Speaker: Harold Brown
Presider: Leslie H. Gelb
Paul C. Warnke Lecture in International Security
February 26, 2003
New York, NY
Leslie H. Gelb [LHG]: Good evening. I've been here for ten years now, and tonight is the most special night in all those ten years. It's to honor Paul Warnke and to have the inaugural presentation of the Warnke lecture. I say the most special because Paul Warnke was my hero and my friend. He was an intellectual bolt of lightning in government. Just enormous courage, clarity of mind, and commitment to, in the case of Vietnam, a peaceful settlement, in the case of Soviet-American relations, tamping down the tension through genuine arms control. From the moment I met him, I delighted in him and learned from him, and as I said, there's no person in government I admire more. My hero, my friend.
Let me tell a couple of Paul Warnke stories, if I may, although I have a reservoir of these. When Paul Warnke became Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs, he had mainly been a lawyer. And he was the general counsel of the Pentagon, selling the famous unified aircraft, TFX, and when he came to ISA, which is the policy branch of the Pentagon, his background in a lot of these issues was limited to having read Foreign Affairs. (Laughter) And ... but you know, Paul has an easy way of dealing with this matter, and in one of the first meetings he held with his aides as Assistant Secretary, he said, now, NATO, that includes Canada, doesn't it? (Scattered Laughter) You can almost hear his voice ... that includes, Canada, doesn't it? So if we can come to the defense of Canada, why not Martha's Vineyard as well? (Laughter)
Or, one of my favorite exchanges between Paul and our distinguished guest this evening, Harold Brown, when Paul was Director of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, and Harold was Secretary of Defense, and two or three or sometimes five times a week we would be in there, arguing about the next proposal to put on the table in one arms control talk or another with the Soviet Union. And Harold and Paul were doing their thing as usual, and Paul interrupted his argument to say to Harold, Harold, you don't know how to negotiate with the Soviets. And Harold responded, that may be right, Paul, but I know how to negotiate with you. (Laughter) Do you remember that exchange? (Laughter)
We have here tonight Jean Warnke, also an old friend for Judy Gelb and me, and the other members of the Warnke family. We thank you so much for coming to help us inaugurate this lectureship, and it will go on forever. There were almost 90 donors to this. It's hard for me to recollect any activity or program that's attracted more support than this lectureship for Paul Warnke, in international peace and security, and this is the first of forever. I've asked Steven Warnke to say a few words about his father, who also had the virtue of having been a Director of the Council on Foreign Relations. Stephen.
Stephen Warnke [SW]: Thank you. On behalf of the Warnke family, much of which is gathered here tonight, down to the second generation, I am proud to mark this inaugural Paul C. Warnke lecture in international security. I want to thank the Council on Foreign Relations, especially Les Gelb and Alton Frye, for conceiving and launching this lectureship in honor of my father. My father was a gifted speaker, and loved a good party. I'm glad that this event will perpetuate both traditions, (Laughter), so closely associated with my father, even though it would gall him no end to know that he could not attend. (Scattered Laughter)
I also want to thank the many friends and Council members present who helped to endow the lecture. Your generosity in a tough year for charity is deeply touching to all of us. Lastly, I want to say a few words about my father's lifelong passion for the subject matter of this lecture, international security. From conning his way into the Coast Guard so that he could fight in World War Two, to serving as Assistant Secretary of Defense under Lyndon Johnson, to writing his last op-ed pieces on Bosnia and missile defense, international security was the arena where my father made his mark.
I carry in my wallet a snapshot photo taken of him for his Pentagon I.D. card when he first became General Counsel to the Department of Defense. The expression of sheer joy on his face, (Scattered Laughter), after all these years leaves no doubt that he was in the catbird seat, and was well on his way to fulfilling his destiny. There is no good time to lose a parent. Given my father's passion, he chose a particularly bad time to exit the world stage, wedged between September 11th and the current debates over Iraq and North Korea. I don't presume to know what my father's position would be on the proper American response to these challenges, but three aspects of that position I am sure of.
First, his opinion would be strongly expressed, pithy, free of dogma, no matter what the political consequences for him. My son Jack, studying the ancient pharaohs of Egypt in his second grade class last year, put it best when he raised his hand and told his teachers, most people tell people in power what they want to hear, but not my grandfather. (Scattered Laughter) Second ... second ... I'm sorry. Second, dad would have preserved his reverence for the institutions of American democracy, even if he didn't like the electoral results, even if he disagreed with the people in power.
I can remember in 1972, when my brothers and I went with him to the Washington Senators opening day at RFK Stadium, it turned out to be their last, when Richard Nixon threw out the first ball. Still very much a Democratic town, most of the crowd, or much of the crowd booed. My father told us, stand up, keep quiet, and respect the office of Presidency. Third, I believe that he would have urged long and hard negotiations to preserve peaceful multilateral solutions.
