The United States possessed the largest, most skilled, energetic armed force in the world. Within two years that massive force was gone; its citizen volunteers back on the farm and in the factories. The army and navy returned to traditional duties with their organizations nearly unchanged, although Congress added two infantry and two cavalry regiments of African Americans to the army (Millett and P. Maslowski, 1994).
Though, the Mexican War posed few problems, but the Civil War challenged the navy as much as it mystified the army. In spite of the evident flaws in the American military system, the United States won the Mexican War and prevailed again in 1865. Winfield Scott’s strategic leadership in the Mexico City campaign and the involvement of many junior officers who were West Point graduates gave the nation victory in 1847.For the remainder of the nineteenth century the army served the nation much as it had before 1860.
It served mainly in the trans-Mississippi west policing or subduing Native Americans. In a progression of campaigns beginning in 1866 and culminating in the late 1870s, soldiers broke the power of the Plains Indians and confined them to reservations. They repeated the development in the southwest in the early 1880s. As part of the effort to quell Native Americans the army assisted in the construction of the great transcontinental railroads.The army also continued to act as the nation’s police force. It faced frustration in imposing Reconstruction policy in the south and most soldiers welcomed relief from that failed experiment. As Reconstruction ended, however, the army suppressed uprising railroad workers in 1877, performed similar service throughout the 1894 Pullman strike, and intervened in lesser labor disruptions through the early 1900s.
On all other counts, postwar army life resembled an earlier era of routine garrison duty in small posts scattered across the nation.Naval service for twenty years after 1865 also replicated previous practice. The navy largely abandoned the iron hulled, steam powered ships acquired throughout the war and once again patrolled foreign stations in sail driven wooden ships. Given the nature of overseas duty it made some sense to rely on the more simply maintained wooden vessels in a time of great technological change. As the United States pursued a reactive foreign policy based on continental defense and noninvolvement in foreign wars the return to ante-bellum military and naval practice seemed logical in an era when the nation was blessed with the freest security in its history.The matter of military legal and political subordination to properly comprised civil political authority has long been a determined issue in American politics.
 Yet, the Cold War presented to U.S. policymakers as well as military planners some unanticipated and exceptional challenges.
 The Cold War U.S. military was qualitatively as well as quantitatively diverse from its predecessor. The following argument recognizes some of the most significant attributes of the Cold War U.S. armed forces and their political setting in terms of their implications for civil-military relations. These characteristics are bipolarity and U.
S.-Soviet hostility; nuclear weapons and joint deterrence; defense restructuring and developments in power control technology; the understanding of Vietnam and other cases of low-intensity conflict; and, lastly, the improvement of an all volunteer armed force. Several comments will also imagine the future international environment and its assertions for civil-military relations.The military preparedness movement (it had a naval twin) began as a product of the Progressive Era, when a little group of devoted officers and civilian administrators attempted to develop America’s small and outdated military institution and bring the armed services closer to the middle of American life.
The preparedness movement, Walter Millis has written, was “one of the most significant episodes in our long and usually unusual military history.” In the Edwardian years of peace and domestic reorganization, this effort had limited success. But the beginning of World War I in Europe, shattering the confidence of a generation, gave the proponents of defense a chance.
From reticent beginnings, preparedness flowered into a massive and exotic blossom.John F. Kennedy advocated flexible reaction during his presidential campaign. Once elected, Kennedy implemented the policy by raising defense spending, upgrading the intercontinental ballistic missile force, and expanding the Army. Deterrence remained at the heart of American policy, but flexible response appeared to give the United States options to ensure containment along a variety of violence but remain below the threshold of general or nuclear war.Kennedy rapidly encountered the complexities of great power conflict.
His first lesson came in April 1961, when the CIA sponsored Bay of Pigs incursion of Cuba, involving Cuban exiles hoping to oust Fidel Castro, failed dejectedly. America could not, so it seemed, contain Communism in its own backyard. Nuclear weapons were no option in dealing with Castro and neither was Theodore Roosevelt-style gunboat diplomacy. The Bay of Pigs failure suggested that a none-too-subtle covert operation did not give the answer either.
