The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is the ideal platform to host a significant amount of offensive firepower in support of the emerging concept of distributive lethality. It is large enough have greater endurance and to support capabilities beyond that of the average missile combatant. Its modular approach to embarked capabilities allows for more potential offensive systems to be employed aboard than in similar ships. Deployed as a dispersed flotilla of networked combatants with other organic means of communication, it has the potential to deliver significant amounts of ordnance against a variety of targets. The dispersal of the LCS flotilla complicates and dissipates enemy counter-targeting abilities. LCS is the ideal combatant to carry forward the concept of distributed lethality into the next decade.
LCS’ Size and Modularity Brings Advantages
As described by Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work in his 2013 history of the LCS program, the ship was always designed as a compromise between smaller, but less capable and globally deployable small combatants, and the larger, and more capable, but more expensive FFG-7 class frigate.1 Compared to smaller designs such as the Ambassador III or dedicated surface warfare corvettes like the Israeli Sa ar V, the LCS’ size and modularity offers advantages above those conventional small combatants. LCS’ has greater endurance then smaller missile combatants like the Ambassador (21 days verses 8) which enables it to remain at sea longer in support of surface warfare missions. The Saar V is more heavily armed then the baseline LCS seaframe, but supports only one rotary wing asset, and lacks the modularity to accommodate future sensors, weapons, and associated systems.
Both LCS seaframes, in contrast support two rotary wing assets (one MH-60R and one Firescout Unmanned Air Vehicle). The MH-60R in particular supports anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare missions, as well as extending the host ship’s sensors, weapons and communications capability far beyond those of a conventional missile combatant like the Ambassador.
The modularity of LCS also supports the embarkation of a more diverse set of capabilities than those hosted by mission-specific platforms like the Ambassador and the Saar V. An LCS might support a number of unmanned surface or subsurface vehicles separate from its Fire Scout UAV. Mines, additional munitions, and additional command and control equipment could also be supported depending on the desired mission. As the Spruance class destroyers later hosted Tomahawk cruise missiles, LCS’ modularity could support an array of heretofore undetermined systems and new capabilities in the future.
Keeping LCS Simple, but Lethal
Although not presently suited to the Distributive Lethality mission, the LCS could be modified into a potent surface warfare platform with the addition of cruise missiles such as the Kongsburg/Ratheyon Naval Strike Missile. Both LCS producers (Lockheed Martin Corporation and Austal USA) have also said their respective ships could be outfitted with larger 76mm guns in place of the present 57mm weapons. While cruise missiles are a requirement for the Distributive Lethality mission, further weapons, sensors, armor and armament add little to that mission capability and increase costs which the Navy estimated to be from $60 to $75 million dollars per ship.2 This money might be better spent in additional LCS platforms as the original aim of the LCS program was to increase the size of the U.S. surface combatant fleet.
Application of additional weight for armor and warfare capabilities not related to Distributed Lethality limits the opportunity for mission package improvements in the future and could limit the number of offensive weapons the LCS can support in its current length and displacement. As reported by the GAO, LCS already has relatively tight weight ratios for further additions to the sea frames outside mission module improvements.3 Every warship is a compromise of virtues, where armament, fuel capacity, speed, survivability and other factors must be carefully balanced to achieve desired operational goals for the class. An appropriate balancing of such issues for LCS should be in favor of offensive capability to avoid the need for a costly redesign of the sea frame to support significant additions. The cost of the LCS sea frame has steadily decreased from nearly $700 million to approximately $440 million.4 Three can now be built for the cost of one DDG. This is not the time to increase the cost by redesigning the ship to fit an expanded armament. Such a process defeats the concept for making the LCS the “low” component of a new high/low mix of surface combatants.
Distribution plus Speed Equals Survival
A squadron of LCS employed as part of a Distributive Lethality scheme will rely on their dispersed deployment pattern to reduce susceptibility to opponent targeting. The ships’ high speed, although often derided by critics is also a useful means of escaping enemy detection. An LCS capable of 40 knots can move away from a missile launch point faster than other U.S. combatants and potentially increase the area of uncertainty an opponent must consider in launching weapons down a return bearing.
An enemy would be forced to weigh significant risks in confronting such a force. An opponent might detect and attempt to eliminate one element of a distributive LCS force, but the remaining units might launch a devastating counter-salvo against therm. Such a response could cause significant harm to an unprepared, massed adversary force.
