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Should Strategic Studies Survive?

  • Richard K. Betts (a1)

Political science attends to causes and consequences of war but only fitfully welcomes study of its conduct, because few grasp how much the dynamics of combat shape politics. Bernard Brodie called for development of strategic studies on the model of the discipline of economics, because neither the military nor academia treated the subject rigorously. His call was answered in the early cold war, with mixed results. Theories about nuclear deterrence burgeoned while empirical studies of war lagged. The late—cold war impasse in nuclear strategy, rooted in NATO doctrine, shifted attention to conventional military operations and empirically grounded theory. Since the cold war, research on general theoretical questions about war and peace has been prospering, but education in military matters has been eroding. Interdisciplinary strategic studies integrate political and military elements of international conflict, but there is no recognized discipline of military science; military analysis is smuggled into political science and history departments, where it is resisted by calls to conceptualize security broadly or focus on purely theoretical work. If serious military studies are squeezed out of universities, there will be no qualified civilian analysts to provide independent expertise in policy and budget debates, and decisions on war and peace will be made irresponsibly by uninformed civilians or by the professional military alone.

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1 Brodie, , “Strategy as a Science,” World Politics 1 (July 1949), 468.

2 Bull, Hedley, “Strategic Studies and Its Critics,” World Politics 20 (July 1968), 596.

3 Baldwin, David, “Security Studies and the End of the Cold War,” World Politics 48 (October 1995), 135.

4 See also Brodie, Bernard, Strategy in the Missile Age (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1965), 11, 13; idem, War and Politics (New York: Macmillan, 1973), 911; idem, “Scientific Progress and Political Science,” Scientific Monthly 85 (December 1957), 317.

5 Smith, , The Air Force Plans for Peace, 1943–1945 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1970); Krepinevich, , The Army and Vietnam (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986).

6 Kaplan, Fred, The Wizards of Armageddon (New York; Simon and Schuster, 1983); Freedman, Lawrence, The Evolution of Nuclear Strategy, 2d ed. (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1989); Steiner, Barry, Bernard Brodie and the Foundations of American Nuclear Strategy (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1991).

7 Knorr, , The War Potential of Nations (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1956); Knorr, , ed., NATO and American Security (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1959); Snyder, , Deterrence and Defense (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1961); Kaufmann, , ed., Military Policy and National Security (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1956); Kahn, , On Thermonuclear War (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1960); Waltz, , Man, the State, and War (New York: Columbia University Press, 1959); Huntington, , The Common Defense (New York: Columbia University Press, 1962); Schilling, , Hammond, , and Snyder, , Strategy, Politics, and Defense Budgets (New York: Columbia University Press, 1962); Caraley, Demetrios, The Politics of Military Unification (New York: Columbia University Press, 1966); Armacost, Michael, The Politics of Weapons Innovation (New York: Columbia University Press, 1969); Green, , Deadly Logic (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1966); Kissinger, , Nuclear Weapons and Foreign Policy (New York: Harper, 1957). IISS publications include the journal Survival, the Adelphi Papers, and the annuals Military Balance and Strategic Survey.

8 Brodie, , ed., The Absolute Weapon (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1946).

9 Quoted in Kaplan (fh. 6), 254.

10 Trachtenberg, Marc, History and Strategy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991), chap. 1; Morgan, Patrick, Deterrence, 2d ed. (Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage, 1983); Betts, Richard, “Nuclear Weapons,” in Nye, Joseph, ed., The Making of America's Soviet Policy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984); Jervis, Robert, The Illogic of American Nuclear Strategy (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1984); Gray, Colin, Nuclear Strategy and National Style (Lanham, Md.: Hamilton Press, 1986); Eden, Lynn and Miller, Steven, eds., Nuclear Arguments (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1989).

