Document created: 15 September 03
Air University Review, November-December 1975

Aspects of Air Force Strategy Today

Lieutenant Colonel Joseph H. Stodder, USAFR

IN the weeks during which this study was being prepared, several events took place that received major public notice and pertain specifically to the subject at hand: (1) on 24 November 1974 President Ford and General Secretary Brezhnev reached a historic arms limitation agreement at Vladivostok; (2) in the first week of December, the U.S. Air Force accepted delivery of its first operational F-15 fighter at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona; and (3) on 23 December the B-1 bomber made its maiden flight from Palmdale, California, to Edwards AFB.

These pages will examine U.S. military strategy for limited and general war. The examination will be conducted in the contexts of both arms inventory, epitomized by the Air Force’s new tactical fighter and strategic bomber, and arms limitation, reflected in the growing spirit of détente that precipitated the Vladivostok accords. The range and depth of the questions involved in any consideration of military strategy today are staggering. In this brief analysis no pretense is made of resolving any of these questions. The objective, rather, is to attain, as clearly and directly as possible, a reasonable projection of Air Force strategy based on an analysis of some of the salient characteristics of limited and general war. If in the process of this study some insights are provided into these complex and varied questions, it will have served a useful purpose.

Strategies for the Future

In their meeting last November, President Ford and General Secretary Brezhnev reached an understanding that could have profound and lasting influence on future U.S. military strategy. In essence, the Ford-Brezhnev agreement places limits—both qualitative and quantitative—on future strategic arms production and deployment in the United States and the Soviet Union. It accomplishes this with two arms “caps”: (1) a ceiling of “somewhat less than 2500” on the total number of missile launchers that each nation can deploy over the next ten years, this “cap” applying to every element of the Triad: land- and sea-based missiles as well as strategic bombers; and (2) a ceiling of 1300 on the number of missiles fitted with multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicle (MIRV) warheads.l

The celebrated Vladivostok agreement has had predictably mixed reaction. Representative George Mahon, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, called the agreement “of considerable, but not monumental significance, . . . the best that could be done at this time.” Senator Mike Mansfield said that “an equal reduction” in arms would have been better, though he recognized the improbability of accomplishing it. Paul Nitze, a former SALT adviser, was “disappointed.” He feared that the Soviets would deploy “a new family of missiles.”2 Political analyst John Osborne summarizes objections to the agreement thus:

The major argument against the projected agreement that Senator Henry Jackson and other critics are already making derives from the unquestioned fact that the Soviet Union presently has no MIRved missiles deployed. This agreement, if concluded, would sanction a Soviet build-up from zero to 1320 MIRved missiles with several thousand warheads on them. . . . A related argument against the Vladivostok prospect is that the U.S. should be negotiating a reduction from present levels of strategic armament and expenditure rather than limited increases to higher levels. The counter-argument comes down to the bald assertion that the Soviet Union simply and certainly is not prepared to negotiate reduction from present levels. It would be bound by the projected agreement, along with the U.S., to begin negotiation of some reduction from the agreed levels no later than 1980-81. That is held to be a gain of sorts, however tenuous.3

The tenuous gain is in favor of the growing spirit of détente, which itself might be suspect, according to James N. Wallace, Moscow bureau chief for a U.S. newsweekly: “. . . the ‘spirit of détente’ is still the official line—and it is being strongly pushed. Russia very much wants access to Western credits, equipment and technology . . . . But analysts warn that the U.S. would be making a serious mistake if it thinks the lure of trade and technology can buy either détente or any important restructuring of the Soviet system. What Kremlin planners hope to get from the U.S. and what they can get by on if they have to are far different things.”4

Although many regard détente with seasoned apprehension, fearing the tendency of being “lulled into a false sense of security,” the fact is that détente is without doubt the most powerful single factor influencing U.S. global planning today, in both limited and general war strategy.