A basic LCS sea frame equipped with a moderate surface to surface missile capability could be a potent addition to the distributive lethality concept. Using means from fleet-wide networks to bring your own networks (BYON’s) created by groups of ships, a distributed LCS squadron operating as an anti-surface warfare (ASUW) formation could be a significant threat to opponent surface formations. The LCS’ larger size and rotary wing capabilities allow them to spend more time at sea, and see further beyond their own sensor horizon than smaller, dedicated missile combatants. LCS’s modularity allows the ships to bring additional weapons and capabilities to the fight beyond those of even heavily-armed corvettes and light frigates. These advantages suggest that LCS squadrons should be in the vanguard of the future distributed fleet.
Steve Wills is a retired surface warfare officer and a PhD student in military history at Ohio University. His focus areas are modern U.S. naval and military reorganization efforts and British naval strategy and policy from 1889-1941.
1. http://awin.aviationweek.com/Portals/AWeek/Ares/work%20white%20paper.PDF, p. 13.
The new 2015 Maritime Strategy demands a significant part of the Navy be forward based or operated in order to achieve national goals. The current number of ships and their present deployment pattern may not support the new strategy’s goals. Several recent articles have bemoaned the Navy’s shrinking surface ship fleet, or sought to make light of the overall number of ships as a significant determinant of strategic naval power. Both are, in a way, incorrect. The number of ships does matter, but wishing for a return of the halcyon 1980’s and the 600 ship navy is a futile hope in the face of the present budget deficit and growing welfare state. The post World War 2 U.S. Navy deployment structure has been based on the maintenance of a specific number of total ships in order to maintain a consistent overseas naval peacetime presence and credible war fighting force if required. The solution to this combination of forward deployment requirements on a limited budget is a fundamental change to the post-1948 U.S. naval deployment scheme through a global redistribution of U.S. naval assets. Potential threats, strategic geography, and support from potential coalition partners should govern this effort. The Navy should also seek new technologies to reduce overall budget costs. If this sounds familiar, it is not a new concept. Great Britain’s Royal Navy, under the leadership of the fiery transformationalist Admiral Sir John Fisher, executed a similar successful change just over a century ago in a similarly bleak financial environment. A modified version of Fisher’s scheme represents the U.S. Navy’s best hope to assign relevant naval combat power where it is most needed and at the best cost.
Britain’s Successful Rebalance
Like the U.S. today, Great Britain at the turn of the last century was a nation in rapid relative decline. British industry and its share of the world economy were shrinking in response to the rise of Germany, Japan, and the United States. The navies of those nations, as well as traditional enemies like France and Russia were growing in size and capability. Great Britain had just concluded the financially taxing and internationally embarrassing Boer War, which strained the nation’s tax base and earned it international opprobrium for harsh treatment of Boer combatants and civilians. The concept of a British Welfare state had gained significant support, and expenditures for this new government responsibility threatened the budgets of the Army and the Navy; both of which required significant modernization.
Admiral Fisher was selected by the Conservative Party’s First Lord of the Admiralty, Lord Selborne, specifically for his daring pledge to cut naval spending, while increasing the power and overall capability of the Royal Navy (RN). Fisher scrapped large numbers of older warships; created a ready reserve of minimum manned, older, but still capable combatants; reformed the RN’s personnel structure; and argued for the adoption of revolutionary technologies such as turbine engines, oil fuel for ships, director-based gun firing, submarines, and naval aircraft. A succession of Navy civilian leaders from both of the large British political parties supported his efforts. Most importantly, Fisher presided over the biggest re-balancing of British naval assets since the end of the Napoleonic wars. Before Fisher the RN was divided amongst various colonial stations around the world. Its most significant operational commands were the Atlantic and the Mediterranean Fleets that protected Britain’s line of communication to India via the Suez Canal. Although Fisher’s initial strategy was to counter France and Russia, the concentration of British naval strength in home waters allowed it to counter rising German threats. Britain sought simultaneous colonial agreements with France and Russia to reduce tension, and signed an official alliance with the emerging Japanese Empire to secure communications with its Pacific possessions. It also unofficially acquiesced to U.S. naval domination in the Western Hemisphere to eliminate any tensions with the other great English-speaking nation. All told, these efforts allowed Fisher to keep British naval spending at 1905 levels until 1911.1 They also ensured that a significant British naval force was in place for war with Germany in 1914.
Conditions for U.S. Rebalance
The U.S. would be well served to create a global re-balance program along the lines of Admiral Fisher’s for its own Navy. In reverse of Fisher, however, the bulk of America’s naval strength must move from bases in home waters to the periphery of the nation’s interests. Some reductions in overall naval strength will be required to ensure that forward forces are well trained and equipped for both peacetime presence and wartime combat functions. Assignment will depend on regional geography, threat level and the availability of coalition partners to augment, or in some case replace U.S. naval assets.
