|the capacity of inflicting "unacceptable"
damage on the other nation in retaliation. And the knowledge of this certain
destruction of one's own nation is the strongest possible assurance that
a first attack will not be made on the other nation.
Surprisingly, the world has enjoyed a period of
relative stability and calm since the first big missile race of the late
50s and early 60s. If anything, the existence of all those terrible weapons
has served to hold down the sabre-rattling of both parties, most notably
during the Middle East crisis of June, 1967, when our two countries might
well have stumbled into a major war. I also think this was a big factor
in Premier Khrushchev's decision to pull his missiles out of Cuba in 1962;
the risk of nuclear war was too great, once the issue was joined.
Now, however, new things are stirring. The Soviets,
for one reason or another, resumed missile construction in 1967, bringing
them up from 720 to 900 ICBMs. They also built a small anti-ballistic-missile
system around Moscow and what our military men thought was an ABM
system near Tallinn, Estonia (but which they now believe to be a conventional
anti-aircraft system). In response to these moves we have resumed missile-building,
too, and we are now on the brink of a decision to deploy a vast ABM system
of our own -- either a "thin" system costing $5-10 billion or a "thick"
system costing $50 billion or more, with another $50 billion invested in
fallout shelters to protect American citizens from fallout generated by
their own defensive missiles.
How high the cost of a "thick" system might go
was indicated the other day by Senator Stuart Symington of Missouri, first
Secretary of the Air Force. He had the Brookings Institution do a study,
and its conclusion was that such a system would cost, not $50 billion,
but as much as $400 billion -- more than the entire national debt.
Is all this arms-building necessary? How much
of the pressure for new missiles is coming from the Defense contractors
who would build them? How much does anyone know about the new rounds of
and defensive arms build-up which will follow, as the night
the day, once these steps are taken? These are questions I will explore
in my next report.
CAN A DEMOCRACY BE RATIONAL?
The decision to escalate Vietnam from a modest
"advisory" effort involving 17,000 men to a major war effort involving
550,000 men was not a national decision, reached by the American people
after careful advance debate. If such a debate had been held, would we
have reached the same decision?
I said in the beginning of this report that I
hoped the result of this reappraisal might be the kind of responsible and
informed decision-making that all-too-often doesn't occur in our
democratic process. Yet I feel this is one time when the people of this
country must be informed, must play a part in whatever decisions are made,
and must contribute, not just to popular, but to rational decision-making.
For the Achilles heel of democracy is the failure of many citizens to know
what is going on and to use their voices and their votes to bring about
the kind of country and kind of world that is consistent with their own
long-range, vital interests.
I believe that we can solve our domestic
problems and that we can avert nuclear holocaust. But it's not going
to be easy. And those charged with responsibilities in the next few years
are going to need all the help and guidance the people of this country
can give them.
I believe a democratic government, however complicated
by demands from many sides, can be rational and, what is more, can do a
better job of solving its problems than any other kind of system. But our
margin for error has all but disappeared in most areas, and we're really
to be put to the test in the years to come.
In the remainder of this series I will explore
some of the decisions that lie ahead as this great country of ours prepares
for peace. My succeeding newsletters will deal with the arms
race, domestic programs, the problem of inflation,
the need for tax reforms and, finally, the increasingly
serious problem of population growth.
As we go along, I'll appreciate your comments.