11 Selected Works of Mao Tse-tung, vol. 2 (Peking: Foreign Languages Press, 1965); Mallin, Jay, ed., “Che” Guevara on Revolution (Coral Gables, Fla.: University of Miami Press, 1969). Academics developed limited war theories mostly about Korea and NATO, not subconventional war. Osgood, Robert, Limited War (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957); Kissinger, Henry, The Necessity for Choke (New York: Harper, 1961); Halperin, Morton, Limited War in the Nuclear Age (New York: Wiley, 1963). On unconventional war in the third World, French and British colonial veterans wrote theoretical statements: Galula, David, Counterinsurgency Warfare (New York: Praeger, 1964); Thompson, Robert, Defeating Communist Insurgency (New York: Praeger, 1966). One of the few theoretical works by academics that holds up is Huntington, Samuel, “Patterns of Violence in World Politics,” in Huntington, , ed., Changing Patterns of Military Politics (New York: Free Press of Glencoe, 1962). Examples of case studies include Pye, Lucian, Guerrilla Communism in Malaya (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1956); Pike, Douglas, Viet Cong (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1966); Race, Jeffrey, War Comes to Long An (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1972). For postmortems, see Blaufarb, Douglas, The Counterinsurgency Era (New York: Free Press, 1977); Cable, Larry, Conflict of Myths: The Development of American Counterinsurgency Doctrine and the Vietnam War (New York: New York University Press, 1986); Shafer, D. Michael, Deadly Paradigms (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988); Lomperis, Timothy, From People's War to People's Rule (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1996).

12 The seminal cost-effectiveness work on defense management is Hitch, Charles et al., The Economics of Defense in the Nuclear Age (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960). See also Quade, E. S. and Boucher, W. I., eds., Systems Analysis and Policy Planning Applications in Defense (New York: American Elsevier, 1968).

13 Art, Robert, The TFX Decision (Boston: Little, Brown, 1968); Coulam, Robert, Illusions of Choice (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1977). McNamara's apostles claimed not to claim too much. See Hitch, Charles, Decision-Making for Defense (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1965), 76; but as correctives, Stockfisch, J. A., Plowshares into Swords (New York: Mason and Lipscomb, 1973), 197; and Schlesinger, James, “Uses and Abuses of Analysis,” in U.S. Senate, Committee on Government Operations, Planning Programming Budgeting (Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1970).

14 Trachtenberg (fh.10), 13n; Brodie, quoted in Steiner (fn. 6), 196–97; Brodie, , “Why Were We So (Strategically) Wrong?” Foreign Policy, no. 5 (Winter 1971–72), 154. One of the principals who imposed economic analysis in the Pentagon foresaw the problem; Hitch, Charles, “National Security Policy as a Field for Economics Research,” World Politics 12 (April 1960), 448.

15 Brennan, Donald, ed., Daedalus 89, special issue (Fall 1960); Schelling, Thomas and Halperin, Morton, with the assistance of Brennan, Donald, Strategy and Arms Control (New York: Twentieth Century Fund, 1961).

16 Examples of Studies in Defense Policy published by the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., in the trough between the first and second cycles include Binkin, Martin, Support Costs in the Defense Budget (1972); White, William, U.S. TacticalAirpower (1974); Blechman, Barry, The Control of Naval Armaments (1975). More academic Brookings publications in the second cycle include Epstein, Joshua, The Calculus cf Conventional War (1985); Betts, Richard, Nuclear Blackmail and Nuclear Balance (1987); McNaugher, Thomas, New Weapons, Old Politics (1989); Blair, Bruce, The Logic of Accidental Nuclear War (1993).

17 Keohane, Robert and Nye, Joseph, Power and Interdependence (Boston: Little, Brown, 1977), chap. 2.

18 Knorr, , On the Uses of Military Power in the Nuclear Age (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1966); idem, “On the International Uses of Military Force in the Contemporary World,” Orbis 20 (Spring 1977); Berts, Richard, Doyle, Michael, and Ikenberry, John, “An Intellectual Remembrance of Klaus Knorr,” in Bienen, Henry, ed., Power, Economics, and Security (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1992), 1719.

19 See also The Journal of Strategic Studies, Survival, Defense Analysis, Comparative Strategy, Arms Control, and Small Wars and Insurgencies. One of the better journals, Security Studies, began publishing after the cold war ended. Official journals include Naval War College Review, Parameters, and Joint Force Quarterly.

