The New National Strategy

May 1, 1987
As stipulated by Congress and the Packard Commis­sion, the Administration has drawn up the country’s first formal national security strategy that fully inter­weaves and integrates foreign, arms-control, and de­fense policies. The forty-one-page document, titled “National Security Strategy of the United States,” spec­ifies the broad aims that undergird “America’s leader­ship role in the world today”—as well as some specific policies and requirements that ensue from these objec­tives.

In addition to coalescing traditional military, geo­political, and economic aims into a central policy, the document plows new ground, at times with considerable élan. For instance, there is the bold pledge to “defend and advance the cause of democracy, freedom, and human rights throughout the world” coupled to the as­sertion that to do any less “would be a betrayal of our national heritage.” The means for achieving broad goals of this type must be the “coordinated use of national power,” the document suggests, albeit without providing specific guidance on when and how that power should be brought to bear.

As a part of the commitment to advance the cause of freedom, the US needs “to encourage liberalizing ten­dencies within the Soviet Union and its client states.” Elsewhere, the new umbrella policy seeks to “force the Soviet Union to bear the brunt of its domestic economic shortcomings in order to discourage excessive Soviet military expenditures and global adventurism.” At the same time, the US will “foster closer relations with the People’s Republic of China.”

The overall formula for dealing with the USSR is stated with laudable candor. The US seeks:

• To maintain stable global and regional military bal­ances vis-à-vis the USSR and states aligned with it;

• To aid threatened states in resisting Soviet and Sovi­et-sponsored subversion or aggression;

• To eliminate, where possible, the root causes of regional instabilities that create the risk of major war; and

• To neutralize the efforts of the Soviet Union to increase its influence in the world and to weaken the links between the USSR and its client states in the Third World.

The relationship with the USSR involves a balancing act of sorts. On the one hand, “fundamental differences in economic, social, and political beliefs and objectives lead to an essentially adversarial relationship between the US and the Soviet Union.” At the same time, there is the presumption that the Soviet Union shares “the com­mon goal of avoiding direct confrontation and reducing the threat of nuclear war.” The primary challenge for American statecraft is therefore to capitalize on “this commonality of interests so as to preserve peace with­out jeopardizing our national security or abandoning our commitment to the cause of freedom and justice.”

“Peaceful Coexistence”

Achieving détente with the USSR is not portrayed as an easy task, however. For one, the “unprecedented military buildup [launched by Moscow] poses a continu­ing threat to the US and our allies. The Soviet Union persists in allocating a disproportionate percentage of its resources—between fifteen percent and seventeen percent of the total GNP—to the buildup of its military forces,” which now number more than 5,000,000 uni­formed personnel, not counting more than 1,000,000 border guards and other security forces.

The White House document also finds that “the evi­dence of the relationship between the Soviet Union and the growth of worldwide terrorism is now conclusive.” Even though the Soviet Union does not have direct control over most of the terrorist groups, it is the US assessment that the USSR “supplies massive amounts of arms, money, and advisory assistance to revolution­ary forces engaged in terrorist activities.” The White House document contends further that the Soviets at­tempt “to disguise such support by using [surrogates]—radical governments, such as Cuba, North Korea, Nica­ragua, Syria, and Libya, which deal directly with radical terrorists and insurgents.”

In manipulating go-betweens as well as in the broad context of wielding the instruments of power, the Soviet Union in recent years has become much more sophisti­cated. “Despite significant weaknesses in the Soviet economy, the Politburo actively employs economic in­struments in its global strategy. It uses trade with the West to obtain economic leverage, technology, and for­eign exchange. The acquisition of military-related ad­vanced technology through legal and illegal means is especially important to the Soviets to shorten weapon development times, reduce costs, and compensate for the weakness of the Soviet economy.” As part of its global ambitions, the USSR is promoting long-term eco­nomic agreements that make their partners unilaterally dependent on such necessities as Soviet energy resourc­es.

