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26 October 2006
MEASURES SHORT OF WAR
THE GEORGE F. KENNAN LECTURES
NATIONAL WAR COLLEGE, 1946-47
[Excerpt from a multi-lecture volume.]
September 16, 1946
This morning we consider the relations between sovereign governments and the measures that they employ when they deal with each other. The main devices with which states deal with each other are divided into two broad categories: measures of pressure and measures of adjustment. "Adjustment" ought to come first and "pressure" afterwards, because that is the order which predominates when governments try to influence each other. Our task this morning is to examine the means governments have to pursue these purposes short of reaching for their weapons and shooting it out.
I don't know whether the full importance of this question will be immediately apparent to all of you. For that reason, I would ask, in the light of recent events and diplomacy since the termination of hostilities, what might be the most important subject For study by this government in the field of foreign affairs'? We need a very, very careful appraisal of the means short of war which this country has at its disposal for meeting the problems it faces today. Obviously, the success or failure of our efforts to meet those problems in a peaceful way depends on the weapons with which we are equipped. I mention that in order to show you that this is not an abstract problem of textbook international law, but is really a crucial point in our foreign policy today.
The standard textbooks on international law invariably contain a section devoted to this very subject, under various headings. Sometimes they are called "measures short of war" or at other times, "modes of non-hostile redress" (the redress of grievances that may arise between states) or "measures for the amicable settlements of disputes." The measures are fairly uniform as shown in this list of traditional "measures short of war."
The headings are self-explanatory. You all understand the amicable ones without any further discussion: negotiations, good offices, mediation and conciliation, and international commissions of inquiry. The general idea was, when a country got into trouble in its foreign relations, it tried out the amicable measures first, then went on to the non-amicable measures. There is some confusion about this whole subject which I am going to try to straighten out. The main thing to note about these traditional "measures short of war" is that the lists were drawn up with the idea of the adjudication or the adjustment of disputes, and not primarily with the idea of exercising pressure on other states. That is not to say that certain amicable measures have not been used for purposes of pressure at one time or another. In general, the international law authorities who drew up these lists thought they were drawing up lists of measures which you could use to adjust disputes. They had in mind a whole set of international relations which prevailed in the days of our fathers and our grandfathers and to a large extent before the war, but which unfortunately prevail to a lesser extent today.
DIPLOMATIC MEASURES OF ADJUSTMENT
The problems we are faced with today in the international arena are not problems just of the adjustment of disputes. They are problems caused by the conflict of interests between great centers of power and ideology in this world. They are problems of the measures short of war which great powers use to exert pressure on one another for the attainment of their ends. In that sense, they are questions of the measures at the disposal of states not for the adjustment of disputes, but for the promulgation of power. These are two quite different purposes. Governments are absorbed today not with trying to settle disputes between themselves, but with getting something out of somebody else, so they often promulgate a policy which goes very, very far. Governments have to use pressure on a wide scale; and therefore these traditional categories are not often applicable to conditions today.
There has always been a question whether some of the measures were applicable anyway. Some of the non-amicable means were regarded by many people as useful depending on who took the measure and against whom it was taken. Thomas Jefferson, for example, called into question very strongly the institution of reprisals, saying reprisals never failed to start a war against any state that was strong enough to resist them. Measures like these remind me of some of the things we used to do to each other when we were kids. I remember one trick was to get your finger under a fellow's tie and yank it out around from under his vest. If the fellow was smaller than you, it was funny. But if he was bigger, it was another matter; it was neither funny nor a measure short of war. It led immediately to hostilities. That is true to a certain degree of all these so-called non-amicable measures. You have to watch your step. Many people in the past have wondered whether they could properly be classified as measures for the adjustment of disputes.
These diplomatic measures are not applicable to the world climate created by the emergence of the totalitarian state. I want to emphasize that this is not just a thesis of mine. It could be challenged--and you will probably find it challenged--by professors of international law and some students of Soviet affairs. They would say that we can settle our affairs and we can handle our dealings with the Soviet Union on the basis of traditional international law, These people disagree not only with me but also with the foremost Soviet authorities on international law. To demonstrate that point, let me quote one or two passages from the works of prominent Soviet jurists.
