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First Strike

In response to:

On Nuclear War: An Exchange with the Secretary of Defense from the August 18, 1983 issue

To the Editors:

There is a revealing slip in the Defense Secretary’s long letter to Theodore Draper quoted in The New York Review, August 18, that escapes Mr. Draper’s wonderfully thorough response. Mr. Weinberger justifies “modernizing” our supposedly vulnerable strategic forces. Why? Because, among other rationalizations, the Soviets’ “hardening of their ICBM silos” is “a clear attempt to deny us the capability to retaliate.” But if retaliation is all we are after, we needn’t concern ourselves with their ICBM silos, since the Soviets—attacking first, in the Secretary’s pious scenario—will have taken the obvious precaution of emptying all those silos in their initial onslaught. The only reason, therefore, for Mr. Weinberger to resent the hardening of Soviet silos is that it may prevent us from striking effectively first, unless of course we proceed with a weapon like the MX. Can the reader of Mr. Weinberger’s letter seriously doubt that at some level he is seriously contemplating a first strike against the Soviet Union?

Murray Biggs

MIT Disarmament Study Group

Cambridge, Massachusetts

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