Kennedy had little choice but to recognize defeat and soldier bravely on .Confrontations with the Soviet Union and its leader Nikita Khrushchev over Berlin, then Cuba, illustrated concurrently the limits of America’s burgeoning power under the Kennedy defense upsurge and the possibility that Soviet-American disputes could escalate extremely close to nuclear war. The Berlin crisis of 1961-1962 led Kennedy to institute a limited reserve mobilization to demonstrate American firmness as the Soviets constructed a wall through the divided city. Next, the installation of medium range Soviet missiles armed with nuclear warheads in Cuba in 1962 precipitated a crisis which actually threatened nuclear war. A naval quarantine and last minute personal communications between Kennedy and Khrushchev defused the altercation.
But if the Cuban Missile Crisis tempered Kennedy’s confrontational impulses, his administration remained committed to stopping supposed Communist subversion and unconventional war in the Third World.Unlike its effort in World War II, American military policy throughout the Cold War years failed to produce total victory. In part that was due to a key constituent of policy, the avoidance of general war with the Soviet Union. The incessant advances in military technology, from missiles to shoulder weapons, and the numerous defense alliances within the two Cold War power blocs, however, suggested that even conformist warfare offered few promising uses of armed force as an instrument of national policy.
The so-called limited war in Korea, for example, generated more than one million military and civilian deaths.American national security policy was at a point of transition; rather than differing communism with traditional military methods, some of JFK’s advisers—and JFK himself—believed that the new battlefield would be partially an economic one, on which the country with the most industry and efficiency would triumph. This shift forced both liberals and conservatives to reformulate their strategies of fighting communism. The junction of the policy revision and world events brought about a perceptible shift in some Americans’ views of the government and what actions might best assist the situation.Conservatism, patently, can be said to be opposed to a kind of rebellion, admittedly the kind that has done much to shape history over several centuries, but still a kind. It is in favor of revolution of another kind, as well as of what would more simply be called revolution if it had other than military origins. Conservatism has often enough sought to instigate these things.
It is no more vigilant about dealing in blood than the rest of us, and not all that much out of practice. The revolutions it is for, and the counter-revolutions it is for, in so far as these are a matter of government, are sometimes bound to securing systems which are undemocratic or democratic to a lesser degree, sometimes directed to systems which are property preserving, and so on. As in the case of talk of constitutionalism, so with the Conservative cry against revolution. What it comes to is the sum of its other passions and doctrines concerning government, that it should be other or less than democratic, property-preserving, and so on (Charles Krauthammer, 1992).That is not all. These remarks will have been taken, obviously, as principally concerned with the attitudes of British, American and like Conservatives to revolutions or counter-revolutions in other places.
There is also the issue of the attitude of Conservatives towards constituted governments of their own nations. Burke, it is said, anticipated the coming of Napoleon, expected that the French Revolution would end in the rule of some popular general who would conciliate the soldiery, have the true spirit of command, and draw the eyes of all men upon him . What, we may ask, would he have anticipated if England after 1789 had gone some or all the way in the French direction, whether or not as the effect of revolution? Yet more to the point, what would he have welcomed had England gone some good way towards democracy of the probable kind indicated earlier? ‘A perfect democracy’, he wrote, would be despotism, ‘the most shameless thing in the world’ . Whether or not that shameless thing had in his view been arrived at constitutionally, would he not have welcomed a Napoleon, or at any rate a Cromwell, at least as a provisional expedient?There is still less room for doubt about some of his successors. Macaulay was noticed earlier for his want of enthusiasm for majority rule (p. 125). In the same letter of 1857 he laid out his convictions about the result of too much democracy.
… Institutions purely democratic must, sooner or later, destroy liberty or civilization, or both.
What happened lately in France is an example. In 1848 a pure democracy was established there. During a short time there was reason to expect a general spoliation, a national bankruptcy, a new partition of the soil, a maximum of prices, a ruinous load of taxation laid on the rich for the purpose of supporting the poor in idleness.