The first passage is from what I believe was the first major Soviet textbook of international law. Written long ago by a man named Korovin, it set forth the basic Soviet structure for traditional conceptions of international law as we have known them in Western countries, Korovin wrote:
The creators and theorists of the Soviet structure have involuntarily been inclined to a highly skeptical estimate of the modern juridical standards of international society, seeing in them at best the platonic aspirations of bourgeois wishful thinking and at worst the juridical primer of international coercion.
That plain statement of skepticism shows the Russian view of our international law from the beginning. Of course Korovin did admit that they had to accept the existence of a certain modicum of international law in Russia, because, he said,
Socialism is not yet prepared to conquer capitalism completely. We are not yet strong enough. We must therefore look forward to an interim period of some years in which we have to live side by side with capitalists. During that period, our dealings with them will have to be governed by some norm, and we will acknowledge that international law has some part to play.
In his treatment of that modicum of international law which he thought they were going to have to observe, Korovin didn't make any mention of measures short of war. Why? Because in his view, all measures of the Soviet State, internal or external, were part of the struggle against capitalism. You couldn't distinguish any given set of them from any other set and say these were measures short of war and those others were not. "The very existence of the Soviet State is the strongest possible denial of the whole bourgeois structure as such and a constant threat to its peace of mind." There he didn't exaggerate, in the light of experience. In fact, he said--and this is a characteristic communist phrase--"lt begins to look as though the Babylonian tower of a single world had crashed to the ground." (He was in agreement with Mr. Wallace on that.) He continued: " ' . . . . The tongues had become confused and the key to mutual understanding had been lost irrevocably." And he came to the following conclusion: "All the association on the basis of intellectual unity (that is, of a solidarity of ideas)"--by that Korovin meant between agencies within the socialist world of the Soviet Union and the capitalist world outside--"must be considered as out of the question and the pattern of juridical conceptions which corresponds to such association becomes null and void . . . . "
This major Soviet theory on international law lasted for some years, but by the middle 1930s there was a completely changed set of conditions. In the first place, Nazi Germany had appeared on the horizon. The minds of the people in Moscow became absorbed in how they were going to protect their own skins. The Soviet Union joined the League of Nations and Litvinov was in Geneva putting forth one proposal after another for the definition of the aggressor nation, implying by his whole policy there could be effective measures short of war. So for that reason, there had to be a thorough purge in the Soviet legal world.
Mr. Korovin was replaced by a Mr. Pashukanis. In his own book on international law Pashukanis grudgingly recognized that measures short of war did have a certain position in the relation between states, although he couldn't find much to say for them. "The arsenal of means for the prevention of armed conflict," he wrote, "is scanty in the highest degree and little effective; the practice is poor and offers no comfort." Now all this he attributed to the classic Soviet thesis that the cause of war is inherent in the capitalist system. "If capitalism is retained," he wrote, "there is--and can be--no means of preventing war."
I will quote Pashukanis at length because this is the meat of the current Soviet view on the question of measures short of war.
However, the inevitability of wars under capitalism does not at all mean that every specific dispute between imperialist powers must necessarily be decided by war. Not all imperialistic states seek a solution by war in every concrete instance and at every given time. War is attended by no small risks, both external and internal. A serious war calls for prolonged economic, financial, diplomatic, and purely military preparation. As long as this preparation is in progress, the most aggressive state is obliged to resort to non-military methods of solving and adjusting conflicts even with its intended adversaries. And finally, the active search for non-military means of solving conflicts and of demonstrating their love for peace is essential to imperialist governments as a means of quieting the popular masses, disarming their vigilance, and thus catching them unaware at the moment when the imperialists decide to unleash the war . . . . Even in those cases where the ideological preparation of war bears an openly aggressive character, when bloodshed and coercion are highly recommended in pamphlets and newspapers, when a zoological nationalism is announced to be the highest virtue----even in these cases the imperialist governments cannot dispense with the mask of devotion to the cause of peace and with the corresponding maneuvering in the international arena.
