The Case Against Our Armed Forces

Dec. 1, 1961

The United States is confronted with a serious par­adox. In a period of unrelenting and heightened danger in which the nation’s military may be called upon at any moment in almost any part of the world to act in the country’s interest, the military establishment is at the same time under attack from elements within the United States. What is the nature of this attack and its source? Is it valid

The role of the military in American democratic society was given fresh scrutiny following President Eisenhower’s “warning” on leaving the White House. After observing that the quest for peace had been con­tinuously threatened by international communism and that our very survival was at stake, the President took note of what he described as a “permanent armaments industry of vast proportions.” While this complex was clearly a necessity, he said, the structure of our demo­cratic society was at stake:

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of mis­placed power exists and will persist.”

This statement by President Eisenhower in his fare­well address reflected a view that he had held during his tenure in the White House. Whether this opinion originated in Eisenhower’s assumption that there was, in fact, a serious possibility of a military coup or whether it was primarily nurtured by fiscal considera­tions, is not clear. It is entirely possible that both ele­ments were involved. However, it was well established that Eisenhower had for some time been particularly annoyed by pressure from armaments manufacturers and the Congress for increased expenditures devoted to the development of new weapons.

In a news conference of November 4, 1959, he re­plied to a suggestion by ABMA’s Dr. Wernher von Braun (Director, Development Operations Division, Army Ballistic Missile Agency) and ARPA’s Roy W. Johnson (Director of DoD’s Advanced Research Proj­ects Agency) that the Saturn project should be devel­oped on a crash basis by observing that, “I have never seen any specialist of any kind that was bashful in ask­ing for federal money.” The effect of President Eisen­hower’s speech was to heighten fears and reinforce similar opinions that had been expressed for some time.

Fear of military influence has risen sharply. That this is true in a period of grave danger—while a paradox—is clearly explainable. The impact of President Eisen-hower’s remarks was significant. Walter Lippmann ­who in Eisenhower’s last years as President had been highly critical of the Administration—found it “impres­sive that the old soldier should make his warning the main theme of his farewell address.” The “admonition” of Army Maj. Gen. Edwin Walker, Commander of the 4th Division, for conducting a vigorous anti-Commu­nist program with far-right-wing overtones within his command occurred almost simultaneously with the furor over the far-right activities of the John Birch Society. Militant groups like the Christian Anti-Communism Crusade, the National Education Program, and the Christian Crusade have engaged high-ranking military officers in seminars and conferences.

These events served as a significant backdrop to the issuance of the so-called Fulbright Memorandum, a Memorandum on Propaganda Activities of Military Personnel Directed at the Public,” written by Sen. J. William Fulbright of Arkansas, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations.

The role of military officers in countering communism has been played against the background of a weapons revolution that has forced the United States reevaluate its basic policy. The tremendous potential ­for destruction inherent in thermonuclear weapons d the fact that the world has been polarized em­phasizes the potential for catastrophe in any world trouble spot. People are naturally and seriously concern­ed over the possibility that seems to this writer to be extremely remote rather than a distinct probability. Another major reason for an increase in antimilitary sentiment may be traced to a somewhat belated recognition by the American people that large resources destined for the military establishment must not only be continued, but continued indefinitely; and that further defense outlays must of necessity be increased.

This is not a comforting reawakening. In the first place, it means sacrifice. Secondly, there is no end in sight. And to a nation that has consistently sought clear and rapid solutions to its major international problems, it is plainly aggravating and puzzling. There unquestionably exists in America a segment of the populace that, while recognizing the need for a strong defense, is not happy—and never could be at ease—with a significant military buildup. Many of these per­sons are in responsible positions with ready access to high levels of government and to the mass communica­tions media.

This is not to say that an innate suspicion and un­easiness in the presence of large military forces is by itself wrong or even undesirable. It is, in fact, an American tradition. On the other hand, there is a sig­nificant difference between being uncomfortable and suspicious and being hostile and uncompromising. This is especially true in the world that confronts the West in the 1960s. It is of paramount importance that the soldier and the statesman understand each other. Anti-military bias in the United States today focuses upon three major points:

— That there is the distinct possibility of a political coup by the military.

