The annals of the Nixon Administration, in so far as arms are concerned, must begin, like the Gospel of John, with The Word. But Nixon has changed The Word at the very outset. In the campaign it was “superiority.” At his first press conference this was changed to “sufficiency.” The two words seem to move in different directions. One implies an endless arms race. The other seems to promise that at some point we will have enough.
The real meaning of the shift is difficult to evaluate because it came, not in any formal and considered pronouncement, but in an offhand reply to an unexpected question. The correspondent, Edward P. Morgan of the Public Broadcasting Laboratory, long one of the few liberal voices on the air, is not the man the Nixon team would have chosen for a planted question. The meaning of the exchange is further obscured because it involved a double error, on Morgan’s part and on Nixon’s. Morgan wrongly attributed the idea of “sufficiency” to Dr. Henry A. Kissinger, Nixon’s chief assistant on foreign policy and national security. Nixon not only assumed that Morgan was correct but briskly and cheerfully accepted the idea. The result seemed to be a reversal of all Nixon had said in the campaign.
The question was framed, like so many reportorial questions, in such a way as to indicate the desired answer and clearly disclosed Morgan’s own bias against the arms race. One would think the very wording would have put Nixon on guard. This is the full text of Morgan’s question, from the official transcript:
Q. Back to nuclear weapons, Mr. President. Both you and Secretary Laird have stressed, quite hard, the need for superiority over the Soviet Union. But what is the real meaning of that in view of the fact that both sides have more than enough already to destroy each other, and how do you distinguish the validity of that stance and the argument of Dr. Kissinger for what he calls “sufficiency”?
Nobody can say that was not a leading question. In a courtroom Nixon’s counsel would have objected to it at once as loaded and the objection would have been sustained. But Nixon waded right in. The answer, too, merits examination in full text:
A. Here, again, I think the semantics may offer an inappropriate approach to the problem. I would say that with regard to Dr. Kissinger’s suggestion of sufficiency, that that would meet, certainly, my guideline, and I think Secretary Laird’s guideline, with regard to superiority.
Let me put it this way: when we talk about parity, I think we should recognize that wars occur, usually, when each side believes it has a chance to win. Therefore, parity does not necessarily assure that a war may not occur. By the same token, when we talk about superiority, that may have a detrimental effect on the other side in giving great impetus to its own arms race.
Nixon then went on to define what he considers sufficiency.
Our objective in this Administration, and this is a matter which we are going to discuss at the Pentagon this afternoon, and that will be the subject of a major discussion in the National Security Council within the month—our objective is to be sure that the United States has sufficient military power to defend our interests and to maintain the commitments which this Administration determines are in the interest of the United States around the world.
I think “sufficiency” is a better term, actually, than either “superiority” or “parity.”
This is the same Nixon who, only three months earlier, had said America’s defenses were “close to peril point” and that we were in “a security gap” which by 1970 or 1971 could become a “survival gap.” “I intend,” Nixon said at that time1 “to restore our objective of clear-cut military superiority.”
The organ of the Air Force Association, the most powerful component of the military-industrial complex, in a pre-inaugural editorial had noted with satisfaction Nixon’s commitment to superiority and to “the role of technology in maintaining such superiority.” “If the new Administration,” it said,2 “is willing to put its money where its mouth is in national defense, some welcome changes are in the offing.” Could it be that an entirely new gap was opening—a Nixon gap, between the campaigner and the President?
Where did Morgan pick up the term “sufficiency” and how is it that the new President was so ready to adopt it? We know the answer to neither question. Morgan later admitted he was in error in attributing it to Dr. Kissinger. It is true that in a symposium by the Brookings Institution, Dr. Kissinger—writing before his White House appointment—rebutted the “superiority” concept on which Mr. Nixon campaigned. He wrote:3
Throughout history, military power was considered the ultimate recourse. Statesmen treated the acquisition of additional power as an obvious and paramount objective…. The nuclear age has destroyed this traditional measure…. No foreseeable force-level—not even full-scale ballistic missle defenses [italics added]—can prevent levels of damage eclipsing those of the two world wars…. The paradox of contemporary military strength is that a gargantuan increase in power has eroded its relationship to policy…. The capacity to destroy is difficult to translate into a plausible threat even against countries with no capacity for retaliation…. Slogans like “superiority,” “parity,” “assured destruction,” compete unencumbered by clear definitions of their operational military significance, much less a consensus on their political implications.