Another story my father often told was of his last tour of Vietnam, when he went there as a hold over aide to Mel Laird(?). He and Mel Laird went to a military hospital where Laird met for the first time wounded and dying combat soldiers. Afterwards, as my father tells it, Mel Laird wept outside, thus cementing forever my father's affection for him. So, my father's ... my father had spent the better part of his career, the best part of his career advancing the cause of international security. He did it through his trenchant opinions, he did it through his belief that America's power carries a special responsibility. He did it through his zest for the public debate, and he did it through his abiding realism about war. It's a pity that he can't be here with us today, but it's a splendid thing that the Council on Foreign Relations, through this lectureship, is preserving his legacy. Thank you. (Applause)
LHG: Thank you very much, Stephen. Now to our first Warnke lecture, Harold Brown. I think when any administration has wanted to attack a problem with ... and needed somebody of cosmic intelligence and Solomonic wisdom, the choice was always Harold Brown. He's held positions of enormous importance in our government, particularly in the Pentagon, ending up being Secretary of Defense, and always with the highest intellectual contributions, honesty, and also clear-headedness about policy issues. Even today, in the Bush administration, the Pentagon calls on Harold through the Defense Policy Review Board.
He is a special man in American national security, the history of American national security for the last 40 years. I too strain our friendship from time to time, because when matters of importance arise here at the Council, I call on Harold to do them as well. He is now chairing a task force nearing its completion on the Chinese-American military balance. This is the springboard for this talk this evening, to reflect on how vital considerations of military balance between ... military balances between the United States and other major powers are to our thinking about national security and foreign policy, and how dangerous it is to misconstrue them. I can think of no better person to inaugurate this series, or any series on national security policy than our guest this evening. Harold, thank you very much. (Applause)
Harold Brown [HB]: Thanks very much, Les, I doubt that I can live up to the introduction, but I'll see what I can do. I always enjoy being here at the Council, it gives me a chance to see so many old friends, and when I'm in the audience I usually learn something. But it's a special honor and pleasure to deliver this first Warnke lecture. Paul was a strong and effective advocate. As Les indicated, Paul and I occasionally disagreed on specific policy issues and more often on tactics. But I knew that he cared deeply about U.S. national security, and his effectiveness in its pursuit was always enhanced by his honest, ethical, personally generous and charming nature.
I particularly admired, especially admired his loyalty to his juniors, which he expressed and carried out right up to the very end of his professional career, in the Pentagon and in private practice. Paul used to joke that the word Paul meant little, and Warnke meant nothing, and he said, that means I'm a little nothing. Nothing could have been farther from the truth.
I'd like to talk about an issue tonight that he faced and concerns us today. How do we accurately evaluate current and future military capabilities of other nations, especially those of current or possible future adversaries, that are thought to be peers or potential peers of the U.S. in military capability? Those capabilities, both as compared overall with those of the U.S., or when evaluated with respect to specific scenarios of potential conflict obviously have to serve as a major input into determinations of appropriate U.S. force structure, weapons, system development, procurement, and strategy, and they also will influence judgments about the intentions of others, and thus shape our own foreign policy.
Of course, such comparisons or judgments or balance striking aren't the only or even necessarily the most important input. We have to decide about our national security strategies, those matter, views about those of other countries, competition for resources with domestic programs, institutional bureaucratic and even personal influences, all enter into decisions about our own national security. Usually, though, if you think about it, military capabilities take a long time to go from concept through R&D, to manufacture, deployment and then after that through the training and doctrinal adaptation of a force, and that can take ten, 15 years, even longer than that, depending upon how big a change you're talking about.
On the ... in contrast, policies and alignments can change within a few years or even less, and judging the long term intention of an actual or a potential adversary is intrinsically more difficult than estimating its military capabilities. It's harder to read minds or political trends than it is to interpret photographs or judge the pace of weapons programs. So it makes sense to pay real attention to the current or future capabilities of actual or potential adversaries, and to compare them with our own, because in a way, as I say, it's an easier task, and you have a longer time to do it.
Doing a net comparative assessment of present capabilities is tough enough. If you want to project into the future, that is, what will our balance be like in ten or 15 or 20 years? And then use those projections to influence our own programs, our own strategies, our own policies is more difficult. Future comparisons depend on future U.S. defense budgets and programs, and of course although a five year version of that is laid out to the Congress annually by every Secretary of Defense, somehow it never turns out to be what was projected. I remember at the end of the Sixties, we looked at the ... if you looked at the past, what you'd see is one year segments of very different five year programs, and it was not a very attractive or continuous curve.
And of course it's even more uncertain what the future programs and capabilities of the other country that you're comparing our capabilities with, is going to turn out to be. Let me take a ... as an example, the most consequential and best case of the second half of the twentieth century, the Cold War with the Soviet Union, and see whether we can draw any conclusions and lessons from that. I want to begin by asserting my own view that the Cold War, despite what some of my friends would say, was not a misunderstanding. It was a real conflict, both national and ideological.