What direction will future strategy take? Without extravagant predictions, some practical and realistic projections are possible, based on evidence that will be presented in this article.

limited war

Future U.S. military strategy in limited war will undoubtedly be guided by patterns that are evident today in international relations. It would be pleasant to contemplate the prospect of continually easing tensions in international affairs, but all evidence suggests that, though the settings may vary, the tensions will remain. The Middle East, which has been the scene of sporadic limited-war action for the past 25 years, will probably continue to be explosive for the foreseeable future. The shocking events in Ethiopia could trigger new crises involving not only the Middle East but even the Indian Ocean power crucible. A recent newspaper article considers the growing significance of the African Horn:

There are those who believe that all the talk about the “Indian Ocean confrontation” has nothing to do with that ocean, but centers on who can get the most firepower quickest to the Arabian boot. . . . It has been said that the only advantage soldiers hold over civilians, when it comes to ruling, is the power to kill. The world is watching Ethiopia, as the Horn of Africa becomes important in the power moves of the East, West and Arab states. What happens there may well depend on one thing: Can the dirgue [provisional military council] rule, as well as kill?5

In the continuing presence of such crises—in South America, in Southeast Asia, in Europe, as well as in the Middle East—the need is evident for ever more refined and sophisticated limited-war strategies, not only to meet but also, if possible, to anticipate and prevent the outbreak of hostilities.

In recent military-political reassessments, the emphasis in limited-war strategy has gradually shifted away from dependency on tactical nuclear weapons, though the inventory and personnel skills are maintained at a high degree of efficiency (as will be indicated shortly). There is no reason to expect a change in this tendency in future strategic planning. Also, as will be shown, limited-war strategy has been focusing more and more on effective use of counterinsurgency. Much has been learned in this area in the last two decades, and much more expertise will no doubt be acquired in the future. A review of current strategy, however, provide indices for gauging the direction of future counterinsurgent activity. For example, it is evident that insurgency can be more expeditiously countered with timely exercise of intelligent statesmanship and skillful diplomatic maneuvering than with direct military activity, whether overt or covert. But if need dictates military involvement, in either air or Special Forces action, it is certain that future counterinsurgent strategies will reap enormous benefits from lessons of the immediate past.

general war

The “spirit of détente,” nourished by the cold war arms standoff and sharpened in the Vladivostok accords, pertains to limited-war threats in some very specific respects; but the obvious preoccupying concern of President Ford and Secretary Brezhnev was in response to the continuing threat of general thermonuclear war. From the present perspective, then, U.S. general-war strategy  for the next quarter-century would seem to be primarily influenced by two factors: (1) maintenance of the Triad arsenal: Minuteman-MIRV, B-1 bomber, and Trident-Poseidon-MIRV, but modified according to the terms of the Vladivostok and any forthcoming agreements; and (2) the spirit of détente: increasing focus on diplomatic rather than military persuasion.

In regard to the future of the arsenal, several intriguing speculations present themselves. First, the development of the Maneuverable Re-entry Vehicle (MaRV) will almost certainly result in broad, sophisticated refinements in the application of missile strategy. The MaRV, it commonly referred to as Evader, would have immense advantages, over the fixed-target MIRV,  in that can be guided to selected targets and can evade interdiction.6 The amplified versatility provided by Evader will thus increase the formidability of the Minuteman arsenal without jeopardizing the terms of the Valdivostok agreement.

A second important consideration is the practical limitation on arms development and production imposed by current inflation. The cost of the B-1 bomber, for example, has escalated from the planned $12.2 billion to the present $18.6 billion. Because of inflation, the Air Force is considering a reduction in F -15 purchases from the original contract of 72 (over the next year) to a more modest procurement of 69.7 Moreover, the economic outlook will, in all likelihood, become worse before it becomes better.

Finally, the pressure of technological progress in arms sophistication may itself accelerate arms limitation. At a meeting in Moscow, Secretary Kissinger asked these vital rhetorical questions:

If we have not reached an agreement well before 1977, then I believe you will see an explosion of technology and an explosion of numbers at the end of which we will be lucky if we have the present stability—in which it will be impossible to describe what strategic superiority means. And one of the questions which we have to ask ourselves as a country is what, in the name of God, is strategic superiority? What is the significance of it, politically, militarily, and operationally, at these levels of numbers? What do you do with it? 8