20 Creative revisitations included Mandelbaum, Michael, The Nuclear Revolution (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1981); Lebow, Richard Ned, Nuclear Crisis Management (Ithaca, N.Y., Cornell University Press, 1987); Jervis, Robert, The Meaning of the Nuclear Revolution (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1989). See also Howard, Michael, “The Forgotten Dimensions of Strategy,” Foreign Affairs 57 (Summer 1979).

21 Wohlstetter, , Pearl Harbor (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1962); Knorr, , “Failures in National Intelligence Estimates,” World Politics 16 (April 1964).

22 Masterman, J. C., The Double-Cross System (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972); Jones, R. V., The Wizard War (New York: Coward, McCann and Geoghehan, 1978); Hinsley, F. H. et al., British Intelligence in the Second World War, 5 vols. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1979–90); May, Ernest, ed., Knowing One's Enemies (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984); Wark, Wesley, The Ultimate Enemy (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1985); Handel, Michael, ed., Strategic and Operational Deception in the Second World War (London: Cass, 1987); Katz, Barry, Foreign Intelligence (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1989).

23 Wilensky, Harold, Organizational Intelligence (New York: Basic Books, 1967); Handel, Michael, “The Yom Kippur War and the Inevitability of Surprise,” International Studies Quarterly 21 (September 1977); Betts, Richard, “Analysis, War, and Decision,” World Politics 31 (October 1978); Freedman, Lawrence, U.S. Intelligence and the Soviet Strategic Threat, 2d ed. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986); Levite, Ariel, Intelligence and Strategic Surprises (New York: Columbia University Press, 1987); Betts, Richard K., “Surprise, Scholasticism, and Strategy,” International Studies Quarterly 33 (September 1989); Kam, Ephraim Surprise Attack (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1988); Johnson, Loch, America's Secret Power (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989); Darling, Arthur, The Central Intelligence Agency (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1990); Wirtz, James, The Tet Offensive (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1991).

24 International Security 19, special issue (Summer 1984).

25 Friedberg, Aaron, “A History of U.S. Strategic ‘Doctrine’—1945–1980,” Journal ofStrategic Studies 3 (December 1980); Ball, Desmond, “U.S. Strategic Forces,” International Security 7 (Winter 1982–83); Rosenberg, David, “The Origins of Overkill,” International Security 17 (Spring 1983). Scott Sagan corrects both the “expert's myth” that nothing changed at all and the “layman's myth” that mutual assured destruction represented U.S. strategy. Sagan, , Moving Targets (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989).

26 The definitive work is Blair, Bruce, Strategic Command and Control (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1985). See Steinbruner, John, “Beyond Rational Deterrence,” World Politics 28 (January 1976); idem, “National Security and the Concept of Strategic Stability,” Journal of Conflict Resolution 22 (September 1978); Ball, Desmond, Can Nuclear War Be Controlled? Adelphi Paper 169 (London: IISS, Autumn 1981); Bracken, Paul, The Command and Control of Nuclear Forces (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983); Feaver, Peter, Guarding the Guardians (Ithaca, N.Y. Cornell University Press, 1992).

27 Snyder, Jack, The Ideology of the Offensive (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1984); Van Evera, Stephen, “The Cult of the Offensive and the Origins of the First World War,” International Security 9 (Summer 1984); Quester, George, Offense and Defense in the International System, 2d ed. (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction, 1988); Miller, Steven, ed., Conventional Forces and American Defense Policy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986); Betts, Richard, “Conventional Deterrence,” World Politics 37 (January 1985); Kaufmann, William, “Nonnuclear Deterrence” and “The Arithmetic of Force Planning,” in Steinbruner, John and Sigal, Leon, eds., Alliance Security (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1983); Leppingwell, John, “The Laws of Combat?” International Security 12 (Summer 1987); Cohen, Eliot, “Toward Better Net Assessment,” International Security 13 (Summer 1988); Mearsheimer, John, “Assessing the Conventional Balance,” International Security 13 (Spring 1989); Epstein, Joshua, “The 3:1 Rule, the Adaptive Dynamic Model, and the Future of Security Studies,” International Security 13 (Spring 1989); Kupchan, Charles, “Setting Conventional Force Requirements,” World Politics 41 (July 1989); Biddle, Stephen, “The European Conventional Balance,” Survival 30 (March-April 1988).