— That the military is proposing and steadily work­ing for total nonmilitary cold war.

— That the military is undertaking political indoc­trination of the civilian populace.

These charges are put forth with sincerity and conviction. It is not the position of the writer that these allegations are either contrived or meaningless. They are serious in content and are deserving of analysis. Senator Fulbright’s memorandum, which climaxed a series of events that began with President Eisenhower’s “warning,” encompassed all three points. Senator Fulbright directed attention to these conclusions:

1. “Under a National Security Council directive in 1958, it remains the policy of the US government to make use of military personnel and facilities to arouse the public ‘to the menace of the cold war.'”

2. “Basic material for implementing the policy, un­der the title of American Strategy for the Nuclear Age, prepared and disseminated by private organiza­tions with close military connections . . . can be said to be contrary to the President’s program.”

3. “In at least eleven instances . . . the actual pro­grams, closely identified with military personnel, made use of extremely radical right-wing speakers and/or materials, with the probable net result of condemning foreign and domestic policies of the Administration in the public mind.”

Senator Fulbright wrote that his objective was to indicate the danger inherent in educational and propa­ganda activities conducted by the military and aimed at the public. Further, he would make recommenda­tions for dealing with the problems that have resulted from these activities.

He was concerned that material produced and aimed at the public focused upon an alleged internal Com­munist threat. Fulbright suspected a direct connection between the 1958 National Security Council directive and the incidence of right-wing military programs. It followed that a major result might very well be serious obstacles to President Kennedy’s domestic and foreign policies. To Senator Fulbright the underlying philoso­phy of the seminars, conferences, and meetings was in all probability “representative of a substantial element of military thought.”

In attacking the core background of military officers, he observed that:

“There is little in the education, training, or ex­perience of most military officers to equip them with the balance of judgment necessary to put their own ultimate solutions . . . into proper perspective in the President’s total strategy for the nuclear age.”

In addition, while drawing a parallel between the French and American military, Fuibright was con­cerned with the possibility of the military igniting a conflict either by accident or by design.

Underlying his thesis was the idea that the right-wing military orientation was inflicting upon the Amer­ican public a “particularly aggressive view” which was not desirable. Thus, Senator Fuibright recommended the following:

— A revision of the 1958 NSC directive based upon the mistaken assumption that the military possessed the background to formulate cold-war policy.

— Such military activity should be brought under civilian control by directive rather than by considering only individual cases.

— The organization, mission, and activity of the National War College should be reviewed.

— The relationship between the Foreign Policy In­stitute of the University of Pennsylvania, the Institute for American Strategy, the Richardson Foundation, the National War College, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff should be studied to assess whether the relationship condones a policy different from that of the Adminis­tration.

— Establishment of a program giving “promising” officers an opportunity for graduate study in history, government, and foreign policy at universities prior to promotion to high ranks.

— Appointment of a civilian committee to review the necessity of education programs for military per­sonnel and to bring the content and operation of these programs under civilian control.

What was the impact and meaning of the Fulbright Memorandum? Any analysis must take into considera­tion Fulbright’s stature as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and his position as a highly respected voice within the Administration’s foreign policy advisory core.

In general, the Arkansas Democrat called for a con­certed Administration drive to bring the military establishment in line with the President’s specific pro­gram. At the same time, he went further by suggesting an investigation of private research organizations and their connection with the National War College and the Joint Chiefs of Staff. But perhaps the crucial and most far-reaching point was Fulbright’s indictment of the military as being impulsive and incapable of re­straint in a time of danger. While the inference was there, he seemed to have stopped just short of sug­gesting a real possibility of a military coup in a crisis situation.

Charges of a possible coup springing from the Amer­ican military have lately come from highly respected sources. In a pamphlet entitled Community of Fear, published in September 1960 by the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, Harrison Brown and James Real observed:

“Thus, if things continue the way they are going, the eventual possibility of a coup by the military must be seriously considered. Is the general assump­tion that the American soldier is automatically re­sponsive to his civilian masters correct? We might be rudely shaken were there a serious and clearly visible retreat on the world front by the American policy-makers. The same might be true in the event of a disarmament agreement which the military does not consider foolproof.”

