The greatest concern that I
had when I was Director of Strategic Studies at the RAND Corporation was that the rise of the
Soviet Union's missile forces, its new counter-deterrent, was eroding the credibility of the
strategy that we were able to employ for some twenty-five years after the close of World War II
and that we needed a new strategic doctrine that would continue to link the strategic forces of
the United States to the protection of western Europe through extended deterrence. It was my
good fortune, as it were to be called by the President to be Secretary of Defense and to put
that new doctrine in place. I was also the Secretary of Defense—perhaps regrettably and
certainly in a way that provided lessons learned—at the close of our venture in Southeast Asia.
From such a venture one learned, I think, to be economical in the times that one applied
American military power, and if that power was ever applied, it should be applied with a degree
of sufficiency to achieve the political objectives that the United States had set for itself. It
is also clear that the tolerance of the American public for sustaining this kind of obligation
is not endless, and that unless we are able to achieve, discernably achieve, some kind of
political objectives, public support will wane and the United States will fail in its policies.
All of these things occurred in Vietnam. One must also recognize that the men and women of the
military establishment become emotionally engaged in that kind of war, so that when the collapse
occurred, despite the desire of the many senior officers to get back into the thing, in the face
of a blanket injunction by the Congress that we should no longer use our military forces in
Southeast Asia, we had to, in effect discourage our military people from their natural
inclinations. It was my view at the time, we are not going to climb on that tar baby again, that
we cannot afford to get back into Vietnam. Moreover, it would be illegal and politically unwise
to attempt to go in that direction.