Now, it wasn't the case that every member of the Politburo, or of successive U.S. administrations woke up in the morning, looked in the mirror and said, what can I do today to advance the worldwide triumph of Communism, or correspondingly, democracy and free markets. But unquestionably, each sought to expand the domain of its own system, as well as to defend it where it existed. In the case of the Cold War, I think we correctly judged Soviet intentions, including the use of Soviet military capability to impress and intimidate others, and to train and equip clients and surrogates, as well as to maintain the Communist governments of Eastern Europe against the wishes of their people.
In the Cold War, military capability and the perception of military capability played a major role, along of course with economic, ideological and political, cultural and technical elements. And in that case, the Cold ... in that case, I think we handled the intrinsically more difficult task, reading the long term intentions well. But how well did we do in reading current and future Soviet military capabilities? I would render the ... I would offer the judgment that the record is mixed, and that the misjudgments had consequences.
I don't think that weapon systems developed on each side were simply the result of an action-reaction cycle, so that the development and deployment of a system on one side was always the principal motive for development and deployment either of a similar or of a counter system. The interaction was a lot more complicated than that. Weapon systems were developed to support strategies, and those derived in part from the fact that one was a continental power, continental land power, the other a global and sea and air power. One was a status quo power, the other a status upsetting power. One had allies, geographic ... many allies geographically relatively close to the other.
All those things made up ... played a major role in the differences between the two sides in cycles of air defense capability, relative size of land forces, Soviet attempt to tilt the balance by introducing ballistic missiles. And the U.S. initiation of a submarine launched ballistic missile program, for example. And in a way I guess I am likely to be remembered along these lines for having said, as many of you will remember, when we build they build, and when we stop building they continue building, and I stand by that observation, it is necessarily ... it is true nevertheless that some of our own actions in deciding on weapon systems were responses to actual perceived or projected Soviet capabilities and vice versa.
But the issue I'm concerned with here is whether we accurately gauged Soviet then current and future military capabilities, and I want to focus especially on what the effects were of the misjudgments that were made. I would say in general that we in ... tended to exaggerate Soviet capabilities. Sometimes we didn't know very much, that always produces a wider range of estimates. Sometimes the overestimates resulted from pressures from those advocating programs similar to actual or alleged Soviet programs, or in advocating counters to them. And sometimes Soviet capabilities were exaggerated even when government officials knew better. The public was seen as underestimating the dangers, and one way to wake them up was to overestimate Soviet military capabilities.
That was an element in the Truman-Acheson policies of the late 1940s, and in particular, I don't want to go on too long about this, anticipation of Soviet nuclear weapon design based on the discovery of Soviet nuclear espionage during World War Two accelerated U.S. efforts toward a thermonuclear weapon. It was thought that the Soviets might beat us to that, and the result was that the ideas they got from their spies were unworkable, we beat them to the hydrogen bomb. They produced one of their own genuine thermonuclear weapons later on, and we probably missed at least a chance, it probably wouldn't have worked, but we would at least had a chance to exercise arms control and keep that from happening.
As I say, it probably wouldn't have worked, but we missed a chance to try. Later on in history, the matter took a more distinctly partisan political turn. Democrats in the late Fifties trumpeted a missile gap that in terms of Soviet capability to reach U.S. with ICBMs didn't exist or rather was the other way around, and in the Sixties and afterwards, Republicans, again with both political motivation and genuine belief, became the exaggerators. It is true that during much of the Sixties the national intelligence estimates underestimated the size to which Soviet land based missile forces would grow, but that was by no means the norm. In fact, I remember a meeting in Los Angeles in 1972, of national security thinkers, at which Albert Wolstater(?) asserted that every national estimate of Soviet capability in the strategic area has been abysmally low.
And I was about to offer a counter-example, but before I could, it was offered, and this will surprise most of you, by Paul Nitze, who noted that during much of the 1960s, intelligence estimates projected that the Soviets could be expected to have as many as ten thousand anti-ballistic missile interceptors. And that concern helped generate the U.S. MIRV Program, which almost surely led to the Soviet MIRV program, which in turn threatened the survivability of U.S. ICBM force. The balance in conventional forces between the U.S. and Soviets, our estimate, is harder to judge, even in retrospect. But the usual net assessment during the Fifties, Sixties, Seventies was that on the central front in Europe, Soviets had the overwhelming superiority and would have had it even if the Europeans had met the goals for their contribution to NATO forces, which they didn't.
