President, Center for Naval Analyses
[Ed Note: Emphasis added]
Mr. Chairman, Admiral Trost, Admiral Long, Admirals, Dr. Bostrom, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, I thank you for inviting me to be with you today. And thank you for the kind introduction, Mr. Chairman.
This is the second time I have been asked to participate in activities of the Submarine League. I guess I haven’t been saying anything sufficiently outrageous. I’ll have to try harder! Admiral Rickover would be ashamed of me.
The last conversation I had with the Admiral was during my tour at the Naval War College. I had written a book review of the book, RICKOVER. The Admiral had noticed my review and had called me on the telephone to discuss it and other things. I knew he didn’t entirely disapprove of the review because he only chewed me out at half-speed rather than the usual Dank speed.
Toward the end of the conversation, he said to me, “The only thing that matters is the material condition of the ship, don’t you agree?” It was a line he had tried on me before. I was ready. I replied, “No, Admiral, I don’t agree with that. The material condition of ships is obviously important, but so, for example, is the tactical employment of the ship, and so is the concept of operations for the fleet of which the ship is a part. These are also important.”
Well, the admiral turned up the decibel level on me. “NON-SENSEI,” he yelled. “It is the material condition that matters.” “Admiral,” I said, “why don’t you come to the War College for a day? It would be an honor to host you, and we could talk about this.
“NO!,” he shouted, “I’ve never been to the War College and I am never going!” He slammed the telephone down in my ear.
I made a vow that day: hereafter to take every opportunity to lecture submariners about everything except the material condition of ships! So here I am, fulfilling that vow. (I hope the Admiral isn’t listening!)
Admiral Kauderer asked me to give my views today on the geopolitical and military environment and its impact on the Navy. I shaD try to fulfill that commission.
The facts of the international environment are well-known and, by and large, not in dispute. What is in dispute in our country is the question: How much should we care?
The collapse of communism, the dissolution of the Soviet empire, and the ending of the Warsaw Pact, are matters for great rejoicing. They happened so quickly, however, they caught us off balance. We were (and are) unprepared for victory.
One consequence of this victory is a national debate, simmering this year but inevitably heating up after the election, about America’s role in the world. It is a debate we should welcome. Our democracy can have no enduring policy without consensus, and no consensus without debate. So we should not shy from the debate, but encourage it and put forward our best arguments in support of it.
In many ways, our present situation resembles the immediate post World War II years. There was vigorous debate then about America’s role and a consensus emerged in support of the containment policy. That consensus proved powerful and enduring. Whatever deficiencies we Americans have in conceiving and executing a steady foreign policy, however high the decibel level of debate during the last forty-odd years, the policy of containment was widely and consistently supported, whoever was in the White House, whatever the composition of Congress, regardless of what else was happening in the world or within our society. We and our allies are now reaping the reward of that policy success.
The debate now, as the debate in the 1940s, is between advocates of strategic disengagement and advocates of strategic engagement, between those who define our national interests narrowly and those who define them broadly. It is an old dilemma.
There is muh sentiment in our country to let others stew in their own juice, as my grandfather frequently chose to put it, and in general to be skeptical about extensive involvement in international affairs.
Those advocating strategic disengagement are not saying the world will now be peaceful, or less tragic; they are saying that we shouldn’t care sufficiently to involve ourselves in overseas affairs in more than narrow, self-centered ways. We should stop meddling, they argue.
Some Americans on this side of the argument would have us draw back from Europe and Asia, politically and militarily, and concentrate our attention on domestic and trade issues, and organize our military entirely on defensive lines. Strategic defenses against ballistic missiles would have a high priority, but expeditionary forces would not The Navy would be deployed along the Atlantic coast and, in the Pacific, in American territory — Wake, Guam, Hawaii – with the capacity to sortie as necessary to defend ourselves or protect American citizens. In general we would have a small, stay-at-home military.
Other Americans in this same camp, less inclined to leave the world to stew in its juices, still want to avoid American involvement They argue that we can leave intervention to international institutions, particularly the United Nations, or to other nations who, they argue, have been getting a free financial ride during the Cold War. They too advocate a small, largely stay-at-home military at much lower cost.
There are two important differences between the 1940s and the 1990s that bear on this debate. The first and obvious is that in the earlier period a major threat to our security was increas-ingly manifest, and that threat is now gone. The second is that in the 1940s we were relatively rich, controlling then about 40% of the world’s gross national product, and now we are poor, or think ourselves poor, which comes to the same thing. These two differences, at least superficially, weigh on the side of those advocating strategic disengagement.
Of course, we are not poor. We are the richest nation on earth. But we have gotten ourselves in an awkward financial spot:
- We have accumulated in recent years a vast national debt approaching $3 trillion, requiring each year debt servicing of over $200 billion, heading toward $300 billion, and
- We have assumed we can have benefits at high levels and pay taxes at low levels, and in consequence each year we are spending more than we are earning, annually adding between $200 and $300 billion to our debt
This profligate behavior cannot be indefinitely sustained, but in the meantime it limits our options and strengthens the “Come home, America” line of argument
Furthermore, there are real domestic needs now insuffi-ciently financed that are vital to our future; problems like education and retraining that are essential to our long term economic welfare and the health of our society. These, too, weigh on the side of fewer international responsibilities.
So those of us who argue that America has important international interests that need to be articulated, advanced, defended, and therefore financed, will have an uphill argument to make when the debate gets hot and heavy in next year’s Congressional season. Nevertheless, it seems to me that strategic engagement is the right policy for the United States, and therefore needs to be argued. The interest we have in a stable, constructive world environment is great, and the dangers are real.