Such a system would, in twenty years, have made France as poor and barbarous as the France of the Carolingians. Happily the danger was averted; and now there is despotism, a silent tribune, an enslaved press. Liberty is gone, but civilization has been saved. I have not the slightest doubt that, if we had a purely democratic government here, the effect would be the same.
Either the poor would plunder the rich, and civilization would perish, or order and property would be saved by a strong military government, and liberty would perish.Macaulay was by no means the last figure in the Conservative tradition to have indicated at least a troubled attitude towards a military government predicted as the result of too much democracy.For the most part, however, Conservatives have taken care not to state anything like a decree to end, by force, local governments of certain kinds. English Conservative politicians have taken care not to relate themselves with what have certainly existed, minimally ominous corps of patriots discovered by the press to have been presenting arms on a grouse moor to save the nation from socialism (E.
W. Carp, 1986). The Conservative policy of embracing constitutionalism has stood in the way of any such support, and, far more significant, any open threat to have resort themselves to rather better organized persons, the military themselves so as to bring down governments of a certain kind.Still, this politic quiet is no reason for us to fall into certain piousness. Macaulay and those like him are better indicators of truth than their comrades. To remain in mind Conservatism’s commitment to private property, its desire of enthusiasm for democracy, and its ability to regard itself as a sole preserver of civilization, is inevitably to come to another thought. There is no reason to shrink from it. Conservatism is a political tradition which intimidates at least to concur in the ending by force of certain governments, whether or not those governments can assert the support of a constitution.
It has on many occasions done much more than just concurs (P. Karsten, 1984).There is the further and more significant question of whether Conservatives are distinguished by this fact. Those of them who accept it to be a reality will rush to say no, and reasonably.
They will say the history of the Left has been a history whose outstanding episodes are revolutions. Conservatives are not illustrious, as they tend to pretend, by political pacifism with all respect to all governments under which they might find themselves, and, more significant, they are not distinguished by what is a fact, their want of such pacifism (Kenneth Allard, 1990). It is possible to conjecture that English and American Conservatism, compared to other English and American political traditions, is illustrious by having an actual capability of calling on the military — that it is the tradition, within those nations, that has a character owed to the fact that it can efficiently make a certain threat, and does tacitly make it.The United States became directly involved in Vietnam in the mid-1950s when it replaced France as the sponsor of the South Vietnamese government. Still, despite millions of dollars of aid and wide-ranging military advice, South Vietnam failed to stop a Communist revolution aided and abetted by North Vietnam.Military historians disagree on why the American military effort failed. Some argue the armed forces imprudently fought an enemy pursuing classic counterinsurgency warfare with conservative forces too dependent on in- discriminate firepower. Others contend the United States misused its conservative power by dispersing troops in pursuit of guerilla forces who were not the real enemy.
In this view, main force North Vietnamese regulars were the genuine threat and never suitably fought. Inasmuch as the debate is unresolved, it seems appropriate to portray the conflict as a complex civil war between the Vietnamese people involving elements of revolutionary and conventional warfare (R.F. Weigley, 1973).The Vietnam War affected the nation intensely. It ruined the political careers of Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, generated sharp supporting division in the nation, and weakened the Democratic Party.
More unfortunately, the war formed a gap between segments of the American people and the armed forces. The inequities of the draft and Johnson’s refusal to muster the reserves placed too much of the burden of fighting the war on the working class and African Americans. Middle class disdain for military service generated condemnation of the armed forces usually and.
scorn specifically for those who served in Vietnam. Through the failures and weaknesses of some of their own, honorable professional military officers and career non-commissioned officers earned an ill-deserved stigma as warmongers which would endure for a decade.The after effects of the war also left the armed forces deflated, weakened in discipline, and ill-prepared to fight. Discipline gnarled as racial tensions increased and enlisted men defied officers and non-coms. With the draft no longer in effect, the services initially found it hard to recruit capable men and women for the new “All Volunteer Force.” Military leaders faced an intimidating challenge: to accept, then learn from defeat, and restore a sense of idea and professionalism to their services. Because Lyndon Johnson refused to increase taxes to wage the war or utilize the reserves, American forces serving in NATO and composing the strategic reserve suffered a sharp decline in trained personnel and efficient equipment.