From almost any conceivable perspective today, future strategy centers in detente. But precisely what détente entails is widely argued and enormously complex. Many students of Soviet and international affairs view it as merely a form of “peaceful coexistence,” long a Marxist euphemism for nonviolent ideological aggression. William R. Kintner, noting that “Brezhnev last spring [1973] assured East European leaders that his policy of détente was a tactic designed to permit Moscow to achieve economic and military superiority over the West in the next decade,” arrives at the conclusion that if the U.S.S.R. can destroy the Atlantic Community in future negotiations without opening its own society, “the present détente may not endure for long.”9

On the positive side, many influential statesmen endorse Secretary Kissinger’s view of détente as a worthy and workable relationship. Senator Edward Kennedy goes further. Looking “beyond détente,” he calls for a broader-based collegiality of negotiation, “involving all facets of American society in public debate,” providing extensive visibility for nuclear programs, and relating U.S.-Soviet needs to broader world problems. Of this last aspect of the proposal he says:

. . . the true test will lie in our mutual ability and willingness to face the truly great challenges to mankind for the balance of this century: challenges of food, of fuel, of population, of sharing resources, and of the need for a broader sense of social justice toward the poor countries. This will be more likely if and when superpower relations reach a point where managing them no longer absorbs the primary attention of our statesmen, thus liberating energies to concentrate on the more basic problems for mankind. Here is President Ford’s greatest challenge.10

So the controversy over the virtues of détente continues. To some, Senator Kennedy’s formula may appear Utopian, naïve, and unrealistic. To others, it envisions a promising strategy for the future, the soundness of which may have met its first crucial test last November at Vladivostok. If the mutual respect bred of mutual destructive power can, indeed, force a cessation of arms proliferation and thereby usher in an era of peace, it will be the most extraordinary achievement that any future strategy could accomplish.

Through specific definition of terms and some elaboration of example, let us now consider several aspects of current U.S. strategy as they relate to the broader imperatives of limited-war and general-war situations and particularly as they respond with increasing persistence to the growing influence of détente.

Limited and General War

There seem to be as many definitions of the term “limited war” as there are theorists to debate and analyze the subject. In all the efforts to narrow and qualify it, however, some common elements are discernible. Robert E. Osgood’s definition will serve as a useful example: a limited war, he writes, is one “in which the belligerents restrict the purpose for which they fight to concrete, well-defined objectives that do not demand the utmost military effort of which the belligerents are capable and that can be accommodated in a negotiated settlement.” In Osgood’s definition, as in most, the key features are “concrete, well-defined objectives,” restricted military effort, and accommodation to “negotiated settlement.”11

Another essential factor is the special political orientation of the conflict. Theorists agree that military operations in limited war are subordinated to political objectives. Certainly one of the lessons the United States learned from the Vietnam war was that such conflict could become protracted and end in stalemate. This particular potential in the limited-war formula provided an attractive incentive to the North Vietnamese and resulted in a severe handicap for the United States. General Giap was aware of the vulnerability of the United States in limited war, and he dramatically exploited it. As one article observed, prolongation merely compounded the U.S. dilemma: “Even if peace talks begin, war costs would not come to an immediate end. The prolongation of hostilities would in itself become a bargaining lever.”12

Another significant consequence of the Vietnam lesson for the United States was the realization of gradual erosion of public support for this kind of protracted conflict. In his influential book Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy, Henry Kissinger foresaw this dilemma: “Limited war is not simply a question of appropriate military forces and doctrines. It also places heavy demands on the discipline and subtlety of the political leadership and on the confidence of the society in it.”13 The dilemma, as posed by Kissinger, clearly demands effective, direct, and timely solutions to any future involvements of the United States in limited conflicts. The American people will have little confidence in a government that does not take aggressive measures to anticipate and cope with any insurgent action that provokes limited war. A brief examination of insurgency and counterinsurgency, as primary complementary characteristics of limited war, may be useful, then, in understanding the nature of limited war.


