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The Maturing of America
AUTHOR Major Paul H. Watson,USMC
CSC 1988
 I.  Purpose:  To establish a framework for understanding Low
Intensity Conflict (LIC) from the perspective that because of its
nature, LIC encompasses all the elements that comprise the
formulation of U.S. national security policy.
II.  Thesis:  In view of LIC's broad nature, the U.S. is faced
with the prospect of reassessing the manner in which it views
national security in general:  its overarching policy of
containment, its view of the threat, and its internal mechanism
to deal with the formulation and execution of policies designed
to combat the threat. Moreover, not until we understand the
vitality of LIC as a concept, can the preceding be addressed.
Furthermore, there is a direct correlation between the political
acceptance of LIC conceptually within government and our ability
to critically analyze the preceding three points.
III.  DATA:  The world since the close of World War II in 1945
has found itself in a truly unique position vis a vis historical
context.  Elements of this new world order included the fall of
the Old World's empires and the former colonies searching for
paths towards modernization/industrialization.  The Soviet
Union's previously unsaleable product of communism, which
received a tremendous uplift when they modified their strategy to
conform with Mao Tse-tung's more nationalistic-modernistic
approach, became viable.  The concomitant development of
indigeneous nationalists and the Soviet's new appeal, which would
provide for quick industrialization, appeared from the U.S.
perspective as a monolithic effort.  Also at work was a growing
movement that  that contended that only violence could solve the
Third World scene when an inexperienced U.S. assumed a position
of world leadership.  In turn, a military solution of
containment, as embodied in NSC-68, became an institutionalized
U.S. response.  This is the source of U.S. confusion and its
understanding is imperative if the U.S. is to effectively deal
with low intensity situations.  Understanding is only the first
step.  The U.S. must build a more efficient mechanism for
formulating and implementing foreign policy.  Although LIC calls
for more of a non-military response, the U.S. governmental
structure is poorly equipped; as such, the U.S. defers to the
military solution out of convenience.  Both the Executive Branch
and its relations with the Congress must be examined.  The issue
of coordination and unity of effort are critical in LIC.  Recent
years have given rise to optimism.  First, are the several
setbacks the Soviet's have incurred in the developing world (e.g.
Egypt, Angola) as far as their method of quick economic
development.  Also, there has been a rise in active resistance
against Soviet influenced regions (e.g. Afghanistan and
Cambodia).  Finally, a more enlightened approach is contained in
the Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy's report entitled 
"Discriminate Deterrence." This report has yet to be officially sanctioned.  Perhaps, it is this political message more than anything which must be kept in
mind when speaking of LIC and strategies to diffuse situations of
this ilk.
IV.   Conclusions:  "Discriminate Deterrence" challenges current
conventions.  It is within this context that LIC if found.  Not
until there is a pragmatic approach towards the lesser developed
world and national security is understood from a broader
perspective (not just defense related issues) can there be
progress.  In other words, due to the increasing
inter-relationship among the world's economies, a greater
appreciation for the impact of domestic policies on international
events must be advanced (e.g. protectionism versus assisting the
developing world's economies).
V.    Summary:  The appeal of the Soviet model for development has
been discovered to be a hoax.  In the meantime, the U.S. must
return to pragmatic international politics.  Pragmatism has been
the hallmark of U.S. domestic politics and must be applied to the
international arena instead of dogma.  Politics being what it is,
however, will determine the degree of interest focused on LIC and
when.  Until that time, we can only attempt to emplace a viable
strategy and mechanism to cope with low intensity situations.
                              MATURING OF AMERICA
THESIS:  The only way the U.S. can cope with LIC is by
reevaluating its policy of containment, its view of the threat,
and its internal mechanism for formulating and executing policy.
  I.  Setting, Cast, and Political Theory
      A.  Post World War II World
          1.  U.S. position of leadership
          2.  Decolonialization
          3.  Modernization
          4.  Nationalism
      B.  Containment
          1.  World Communism
          2.  NSC-68
          3.  Korean War
          4.  Korea-Indochina connection
      C.  Political Violence and Political Warfare
      D.  Summary
          1.  Convergence of influences
          2.  Analysis/Synthesis problem
  II. The Structure
      A.  Method of Analysis
          1.  Organizational
          2.  Inter-governmental relations
          3.  Political
      B.  Executive Branch
          1.  Department of State (DOS)
              (a) Current organization
              (b) Problems
          2.  Department of Defense (DoD)
              (a) Current Organization
              (b) Problems
          3.  Geographical Commander-in-Chiefs (CinCs)
          4.  National Security Council (NSC)
              (a) Role of:
                  (1) NSC
                  (2) NSC Staff
                  (3) Interagency coordination
              (b) Problems
      C.  Legislative branch
          1.  Executive Legislative Relations
          2.  War Powers Resolution of 1973
          3.  Diversity
III.  Old Problems, Old Ideas, and New Outlook
      A.  Return to Pragmatism
          1.  Discriminate Deterrence
          2.  Decline of Soviet model
          3.  U.S. activism
          4.  National Security Decision Directive (NSSD)-277
      B.  Coordination and Direction
          1.  Lead agency issue--DOS/NSC
          2.  Inter-Executive
              (a) DOS
              (b) DoD
              (c) Regional CinCs
          3.  Moral ascendency-legitimacy
          4.  Executive-Legislative
              (a) Consensus vs. decisionmaking structures
              (b) Constitutional battles and political efficacy
                  (l) War powers
                  (2) Foreign relations
                  (3) Political reality
    A cartoon drawn some years ago depicts a general sitting in
an anteroom and a three-piece-suited civilian, holding his head
low, walks out the door with a sign reading "World Stage." The
caption reads, "It's your turn."  The obvious inference is that
once diplomacy, as a distinct tool, fails the military then steps
in to solve the problem.  Again, by inference, the different
instruments of foreign policy are viewed not only as separate,
but also their implementation occurs at discrete periods of time.
    Nothing could be further from the truth.  Despite the often
quoted Clausewitzian phrase regarding the military instrument of
policy, we view the introduction of military forces as an either
or proposition.  The American mind views the use of military as
one of last resorts.  Additionally, there's a view of
subordination; that is, during peace politics is dominant while
during war the military instrument is on top.  In summary, we
tend to keep the two separated, even though our actual or
potential enemies do not.