Bob McNamara in the Sixties planned the strength in conventional U.S. forces in Europe, urged corresponding European forces to be increased as well, so that a Soviet blitzkrieg could ... that could otherwise be deterred only by a threat of nuclear escalation would help be deterred by that as well. Vietnam really made that impossible to do, and during the late Seventies, we tried again, with some success, to increase speed and force size of U.S. reinforcements, and to persuade other NATO partners to do the same, increase their capabilities. Again, my idea was that we might be able to provide sufficient conventional capability to keep Warsaw Pact forces from overrunning West Germany for 30 or even 60 days, with the hope, expectation would be going too far, that under those circumstances, non-Soviet Warsaw Pact forces couldn't be relied on, and if the Soviets had not achieved victory quickly, and if nuclear escalation had not taken place, their homefront would begin to crack, they'd have severe political difficulties.
That prospect would have been an additional deterrent. I was far from confident that that was sense ... that that would work, but I thought it was conceivable. And we shouldn't judge then Soviet capabilities by present Russian military capabilities. They've undergone a great dwindling, and our forces are correspondingly much stronger. The group of Soviet forces in Germany was not a paper tiger, and our worries about Soviet capability for a military drive through Iran to the Persian Gulf were not silly. But I think that overall we overestimated Soviet conventional military capability.
We were the only ones, even then in the 1970s, who had significant force capability of global power projection. Soviets had nothing to match or counter our carrier task forces, or Marine amphibious forces, and in the submarine game of hide, seek and track, they were out-classed. Now it can be said that overestimating adversaries' military capabilities may cost money, but underestimating it could be fatal. That's true, but it's not that simple. Overestimating the current capabilities of others can intimidate the U.S. and distort both policies and tactics.
Even if the U.S. is not intimidated, allies may very well be. In 1959 and '60, when the missile gap was trumpeted in the U.S., and Khruschev announced that the Soviets were turning out missiles like sausages, President Eisenhower was not intimidated, but the Europeans were, and Khruschev may very well have been emboldened in his blustering attitude toward President Kennedy at the April '61 Vienna Summit by the public perceptions of Soviet advantage. Even if Khruschev himself was so aware of the relative Soviet inferiority in strategic systems, but in an attempt to compensate, he blundered into the Cuban Missile Crisis the following year.
Moreover, perceptions of a current or projected Soviet strategic superiority, a so-called window of vulnerability attitude, certainly led to some unnecessary U.S. programs. The B-1, for example, to an unrealistic program for an un-impenetrable shield against Soviet ICBMs, the SDI program, and to some wasteful, if perhaps necessary, U.S. programs like the M.X. To ride a particular hobby horse of mine, if those funds had been devoted to an enhanced V-2 program, the U.S. current force power projection would be a lot greater than it is.
And during, to take another example, the mid-1980s, when Marshall Agarkov(?), then the Chief of Soviet General Staff, made a public and more accurate comparison of U.S. and Soviet high tech conventional military capabilities, concluding that the U.S. was in line to out-class the Soviets, it was disbelieved in the U.S., but taken seriously enough in the Soviet Union so that he was sidelines. The Soviets understood better than we that perceptions matter. To allow the perception you're likely to be militarily inferior, whether true in their case or false in ours, diminishes national security.
A side point, but a significant one. It was not only in military comparisons that there was a tendency to underrate the U.S. and overrate the Soviet Union. Some economists who decried overestimates of Soviet military capability in fact, and perceptively noted real flaws in the U.S. economic structure and behavior, let it be known the Soviet economic system, whatever its faults, had the advantages of productivity, steadiness and stability. Estimates of Soviet GDP ran to half or more that of the U.S. In retrospect, those judgments were absurd. (Scattered Laughter)
Now, you know, I'm talking about peers here, or potential peers. If you're talking about players who aren't, and have no prospect of becoming that, non-state actors, or terrorist oriented states, Al Qaeda or North Korea, it's a different situation. They can't destroy us, but they're less deterrable, perhaps, or undeterrable. So that the military balance is irrelevant, less relevant. The danger is that we can underestimate their capability to damage us, even though there's no chance that they can defeat us. The issues that I've talked about are much more applicable, indeed, to our relations with and our estimates about China.
Les has mentioned the task force on Chinese military capabilities that I chair, and without indulging in premature disclosure, without violating the Council's equivalent of regulation F.D., I do have some parallels to the history that I've recounted, when we think about China. The U.S. as a status quo global power looks at China, correctly I think, as a rising regional power, one which inevitably seeks more influence in and thinks of itself as potentially the dominant power in East Asia. That doesn't imply that conflict between China and the U.S. is inevitable. It does suggest that there'll at a minimum be friction, that the military balance will be of major significance in how the relationship plays out. I think it would be hard to find a serious military analyst or senior military officer who would disagree with the estimate that outside of its own land mass, Chinese military capabilities are not such as to be able to contest the U.S., even in the Taiwan Strait.
That doesn't mean that PRC can't threaten Taiwan. It does mean that a conflict between PRC and U.S. military forces would surely end in a major military defeat for the PRC. Whether that would constitute a political defeat for China is another question, it would depend on what else happened. As we think about the PRC and the ... and how U.S. policy should deal with it, and how we should think about the military balance, it's important to distinguish among present military capabilities, programs for developing improved or different military capabilities, aspirations, and fantasies.
