Manual Restoring the Balance: War Powers in an Age of Terror

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Toggle navigation. New to eBooks. How many copies would you like to buy? Add to Cart Add to Cart. Nevertheless, if the Thor and Jupiter have these defects, might not some future weapon be free of them?

Author Corner

Some of these defects, of course, will be overcome in time. Solid fuels or storable liquids will eventually replace liquid oxygen, reliabilities will increase, various forms of mobility or portability will become feasible, accuracies may even come down to regions of interest in limited wars. But these are all years away. In consequence, the discussion will be advanced if a little more precision is given such terms as "missiles" or "modern" or "advanced weapons. Finally, even with advances in the state-of-the-art on our side, it will continue to be hard to maintain a deterrent, and even harder close in under the enemy's guns than further off.

Some of the principal difficulties I have sketched will remain and others will grow. This is of particular interest to our allies who do not have quite the same freedom to choose between basing at intercontinental and point-blank range. The characteristic limitations of "overseas" basing concern them since, for the most part, unlike ourselves, they live "overseas. It follows that, though a wider distribution in the ownership of nuclear weapons may be inevitable, or at any rate likely, it is by no means inevitable or even very likely that the power to deter an all-out thermonuclear attack by Russia will be widespread.

This is true even though a minor power would not need to guarantee as large a retaliation as we in order to deter attack on itself. Unfortunately, the minor powers have smaller resources as well as poorer strategic locations. But they will not be easy to achieve. Mere membership in the nuclear club might carry with it prestige, as the applicants and nominees expect, but it will be rather expensive, and in time it will be clear that it does not necessarily confer any of the expected privileges enjoyed by the two charter members.

The burden of deterring a general war as distinct from limited wars is still likely to be on the United States and therefore, so far as our allies are concerned, on the alliance. In closing these remarks on the special problems of overseas bases, it should be observed that I have dealt with only one of the functions of these bases: their use as a support for the strategic deterrent force.

They have a variety of military, political and economic roles which are beyond the scope of this paper. Expenditures in connection with the construction or operation of U. There are other functions in a central war where their importance may be very considerable. In case deterrence fails, they might support a counterattack which could blunt the strength of an enemy follow-up attack, and so reduce the damage done to our cities.

Their chief virtue here is precisely the proximity to the enemy which makes them problematic as a deterrent. Proximity means shorter time to target and possibly larger and more accurately delivered weapons — provided, of course, the blunting force survives the first attack. This is not likely to be a high confidence capability of the sort we seek in the deterrent itself; but it might make a very real difference under some circumstances of attack, particularly if the enemy attack were poorly coordinated, as it might be if the war were started by an accident.

In this case the first wave might be smaller and less well organized than in a carefully prepared attack. The chance of even some of our unprotected planes or missiles surviving would be greater. Moreover a larger portion of the attacker's force would remain on base, not yet ready for a following attack.

Using some portion of our force not in retaliation but to spoil the follow-up raid by killing or at least disrupting the matching of bombers with tankers, bombers with bombers, bombers with decoys, and bombers with missiles could reduce both the number of attackers reaching our defenses and the effectiveness of their formation for getting through. It would be a fatal mistake to count on poor planning by an aggressor, but, given the considerable reduction in damage it might enable, it is prudent to have the ability to exploit such an error.

One caution should be observed. A force capable of blunting a poorly started aggression and equipped with information as to enemy deployments, might destroy a poorly protected enemy strategic force before the latter got started. Missiles placed near the enemy, even if they could not retaliate, would have a potent capability for striking first by surprise.

And it might not be easy for the enemy to discern their purpose. The existence of such a force might be a considerable provocation and in fact a dangerous one in the sense that it would place a great burden on the deterrent force which more than ever would have to guarantee extreme risks to the attacker — worse than the risks of waiting in the face of this danger. When not coupled with the ability to strike in retaliation, such a capability would suggest — erroneously to be sure in the case of the democracies — an intention to strike first.

It would tend to provoke rather than to deter general war. One final use for our overseas bases should be mentioned, namely their use to support operations in a limited war.