All this shows you that the totalitarian states themselves (I could cite similar passages from the works of Nazi jurists) repudiate the traditional measures short of war. At least they repudiate them as bona fide means of easing the relations between countries. In the totalitarian view. all imperialists harbor designs on the happiness and independence of other peoples and these measures short of war are only cynical tricks, devices of deceit, designed to throw off other governments and their people while they prepare for ugly operations. While Pashukanis didn't say so, he leaves us no choice but to conclude that, in his opinion, the Soviet State too would be naive if it failed to take full advantage of the rosy prospects which these measures hold out as a means of deceiving the enemy and disguising your own preparations.
Now let's go on to measures of pressure, as distinct from adjustment, which can and are being used in the world as we know it today.
The first thing that strikes me about measures of pressure is that they differ significantly in the case of totalitarian and democratic states. It seems to me it would be ludicrous and almost indecent to try to list the things the totalitarian states do. In the first place, it would take a very rash man to try to fathom the bag of tricks that any normal dictator had at his disposal and it would take a rather low mind to enjoy it. The varieties of skullduggery which make up the repertoire of the totalitarian government are just about as unlimited as human ingenuity itself, and just about as unpleasant. For, as you know, no holds are barred. There are no rules of the game. They can do anything that they think is in their interests. If you want some examples of measures that they are capable of taking, I can only mention from my own personal experience that they include persuasion, intimidation, deceit, corruption, penetration, subversion, horsetrading, bluffing, psychological pressure, economic pressure, seduction, blackmail, theft, fraud, rape, battle, murder, and sudden death. Don't mistake that for a complete list. Those are only a few stray suggestions.
Totalitarian governments have at their disposal every measure capable of influencing other governments as a whole, or their members, or their peoples behind their back; and in the choice and application of these measures they are restrained by no moral inhibitions, by no domestic public opinion to speak of, and not even by any serious considerations of consistency and intellectual dignity. Their choice is limited by only one thing, and that is their own estimate of the consequences to themselves.
The question then arises as to what measures the democratic states have at their disposal for resisting totalitarian pressure and the extent to which these measures can be successful. That is a tremendous question, not one on which I can give you a complete answer. I don't have a complete answer. But I do want to indicate the main categories of the measures which democratic states do have at their disposal. I will then indicate the extent and under which conditions the measures can be adequate.
The first category of measures lies in the psychological field. Tomorrow morning you are going to hear Joe Barnes, the foreign editor of the Herald Tribune, who had a prominent position in the Office of War Information (OWl) during the war. There is, though, one point I'd like to make about the psychological category: it would be a mistake to consider psychological measures as anything separate from the rest of diplomacy. They consist not only of direct informational activity like propaganda, or radio broadcast, or distribution of magazines. They consist also of the study and understanding of the psychological effects of anything which the modem state does in the war, both internal and external.
Democracies---ours especially--were pretty bad at psychological measures in the past, because so many of our diplomatic actions have been taken not in pursuance of any great overall policy, but hit-or-miss in response to pressures exercised on our government by individual pressure groups at home. Now those pressures usually had little to do with the interests of the United States. They weren't bound together in any way. The psychological effects of the measures we have taken in response to individual pressure groups have been mostly contradictory and confusing, and have been inclined to cancel out each other on many occasions.
It is only recently and probably in consequence of the experiences of the last 8 or 10 years that our government has begun to appreciate the fact that everything it does of any importance at all has a psychological effect abroad as well as at home. It is only recently that we have begun to try, although not always very successfully, to group these psychological factors into a pattern which will prove a point and serve a purpose.
The second category of weapons short of war that we have at our disposal today is economic. Here, I'd like to give you a word of warning: it would be a mistake to overrate the usefulness of the economic weapons when they are used as a means of counterpressure against great totalitarian states, especially when those states are themselves economically powerful. This is particularly true of the Soviet Union, because the Soviet leaders consistently place politics ahead of economics on every occasion when there is a show-down. The Soviets would unhesitatingly resort to a policy of complete economic autarchy rather than compromise any of their political principles. I don't mean they are totally unamenable to economic pressure. Economic pressure can have an important cumulative effect when exercised over a long period of time and in a wise way toward the totalitarian state. But I don't think it can have any immediate, incisive, or spectacular results with a major totalitarian country such as Russia. Russians are aware of the dangers if they let themselves fall into a position of economic dependence on other countries. I assure you they are not going to be caught on that hook if they can avoid it.