The last point was also made by Waldemar A. Niel­sen (“Huge, Hidden Impact of the Pentagon,” N. Y. Times Magazine, June 25, 1961) whose concern was directed at the possibility of some progress in disarma­ment negotiations at Geneva. To Nielsen, the military preoccupation with the cold war meant a “difficult problem” in winning public and congressional accept­ance of any disarmament agreement. Similarly, Fred­eric W. Collins (“Military Indoctrination of Civilians,” The New Republic, June 26, 1961) has pointed out that the effect of “military intrusion in civilian education” is to undermine presidential leadership for peace:

“Its effect is to rule out any serious search for com­promise, to equate negotiations with appeasement, and to create circumstances in which a frustrated public could one day wish to turn to the military for their answer to the cold war—the insurrection of the French generals is fair warning.”

There are a number of things wrong with these interpretations and assumptions. In the first place, Brown and Real utilize a readily identifiable ploy in asking: Is the general assumption that the American soldier is automatically responsive to his civilian masters correct?” In asking the question and following it with a qualified prediction, they infer that the answer is in the negative. They offer no proof, no facts to base such an assumption on except that the NATO alliance is geogr­aphically dispersed, riddled with political differences, fraught with logistic and communication troubles, and bothered somewhat by language problems. What does history show? Has the United States a history of military ­coups and attempted takeovers? Collins—like Ful­bright—points to a supposedly valid French parallel. The French and American situations are decidely different, influenced as they have been by separate currents, diverse histories, and altogether dissimilar conditions. Gen. Douglas MacArthur differed publicly with United States policy and while not attempting to gain political control, he was summarily dismissed from his multicommand position during the Korean conflict.

Brown and Real are disturbed that a policy retreat significant proportions by the US might be the signal ­for a military takeover. The military would be aided by its “alliance” with the scientist-technician. They argue that “should a showdown between the military and the civilian sectors occur, many of the more influential members of this group (scientist-technician) could be relied upon to back staunchly the handlers of weapons they have so devotedly evolved.” No theoretical situations are advanced, however. What connotes—in the collective military mind—a serious retreat? Is there, in fact, a singular unity to American soldiery? Collins has stated that search for compromise and negotiations are in effect appeasement as far as the military are concerned. It may be speculated that successive summit meetings then, constitute a retreat. What of Cuba and Laos? And the Hungarian uprising? Is it necessary to go as far back as the frustrating Korean War? There is abundant evidence that the American military was clearly unhappy with these vents. It would not be stretching the point to conc­lude that the above examples were interpreted by military men as visible softness or retreat on the part of US policy-makers. Yet, no coup was attempted.

It is questionable whether the US military would ever act as one. Certainly the French military has not recently. The attempted coup by the French generals was crushed with the not insignificant aid of the overwhelming majority and power of loyal French soldiery. There are diverse pulls within our own military—within and between services. The latter at times has broken out into open rivalry and public debate. It is my observation that a successful political coup by the US military establishment is a very remote possibility indeed; in fact, so remote as to border almost on fantasy.

Attention has also been directed to alleged interfer­ence of the defense sector in disarmament negotiations. Brown and Real have pointed to “domestic forces, largely unspoken, that commit us more absolutely each day to the path away from effective arms control—not to speak of actual disarmament.” But the difficulty in pointing the finger at mysterious domestic forces is simply that it misses the crux of the arms race problem. Certainly it must be admitted that defense contractors have a vested interest in the continuance of the spiral­ing race. But this is the symptom of the disease. The cancer is not the development and production of weapons per se, or even the military’s call for larger and more powerful arms outlays, but rather the tre­mendous schism—ideological, social, and political—between communism and democracy. Sixteen years of disarmament talks have conclusively shown the almost impossibility of negotiating an agreement prior to po­litical settlements in the world’s tension areas. The basic impediment to a disarmament agreement is not the military-scientific “alliance,” but the fact that the Soviet Union and the United States are miles apart in their view of man’s relation to human society.