The large deck nuclear aircraft carrier and its associated air wing are best employed in locations where land-based aviation assets are vulnerable or scarce due to geographic location. For this reason, the bulk of the carrier force should be assigned to distributed bases in the Indo-Pacific region. A force of six large carriers would serve as the core of the Pacific naval component. The surface combatant and attack submarine force based in the Pacific would be a commensurate percentage of its overall strength. They should be sufficient in number to support carrier escort, independent operations, and surface action groups as recommended for the emerging strategy of distributive lethality. This force would be large enough to conduct meaningful fleet and large scale joint exercises in a number of warfighting disciplines.
The carrier’s assignment to the largest ocean area of responsibility (AOR) best supports a joint commander’s warfighting requirements in a predominately maritime environment. The caveat with the assignment of carriers geographically is that the post-1948 deployment pattern of ‘three aircraft carriers equal one forward deployed, active carrier’ must be scrapped. This means retiring two carriers, perhaps the two oldest Nimitz class when the USS Gerald R. Ford is commissioned in next year. One carrier strike group costs $6.5 million dollars a day to operate.2 The funds saved in the retirement of two carriers could be directed toward the maintenance of and operational costs of the remaining eight, with the proviso that these be consistently ready for service as required.
The Eurasian littoral areas historically supported by east coast naval forces would receive smaller, tailored force packages in this new organization scheme. Given that Eurasian littoral operations can be supported by land-based air units, only two carriers need be assigned to the Atlantic coast with perhaps a third designated as a training carrier.
A Substitute for a Carrier Strike Group
Under this arrangement the Mediterranean and Persian Gulf areas would not see regularly deployed large deck carriers. To offset their absence, it is proposed that two light carrier groups be forward-based on the Mediterranean and Indian Ocean respectively. Such a group would each be centered on an LHA-6 class amphibious warship configured as a light carrier with an airwing of 20+ F-35 Lightning II strike aircraft. The CVL-configured LHA, too small to support the full traditional carrier wing of both attack and support aircraft, would be supported by land-based assets that would provide airborne early warning (AEW), tanking, and other strike missions. Each group would contain three DDG-51 class destroyers for offensive and defensive roles including missile defense, a DDG-1000 class destroyer for surface strike and other warfare roles, and a flotilla of four to six littoral combat ships (LCS) or similar frigates (FF’s) for a variety of low intensity combat and surface strike missions. Attack submarines may be included as needed and an amphibious warfare group similar to the present 7th fleet formation based in Sasebo, Japan round out the numerical assignments. A full amphibious ready group (ARG) with associated Marine Expeditionary Force (MEU) based at Rota could exploit NATO/EU capabilities in the region as well. Most of these rebalancing efforts can be completed between 2020 and 2025, with the fight light carrier group ready by 2017. It may begin operations with the AV-8B II Harrier, but later transition to the F-35B Lightning II. After 2020, an international carrier strike group (CSG) presence might be maintained in the Eastern Mediterranean with British, French, Italian, and Spanish carriers playing a role.3
The Mediterranean offers a number of ports that together are capable of hosting such a force including Rota, Spain, Sigonella, Sicily, and Souda Bay, Crete. The Western Pacific/Indian Ocean represents a more complicated basing picture, but a combination of facilities in Singapore, Darwin, and Perth, with a forward anchorage in Diego Garcia might offer sufficient space to support to forward deployed forces. Both regions offer a number of land-based aviation facilities to support a light carrier formation.
The navies of friends and formal allies offer additional support to this strategy. The U.S. has consistently sought and depended on coalition allies in the conflicts it has engaged in since 1945, and especially since 1990. European fleets have changed from antisubmarine Cold War forces to smaller, but more deployable, larger combatants capable of global operations. Resident European force in the Mediterranean and deployed forces in the Persian Gulf region might augment U.S. efforts in those regions. The Libyan Operation of 2011 (Operation Odyssey Dawn for the U.S.), showcased what a U.S. light carrier group, as centered then on USS Kearsarge, and European forces might accomplish. The British Defence Secretary’s recent announcement that the Royal Navy will develop a base in Bahrain suggests that at least British and perhaps other Commonwealth nations’ navies might support U.S. efforts in the Persian Gulf region.
