United States Deterrance Policy in the 1960's: Members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Publicly Speak Out
Harswick, Martin Andre
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The Problem. What was the public image conveyed by members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in the 1960's concerning the deterrent policy of the United States, and to what extent did the Vietnam conflict mirror that impression? Procedure. The public speeches, interviews and congressional testimony of Joint Chiefs of Staff members from 1960 through 1969 were examined for their outlook on deterrence. During the research for this information three sources provided the bulk of the documented material used. They were the Congressional Record, Vital Speeches of the Day and U.S. News & World Report. Findings. In the 1960's the deterrent power of the United States relied mainly on the retaining of a strategic nuclear force capable of surviving a nuclear attack with enough counter force to destroy the aggressor. During that decade members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff also stressed that conventional non-nuclear war was more likely to come about than general nuclear war. It was therefore necessary for the United States to prepare to fight such conventional conflicts. Without a conventional flexible response policy the United States would have only two responses in the face of non-nuclear Communist aggression, withdrawal of opposition or retaliation with nuclear weapons. Conventional strength would provide for graduated responses to all levels of hostile Communist actions. Acceptance of this limited war concept was clearly demonstrated in Vietnam not only in the non-use of nuclear weapons but also in the limitations placed on the American military.