Preserving a capability for fighting a whole spectrum of limited wars can be difficult

Friday, October 13th, 2017

Techniques of Systems Analysis notes some strategic changes that may be important — looking into the future from the 1950s:

For example, it is very possible that future wars, like Korea, will include all kinds of target or other limitations, particularly as to the number or yield of atomic weapons that can be used.

Three important problems arise in considering such limitations. First, one must have a capability for enforcing the limitation on the enemy. In particular we must preserve our massive retaliatory capabilities from being destroyed by a sudden blow. Secondly, we must have a satisfactory capability for fighting all of the kinds of wars that may be necessary with whatever limitations or lack of limitations are involved. A third (and often overlooked point) is that we should operate as much as possible in such a way that the enemy is not tempted to violate limitations. It is sometimes possible to design a system to use effectively political, military, and psychological barriers.

In addition to designing systems that operate effectively within limitations, in principle we can consider refusing to accept limitations which would seriously hamper us. However, the question of what limitations we are willing to accept is presumably not within the Systems Analyst’s or even the Department of Defense’s authority to decide. It is decided by either the President or Congress and the enemy. In some circumstances our allies will also have more than a slight say in the matter. It is clear that preserving a capability for fighting a whole spectrum of limited wars can be difficult — sometimes intolerably so. (It is important, however, that the Department of Defense planners realize that it is their job, as much as possible, not to hamper the civilians in their conduct of political and foreign affairs; military solutions which constrain the civilian arm of government in unaccustomed and serious ways should be looked upon as desperate expedients.)

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