The collapse of the Soviet Union, warmly welcome, has created, as well as solved, problems. The governments in the various states emerging from the former Soviet empire are democratic and market oriented, but very weak. The Common-wealth of Independent States is an arrangement destined to fail, for it depends on cooperation among governments and peoples who deeply disagree on fundamental matters. A return to authoritarian rule in Russia and other CIS states, however unwanted, seems as likely a prospect as the success of the embryonic and undernourished democracies. Such a return cannot fail to harm our interests overseas, and at the extreme could refuel international competition in harmful and costly ways.
The present struggle between Russia and the Ukraine, as Paul Nitze recently observed, contesting the disposition of former Soviet military forces, and potentially control of the Crimea, and ultimately the independence of the Ukraine, poses dangers for European security generally. Already, there are now four nuclear powers on former Soviet territory, where a short time ago there was but one. Each of these nuclear powers has weapons sufficient to devastate if not destroy our country, and these nuclear weapons are in the hands of not-yet-stable governments. It is a cause for concern.
The world outside the former Soviet Union is also of interest to us. The stakes we have in the Middle East, for example, are large and long-standing, and the political circumstances there are no less difficult than they have been since World War II. The three Middle East conflicts – Arab vs. Israel, Arab vs. Persian, Arab vs. Arab – continue unabated. The peace negotiations between Israel and her neighbors are failing, Iran and Iraq are re-arming, Saddam Hussein is stiU in power, still as ruthless, and probably still as ambitious as ever. There is political and religious ferment in that part of the world, from Morocco in the west to Indonesia in the east, including central Asian portions of the former Soviet Union, that we do not sufficiently understand but which could have profound effect upon our interests. There is also the spread of nuclear weapons and other technologies that pose new dangers in that part of the world, as in other parts of the world. North Korea, for example. I won’t belabor the point. I simply say that in these circumstances of uncertainty and instability in the world, with considerable American political and economic interests at stake, strategic disengagement does not appear to many of us to be a wise course for the United States.
Strategic engagement will obviously have to be accom-plished at lower levels of resources. The hunt for the peace dividend will be in full flower next year. Indeed, everyone on both sides of the debate wants and expects some peace divi-dend, and it seems right that there be less defense spending when the principal threatening power bas collapsed. The principal question is: how much less?
It Is important that the Naval Services be well positioned for this coming debate. Strategically, naval forces are relatively more important that they were in the Cold War era. Naval forces, if forward deployed, will be on hand for deterrence and initial intervention, and for enabling the introduction of army and air forces, as well as other naval forces, and these are the tasks of the future world as we now see it.
Success in this new environment -well, not entirely new, but new enough – will require new attitudes and new approaches by Navy and Marine leadership, and these are beginning to emerge in useful ways. The CNO and the Commandant agreed at Quantico earlier this year that the naval services needed to focus on being successful In littoral warfare and on greater
integration of Navy and Marine forces, mainly for success in future battle but also to increase efficiency in the use of available resources. We haven’t yet defined our terms or specified our actions, and until we do there is reasonable skepticism in Congress about our intentions. But I am confi-dent the Navy and Marines can do this well. It seems essential to making the Navy case next year.
Tbe subject or joint operations is also gaining way. The work being done by the Navy leadership in the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets and in the Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean, to better understand the requirements and the opportunities for fighting integrated forces, and to increase Navy capacity to command and support joint operations, is another important step in the right direction. Also, the work of Admiral Owens, Sixth Fleet Commander, in developing new ways to cooperate with old allies in multilateral operations is very much in the spirit of the future.
These three new approaches — to joint and combined opera-tions, littoral operations, integrated operations – are right in themselves, and will strengthen the naval position in the coming debate.
They are not sumcient, however, as a description or all naval operations. It remains a very uncertain world, and we need to hedge against unlikely but, were they to occur, highly dangerous circumstances. This means we cannot walk away from strategic deterrence, for example, and the role of the SSBN in deterrence strategy. It also means we need to maintain the capacity for mobilizing and deploying in the event of future trouble on a broad scale. This applies particularly to the Army and Air Force, but it also applies to the Navy.
Ironically, in strategic terms, control of the sea is becoming more, not less, important, for as we bring our forces home the only way we can return in force if need be, is by having firm control of the sea. Desert Storm, for example, depended on control of the sea, and it doesn’t take much imagination to see now that control might have been threatened.
We need to maintain technological superiority in all vital areas of warfare. Submarines are obviously one such area, but there are others. Technological superiority increases the prospects for success in combat and reduces the number of casualties, both highly important objectives for Americans.
We also need to stay intellectually superior. By which I do not mean that Americans are intrinsically smarter than other folks, but that militacy leaders need to work hard to ensure the officers and petty officers stay on top of their militacy profes-sion, both in education and training. In this regard, we need to continue making better use of the war colleges and major centers of professional education for tomorrow’s naval leaders.
The rest of this decade will be a time of challenge and adjustment. It will be a time to make sure our naval forces fit and are sufficient for national purposes in the new environment.
Next year will be a year or defense debate, a debate that will be important to our country’s future. This year is the year to prepare for the debate. Preparing well Is an important responsibility.
One man who bad a leading role in the post World War ll strategic debate, and who has a leading and influential role in today’s post Cold War debate, is Ambassador Paul Nitze. Mr. Nitze gave the keynote address at the recent 50th Anniversacy Conference of the Center for Naval Analyses, and in that address he said:
“Now it is time to re-examine our long-standing, central strategic theme, and devise a new concept more appropriate to the changing future. But we should also ask ourselves whether our basic motivation shouldn’t remain unchanged. In 1947, we assumed the mantle of leadership because we felt it our moral obligation to use the great resources of our nation to help protect and improve the condition of all Today, as we stand alone as the sole remaining superpower, wouldn’t anything less be unworthy?’
Paul Nitze is a wise man. Those are wise words. They are good words to end on. Thank you.