Not So Grand Strategy

Discriminate Deterrence: Report of the Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy

co-chaired by Fred C. Iklé, by Albert Wohlstetter
US Government Printing Office, 69 pp.

For the past fifteen months, a group of this country’s leading experts on military and international affairs has been attempting to produce what many critics believe was impossible for the Reagan administration to achieve: an “integrated” and “long-term” strategy that would prepare the US to meet the changing “security environment” for the rest of this century and the early decades of the next. Co-chaired by Fred C. Iklé, who has just retired as the under-secretary for defense, and by the strategic analyst Albert Wohlstetter, the Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy includes inter alios such notables as Henry Kissinger, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Anne Armstrong, and General Andrew Goodpaster. Since there is no minority report, one presumes that all thirteen members of the commission agree with the analysis and conclusions set forth therein. In that sense, it may fairly be regarded as one of the most important public overviews of what American grand strategy should be, as seen by its intellectual and policy-influencing elite, or at least an important part of it.

It is all the more regrettable, therefore, that the commission’s suggestions have received only the most desultory discussion—the obligatory brief synopses in the press, an even briefer coverage by television networks obsessed at the time about the campaigning in Iowa, and a certain amount of whispering that the report will soon be safely buried within the Pentagon’s walls and not be much used by whichever administration enters office in January 1989. Nor is there any indication that I am aware of that Mr. Reagan—the person constitutionally responsible for making sure that United States strategy is efficacious, “integrated,” and not merely short-term—has devoted long hours of reading and reflection to the commission’s proposals.

It ought to be said at once, therefore, that the report is well worth the attention of every concerned American citizen, and, for that matter, of our allies abroad. It is relatively easy to read, nicely organized, and contains some extremely interesting suggestions. It is also refreshingly wide-ranging, at least in its first chapter (entitled “The Changing Security Environment”), in seeking to place American national strategy within the broader context of the global economic, technological, and political changes that have occurred over the past decade or so. It reflects a Kissinger-like interest in geopolitics, and contains a number of (selectively chosen) maps and tables to help the reader along to the very conclusions that the commission hopes will be accepted. Future reports, prepared by working groups that assisted the commission, will cover more specialized topics like “The Role of Advanced Conventional Standoff Weapons” and “The Systems Acquisition Process.” But Discriminate Deterrence constitutes the foundation upon which those more detailed and arcane proposals must rest.

The commission begins its analysis by observing that, for the past four decades, the United States has carried out a grand strategy of extraordinary global sweep and remarkable durability. Essentially, it consists of the

forward deployment of American forces, assigned to oppose invading armies and backed by strong …

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