Answering the Critics of the Legal Case for the War on Terror

Their importance here is both more considerable and likely to be more lasting than their increasingly restricted utility to deter attack on the United States. Particularly in conventional limited wars, destructive force is delivered in smaller units and, in general, requires a great number of sorties over an extended period of time. It is conceivable that we might attempt the intercontinental delivery of iron bombs as well as ground troops and ground-support elements. The problem of intercontinental versus overseas bombers is mainly a matter of costs, provided we have the time and freedom to choose the composition of our force and our budget size.

But there would be enormous differences in costs between distant and close-in repeated delivery at a given rate of high explosives. I hope that my focus so far on the critical problem of deterring central war has not led the reader to believe that I consider the problem of limited war either unimportant or soluble by use of the strategic threat. Quite the contrary is the case. In fact it would be appropriate to say something about the limitations as well as the necessity of strategic deterrence in this as well as other connections. But first let me sum up the uses and risks of bases close to the Soviet Union.

These bases are subject to an attack delivering more bombs with larger yields and greater accuracies and with less warning than bases at intercontinental range. Whether they are under American command, or completely within the control of one of our allies or subject to joint control, they present the severest problems for the preservation of a deterrent force.

by Seth Weinberger

The inadequacy of deterrence is a familiar story. Western forces at the end of the war were larger than those of the Soviet Union and its satellites. We demobilized much more extensively, relying on nuclear weapons to maintain the balance of East-West military power. This was plausible then because nuclear power was all on our side. It was our bomb. It seemed only to complete the preponderance of American power provided by our enormous industrial mobilization base and to dispense with the need to keep it mobilized.

It would compensate for the extra men kept under arms by the East. But the notion of massive retaliation as a responsible retort to peripheral provocations vanished in the harsh light of a better understanding here and abroad that the Soviet nuclear delivery capability meant tremendous losses to the United States if we attacked them. And now Europe has begun to doubt that we would make the sacrifice involved in using SAC to answer an attack directed at it but not at ourselves. The many critics of the massive retaliation policy who advocate a capability to meet limited aggression with a limited response are on firm ground in suggesting that a massive response on such an occasion would be unlikely and the threat to use it therefore not believed.

Moreover this argument is quite enough to make clear the critical need for more serious development of the power to meet limited aggressions. Another argument, which will not hold water and which is in fact dangerous, is sometimes used: Little wars are likely, general war improbable. We have seen that this mistakes a possibility for its fulfillment. The likelihood of both general and little wars is contingent on what we do.

Moreover, these probabilities are not independent. A limited war involving the major powers is explosive. In this circumstance the likelihood of general war increases palpably. The danger of general war can be felt in every local skirmish involving the great powers. But because the balance of terror is supposed, almost universally, to assure us that all-out war will not occur, advocates of graduated deterrence have proposed to fix the limits of limited conflict in ways which neglect this danger. A few of the proposals seem in fact quite reckless.

The emphasis of the advocates of limitation has been on the high rather than on the low end of the spectrum of weapons. They have talked in particular of nuclear limited wars on the assumption that nuclear weapons will favor the defender rather than the aggressor and that the West can depend on these to compensate for men and conventional arms. Perhaps this will sound reminiscent to the reader. These are, evidently, our tactical nuclear bombs. I am afraid that this belief will not long stand the harsh light of analysis and that it will vanish like its predecessor, the comfortable notion that we had a monopoly of strategic nuclear weapons and that these only completed the Western and, specifically, the American preponderance.

I know of no convincing evidence that tactical nuclear weapons favor the defender rather than the aggressor if both sides use such weapons. The argument runs that the offense requires concentration and so the aggressor necessarily provides the defender with a lucrative atomic target. This ignores the fact that, in a delivered nuclear weapon itself, the offense has an enormous concentration of force. The use of nuclear weapons in limited wars might make it possible for the aggressor to eliminate the existing forces of the defender and to get the war over, reaching his limited objective before the defender or his allies can mobilize new forces.

Like all-out nuclear war it puts a premium on surprise and forces in being rather than on mobilization potential which is the area in which the West has an advantage. I am inclined to believe that most of those who rely on tactical nuclear weapons as a substitute for disparities in conventional forces have in general presupposed a cooperative Soviet attacker, one who did not use atomic weapons himself. Here again is an instance of Western-preferred Soviet strategies, this time applied to limited war. Ironically, according to reports of Soviet tactical exercises described in the last few years in the military newspaper, The Red Star , atomic weapons are in general employed only by the offense, the defender apparently employing Soviet-preferred Western strategies.

