This produces such handy—but inaccurate—tags for the Air Force as being “believers in obliteration”—having no finesse for local war, should one be thrust upon us—lacking appreciation of likely political constraints—and a host of others, in similar vein.
Despite this fact, bits and pieces of studies, guesses, and, most of all capabilities get tagged as doctrine.
We are sometimes asked what we could do – and a complete answer includes the capability to destroy the Soviet Union. But this does not mean that the destruction of the Soviet Union is the basis of Air Force doctrine and the answer to all the evils of this troubled age.
Key Issue: Air Force Doctrine in Local WarThere is general agreement that this doctrine is responsive to the national policy when the issue under discussion is general war. The key deterrent role of nuclear airpower is recognized by the US government, by the American people, and abroad.
The Air Force believes that much of what has been written and said about local war lacks only critical measurement against political, economic, and military reality to make the kind of lasting sense that permits unified progress in solving problems.
To complete the policy picture we must add a qualifier.
In the successful resolution of conflict this requirement ranks second only to the preservation of national security.
The essentials of the national local war strategy in no way present either a conceptual or practical problem within the Air Force. We believe in this strategy. We do not believe it requires change to assure US security.
So, with the tasks of, first, deterrence and second, favorable resolution in mind, let us now examine the essential elements of each task in an effort to visualize the specific types of forces required to perform these tasks.
First, adequate armed force.
And last, the aggressor’s belief that the force and the determination exist.
DeterminationThis, then, brings us to the requirement for determination.
The United States is determined to halt aggression. This determination must be manifest if we are to deter the aggression in the first place.
The foundation for American Determination to deter or halt local aggression is awareness that small conflicts, unresolved, can provoke larger conflicts and increasing dangers. Additionally, appreciation of the possibility of piecemeal defeat, or defeat by default, is a growing concern in the official consciousness to a degree which call for the measurement of any aggression against United States security.
Add to these factors our commitments by treaties and agreements the world over and there is a firm foundation for real determination to resist aggression.
This is most likely and, at the same time, increasingly difficult for the enemy. The US is now aware of, or interested in, or Involved in, the affairs of the nations of the globe, to an unprecedented degree. The enemy will be increasingly hard put to mount overt aggression without provoking US response.
There are many factors alleged to be sapping this determination.
I believe that the prospect of sending American manpower, armed only with TNT weapons, against remote aggression would most seriously inhibit US determination. It is apparent that dependence on outmoded elements of force, to the exclusion of nuclear firepower where this capability is needed, would be suicidal in this day and age.
The belief we must establish in the enemy’s consciousness is not that a military commander would fight to preserve an advanced position, but that the US government would order the use of sufficient armed force, quickly, in the case of overt aggression.
This state of affairs is relative and not fixed. Determination and the resulting credibility will not automatically grow stronger, but must be nourished.
Adequate Armed ForceYou will recall that I named the three requirements of deterrence as being adequate armed force, determination, and belief. I have discussed the last two of these first, and now return to the subject of armed force.
I do so, because there may be a decided difference between adequate deterrent forces and adequate fighting forces, in local conflicts, depending primarily on the political objectives established.
There has been local conflict through all of recorded history.
The real deterrent to significant local conflict is nuclear firepower. The whole of this firepower is our general war deterrent. That portion of this firepower, up to the total necessary to achieve resolution, is the adequate force for local warfare.
Adequate Force for ConflictWhat, then, is the right measure of force for local conflict?
We have no doubt that total nuclear force would resolve local conflict, were the need solely one of guaranteed delivery of overwhelming force. But this is not always the issue in local conflict, as it is in general war.
On the other hand, if there is significant local conflict, requiring the rapid, sure, all-weather delivery of calculated force to warn, repulse, or destroy, then one aircraft or two or ten could strike.
Navy aircraft could strike; Army or Marine troops could be required to separate the combatants; Air Force or Marine aircraft could support these troops – in short, the full range of US capabilities will be available, and must be used--promptly and effectively--as needed.
This is precisely the difference between adequate armed force in deterrence and in use. We deter with our total capability, including all lesser facets thereof. We will elect to use that portion required and best suited to the resolution of the particular conflict.
In NATO, where an attack on one is an attack on all, the total nuclear offensive force is a deterrent to local aggression. There are many factors at play in this circumstance, but the fact is that this is an area where aggression involves more than just risk of general war. General war forces, characterized by elements both in place and behind the scenes, are in deterrent posture against local aggression. The North Atlantic Alliance is a concrete expression of the determination, which instills belief and is, in essence, deterrence.
For another example of adequate armed force in deterrence, look to Korea. It is clear that the Communists intend to possess the Korean peninsula. This they tried to do and failed. We have rebuilt the South Korean armed forces into a relatively large military establishment.