A further direct criticism has been that high military officials have worked toward a total nonmilitary cold war. This is undoubtedly correct. Singled out with the defense establishment have been the Foreign Policy Research Institute of the University of Pennsylvania and the Institute for American Strategy. The Foreign Policy Research Institute has produced two books which have drawn fire from those opposed to total cold war: Protracted Conflict, by Robert Strausz-Hupé, William R. Kintner, James E. Dougherty, and Alvin J. Cottrell and A Forward Strategy for America, by Strausz-Hupé, Kintner, and Stefan T. Possony. The prime force behind the Institute for American Strategy is Frank R. Barnett, Program Director for the IAS and Research Director of the Richardson Foundation. The Institute for American Strategy conducts seminars on national defense matters. Nielsen remarks that defense spokesmen “reflect a preoccupation with the cold war”; Collins protests against “a total nonmilitary war, in which the civilians must fully engage themselves, against the Communist bloc”; and Brown and Real state, “There is rather clearly a military group emerg­ing in the United States which is dedicated to a posi­tion of perpetual hostility toward the Soviet Union and which wields enormous political as well as military power.”

Few would deny that this nation is engaged in cold war, a conflict fought with ideological, economic, social, and political weapons, but in which military power is always in the background and is sometimes brought into play. The cold war waged between des­potic totalitarianism and freedom is at once a deadly serious and dangerous affair. The stakes are the highest that man can fight for—freedom and human dignity.

The argument, however, is not so much whether we are engaged or not, but whether the war should be total. This point is perhaps somewhat more subtle. It de­pends, I think, on how one looks at the adversary. If one looks at communism as a force primarily striving to gain social justice, a higher standard of living for its people and greater security for a nation ravaged in the second World War, then the cold war would seem to be something less than total. If, on the other hand, an individual views communism as an international force militantly attempting to enforce its dogma and power upon nations outside the bloc through subver­sion, deceit, and force of arms, the conclusion on the nature of the cold war will be that it is irrevocably total.

The question remains, which view is more nearly correct? Facts such as the Berlin Blockade, the Korean War, the Polish and East German insurrections, the Hungarian Revolution, and the Tibetan atrocities are there for everybody to see. But in which framework are they seen? Behind one’s own value judgments of the objectives of communism lurk one’s world view, philosophy of life and history. Bertrand Russell and Prime Minister Nehru clearly adhere to concepts dif­ferent from those of Winston Churchill and Charles de Gaulle. It is a subjective judgment. But it is difficult indeed for many Americans today—after sixteen years of frustration which includes hot and cold war—to concede that the conflict is not, in fact, serious, danger­ous, and frightening. Because many believe that free­dom and dignity of the individual and the nation are at stake and that further, the end might come swiftly and horribly, the tendency would seem to be at once one of preparedness and caution; strength to be em­ployed where necessary and caution in not stepping over the nuclear precipice.

Life in the world of the 1960s is not without risk. A thermonuclear holocaust hangs over our heads and is ever-present in our minds. The defense establish­ment and the civilian leadership of the United States believe that the best way to prevent a total nuclear war is to make it perfectly clear to the Communists that we have every intention of defending and preserving—if not extending—freedom. And here, perhaps, is a cru­cial point in the divergent philosophies of total and nontotal cold war. The advocates of total cold war emphasize that the status quo of so-called peaceful co­existence is not good enough; the democracies must take the offensive.

The aims of United States civilian leadership and those of the military establishment—and overwhelming­ly of all Americans—are alike, i.e., the defense of our lib­erties with honor and without surrender. It would seem that those who often speak so eloquently of tolerance would at the same time concede to the military the right to promulgate a doctrine approaching total cold war. After all, under a republican form of government, there is usually room to correct any prevalent excesses if they exist.

This leads us to a consideration of the charge that military personnel are attempting political indoctrina­tion of the civilian populace. It has always seemed to me that a discussion of this nature involves subtleties that are peculiarly inherent in a democracy. In general, the allegation has centered upon far right wing groups that—in concert with military officers—have held “action” seminars and distributed propaganda to the civilian population. It is the opinion of the writer that these groups have in many instances gone to extremes in promoting their viewpoint. It is not unusual in Amer­ican history; American civilization has had its share of extremists—both of the right and left. My concern is with the attack upon such organizations as the Foreign Policy Research Institute, the Institute for American Strategy, and responsible and competent members of the military who form by far the overwhelming majority of the defense forces. These institutions are not extremist; they are sincerely and I think correctly concerned with America’s position in the world com­munity and with the threat of communism.