Whether or not nuclear weapons favor the west in limited war, there still remains the question of whether such limitations could be made stable. Korea illustrated the possibility of a conventional limited war which did not become nuclear, though fought in the era of nuclear weapons. It remains to be seen whether there are any equilibrium points between the use of conventional and all-out weapons. In fact the emphasis on the gradualness of the graduated deterrents may be misplaced.

The important thing would be to find some discontinuities if these steps are not to lead too smoothly to general war. Nuclear limited war, simply because of the extreme swiftness and unpredictability of its moves, the necessity of delegating authority to local commanders, and the possibility of sharp and sudden desperate reversals of fortune, would put the greatest strain on the deterrent to all-out thermonuclear war. For this reason I believe that it would be appropriate to emphasize the importance of expanding a conventional capability realistically and, in particular, research and development in non-nuclear modes of warfare.

These have been financed by pitifully small budgets. Yet I would conjecture that if one considers the implications of modern surface-to-air missiles in the context of conventional war in which the attacker has to make many sorties and expose himself to recurring attrition, these weapons would look ever so much better than they do when faced, for example, with the heroic task of knocking down 99 percent of a wave of, say one thousand nuclear bombers.

Similarly, advances in anti-tank wire-guided missiles and anti-personnel fragmentation weapons, which have been mentioned from time to time in the press, might help redress the current balance of East-West conventional forces without, however, removing the necessity for spending more money in procurement as well as research and development. The interdependencies of limited and total war decisions make it clear that the development of any powerful limited war capability, and in particular a nuclear one, only underlines the need, at the same time, for insuring retaliation against all-out attack.

An aggressor must constantly weigh the dangers of all-out attack against the dangers of waiting, of not striking "all-out. But finally there is no question at this late date that strategic deterrence is inadequate to answer limited provocation. Strategic deterrence has other inadequacies besides its limitations in connection with limited war. The power to deter a rational all-out attack does not relieve us of the responsibility for defending our cities in case deterrence fails. It should be said at once that such a defense is not a satisfactory substitute for deterring a carefully planned surprise attack since defense against such an attack is extraordinarily difficult.

I know in fact of no high confidence way of avoiding enormous damage to our cities in a war initiated by an aggressor with a surprise thermonuclear attack. The only way of preventing such damage with high confidence is to prevent the war. But is we could obtain a leakproof air defense, many things would change.

A limited war capability, for example, would be unimportant. Massive retaliation against even minor threats, since it exposed us to no danger, might be credible. Deterring attack would also not be very important. Of course if both sides had such defenses, deterrence would not be feasible either, but this again would be insignificant since strategic war would be relatively harmless — at least to the targets on both sides if not to the attacking vehicles. It is a curious paradox of our recent intellectual history that, among the pioneers of both the balance of terror theory of automatic deterrence and the small nuclear weapon theory of limited or tactical war were the last true believers in the possibility of near perfect defense — which would have made deterrence infeasible and both it and the ability to fight limited war unimportant.

However, in spite of the periodic announcements of "technological breakthroughs," the goal of emerging unscathed from a surprise thermonuclear attack has gotten steadily more remote. On the other hand, this does not mean that we can dispense with the defense of cities. In spite of deterrence a thermonuclear war could be tripped by accident or miscalculation.

In this case, particularly since the attack might be less well planned, a combination of spoiling counterattacks and active and passive defenses might limit the size of the catastrophe. It might mean, for example, the difference between fifty million survivors and a hundred and twenty million survivors, and it would be quite wrong to dismiss this as an unimportant difference.

If strategic deterrence is not enough, is it really necessary at all? Moreover, since they have almost all assumed a balance of terror making deterrence nearly effortless, their dissatisfaction with deterrence might very well deepen if they accept the view presented here, that deterrence is most difficult. Distaste for the product should not be lessened by an increase in its cost.

I must confess that the picture of the world that I have presented is unpleasant. Strategic deterrence will be hard.