In addition to the aggressive use of surrogates and economic inducements, Moscow, according to the White House document, is extending its already mas­sive political influence apparatus. “This apparatus in­cludes the world’s largest propaganda machine, incor­porating overt and clandestine activities in all types of media, funding and support of foreign Communist par­ties and front organizations, [and] political and ideologi­cal indoctrination of foreign students, government offi­cials, terrorists, and military personnel.”

Soviet efforts to expand political influence center on the so-called “active measures,” which include disinfor­mation, forgeries, the use of political agents of influ­ence, and other deceptive operations. Overarching So­viet political and economic expansionism, the new US document charges, is the precept of “peaceful coexis­tence” with the US and the West, defined as a continuing contest in which all forms of struggle short of war are permissible.

US Foreign Policy

US foreign policy, the White House argues, must be mobilized to counter the geopolitical struggle that is being waged by Moscow. The tools available to US diplomacy range from security and economic assistance and trade policy and cooperation in the field of science and technology to the support of freedom fighters. “The tools of [US] foreign policy must encompass the special needs of those who resist Soviet-style regimes im­planted in Third World countries in the 1970s and l980s.”

The phrasing of this pledge seems to suggest that there is no intent to support resistance forces in the Iron Curtain countries that were absorbed in the Soviet orbit immediately after World War II. Without explicitly dif­ferentiating between earlier and more recent Soviet sat­ellites, the US document sets the goal of demonstrating “to the Soviets that their actions aimed at spreading Marxist-Leninist totalitarianism will bring them no en­during gain.”

In terms of this nation’s economic policies vis-à-vis the Soviet bloc, the new national security guideline emphasizes that, as recognized in the Helsinki Accords, “government-to-government cooperation in the eco­nomic sphere should be dependent on progress in other areas, including Eastern observance of human rights.”

America’s ability to fight the war of ideas and support politically her allies and friends is curtailed by a mun­dane fact of life, the new national security document complains. “Public opinion polls consistently find that two-thirds of the American electorate normally take no interest in foreign policy.” Worse yet, “only a bare ma­jority today believes that this country needs to play an active part in world affairs—and that majority is erod­ing.” The national interest requires a commitment “to the maintenance of our political defense as [well as] to our military defense.”

Because there is no natural domestic constituency for foreign policy, the White House document asserts that “we must build one.” Bolstering public concerns over foreign policy issues, the Administration believes, en­tails energizing the private sector “as a key element in the projection of US foreign policy goals.” Private vol­untary organizations concerned about world affairs “are doing an indispensable job of public education.”

Three Principles

In terms of communications strategy, the US must reach out to the USSR and Eastern Europe “to encourage hope for change and to educate [the people of those countries] on the benefits of free institutions.” This strategy is coupled to the assumption that “the process of gradual change will take place inside, but the stim­ulant and the vision of ‘how things could be’ must come from outside in a closed society.”

Overall, US policy for dealing with the USSR rests on three principles, according to the just completed nation­al security policy document:

• Realism, “which means that we must recognize the nature of the Soviet regime and deal frankly and forth­rightly with problems in our relationship.”

• Strength, “which is more than military power. [It] includes political determination, the strength of al­liances, and economic health as well. The Soviet Union respects strength and takes advantage of weakness.”

• Dialogue, “which means that we are prepared to discuss all the issues that divide us and are ready to work for practical and fair solutions on a basis compatible with our own fundamental interests.”

Consistent with this approach, the dialogue proceeds, albeit “slowly,” in four areas: human rights, the reduc­tion of regional conflicts, areas of mutually beneficial cooperation, and arms control, the White House docu­ment pointed out.

Seemingly with more of an eye on ideology than prag­matism, the US national security policy document pro­claims that “we have never recognized the division of Europe as either lawful or permanent. There was no agreement at Yalta to divide Europe into ‘spheres of influence.’ “East-West tensions remain in part the product of Moscow’s annexation of Eastern Europe. In practical terms, US policy must deal with Eastern Eu­rope on a country-by-country basis, with the basic ob­jectives of encouraging “domestic liberalization and more autonomous foreign policies, [promoting] security through enhanced economic and political cooperation, and [fostering] genuine and long-lasting improvements in human rights.”