Economic measures can be of value with relation to the satellites of the totalitarian state. Those satellites, as it happens, are usually countries which are not capable of advancing very far by themselves. It also happens that totalitarian powers as a rule seem to be absorbed with the mobilization of their own resources for military purposes. They have relatively little to offer in many cases to the satellite countries economically. As long as the democratic powers continue to possess by far the greater part of the world productive capacity, they can make it highly uncomfortable, if they want to, for any smaller power to be outside their economic orbit. To the extent that they exercise economic pressure against such smaller powers, they ought to be able to produce discontent, trouble, and dissension within the totalitarian orbit.
But economic pressure is very tough on the satellite country in question. That brings up a difficult, almost philosophical problem, to which I have not yet heard a full answer. The problem appears every time a big state dominates a little one. What do you do to the little one? Do you try to help it or damage it? If you help it, you run the risk of helping the totalitarian state which controls it. If you damage it, you run the risk of psychological repercussions in the little country and of throwing it politically into the arms of the big state trying to control it. We had the problem during the war in Lisbon where I was in charge of our Legation. The sending of food parcels to Belgium and countries under German domination posed many questions and we argued them all through the war. We knew, on the one hand, sending food parcels would help the Germans correct the balance of their food supply. On the other hand, sending food might have an important psychological effect on the Belgians.
The same problem occurs all over again with the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (UNRRA). The heart of the UNRRA problem is whether we should help people who are in the Russian orbit. I believe you cannot help anyone within the power orbit of a totalitarian state without helping the whole political program of that totalitarian state. If you don't want to help the totalitarian state, you should not extend any aid within its orbit. That is a personal view, and one upon which Mr. Truman has not passed, in case any of you are in doubt.
On the strictly political measures short of war, 1 only mention one category because it, in my opinion, is our major political weapon short of war. That measure is the cultivation of solidarity with other like-minded nations on every given issue of our foreign policy. A couple of years ago, when we first had discussions with the Soviet authorities in Moscow about the possibility of setting up another United Nations Organization, I'll admit that I was very skeptical. I was convinced the Russians were not ready to go into it in the same spirit we were. I was afraid the United Nations might become an excuse rather than a framework for American foreign policy. I was worried it might become a substitute for an absence of a policy. But I am bound to say, in the light of what has happened in the last year, I am very much impressed with the usefulness of the UN to us and to our principles in the world. There are advantages to be gained for us working through it.
Several issues in this last year have been sheer power issues and have vitally affected the strategic interests of this country. Fortunately, they also affect the moral feelings of people everywhere. If we had attempted to fight these issues out alone, without any organization such as the United Nations through which we could group other people around us in that fight, there is no doubt that this government would have been charged time and time again with power politics. We would have been charged with opposing one imperialism with another. Everyone would have said a plague on both your houses. But we are not interested in just American power politics versus Russian power politics. We are seeking and winning the support of the other United Nations. Wc have been able to clear our own policies with our own people and with people everywhere and to build a record for good faith which anyone would find hard to challenge. And for that reason, I maintain that the cultivation of such solidarity is one of our strongest and most powerful measures short of war. The United Nations Organization can be used for adjustment--which can also be used as a means of counterpressure--and we should cultivate it very well.
All the measures I have been discussing---economic, psychological, and political--are not strictly diplomatic. Remember that diplomacy isn't anything in a compartment by itself. The stuff of diplomacy is in the entire fabric of our foreign relations with other countries, and it embraces every phase of national power and every phase of national dealing. The only measures I can think of which are strictly diplomatic in character are those involving our representation in other countries. Those can be used for adjustment as well as pressure. For example, the severance of diplomatic relations, one of the non-amicable measures of adjusting disputes, can also be used as a means of pressure. But you don't have to break relations altogether. You can withdraw the chief of mission, reduce your representation, or resort completely to non-intercourse. You can forbid your people to have anything to do with the other country.
The measure which is most usually considered and used is the severance of diplomatic relations. The press often advises our Government to break relations with this government or that government. I am very, very leery of the breaking of diplomatic relations as a means of getting anywhere in international affairs. Severing relations is like playing the Ace of Spades in bridge. You can only use it once. When you play it, you haven't got any more, so your hand is considerably weakened. Breaking relations has the direct disadvantage of sometimes redounding to your own discomfort, because the maintenance of relations between governments has been found to be generally advantageous to both parties. If you break off relations with another government, the chances are, over the next few years, you are going to find you need relations with that country. Now the other fellow, as the aggrieved party, is usually not in a position to take the initiative in resuming relations, and that means you have to swallow your pride and go to him on your hands and knees and say, "Come on old fellow. Let's make up." That is not anything a government likes to do.