    In the new thinking, political ends are always the
objective.  Referring to the Vietnam War, Edward Lansdale has
written that the North Vietnamese "saw their armed forces as
instruments primarily to gain political goals.  The American
generals saw their forces primarily as instruments to defeat
enemy military forces.  One fought battles to influence opinions
in Vietnam and in the world, the other fought battles to finish
the enemy keeping tabs by body count"1
    Low Intensity Conflict (LIC)2 epitomizes the complete
integration of diplomacy and warfighting. As viewed within a
broader policy perspective, LIC encompasses all the elements
required to construct a coherent foreign policy (i.e., economic
policy, political development, an understanding of "their"
political culture, sociological components, etc.). In essence,
diplomacy, like its domestic political brother, is never
dominated by warfighting elements.
    It is precisely this misunderstanding, however, that has
rendered our approach anachronistic when dealing with low
intensity situations. In light of LIC's broad nature, the U.S. is
faced with the prospect of reassessing the manner in which it
views national security in general:  its overarching policy of
containment, its view of the threat, and its internal mechanism
to deal with the formulation and execution of policies designed
to combat the threat. Moreover, not until we understand the
vitality of LIC as a concept, can the preceding be addressed.
Herein lies the rub, there is a direct correlation between the
political acceptance of LIC conceptually within government and
our ability to critically analyze the preceding three points.  In
other words, does LIC have a constituency in Washington.
    The close of World War II in 1945 marked the beginning of a
trend that would continue at a steady pace until 1979, when the
Soviet action in Afghanistan caused Third World nations to give
pause to ready acceptance of the Soviet model of modernization.
   Prior to World War II, despite attempts by certain
internationalists, the U.S. relied on its insular position from
what was viewed as European internecine wars; not to mention
strict adherence to the famous battle cry of avoiding "foreign
entanglements." Unfortunately, after World War II there could be
no retreat from international involvement.
    It is at this time that two seemingly unrelated subjects
would be found under the American lexicon. They would however, as
time elapsed, find themselves at odds with one another and prove
to be our bane. One was dismantling of the western world's
colonies. The other was the position of both miliary and economic
strength which the U.S. emerged from the war. In fact, it was the
newly established nation's view of the United States' seeming
omnipotence that played heavily in pitting the two sides against
one another, while also having a hand in the choosing the
strategy to implement.
    The transition from a traditional society to a modern one is
an arduous task.  It is a transformation politically,
economically, socially, and intellectually.  An impressionistic
review of this transition conveys the idea that mankind benefits
greatly from this process; indeed it does.  When major and rapid
changes are introduced, however, no two elements of society adapt
themselves at the same rate.  The results are less than
harmonious.  "Modernization must be thought of, then, as a
process that is simultaneously creative and destructive,
providing new opportunities and prospects at a high price in
human dislocation and suffering."3
    A frequent bridge used to gap the traditional to the modern
society is nationalism.  An excellent vehicle to unify and
motivate; unfortunately, it easily lends itself to
totalitarianism, witness German National Socialism, Italian
Fascism, and soviet Communism.
    The modernizing nationalist element of communism and the role
that aspect had played in the creation of the Soviet Union became
the Soviet's new strategy come the fifties. Ironically, it was a
strategy adopted from Mao Tse-tung.  Prior to Mao's thoughts, the
Soviets could not unify theory and practice.  They were unable to
appeal to either nationalistic movements or the modernization
forces of the less developed countries.  As Kautsky points out:
    .... they thought of themselves as the vanguard of an
    industrial proletariat and, therefore, of their
    revolution as an example to the West.  The result was
    that they fell between two stools.  In the West, where
    there was a proletariat, the appeal of Communism failed
    because its real achievement was irrelevant in already
    highly industrialized countries.  In the underdeveloped
    countries, where its achievements were highly relevant,
    its appeal failed because it obscured that relevance by
    insisting on the proletarian and hence Western nature of
    Communism.  For this reason Communist propaganda could
    do little or nothing to overcome Communism's general
    lack of progress before World War II.4
    The new strategy "turned Communism from a professedly
proletarian into a frankly nationalist movement."5   The
validity of this new concept was provided additional credence by
pointing to the role the Communist Party, not Russia, had in
defeating Nazi Germany and Imperialist Japan.  Couple this gain
in prestige with a program that promised rapid modernization and
industrialization, and the Soviets had gained the interest of the
intellectuals in the less developed world.
    This is where nationalists and communists, from the U.S.
perspective but not necessarily in reality, became synonymous.
    To carry this thought to its logical conclusion; the Soviet's
were the vanguard of the international party, remember this is
the time of monolithic communism--as we saw the world, conflicts
with a nationalist flavor were undoubtedly Soviet inspired.
Additionally, any rhetoric made by the indigenous intellectual
which spoke of anti-imperialism (anti-colonialism); destruction
of the old social order (elimination of aristocratic rule);
denunciation of the western model (grave concern over becoming
dependent on western capital and a minimal, if any, political
culture to breed a liberal democracy) only confirmed our
    Unlike professor Kautsky's assertion that this strategy began
around 1947, I contend that it was not until shortly after the
Geneva Conference of 1954 when the "Restoration of Peace In
Indochina" was agreed upon. 6
    The difference of almost eight years is based on three events
and the difference in time is critical to the understanding of
the source of U.S. governmental confusion regarding North-South
relations.  First, the United States's adoption of NSC-68 in
September 1950, the Korean War, and finally the subsequent U.S.
response to president Truman's dilemma regarding Indochina from
1950 to 1952.
    Persistent East-West hostility was the underlying supposition
of NSC-68.  While danger of war through miscalulation during a
crisis was not underestimated, the more likely avenue would be
premeditated Soviet aggression.  The logical response would then
be to build strong conventional forces while entering a series of
alliances close to the Soviet Union.  These maneuvers were
designed to support the policy of containment.  This endeavor
would clearly call for larger military expenditures than had
previously been contemplated.  So, as Lawrence Freedman finds,
"NSC-68's main purpose was to impress upon its bureaucratic
readership the Soviet threat to world peace, best blocked
thorough increased military preparedness (emphasis added) in the
non-Soviet world."7
    The prospect of greater outlays was not well received.  Criti-
cism came not only from fiscal conservatives, but also from such
individuals as the recently displaced George Kennan.  Kennan, the
author of "containment," regretted the "unsubtle analysis of
Soviet intentions."8  These concerns, however, were easily
dismissed by September 1950 when Truman finally approved NSC-68.