Nixon’s decision to reduce defense spending as the war wound down prevented force modernization and the achievement of new weapons.The negative impact of the war fell particularly profoundly on the army. In the decade following the war, the army, led by Creighton Abrams and Fred C. Weyand, rebuilt itself. Abrams, Weyand, and others restored a sense of mission to the army by emphasizing professional education, military history, and unit consistency through intense training. General Abrams, in particular, helped expand the Total Force policy which integrated the Army National Guard and Army Reserve more closely to the active force. In consequence, no future major military effort could take place without at least a partial reserve mobilization. Army reformers developed a new military doctrine, known as Air Land Battle by the mid-1980s, which accentuated conventional warfare and was frankly shaped to fight Soviet and Warsaw Pact forces in Europe.
Ironically, while the Vietnam War occupied the nation’s attention, the central feature of Cold War containment, the Soviet threat, slipped into limbo. After 1972, however, the navy and air force revived the Cold War also. The navy now asserted that Soviet naval forces threatened American prevalence on the high seas. Efforts to restore U.S.
supremacy at sea did not take full force until Ronald Reagan’s first term in the early 1980s, but as with the army, the navy distinct its main mission as confronting the Soviet Union. The air force reoriented itself to Europe as well, to support AirLand Battle doctrine with interdictory attacks and to perform strategic bombing at the theater level.Under the Nixon Doctrine, which provided aid, but not American troops, to allies facing insurgencies policy again centered on preclusion in Europe through nuclear weapons and a strong American contingent in NATO? That stress continued through the presidencies of Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan. In the Carter years, the fear that growing Soviet military spending would leave the United States outnumbered in conventional forces and strategic weapons as well, led to an ongoing increase in military appropriations.
Defense spending skyrocketed under Reagan in a drive to match the perceived Soviet threat, mainly in expanding the U.S. Navy.
Though doctrine, force structure, and military spending after 1972 focused on preparing for conventional war in Europe, overt and copse American military power was used elsewhere. Confusion in the Middle East, for example, successively challenged Carter, Reagan, and then George Bush. The triad of Arab-Israeli conflict, geographic proximity to the Soviet Union, and vast oil reserves created composite policy and strategic problems. Still, the Iran hostage situation in 1979 and the intervention in Lebanon in 1983 exposed that American power faced sharp limits in the Middle East.Central America posed similar problems. In spite of Ronald Reagan’s pronouncement that with his election the nation had abandoned the sense of defeat left over from Vietnam, even this popular president could not make sufficient congressional or public support to intervene directly in Central American insurgent struggles.
Reagan fell back on thinly disguised covert support for Nicaraguan “freedom fighters” seeking to oust a Marxist government, but even that effort won simply tepid public support. Reagan did rid the tiny Caribbean island of Grenada of an odd group of squabbling Marxist politicos in 1983. However, the use of aircraft carriers, fighter bombers, Marines, and airborne troops against a motley group of locals somehow lacked the grandeur of the D-Day landing in June 1944. President George Bush sent American forces, over 22,000 strong, into Panama in December 1989 to oust and arrest Panamanian strongman General Manuel Noriega. Magnificently code-named Operation Just Cause, the invasion fell short of living up to its name when it became obvious that Noriega had long been in the pay of the United States. The more cynical observer might see the Panamanian operation as an overly-militarized federal posse.
