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Henry Judd

Readers’ Take the Floor ...

Army vs. Navy

(31 October 1949)

From Labor Action, Vol. 13 No. 44, 31 October 1949, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

To the Editor:

The article by Stewart Pitt (Oct. 24) on the Battle of the Pentagon develops some interesting speculation as to the underlying causes of that curious spectacle, but his thesis seems highly doubtful. No one will disagree, of course, with his underlining of the fact that, when all is said and done, we have witnessed a scene in which assorted scoundrels, known as generals, admirals and strategists, dispute as to which is the “best” method to be employed in wiping out millions and assuring American world mastery. But we cannot follow his reasoning in concluding that the navy’s standpoint “does probably fit the pattern of American imperialism’s world role more clearly than that of the B-36” (that is, the army viewpoint).

To bolster his concept of the navy being more in tune with “advanced” American imperialist strategy and ideas, Comrade Pitt tells us that the army concept is an “insular” one – evidently isolationist – whereas “The navy’s proposals, by rejecting absolute dependence on the superatomic bomber, calls for more aggressive world-conscious plans ...” Presumably, this would mean bases located everywhere possible, taking over the dwindling role of the British fleet, etc.

There is little evidence that this is what was (or is) involved in the Pentagon battle. The issue, rather, would appear to be over the strategic concept of how to wage future war, with the navy clinging to its traditional viewpoint, and the army – in its bureaucratic way – attempting to stand by and state a new viewpoint, i.e., the development of a war strategy for the atomic age.

From this analysis, one is obliged to conclude the exact opposite inference than that of Pitt – namely, the navy thinks that atomic warfare is largely imaginative and that, at bottom, the Third World War will be fought the same way that the past one was. Also involved, of course, is its desire to retain its ancient (but challenged) powers, privileges and prestige. (No one takes seriously its humanitarian preachings.)

As for the army, it recognizes that war is now total, global and all-embracing; including warfare deliberately aimed at civilians and productivity. It callously proposes to prepare now for such a war, and states that atomic weapons, guided missiles, bacteriological bombardment, rockets and jet planes, etc., will be the technical means, not large mass armies conveyed by a navy, for carrying out its objective.

The navy centered its attack upon the army B-36 plane (developed to carry the atom bomb), but the army spokesmen (who had not yet replied at the time Pitt wrote his article) correctly answered this criticism by pointing out that the B-36 was but one part of their war preparation program.

We should not like to be drawn into any dispute as to who represents “progress” and who “reaction” in this quarrel between the army and navy, but nevertheless it would seem to us that Pitt has misunderstood the issue at stake. We cannot always trace back to class or imperialist sources a dispute of this nature. This is essentially a technical or strategic dispute by two groups, each of whom equally have American imperialist advantage at heart. But one has failed to see that a new war always starts where the last one stopped – in this case, at the threshold of the atomic warfare age.

It might be better for humanity at large if the navy won out, but that hardly seems likely. The imperialist leadership of America is too well aware of what is involved to make that mistake, and the navy has little chance.

We may only hope that the American masses become as well aware regarding the real issues as their rulers are – that is, learn the need to POLITICALLY “sink the navy” and “damn the army.”

Henry JUDD

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