Some of my colleagues on the task force say, well, there really aren't any fantasies, but I think there are. Aircraft carrier ... Chinese aircraft carriers in the eastern Pacific are a fantasy. Too often the public dialogue, especially at its extremes, focuses on the fantasies or the aspirations. Sometimes this aspect of the dialogue is intensified by Chinese military political writings, embodying the aspirations and occasionally the fantasies. Indeed, sometimes they originate in U.S. writings, and are picked up by the Chinese who then amplify them and broadcast them back. There are some parallels here, the situation with respect to the Soviet Union, during the 30 years beginning in the mid-Fifties.
We need in assessing the future military balance with the PRC, to make some assumptions about future U.S. as well as Chinese behavior. But one thing seems clear to me. Over at least the next 15 to 20 years, the regional balance should, at U.S. option, favor the U.S. Now, it won't if we withdraw all our forces away from Asia, and globally the balance will favor the U.S. for a lot longer than that, given any reasonable assumptions about future U.S. military programs and strategies.
Another similarity to the Soviet case is the overestimate of Chinese economic through the use of purchasing power parity in calculating gross domestic product. Initiated by the World Bank and other international financial institutions, adopted by The Economist magazine, and appearing from time to time in Foreign Affairs, this approach, which I have elsewhere characterized as the Chinese haircut fallacy, alleges that Chinese economic weight is half that of the U.S., and greater than that of Japan. I think the Chinese are too smart to believe that, but they are also smart enough to use public misperceptions along these lines to amplify their influence in political and economic discussions with the unsophisticated, and even with those who should know better.
We don't know whether the PRC will become adversarial to the U.S. in the sense that the USSR was. Depends primarily on internal developments there. U.S. behavior can have at most a modest influence. To that end, U.S. policy needs to be informed by thoughtful and accurate assessments, and projections of the military balance. And the reason that this is different from the Soviet case, there are differences, it ... China is not an ideological competitor, seeking to spread its system over the world. And although there will always be friction between politically open and politically closed systems, China's evolution toward the latter from the former, though very uncertain, is at least possible.
We shouldn't, however, let our reaction, even in our development and our deployment of military systems, or in our foreign security policies and strategies, we shouldn't pay much attention to fantasies. We should take aspirations for what they are, something to be aware of while we watch for facts that suggest they're coming close to reality. But we shouldn't assume on military terms that whatever might be developed and deployed by a potential adversary will in fact be so. In short, however our relations with China develop over the next couple of decades, they should not be driven by a concern that China will approach parity during that time frame in a military competition.
I think there are some other lessons to be learned from past history and the current situation. We ought to seek transparency. The openness of a five year program, budget proposals of the sort that the U.S. and other democracies make public, as they must to get financial approval of their legislators would help. There's still another argument for democratization of the PRC, although it's not one that I think will carry great weight for them. As I said, policies and strategies can change more quickly than military capabilities, so transparency about programs goes only so far, but openness at least about current policies and strategies is possible, and military to military discussions can play a useful role there.
And of course we have to remember that what we think of transparency in the U.S. may look to others like cacophony, because there are so many influential voices speaking in ... on these issues, without much coherence among them. We're stuck with that, I think, that's part of the separation of powers and the power of the media. In the end, what's needed, not surprisingly, is judgment informed by experience and tempered by acknowledgement of uncertainty, together with recognition of the consequences of gross underestimates and gross overestimates of military capabilities of potential adversaries differ in the degree and nature of the dangers they pose.
The public dissemination of exaggerated estimates, from whatever mixture of professional intelligence judgment and domestic political or bureaucratic or institutional motives has caused dysfunctional U.S. choices during past decades. In the past, so-called B-teams have been assembled, usually to produce more ominous estimates. B-teams can be useful, not because their estimates are more likely to be correct, they're less likely to be correct, but because decision makers need to be reminded before they make their decisions that the most likely scenarios and expectations may possibly be wrong. But B-teams should entertain lower threat as well as higher threat alternatives to the accepted estimates, and in public assessments by senior officials, and in declaratory policy, alarmism with respect to the military balance with other major powers, especially in a century whose first decades at least will see the U.S. as the predominant, though far from omnipotent power, ought to be avoided at least as much as Pollyanna-ism.
Paul Warnke would believe that even more strongly than I do, and as an advocate he would make an even more skillful case. Thank you very much. (Applause)
LHG: Thank you so much, Harold, for what I believe is a very important statement that I trust and hope will make its way into print. Everything is on the record tonight, Harold's statement and the questions and answers. Permit me the first question. Just to take an incident in ... a couple of incidents in Soviet-American history, arguing over the military balance and project that on to the Chinese stage. Twice the assessments of the nuclear balance between the Soviet Union and the United States went way beyond anything you might call legitimate differences of expert opinion. One was Adlai Stevenson making the charge that there was this immense bomber gap between the United States and the Soviet Union, where the Soviets had way many bombers than we did. I think he talked about five or six to one, in their favor. In fact, it was more than the reverse in our favor. And then in the 1960 Presidential campaign. President Kennedy talked about the missile gap, though there was a missile gap, we had two thousand ICBMs, international ... intercontinental ballistic missiles ... (Overlap)
HB: ... 1960.