The history of insurgency reflects a complex, often contradictory, pattern of political activity, but, as a number of observers have noted, many basic similarities prevail. What Osgood says about limited war in general applies as well to the specific aspect of insurgency. He points out that the basic techniques “can be combined in countless permutations and combinations and implemented by a great variety of means, but we shall still recognize trip wires, pauses, reprisals, denials, thresholds, sanctuaries, bargaining, demonstrations, escalation, Mao’s three stages, enclaves, seize-and-hold, search-and-destroy, and all the rest.”14

What kind of environment generates insurgency? A typical ready market is provided by an underdeveloped country threatened by social unrest and economic deprivation. The many philosophical divisions and political hostilities in such an environment offer attractive potential for insurgent exploitation.15

While many examples of this insurgency environment exist in the world today, it may be well to focus briefly on a specific one—insurgency in Latin America—in order to clarify some of the principal factors involved. In a perceptive summary of the “new radicalism” of Latin America, Alistair Hennessy reviews crucial aspects such as Third World influences, university reform, anti-Americanism, Cuban influence, Chinese influence, urban guerrilla activity, and the role of the Church.16 Though Hennessy convincingly depicts the ascendancy of urban guerrilla activity in Latin America today, its relationship to—and ultimate dependence on—the celebrated rural movement of Castro and Guevara cannot be overlooked. It was Che Guevara who, perhaps more than any other single individual, charted the course of insurgent activity for Latin America and for much of the rest of the Third World as well. It was Guevara who refined and codified the techniques of guerrilla warfare tactics that have been employed with devastating effect in conflicts from Vietnam to Palestine. His description of the elusive guerrilla tactic, with its analogy to choreography, is especially illuminating:

Characteristic of this war of mobility is the so-called minuet, named from the analogy with the dance: the guerrilla bands encircle an enemy position, an advancing column for example; they encircle it completely from the four points of the compass, with five or six men in each place, far enough away to avoid being encircled themselves; the fight is started at anyone of the points, and the army moves toward it; the guerrilla band then retreats, always maintaining visual contact, and initiates its attack from another point. The army will repeat its action and the guerrilla band the same. Thus, successively, it is possible to keep an enemy column immobilized, forcing it to expend large quantities of ammunition and weakening the morale of its troops without incurring great dangers.17

It is this seemingly ubiquitous and ephemeral quality of the guerrilla that has so eloquently frustrated many of the most sophisticated stratagems of modern warfare. Today, urban guerrilla activity, along with associated acts of kidnapping, assassination, and random terrorism, merely complicates the ambiguities of insurgency. Recent events in Uruguay, Guatemala, Panama, and—perhaps most notably—Chile give vivid testimony to the variegated nature of contemporary Latin American insurrection. Indeed, the example of the overthrow of the Allende government in Chile provides one of the fine ironies of national revolution: the local insurgent forces, who were not altogether sympathetic with the Allende regime, were dramatically revitalized by the martyr quality of the assassination, as is evidenced by such reactions as this one from a member of Chile’s Communist party:

The expressions of solidarity are like an avalanche. They are like a stormy sea driving the ship of the junta on the rocks. The movement in support of the Chilean people has helped arouse the consciousness of large sections of Western Europe, on all five continent. People of varying creeds are united by the outrage they feel against imperialist and neofascist crimes. The movement encompasses forces that had never before acted in unison: Marxist-Leninists and Social Democrats, Christians, and countless people of different views and faiths.18

Though the tone of this is charged with familiar Communist hyperbole, the essential message is one that mirrors the many facets of Latin American unrest. All the volatile ingredients are present. With few exceptions, the countries of Central and South America possess a ready market for insurgent action. Throughout Latin America, threatened local governments are becoming increasingly aware of the need to maintain order through the application of effective counterinsurgent measures.

Equally serious, highly organized movements are reported to be in operation in scattered locations throughout much of the rest of the world:

In Thailand

In 1967 some 1700 guerrillas, aided by 15,000 “sympathizers,” were operating in northeastern Thailand. By the end of 1972 they had reportedly grown to “about 7,700 full-time armed guerrillas” (representing a 10 percent increase over the previous year), plus “three or four times that many” supporters in the villages. 19

In the Philippines (a Leftist view)

No one acquainted with conditions in the Philippines would contest the need for a revolution of some sort. The contrast between the sterile luxury of Manila’s wealthy suburbs and the stinking poverty of the ubiquitous squatters’ settlements invariably shocks the Western visitor. Repression, intimidation, land-grabbing, and the perversion of justice have been familiar features in many areas of the Philippines for decades. An annual inflation rate of 20 percent from 1969 to 1972 had brought public resentment to the boiling point.20

In Ethiopia

Ethiopia has been a politically repressed society. Moreover, Ethiopians are, in Western psychological terms, a repressed people—partly due to the nature of their Christianity and partly due to traditional cultural forms.