Similar views were expressed by Nixon’s new science adviser, Dr. Lee A. DuBridge, in an interview with The New York Times last December 17, when he said:
If it is a contest in which we have 1,000 hydrogen warheads and the Russians have 900, is that good or bad? Or should we have 1500 to their 900? Or are they going to get 1500 and we only have 1,000? It is an impossible race to see the end of, or to see the validity of, and it is terribly important to find a way of getting out of the rat race of nuclear build-ups and nuclear defense build-ups [italics added].
Neither Dr. Kissinger nor Dr. DuBridge actually used the term “sufficiency.” The President may possibly have seen it in an advance copy, perhaps even a special private draft, of a new report prepared by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. This was “cleared” before its release with a prestigious panel which included former Secretary of Defense McNamara, General Matthew B. Ridgeway, USA, ret., and Major General James McCormack, USAF, ret., all of whom allowed their names to appear in connection with it.4
This report was prepared by Dr. George W. Rathjens of MIT, tormerly with the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and before that, with the Institute for Defense Analyses. In it Dr. Rathjens said, with no dissent from this panel, “The strategic forces of both sides are too large. Thus, as far as deterrence is concerned, the point has certainly been passed by now where both sides have ‘sufficiency’—probably a more useful concept for describing the present strategic balance than either ‘superiority’ or ‘parity.’ ”
Actually the term “sufficiency” was first used in the context of the nuclear arms race thirteen years ago. There is irony in its origin. It was first used by Eisenhower’s Air Force Secretary, Donald A. Quarles, during the 1956 presidential campaign. In a speech on August 4 of that year, Mr. Quarles, though he was talking to the Air Force Association, had the courage to say, “There comes a time in the course of increasing our airpower when we must make a determination of sufficiency…. There is no occasion in this audience to labor the point that the buildup of atomic power in the hands of two opposed alliances of nations makes total war an unthinkable catastrophe for both sides.”
What he then said of planes applies equally today to missiles and anti-missiles. “Neither side,” he said, “can hope by a mere margin of superiority in airplanes or other means of delivery of atomic weapons to escape catastrophe…even if there is a wide disparity between the offensive or defensive [italics added] strengths of the opposing forces.” The irony is that the Quarles speech was delivered to counter the “bomber gap” campaign then being waged against the Republicans by the Air Force lobby with the enthusiastic support of the Democrats, like the “security gap” campaign waged by Nixon last year.5
“Sufficiency” was the Eisenhower Administration theme in fighting off the demands for higher defense spending from the military and its industrial allies. Is Nixon, faced with budgetary problems and an unstable dollar, coming back to it now? That is the question which will soon be answered by his decision on the anti-ballistic missile and by the results of the review he has ordered of the military budget, which is due the latter part of March.
The shift from “superiority” to “sufficiency” may prove to mean little or nothing. But the shift, even if only semantic, offers new leverage to the peace movement. For it raises the question of how much armaments is enough, and it raises it on the highest level and in the broadest forum. When the new President himself adopts the term “sufficiency,” he invites public discussion of the military budget in the simplest and most graphic terms. How much is enough? If Secretary Laird has his way, the budget review will find present military appropriations insufficient. Perhaps the peace movement ought to set up a public hearing board of its own to take testimony from experts on this problem of “sufficiency” and publish both the testimony and the final report. In what follows we will try to give a preliminary sketch of the military monster.
The real word for America’s nuclear arsenal is not sufficiency but lunacy. When the Rathjens report says “the strategic forces of both sides are too large,” that is the understatement of the millennium. Briefly, we have 3 1/2 times as many nuclear warheads as the Soviet Union, and ten times as many as we need—not just to “deter” but to destroy it. The first figure is from Clark Clifford’s final posture statement on the fiscal 1970 budget (p. 42) last January 15. This says we can launch 4200 warheads with our ICBMs, Polaris submarines, and bombers, while the Soviet Union can launch 1200. The second figure is from a table (at p. 57) of McNamara’s final posture statement for the fiscal 1969 budget dated January 22 of last year. This for the first time gave figures on the number of 1-Megaton warheads (one Megaton=1,000,000 tons of TNT) needed to wreck the Soviet Union. The maximum is 400.