LHG: Well, '60, '61, and the Soviets ... (Laughter)
HB: No, no.
LHG: ... had 67. They had 67, by the intelligence estimates. Now this went way beyond differences of legitimate expert opinion. This was nuts. How come? (Scattered Laughter)
HB: I think in the Stevenson case, and that was at a time where I was not paying quite so much attention to these matters, I was, (Laughs), I was busy designing nuclear weapons. (Laughter) The ... my guess is that Stevenson was pretty unsophisticated in these matters, and somebody told him that they had five times as many bombers, but neglected to tell him that they could only fly two or three hundred miles, (Scattered Laughter), because the Soviets did have a lot ... a lot of aircraft, and they could have been designated as bombers. They had very few long range bombers and no refueling capability. So, without getting into motives of which I know nothing, I would say that was ... could be a simple matter of unsophistication. I think ...
Theodore Sorensen [TS]: (Laughter) In 1959, the (Inaudible) Commission, which I believe was appointed by the Eisenhower administration, and the Rockefeller Commission, which may have been more self appointed, I'm not certain about the various policy hawks and others, gave these conclusions that there was a missile gap, reportedly the excuse was they had looked at Soviet capabilities rather than actual Soviet production. But it went from those commissions ...
TS: ... to Joe Alsop and Stu Sarnington(?), who got them aboard.. in the campaign and the Presidential candidate was the least culpable. (Laughter)
LHG: Thank you, Ted.
HB: Well, you know, indeed it was a matter of inference rather than of data, observed data, and there's another leap that was made. The Gaither(?) Commission really was talking about a prospective situation, and this is another thing that often happens. A group of experts or sort of experts will look at a situation and say, well, if this happens then that happens, then that happens, and these could all happen, then five years from now we will be faced with this terrible situation. And that gets translated in political terms into, there is a terrible crisis, there is a missile gap, or there is a window of vulnerability. And it's always hard for the correction or the correct analysis or the correct judgment to catch up with an ... the amplification in the media that follows such a political simplification or misinformation.
LHG: Okay. Please wait to be identified, wait for the microphone, identify yourself, your name and affiliation, and state the question or comment as quickly as possible. All the way in the back. Wait for the microphone, please.
GS: Gary Sick, from Columbia University. In light of the new strategy that has been announced of the fact that the United States, and I'll quote approximately, will maintain forces that will be superior to any other power or combination of powers, I wonder what that does in terms of a strategic judgment in terms of the very question that you're talking about, in terms of our judgment about capabilities and that assessment.
HB: Well, it makes it, it seems to me, more important to make those assessments sensibly. Because if you are committed to a policy of military predominance, which I happen to think is not going to be all that hard to maintain, the temptation of those who want the military capability to be greater and greater, to overestimate the capabilities, present or future, of others gets even greater, because if the syllogism is, we may not be as strong as ... we may not be much stronger than others, but our policy is to be much stronger than others, than all you have to do is prove the first part, there is no policy issue over the second part. And that means that the temptation to overestimate, which is to prove the first part of the syllogism, gets greater and greater. So I think it ... what it says to me is we need to be more careful, and I say that more or less accepting the policy.
FF: Frances Fitzgerald. Do you want to talk about China? I saw in the New York Times a while ago an estimate that annual Chinese military spending was something like 17 billion dollars a year.
FF: Is there ... (Overlap)
HB: What does that mean?
FF: ... is there an estimate, and what does that mean?
HB: It's difficult to say what that means. The Chinese claim that their official defense budget is about 1.7 percent of their GDP, which would be about 17 billion dollars. It excludes a great many things. It excludes their research and development, which is carried out under another ministry. It excludes their purchases of Soviet military equipment, which are very important because a lot of this they can't make themselves. And it probably excludes some other things. The Soviet budget was much the same. So that I would say that 17 billion is a substantial underestimate. On the other hand, there have been estimates as high as 80 billion from some places, and those I think are based on the Chinese hair cut fallacy, that is to say, they try to decide what it would cost us to produce the same number of people and the same number of pieces of equipment, and it does ... it would cost us more, because of this ... purchasing power parity factor.