From this examination we conclude that serious conflict inspired by the USSR cannot be deterred without adequate general war force. We also see that the total deterrent force need not be the force used in local conflict.
First, local war could spread into general war. (I believe this is a reasonable statement. It is dangerous when it becomes an axiom, to the effect that all local wars will spread into general war.)
Third, some local wars can be fought without using nuclear weapons. (We agree that there could be local wars not requiring nuclear weapons. If the conflict is so small as to obviate the need for the balancing power of nuclear weapons, then the US certainly has the capability to handle the conflict. But this in not the same as saying that all local wars can, must or should be fought without nuclear weapons.)
In a recent expression Secretary Dulles went into some detail to explain the difference between massive retaliation and the use of nuclear weapons. He indicated that the use of nuclear weapons in local conflict “need not involve vast destruction and widespread harm to humanity…” Hence, “… it may be possible to defend countries by nuclear weapons so mobile, or so placed, as to make military invasion with conventional forces a hazardous attempt.”
Mr. Dulles, in the same context, turned the problem around, as the Air Force in fact sees it to be, when he said: “Thus the tables may be turned, in the sense that all-out nuclear retaliatory power for their protection, would-be aggressors will be unable to count on conventional aggression, but must themselves weigh the consequences of invoking nuclear war.”
Add to these statements such facts as these: the gradual revamping of traditional US military force since world War II, with emphasis on technology, not on manpower; the tremendous strides in all services toward nuclear capabilities; the conventional tag now placed on nuclear weapons themselves. Add these, and the many other signs, and it is apparent that, if we are engaged in conflict requiring nuclear force for resolution, even limited resolution, then nuclear force, adapted to the need, will be used. That force, in adequate measure for local conflict, is presently available. I trust that it will be maintained.
“But what about our allies; will they welcome defense by nuclear weapons?”
This is not to say that any ally or for that matter any individual wants to use nuclear weapons. It is to say that most allies and individuals want to self-determine rather than bow to Communist rule.
The Secretary of State recently commented on this subject, saying, “However, as nuclear weapons become more tactical in character and thus more adaptable to area defense, there will inevitable by a desire on the part of those allies which are technically qualified to participate more directly in this defense and to have a greater assurance that this defensive power will in fact be used.”
I hesitate to comment on this conclusion in less than full detail and yet it should not stand unexamined.
The answers to these and other questions do not convince me that it is necessary, wise, or feasible to have two tremendous capabilities to ensure survival in the nuclear-space age.
I refer now to the fact that in the years since World War II there have been numerous small wars in which the Communists have been involved. From this fact is deduced the conclusion that nuclear strength did not prevent aggression in Korea, Greece, and Vietnam. The implication is left that nuclear strength cannot deter aggression.
Examples of Adequate Local War ForcesIt now follows that we delineate adequate armed force, not as a deterrent, but in terms of actual use, once the deterrent has failed.
With the knowledge that political objectives will dominate, that the least force required will be utilized, and that once the decision to engage is made, then adequate force, not inadequate force, will be selected, I believe we can roughly illustrate its composition and characteristics.
The Air Force has examined possible areas of conflict in minute detail in recent months. We have studied these areas in terms of conflict in 1958 or 1960. We applied limitations to the assumed US national objectives and assumed that these conflicts were to be conducted with the minimal aim of restoring the status quo ante bellum. That is, not to defeat or destroy the aggressor nation but to end the aggression. This assumption makes the military task more delicate, and this is precisely why it was made. This is not to say that such a minimal aim is or is not desirable.
One conclusion emerged paramount.
Rapid, effective response to aggression is needed or else the aggression will have succeeded, and the fait accompli will be impossible to undo.
Were TNT weapons to be used it could be a matter of years before sufficient forces could be built, brought to bear, and take effect. All of this would be defense of an ally, not by limited nuclear means, but by full-scale attack in the face of determined air opposition over a period of years, after the aggression succeeded. The suffering involved would be indescribable. The American investment in lives, resource, and effort would be tremendous. Were this our only recourse I suspect the result would be early capitulation by our allies in the absence of any hope of relief before the fact.
We derive these additional conclusions:
These Air Force power elements at home and overseas are equipped to deliver minimal or maximum firepower with precision, day or night, in any weather, with a speed of response unparalleled heretofore. Missiles are being integrated into this force as a matter of priority.
First, to deter all conflict, principally general war.Second, to resolve local conflict, quickly and resolutely, so that it will have the least likelihood of developing into general war. Third, to use nuclear firepower where needed and in a manner best suited to the objectives at the time.
We believe that Air Force doctrine is in accord with the national policy is in fact in anticipation of that policy, and has a force molded to its military implementation with full consideration of the political requirements that are involved.
Daily Report: Read the day's top news on the US Air Force, airpower, and national security issues.
Tweets by @AirForceMag