It imposes some dangers of its own. In any case, though a keystone of a defense policy, it is only a part, not the whole. The critics who feel that deterrence if "bankrupt," to use the word of one of them, sometimes say that we stress deterrence too much. I believe this is quite wrong if it means that we are devoting too much effort to protect our power to retaliate, but I think it quite right if it means that we have talked too much of a strategic threat as a substitute for many things it cannot replace.

Kennan, for example, rejects the bomb as salvation, but explicitly grants it a sorry value as a deterrent. In fact he grants it rather more than I since in his policy of disengagement it seems that he would substitute a threat something like that of massive retaliation for even conventional American and English forces on the Continent. On the whole, I think the burden of the criticism of deterrence has been the inadequacy of a thermonuclear capability and frequently of, what is not really deterrence at all, the threat to strike first.

But it would be a fatal mistake to confuse the inadequacy of strategic deterrence with its dispensability. Deterrence is not dispensable. If the picture of the world I have drawn is rather bleak, it could nonetheless be cataclysmically worse. Suppose both the United States and the Soviet union had the power to destroy each others' retaliatory forces and society, given the opportunity to administer the opening blow.

In this case, the situation would be something like the old-fashioned Western gun duel. It would be extraordinarily risky for one side not to attempt to destroy the other, or to delay doing so. Not only can it emerge unscathed by striking first; this is the only way it can have a reasonable hope of emerging at all. Such a situation is clearly extremely unstable.

On the other hand, if it is clear that the aggressor too will suffer catastrophic damage in the event of his aggression, he then has strong reason not to attack, even though he can administer great damage. A protected retaliatory capability has a stabilizing influence not only in deterring rational attack, but also in offering every inducement to both powers to reduce the chance of accidental detonation of war.

Our own interest in "fail-safe" responses for our retaliatory forces illustrates this. A protected power to strike back does not come automatically, but it can hardly be stressed too much that it is worth the effort.

Constitution Day Lecture: Dr. Seth Weinberger | Carroll College

There are many other goals for our foreign as well as our military policy which have great importance: the strengthening of the alliance and of the neutral powers, economic development of the less advanced countries, negotiations to reduce the dangers of deliberate or accidental outbreak, and some attempts to settle the outstanding differences between the East and West. These other objectives of military and foreign policy are important and many of them are vital.

But an unsentimental appraisal suggests no sudden change in prospect and in particular no easy removal of the basic East-West antagonisms. Short of some hard-to-manage peaceful elimination of the basic antagonisms, or a vast and successful program of disarmament, it would be irresponsible to surrender the deterrent.

But in fact progress in disarmament too will be made easier if it is complemented by a defense against aggression. A deterrent strategy is aimed at a rational enemy. Without a deterrent, general war is likely. With it, however, war might still occur. This is one reason deterrence is only a part and not the whole of a military and foreign policy. In fact, there is a very unpleasant interaction.

In order to reduce the risk of a rational act of aggression, we are being forced to undertake measures increased alertness, dispersal, mobility which, to a smaller extent but still significantly, increase the risk of an irrational or unintentional act of war. The accident problem, which has occupied an increasingly prominent place in newspaper headlines during the past year, is a serious one.

It would be a great mistake to dismiss the recent Soviet charges on this subject as simply part of the war of nerves. In a clear sense the great multiplication and spread of nuclear arms throughout the world, the drastic increase in the degree of readiness of these weapons, and the decrease in the time available for the decision on their use must inevitably raise the risk of accident.

War Powers in an Age of Terror

Though they were not in themselves likely to trigger misunderstanding, the B accidents this year at Sidi Slimane and at Florence, South Carolina, and the recent Nike explosion of which an Army officer in the local command said, "A disaster which could not happen did. And they are just the beginning. There are many sorts of accidents that could happen.

There can be electronic or mechanical failures of the sort illustrated by the B and Nike mishaps; there can be aberrations of individuals, perhaps, quite low in the echelon of command; and, finally, there can be miscalculations on the part of governments as to enemy intent and the meaning of ambiguous signals. With the rising noise level of alarms on the international scene and the shortening of the time available for such momentous decisions, this possibility becomes more real; with the widespread distribution of nuclear weapons with separate national controls, it is possible that there will be separate calculations of national interest.