So they pay a soldier ten dollars a month, we pay a soldier maybe three thousand dollars a month. Well, if you multiply their payment by 300, they get to have a pretty hefty defense budget. It's not a very useful way to look at it, I'm afraid. Again, in the days of comparison with the Soviets, we would do something that I ... was quite useful, which was to say, how much would it cost us to produce what they produce? And they would do the same with us, and it turns out, because of the principle of comparative advantage, that you always overestimate what it would cost you to do what the other fellow does, because each one does what costs him less to do. That's not a very useful way to go at it. The sensible way to go at it is in terms of capabilities, not in terms of expenditures. That's not easy either, but if you've done it right, it's much more useful. My own guess, you know, introducing some degree of purchasing power parity, is that it's more like the equivalent of 30 or 40 billion dollars a year.
LHG: Just to follow up on the question implicit in Frankie's question, isn't the history of estimating these military balances one where we tend to go overboard more in exaggerating the other side's strength, rather than underestimating its weaknesses?
HB: Well, that's part ... one of the reasons is, if you figure out what it would cost you to do what they're doing, you get a bigger number than you should have. But the real difference, Frankie, is this: the Chinese really have no capability for global power projection. I mean, so they don't spend any money on that. So the Chinese would not be able to fight a very good war in Iraq, capable war in Iraq. I mean, the comparison really, in budgetary terms, probably makes most sense when you're asking, what is the relative global military capability? And there, as I said, the disparity is enormous. In dealing with the Chinese, however, if we ever get into a military confrontation, we're going to be talking about a much more restricted area geographically, and a much more restricted set of capabilities, and it's therefore not appropriate to compare our entire defense budget with ... which is aimed at global capability, with their defense budget, which is aimed now and I think for a long time to come, to a fairly narrow regional capability.
LHG: Thank you. Back here.
PG: Thank you. Pranay Gupte, from Present Tense magazine. Mister Brown, in this great global calculus of international security, where would you place emerging nations and their power, for example, India and Pakistan? How would you factor those in, in terms of what the Pentagon should expect and not, how would regional volatility for example affect what planning there should be for American security purposes? Thanks.
HB: Well, I ... I mean, America, as I ... the U.S., as I just indicated and answered Frankie Fitzgerald's question, really is aimed at global capability. And that means that when we look at regional powers, we're looking at only a piece of ... we're comparing it only with a piece of U.S. military capability. I regard India as a rising regional power, and ... at the moment, I don't see any reason to try to strike a balance between U.S. and Indian military capability, because I don't regard India, at least in the foreseeable future, as a potential military competitor to the United States. Pakistan is an entirely different situation. I mean, Pakistan is a state in considerable difficulty. It ... the biggest threat that I see in the India-Pakistan relationship is the fact that both of them have nuclear capability, and therefore ... and are the less secure for it.
LHG: Over there.
RT: Harold, this is ... I'm Rick Thoman, with Corporate Perspectives. One of the things that occurs to me as I look at the last 30 years of the military balance is that today we have the preponderance of force that we've never had in the world, and yet we're doing it with fewer people and smaller share of natural resources, national resources than we've ever had to do this before. And I guess we do that because technology has made us able to project force over distance, we have very accurate ability to project force, and we are able to have know-how around how to fight forces together in ways which are different than other countries. And I guess my question is, as you look at these trends, and you extrapolate forward, this is positive for us up till now, but do you see the ability in which we're going to be able to maintain our preponderance of force with smaller and smaller shares of natural resources, and fewer and fewer people? How do you see this playing out over ... (Overlap)
HB: Well, I think the answer, Rick, depends somewhat on what other countries do. If you compare our military capability with those of the Europeans, the European Union has a GDP comparable with ours. They devote a considerably smaller fraction of that GDP to military capability, it is further fragmented among countries, because in European countries, even the ones that take military power seriously like the U.K. and France, defense expenditures are regarded even more as jobs programs than they are in the United States, and that makes them less efficient as well as being fragmented among countries makes them less efficient. Now, the other part of the answer to your question depends upon their catch ... how many others will be able to catch up technologically? And the U.S. advantage in technology generally, civil technology, although real, is not as substantial as its edge in military technology, because there is an extra step. Turning the civil technology into military systems requires a decision and a directed effort, and very few countries have been willing to make that effort.
The Soviet Union did in its day. I think the Chinese are beginning to try. And finally I would say that there's more to this than military equipment. You do have to have a trained, exercised and joint operations force in able to use ... be able to use the technology and equipment most effectively, and so far at least, no other country has made the effort along those lines either. Our professional military force, which puts so much effort into training and joint operations, is different from others.
LHG: I'm going to call on my colleague Alton Frye, but before he gets a chance to ask his question, let me say two things. One, Alton played a central role in establishing the Warnke Lectureship for the Council, and I thank him for that. Secondly, you should know and we'll announce it soon, that the ... our Board of Directors appointed Alton to be Counselor to the Board of Directors, more than an honorific, and something he absolutely deserves by virtue of his incredible service to this institution. Alton, your question.