US Defense Policy

The Administration’s national security strategy pivots on one central imperative: US military forces must be able to deter and, if necessary, defeat aggression across the gamut of potential conflict. In the Administration’s view, the specific nature of the military threat, along with other factors, mandates that “we be prepared to defend our interests as far from North America as possi­ble.”

US military strategy “relies heavily on forward de­ployment of combat-ready forces, reinforced by strong alliance relationships.” These relationships, in turn, ne­cessitate that the US “continue to maintain in peacetime major forward deployments of land, naval, and air forces in Europe, the Atlantic, and the Pacific” as well as in the Western Hemisphere and the Indian Ocean area. The resultant challenges, the White House acknowledged, are dynamic and complex, especially in light of the “significant imbalance of forces favoring the Soviets in several important contingencies.”

The White House document weighs in heavily against treating nuclear forces as a lower-cost alternative to adequate conventional warfare capabilities and forces. In addition to stepping up integration of the reserve forces into the standing force, the White House prom­ises to enhance the nation’s capabilities to surge or mobilize manpower and key industrial resources as well as to maximize the operational benefits that can be obtained from timely strategic warning in the event of crisis or war.

One of the central tenets of the Administration’s de­fense policy is that the US should not seek to beat the Soviets in the numbers game. “Rather, we will work to overcome Soviet numerical superiority by taking advantage of the inherent strengths” of a free, technologically innovative society. Central here is the Administration’s commitment to the concept of “competitive strategies, [meaning] exploiting our technological advantages in thoughtful and systematic ways to cause the Soviets to compete less efficiently or less effectively in areas of military application.”

The underlying aim is to make key portions of the Soviet military arsenal obsolete as well as to force the USSR to divert large resources from missions that most threaten the US to such tasks as defense that are less threatening and destabilizing. These criteria will be ap­plied vigorously in future systems acquisition decisions, the White House reported.

In its drive to maximize US military effectiveness, the Administration is placing major emphasis on an “intan­gible but important asset”—the innovative, enterprising traits of a free people. In terms of both doctrine and training, US defense policy needs to capitalize on these qualities, which the “Soviets cannot match.”

Deterrence of Nuclear War

The deterrence of nuclear war remains the overriding military objective of the US. “Our strategic forces and the associated targeting policy must, by any calculation, be perceived as making nuclear warfare a totally un­acceptable and unrewarding proposition for the Soviet leadership.” This requires the US to maintain diversified

strategic forces to hedge against a disarming first strike, complicate Soviet attack plans, and guard against tech­nological surprise that might neutralize a given element of the strategic triad on a temporary basis.

Several key requirements ensue from this strategic precept. US strategic forces must be able to demon­strate convincingly their ability to hold at risk crucial Soviet warmaking capabilities, including military forces as well as the supporting industry. Equally critical is Soviet recognition that US strategic nuclear forces can terminate the “mechanism for ensuring survival of the Communist Party and its leadership cadres and for re­tention of the Party’s control over the Soviet and Soviet-bloc peoples.” In implementing this strategy, the White House reiterated, “the US does not target population as an objective in itself and seeks to minimize collateral damage through more accurate, lower yield weapons.”

The makeup of US strategic nuclear forces is shaped by two divergent factors—America’s conviction that a nuclear war cannot be won and hence must never be fought and the realization that “we seek to deter an adversary with a very different strategic outlook from our own.” The Soviet Union, the White House docu­ment asserts, “places great stress on nuclear warfighting capability.” By extension, the White House document argues, US strategic forces need to be structured flexi­bly to provide response options to a “broad range of plausible situations.”

At the same time, the strategic forces must offer suffi­cient residual capability to provide leverage for early war termination and to avoid coercion thereafter. “For this reason, we maintain a nuclear reserve force as an integral element of our strategic forces.” Augmenting these reserve forces are programs to maintain the “continuity” of the US government. These programs are aimed at convincing the Soviets that they could not escape retaliation by launching a “decapitating” attack against this country’s central political and military lead­ership structure.