A great deal of confusion has been thrown into this subject today by the distinction between de jure and de facto recognition. De jure means you not only recognize that the other fellow does actually hold power in the country, but you recognize he deserves to hold it. He is the legitimate bearer of power. He belongs in the place of responsibility where he is. By he, I mean the other government. De facto relations, on the other hand, are almost an insult. When you recognize someone de facto, it means you look at him with a very jaundiced eye. I can't deny, you say to the other government, that you are there, but I am not committing myself on how you got there. A number of us in the State Department feel that this distinction between de facto and de jure recognition is an invidious one, stemming from the days of monarchs and dynasties. We wish the United States would dispense with it once and for all in its dealings with other countries. We ought to make plain to the world from now on that no American recognition--no American diplomatic relations with any regime--bears any thought of US approval or disapproval; we are not committing ourselves, when we deal with anyone, on the legitimacy of their power. We would deal with the devil himself if he held enough of the earth's surface to make it worthwhile for us to do so.
Once we had made that clear, we'd be in a better position. And I'd be very chary of using the severance of diplomatic relations as a means of putting forth American policy. Severance of relations is used by totalitarian states, but only, I have noticed, when they think the other fellow is on the way out. They are giving him the last kick and there is no chance of his getting up again. The Soviet Union broke off relations in 1940 with Norway, Czechoslovakia, Denmark, and France in the belief that the Nazis had the upper hand. There was no chance of those countries coming back and the coast was clear for them to break relations. That time they were wrong about it. They also broke relations in 1943 with the Polish-London Government which they figured was out for good. And this time they guessed right.
A few other measures which democratic states can take involve control of territory in one's own country, namely the facilities granted to a foreign government. We can limit the number of representatives of a foreign government in this country. We can deny its citizens the right to sojourn here for purposes of business or pleasure. We can deny them our collaboration in cultural or technical matters. They do these things to us all the time; and we can do them ourselves, although these measures are more difficult for us because our controls are not so complete. I know respected colleagues here in the government who would maintain very strongly that we never should take such measures and who would even have us conclude a treaty with the Soviet Union now--a treaty of commerce, navigation, and consular rights--in which we would promise unilaterally not to use such restrictions even though the Russians do on their side. They hope we would impress the Russians with our own good will to such an extent that their behavior would become more civilized. I believe this is just baloney and I cannot go along with it. I would like our government to take the maximum amount of control of all facilities in this country which can benefit foreign states. In the case of those foreign states which we regard as rivals to our power, I would like to see us turn those controls on and off like a faucet, exactly in proportion to the treatment we ourselves get abroad.
These are, in general, the categories and measures I think we have at our disposal.
Now comes the real question. To what extent are these measures adequate to our purposes in the world today? Are they enough to get us what we want without going to war'? My own belief is that they are, depending on two main conditions.
The first of these conditions is that we keep up at all times a preponderance of strength in the world. You, as soldiers, realize this necessity as well as I do, so I call your attention to just two points in this respect. First, it is not by any means a question of military strength alone. National strength is a question of political, economic, and moral strength. Above all it is a question of our internal strength; of the health and sanity of our own society. I recall that the game of chess was invented by ancient philosophers to demonstrate to kings they could be no stronger than the subjects whom they ruled. There is a lesson in that for us today. We who are concerned with the devising of policy in this country should never forget that, in a diplomatic and military sense, we are no stronger than the country we represent. We would be mistaken to start thinking of military factors and diplomatic factors out of context with the country itself. The danger of thinking this way may not seem real, but I have seen that happen in other countries, and I have never seen people fail to suffer from making that mistake. The United States is not strong to the extent that its armed services are strong, or that its diplomacy is brilliant, but to the extent that strength goes beyond the armed services to the root of our society. For that reason, none of us can afford to be indifferent to internal disharmony, dissension, intolerance, and the things that break up the moral and political structure of our society at home.
