could be a prescription for years of secret talks, accompanied by public and congressional silence, while weapons on both sides continue to proliferate. President Reagan finally had to confront the freeze proposal in his March 31 news conference. He denounced it as “disadvantageous in fact even dangerous” to the United States. “The truth of the matter,” claimed Reagan, “is that on balance the Soviet Union does have a definite margin of superiority, enough so that there is risk.” It’s not clear what Reagan means by a “margin of superiority.” Certainly he would be hard-put to justify a claim of Soviet strategic nuclear superiority, though his response to a follow-up question suggested that was what he meant to do. His own Defense Department’s annual report for fiscal 1982 concludes that: “The United States and the Soviet Union are roughly equal in strategic nuclear power.” Maybe Reagan has in mind the technical details that are debated by strategists who spin out hypothetical “limited” nuclear warfighting scenarios, though one suspects that all this is a bit beyond him. “I don’t know of one really creditable American military leader who has indicated that he would be ready to swap their arsenal for ours,” says Hoyt Purvis, lecturer at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at UT-Austin, and former deputy director of the Senate Democratic Policy Committee. Even hawkish Sen. Henry Jackson repudiated the president’s remarks. Randy Forsberg promptly accused the Reagan administration of being “simplistic, misleading, and selective to the point of distortion” in its response to the freeze. According to Forsberg, the United States and the Soviet Union each have various advantages and disadvantages with regard to particular weapons systems. However: “At present, both sides’ strategic forces are partially vulnerable, but neither side can pose the threat of a ‘disarming’ first strike against the other. This is a stable balance.” The national executive committee of the freeze campaign said in response to Reagan: “The overall parity between U.S. and Soviet nuclear arsenals provides an historic and unprecedented opportunity to freeze the nuclear-arms race where it is, without either side thereby gaining a significant advantage. The Administration’s current plans to produce and deploy a new generation of strategic nuclear submarines, bombers, missiles, and warheads constitutes a move in the wrong direction.” This proposed build-up, in the view of freezecampaign spokesmen, “would upset the overall balance of nuclear forces which now exists,” and give the Soviets “an incentive to go forward with their own new generation of weapons systems.” The result of mutual escalation would be to “greatly increase fears and tensions on both sides, thus increasing the possibility of nuclear war.” OTHER critics of the freeze, while perhaps accepting the rough equality of the current balance of forces, contend that the freeze is unworkable because it can’t be adequately verified. What if the Soviets cheat, goes the nightmare scenario, and we wake up some day to find ourselves confronted with overwhelming new weapons, to which we must yield? Each side would have to be able to verify that the other was abiding by a weapons-freeze agreement, without significant cheating. Which verification methods are appropriate depends on which type of weapons system, or aspect of the freeze production, testing, or deployment is under consideration. U.S. intelligence information about Soviet military production facilities is very detailed. Much of the freeze could be verified by so-called “national technical means,” surveillance satellites, with their highly sophisticated cameras and infrared heat sensors, mobile “colground radar stations, and seismic sensors. But experts disagree on several key points. Prof. Steven Baker, for example, an arms-control specialist in the UT-Austin Government Dept., questions the verifiability of a freeze on nuclear-warhead production without on-site inspections, which the Soviets have always been loath to allow. If one side could get away with producing a secret stockpile of new nuclear warheads, says Baker, it could be “a loophole big enough to drive a nuclear war through.” Analysts working with the freeze campaign believe that monitoring would be made easier by the fact that a freeze would require a total shutdown of such weapons-production facilities as the Pantex plant, near Amarillo, where the components of nuclear bombs are assembled, and its Soviet counterparts. Perhaps whatever on-site inspections of nuclear facilities are needed could be conducted under the auspices of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Apparently, the First Secretary of the Soviet Embassy in Washington, D.C., has indicated that the Soviets would agree to on-site inspections under a comprehensive agreement. In any case, somehow a start must be made, even if there is an element of cal culated risk, in the view of freeze organizers. Clearly, analyzing the balance of military forces or the problems of armscontrol verification leads quickly into difficult and controversial matters. In this respect, the nuclear freeze proposal is deceptively simple. But that presents an opportunity as well as a problem. The issues of nuclear-weapons policy cry out for public dialogue. They aren’t so abstruse that ordinary mortals can’t deal with them, though even our more politically attentive citizens have, for the most part, opted out of doing so for a long time. As Steven Baker says: “Unless you keep governments’ feet to the fire, they’re not going to do anything.” The freeze proposal has helped to stir up a debate that should raise the general level of knowledgeability, to the point where the kind of dishonest, condescending, simple-minded pabulum served up by the likes of Ronald Reagan will be seen for what it is. Henceforth, as former national security advisor McGeorge Bundy told a conference on nuclear-weapons policy in Austin recently, a litmus-test of the legitimacy of any serious claim to national political leadership must be whether it follows a convincing approach to stopping the nuclear-arms race and moving away from the threat of nuclear war. AND WHAT if public pressure succeeds in winning a U.S.-Soviet nuclear freeze? Then what? While a freeze would mean a complete halt to the nuclear arms race an extraordinary accomplishment it would nonetheless be limited in scope. It would still leave tens of thousands of strategic and tactical nuclear warheads loose in the world, with no guarantee that they wouldn’t be used in a crisis. And the freeze proposal itself doesn’t suggest what further steps might be taken, though campaign organizers see a need to move on to weapons reductions. UT-Austin Government Prof. David Edwards believes that the next steps beyond a freeze should be proposed and discussed now. Otherwise, he says, we run the risk that, after winning a firststep partial victory, people will say: “Well, we took care of that,” and shift their attention elsewhere. The next steps depend, at least in part, on the actions of the peace movement, which now has an opportunity to play an important role. But if it is to act effectively and earn broad public support, the movement will have to overcome some of the self-defeating tendencies that have in the past been both a result and a cause of its relative powerlessness. Several as 10 MAY 21, 1982
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