    In June 1950 the North Koreans moved south.9. With this
event NSC-68 gained acceptance which it may not have, but more
importantly accomplished its primary goal of institutionalizing
the military response to Soviet adventurism.  This is not to say
that our armed response to the North Koreans was incorrect--it
was the only answer.  The wrong response(s) would come later.
    The codifying of NSC-68 was only half of the repercussions
felt when the invasion occurred.  Serving as the epicenter, the
Korean War began to take shape as the first of many advances
against the free-world.  Events within the early fifties were
quickly viewed as pieces of a puzzle which quickly fit our
    It was the Korean War which compelled the U.S. into a more
active role in the Indochina War.  It was natural to view Ho Chi
Mihn's plan as but an element of the communist's worldwide plan.
Add to this feature the U.S. anxiety over France's support for
the creation of an European Defense Community.  Since we viewed
the Soviet's most capable threat in Europe, giving it more weight
than Southeast Asia, we were reluctant to antagonize the French.
    AS if events were not unfolding quick enough, add the
domestic problem facing Truman.  Accused by senator Joseph
McCarthy for the loss of China and being soft on communism, the
president could ill afford the loss of Indochina.
    When the president announced the U.S. commitment to Korea he
stated: "The attack upon Korea makes it plain beyond all doubt
that Communism has passed beyond the use of subversion...and will
now use armed invasion and war."  He similarly directed "the
acceleration in the furnishings of military assistance to the
forces of France and the associated states in Indochina."10
    An area of only tangential concern to the U.S. had become
vital-- and Indochina and Korea became linked.  Since the
communist Chinese were the source of support for both these
theaters, and the Soviets were the vanguard of the Communist
party, the U.S. had no other resort than to respond in kind.
From hence forth, any problems in the third world where there was
even a hint of communism, the U.S. solution would be the military
rather than the non-military side.
   Several authors, such as Chalmers Johnson, see Mao tse-tung
as the one who developed the tactic of guerrilla warfare and
molded it into a strategic concept of revolutionary warfare.  Mao
blended the thoughts of previous theorists including Sun Tzu,
Clausewitz, and T. E. Lawrence with his Marxist-Leninist beliefs.
The resultant was an extremely coherent body of
politico--military theory.  It is this strategy that has become
the basis for most of the contemporary practitioners of
revolutionary warfare.
    Until very recently the U.S. has failed to effectively act
upon this theory that our leaders claim they appreciate.  Echoing
Clausewitz, Mao emphasized the subordination of military
operations.  "War cannot for a single moment be separated from
politics."   He continues, "Politics is war without
    To date, despite the volume of material written on
revolutionary warfare, the U.S. has yet to recognize that the end
is political and not military victory.  To compound this
shortcoming, our universal response to worldwide hotspots ran
counter to the flexibility of political warfare.  As Mao
    the difference in circumstances determines the
    difference in guiding laws of war; the difference of
    time, place and character.  The laws of war in each
    historical stage have their characteristics and cannot
    be mechanically applied in a different age.  All
    guiding laws of war develop as history developes and as
    war develops; nothing remains changeless.12
    In this manner, Mao was not referring to the U.S. concept of
war with armies clashing, or the western notion of peace.
Instead, he was speaking of "politics"--" war without
bloodshed."  Competing nations are at war, it is the level of
violence with its corresponding degree of civility that is
    At no other time has our inability to understand and to
translate that mental process into a meaningful national policy
more evident than our experience in Vietnam.  As former Chief of
Staff of the Army, General Weyand, stated:
    ... The major military error was a failure to
    communicate to the civilian decisionmakers the
    capabilities and limitations of American military
    power.  There are certain tasks the American military
    can accomplish on behalf of another nation....They can
    carry the war to the enemy on land, sea, and air.
    These tasks require political decisions before they can
    be implemented, but they are within the military's
    But there are also fundamental limitations on American
    military power... the Congress and the American people
    will not permit their military to take total control of
    another nation's political, economic, and social
    institutions in order to completely orchestrate the
    The failure to communicate these capabilities and
    limitations resulted in the military being called upon
    to perform political, economic, and social tasks beyond
    its capability while at the same time it was limited in
    its authority to accomplish those military tasks of
    which it was capable.13
    So we further obscured the true nature of military force and
its relationship to policy.  Turning again to Clausewitz, "policy
knows the instrument it means to use" and that "only if statesmen
look to certain military moves and actions to produce effects
that are foreign to their nature do political decisions influence
operations for the worse."14
    There is one last conceptualization to discuss, and it too is
a legacy of Mao's and relates directly to the term political
    The increasing reliance of violence as a means to the end, or
what is referred to as "political violence."  These apostles of
violence have grown in numbers.  Unlike the U.S. philosophy that
violence is a tool of last resort, this new breed views mayhem as
the first and only truly applicable tool to gain influence.  Mind
you, this is not violence for violence sake but relates directly
to both the worlds changing map and the notion that nations, even
emerging ones, are always at "war."  The difference is outlook.
As Frantz Fanon exclaims, "(t)he violence which has ruled over
the ordering of the colonial world,..., that same violence will
be claimed and taken over by the native."15  What one draws
from such books as Fanon's is an appreciation for their
frustration; similarly a perspective of seething hatred.  The
contempt, yet yearning for the "settlers" world, can only be
reconciled by "absolute violence."16
    What one must walk away with from the preceding pages is the
multiplicity of factors at work.  A convergence of influences.
Rapid decolonialization and the concommittant quest for rapid
modernization; nuclear stalemate, yet an increasing reliance on
violence; world order distinctly different from the world of
1939. (Hitler's dream of a new order was achieved afterall.)
Finally, add to this the backdrop of the communication explosion
experienced during this same period, and it is no wonder the
world found itself dazed.
    What does the foregoing have to do with LIC? Everything.  It
is the totality of the issue itself that is the problem.  The
problems with LIC run deeper than a lack of understanding of the
problem.  It lies with the way we address problems of a human
origin.  (Remember LIC is a human condition problem.)  We take a
country and break down its problems, i.e. social, economic,
political, security, and prepare solutions for each individual
category.  We analyze.  We fail, however, to reconstruct the
separate elements and view it as one--synthesis.  This failure is
only compounded when analysis starts with a preconceived notion
of the origin of the problem.