From the Carter years through the end of Reagan’s second term, the United States Congress appropriated almost three trillion dollars for defense. The money not only upgraded strategic nuclear weapons but also rationalized conventional forces, vastly improved the reserve components, and made the post-Vietnam All Volunteer Force the best trained, educated, and motivated volunteer military in American history. In that sense, the nation and the armed forces overcame the catastrophe of Vietnam. And yet in another sense the legacy of Vietnam lived on. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger announced in 1984 that the Pentagon would advocate the use of combat forces only when vital American interests were evidently defined, when the Joint Chiefs of Staff could use sufficient force to complete the mission, when the political leadership was committed to winning, and while the American public clearly supported the effort. The so-called Weinberger Doctrine may explicate Reagan’s reluctance to push for direct intervention in Central America and the limited operations in Grenada and Panama.President George Bush, however, found the situation ideal when he sent United States forces to the Persian Gulf in 1990.
With the Iron Curtain crumbling and Soviet President Mikhail S. Gorbachev unopposed to American intervention, Bush organized a coalition of Western European and Middle Eastern countries keen to join the United States in facing up to Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. More by accident than design, the nature of the Iraqi threat fit entirely the emphasis on conventional, highly mobile warfare that the U.S.
Army and U.S. Air Force had stressed since 1972. Moreover, Hussein imprudently gave the United States time to set up armored and mechanized divisions from their European and United States garrisons.
Mobilization of reserves, broad public support, and a congressional declaration supporting the Persian Gulf effort almost completed the list of requirements set by Secretary Weinberger in 1984. The final ingredient, the immediate use of massive force, was added on January 17, 1991 when the American-led coalition let loose a savage air attack on Iraq which lasted five weeks. Late in February, coalition forces launched a ground attack that drove Iraqi forces out of Kuwait in less than five days and so ended Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm.The Gulf War stands too close in time to assess its consequences or to assess its impact on American military affairs.
Moreover, the circumstances of the campaign are so exceptional that those who would draw “lessons” from this particular past must be circumspect in their analysis. Furthermore, historians in the future will require assessing how the end of the Cold War affected American military policy.For nearly half a century the Cold War and containment, and the continuous threat of nuclear warfare, governed national security thinking. With the closure of the Soviet Union, America has the luxury to reorganize its military policy and question the national proclivity to resort to force in the defense of the nation and its interests. Indeed, the United States began to reduce its military forces even before George Bush sent troops to the Persian Gulf. Agreements with the Soviet Union to eradicate intermediate range nuclear weapons in Europe and the destruction of international ballistic missiles and their warheads marked a major turning point not only in Soviet-American relations, but American defense policy.
Furthermore, even as the Reagan defense buildup continued, some historians and political scientists detected an obvious decline in American power. In part this thrust represents a mode of thinking developed throughout the Vietnam War: that even superpowers face limits in their capability to impose their will. More importantly, the decline in power theme detects more substantive limits on the United States, particularly economic. Can any one nation, it is asked, afford to maintain a global military policy over a long period of time? Some see the rapid disintegrate of the Soviet Union as proof that any nation which bases its approach to the world on the long-standing maintenance of large military forces faces expected decline if not collapse.
For a considerable period, the armed forces of the United States performed a function fundamentally constabulary. A small army and navy sought to keep American citizens and their property on the geographic and commercial frontiers until the outburst of the next war. At which point, the regulars mobilized, the volunteers flocked to the colors, and, after an era of confusion, stalemate, and occasionally defeat, the nation emerged victorious. In the aftermath, the military institution was reduced, although seldom to prewar size, and those delegated to keep the peace took up their stations. The pattern was interrupted by the First World War, but consigned to the scrap heap by the second global confrontation. All through the long decades of development, Americans agreed that John Adams spoke the undiluted truth while he insisted the “United States of America are a great and powerful people,” and in 1945 few seriously disputed that claim.Many nations, to greater or lesser degree, offered no protestation when the United States assumed a constabulary responsibility for the world.
