108

U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings , January 1 976

" A Sense of History . .. A Sense of Values . . "
(James R. Schlesinger in a Department of Defense news release, 10 ovember 1975) The rime has come to say farewell . In so doing I should like to return to chose larger issues of national pur· pose, raised in my remarks at the welcome ceremony some 28 months ago. I do this for several reasons. First, the vitality of the nation's military establishment, its perception of itself, its precision of mission, fl ow fro m a sense of purpose deriving from chat larger national unity and spirit. Second, in our Western democracies we face a testing time. Around the world the number of scares with a vibrant fait h in the values of freedom contin ues to fall. Among the remai nder there has in recent years been an evident malaise. Vision and confidence have diminished ; a vacu um of rhe spirit has appeared. It has become a grave question whether national unity, combined with freedom, still elicits a response sufficient chat, in Lincoln's phrase, nations "so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. "

Necessary in no small measure ro the restoration of that larger vision is a revitalized sense of hisrory-for it is that sense of history chat defines us as a nation, that defines the values chat we represent, and also underscores the differences between these values and the customs and values prevailing in ot her societies. That perception conveys ro our citizens why it is that we seek to defend this particular national entity. In a period of cultural relativism, observers comment on the problems common to all societies. Each, it is also said, has its distinctive advantages and weaknesses. Everything seems complex and gray. International trends may therefore appear to be of lesser sig nificance. The critical distinction between to tali car ian and free states becomes blurred. We need again to sharpen our sense of val ues. Perhaps in chis Bicentennial year we shall rekindle an historical feel for t hat which defines this nation-ultimately recreating that sense of national purpose and national destin y that inspires uniry. Today, along with some serious thought, there is a widespread picking at our national institutions: government, industry, unions ... the Armed Forces. A national mood of skepticism has gone roo far. While a judicious skepticism indeed is always necessary, a mood of undiluted skepticism forces concentration on the inconsequential and ig nores the permanent and the valuable. Institutions are indispensable; they organize men for common purposes. Wi thout them we would have unproductive conflict and no pooling of effort. This larger social vision bears on the health of the nation 's Armed Forces. o institution, no more tha~ any nation or man, can live by bread alone. Unless we articulately redefine our values, identifying those we are prepared to fight for, the health of the nation's military forces will ultimately suffer. The Department of Defense is sustained by the general health of the society, but it, in return, contributes in many ways to sustaining that social health . I cite but one. In the political and constitutional difficulties of recent years, the nation's military establishment served as a pillar of stability. All

of us were impressed and reassured by its steady performance, and from it the nation drew confidence in troubled rimes. But will the D epar tment's ability to perform its mission display equal stability) ln parr, its con tinued strength will require redefinition of the overall relationship among foreign policy, defense posture, and public support. Changes have occurred. From Pearl H arbor, reinforced by the K orean war, until the middle of the Vietnam war there was only limited public debate regarding our foreign policy. Perhaps there was roo little. onerheless, support for the defense establishment derived from that consensus regarding foreig n policy - and from t he established prem ise chat politics should stop at the water's edge. Plainly there is no emotional or political base for that attitude roday. The broadest elements of foreign policy will inevitably-and properly -be debated. T he rise of the third world, the dispersion of power, the breakdown of political bipolariry imply complexi ties that make unanimiry about foreign policy unattai nable. Since policies can no longer be counted on ro stop at the water's edge, a major element of support for the nation's military establish ment, derivative from chat older attitude, has ceased. For it we must substitute a broader understanding of the role of our military establishment-abstracted from almost all foreign policy alternatives. Without char understanding, our own military streng th will continue to dwindle, perhaps absolutely, but certainly in relation to that of the Soviet Union. Irrespective of foreign policy debates and foreign policy alternatives, this nation's military establishment plays a critical role. Whether we are successful in pursuing detente or whether we hedge against the possible failure of detente, a military balance remains necessary. Debate regarding specific foreign policy actions or proposals will and should continue. But

Notebook

109

unless we are prepared to withdraw into the North American continent, the contribution of the United States to the worldwide military balance remains indispensable to aU other foreign policies. We must establish public understanding and public support on that basis. We must make this Department immune to partisan attack. To earn support, we must keep our defense establishment stable and reliable, characterized by high morale and by high ethical sense. The nation's military structure represents the shield of the republic and the underpinning of our foreign policy. It represents the security of all our people. It is not an issue of left or right or center; the nation's military establishment must protect all and should seek support from all quarters. We must be captive of no particular political element. On the Hill we seek the understanding of moderates and liberals and conservatives, Democrats or Republicans, freshmen or seniors. We must correct this misleading impression reflected in headlines, "The Pentagon demands," which suggests that the Pentagon somehow is an organism detached from the rest of the United States or from the American public. We must convey that the military establishment is the shield of all and warrants the support of all. It is not an institution demanding something for its own purposes separate from the national purpose. We must seek support nor on the basis of what it will do for the Pentagon but what it will do for this nation. The adverse trend in military power, in the production of military hardware, military manpower, military expenditures has repeatedly been underscored. It is not a matter of theory; it is a matter of simple arithmetic. A continuation of this trend will inevitably bring a drastic and unwelcome alteration to the preferred way of life in the United States and among our Allies. Though we should pursue detentevigorously-we should pursue it without illusion . Detente rests upon an underlying equilibrium of force, the maintenance of a military balance. Only the United States can serve as a counterweight to the power of the Soviet Union . There will be no deus ex machina;

there is no one else waiting m the wings. A democratic electorate has the right, every right, to allow the military balance to deteriorate. It is a decision that can be made unconsciously though by right it should be made consciously. Given the character of the modern world, that decision would be a mistake, which in the nature of things the American democracy wou ld be denied the opportunity to repeat. In the 1930s there was a similar disinclination to face up to reality-etched in Churchill's volume, "While England Slept." Let not such lethargy and, this time, irreversible developments be captured in some future volume entitled "While America Was Self-Absorbed." The problem faced by all our democracies was put most eloquently by de Tocqueville more than a century ago: " ... it is especially in the conduct of their foreign relations that democracies appear to me decidedly inferior to other governments ... " .. . a democracy can only with great difficulty regulate the derails of an important undertaking, persevere in a fixed des ign, and work our its execution in spite of serious obstacles. It cannot combine its measures with secrecy or await their consequences with patience." I have referred to this as de Tocqueville's challenge. Let us be sure that it is not an epitaph. America today remains the most resilient nation in the world. Its sources of strength are deep-seared. I acknowledge her defects, which bur reflect the common limitations of mankind . Bur I continue to see the generosity, the dedication, and the glory. Our destiny, forged in the aftermath of World War II, lies before usbeckoning, demanding. There can be no question regarding our ultimate moral and political responsibiliry. The only question that remains is whether we acquit ourselves well or ill. The ultimate answer, I hope, is foreordained. Therefore, let no one here or abroad believe that this great nation will fail in irs historic destiny as the principal guardian of freedom. Good lu ck and God speed!

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