    If faulty analysis and lack of synthesis fail to provide the
correct focus for LIC, then the structural defects of the
government's national security process hinder direction.  This
lack of direction can be attributed to three specific
impediments.  These hindrances reduce the coordination and
implementation of matters as they pertain to LIC.  Broadly
speaking, these sore spots can fall under: organizational,
inter-governmental relations, and the domestic political
                          THE STRUCTURE
    The Constitution, as interpreted by legislation and judicial
decisions, is the source of authority for governmental affairs.
Embodied in this document and subsequent decisions, a conscious
effort was made to incorporate tension and diffuse power.  The
same elements that detract from the effective pursuit of a LIC
policy.  LIC requires extensive coordination across inter and
intra-departmental lines within the Executive Branch, while also
working closely with the various committees and the Legislative
Branch as a whole.  Additionally, authority must be vested in a
body which not only coordinates activities but can also direct an
agency or department to accomplish a required task:  Unity of
Command.  Returning to the Vietnam War, Harry Summers cites the
U.S. failing on this regard.
    Although we did not obtain Unity of Command in the
    Vietnam War, this failing was not the cause of our
    defeat but rather the symptom of a larger deficiency--
    failure to fix a militarily attainable political
    objective.  Without such an objective we did not have
    unity of effort at the national level, which made it
    impossible at the theater level.  "Unity of command,"
    our definition states, "obtains unity of effort by the
    coordinated action or to obtain either unity of effort
    or unity of command.17
    Currently, only the president occupies this central position.
He must not only make policy, but then coordinate and direct as
required the implementation of that policy.  Despite this degree
of operational involvement, the underlying assumption remains
that Congress has already given their collective advice and
    The number of players within the national security arena are
numerous, and the question remains: How well are these separate
elements orchestrated towards a common end?  The thrust of this
section is to briefly discuss the three previously mentioned
trouble areas, as they pertain to: Department of State (DOS),
Department of Defense (DoD), the five geographical unified
combatant commands, and the National Security Council Staff.
Finally, while the preceding are within the purview of the Chief
Executive, no discussion on foreign policy is complete without
taking into account the Congress.
    A point to keep in mind during the succeeding discussion on
the executive side, is that the reader will note that there is a
great deal of movement from one department or agency to another,
and then back again.  This occurs because of the nature of the
beast, i.e. the National security process; that in fact, the
roles of these organizations are intertwined; yet, the issues
that these organizations deal with, are still able to be
"stovepiped."  In short, there is a natural tendency for national
security issues to blend, but instead there is an unnatural
effort to compartmentalize.  For the most part, the rationale is
a logical one--to break down (analyze) a complex world.
Compartimentalization, however, if not integrated (synthesize) at
a meaningful central point, leads to parochialism, incomplete
information and institutional biases which are sometimes defended
to unhealthy ends.
    DOS is responsible for government-to-government relations and
for the formulation and implementation of foreign policy, as
directed by the President.  Operationally, the State Department
is organized along regional lines, with five regional bureaus:
European and Canadian Affairs; African Affairs; East Asian and
Pacific Affairs; Inter-American Affairs; and Near Eastern and
South Asian Affairs.  The heads of these regional bureaus, all
Assistant Secretaries of State, report to the Deputy
Secretary/Secretary of State.
    DoD is organized in a similar fashion, but with an important
difference.  The regional heads for African Affairs, East Asia
and Pacific Affairs, Inter-American Affairs, and Near Eastern &
South Asian Affairs all report to the Deputy Secretary/Secretary
of Defense through the Assistant Secretary of Defense
(International Security Affairs)(ASD(ISA)).  (An interesting
anomaly has the European/NATO regional director under the
Assistant secretary of Defense (International Security Policy)).
The ASD(ISA) plays a pivotal role in dealing with LIC on a
day-to-day basis.
    The incongruence of bureaus does not hinder
inter-departmental liaison at the Washington level, as much as it
does for the CinC or his staff.  More importantly, the geographic
lines of State or Office of the Secretary Of Defense (OSD) do not
correspond to the regional CinC's area of operation.  So the CinC
must deal with multiple bureaus within both.  Additionally, the
CinC must work through CJCS and OSD prior to working with state
in detail.
    Even though all CinCs have a political Advisor (POLAD) he may
not be "cut in" on state's real position.  Not to mention the
caliber of individuals sent to the POLAD position in the first
place.  Similar to what occurs in any other organization, the
CinC establishes informal networks to gather and exchange
information.These relationships are more a function of
personality, and do not necessarily institutionalize the apparent
needed communication channels.
    Perhaps one of the more salient problems is State's view of
LIC in general.  Many within the Department think first of LIC as
a military problem.  This is simply reinforced by the term
itself.  Who other than the military resolves "conflicts"?
Secondly, their answer to the non-military aspect of LIC is
quickly responded to by stating that LIC doesn't alter the way
business is conducted.
    The integration of organizations even within DOS is
difficult.  Since socio-economic development is the linchpin to
most low intensity situations a key participant is U.S. Agency
for International Development (AID).  Members of AID, on the
other hand, have some very real reasons why they do not want
their organization to have a thing to do with LIC.
    AID receives significant congressional support, i.e. money,
for their projects and there are concerns that a close
relationship with either the CIA or DoD would be to AID's
detriment.  This concern over being tainted extends beyond the
Hill.  The appearance of being a front for military or
intelligence operations in another country, in which AID is
operating, again is not viewed as something helpful.  Much to
AIDs chagrin, in Vietnam they did in fact become an unknowing
front, so there is some foundation for concern.
    As previously stated, DOS thinks of LIC as business as usual
so in fact they lack the "concepts or principles" of the whole
notion of LIC.18  Simply put, there is no sense of urgency.
The argument could be made that DoD already has a good handle on
the situation so there is no need to get involved.  A more subtle
overtone can be detected though.  In effect, what State thinks is
that it is being told that it is not doing its job correctly
Nevertheless, State could be receiving a message no one would
receive well.
