|Now who, in his right mind, can assume
the Soviets will not make a major increase in their offensive forces
in response to our improved defense? And if they do, won't we have an
In the same seminar another ABM advocate, a former
member of the National Security Council, argued that our defensive missile
system "might convince the Soviet leaders of the folly of challenging us
further in the arms race and make them turn to less threatening forms of
competition." I'd like to know when, in all human history, a nation, locked
in an arms struggle with another nation, decided it was going to give up
the struggle. On the contrary, if there is one consistent lesson in history,
it is that there is virtually no limit to what nations will spend to save
themselves from defeat -- even more than their entire Gross National Product
for periods of time. Europe's unpaid debts from World War I testify to
To assume that we can build a defensive system
and not have our potential enemies attempt to overcome our defense with
new and more costly forms of offense would seem to be terribly unrealistic.
It would seem more realistic to assume that all the old rules pertaining
to power struggles are going to continue to operate.
MOST URGENT NEED -- ARMS LIMITATION
Surely, the greatest need of the United States
today is not for a new anti-missile system, but for initiative in negotiating
a reduction of the arms race. I'm sure this belief is shared by many leaders
in the Soviet Union. Robert McNamara, the former Secretary of Defense,
put it this way:
|"It is futile for each of us (meaning the
U.S. and the Soviet Union) to spend four billion dollars, or forty billion
dollars, or four hundred billion dollars -- and at the end of all the spending,
at the end of all the deployment, and at the end of all the effort, to
be relatively at the same point of balance on the security scale that we
Remarkably, the Soviet Union has shown interest
in arms limitation talks. I am told its leaders were ready to start talking
as early as last December. Yet we still haven't given them any real response,
any real attention. Instead, we're giving priority to building an ABM system!
The argument is made that our decision to build
the ABM will strengthen our bargaining position. Surely Russia's leaders
know this is something we can do anytime we decide to; we have the technology,
and we have the resources. What more do we gain by signing huge contracts
to electronic firms to start building it?
WAY TO AVOID SOME RISK
There was a time when the United States could
feel quite secure, protected by two oceans and great distances from all
serious adversaries. But that time has passed, and there is no way to bring
it back. Building a "thick" ABM won't do it; building a "thin" one certainly
The truth is that, no matter which course we follow,
we're going to face considerable risk. What we must decide is which set
of risks is greater.
Without an ABM there's always the threat,
however remote, of an accidental launch by another country. But what's
to protect us from an accidental launch of our own -- one that would trigger
a "nuclear response?"
With an ABM we face the risk of a world
armed to the teeth, "up tight," nervous and "trigger happy."
Is nuclear war inevitable? If it is -- with all
the horror that implies -- then I suppose we should do everything we can
to limit the damage, knowing there is no way to save ourselves from horrendous
loss. Doing so, we must anticipate that the Soviet Union will increase
its offensive forces (the same thing both of us have done in the past)
to restore its strategic position. And thus, what began as an act of defense
will result in even greater force being directed against us -- just possibly
converting a grievous loss to a monumental catastrophe.
On the other hand, if we hope that nuclear war
can be avoided -- and I trust we all share such hope -- then it seems to
me that efforts to limit damage are a step in the wrong direction. Instead
of reducing the chances that Americans will die in some future nuclear
war, they are likely to provoke further escalation of the
|arms race, thereby increasing our
chances for nuclear annihilation.
TIME FOR COLD WAR RHETORIC?
There has been a distressing element in much of
the pro-ABM debate in recent weeks. This is an apparent return to the old
rhetoric of the "Cold War," a portrayal of the world as two armed camps
ready for war. I suspect that such a world-view, taken as a guide for our
foreign policy, might turn out to be self-fulfilling.
Recently Senator Russell said that if nuclear
war should come and the human race had to start over again with "another
Adam and Eve," he wanted them to be Americans.
Americans? In a world of 3 billion unburied dead,
what's an "American?"
HAVE A 'WAR' HERE AT HOME
I certainly think we should be alert to developments
and be prepared to do whatever is prudent and rational to defend our country.
I think we ought to continue scientific research on the missile defense
problem. But I feel quite strongly that deployment of either a thick
or thin system would be a grave mistake at this time.
Why? Well, last month I spent two days in New
York City as a guest of Mayor Lindsay. With a small group of rural, suburban
and western congressmen I took a close look at the staggering problems
of that great city. I saw Harlem and Bedford-Stuyvesant at close range.
And frankly, I'm frightened by what I saw.
We are one country, and most of us live in big
cities. The blight, misery and crime of the nation's biggest population
center ought to be a warning to all of us. If New York can't be governed,
or made livable, then all of its cancers eating out from the center will
someday reach the rest of us. What New York has may be merely an advanced
case of deterioration already at work in the rest of the country. Unless
we turn some of our attention, and some of our money, toward our own very
serious problems at home, we may find, not just New York, but the entire
country becoming ungovernable and unlivable.
There are, indeed, risks in any course we take
toward Russia or China. But there are also extremely serious risks involved
in this "war" we have here at home.
The senator asks what good it is to win a war
against poverty and jeopardize the security of "our very home." Well, I
ask, what good is it to have the most expensive security system ever devised
if behind that wall of security American society is destroying itself?
With reason and restraint I believe we can avoid
war and solve our most pressing problems. But with a panic emphasis on
the need for "security" we might well accomplish neither. In the last 15
years we have spent $23
billion on missile programs which were deployed
and then abandoned.
Already our defense spending is running 10%
over all the individual income taxes paid by the citizens of this
country. And in the third quarter of this year the United States will pass
the trillion-dollar mark in military spending since the end of World War
II. Looking at this record, it is my judgment that a decision now to start
building an ABM system will eventually cost us more than Vietnam and leave
us nothing to add to our "war effort" here at home.
-- OUR DOMESTIC CHOICES
As I indicated at the start of this series, I
hope you will share your views with me on each of these subjects. I happen
to believe that arms limitations should have greater priority than arms
deployment, that our domestic "war" is more pressing than any prospect
of war with Russia or China. Perhaps you see these matters differently.
Let me know what you think.
In my next newsletter
I will explore the various alternatives we might pursue in dealing with
some of our domestic problems, assuming we don't get into a new