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Military Vs. Civilian

May 2024
1min read

Alain Enthoven replies: Colonel Carter got it wrong.

1. Experience showed the decision to cancel the F-105 and buy the F-4 was a very good one. The F-105 was designed primarily for nuclear-weapons delivery, because in the 1950s the Air Force leaders thought all wars would be nuclear. The F-4 was more powerful, rugged, and, with two engines, much safer for pilots. The official Air Force had to fight to save its F-105, but plenty of Air Force pilots privately confirmed the results of our analysis that the Navy/Marine Corps F-4 was a better all-around fighter for nonnuclear war.

2. “Controlled response” was a doctrine we developed for the conduct of nuclear war in opposition to the previous “uncontrolled spasm response” doctrine. Every President since Kennedy has supported some version of that basic idea.

“Controlled response” and McNamara’s Whiz Kids had absolutely nothing to do with Air Force or Navy targeting doctrine in the Vietnam War. Nor did anyone in my office prescribe choices of weapons, though our pre-war efforts did enable the United States to enter the war with much larger and better inventories of accurate guided weapons than otherwise would have been the case. At times, President Johnson did direct which targets would be struck and when, because he was using air strikes in conjunction with diplomatic efforts. Those orders were handled strictly by the President, the Secretary of Defense, and the Joint Chiefs of Staff without involvement of my office. I don’t doubt that at times the President’s orders seemed pretty incomprehensible from the military point of view of the officers who had to carry them out. But I am sure most Americans, including most military officers, would agree that the President is responsible for making such decisions.

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