The lid is now off. Should the killing begin, there will be no end to it. The principal constraint on civil war is the Ethiopian appreciation and fear of its own pent-up frustration and its perception that a precipitate release of that energy will destroy the nation.21

And of course there are many other areas of incipient or advanced activity: Mozambique, Korea, India, Indochina (still), and, perhaps most notably at the moment, Palestine and the Middle East. The governments opposing these movements represent a kaleidoscope of ideologies. Whether U.S. foreign policy is sympathetic with a particular government or not is beside the point, since the U.S. does not assume the role of international policeman. The point is that these are unstable communities—political “hot spots” —and it is a widely accepted fact that, regardless of the particular political climate in the U.S., specific circumstances may combine to compel response to appeals that are certain to come in the future. In such circumstances, the U.S. military has a clear obligation to be prepared to assist, if necessary, in counterinsurgent action.


All U.S. counterinsurgent operation is under the supervision of the National Security Council and its Interdepartmental Groups, with the active participation of the chiefs of diplomatic missions in the countries involved. The role of the military in general—particularly indigenous military—is to “deny the insurgents their base of support.” Though U.S. policy is to “refrain from outright military intervention by U.S. combatant forces in the internal affairs of newly emerging nations,” the Military Assistance Advisory Groups and their mobile assistance teams aid indigenous military units in such fields as intelligence, counterintelligence, and psychological warfare.22

One analyst, noting the essential reactionary role of counterinsurgency, stresses the specific classic rudiments of strategy in present and foreseeable future operation. “Traditional, conventional field campaigns,” he asserts,” are not enough. If the guerrillas possess mobility, concealment, firepower, popular support (or acquiescence), and similar tactical advantages, the government must overcome and cancel these advantages.” In order to accomplish this, the counterinsurgent strategy must strive to “achieve” superior firepower, better communication,” and in general, eclipse the insurgent tactics.23

Though it is imperative that the U.S. military keep an efficient counterinsurgent force in-being, it is equally imperative that the overall strategy adapt to the changing roles in international relations. A recent Air University publication, reviewing these aspects of the U.S. military role in counterinsurgency strategy, sums it up this way: “U.S. special forces have been given the overall mission of counterinsurgency training. But, it cannot be stressed too strongly, effective counterinsurgency must be an across-the-board operation involving all Americans, military and otherwise, in a host country.”24

tactical nuclear weapons

One other aspect of limited war that merits consideration involves the use of nuclear weapons on a “tactical” or limited level. Using the Vietnam experience again as an example, the clear reluctance of both sides to employ tactical nuclear weapons is noteworthy. This engagement serves as a strong precedent for the design of strategic policy today. Controversy continues, of course, on the subject of tactical nuclear force employment. Samuel T. Cohen, for example, argues that despite domestic objection to it, the NATO tactical weapon stockpile is necessary in the face of a formidable Soviet buildup of similar weapons. He notes former British Defense Secretary Denis Healey’s admonition: “I don’t think it would, in fact, make sense for NATO to aim at an all-out conventional defense against an all-out Warsaw Pact conventional attack because all Soviet exercises and training assume the use of nuclear weapons from the word ‘go,’ so I think an all-out conventional attack is very unlikely. . .”25

Air Force Manual 1-1, United States Air Force Basic Doctrine, published in 1971, describes the employment of aerospace forces in low-intensity nuclear operations. According to that manual, these operations, in a limited-war situation, “may be conducted integrally with, and as an outgrowth of, conventional warfare. The employment of nuclear weapons in a tactical situation is not expected to alter the basic tasks assigned to aerospace forces.”26

Though AFM 1-1 is simply articulating standard Air Force contingency planning, it must be recognized that many theorists today would construe this thinking, and that of Mr. Cohen and Mr. Healey, as “unthinkable” strategy.27 In a 1972 Air War College address, Seymour J. Deitchman presented a knowledgeable analysis of the constraints that apply in current defense planning in regard to employment of tactical nuclear weapons and delivery systems. Though Mr. Deitchman ultimately accepts the necessity of maintaining parity in U.S. inventories, he stresses the severe constraints imposed by today’s pragmatic concerns: “The decision to use [tactical nuclear weapons] is inhibited by a number of factors, some political and some military. Underlying them all is the ‘threshold’ problem: the uncertainty about where nuclear escalation will stop once the first such weapon, however small, is used. The political impact is immediately obvious.”28