As McNamara explains, “further increments would not meaningfully change the amount of damage because we would be bringing smaller and smaller cities under attack.” McNamara figures this would kill 74 million people, or more than three times the total Soviet losses in World War II, and destroy 76 percent of Soviet industry. Give or take any reasonable number for error, this is no longer war as man has ever known it before but instant cremation. Seventy-four million people will be “only” 30 percent of the Soviet population in 1972, the year to which this table is projected. But a footnote (at p. 52) of an earlier McNamara posture statement in January 1967 still applies to these estimates of lethality. The footnote explains that they cover only “prompt” deaths from blast and fallout—“they do not include deaths resulting from fire, storms, disease, and general disruption of everyday life.” So add to the immediate deaths any number for the slow, and then ask yourself again how much is enough? What is sufficiency?
The assumption behind these computations is as distant from human realities as the numbers. Never has so much precision been attached to so much spurious rationality. The assumption is that war is a kind of game on which nations embark after consulting a computer to see who would come out ahead. Not the least dangerous aspect of our war machine is that it is based on so fallacious a theory as to why and how wars occur. Starting from so abstract and mechanistic an axiom, the planners have developed a series of corollaries which seem designed to confuse not only us but even our computers.
The first corollary is that if it looks to the attacker as if the damage to himself in any war would be “unacceptable,” he will be “deterred.” The second corollary is that the way to confront your enemy with “unacceptable” damage is to have an “assured destruction capability” which you can impose on him in a “second strike” of retaliation if he attacks first. The third is that to do this you need a nuclear arsenal which is so large and so invulnerable that the enemy cannot destroy it—or enough of it—in a first strike to save himself from destruction in return. The fourth and final corollary is that you have to keep building more and better weapons to be sure of maintaining that second-strike capacity. This is what keeps the nuclear rat race going. Those who work within the military bureaucracy are doomed to serve its purposes. The proliferation of doctrine furthers the proliferation of armaments. The finely spun concepts of deterrence and second strike give a rational appearance to an essentially irrational process, the mindless multiplication of weaponry.
The arms race is based on an optimistic view of technology and a pessimistic view of man. It assumes there is no limit to the ingenuity of science and no limit to the deviltry of human beings. Thus so-called “conservative” military planning assumes the best of the enemy’s laboratories and the worst of his intentions. It seeks to ensure against all possible contingencies, like an insurance salesman selling protection against the possibility of blizzards in the tropics.
The proliferating corollaries of deterrence having conditioned us to mega-weapons and mega-deaths, the sheer numbers of nuclear weaponry no longer surprise us. They numb and comfort. When Clifford reports that we have 4200 deliverable warheads as compared with the Soviets’ 1200, we are instinctively cheered to hear that we are so far “ahead.” No one any longer asks where they would be “delivered” or how many times we might find ourselves killing the same peasant woman and her cow. Such talk is “old hat.” It is hard to realize that less than a decade has passed since a one-time Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff like General Maxwell Taylor could argue that 200 missiles would be a sufficient minimum deterrent. It is odd to be reminded by General LeMay himself in his new book6 that “as few as 17 large-yield Soviet ICBMs could severely damage the 17 densely populated urban complexes in the United States that contain over one-third of our population.”
By the same calculation, three large-yield US ICBMs could destroy Moscow, Leningrad, and Kiev while thirty much smaller ones could wreck the Soviet Union’s thirty other cities with a population of 500,000 or more. Surely this should be enough deterrence. LeMay himself proceeds by a series of splendid non sequiturs to prove that this means we need more missiles! He goes on to say, “The Soviets have 40 ICBMs for each US urban complex. The US, on the other hand, to cover some 175 dispersed Soviet cities, would need 7,000 missiles to provide the same ratio of 40 per target. Yet we plan to have only 1,054 from now on.” If one large-yield Soviet ICBM is enough to damage severely a whole US urban complex, why do they need 40? And why do we need 40 each for every one of 175 Soviet cities, though 175 gets us down to places like Kirovsk, half the size of Hiroshima (about 100,000) which we destroyed with a “primitive” A-bomb so small (less than 20 kilotons) we no longer consider that size a strategic weapon?
Our 4200 warheads average out—to adopt LeMay’s standard—to twenty-four each for those 175 Soviet cities. But apparently this is insufficient. We are on the verge of expanding the number of warheads eightfold, and soon after, ten- or twelvefold. A table appended to McNamara’s last posture statement (p. 214) shows that during the eight years in which he presided over the Defense Department we spent over $68 billion on our strategic forces.7 And now we are told, in effect, by McNamara himself that it is not enough!8 Our weapons have to be MIRVed.
