Academic journal article Military Review

Western Defense Planning

Academic journal article Military Review

Western Defense Planning

Article excerpt

Captain B.H. Liddell Hart's lead article in the June 1956 issue of Military Review gives a concrete example of the difficulties of developing a coherent military strategy, as outlined in the preceding two articles. In view of the existing "mutual assured destruction" strategy at the dawn of the nuclear age, Liddell Hart's proposal for "graduated action" as a military strategy for a young NATO also prophetically foreshadowed the Kennedy Doctrine of "flexible response."

ADJUSTMENT TO THE NEW realities of the atomic age is depressingly slow among the powers that be-both in high military quarters and in the centers of government. Yet, one can sympathize with the planners in their effort to adapt military doctrine to the superrevolutionary effects of atomic energy. It is very difficult for reason and imagination to bridge the gulf between warfare in the past and warfare where atomic weapons-bombs, missiles and shells-can be used in hundreds or thousands, and where hydrogen bombs, each equivalent to millions of tons of high explosive, are also available. What that means may be better realized if we remember that the original atom bomb used at Hiroshima, with shattering effect, was merely equivalent to 20,000 tons of high explosive.

On a realistic reckoning of the effects of present weapons, it is evident that present defense planning is far from being adequately adjusted to new conditions. While there is much talk of preparedness for nuclear warfare, the actual changes which have been made in military organization are relatively slight compared with the immensity of the problems arising from development of nuclear weapons.

The defense measures of the NATO countries have a palpable air of unreality, and the forces they have been building up are still very markedly under the influence of "war as it was"-in 1945 and earlier. In the continental countries, this persisting outlook may be partly explained by the fact that their leaders are less closely in touch with nuclear potentialities than those of the United States, not having taken a hand in the development of nuclear power. They are also habituated to thinking of warfare mainly in terms of land operations with large conscript armies, an ingrained tendency which led them into disastrous trouble even in World War II by causing them to overlook the extent to which the airpower of that date could upset their military ground plans. In France, there is more sign than elsewhere of an effort to think out the military problem afresh, but the process and its application have been hindered by ceaseless colonial distractions-for years in Indochina and now in North Africa. Moreover, the influence of new French thinking tends to be diminished by the loss of prestige which France has suffered since the disasters of 1940.

In Germany there is a fund of military experience greater than anywhere else, and eventual defeat in World War II should not only produce more readiness to learn from its lessons but also create an atmosphere favorable to fresh thinking and new techniques. On the other hand, however, the chiefs of the new Ministry of Defense (Amt Blank) are handicapped by a 10-year blank in experience of dealing with military problems. They naturally tend to look at these problems through 1945 eyeglasses, while the very mastery they acquired in conducting "operations" makes it more difficult for them to visualize a kind of warfare in which there will be no scope for such largescale maneuver. Moreover they have been working out plans for the new German forces on the lines laid down for them several years ago by NATO, and they fear to consider changes that would upset their carefully planned structure.

Visiting the army and air force executive headquarters of the NATO forces in Germany and elsewhere, one finds more realism. But as they have to carry out NATO plans, they are bound to put compliance with the existent plans ahead of adjustment to new conditions. …

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