America and the World: The Next Four Years: Defense Reconsidered
THE great revelation of the 1976 elections, both primary and general, both congressional and presidential, was that the majority opinion on the worth of military power, and on the present adequacy of American forces, was no longer marked by the discouraged inattention of the late years of Vietnam and Watergate. The substance of the great change in the popular outlook was manifested in the campaigning stance of the winning candidates: those who could not offer themselves as promoters of American military power (even if only in the guise of efficiency experts) found it wise to say as little as possible upon the subject.
In his campaign the new President did of course speak of budgetary cuts, but he spoke of a strong defense also, and made it very clear that the cuts would be quite small, the consequence of efficiency rather than of force reductions. In any case, one could hardly recognize the lineaments of a unilateral disarmer in the former naval person from Georgia. Now that the new administration has taken office, its final intentions in this respect are somewhat cloudier. But the national debate over the proper form of American power, and the importance of the military element within it, has if anything become sharper. (It is, one supposes, inevitable that just as the terms of the defense debate last fall were set by the hurried slogans of a political campaign, so the policy debate today is defined equally simplistically in terms of the personalities of the President’s appointees.)
About the Author
Edward N. Luttwak is senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.