In reiterating the urgency of the Administration’s stra­tegic modernization program—which includes MX. the Small ICBM, the Trident II SLBM. the B-1B. the “Stealth” bomber, the Advanced Cruise Missile, and the Strategic Defense Initiative—the White House pointed out that these requirements would not be obviated by arms-control accords. Even if this country achieved the agreements sought by the Administration, “the US will continue to require modernized, mission-effective, and survivable nuclear forces to provide deterrence, pro­mote stability, and hedge against Soviet cheating or abrogation during the transition to new, lower force levels.”

Arms Control in Perspective

Arms control, the new policy document points out, is only one of several tools to enhance our national secu­rity.” It is “not an end in itself, but an integral part of our national security strategy.” Arms-control accords make sense only if they back up US defense and foreign poli­cies by “[enhancing] deterrence, [reducing] risk, [supporting] alliance relationships, and [ensuring] the Soviets do not gain significant unilateral advantage” over this country.

Specifically, “within the category of offensive nuclear arms, the US gives priority to reducing the most de­stabilizing weapons: fast-flying, nonrecallable ballistic missiles,” the White House document points out. The US also “seeks agreements that reduce arms, not simply codify their increase.” A central US tenet is that “arms-control agreements without effective verification mea­sures are worse than no agreement at all, [since] they create the possibility of Soviet unilateral advantage and can affect US and allied planning with a false sense of security.”

The goals associated with this country’s arms-control efforts, the Administration cautioned, “contrast sharply with the Soviet arms-control approach,” which is ori­ented toward unilateral advantage that is achieved in part “by failing to comply with important provisions of existing arms-control agreements.”

The White House document reiterated US willingness to negotiate on a wide range of arms-reduction issues, including several that were broached at the Reykjavik summit meeting in October 1986. Key here is the objec­tive of reducing strategic offensive forces by fifty per­cent over a five-year period and “elimination of all US and Soviet offensive ballistic missiles of whatever range or armament during the second five years.” The US proposal would also let either side “deploy advanced strategic defenses after the ten-year period, unless both agreed not to.” During the initial ten-year period, neither side would have the option to withdraw from the ABM Treaty, but both sides during that period are per­mitted to carry out ABM research, development, and testing.

The US is interested in the complete elimination of all land-based, longer-range INF (LRINF) missiles. As an interim step, the US seeks a “global agreement limiting the US and USSR to 100 LRINF missile warheads each, to be deployed in Soviet Asia and the US, with none of either side in Europe.”

The new White House document cites several other key objectives in the field of arms control that include a fully verifiable, global ban of chemical weapons and agreements with the USSR “for an orderly transition to a more defense-reliant world.” In the nonnuclear sector, the US pledges to seek alliance-to-alliance negotiations toward cuts in conventional forces that are both verifi­able and recognize the geographic asymmetries affect­ing the two sides.

The new Administration policy seeks “essential im­provements” in the verification of nuclear testing, with an eye on eventual ratification of the interrelated Threshold Test Ban Treaty and the Peaceful Nuclear Explosions Treaty. “Once our verification concerns have been satisfied and the ratification process com­pleted, we would be prepared immediately to engage in negotiations with the Soviets on ways to implement a step-by-step program to limit and ultimately end nuclear testing in association with a program to reduce and ultimately end all nuclear weapons.”

(This long-term commitment to consider halting all nuclear testing seems at odds with hints elsewhere in the document that the need for some nuclear weapons is open-ended. The utility of small numbers of nuclear weapons that may not work because they can’t be tested is problematic.)

Countervailing the somewhat optimistic tone of the document in the area of potential arms-control topics is its somewhat hardnosed approach to verification. The Administration considers “effective verification to be equally as important as specific negotiated limits; they should be negotiated concurrently.”

A Chance for Freedom

Pointing out that the US over the past seven years held defense spending to an average of about six percent of GNP—compared to between seven and nine percent in the 1950s and 1960s—the national security policy docu­ment underscores that the “inherent size and strength of the US economy [act] as our ultimate line of defense.” Central here is the ability to surge the industrial base during conflict. The industrial base’s health has clear military and strategic significance, which makes im­provements in industrial productivity mandatory. As a consequence, government must provide “incentives for increased productivity, improved manufacturing tech­nologies, and increased US competitiveness in the inter­national marketplace.”