    Continuity is clearly a key to LIC, and this notion runs
counter to both the way the U.S. conducts diplomacy at the
government's most senior diplomatic and foreign policy making
positions.  Every four years, or at best eight, several
ambassadorial posts change, while the senior policy making
positions within State also turn over.  These political plums are
reality.  This does not make long range policy (fifteen to twenty
years) making easy.  In this regard DoD and the military are much
more stable.
    From being inherently more structured, the military and DoD
can more readily exert unity of effort.  Also, unlike State, the
military and DoD are much less susceptible to changes brought
upon by new administrations (less budgetary issues).
    Despite this structural advantage, DoD should not take up the
mantle of LIC; nor is LIC universally accepted within the
Department.  Just the fact that DoD was told that it was not
doing its job very well, when it was directed by Congress to get
interested in Special Operations (SO)/LIC, may have caused less
than an endearing effect for LIC advocates with their skeptics.
    Once again, some contend Congress was meddling but as good
soldiers the lawmaker's order would be carried out; maybe not too
quickly or with the complete spirit of the law.  For others,
"their" day had finally arrived.  The budget slice for special
operations had always paled against the strategic or conventional
lines.  If Congress unwittingly viewed special operations as the
principal military instrument in defusing low intensity
situations, well so be it.  The key was congressional visibility
which equates to more funds.  The dollar side of LIC was not lost
on certain congressional members either, as is evident with the
stationing of one of the Army's light infantry divisions in
Alaska.  (How does a light division in Alaska enhance the
security of the U.S. from LIC?  Perhaps the unit's acquired
skills in mountain warfare training?)
    Aside from the obvious pork-barreling, General Gorman
comments on a more serious side regarding the marriage of SO and
    "Ill-conceived" in that it jumbles together two
    problems, each important in its own right, which have
    only a narrow region of overlap, and which require quite
    different responses from the national leadership, within
    the Administration as well as Congress.  The Bill, by
    mashing these distinctly different issues into mandated
    organizational "fixes," has probably obviated improve-
    ments in national readiness for "low intensity conflict"
    for years to come, and exacerbated intramural conflicts
    within the Department of Defense over special Operations
    Forces' roles and missions, force structure, resource
    allocations, personnel policies, and R&D and
    Each President brings to office his own foreign policy agenda
and the best manner to see it carried out.  He alone establishes
whom he will turn to for advice, whether it is an individual or
an institution.  The establishment of the National security
Council (NSC) with its supporting staff was designed to provide a
forum for just such advice.
    While the NSC remains a highly personal instrument and its
frequency of use varies; the NSC staff "...has developed an
important role within the Executive Branch of coordinating policy
review, preparing issues for Presidential decision, and
monitoring implementation."20
    In addition to the small professional NSC staff, the NSC has
been frequently supported by committees comprised of representa-
tives of various relevant national security departments and
agencies.  Again, however, the administrations have "differed in
the extent to which they have used these interagency
    Figure 1 illustrates the organizational structure and
subordination of the interagency groupings for LIC.  Of note, the
LIC board is in fact the NSC principals and has yet to meet.  The
SIG has met only twice.  They met once to review the
congressionally mandated status report on SO/LIC within the
Executive Branch and the other to review its own internal
    The four working groups and the interagency group are all
chaired with military personnel even though they are not wearing
their "military hats". (What possible signals could this send to
DOS or Congress, for example.).The ability of the WGs and IG to
hammer out solutions is critical to the decision making process
for LIC.
    This allows viable solutions and alternatives to policy be
presented to the NSC, this is in addition to the principals own
thought on the subject.  The point is the NSC itself must not be
the initial focus of these diverse agencies.  There are two clear
reasons for this.  First, is that "a key lesson for every
successful player in the bureaucracy is to realize [is] that
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nothing is ever settled...The various agencies will continue to
press their respective priorities, seeking to avoid committing
resources ...."22  Thus by maintaining a higher vantage, the SIG
and NSC can keep these distractions in perspective, which will
allow the issue at hand to stay focused and on track.
    The second may not be as cynical, but is equally practical.
An old military axiom states that if the commander is personally
involved too soon, his options are reduced.  (Not to mention the
risk of quickly putting personal prestige on the line.)  The
authors of The Irony of Vietnam found this truism also.  "The
top--the inner circle of the President, White House staff, and
cabinet-level appointees--remains the only place where military,
diplomatic, and domestic political imperatives are brought
together, and this is what made the stakes in Vietnam so
    Alexander Hamilton in Number 74 of The Federalists wrote:
"Of all the cares or concerns of government, the direction of war
most peculiarly demands those qualities which distinguish the
exercise of power by a single hand."  Hamilton was obviously
defending the propriety of Article II, Section 2 of the
Constitution.  He added that the Commander-in-Chief clause was
"so consonant to the precedents of the state constitutions in
general, that little need be said to explain or enforce it."
Hamilton could not foresee the tremendous power which this
language was to provide the President.
    The Supreme Court has repeatedly recognized the President's
special position in this area, i.e. his role of Commander-in-
Chief, and his central position as the leader in foreign
affairs.  The court's decision in US v. Curtiss-Wright Export
Corporation (1936) pointed towards the external nature of the
resolution as opposed to affairs which are solely internal.  In
this area, Justice Sutherland found that the President possessed
not only the powers given him by statute, but also "the very
delicate, plenary and exclusive power of the President as the
sole organ of the federal government in the field of
international relations."24
    The preceding is very typical and its basic assumptions are
still articulated, but the Supreme Court has continued to very
skillfully skirt the ultimate question; that is, how is the basic
conflict between Article I, Section 8 and Article I, Section 2
resolved?  Additionally, to what extent is there consultation
between the executive and legislative branches prior to entering
    Some contend that the constitutionally protected power to
declare war has been rendered meaningless due to the President's
control of the armed forces.  His Commander-in-Chief role,
coupled with his role as "sole organ," provide him with powers so
tremendous that they in effect "cancel out the most important
grant of external authority to Congress, the power to declare
    When viewed in a historical sense, the last time Congress
declared war in advance of hostilities was in the Mexican War of
1845.26  With the passage of the Gulf of Tokin Resolution, it
was regarded that President Johnson had sufficient congressional
authorization to escalate hostilities.  In fact, while testifying
before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on August 17, 1967,
Assistant Secretary of State Katzenbach argued that the
resolution gave the President as much authority as a declaration
of war.  Much to Congress' chagrin, by 1972 they had to agree.
