return ]

14. Quincy Wright, A Study of War, abridged by Louise Leonard, Wright, (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1964), p. 18. [ Return ]

15. Henry E. Eccles, Military Concepts and Philosophy, (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1965), p. 257. [ Return ]

16. Henry E. Eccles, "The Basic Elements of Strategy," B. Mitchell Simpson III, ed., War, Strategy, and Maritime Power, p. 74. [ Return ]

17. For an interesting criticism of the American approach to victory see, Andre Beaufre, "The Disease of Victory." See also, B. H. Liddell Hart, Strategy, (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, Second Revised Edition, 1968). "Victory in the true sense implies that the state of peace, and of one's people, is better after the war than before." p. 370. [ Return ]

18. Martin Blumenson and James L. Stokesbury, Masters of the Art of Command, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, p. 31. [ Return ]

19. Robert Lucas Fischer, Defending the Central Front: The Balance of Forces, (London: The International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1976), Adelphi Paper No. 127, p. 26. [ Return ]

20. Ibid., p. 37. [ Return ]

21. General Fred C. Weyand and Lieutenant Colonel Harry G. Summers, Jr., "Serving the People--The Need for Military Power," in U.S. Department of the Army, National Security, Military Power and the Role of Force in International Relations, (Washington: U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1976), p. 169-170. [ Return ]

22. D. K. Palit, The Essentials of Military Knowledge, (Dehradun, India: E B D Publishing and Distributing Co., 1967), p. 87. [ Return ]

23. Hart, Thoughts on War, p. 48. [ Return ]

24. Henry E. Eccles, "The Vietnam Hurricane," Shipmate, July/August, 1973, p. 25. [ Return ]

25. Carl von Clausewitz, On War, edited with an introduction by Anatol Rapport (Baltimore, Maryland: Penguin Books Inc., 1968). "...War is nothing but a continuation of political intercourse, with a mixture of other means." p. 402. James E. King stresses the importance of the word 'with' as opposed to some earlier translations which used the word 'by'. "In English usage, the preposition 'by' permits, even suggests, replacement or substitution while the preposition 'with' (even when not qualified by 'the addition of') clearly connotes a supplementation, an additional component." See, James E. King, Clausewitz: Master Theorist of War," Naval War College Review, Fall 1977, p. 30. [ Return ]

26. Clausewitz, On War, ed. by Anatol Rapport, p. 241. "Strategy is the employment of the battle to gain the end of the War; it must therefore give an aim to the whole military action..." [ Return ]

27. B. H. Liddell Hart, "The Objective in War: National Objective and Military Aim," Naval War College Review, December 1952, p. 1. [ Return ]

28. Grotius, The Rights of War and Peace, p. 18. [ Return ]

29. Wylie, Military Strategy, p. 79. [ Return ]

30. Eccles, "The Vietnam Hurricane," p. 26. [ Return ]

31. Hart, Thoughts on War, p. 145. [ Return ]

32. Klaus Knorr, "On the International Uses of Military Force in the Contemporary World," Orbis, Spring 1977, p. 6. [ Return ]

33. Grotius, The Rights of War and Peace, p. 284. [ Return ]

34. Clarke, Strategy and Policy, p. 218. [ Return ]

35. Michael E. Brown, Deterrence Failures and Deterrence Strategies, The Rand Corporation, Santa Monica, California, 1977, p. 23. [ Return ]

36. Ibid., p. 22. [ Return ]

37. For an example of how the United States might do this see Edward Luttwak, "Perceptions of Military Force and U.S. Defense Policy," Survival, Jan/Feb 1977, p. 8. "The idea would be to augment the political "output" of existing force structures and modes of deployment by enhancing the images of power they generate, and by overcoming their perceptually negative features. Elements of such a policy would range from, say, detailed and repeated explanations of the vast difference between Soviet and United States army divisions, to the systematic exposure of elite observers to suitable U.S. capabilities-in-action, and even the upward redesignation of combat formations." As Luttwak points out there are already indications of this taking place. For example, the "recent redesignation of U.S. Navy warships." [ Return ]

38. For an example of how the Soviet Union has manipulated our perceptions see Herbert Goldhamer, "The US-Soviet Strategic Balance as Seen from London and Paris," Survival, Sept/Oct 1977, p. 206. "In 1956 Marshal Zhukov told Hansen Baldwin of the New York Times that the United States overestimated Soviet strategic air strength. This statement, so out of character for a Soviet spokesman, coincided with the visit of General Twining, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, to Moscow, and it seems likely, given the unimpressive show that the Soviet Union put before Twining and his party, that their behaviour was intended to get the United States to lower her estimate of Soviet strategic air capabilities and thereby to decrease the production of the B-52 (recently augmented due to the threat of Soviet aviation growth). B-52 production was in fact cut back after the Zhukov statement and the Twining visit." [ Return ]

39. Arleigh A. Burke, "The U.S. Navy's Role in General War and Conflict Short of General War," Naval War College Review, April 1959, p. 4. [ Return ]

40. Luttwak, "Perceptions of Military Force and U.S. Defense Policy," p. 4. [ Return ]