Another characteristic of strength is that it depends for its effectiveness not only on its existence, but on our readiness to use it at any time if we are pushed beyond certain limits. This does not mean we have to be trigger-happy. It does not mean there is any point in our going around blustering, threatening, waving clubs at people, and telling them if they don't do this or that we are going to drop a bomb on them. Threatening in international affairs is about the most stupid and unnecessary thing 1 can think of. It is stupid because it very often disrupts the whole logic of our own diplomacy; brings in an element that didn't need to be there; causes the other fellow to adopt an attitude which he needn't adopt; and defeats your own purposes. It is also unnecessary because totalitarian governments--and they are the ones we have in mind--are very apt at making it their business to know exactly just how ready the other fellow is to resort to force and when. There is nothing that interests them more than this one point in the whole pattern of international relationships. They know when we are ready to use force almost sooner than we do. No gestures and no threats are needed on our part to enlighten them on that subject. Therefore, all we really have to do is be strong and be ready to use that strength. We don't need to talk about it. We don't need to broadcast it. The mere fact is enough. Strength is only a question of having the courage of our convictions and of acting accordingly. There is nothing that can equal or replace strength in international relations. Strength overshadows any other measure short of war that anybody can take. We can have the best intelligence, the most brilliant strategy, but if we speak from weakness, from indecision, and from the hope and prayer that the other fellow won't force the issue, we just cannot expect to be successful.
This thought is a hard point to get across with many Americans, so I found out in talking to American audiences. A lot of Americans have it firmly ingrained in their psychology that if you maintain your strength and keep it in the immediate background of your diplomatic action, you are courting further trouble and provoking hostilities. They say, "Don't play with that gun. It might go off." And they insist it is the actual maintenance of armaments that leads to their use. I know few of you have any illusions on that score. I bring it to your attention for use in your discussion with people. I can only tell you that the falseness of that outlook is demonstrated not only by the experience of the military but by the experience of diplomats as well.
Our pacifists are incapable of understanding that the maintenance of strength in the democratic nations is actually the most peaceful of all the measures we can take short of war, because the greater your strength, the less likely you are ever going to use it. They fail to understand that in the world we know today, the question is never whether you are going to take a stand; the question is when and where you are going to take that stand. If I had anything to say about the current debate, I would ask the American liberals who want us to go easy on the Russians this question: "Where do you expect us to draw the line? Is it not better that it be drawn at a point where American emotions are not too violently engaged, rather than at a point nearer home where you are going to get a more violent reaction on the part of our people which nobody can control?" The fact is that no totalitarian dictator will rest unless he has satisfied his own totalitarian conscience that he has prodded you right to the limit of the danger zone of your patience. What this boils down to, I am afraid, is that for great nations, as for individuals today, there is no real security and there is no alternative to living dangerously. And when people say, "My God, we might get into a war?" the only thing I know to say is, "Exactly so." The price of peace has become the willingness to sacrifice it to a good cause and that is all there is to it.
A second condition must be met if our measures short of war are going to be effective: we must select measures and use them not hit-or-miss as the moment may seem to demand, but in accordance with a pattern of grand strategy no less concrete and no less consistent than that which governs our actions in war. It is my own conviction that we must go even further than that and must cease to have separate patterns of measures--one pattern for peace and one pattern for war. Rather, we must select them according to the purpose we are pursuing and classify them that way. We must work out a general plan of what the United States wants in this world and pursue that plan with all the measures at our disposal, depending on what is indicated by the circumstances. It simply means that we have to learn to reclassify our weapons not primarily by whether they are military in nature or measures short of war, but by the purposes for which we are going to use them. Once we have learned to do this, then we can select a whole arsenal of measures for dealing with those states which treat us as good neighbors in a friendly and respectful way. That category of measures will consist solely of measures short of war much like those 1 have discussed. For the other states which do not choose to treat us that way, for governments whose aspirations insist on striking at the heart of our society, we have to select a different arsenal of measures short of war and otherwise.
My personal conviction is that if we keep up our strength, if we are ready to use it, and if we select the measures short of war with the necessary wisdom and coordination, then these measures short of war will be all the ones that we will ever have to use to secure the prosperous and sale future of the people of this country.