Options for Cooperation and Technological Offset
Strong U.S. relationships with Western Pacific nations are essential to any re-balancing strategy in that region. The adoption of AEGIS systems by the Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force, the South Korean, and Australian navies significantly aids in cooperative efforts. Close U.S. ties with Singapore, the Philippines, and other regional naval forces are also essential to U.S. efforts. One method of achieving this might be a Western Pacific version of the Standing NATO Maritime Groups. An international squadron with rotating command responsibilities would be useful in easing old tensions and promoting better relations amongst this diverse group of nations.
The “long pole in the tent” of such a re-balancing strategy is how to manage the personnel disruptions such a change would cause. The CONUS-based U.S. deployment strategy, and dependent housing agreements in Japan and some Mediterranean nations has allowed for a great deal of family stability. Sailors can remain reasonably close to their families, even when forward deployed. There is no guarantee that Pacific or Mediterranean nations would accept large increases in the population of U.S. naval personnel and their dependents resident within their borders. In addition to the foreign relation concerns, such additions would cost a considerable amount of money and involve greater security risks in protecting a larger overseas American service and dependent population. The answer to this problem is to ‘dust off’ some of the reduced and creative manning projects of the last decade. While not ideal in many ways, reduced manning, crew swaps, and longer, unaccompanied deployments may become the norm, rather than the exception for American sailors.
Unfortunately, this is the price of putting more credible combat power in forward areas at present or even reduced costs. The U.S. will be hard-pressed to duplicate Admiral Fisher’s other revolutionary changes. The U.S. Navy has retired nearly all of its outdated warships, and further reductions of newer platforms will harm overall naval capabilities. Revolutionary changes in armament such as the rail gun and other directed energy weapons, and continued advances in the electric drive concept may allow for some cost reductions in naval expenditures, but they remain far from mature development. The rail gun is slated for additional afloat testing, but with a barrel life of only 400 rounds, it represents a 21st century equivalent of the arquebus.4 Fisher, by contrast, had relatively mature technological solutions in propulsion, and rushed fire control, aircraft, and submarine advances into full production with mixed results. The present U.S. test and evaluation culture would not permit such bold experimentation.
The U.S. can, however, improve its overall forward naval posture by re-balancing its force structure along geographic lines to better support national interests and regional commanders’ requirements. Additional force structure will be difficult to achieve in the face of present budget woes. Transformational technology is moving toward initial capabilities, but is not yet ready for immediate, cost savings application. The post-1948 CONUS-based deployment system is becoming more difficult to maintain with fewer ships and persistent commitments. Despite these dilemmas, the U.S. must fundamentally change the deployment and basing structure of the fleet in order to provide credible combat power forward in support of joint commander requirements. The new 2015 Maritime Strategy will not achieve many of its goals using the present CONUS-based deployment construct. Geographic re-balance of the fleet will provide strength were it is most needed.
1. A detailed explanation of the Fisher/Selborne re-balance strategy may be found in Aaron Friedberg’s The Weary Titan, Britain and the Experience of Relative Decline, 1895-1905, pages 135-208.
2. Captain Jerry Hendrix, USN (ret), PhD, “At What Cost a Carrier”, Center for New American Security (CNAS), March 2013, p. 7.
3. Conversation with retired NSWCCD Senior Warfare Analyst James O’Brasky.
4. 15 February statement of Statement of Rear Admiral Mattew L. Klunder, USN, Chief Of Naval Research before the Intelligence, Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee on the Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Request, 26 March, 2014.
Back in March, I had the opportunity to listen to a panel at Brown University on civilian-military relations, titled, “In and Out of Uniform: Civilian Military Relations Reconsidered.” The panel was born from the provocative piece by James Fallows in The Atlantic magazine, titled, “The Tragedy of the American Military.” It was an interesting discussion. One of the highlights that day, at least for me, was walking away with a book. I happened to sit next to journalist and author Stephen Kinzer during a lunch that preceded the panel. We got to talking, and eventually he brought up his book The Brothers: John Foster Dulles, Allen Dulles, and their Secret World War. Later that day he gave me a copy. A few weeks later I read it. It was a fascinating book on two men that, unknown to me, had a big impact on American foreign policy during the Cold War. Recently I had the chance to chat with Stephen about the Dulles brothers and their legacy in U.S. foreign affairs.
Stephen Kinzer, welcome. I enjoyed the opening anecdote of your book about the naming of the Dulles airport and how you “found” the bust of John Foster Dulles. How did that come about?
This is a fascinating story and there is actually a footnote that you probably don’t know. So as you say, I do start out my book with this anecdote about Dulles airport. So of course, John Foster Dulles was the secretary of state during the 1950s when his brother Allen was head of the CIA. The new airport being built outside of Washington D.C. was being named after John Foster Dulles. In 1962 there was a big ceremony at the airport. I watched a video on YouTube which showed when the airport was inaugurated. President Kennedy was there, former President Eisenhower was there, Allen Dulles was there. And a curtain was pulled back to reveal a bust of John Foster Dulles. The bust was placed in the center of the airport.