    Herein lies the genesis of the War Powers Resolution of 1973.
The passage of this statute, however, gave Congress the mistaken
impression that a cure for the disease had been found; unfor-
tunately, the treatment was still directed at only one of the
symptoms. The War Powers Resolution represented an attempt by
Congress to spell out the dividing line between the constitu-
tional power of Congress to declare war and the President's power
as Commander-in-Chief.
    The fact the law came into existence only after President
Nixon's veto was overridden destroyed one of the objectives of
one of the principal sponsors. Senator Javits (R-NY) had hoped
that Congress would be able to work out a "methodology" for joint
presidential-congressional action that would signal a new compact
between the two. This agreement would result in a better applica-
tion of the Constitution in what is generally considered a gray
    It is indicative of the War Powers Resolution controversy
that there cannot even be agreement on how many times the law
should have come into play since its inception. Secondly, the
question of whether it has been complied with while its
procedures were being followed still looms.  Both the Mayaguez
incident and the most recent peacekeeping operation in Lebanon
highlight these points.
    The focal point for these two contoversial applications of
the law is not as much the procedural requirements levied upon
the President, as it is the inability of the two branches to
coordinate foreign affairs.  A requirement that always exists,
but within LIC it is only accentuated.
    Additionally, it is not simply policy that has become
vulnerable to attack from Congress: it's Congress' view of
executive primacy.
    In light of the increasing internal and external pressures to
formulate a method to establish a coherent and consistent foreign
policy, we are driven towards a joint congressional-executive
    This task is far from simple.  As David Truman has written:
    The political process rarely, if ever, involves a
    conflict between the legislature and the executive
    viewed as two monolithic and unified institutions.  The
    actual competing structures on each side are made up of
    elements in the legislature and in the executive,
    reflecting and supported by organized and unorganized
    The truth of the matter leads to a complex situation
where the picture is further complicated by
    the influence of coalitions consisting of like-minded
    individuals and groups from both institutions, who are
    arrayed against similar coalitions also based in both
    institutions, pursuing an alternative policy.  This
    willingness of Congressmen to align themselves with
    other members or outsiders underscores a central point:
    to understand that its influence is often exerted by one
    of its many parts.28
    Congress is not a simple and single institution.
Additionally, the efforts to further decentralize it, coupled
with the increase of personnel and information available to
individual members has altered not just "the process but the
    The most powerful administrative unit within Congress has
traditionally been the committee.  But the multiplicity of
individual views and the sheer number of committees make the
discussion of national security issues difficult.  In actuality,
neither the Senate nor the House have a focal point for these
matters.  While there are various committees for foreign or
defense issues, their scope is limited to primarily
appropriations.  Congress' inability to produce policy is a
consequence of this structural disunity.  The politics of
compromise becomes the main vehicle to accomplish a given task.
While the "democratization" of Congress is useful for domestic
policies it complicates the issue when dealing with foreign
powers.  The problem is further exacerbated when viewing the
increasing centralization and power of the executive branch since
1945; i.e. the creation of the National Security Council.
                            AN OPENING
    The last two sections were designed to establish the
philosophical tenets of the last forty-two years and place them
in historical context.  Without an understanding of this setting,
there can be no progress in the subject entitled LIC.  Secondly,
a cursory glance at the principal players and the system at large
tasked with formulating and implementing the United States'
national security objectives.  This was not done in an idealized
fashion, but rather from the perspective of real world
    I would like to conclude with some observations and
comments.  Using Richard Haass' model, proposals will be made
which can be grouped along structural, political, and attitudinal
lines.  We must understand that the answer to LIC, and national
security in general, does not lie within a single group.  The
problem of harmonizing inter-departmental or presidential and
congressional authority in the field of foreign affairs is not
institutional, or is it exclusively political.
    There is a growing movement to reevaluate the way America
views national security.  The heart of this movement is
engendered in the report by the Commission on Integrated
Long-Term Strategy.  "Discriminate Deterrence," as the report is
entitled, challenges the status quo in many ways.  This document
has the potential to shape our future as much as "The Sources of
Soviet Conduct" did.
    The most optimistic note is not as much content as it is
approach.  "Discriminate Deterrence" is a return to pragmatic
foreign policy.  The U.S. has traditionally taken this practical
approach until recently, unencumbered by dogma or a set formula.
    More specifically,to dismiss "the Third World as an
irrelevance except as a battleground against the forces of
communism," and our "lack of sympathy for nationalist movements
if they betray any tilt toward the soviet Union"  is not
pragmatic. 30
    This is not to say that the Soviets have not exploited
situations for their own gain, or attempted to instigate trouble
when they could; nor can it be said that Roussea or Locke's
concept of government is not diametrically opposite to the
Marxist -Lenninist model.  The point to be made is communism is
just an idea and ideas do not propogate themselves.  They are
transmitted either by true believers or by those who think that
they can further their own agenda.  In short, we need to take a
deeper look when determining the threat.
    The Soviets in the 1970's contended that the correlation of
forces had irrevocably shifted in their favor.  Their fragile
effort, however, began to unravel and by the mid-eighties the
soviets method for quick development was uncovered as a fraud.
Cambodia, Mozambique, Ethiopia, and Angola are all in economic
disarray.  As of now, their are approximately 500,000 insurgents
combating soviet-supported regimes.31
    The practice of U.S. support to certain insurgencies began
with help to the Afghans, which was started by the Carter
administration and expanded by President Reagan.  This was with
the full support of the Congress.  Subsequently, Congress has
repealed prohibitions on aid to the rebels in Angola and
authorized aid provided to moderates in Cambodia and the Contras
(whom we will return to later).  "The fiscal cost of supporting
these insurgencies is less than $1 billion a year, about one-
third of one percent of the defense budget"; the payoff is
clearly substantial.32
    Furthermore, the U.S. should now understand that all
"socialists or communists," are not alike.  We routinely deal
with a socialist French or Italian government.  We have also
entered into meaningful discussions with avowed "Marxist" nations
such as Mozambique or Zimbabwe.  While we have engaged in
constructive intercourse with the left, we have dealt with the
extreme right (e.g. Marcos, Papa Doc, and now Noriega).  The
message is we are opposed to authoritarian regimes; especially
when they run counter to the United States' national interest.
