AS A CORNERSTONE of the American system, civilian control of the military occupies a status which is ideological in content. It is at once rational and emotional. It falls victim to the broadest interpretive vagaries so characteristic of thought modes which by their very nature must be philosophically developed. Thus, criteria for citizen guidance is [sic] frequently couched within a theoretical framework which, though vital for evaluation, offers little help for immediate guidance within a specific environment.
The overriding environmental factor dominating the current scene is the Free World-Communist confrontation. Alternatives offered by this struggle influence the criteria for civilian control in an ambivalent manner. While the military aspects of this competition demand ever-increasing emphasis on preparedness if our system is to survive, this very preparedness may of itself foreshadow the fatl distortion of our system from within.
The extent to which military influence can be tolerated withn our democratic system remains unresolved. A finite judgment on this is a task of imposing proportions, but certainly basic to any such judgment is an objective analytic survey of the thrust that the military is actually exerting on U.S. defense policy formulation today.
The United States' liberal heritage is one that distrusts in theory and practice the power of the military. Before the technological revolution, which industrialized warfare, this distrust was characterized by the subjugation of the military to civilian interference even to the extent of dominating military operations themselves. Following the technological revolution, American policy in conjunctionn with America's growth in power came to rely on its potential industrial strength and as before rejected the need for forces in being a favor of quick fixes in both organization, manpower, and materiel.
In both World War I and World War II, for the first time in our history, the military exerted consistently strong influence on policy formulation. In the first instance, conduct of the war was wholly miitary. In the second, the Executive maintained control within its capability and the military was its agent. Neither displayed the broad political-military competence demanded of the times.
Was has taken on a tone and complexity which is unique to the American heritage. It is both total and instantaneous; marginal and continuous. The work of establishing and maintaining institutional and organizational structures to cope with this challenge has become the most vital task of our democratic system.
On one hand, war in its total and instantaneous sense has drastically increased and broadened the area of military activity in the democratic society.
On the other hand, war in its marginal and continuous sense -- protracted conflict -- has shaken the very foundations of the military political relationship which even in its classic sense offered such great problems to American strategists.
The politication [sic] of war has obliterated the formerly fuzzy demarcation between politics and war, and where in the past students of the military political relationship could insist, "It is extremely difficult to frame a military appraisal which is not given a political frame of reference," today it is equally difficult to frame a political apprisal which is not given a military frame of reference.
Government today requires a new breed of civilian and a new breed of military professional. Not only must the soldier continually appraise military policy in terms of its political implications, but the civilian even more importantly must consistently include vital military considerations in what were once purely political matters.
Today, for better or worse, [the Department of] State is considered supreme in the area of national security, and where imputs from State and Defense are divrgent at Executive level, primary consideration will theoretically be given to the State position. When one department is considered supreme, the resulting advice to the Executive will be shaped principally by the views of that department.
There seems to be little doubt that decisions of tomorrow will be primarily proposed in State Department terms of reference. Vital military decisions are also vital political decisions. With State supreme and Defense's civilian leadership cognizant of this fact, there will be little balance in the quid pro quo .
There remain only two normal sources for "unfused" military counsel to reach the presidential ear, and these souces are the president's personal staff or the less likely counsel of the chairman of the JCS [Joint Chiefs of Staff.] The latter route is of dubious value. The chairman's access to the president, although statutorially valid, can never be a habitual source of advice when the normal seat of decision in the Defense Department rests with the secretary and his staff. The remaining source of military counsel, if there is to be any, must be provided by the president's personal staff.
In democratic government, regardless of the organizational framework provided, decision making is essentially the lengthy process of consensus development. Such development is the result of vocal and repetitive sounding of the view which is to prevail. This expression of views must not be restricted to the locu of final decision but should find adequate expression at every level for most effective results. The military today does not have statutory seat at our top three levels, and its seat at the pinnacle is dependent upon presidential prerogative.
At a point of time in which the military task and the pjolitical task have become one, an obvious imbalance has developed. The calamity of militarily dominated national policies has been decisively allayed. Rather, there is a growng danger that future policy may lack the military contribution called for by the challenge which confronts our nation.
The choice before us today is whether as a nation we can shed emotional prejudices and recognize that the nation is confronted with a challenge which is essentially militant in nature. It is a challenge which demands the fullest participation of the only segment of our society which is trained, experienced and "skilled in the management of violence." Both the civlian and the soldier must join to ensure that the inevitable organizational evolutions of the future are designed to satisfy this pressing need.