While I was writing this book I decided I want to go to the airport and find the bust. I wanted to commune with it in a sense; I wanted to see what it looked like. But I couldn’t find it. I asked around and nobody knew where the bust was. It’s a long story, but ultimately I found it in a closed conference room. And I used this story as a kind of a nice metaphor for how much we have forgotten John Foster Dulles. I repeated that story during my book tour. I probably gave 100 talks about this book over the last year or two and that was often the way it would start out. This story about how this guy was so famous and now how you can’t even find his bust. So that’s the story, but here’s the footnote.
Not long ago I got a phone call from one of my friends who said, “You are not going to believe this. I’m calling you from Dulles airport. The bust is back.” And sure enough, they’ve taken the bust out of the private conference room and put it back on public display. So first I wondered if this had something to do with the fact that I had pointed out what had happened with the bust. I thought I had achieved something great that showed the massive power of the press. But now I realize that it’s not so good because I have brought him out of the obscurity which into it had fallen, but without any context, so he is essentially being portrayed as a heroic figure. I am wondering whether I couldn’t set up a little booth next to the bust and sell copies of my book so people could understand who he really was.
Why the Dulles brothers? What interested you about them to write a book on those two men?
I am interested in the question of American intervention overseas. One thing I often ask myself is Why are Americans like this? Why do we do this? Why are we so eager to intervene in the affairs of other countries? I concluded that the story of the Dulles brothers and what they did in the 1950s would help explain some of that. The forces that created the Dulles brothers are the forces that created America. If you can understand those sources you can understand a good deal about this country. And they left us some important lessons that are still relevant. So I am presenting a biography here: this is the story of these two immensely powerful brothers who helped shape the world in the 1950s. But in the larger sense I am using the framework of biography to ask larger questions about the way the United States behaves in the world.
It seems like John Foster Dulles, and Allen Dulles to a certain extent, were very religious. And as I read your book, it appeared that their religious background colored their world view. Did it not?
They were brought up in a particular Calvinist religious tradition and came from a long line of clergymen and missionaries. They were taught, first of all, that the world was divided between good and evil and that there was one true religion, that all the other religions were wrong and evil. If you believe that about religions, it is a very short step to believing the same thing about world politics — that there is one political system that’s the right and good system for people to live under rather than all the other systems which are wrong and evil. In addition, they grew up with a strong admiration for the missionary idea, which tells you that a good Christian should not simply stay home and hope that good triumphs over evil, but now he has to go out and wage the fight on behalf of good. This is another religious precept that is easily transferable to the political realm. You begin to believe that it isn’t enough for us to enjoy the blessings of freedom at home. We need to go out into the world and liberate others who are not enjoying what we consider the blessings that they deserve.
While the brothers do share similar traits, they did have different temperaments. Is that correct?
It is quite a remarkable feature, their personalities. Politically and professionally they were identical. They saw the world the same way. They had grown up intimately, shared a worldview and hardly ever disagreed about anything. That was one reason it was so dangerous to the United States to have the two of them in power. They never felt the need to consult any experts other than the two
of them. So politically they were peas in a pod. In their private lives however, in their personalities, they were direct opposites. Foster Dulles was dour and gruff and socially inept. I have a whole page in my book about all the awkward things he would do. Even his friends didn’t like him. Allen Dulles, the CIA director, was just the opposite. He was a sparkling personality with an endless supply of stories. He had a wine cellar; he was a tennis player; he had a 100 mistresses; he was a wonderful addition to the Washington dinner scene.
Allen Dulles, as you say in your book, was intrigued with Rudyard Kipling’s Kim. Do you think this paved the way for him to become a spy. Is this something that he was incredibly intrigued with?
I think there was a kind of romantic fascination on the part of Allen Dulles in the idea of covert action. He read Kim when he was a young man and he kept it with him his whole life. It was on his bed table when he died. I would go on to another equally romanticized version of the espionage trade that Allen Dulles came to appreciate later in life. That was the novels of James Bond. Those novels have nothing to do with real life intelligence work. They show that the work of a single intrepid agent can change the course of history and that there are never any long term effects as soon as the bad people are done away with. This is a very dangerous mindset for intelligence agents to get into because the real world is not like that. At some point Allen Dulles even asked his tech division at the CIA to duplicate some of the gadgets that James Bond used. He was told that those were not realistic. It shows a little bit of the danger of mixing reality and fiction. I think Allen Dulles fell into that sometimes.
