LETTERS

LETTERS

Editors:

In the Summer 1960 issue, on p. 813, you introduce a writer as a “professional student of American military affairs.” I wonder about this “student’s” qualifications. Everyone should know that defensive weapons cannot be distinguished from offensive weapons. To say that “the U-2 looked more like an offensive than a defensive instrument” is just nonsense; reconnaissance is just as essential to defense as to attack. Before launching an attack, a commander must take protective measures; e.g., going into a Blitz offensive, he must beware of the counterstrike and hence prepare air raid shelters. Your “professional student” however observes that “the U.S. never takes any measures to protect its citizens against a Soviet strike.” To conclude from this that it must be planning an offensive, is like reasoning that the ancient Babylonians must have known wireless telegraphy since the archeologists have not found any wires yet. The logic is too crabby even for your “professional student” to assume responsibility for it; he rather attributes it to Mr. Khrushchev! Poor Khrushchev! Traveling around the U.S. and seeing our traffic jams, congested industrial areas and general unpreparedness, he must really have been frightened by so many signs of offensive intentions. And coming home, his “professional students of American military affairs” then must have told him that the U.S., being totally vulnerable to a first Soviet strike, cannot defend itself except by striking the first blow. Some Soviet military sources, quoted by Dinerstein and Garthoff, indeed have concluded that the answer to this can only be a “pre-emptive war” by the Soviet forces. Pre-emptive, in contrast to preventive war, is defined as the first blow which you get in just in the nick of time after having concluded that the enemy is about to do the same thing to you. We obviously are erring in a very vicious circle here. How can we cut it? American military thinking, as represented by the “Bulletin of Atomic Scientists,” says the answer is in having sufficient hardware for a formidable counter-blow even if a Soviet “first strike” should be devastating. The “deterrent” evidently is not the ability to strike first but the ability to make the first strike too risky for the other side. Obviously that means counter-offensive; that again is elementary. Your “professional student” might have considered—it is in an early chapter of Clausewitz—that effective defense must be conducted offensively, i.e., the defender must be able to hit at the enemy’s offensive positions. “Targeting was (the U-2’s) mission” exclaims your “professional student” with raised hands, as though he had never heard of the most ordinary defense preparations. Of course, anyone concerned with defense must look for targets. One ca...


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