28 See, for example, Cornell University Press books such as Mearsheimer, John, Conventional Deterrence (1983); idem, Liddell Hart and the Weight of History (1988); Cohen, Eliot, Citizens and Soldiers (1985); Posen, Barry, The Sources of Military Doctrine (1984); Rosen, Stephen, Winning the Next War (1991). Examples of historically oriented analysis included Keegan, John, The Face of Battle (New York: Viking, 1976); van Creveld, Martin, Supplying War (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1977); idem, Command in War (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1985); Betts, Richard, Surprise Attack (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1982); Millett, Allan and Murray, Williamson, eds., Military Effectiveness, 3 vols. (Boston: Allen and Unwin, 1988); Luttwak, Edward, Strategy (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1987); Handel, Michael, War, Strategy and Intelligence (London: Cass, 1989); Bouchard, Joseph, Command in Crisis (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991).

29 von Clausewitz, Carl, On War, ed. and trans. Howard, Michael and Paret, Peter (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976); Paret, Peter, ed., Makers of Modem Strategy: From Machiavelli to the Nuclear Age (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1986); Earle, Edward Mead, ed., Makers of Modern Strategy: Military Thought from Machiavelli to Hitter (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1943). See Summers, Harry, On Strategy (Novato, Calif.: Presidio Press, 1982), which set off an unprecedented wave of attention to Clausewitz in the U.S. Army; and Handel, Michael, ed., Clausewitz and Modern Strategy (London: Cass, 1986).

30 Ullman, Richard, “Redefining Security” International Security 8 (Summer 1983); Nye, Joseph and Lynn-Jones, Sean, “International Security Studies,” International Security 12 (Spring 1988); Mathews, Jessica, “Redefining Security,” Foreign Affairs 68 (Spring 1989).

31 Walt, Stephen, “The Renaissance of Security Studies,” International Studies Quarterly 35 (June 1991). For other reviews, see Gray, Colin, Strategic Studies and Public Policy (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1982); Haftendorn, Helga, “The Security Puzzle,” International Studies Quarterly 35 (March 1991); Crawford, Neta, “Once and Future Security Studies,” Security Studies 1 (Winter 1991).

32 Downing, Brian, The Military Revolution and Political Change (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1992); Kupchan, Charles, The Vulnerability of Empire (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1994); Zisk, Kimberly Martin, Engaging the Enemy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993); Porter, Bruce, War and the Rise of the State (New York: Free Press, 1994); Murray, Williamson, Knox, MacGregor, and Bernstein, Alvin, eds., The Making of Strategy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1994); Legro, Jeffrey, Cooperation under Fire (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1995); Betts, Richard K., Military Readiness (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1995). Two books on crucial military topics would have been blockbusters had they appeared during the cold war, but were little appreciated after it: Posen, Barry, Inadvertent Escalation (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1991); Stares, Paul, Command Performance (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution, 1991).

33 Demchak, Chris, Military Organizations, Complex Machines (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1991); Sagan, Scott, The Limits of Safety (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993); Kaufman, Robert, Arms Control during the Prenuclear Era (New York: Columbia University Press, 1990); Goldman, Emily, Sunken Treaties (University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994); Kier, Elizabeth, “Culture and Military Doctrine,” International Security 19 (Spring 1995); Johnston, Alastair Iain, Cultural Realism (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996); Pape, Robert, Bombing to Win (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1996); Liberman, Peter, Does Conquest Pay? (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1996); Rosen, Stephen, Societies and Military Power (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1996); Art, Robert, “A Defensible Defense,” International Security 15 (Spring 1991); Desch, Michael, When the Third World Matters (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1993); Feaver, Peter, “The Civil-Military Problematique,” Armed Forces and Society 23 (Winter 1996); Mercer, Jonathan, Reputation and International Politics (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1995).