Nielsen has conceded that:

“Members of the military services who are giving their time and effort to these programs are deeply, patriotically concerned about what they feel is a lack of preparedness in the United States for the world struggle in which we are now engaged. And they have the unquestioned right to express their views.”

On the other hand, it seems to me that, perhaps, some concern should be shown when responsible and respected members of the community assert—as Collins does—that “the time has come for some extremely firm indoctrination of military minds by civilian au­thorities.” It is a supreme irony that those who cry the loudest against alleged military indoctrination of civilians should now propose a program similar to that which they so vociferously criticize.

What is essential today is not that civilians and military carp at each other, but rather that they under­stand and respect one another.

The future of the United States will be decided by the strength and determination which we bring to the task of preserving our liberties. Involved is the re­siliency of democratic society. This is a challenge which has absolutely nothing to do with soldiers versus civilians. It has everything to do with the survival of freedom. Should we lose the cold war, we may take perverse solace in the fact that we have no one to blame in large measure but ourselves.—END

Yesterday’s Cliche All Dressed Up in Today’s Jargon

A few years ago C. Wright Mills, a sociologist, wrote a book called The Power Elite. It was a fascinating arrangement of facts designed to support the thesis that there is a

conspiracy in this country involving our industrialists, our politicians, and our military leaders. There is planning and plotting, Mr. Mills asserted, to maintain national power within this circle, and he placed most of the responsibility on the business and military components. Critics at the time said there was an uncomfortable degree of truth in The Power Elite.

The Mills thesis was not new; what was new was the analysis from the standpoint of a sociologist instead of a muckraker or a congressman such as Gerald P. Nye. In the same sense, the current row over some military officers who are inclined to equate social progress with communism and then inculcate the troops with this philosophy also is an old story. It is discussed with deep penetration by Herman Wolk in the accompanying article.

The editors of AIR FORCE Magazine would be remiss if they did not point out that Mr. Wolk has fixed his sight on only one part of the antimilitary spectrum as it exists in 1961. In the highest councils of the government we have one man who has written that the Joint Chiefs of Staff are incapable of coming up with first-class ideas and are wedded to status quo. We have another who has been described in the public prints as a strong believer that the American people must free their affairs from what is called the “warrior mentality.”

On top of this there is a sustained effort by some mem­bers of Congress to deprecate military capabilities in such areas as procurement, technology, and the techniques of management. One House committee, within the past few months, staged an outrageous demonstration over a small R&D contract with Bryn Mawr College. The contract con­cerned basic research looking ahead to space travel and the word “body” happened to be in the title. Bryn Mawr is a girl’s school. The committee whipped up its own ribald laughter at the expense of Air Force witnesses who are competent and underpaid for the kind of work they are doing in the interest of national security. It was not able to find anything wrong with the contract or its results.

Other manifestations of this downgrading of military competence and dignity are rampant. They range from the harassment of retired officers to the periodic attacks on the BX privileges of the ordinary GI.

Among the graduates of a military academy, just as among the graduates of Harvard, MIT, and any other school in or out of the Ivy League, there will develop a small minority of extremists. They may be to the left, the right, religious fanatics, or food faddists. The remainder are the men who hold responsibility for this nation’s—and the free world’s—security. Basically, as Mr. Wolk points out, their supervi­sion by civilians is ensured by the Constitution. There is nothing there to guarantee them the simple human rights of respect and dignity. This can be given only by their fellow citizens.

—Claude Witze

The author, Mr. Wolk, has been a historian at Hq. SAC, Offutt AFB, Neb., for the last three years. A native of Springfield, Mass., he served in Army I&E programs from 1953-55, and from 1956-58 was a high-school history teacher in Sturbridge, Mass. Mr. Wolk holds B.A. and M.A. degrees from American International College, Springfield, Mass., and has done work toward his Ph.D. at the University of Washing­ton. He is at present completing work on a book on strategic weapon systems, doctrine, and national policy, sched­uled for publication in 1962. Mr. Wolk, his wife, and their daughter live in Omaha.