    On the other hand, the U.S. must become more tolerant of
governments which are not liberal democracies and we should not
try to cast the world in our image.  We must take into account
cultural variances.  We cannot impose our political precepts
across the board.  For example, how do we impose a secular notion
of government to a people who believe governments are ruled by
the Shari'a--Law of Islam.
    Just as NSC-68 has reigned for the last thirty-eight years,
National security Decision Directive (NSDD)-277 will hopefully
bring "the nations resources to bear on the "set of fractious
problems" facing this nation for the remainder of the
    The establishment of a Board for LIC within the NSC is
laudable, but is still only a first step.  As was indicated, what
is needed goes well beyond coordinating the work of the separate
agencies.  LIC cannot be viewed narrowly as if it was a subset of
the United States' overall national security objectives.
    This gives rise to who analyzes the international situation
and subsequently synthesizes it; then conducts strategic
planning.  In turn, the question of central direction and
resource allocation come into play.  So the problem is no longer
"coordination" but of adjudication which transcend separate
agency perspectives.  Does the NSC take up this central role or
the State Department?  Should a secretariat within the NSC be
    This issue is central to LIC. It requires extensive
deliberation and there are currently no pat answers.  What is
known is the planning should be carried out jointly, while the
internal direction should be performed by the inter-agency
committee within the NSC, or perhaps a secretariat.  When dealing
externally DOS must be the lead agency.
    Coordination and direction is also required at the CinC
level.  As previously discussed, the ability for the CinC to
conduct business with DOS is severely hampered.  The CinCs should
be given authority to deal formally with regional bureau heads
(Assistant Secretary level) and the different chiefs of missions
within their respective theater.  Furthermore, since low
intensity situations do cut across regional boundaries, the
geographic CinCs must cooperate among one another better than in
the past (e.g. the difficulties during the Persian Gulf operation
    Before turning to the Legislative Branch, the important issue
of trust and confidence must be discussed.  Interestingly enough,
it is the notion of legitimacy that LIC hinges on.  Not just the
legitimacy of that foreign government which the U.S. is
supporting, but more importantly, the actions of our government
as perceived domestically.  If our actions are viewed as
legitimate, both the Congress and the people, for the most part,
will support the issue.  The Mujahadeen are a case in point,
while the intermittent and limited assistance provided the
Contras illustrate the other end.
    Over the past forty years the "most controversial acts of the
U.S. government have been efforts to mount and then deny
involvement in ill-conceived and poorly conducted paramilitary
operations which ultimately sapped support at home and abroad for
policies of strategic importance."  In view of the media's reach
and the increasingly assertive role of Congress it is futile to
have "plausible denial."  Attempt to invoke such denial in
light of U.S. sponsorship are "certain to engender popular
disbelief which will ultimately be translated into outright
political opposition."33
    A clear distinction between covert and clandestine operations
must be made.  The difference principally being one of plausible
denial while the other is confidentiality.  If the former is
chosen to support foreign insurgents the operation should be
under the cognizance of the CinC in whose region the insurgency
is located.  No laws would have to be changed since this action
is explicitly provided for under the title of "Special
Activities."  Not only can the CinC manage the problem but any
governmental department could, if the President desires.  This
would all be done, of course, with the advice and consent of
    The difficulty with Congress is not as much building a
decision making structure which embodies a joint executive--
legislative organization as it is a consensus building process.
    A vehicle could be fabricated to facilitate coordination. The
creation of a joint congressional committee, with a non--
legislative mandate--along the line of the Joint Economic
Committee--could be established.  In addition, the committee
could serve as the coordinator for the separate committees; thus
establishing itself as the focal point for the executive.  This
would minimize the organizational problem, but the rub of
reconciling domestic and international politics are still
    Illustrative of this situation is the further reduction of
sugar imports.  The sugar quota was cut by 25 percent which when
added to the three previous years accounts for a 75 percent cut.
This costs the Philippines, for example, $150 million a year in
foreign exchange.  The sugar areas of the Philippines is where
the insurgency against that fragile democracy is occurring.34
    The cuts were required by the Food Security Act of 1985 which
was passed despite the Reagan administration's objections.  It
requires that the sugar program be run at no cost to the
government.  In other words, if domestic (voters and a highly
effective sugar lobby) production rises, imports must fall.35
    Surely, if low intensity situations are primarily a socio-
economic problem which calls for a non-military solution, how can
actions such as this be in the United States' best interest?  A
finer point is the tremendous interrelationship among the
numerous and diverse policies of the government and how they find
there way under the rubric of LIC.  As Samuel Huntington
    "...Acceptable policies are produced not by the
    ratiocination of a Lippmann-like intellect but by the
    interests, interactions, and compromises of highly
    practical politicians.  What politicians see and what
    they can accomplish are, in turn, heavily influenced by
    the institutions in which they operate.  For U.S.
    national security policy the relations between the
    president and Congress and between the two parties are
    crucial.  In recent years neither of those relations
    has helped to promote the formulation of "sound"
    The intensifying competition between the two branches has led
to unprecedented intrusions by Congress into the "day-to-day
conduct of foreign affairs, the micromanagement of defense, and
the regulation of executive behavior in ways that surely would
amaze the founding fathers."37  Members of the executive
branch, on the other hand, have sought loopholes and ways to
circumvent the system.  The lack of restraint by both parties
serves only as an injustice to the Republic at large.  The
president must take Congress into account when formulating
policy; Congress must recognize the "sole organ" status of the
executive and understand the difference between policymaking and
    To be sure, the heart of this debates resides in the War
Powers Resolution.  Future president's primary obstacle and chief
reason for executive reticence in the past to expand cooperation
with Congress can be viewed as being partially removed.  By
President Reagan's acknowledgment of the War Powers Resolution
during the Beirut Peacekeeping Operation, he has in fact enjoined
Congress to join him in foreign policy.  While in comparison, the
previous presidents dealt the Congress a fait accompli.
    Secondly, the added dimension of bipartisanship, more
specifically its absence, becries another reason for consensus
building.  This too requires restraint and an education process.