The Dulles family, specifically their grandfather and their uncle, had a lot to do with their path in life. I thought it was fascinating that John Watson Foster, their grandfather, is responsible for the concept of defense attachés in our embassies. Could you expound on that?
I mentioned a moment ago that one of the factors that shaped the Dulles brothers was their religious background. A second factor is the family background to which you refer. Their uncle was secretary of state — Robert Lansing — but their grandfather, John Watson, was also secretary of state. So as kids they grew up with these two remarkable relatives. John Watson Foster was a remarkable paragon of the American experience during the age of Manifest Destiny. He grew up on the frontier and made a business for himself, ingratiated himself to powerful men, rose through politics and became an ambassador, and then became secretary of state. Doing among other things, he modernized the state department and began the practice of systemic research into
foreign embassies and advances in foreign weaponry military tactics. He sent messages to all American legations asking them to send people to libraries and bookstores to look for anything new that was being developed in these fields. John Watson Foster was also the secretary of state who presided over the first American overthrow of a foreign government — that was Hawaii — in 1893. He would have later understood the role John Foster Dulles played, almost half a century later in overthrowing governments in Iran, Guatemala, and other places. I began to wonder if there wasn’t some genetic predisposition to regime change in the Dulles family.
The Dulles brothers seemed to jump back and forth between public service and the private sector — particularly back to the law firm Sullivan & Cromwell. Was this a trend throughout their lives?
Now you are putting your finger on what I think is the third most important factor in shaping the Dulles brothers. Religious belief was one, family and class background was the second, and certainly the third was the decades that the brothers spent working for the remarkable law firm of Sullivan & Cromwell in New York. This was not a law firm like any other. It had its speciality. Its speciality was helping big American companies pressure foreign governments into doing what they wanted. Virtually every large American multi-national corporation retained Sullivan & Cromwell. Every time those companies had trouble in some other country they would turn to Sullivan & Cromwell. Sullivan & Cromwell found ways to make offers to those countries that they couldn’t refuse. It means that the Dulles brothers understood the world from the perspective of their Wall Street clients. It also means that at an early age they became experienced in the technique of pressuring foreign governments. The skills that they learned at Sullivan & Cromwell would serve them well when they came into power in the 1950s.
Both men went to law school. Was the law just a stepping stone for those men in that age?
John Foster Dulles was the highest paid lawyer in America during the peak of his career. He was a masterful servant of the plutocracy, although he was not a plutocrat himself. I think their service in that world gave them a certain perspective about what should motivate American foreign policy. They saw a world in which a great force was arrayed against the United States. And they took this back to the experiences they had at the law firm and they felt that foreign governments were always seeking to use pressure on American companies as a way to pressure the United States. It was not possible for them to imagine that foreign governments would take steps that would be harmful to American companies. This was strictly out of reasons that came from domestic politics; not because they had been ordered to do so by the Kremlin or that it was some part of a broader geopolitical plot. So they came to office with a narrow vision that I do think came from their legal work.
Something that surprised me to learn was that John Foster Dulles was supportive of National Socialism in the early thirties.
John Foster Dulles was quite sympathetic to the Nazi party in the 1930s. He spent a lot of time in Germany. He was an admirer of Hitler in the 1930s. John Foster Dulles became the principal broker in the United States for German bonds that supported the municipalities and corporations. He also weaved the Krupp iron works company into an international nickel cartel that gave the Nazis access to nickel, which of course is important in warfare. He continued to visit Germany all the during the 1930s. His law firm closed its office in Germany but he was against it. So Foster Dulles did have a history of sympathy for the Nazis. I think part of the reason for that was he saw them as a bulwark against the Communists.
What is happening during the brothers during the 30s? When did they figure out that they would have to fight the Nazis? Did John Foster change his thinking?
In the mid-1930s Sullivan & Cromwell took a vote to close their Berlin office. As I said, Foster Dulles opposed that. But once the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939 it became impossible to paint them as peace lovers. And certainly after the American declaration of war everything became quite clear. It was after that declaration that Allen Dulles was named head of the OSS station out of Bern,
Switzerland. It was a very important post because it was one of the last remaining neutral outposts in Europe. Allen had a quite an adventure getting into Bern. He had a lot of fun times in Switzerland. It was his second tour there, he had been an intelligence officer in Bern during the First World War.
Let’s fast forward a little bit to the 1940s and 1950s. Tell us what operation Ajax was and please, if you could, tell us about Allen Dulles and John Foster Dulles roles in that operation.
