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Melvin Laird's Strategy for Peace: a 2011 Analysis (Original Blog Post).docx

Melvin Laird's Strategy for Peace: a 2011 Analysis (Original Blog Post).docx

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Published by Joe Royo
This is the original essay posted to the blog diplomaticdiscourse.com on October 24 2011.
This is the original essay posted to the blog diplomaticdiscourse.com on October 24 2011.

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Published by: Joe Royo on Oct 24, 2013
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Melvin Laird's Strategy for Peace: a 2011 Analysis
In 1970 former Secretary of Defense, Melvin R. Laird, proposed a defense strategy to President Nixon. This strategy sought to shift the defense focus from war to peace. The strategy included measuresto restructure forces within fiscal constraints while maintaining a strong force able to deter threats.
 Melvin Laird's insights, as outlined in Strategy for Peace, are in part applicable and in part less applicabletoday.
Some of his insights with regard to the nature of current fiscal, security, and resourcingexpectations are applicable. We face almost identical challenges today as the United States faced in 1970.His insights on nuclear deterrence strategies, however, are less applicable. The nature of the nuclear threathas shifted from a bipolar nuclear world to one that is more diffused. Altogether we should consider hisinsights since they provide instruction from a similar era with similar domestic and foreign challenges.The crux of Laird's proposal stems from a budget policy, security policy, and foreign policystrained by fighting in the Vietnam War. Much like what we are facing today, the country had beeninvolved in a costly war, both physically and financially. Also, much like what we face today, questionsabout how the Army in particular should be used and how it should be resourced were being raised.Laird's fundamental argument is to reshape wartime thinking to peacetime thinking by pursuing Nixon's,"policy of peace."
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He said, "It is not a policy of warfighting [sic]; it is not a policy of status quo; it is a policy to move this country and the world towards a generation of peace based on three principles - partnership, strength, and willingness to negotiate."
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These are applicable principles worth rememberingtoday.Laird points out that the U.S. cannot sustain enforcing security internationally and that the U.S.should encourage security cooperation. He notes, "A larger share of free world security burden to be
taken by those free world nations which have enjoyed major U.S. support…"
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His point is to bringattention to an unsustainable situation whereby the U.S. bears a greater burden of security than mostothers. Today we experience the same situation. President Obama's
 National Security Strategy
highlights
 
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this very need to restore and strengthen the international order. The
 National Security Strategy
notes,"Our engagement will underpin a just and sustainable international order 
 — 
 just, because it advancesmutual interests, protects the rights of all, and holds accountable those who refuse to meet their responsibilities; sustainable because it is based on broadly shared norms and fosters collective action toaddress common challenges."
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This is a very applicable consideration from 1970 to today given thesimilar nature of a complex and changing world system coming out of protracted conflicts.Laird points out that although the U.S. must maintain a position of military strength, it should bedone through force restructuring that reduces costs and maintains flexibility.
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He recognizes a changingthreat landscape and repeatedly mentions a shift in focus from conventional theater based warfare to other  potential threats.
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This restructuring emphasizes a policy of deterrence, based more on the threat of forcerather than the actual use of it. He argues for improvements in mobility, tailoring of forces able to operatein specific areas, responsiveness, and security assistance programs with partnered nations.
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These arearguably the very same force restructuring issues the U.S. faces today. The 2011
 National MilitaryStrategy
(NMS) identifies that, "Our strategy, forged in war, is focused on fielding modular, adaptive,general purpose forces that can be employed in the full range of military operations."
8
It further identifiesthe need to be expeditionary and partner with not only partnered nations but with intergovernmentalorganizations. The 2010
Quadrennial Defense Review
(QDR) emphasizes a strategy of deterrence builtaround restructuring forces.
9
The force restructuring debate then and today are not only similar, they arealmost identical. The idea behind both then and now is to build a strong force able to deter uncertainthreats without bankrupting the nation.The force restructuring discussion must include arguments of costs and budget realities. Lairdrecognizes this. He points out that the current (1970) 9% GNP rate of defense spending should be reducedto 7% or less.
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He argues that his proposal would be, "consistent with maintaining strength while phasingdown to a peacetime force w
ith flexible options…"
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The U.S. in 1970 was facing budgetary challengesresulting from years of war similar to what the U.S. faces today. Although, the rate of defense spending
 
3
today is less in terms of GDP, we face a real defense budget cut. Both the 2010 QDR and the 2011 NMSacknowledge this.
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Laird's proposal and the military fiscal debate today recognize that fiscal restraintsshould not equate to reduced capability. The NMS states, "As we adjust to these pressures, we must not become a hollow force with a large force structure lacking the readiness, training, and modern equipmentit needs."
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Laird's insights, therefore, offer a clear glimpse into our forces future as we face fiscal reality.Laird's points about deterring nuclear warfare against the USSR specifically are less applicable because at that time, we were engaged in a struggle for strength against a single competitor - communistUSSR and to a certain extent China. As the famous
 Foreign Affairs
essay by "X" noted in 1947, our  policy of containment was, "designed to confront the Russians with unalterable counter-force at every point where they show signs of encroaching upon the interests of a peaceful and stable world."
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We werein the midst of a containment strategy against our communist enemy. The thought of or discussion of nuclear proliferation by other states or potential non-states was not even mentioned in Laird'smemorandum.
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So, the nuclear strategy was specifically against a now non-existent entity. That does notmean, however, that a nuclear threat no longer exists. Today nuclear threats do exist, but their existencehas been diluted across a number of potentialities.First, a conventional peer-to-peer state threat by the known nuclear states with which we haveongoing trade and diplomatic relations exists. An example of this would be the U.S. vs. China or Russia,or France, or Britain. That threat is arguably low because diplomatic and trade relations surpass the valueof exchanging casualties. Second, a conventional peer-to-peer state threat by unknown nuclear states withwhich we either have poor or no relations exists. An example of this would be the U.S. vs. Iran or Venezuela. This threat is arguably low too because the international community in general has a very lowtolerance for radicals wielding nuclear power. However, this threat is more real than the first because theunstable nature of these state leaders creates less predictability with regard to their intentions. Third, anon-conventional non-peer-to-non-peer threat by an unknown nuclear empowered state or non-state withwhich the option for relations is impracticable exists. An example of this would be the U.S. vs. Hamas or 

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