Bobby Inman Interview (Competitiveness): Conversations with History: Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley
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Admiral Inman, welcome to Berkeley.
I have a quote for you that I want to read. This is by Ernest B. Ferguson, who is the Washington bureau chief of the Baltimore Sun. He was reviewing two books, one by Lester Brown and another by Richard Rosecrance, and he wrote the following: "Trade is replacing military power as the key to national security. Concentration on military spending by the U.S. and the Soviet Union has opened the way for Japan to become the world's number one economic, and therefore strategic, power." A little overstated maybe, but what about the problem?
He got part of the problem right. The economic side isn't replacing the military, it's coming out there to parallel it. Investment in the military isn't what's kept the Soviets out of that marketplace. The way we've gone about our investing has had some impact on the U.S. competitiveness at that marketplace, but it's a much broader series of problems.
We have, over the last fifteen or twenty years, focused on a whole range of internal domestic U.S. problems, all of which needed attention. But we've tended to do that by paying for it out of things that we've previously done in the international sphere. We reduced our investment in graduate studies, reducing the pool of talent to create new technology.
In that same time frame, the marketplace was shifting. As late as 1960 the U.S. was essentially the world's great domestic marketplace. No more than 10 percent of the revenues in any major sector came from international trade. In 1985, 25 percent of the revenue is coming from international trade. Particularly successful sales of foreign companies in this country have totally changed the nature of that marketplace. As one accepts those realities, and then stands back to look at the national security apparatus to deal with it, I don't find fundamental flaws in the structure that was created in the wake of World War II to deal in a more complex way with the global environment. We created a Department of Defense, we created a National Security Council, we created a National Security Advisor and a staff to function for that Council.
Our problem is that we too narrowly define national security. National security -- the size of our defense forces and the deployment of our defense forces -- was defined as diplomacy and foreign aid, helping Western Europe and the Republic of Japan to recover. A few years later we added arms control to that process, but we did not recognize the reality of the shift toward an international marketplace, and the one great flaw is that we did not begin, in the early 1960s, including international trade in the whole sphere of international security and taking that into consideration as we made our national security policy. We thus find ourselves in the middle eighties in crisis, suddenly recognizing what's been going on steadily for twenty-five years and trying to come to grips with how we deal with it.
So we have a paradigmatic crisis in a sense. The lenses through which we're seeing the world are not adequate. We have in place a bureaucracy that can't adapt. What will make for the change that is necessary?
First, we have to adapt to the reality of the outside world. The world does not wait for us to change. We had in the 1940s a bipolar world, and really only a single one on the economic side. The U.S. came out of World War II as the absolute preeminent economic power. We set out to help the rest of the world recover, to build trading partners. We succeeded beyond our wildest imagination in the process. We simply didn't begin to change to keep up with that.
On the domestic side we have tended to look at matters of commerce as purely, "how do we regulate?" not, "how do we help them effectively compete in the international marketplace?" There have been some exceptions: the Kennedy round, the GATT efforts, occasional efforts to try to negotiate treaties which would accelerate economic activity. In more recent years we have moved away from a concentration on the National Security Council staff that were drawn for their professional competence in developing options, drawn largely from the ranks of the State Department or Defense Department and the academic community, toward people who are selected for their ideological views.
My basic viewpoint is that we elect a president, at least in part, for his ideological views. And if we decide four years later that we're unhappy with the results, we change. Staff to provide options should be hired not for their ideological views, but for their breadth, their competency, their ability to put out a whole range of options, and to draw together the bits and pieces for the decision makers.
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