When the Dulles brothers came into office in the early 1950s, Iran was establishing its democracy and had propelled this interesting leader — Mohammed Mossadegh — to the prime ministers job. Mossadegh had persuaded the Iranian parliament to vote for the nationalization of the Iranian oil industry. This industry had been previously owned by one British company which was in turn owned principally by the British government. So the nationalization of Iranian oil was quite the topic at the time the Dulles brothers came into power. And they had relations with Iran in the years before that. The Dulles brothers, when in Sullivan & Cromwell, represented the bank for the British oil company that operated in Iran, and that bank lost its interest. So the Dulles brothers came into office with a grudge against Mossadegh. Mossadegh had also helped kill a big development for American engineering firms that Allen Dulles had helped broker. His threats to the international oil cartel was thought of as dangerous, not just to oil but to all international and multinational businesses because they challenged the concept that rich countries are entitled to resources from poor countries at the price that they want to pay. So once in power, the Dulles brothers began immediately plotting against Mossadegh, and he was overthrown eight months later and Iran never recovered from it.
Communism was also a driving concern for the Dulles brothers at this time as well, correct?
Certainly the way the Dulles brothers saw the world was a great confrontation between Communism and capitalism. That would have been the way most Americans saw the world. Most of our major institutions saw the world through that prism. The Dulles brothers believed that everything that happened in the world was in some way related to this conflict. People in other parts of the world saw the global situation differently. In much of Asia and Africa and Latin America the world looked like it was divided in a different way. It seemed to be divided between dozens of new nations that were trying to find their place in a turbulent world on the one hand. And then there were the old traditional ruling powers that were trying to keep them back and prevent their nationalism from flowering into projects of development at home and neutralism abroad. So the world looked very clear to the Dulles brothers, and everything that happened in it seemed to be part of the Cold War struggle. That’s why they found so many enemies in the world; they were loose in their interpretation what constituted an enemy or hostile activity.
They didn’t necessarily agree with some of the other big names back then that also didn’t like Communism — John Foster Dulles was not a big fan of George Kennan, was he?
No, as a matter of fact it was Dulles who forced George Kennan out of the state department. Kennan didn’t see the world in as clear black and white terms as Dulles did. And I think the state department was not big enough for both of them. It was clear that Dulles could not run the state department listening to Kennan. And Kennan didn’t want to be there giving advice to someone who saw the world so differently.
The famous theologian and philosopher Reinhold Niebuhr also disagreed with Dulles, didn’t he?
Niebuhr warned against nations becoming too arrogant. He felt if the United States was faced with extinction as a country it wouldn’t be from a foreign threat; it would be from our own hubris and self-destructive impulses. That was not the way John Foster Dulles saw the world. So they were critics of each others visions.
Is it true that the birth of the U2 program started at a dinner party?
Allen Dulles was having a dinner with some scientists and they spoke about some advances in high-altitude photography. This led him to call a few people into his office and ultimately produced what became the U2 project. That was particularly important in those days. One reason the Cold War became so intense was our absolute ignorance on what was going on inside the Soviet Union. Because we were allies during WWII we hadn’t really concentrated on building intelligence networks inside the Soviet Union. So when the war was over we were really shut out; it was a denied area to Americans. One of the very first flights that the U2 took brought back information that we had greatly overestimated the number of fighter jets that the Soviets had. This kind of information came back repeatedly from U2 flights. That did play a role, I think, in calming some overblown fears.
Let me close with one more question. What do you think the Dulles brothers biggest effect was on US foreign policy? What is their legacy look like today?
The Dulles brothers approach to the world did not work out well for the United States. Rather than confront that fact and see what lessons we can draw from that experience, we find it easier to forget about them and move on. That’s one reason why these brothers who were so famous in the 1950s are now effectively forgotten. They did however leave some very important legacies. One is that they were strongly opposed to negotiation with our enemies. John Foster Dulles always opposed summit meetings between the U.S. President and leaders of the Soviet Union or Communist China. Nations should first show some sympathy toward us or be friendly toward us or we should not negotiate with them. That tendency is still strong in the United States today.
A second tendency that they felt was an absolute lack of understanding of the nature of Third World nationalism. They saw every assertion of nationalism by countries in other parts of the world as defiant to the United States. They wanted countries to be subservient to the United States. They couldn’t understand the desire for countries to make their own choices, even if they were not good ones.
