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The attitude of the American public toward its Armed Forces, especially the Army, has undergone a revolutionary change in the past ten years or so. Although, in the course of our history, we have fought eight major wars and dozens of minor ones, it has heretofore been implicit in our people's thinking that peace, and peace with safety, is the norm of human existence, and war or the danger of war a freakish exception to the intended order of things. Our past military policy, insofar as we may be said to have had one, reflected this naive habit of thought. In periods of peace the Army was maintained in a skeleton form, essentially as a “cadre." It considered itself lucky if it could obtain enough men and money to keep going even in cadre form. On the outbreak of war there would be a sudden huge expansion, with its concomitant confusion, inefficiency, and waste of money!. As the war progressed the new levies would learn their trade, often in the school of the battlefield where tuition arges are high. At the end of the war we would have a well trained and up-to-date Army. Then the voters would decide that there was no longer a great
need for one, and the cycle of deflation would begin all over again.
The rise of Communist imperialism, with an announced program of world conquest, has ended such unrealistic national thinking. Every intelligent American knows today that his nation's safety, and perhaps his own life, depend on maintaining permanently in being the best manned, best equipped, and best trained Armed Forces that money, brains, and devotion can produce. And he is ready to pick up the check.
Therefore it has at last become possible for the leaders of our Army (as of its sister Services, the Navy and the Air Force) to enunciate a clear, concrete, and long-term policy of national defense; to state what principles must guide the Army, what are its basic missions, and what must be done to accomplish them; and to work systematically toward their accomplishment, with reasonable assurance that the Administration, Congress, and the nation as a whole will continue to back them and give them the tools to do the job.
Below I have set forth briefly my understanding of the Army's currentlyaccepted missions, principles, and policies.
We and Soviet Russia each possess weapons which, if used without limit in an all-out atomic war, could produce mutual devastation. In such a war, victory in the true sense would be impos
sible for either participant. Obviously, then, “the primary purpose of all military activities bearing on security is to prevent general atomic war.
1 This sentence needs qualifcation with respect to our entry into World War II, since the then Administration had foreseen the possibility of our involvement, and had started military preparations well in advance.
2 What follows is based on various contemporary unclassified documents. Parts of it are quotations from, or Da raphrases of, the biennial report of the Chief of Staff, U. S. Army (General Maxwell Taylor), dated 30 June 1957, to the Secretary of the Army (hereinafter referred to as the ""Taylor Report") which was published in the “Army Information Digest" of September, 1957. I have also made use of the published reports of some recent public speeches by the same officer.
8 Taylor Report, D. 4; Italics mine.
However, this is only one part of the picture. Even if the Communist empires attacked us without provocation or warning, we would still be capable of immediate retaliation on a scale that would destroy them. Therefore, while all-out war remains a threat and a grave one, it is for the present unlikely that the other side will deliberately start one; and it is quite certain that we shall not.
But it does not follow that there is any present indication of an end to Communist aggression. Quite the contrary. It is the nature of such militant dictatorships to be always on the march, to feed on dynamism. Accordingly, in the absence of a general atomic war, we may expect continuing attempts at limited aggression, either by subversion, by military force, or by a combination of the two.
That sort of thing has in fact been going on since 1946, when-in response to a popular clamor for “bringing the boys home"-we cut our Armed Forces to the bone, and thereby became a nation charged with the leadership of the free world but without the means of exercising it. This was a signal for world Communism to resume its march. Communist-inspired civil war, guerrilla warfare, riots, and other disturbances broke out in China, Indochina, Egypt, India, Greece, the Netherlands East Indies, and elsewhere. The program has continued to the present day. Since World War II ended there have been fourteen small wars; and in eight of them the Communists have been directly involved.
Such a program of limited aggression cannot be prevented by the massive atomic power which we have created as a deterrent to an all-out attack on ourselves and our Allies. It went on visibly, in fact, in the years when we had a monopoly of such power. And it is an exceedingly dangerous program. In the first place, there is always the possibility of a local and limited conflict expanding into a general war. Even if this does not occur, successive limited Communist gains could lead to the "piecemeal erosion of the free world,
whose nations might either be absorbed into the Communist system or seek refuge in neutralism, leaving us isolated. Finally, the continued success of such a program might persuade our antagonists of our impotence, and thereby encourage them to make an all-out attack.
Accordingly, while the first task of our Armed Forces is to prevent a general war, a second and very vital task is to deter the Communist powers from instigating limited and local aggressive moves; or, if they are made, to defeat them quickly and decisively. And the task of dealing with such "brush fire wars” is peculiarly one for the Army to handle.
From these basic requirements can be logically deduced the kind of Army we must have today. It requires five categories of forces: those involved in continental defense against air attack; those deployed overseas; the Strategic Army Corps in the United States; the reserves; and the training and other personnel who assist allied and friendly nations to improve the efficiency of their own armed forces.
Continental defense-the assurance of our nation's safety against a direct attack by planes or missiles—is outstandingly important. It involves achieving and maintaining technological superiority over the Communist bloc; using that superiority to create a powerful arsenal of atomic weapons, and the means of delivering them on a devastating scale against targets in an aggressor's country; and preventing an enemy from wrecking the delivery system before it could be set in motion, thus crippling our own country.
For the present, a large-scale retaliatory attack against an aggressor would be primarily the task of the Strategic Air Command and of the airplane carriers and missile-launching vessels of the Navy. The Army's major contribution to continental defense in this sense is the Army Air Defense Command, which operates as an element of the overall North American Air Defense Command. Its Nike missile batteries, which surround many of our major cities and industrial areas, would be
4 Taylor Report, page 4,