Today the old saying, "God help the poor sailors on a night like this," has a wider application and should be stated in these words: "God help the military at this time in our history."
The United States military has been operating under the most severe policy handicap, or rather policy vacuum, of any modern military organization.
In the first place, it is misnamed. It is a War Department, involving both offensive and defensive action. Yet it is called the Department of Defense, in keeping with the spirit of the 1928 Kellogg-Briand Pact, which outlawed aggressive wars. There have been only defenders on both sides in all wars since.
There are two things wrong with calling the military the Department of Defense. First, it is dishonest. The sending of Marines to Lebanon by President Eisenhower in 1958 could not by any stretch of military definition be considered defensive action. Nor could President Johnson's intervention in the Dominican Republic in 1965 be considered defensive action. Vietnam, despite all the excuses given for our involvement there, was never vital or necessary to the defense of the United States.
The second thing wrong with using the word "defense" to describe our military department is that it encourages a mentality which is open-ended as to commitment. Our military forces today are charged with the responsibility of defending this country as well as others against all enemies -- foreign and domestic, present and future, real and imagined -- without clear definition of who the enemy is, where he is, or what he is.
When one thinks defensively, the threat or fear always rises to the level of the deterrent and then surpasses it, thus requiring another increase of the deterrent. Thus we moved from atomic bombs