The finally legacy they left us is that they had no idea of what today we would call “blowback.” It never occurred to them that their operations would have such long term consequences. Perhaps, like James Bond, they kept this idea that you go out in the world and you violently intervene in the political process of another country and then everything will go back to normal, with no serious effect. It never occurred to them that by destroying democracy in Iran it would send that country into a spiral of dictatorship and religious rule that would last for generations. When they overthrew the democratic government of Guatemala that a genocidal civil war would break out in which hundreds of thousands of people would be killed. When they decided to pursue Ho Chi Minh after the British and French decided he could not be defeated, it never occurred to them that it could trigger a war that cost so much pain and horror for Vietnam and the United States. That’s a good lesson for us to learn from them — I think all three of those are. Never negotiate with your enemies. Don’t recognize the nationalist sentiments of people of other countries. And delude yourself into believing that there will never be any long term effects to foreign intervention. Those would be the three lessons from the Dulles brothers that we would be wise to learn from.
Thank you very much Stephen, what’s next for you?
I am working on a book about the period when the United States first became involved in taking overseas territories, which was around 1898. Maybe we can get together for another chat then.
That sounds great. Thank you Stephen Kinzer, it was a pleasure talking with you.
Stephen Kinzer is an award-winning foreign correspondent whose articles and books have led the Washington Post to place him “among the best in popular foreign policy storytelling.” Kinzer spent more than 20 years working for the New York Times, most of it as a foreign correspondent. He was the Times bureau chief in Nicaragua during the 1980s, and in Germany during the early 1990s. In 1996 he was named chief of the newly opened Times bureau in Istanbul. Later he was appointed national culture correspondent, based in Chicago.Since leaving the Times, Kinzer has taught journalism, political science, and international relations at Northwestern University and Boston University. He has written books about Central America, Rwanda, Turkey, and Iran, as well as others that trace the history of American foreign policy. He contributes to the New York Review of Books and writes a world affairs column for the Boston Globe. Currently, he is a Fellow at the Watson Institute of International Studies at Brown University.
Lieutenant Commander Christopher Nelson, USN, is a naval intelligence officer and the book review editor for the Center for International Maritime Security. He is a recent graduate of the U.S. Naval War College and the Navy’s operational planning school, the Maritime Advanced Warfighting School in Newport, RI. Those interested in reviewing books for CIMSEC can contact LCDR Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org The views expressed in this paper are those of only the authors and do not express the official views of the US Navy, the DoD or any agency of the US Government.
Welcome back to another edition of the member roundup. We have a variety of topics covered by CIMSECians across the globe this week, ranging from the US Rebalance to the future of US air combat superiority.
On the US Naval Institute’s blog, Roger Misso writes a response to Anna Grenville’s blogpost at Task and Purpose. Titled ‘4 Reasons I Am Resigning My Commission As A Naval Officer,’ she provides some insight as to why her, and others, decide to leave the profession. Miss agrees on many points raised in the original article but offers a counter-narrative: junior officers can build the service we want. This, of course, is only facilitated if the junior officer corps reaches critical mass and carries their views through the ranks. You can access Roger’s post here.
Over at The National Interest, Dave Majumdar provides a roundup of the top five lethal American weapons of war. From the Gatling gun to stealth bombers, he analyses why these weapon systems make it onto the list. The second article questions whether the next generation of fighters will be capable of dominating the skies. The F-35 program has come under intense scrutiny over the years, ranging from project delays to criticisms over its air combat capability.
Dean of the Fletcher Law School, James Stavridis, returns in this week’s edition with two articles. The first titled ‘The Arab NATO’ appeared in Foreign Policy, and assesses the development of the 40,000-strong Arab League response force. It is clearly poised to counter Iran’s potential rise post-negotiations. In the second article, featured in The Hill, Stavridis explains why we need a ‘consumer protection act’ for the cyber threat data market. Given that cyber threats span public, private and non-profit sectors, it is time to adopt more appropriate measures for dealing with this commodity in less regressive terms. You can access both articles here andhere, respectively.
Zachary Keck returns in this edition with two articles in the past week. The first explores the future ofUS Air Combat superiority. Based on a new Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessmentreport, Keck cites several dissenting claims against the findings of the report. Thesecond article reports that China’s anti-satellite capabilities are well on track to be able to destroy satellites beyond low orbit.
Lauren Dickey guest blogs with Janine Davidson over at the Council on Foreign Relations, this week, exploring the current state of the US Rebalance. There is a tendency in Washington circles to draw sweeping policy judgments with few facts to back them up. The actual numbers, however, indicate that the policy shift remains on track. You can access Lauren’s article here.
At CIMSEC we encourage members to continue writing, either here on the NextWar blog or through other means. You can assist us by emailing your works to email@example.com.