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Defense and Arms Control Studies Program

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Annual rept.

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It is less than five years since the Berlin Wall was breached and less than three since the Soviet Union collapsed. Thus no one should be surprised that the United States has yet to formulate a coherent defense strategy for itself, let alone organize a framework for cooperative security among the major nations of the world. For more than fifty years America maintained exceptionally large military forces, mobilized important portions of its industry and science for defense, and found cause to fight several major wars far from its shores. It is surely to be expected that the nation would want at least a brief respite from international responsibilities when the Cold War ended. But it is not just a collective desire for a vacation that delays the formulation of a coherent defense policy or the implementation of a design for world order. To begin with, we tend to exaggerate the role of formal planning in guiding our action during the Cold War or even the Second World War. In both conflicts the military believed that vastly more human and material resources were needed to meet the threat than elected officials dared to seek from the American public. As Carl Builder has pointed out, the persistent gap between proclaimed requirements and fieldable forces made a mockery of most planning efforts. Defense decisions were always as much the product of a struggle among bureaucracies for relative advantage and Congressional interests than they were an exercise in rational analysis. The wait then for a logical, finely calibrated strategy to be put in place when a threat on the scale of Fascism or Communism is absent will likely be a very long one indeed. A prerequisite for a post Cold War strategy, it would seem, would be a public consensus on Americas role in the world. Every war has its political lesson, the public consensus about the experience, that then guides future policy. The lesson at the end of the First World War was that the United States should avoid getting

Subject Categories:

  • Defense Systems
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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