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A Public Service Message from the American Income Life Insurance Co.Waco, TexasBernard Rapoport, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer Kennan, Robert McNamara, -and Gerard C. Smith urged that the United States commit itself to not “going nuclear” first in any confrontation with the Soviets, and to increasing conventional forces in Europe as an alternative counterweight. Their underlying judgment accorded with the view that our current conventional military presence in Europe is only large enough to serve as a “trip-wire” for nuclear war. As Safire puts it: “Legions of realists know that no conventional deterrent exists in Europe.” But the conservatives hold that conventional troops can be cut and a good deal of money saved without significantly altering this basic reality. McNamara, Bundy and Company argue that this basic reality needs to be changed. They insist that the nuclear threshold must be raised, and that building up the deterrent of NATO’s conventional forces is the only way to do it. Last month six other policy experts joined Bundy, McNamara, Kennan, and Smith in an Atlantic article delineating another “no-first-use” nuclear proposal. However, this time the group toned down an explicit commitment to a serious expansion of conventional forces. Although no reason for the change was given the coyness is almost certainly attributable to the fact that new conventional forces are very expensive -0 and whatever the merits of the conventional build-up argument, large additional military expenditures are politically impossible both here and in Europe. Liberals are in a stalemate caught between the hope of reducing nuclear weapons and the reality of financial limits on conventional forces. The stalemate in turn has temporarily bolstered the position of old foreign policy hands who object to tampering with the status quo. The consensus that there is little prospect of a Russian attack logically should open the way to a fundamentally new detente-based European security policy. Even Brzezinski, who is no liberal, is willing to contemplate a neutralized Germany as part of a buffer between East and West. Most people on both sides, however, continue to avoid the politically difficult issue of detente: the conservatives because the last thing they want to see is a neutral area in Europe, the liberals because they can’t imagine it, or fear to raise it politically. There is an outside chance that a Reagan-Gorbachev summit meeting would reduce some intermediate-range nuclear weapons in Europe. However, given the rigidities, bureaucratic interests, and worries of the allies on both sides, prospects for more than token change appear to be limited. The current focus of discussion is primarily the ABM treaty and the Star Wars defense systems. There is also no sign that the Reagan administration has given any official thought to major shifts in conventional forces. At a more fundamental level, however, as the attack on NATO continues to gather force, the groundwork for a post-Reagan policy shift is being laid. In the absence of more far-ranging ideas from liberals and the left, the conservative critics are likely to dominate this discussion in both political parties. The no-first-use group, for all its concern about nuclear weaponry, concedes that such weapons are still the ultimate deterrent in Europe. So long as the liberals fail to integrate their no-first-use ideas with a serious disengagement approach, conservatives with the only proposals that might save real money will hold most of the politically appealing cards, especially in a period when the European allies are all but certain to cut their own defense spending and to criticize U.S. policies they don’t like. As the stand-pat centrists and new no-first-use liberals slowly lose ground in the NATO debate, America’s European defense policy will be shaped more and more by those who aim to increase America’s willingness and capacity to use force in diverse parts of the world. And by people whose views imply ever greater reliance on nuclear weapons in the main arena of cold war conflict. American Income Life Insurance Company EXECUTIVE OFFICES: P.O. BOX 208, WACO, TEXAS 78703, 817.772-3050 BERNARD RAPOPORT Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer THE TEXAS OBSERVER 21