Finally, Robert Osgood’s sentiments on this question, as on others discussed previously, are generally representative of the prevailing view today: “The difficulty of settling upon a convincing strategy for integrating tactical nuclear weapons into limited warfare in Europe evidently remains overwhelming, and the interest in doing so has declined as the credibility of the West using any kind of nuclear weapons first, except in circumstances warranting the risks of general war, has declined.”29

general war

The drift toward modern total warfare had been evident from the beginning of the twentieth century. Looking back from our present point of vantage, we can see that everything was moving relentlessly in that direction. However, to contemporaries that trend was not always clear, and, when the nations came to grips in World War II, events served at first to obscure the fact that the conflict was total. 30

Thus begins a chapter of Men in Arms, the incisive yet comprehensive account of the history of warfare by Richard A. Preston and Sydney F. Wise. Total war in our present nuclear age could begin this way, as inhabitants of this planet are well aware. For this reason total (or general) war is seldom evaluated in specific terms by the layman but rather is rejected as a subject too horrible to contemplate. For all the horror of war, however, the reality of it is inescapable. “War, not peace, has been mankind’s most faithful companion,” says a provocative newsweekly commentary. It goes on to remind us that “in 35 centuries of recorded history, only one out of 15 has not been drenched by the blood of the battlefield. Today, a world that presumably cherishes peace as fervently as ever never the less keeps 22 million men under arms.”31

Hopefully, whatever inevitable conflicts the future has in store will be resolvable either in diplomatic negotiation or, if necessary, in limited-war action. But because of the inescapable historical evidence, it might be therapeutic, as well as realistic, to consider some of the characteristics of general war in the nuclear age.

In his skillful analysis of nuclear war, Colonel Donald S. Bussey defines general war as “armed conflict between major powers in which the total resources of the belligerents are employed, and the national survival of a major belligerent is in jeopardy.” He emphasizes that the key terms of his definition are “total resources” and “national survival.”32

The strategic objectives of general warfare remain today essentially as Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara once described them: “first, to deter a deliberate attack on the United States and its allies by maintaining a clear and convincing capability to inflict unacceptable damage on the attacker; second, in the event such a war should nevertheless occur, to limit damage to our population and industrial capacities.”33

The current U.S. military strategy for general war continues under the guidance of the Nixon Doctrine of 1969. Under the terms of this doctrine, the United States promises 

to keep its treaty commitments; to provide a shield should a nuclear power threaten the freedom of a nation allied to the United States or of a nation whose survival the U.S. considers vital to its security, or to the security of the region as a whole; and to furnish aid and economic assistance in cases involving other types of aggression when requested and appropriate.34

The Nixon Doctrine has been amplified by the promulgation, in 1971, of the concepts of “realistic deterrence” and “strategic sufficiency.” “Realistic deterrence” refers to the “shield” that this country promises to provide nonnuclear nations as insurance against nuclear blackmail. “Strategic sufficiency” is partly a realistic prognosis of the causes and conduct of general war and partly a consideration of the degree to which national interests would be jeopardized by this projected military environment. “Strategic sufficiency” has two specific meanings: “In its narrow military sense, it means enough force to inflict a level of damage on a potential aggressor sufficient to deter him from attacking first. In its broader sense sufficiency means the maintenance of forces adequate to prevent the United States and its allies from being coerced.”35

Colonel Bussey, in his discussion of the deterrent value of our general nuclear forces, observes that “if strategic forces are ever employed, they have failed to fulfill their most essential purpose,” i.e., to “restrict, to our own advantage, the freedom of action” of adversary powers. This, asserts Colonel Bussey, is the real test of strategic sufficiency:

No one can know, with respect to strategic forces, “how much is enough,” without first answering the question, “What role are you assigning to strategic forces in your overall strategy?” For simple deterrence, a relatively low level of capability may suffice. For extended deterrence, sufficiency demands a much higher leve1.36