AF: Les, that's very generous of you and I didn't ask to offer a question in order to get you to say something, but thank you for your kindness on this occasion as always. Harold, I want, without being too redundant, to take you back to the important work you're doing on China, and come at it with a very specific angle of analysis, to see if we could be a bit more precise. China is facing this national security strategy which talks about pre-emption, which talks about no peer competitor, it's facing a United States posture that has moved to deploy at an early date anti-ballistic missile defenses. It's seeing a United States committed to the defense of Taiwan, perhaps even more overtly and vigorously than in prior administrations, including probable or regional deployment in larger numbers of Asias capabilities and theater of missile defenses, as well as armament sales to Taiwan. Looking at that array of what one might consider challenges to China's regional primacy, what options does China have? Which ones do you think they might elect to pursue? (Overlap)
HB: ... the first place, Alton, I don't see U.S. policy as quite as as you may doubt, and I don't think that the Chinese political leadership does either. Some of the Chinese military, maybe much of the Chinese military does advertise it in that way, in part perhaps to get a larger share of Chinese GDP. When you come right down to it, I think there is a tacit agreement between China and the U.S. that we won't let Taiwan declare independence, and they, while not renouncing the use of military force, won't use it. That's not ... that's a somewhat different way of looking at it than what you're talking about. But with respect to the regional military balance, it is what it is, and it's going to stay what it is, pretty much, for a substantial period of time. Decades, a decade, two decades maybe.
The U.S. anti-ballistic missile capability certainly as announced so far, let alone as built so far, which is zero, does not inhibit the Chinese strategic deterrent capability at all. I believe that almost no matter what we do, they are going to make their deterrent less vulnerable and more numerous. The faster we build an ABM capability the faster they're going to do what they were going to do anyway. And I don't like that, and I don't ... I think it's a good reason not to move very fast on anti-ballistic missile program for the U.S., but I don't see it as a crisis.
LHG: I'm giving myself special presidential dispensation to ask two more questions from the floor, because I talked too long in the beginning and took time away from Harold. One back there, and we'll give the last question to Ted.
Astrid Tuminez: Thank you for the special dispensation, Les, I am most grateful. Astrid Tuminez, from AIG Global Investment. You alluded to the difficulty of gauging the intentions of potential state adversaries, but inevitably policy makers have to make judgments about intentions. What, in your experience, are the more effective ways by which we can judge intentions, and wed them with our assessments of military capability so that we can have the most accurate possible assessments of threat?
HB: That's a very difficult question. (Scattered Laughter) Because as I said, and as you said, intentions are the most difficult thing to judge. Diplomacy is helpful. Even when somebody is trying to mislead you, they're telling you something. And that to me means that face to face discussions, I must say sometimes I hope, wish that our diplomats would be, I don't want to use the ... Les, I don't want to use the word gullible, but Les believes that so long as diplomacy is under way, everything is wonderful. But it seems to me that's one thing that you use. We really need to improve our intelligence. And it's on a low human, so-called human intelligence is very important, and has been under-funded, under-utilized, we're not likely to introduce a U.S. agent, likely to be able to introduce a U.S. agent into the highest political council of potential adversaries, although the Soviets were able to do pretty well, (Scattered Laughter), during the ... with respect to us during World War Two. That was a fluke, perhaps.
But one thing I think our intelligence people can do, which they don't really do, they don't ... they undervalue open sources. They undervalue diplomatic reports, they undervalue what appears in the newspapers of other countries and our own countries ... our own country and I think that much greater attention to that would make sense. I said something about the value of B-teams, providing that they're not aiming to go in just one direction from the baseline estimates.
LHG: Ted, pleasure of ending it.
TS: Over 40 years ago, confronted with weapons of mass destruction, the Air Force, even under your good friend Curtis LeMay, acknowledged that, and in answer to a question by the President, that a pre-emptive strike could not all. Has the improvement of intelligence targeting smart weapons or whatever so changed so that now a pre-emptive strike against weapons of mass destruction a lot further away, can guarantee getting them all?
HB: Well, Ted, you and I were both present in a National Security Council meeting in 1962, at which President Kennedy asked what the U.S. number of casualties would be if we executed a pre-emptive strike against the Soviet Union. And LeMay admitted that, well, LeMay said that it would probably be some tens of millions and I ... President turned to me and I gave a similar estimate. And I think with respect to the Soviet Union, that would be true today. But not all weapons of mass destruction are equal. If you're going against a country which has some chemical and biological warfare capability, but no nuclear capability, and whose means of delivery don't carry beyond a hundred miles, the number of U.S. civilian casualties would be very, very small.
LHG: You're all invited downstairs for dinner cocktails in the downstairs room, whatever it's called, (Scattered Laughter), please come and talk with Jean Warnke and the charming Warnke brood, Harold and Colleen Brown, Judy Gelb and myself, we look forward. In the meantime, Harold, you've set the watermark for these lectures at the top of the line. Usually when I go over in these meetings, people start wandering out, muttering to themselves. Not a soul left, and well they shouldn't have, hearing something of that quality. I thank you so much.