Indirect confrontation of superpowers has become a commonplace of contemporary history. A minutely chronicled analysis of two controversial historical crises—the Middle East in 1967, Quemoy 1958—furnishes a framework for this study of American, Russian, and British policy-making processes in multi-crisis situations. Looming over the scene are the crucial issues of the entire cold war concept of collective security and of U.S. national security policy in a new decade.
Since World War II both Moscow and Washington have actively sought to extend their influence throughout the globe, with the consequent gains and losses often measured less in real estate than in political and psychological leverage. Russian ambitions and exploitation of national liberation movements and unrest in the Third World increase the number of potential conflicts involving U.S. security. In dealing with this challenge, the author, an officer in the U.S. Navy, finds the combination of adequate American strategic and tactical strength to deter Soviet military intervention and local national forces having a relatively strong defensive capability has many advantages.
In response to fears of overcommitment, the author allows that the multi-crisis phenomenon may expose the United States to greatest jeopardy. Policy choices in handling both the Middle East and Quemoy challenges were constrained somewhat by the demands of preexisting crises in Vietnam and Lebanon respectively, but neither involvement appreciably undermined America's capability to guard its vital interests. Capability and vulnerability, congressional and public opinion, dependence on British support, and economic effects of direct involvement. In providing a framework for analyzing U.S. capabilities and behavior during crises, insights have been provided into the influence of a preexisting crisis and the relation of policy choices to events.
Though the United States did not renege on its commitments, two recent divergent trends—Soviet naval expansion and the British contraction of forces—will also increase American military and psychological vulnerability and intensify the difficulties of coping with similar effectiveness in the inevitable challenges of the future.
Commander Howe focuses also on the roles of the American, Soviet, and British fleets in each crisis situation. The Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean and Seventh Fleet in the Far East were employed as visible symbols of American power and commitment. Both crises placed on that the effectiveness of conventional naval forces as instruments of foreign policy. In an age of nuclear stalemate, Commander Howe notes the renewed significance of surface fleets.
An informative oral history, compiled from discussions with upper-echelon foreign policy decisions makers, supplements extensive and intensive research.