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Strategic Studies and Public Policy

Strategic Studies and Public Policy: The American Experience

Colin S. Gray
Copyright Date: 1982
Published by:
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Strategic Studies and Public Policy
    Book Description:

    Strategic studies as a field of civilian scholarship has developed along distinctive lines in the United States since World War II. The rapid proliferation and increasing sophistication of weapons technology have required constant revision of strategic theory, while the shifting political climate, both internationally and in the United States, has had an equally powerful impact.

    One of the field's leading theorists now examines the history and development of American strategic studies, the varied roles assumed by civilian strategists, and their relationship with those charged with developing and carrying out American military and diplomatic policy. This provocative book clearly demonstrates the importance of a sound strategic theory if America is to survive in an age of high arms technology and increased world tensions.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6318-5
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])

    • 1 Catalysts of Inquiry
      (pp. 1-10)

      The problems of the 1980s speak eloquently to the relevance of strategic studies. Fundamental questions of strategic theory and strategic policy remain to be resolved by Western defense communities. Strategic problems comprise a moving target and require a constant renewal of intellectual attention. The content and character of the field are specific as to time and place, but the need for the study of strategy is implicit in the very nature of international life.

      This book endeavors to “tell the story” of the American experience with strategic studies since 1945. Although I have strong opinions on particular contemporary policy questions,...

    • 2 Theory, Technology, & Policy
      (pp. 11-28)

      The history of strategy is the history of the complex relationships among strategic ideas, military technology, and policy. The interdependence of these elements is unquestionable, but the precise character of that dependence has eluded systematic investigation. Ideally, theory should so educate policymakers that they will decide to develop and procure technologies appropriate to express and if necessary to implement policy rationales that betray a healthy congruence of military, political, and economic reasoning. Even in a strategic age that has routinized innovation, policymakers will accept the fact that certain desirable features of weapon performance cannot be obtained at a bearable cost...


    • 3 Adjusting to the Bomb
      (pp. 29-44)

      Traditionalist, revisionist, and now post-revisionist scholars have been debating the origins of the Cold War for well over a decade,¹ but as yet there has been no satisfactory examination of the strategic history of the first decade of the nuclear age. Although the American government did not fully adjust its declaratory policy to the new constraints and perceived opportunities of a nuclear age until the drafting of NSC-162/2 in the fall of 1953, most of the conceptual building blocks of the “new strategy” were common currency in official circles as early as 1950. Scholars were to make considerable reputations for...

    • 4 The Golden Age
      (pp. 45-58)

      In the context of this book, the “Golden Age” hypothesis holds that there was a time when contemporary strategic studies were young (or adolescent), and wherein the major strategic problems of the nuclear age passed from a theoreticalterra incognitato apparent understanding or resolution—or both. The Golden Age is variously dated, but its outer limits would be 1955-65. A case could be made for delimiting the phase of maximum creativity by the publication ofMilitary Policy and National Security,edited by William W. Kaufmann in 1956, and the appearance of Herman Kahn’sOn Thermonuclear Warin 1960, but...

    • 5 Limited War & Strategic Stability
      (pp. 59-71)

      The second half of the 1950s saw the first rounds of strategic theoretical debates which were to be replayed, with temporal variations, into the 1980s. The extra-official strategic studies community took off into self-sustained growth and debate, though the rapidity and ease with which a consensus on theory was attained points to the very restricted range of values represented within the community. It is useful to summarize briefly the accomplishments of those years. First, a community of civilian scholars was forged, embracing many different root disciplines, which was to keep national and international security questions under constant extraofficial review. Second,...

    • 6 Arms Control & Central War
      (pp. 72-85)

      The late 1950s saw the community of American strategists increasingly concerned with strategic nuclear policy and with the alleged dangers predicted to be forthcoming in the early 1960s when the first stage of the anticipated Soviet strategic missile build-up was expected to mature. This chapter, moving on from the limited-war theorizing of mid-decade analyzed in chapter 5, deals with the newly appreciated problems and opportunities in preventing and if need be conducting central war.

      Contemporary arms-control theory was an invention of the strategic studies community in the period 1958-60.¹ Nonetheless, President Eisenhower, with the encouragement and assistance of Nelson Rockefeller...

    • 7 From Theory to Practice
      (pp. 86-97)

      The health of strategic studies as a field of inquiry, the flow of ideas, the crackle of debate—all are very much the product of the anxiety felt by policymakers and communicated to the attentive public. Since this anxiety cannot be alleviated by manly strategic action, official bureaucracies and other fund-dispensing bodies tend to order studies of their problems. Analysis can become a habit and is catching. The 1960s and 1970s witnessed a massive institutionalization of strategic studies at all levels. Strategy expertise was “dispersed,” in the language of Wesley Posvar,¹ as the techniques of strategic analysis pioneered at RAND...

    • 8 The “New Strategy”
      (pp. 98-116)

      After 1960, the line between civilian strategic theorizing and official declaratory policy became blurred. The early and mid-1960s were to see notable extra-official development of such concepts as flexible response, crisis management, escalation, counterinsurgency, and nation-building. But the onward rush of theoretical refinement on such central matters as strategic deterrence and central war strategy, and the theory and conduct of limited war was to be borne largely by official spokesmen and spokesmenauthors.

      The period 1961-65 saw the rise to official prominence of an explicit American doctrine of counterforce targeting, married to a city-avoidance principle for intrawar deterrence and to aspirations...

    • 9 Term of Trial
      (pp. 117-133)

      In the years 1965-81 there was a close relationship between the style and content of the foreign and defense policies of the United States and the methodology and content of American strategic studies. Policy action in Southeast Asia and in the field of nuclear strategy and arms control bears too close a relationship to the explicit and implicit advice on offer from the contemporary strategic studies community for the similarities to be explained away as merely fortuitous. Among the reasons for this relationship, several stand out. First, civilian strategists were viewed as the principal source of authoritative opinion on policy-relevant...

    • 10 Unfinished Business
      (pp. 134-168)

      By the late 1960s and even into the very early 1970s, it was commonplace to claim that the erstwhile central problems for the field should henceforth be amenable to attention of a “care and maintenance” variety. Less than five years later, the settled regions of strategic theory and their associated policy problems were in intellectual turmoil once more. Again strategists were debating the fundamental propositions of different strains of deterrence theory, again strategists were turning their attention to the problem of how to think about arms-control topics and processes, and probably the hardiest perennial of them all, NATO strategy, particularly...


    • 11 Strategy & Action
      (pp. 169-184)

      In one of the most instructive and entertaining autobiographies ever written, J.F.C. Fuller offered the following quotation from Herodotus: “No one believes warnings, however true. Many of us Persians know of our danger, but we are constrained by necessity to do all our leader bids us. Verily ’tis the rarest of all human ills to abound in knowledge and yet have no power over action.”¹ The immodest implications of these words fit the clearly discernible sentiments of the extra-official strategic studies community over the past two and a half decades. The use made of extra-official studies by officials cannot fail...

    • 12 To Advance Knowledge, To Improve Policy
      (pp. 185-196)

      Strategists do, and will, differ over the paths that scholarship should take (and the methodological means of locomotion) and over the most effective means for improving policy, but there should be no disagreement as to the legitimacy and mutual dependence of the two tasks. Strategists should suffer no disquiet as to the balance between these tasks that they elect to strike in their professional activities. Just as the scientist, the engineer, and the scientific administrator are necessary to each other, so the empirical theorist, the policy-scientist, and the strategist-official have complementary duties. Some are best fitted by inclination and background...

  6. Notes
    (pp. 197-226)
  7. Index
    (pp. 227-230)