These could indicate a cause for all-out war to some nation doing the calculating which, from our standpoint, would be quite inadequate. That is, from our standpoint, a "miscalculation. What I have said does not imply that all deterrent strategies risk accident equally. The contrary is the case. One of the principles of selecting a strategy should be to reduce the chance of accident, wherever we can, without a corresponding increase in vulnerability to a rational surprise attack.

The problem of obtaining warning of a surprise attack, deciding on a response and communicating the decision — which last is especially acute for the mobile systems — would be very much easier if we did not have to be concerned with both goals: to deter a rational act of war and to reduce the chance of its happening by accident. This is the significance of the recently adopted "fail-safe" procedures for launching SAC which came to the public notice in connection with the U. Such a procedure requires that bombers, flushed by some serious yet not unambiguous warning, return to base unless they are specifically directed to continue forward.

If the alarm was in response to an actual attack and some radio communications should fail, this failure would mean only a small percentage diminution of the force going on to target. The importance of such a procedure can be grasped in contrast with the alternative. The alternative was to launch bombers on their way to target with instructions to continue unless recalled.

Here, in case of a false alarm and a failure in communications, the single bomber or handful of bombers that did not receive the message to return to base might, as a result of this mistake, go forward by themselves to start the war. Of all the many poor ways to start a war, this would be perhaps the worst. Moreover, when one considers the many hundreds of vehicles involved, the cumulative probability of accidental war would rapidly approach certainty with repeated false alarms. Or the planes would have to be kept grounded until evidence of an attack was unambiguous — which would make these forces more vulnerable and, hence, such an attack more probable.

A fail-safe procedure extends the period for final commitment. While "fail-safe" or, as it is now less descriptively called, "positive control" is of great importance, it by no means eliminates the possibility of accident. While it can reduce the chance of miscalculation by governments somewhat by extending the period of final commitment, this possibility nonetheless remains. The increased readiness of strategic forces affects the disarmament issues and therefore our allies and the neutral powers. Here it is important to recognize the obsolescence of some of the principal policies we have enunciated before the U.

The Russians, exploiting an inaccurate United Press report which suggested that SAC started en masse toward Russia in response to frequent radar ghosts, cried out against these supposed Arctic flights. The United States response and its sequels stated correctly that such flights had never been undertaken except in planned exercises — and moreover would not be undertaken in response to such high false-alarm rate warnings. We pointed out the essential role of quick response and a high degree of readiness in the protection of the deterrent force. The nature of the fail-safe precaution was also described.

We added, however, to cap the argument, that if the Russians were really worried about surprise attack they would accept the President's "open skies" proposal. This addition, however, conceals an absurdity. Aerial photography would have its uses in a disarmament plan — for example, to check an exchange of information on the location of ground bases.

However, so far as surprise is concerned, the "open skies" plan would have direct use only to discover attacks requiring much more lengthy, visible, and unambiguous preparations than are likely today. Not even the most advanced reconnaissance equipment can disclose an intention from 40, feet.

Who can say what the men in the blockhouse of an ICBM base have in mind? Or, for that matter, what is the final destination of training flights or fail-safe flights starting over the Pacific or North Atlantic from staging areas? The actions that need to be taken on our own to deter attack might usefully be complemented by bilateral arguments for inspection and reporting and, possibly, limitation of arms and of methods of operating strategic and naval air forces. But the protection of retaliatory power remains essential; and the better the protection, the smaller the burden placed on the agreement to limit arms and modes of operation and to make them subject to inspection.

Relying on "open skies" alone to prevent surprise would invite catastrophe and the loss of power to retaliate. Such a plan is worthless for discovering a well prepared attack with ICBMs or submarine-launched missiles or a routine mass training flight whose destination could be kept ambiguous. A tremendous weight of weapons could be delivered in spite of it. Although it is quite hopeless to look for an inspection scheme which would permit abandonment of the deterrent, this does not mean that some partial agreement on inspection and limitation might not help to reduce the chance of any sizable surprise attack.

We should explore the possibilities of agreements involving limitation and inspection. But how we go about this will be conditioned by our appreciation of the problem of deterrence itself. The critics of current policy who perceive the inadequacy of the strategy of deterrence are prominent among those urging disarmament negotiations, an end to the arms race, and a reduction of tension.

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