34 David, Stephen R., “Explaining Third World Alignment,” World Politics 43 (January 1991); Posen, Barry, “The Security Dilemma and Ethnic Conflict,” Survival 35 (Spring 1993); Kaufmann, Chaim, “Possible and Impossible Solutions to Ethnic Civil Wars,” International Security 20 (Spring 1996).

35 Kolodziej, Edward, “Renaissance in Security Studies?” International Studies Quarterly 36 (December 1992); Lipschutz, Ronnie, ed., On Security (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995); Katzenstein, Peter, “Conclusion,” in Katzenstein, , ed., The Culture of National Security (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996); Krause, Keith and Williams, Michael, “Broadening the Agenda of Security Studies,” Mershon International Studies Review 40 (October 1996).

36 Schelling, , The Strategy of Conflict (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1960), 8. There is also constant debate (as among students of politics) over whether strategy is science or art. Clausewitz and Sun Tzu are usually identified with art and Jomini with science, but Michael Handel shows that there is more agreement among the three than generally assumed. Handel, , Masters of War, 2d ed. (London: Cass, 1996).

37 A dean of the profession's brief for eclecticism is Almond, Gabriel, “Separate Tables,” PS 23 (Fall 1988), 829–30,839–40.

38 Huntington, Samuel, The Soldier and the State (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1957); Finer, Samuel, The Man on Horseback (New York: Praeger, 1962); Perlmutter, Amos, The Military and Politics in Modern Times (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1977); Betts, Richard K., Soldiers, Statesmen, and Cold War Crises, 2d ed. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1991).

39 Examples of breadth beyond strictly military aspects include Kennedy, Paul, The Rise and Fall of the Gnat Powers (New York: Random House, 1987); Friedberg, Aaron, The Weary Titan (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988); Ullman, Richard, Securing Europe (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1991); Snyder, Jack, Myths of Empire (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1991); Macdonald, Douglas, Adventures in Chaos (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992); Walt, Stephen, The Origins of Alliances (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1987); idem, Revolution and War (Ithaca N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1995).

40 Baldwin (fh. 3), 140. See also Baldwin, , “The Concept of Security,” Review of International Studies 23 (1997).

41 Baldwin (fn. 3), 140.

42 Nye and Lynn-Jones (fh.30), 12,21–22,26.

43 Ruggie, , “Territoriality and Beyond,” International Organization 47 (Winter 1993), 143.

44 Thanks to Peter Feaver for this point. See Steinbruner, John, The Cybernetic Theory of Decision (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1974); Jervis, Robert, Perception and Misperception in International Politics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976); Allison, Graham, Essence of Decision (Boston: Little, Brown, 1971); Sapolsky, Harvey, The Polaris System Development (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1972).

45 See also de Mesquita, Bruce Bueno, The War Trap (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1981); de Mesquita, Bueno and Lalman, David, War and Reason (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1992); Levy, Jack, War and the Modern Great Power System, 1495–1975 (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1983); Huth, Paul, Extended Deterrence and the Prevention of War (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1988); Powell, Robert, Nuclear Deterrence Theory (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990); Downs, George W. and Rocke, David M., Tacit Bargaining, Arms Races, and Arms Control (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990).

46 See Davis, Christopher, “War and Peace in a Multipolar World,” Journal of Strategic Studies 19 (March 1996).

47 Wohlstetter, , “The Delicate Balance of Terror,” Foreign Affairs 37 (January 1959).

48 Hirschman, , “The Search for Paradigms as a Hindrance to Understanding,” World Politics 22 (April 1970), emphasis in original.

49 Brodie, War and Politics (fn.4), 452–53, emphasis in original.

* Thanks to Robert Art, David Baldwin, Michael Desch, Peter Feaver, Stephan Haggard, Michael Handel, Samuel Huntington, Robert Jervis, Miles Kahler, David Lake, Michael Mandelbaum, John Mearsheimer, Barry Posen, Cynthia Roberts, Gideon Rose, John Ruggie, Warner Schilling, Jack Snydet, Barry Steiner, Marc Trachtenberg, and Stephen Walt. The value of their criticisms exceeded my ability to incorporate them within length restrictions, which also limited bibliographical footnotes to illustrative examples rather than recognition of the full range of important works.

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