In his 1971 Foreign Policy Report, President Nixon placed strong emphasis on flexibility and the provision of practical alternative action—what he described as “a full range of options.” Commenting on the statements of Secretary of Defense Melvin R. Laird’s 1971 Defense Report and the President’s Foreign Policy Report, Colonel Kenneth L. Moll summarizes their significance in regard to current military strategy:

With reduced resources, the U.S. must emphasize (as Mr. Laird has said) advanced technology, nuclear-capable forces, highly skilled but limited manpower, and (as Mr. Nixon has urged) flexible Presidential options. Also, to provide deterrence in the upper two-thirds of the spectrum, U.S. forces must emphasize multimission capability to operate efficiently and broadly within this range. To support such operations, the U.S. command and control structure must be able to guarantee the essential worldwide information and responsiveness so that the President could select and confidently order any one of the variety of options at his command.37

As has previously been noted, the variety of options in strategic planning today is represented in the concept of the Triad: land-based ICBM’S, manned bombers, and submarine-launched Polaris missiles. From the perspective of the Air Force, the primary weapons are the Minuteman ICBM, with its multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles (MIRV’S) and the possible future Evader modifications, and the current inventory of B-52 strategic bombers, soon to be replaced by the B-l. As fundamental hardware for accomplishing “realistic deterrence,” this equipment has withstood the test not only in that general war has not erupted but also, perhaps more to the point, in that sensational scares such as the Cuban missile crisis have not recurred. The chilling implications of the current Middle East situation are vivid testimony, however, that global crises continue and must be dealt with in practical and realistic terms. Certainly, then, it is in the perspective of present realities such as this, and others suggested in this brief survey, that any strategies of the future must be considered.

Pomona, California


1. “How U.S. Really Came Out in Summit Bargaining,” U.S. News and World Report, December 9, 1974, p. 27.

2. “The Breakthrough on SALT,” Time, December 9, 1974, p. 19.

3. John Osborne, “Arming Up,” The New Republic, December 14, 1974, p. 10.

4. James N. Wallace, “Vladivostok—and Arms Control: the View from Russia,” U.S. News and World Report, December 9, 1974, p. 28.

5. Dial Torgerson, “What if Ethiopia Disintegrates?” Los Angeles Times, Sunday, December 15, 1974, Part 6, pp. 3, 6.

6. Robert C. Aldridge, “MaRVing the MIRVs,” The Nation, vol. 2l8, April 13, 1974, p. 463.

7. “Some Real Arms Limitation,” Time, December 16, 1974, p. 35. Figures quoted are valid as of this date.

8. J. W. Fulbright, “Arms without End,” The Progressive, September 1974, p. 23.

9. William R. Kintner, “‘The U.S. and the U.S.S.R.: Conflict and Cooperation,” The Atlantic Community Quarterly, Spring 1974, pp. 93-95.

10. Edward M. Kennedy, “Beyond Détente,” Foreign Policy, No. 16, Fall 1974, p. 29.

11. Robert E. Osgood, Limited War (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), pp. 1-2.

12. Larry Elowitz and John W. Spanier, “Korea and Vietnam: Limited War and the American Political System,” Orbis, vol. 18, Summer 1974, p. 511.

13. Henry Kissinger, Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy (New York: W. W. Norton, 1957), p. 139.

14. Robert E. Osgood, “The Reappraisal of Limited War,” Problems of Modern Strategy, Part One, Adelphi Papers, no. 54, The Institute for Strategic Studies, London, 1969, in Air War College Associate Programs vol. IV, ch. 10, 7th ed., p. 14.

15. See Nathan Leites and Charles Wolf, Jr., Rebellion and Authority (Chicago: Markham Publishing Company, 1970), pp. 52-53.

16. Alistair Hennessy, “The New Radicalism in Latin America,” The Journal of Contemporary History, vol. 8, January-April 1972, in Air War College Associate Programs vol. IV, ch.13, 7th ed., pp. 3-13.

17. Che Guevara, Guerrilla Warfare (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1961), p. 24

18. Volodia Teitelboim, “Chile: Prelude to Future Victories,” Political Affairs, August 1974, p. 48. Among other Leftist reactions on this subject, see also Judith Miller, “Criminal Negligence: Congress, Chile, and the CIA,” The Progressive, November 1974, pp. 15-19.