But, those who would lead the world should be aware of the ravages of time and circumstance. Just as the end of the Cold War has not instated an era of universal peace, the continued position of the United States as the sole guardian of stability remains uncertain.Although the United States was free of the military embarrassment of Vietnam in the early seventies, it would take a decade-and-a-half before the mental burden would dissolve with the victories of the Cold War and the Gulf War. First the military would go throughout a period of downsizing and neglect until it faced the mortification of a bumbled rescue mission to Iran. Then a massive infusion of manpower and some minor successes against forth-rate powers renewed the nation’s belief in it. The fast victory in the 1991 Persian Gulf War pushed the aggressor out of Kuwait and the wounds of Vietnam farther back into history. Military history writings which report on the economizing and rebuilding era or the Carter-Reagan-Bush years cut across numerous academic disciplines and perhaps more than at any other time demonstrate how contemporary military history involves much more than simple battle narratives. Key subjects covered include the lessons of low-intensity conflict, the Strategic Defense Initiatives, and the Gulf War.
Of particular interest for the future are the deviating positions presented by Norman Friedman and Richard Hallion in the on-going struggle over the effectiveness of air power and its role in future conflicts.Containment linked geopolitical and military calculations, the security dilemma, to foreign aid and economic development, to the escalation of democracy and the protection of human rights, as well as to the countering of “subversion” at home and abroad. As this nested cluster of policies led to derationalization, decision makers learned to delink these measures, to examine the causal nexus of insecurity more precisely and deliberately, to tame the obsession with a hostile foreign ideology. These lessons were learned as a consequence of the failures incurred throughout this period, particularly the failure in Vietnam. The détente of 1973 represents the start of systematic learning. Until then, the policy of containment, with its linked measures of foreign aid, nuclear deterrence, and support of democracy abroad, had been driven by the ideological commitments of ruling coalitions, rarely adjusted by acts of ad hoc adaptation urged by realists, such as the abandonment of democratization policies in Latin America as useless during the Johnson and Nixon administrations, a policy of non-interventionism reversed by Presidents Carter, Reagan, and Bush. Only early attempts at arms control represented learning behavior.Political entrepreneurs and epistemic communities were significant agents of learning in the arms control field and in the vicinity of development assistance.
No such forces, however, arose to switch the United States away from the ideologically driven determination to fight local communism in Southeast Asia. On the contrary, the Southeast Asian war was the logical outgrowth of the militant anticommunism supposed by triumphant cosmopolitan internationalists. The same liberals, however, were also capable of fashioning a foreign economic policy that evolved directly from lessons learned during the Great Depression.In the end I must say that John F. Kennedy assessed the policy to the Dominican Republic’s long-lasting brutal dictator, Rafael Trujillo: “There are three possibilities, in descending order of preference: a decent democratic administration, a continuation of the Trujillo regime, or a Castro regime. We ought to aim at the first, but we can’t really renounce the second until we are sure we can avoid the third”. And to show his real mettle, Kennedy did not hesitate to threaten the use of nuclear weapons when he forced the Soviet Union to withdraw its missiles from Cuba in 1963, even though his predecessor, Dwight Eisenhower, had already inaudibly decided—despite public measures to the contrary—that these weapons were far too destructive ever to be used.
Though, After the Vietnam disaster, the Carter administration sought to diminish the use of force in domestic and foreign affairs. During the Reagan— Bush years, however, the importance on exclusively peaceful ways went into decline. The danger of communism, to Reagan, legitimated the definite use of overt and covert military power in Central America and in Africa. The use of force in the Middle East, for both Reagan and Bush, was acceptable as a safeguarding of U.S. military interests.
In all cases, however, some famous members of the Republican administrations opposed the use of force. Reagan stepped up high-tech arms racing in the face of Catholic and Methodist opposition to the continued dependence on nuclear deterrence. Reagan and Bush despaired of the “Vietnam syndrome,” a widespread feeling of popular opposition to the use of force by the United States, but they proceeded to project military power anyway. Reference:Charles Krauthammer, “The Unipolar Moment”, chapter 8, in Graham Allison and Gregory F.
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215 -16 O’SULLIVAN, N., 1976: Conservatism ( London: Dent), pp. 108 -12 O’SULLIVAN, N., 1983: Fascism ( London: Dent), pp. 102 Hugh Davis Graham, Civil Rights and the Presidency ( New York: Oxford University Press, 1992), pp. 13- 22. H.
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