In reaching for the moral high ground, the new White House document points out that with freedom never being really free and never being paid for in a lump sum, “installations come due in every generation. All any of us can do is offer the next generations that follow a chance for freedom.”

A Revised Policy for Space

The Defense Department recently revamped its five-year-old space policy to place greater emphasis on the potential role of military personnel in space, the creation of a “robust and com­prehensive antisatellite capability,” and space control func­tions in general. Specifically, under this new policy, the Pen­tagon “will develop and acquire operational space control capabilities to deter or, during conflict, protect against hostile space-based threats to the US and its allies.” Space systems, henceforth, will be tailored for survivability and endurance to ensure that they can perform reliably and on a sustained basis at “designated levels of conflict.”

Among the developments that led to revision of the 1982 Department of Defense Space Policy are SDI (Strategic De­fense Initiative), changes in the national space launch policy, formation of a unified space command, NASA’s Manned Space Station program, greater exploitation by other nations, and the “emergence of commercial space enterprises and the hesitan­cy of the private sector to invest in large space ventures.”

In announcing the policy revisions, Secretary of Defense Caspar W. Weinberger stressed that military space systems contribute primarily to three national security objectives: providing deterrence of or, if necessary, defense against enemy attacks; ensuring that “forces of hostile nations cannot prevent our own use of space”; and serving as a force multiplier of US and allied combat forces.

Surprisingly, the unclassified version of the new space policy does not deal with one of the most pesky and vexing aspects in the relationship between commercial space activities and na­tional security concerns: rapidly increasing and essentially uncontrollable remote sensing capabilities. Space-based com­mercial sensors—such as the French Spot satellite—may soon be able to transmit real-time pictures of any region of the globe with resolutions approaching one meter. This material could be made available to commercial television anywhere in the world. The US, in the past, has attempted to confine space-based sensing data used commercially to resolutions in the twenty-meter range in order to reduce its military utility. As both the sophistication of sensors and the number of countries operat­ing them increase, keeping the lid on militarily usable real-time data becomes next to impossible. The unchecked availability of this type of data in wartime or during crises is probably intol­erable.

In step with the revision of the Pentagon’s space policy, Secretary Weinberger also announced a restructuring of the US antisatellite (ASAT) program. The new three-pronged ap­proach includes measures to double the altitude capability of the system now under test to make its range comparable to that of the operational Soviet ASAT. Two basic avenues will be ex­plored: extending the range of existing F-15-launched weap­ons by increasing the thrust of their lower-stage boosters and developing a ground-launched system using such existing boost vehicles as the Pershing II missile. In either case, the upper-stage booster and the actual kill mechanism, the MV (miniature vehicle), of the current ASAT system would be re­tained.

Development of an “enhanced altitude MV-ASAT” could be initiated in 1988, leading to deployment “before the mid-1990s, providing concurrent tests against objects in space can re­sume in FY ’88,” according to Secretary Weinberger. At the same time, the Pentagon will continue work on the existing F-15-launched, low-altitude ASAT with an eye on achieving initial operational capability (IOC) “by very early in the 1990s.” The Defense Department, he added, will continue its efforts “to seek relief from the moratorium which prohibits tests against objects in space” that Congress has imposed for two years running.

The third element of the revised ASAT program centers on funding “cooperatively with the Strategic Defense Initiative a ground laser technology demonstration effort.” A future ground-based laser system (probably of the excimer or rare-gases variety) will “complement the MV-ASAT and significantly complicate the ability of any adversary to defend [his] satel­lites,” according to Secretary Weinberger. The Air Force has requested about $100 million in the FY ’88-89 budgets to devel­op hardware and conduct testing for this purpose. SDI, which originally evinced interest in the excimer laser, has since shift­ed its focus to free-electron lasers that apparently can attain greater “brightness,” meaning thermal power, levels.