19. Justus M. van der Kroef, “Guerrilla Communism and Counterinsurgency in Thailand,” Orbis, vol. 18, Spring 1974, p. l07.

20. Cheryl Payer, “Seeds of a New Vietnam,” The Progressive, September 1974, pp. 30-31.

21. Joseph S. Murphy and Tadesse Araya, “Ethiopia Exploits Itself,” The Nation, vol. 219, September 14, 1974, p. 203.

22. “U.S. Policy and Programs for Counterinsurgency,” Military Strategy Special Operations, Air Force Reserve Element Training Staff Development Course No. 45-0004, prepared by the Air University for Headquarters Force Reserve, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, 1971-72, in Air War Call. Associate Programs vol. IV, ch. 12, 7th ed., p. 10. Hereafter cited as “U.S. Policy and Programs.”

23. Commander D. P. Kirchner, USN, “Antiguerrilla Armament,” Ordnance, September-October 1971, in Air War College Associate Programs vol. IV, ch. 12, 7th ed., p. 37.

24. “U.S. Policy and Programs,” p. 12.

25. Samuel T. Cohen, “Tactical Nuclear Weapons and U.S. Military Strategy,” Orbis, Spring 1971, in Air War College Associate Programs vol. IV, ch.10, 7th ed. p. 35.

26. “Aerospace Forces in Low-Intensity Nuclear Operations,” AFM 1-1, United States Air Force Basic Doctrine, Department of the Air Force, 28 September 1971, in Air War College Associate Programs vol. IV, ch.13,  7th ed., p. 42.

27. The expression “unthinkable” is borrowed from Herman Kahn’s Thinking about the Unthinkable (New York: Horizon Press, 1962) and is used in his context.

28. Seymour J. Deitchman, “Concepts and Constraints of Limited War,” Air War College Associate Programs vol. IV, ch.10, 7th ed., pp. 29-30. Almost identical views were expressed in Deitchman’s essay, “Limited War,” Military Review, July 1971, pp. 3-16.

29. Osgood, Limited War, p. 7.

30. Richard A. Preston and Sydney F. Wise, Men in Arms (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1970),  p. 295.

31. “‘The Case for War,” Time, March 9, 1970, in Air War College Associate Programs vol. IV, ch.1, 7th ed., p. 16.

32. Colonel Donald S. Bussey, USA (Ret), “General Nuclear War: A Conceptual Analysis,” Perspectives in Defense Management, Winter 1971-1972, Industrial College of the Armed Forces, Fort Lesley J. McNair, Washington D.C., in Air War College Associate Programs vol. IV, ch. 9, p. 26.

33. Quoted in Harland B. Moulton, From Superiority to Parity (Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Press, Inc., 1973), p.197.

34. Military Strategy for Nuclear War, Air Force Reserve Element Training Staff Development Course No. 45-0004, prepared by the Air University for Headquarters Air Force Reserve, Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, 1971-72, in Air War College Associate Programs vol. IV, ch. 9, 7th ed., p. 9.

35. Ibid., p. 10.

36. Bussey, p. 34.

37. Colonel Kenneth L. Moll, USAF, “Realistic Deterrence and New Strategy,” Air University Review, November-December 1971, in Air War College Associate Programs vol. IV, ch. 9, 7th ed., p. 40.


Lieutenant Colonel Joseph H. Stodder, USAFR, (PH.D., University of Southern California) is Associate Professor of English at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. His Air Force career included troop carrier missions during the Korean War and reserve flying assignments for the next 17 years, ending as a C-124 aircraft commander. He is currently assigned as a mobilization augmentee in the Education Office, March AFB, with additional duty as Liaison Officer for the U.S. Air Force Academy. Colonel Stodder is a graduate of Air War College and author of two recent books on Renaissance drama.


The conclusions and opinions expressed in this document are those of the author cultivated in the freedom of expression, academic environment of Air University. They do not reflect the official position of the U.S. Government, Department of Defense, the United States Air Force or the Air University.

Air & Space Power Home Page | Feedback? Email the Editor