    Here then are some observations and a few modest proposals,
although said with much less tongue-in-cheek than Mr. Swift.  The
ability to conduct the nation's foreign policies and when those
matters become a matter of a national security there must be
mechanism established to resolve the problem.  This requires an
effective and reasonably efficient means to conduct business
within the executive branch and between the legislative and
executive branches.
    Indeed, returning to Hamilton and The Federalists, foreign
relations power was vested in neither branch.  As was written in
Number 75, foreign relations constituted another branch; that the
power to conduct foreign relations seems...
    to form a distinct department, and to belong properly,
    neither to the legislative nor the executive.  The
    qualities elsewhere detailed as indispensable in the
    management of foreign negotiations point out the
    Executive as the most fit agent in these transactions,
    and the operation of treaties as laws pleads strongly
    for the participation of the whole or a portion of the
    legislative body in the office of making them.
    Finally, to temper this entire discussion on LIC, political
reality cannot be forgotten.  As Leslie Gelb so accurately points
out "...the expert may be right or he may be wrong, but the risks
of being wrong loom much larger at the top than at the bottom.
Bureaucrats could talk all they wanted about taking risks and
managing the consequences of defeat; political leaders had to
take the risks and suffer the consequences."38
    Similarly, "Discriminate Deterrence" with its low intensity
call to arms has had very little influence so far.  It has drawn
little media attention and even less official administration
    It is interesting to note that terrorist counteractions, an
element of LIC, is a much more saleable product.  Why?  It is
politically expedient.  Terrorism and its effects have our
national attention.  Political reality dictates what will be
focused on and prior to that attention we can only attempt to
build an institutional mechanism that will respond once
    Additionally, LIC and foreign policy in general can only be
resolved by a pragmatic approach.  Accepting and correcting
mistakes made, once discovered, and without losing the vision
which brought this country to where it is today.
  1Low Intensity Conflict is political-military confrontation
between contending states or groups below conventional war and
above the routine, peaceful competition among states.  It
involves protracted struggles of competing principles and
ideologies.  Low Intensity conflict ranges from subversion to the
use of armed forces.  It is waged by a combination of means
employing political, economic, informational, and military
instruments.  Low Intensity Conflicts are often localized,
generally in the Third World, but contain regional and global
security implications.  (NSSD-277)
  2Guenter Lewy, American In Vietnam (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 1978), p. 438.
  3Cyril E. Black, "The Dynamics of Modernization," in The
Developing Nations, ed.  Frank Tachau (New York: Dodd, Mead &
Company, 1972), p. 37.
  4John H. Kautsky, "The Communist Perspective," in The
Developming Nations, ed. Frank Tachau (New York: Dodd, Mead &
company, 1972), p. 151.
  7Lawrence Freedman, The Evolution of Nuclear Strategy (New
York: St. Martin's Press, 1981), p. 69.
  8Ibid, p. 70.
  9The North Koreans invaded two months ahead of the previously
planned and coordinated schedule set with Moscow; the invasion
caught the Soviet's by surprise as much as the West and accounts
for their surprising exit from the critical UN security council
  10The Pentagon Papers:  The Defense Department History of
United states Decision Making of Vietnam, Senator Gravel ed.
(Boston, 1971), p. 373.
  11Mao Tse-tung, Selected Military Writings (Peking:  Foreign
Language Press, 1963), pp. 97-98.
  12Ibid, p. 56.
  13Fred C, Weyand, "CDRs Call," as quoted in On Stretegy:  The
Vietnam War in Context, Harry G. Summers, Jr. (Quantico, C&SC
Reprint, 1983), pp. 49-50.
  14Karl Von Clausewitz, On War, as quoted in Harry G. Summers,
On Strategy:  The Vietnam War in Context,  (Quantico, C&SC
Reprint, 1983), pp. 49-50.
  15Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, Tr. Constance
Farrington (New York: Grove Press, Inc., 1963), p. 40.
  16Ibid., p. 37.
  17Summers, P. 92.
  18William J. Olson, Director of the Low Intensity Conflict
Organization in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense
for SO/LIC, personal interview about LIC, Washington, D.C.,
March 11, 1988.
  19Gorman, Paul.  Testimony before the House Armed Services
Committee, U. S. Congress.
  20President's Special Review Board, Report of the President's
Special Review Board, p. II-4.  (Tower Report)
  22Stuart L. Perkins, Protracted Warfare:  U.S. Force
Structure and C3.  (Medford: Lecture at the Fletcher School of
Law and Diplomacy, April 22-24, 1987).
  23Leslie H. Gelb with Richard K. Betts, The Irony of
Vietnam:  The System Worked, (Washington, D.C.:  The Brookings
Institution, 1979), p. 238.
  24United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corporation
(1936); as quoted in Herman Pritchett, The American Constitution,
2nd ed. (New York: McGraw Hill Book Company, 1969), p. 357.
  25Herman Pritchett, The American Constitution, 2nd ed. (New
York: McGraw Hill Book Company, 1969), p. 358.
  26Ibid., P. 357.
  27David Truman, The Governmental Process (New York:  Knopf,
1951), p. 433.
  28Richard Haass, "The Role of the Congress in American
Security Policy" in American Defense Policy, ed. John F. Reichart
& Steven R. Sturm, 5th ed. (Baltimore:  The John Hopkins
University Press, 1982), p. 551.
  30Michael Howard, "A European Perspective on the Reagan
Years,"  Foreign Affairs, 66 (America and the World 1987/88),
p. 488.
  31Commission on Integrated Long-Term Strategy, Discriminate
Deterrence, p. 14.
  32Samuel Huntington, "Coping with the Lippmann Gap,"  Foreign
Affairs, 66 (America and the World 1987/88), p. 461.
  33RCWG memo to Regional Conflict Working Group, Subj: RCWG
Input to the Commission Report, dtd 14 Sep 87 (Draft 4.0,
Alexandria, VA).
  34Clyde H. Farnsworth, "U.S. Cutting Sugar Imports In Blow to
Trading Partners," New York Times, December 16, 1987, Section D,
p. 1.
  36Huntington, p. 475.
  37 Ibid.
  38Gelb, p. 238.
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Perkins, Stuart L. Col. USA., Chairman Intelligence Working Group
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"RCWG Input to the Commission Report"  (Draft 4.0), dtd 14 Sep
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One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger - by Matthew Yglesias