The acronym stands for Multiple Independently Targeted Reentry Vehicle. The subject has long been a deep secret. It was first described publicly by Secretary McNamara when he said in his final posture statement on January 22 of last year, “Now, in the late 1960s, because the Soviet Union might [the italics were McNamara’s] deploy extensive ABM defenses, we are making some very important changes in our strategic missile forces. Instead of a single large warhead, our missiles are now being designed to carry several small warheads and penetration aids, because it is the number of warheads, or objects which appear to be warheads [i.e., the so-called “penetration aids”—IFS] to the defender’s radars, that will determine the outcome in a contest with an ABM defense.”
Last August, sixteen MIRVs were tested successfully for the first time in an ICBM, the Minuteman, and in an underwater ballistic missile, the Poseidon, which will replace Polaris. A vast expansion in the number of our warheads is now under way. McNamara’s final budget set in motion the conversion of 31 of our present 41 Polaris-carrying submarines into carriers of Poseidon. The remaining 10 are of a type it would be too expensive to convert; it would be cheaper to replace them with new Poseidon submarines. The number of warheads the Poseidons can carry is still classified. The number generally given is 10 warheads per missile, though I have been told by one informed source that the Poseidon can carry as many as 14.
Each Polaris sub now carries 16 Polaris missiles, or a total for the fleet of 656 missiles, each with one warhead. But as Poseidons replace the Polaris on 31 ships—with a total of 496 missiles—and if each Poseidon missile can carry 10 warheads, that is a total of 4,960 warheads. In addition we are replacing Minuteman I and Minuteman II, our main intercontinental ballistic missiles, with Minuteman III, which will also be MIRVed. Again the figures are classified but it is generally believed that each Minuteman III will carry three warheads.
In his final posture statement McNamara projected for the period 1969-73 a nuclear missile force made up of:
This was the same size as our nuclear missile force last September when we estimated our own nuclear long-range missile force at 1,710 and the Soviet’s at 945. But MIRVed up, this would become, in warheads:
This would change the disparity in nuclear missile warheads from less than 2-to-1 in our favor (1710 to 945) to almost 9-to-1 (8,174 to 945). It would mean we could aim several of our missiles at each one of theirs, threatening a possible first strike. To see how this expansion of nuclear power must look to the other side we need only read a passage in Clark Clifford’s final posture statement last January, and substitute US where he said Soviets. “It is quite evident,” Clifford wrote, “that if the Soviets achieve greater accuracy with their ICBMs, together with a MIRV capability, our land-based strategic missiles will become increasingly vulnerable to a first strike.”
The most alarming aspect of this vast expansion of American striking power, as seen from the other side, must be the fact that it is accompanied by a new propaganda campaign designed to make the US feel insecure—to sell the idea that all this still is not enough. A new numbers game is being played similar to the ones which accompanied the bomber- and missile-gap campaigns. Its principal spokesman is the man Nixon picked to be Secretary of Defense, Melvin R. Laird. Through him and its multifarious lesser mouthpieces, the military-industrial complex is trying to make it appear that new “gaps” are developing, one in strategic offensive power, the other in anti-ballistic missiles, and that these threaten to change the balance of power, and to create what Nixon in the campaign melodramatically called a “survival gap,” a phrase he may regret if he should now seek to hold the military budget down.
This new campaign focuses first of all on the sharp increase in the number of Soviet ICBMs in recent years. The latest US intelligence estimates, as given by Clifford in January, credit the Soviet Union with a steep increase in ICBMs in the last two years: from 250 in mid-1966 to 570 in mid-1967 to 900 in September, 1968, as compared with the 1,054 ICBMs we have had since we decided to freeze their numbers at that level in November 1964.
It is possible that by next fall the Soviets will actually have more ICBMs than we do. By focusing simplistically just on these numbers, a new wave of near-hysteria may be whipped up. But ICBMs are not the only component of the strategic forces. And numbers are not the only thing that counts. The cryptic remark with which Clifford followed this revelation is a good starting point for assessing the realities. “We have been anticipating for some time,” Clifford reported, “a Soviet deployment of a solid-fuel ICBM. We now believe the deployment of such a missile has started, although at a relatively slow rate.” These quiet words light up an extraordinary technological missile gap in our favor. Liquid-fuel missiles are obsolete. They take about fifteen minutes to load, and they are so full of valves and controls, the chances of a nisfire are high. The solid-fuel missile can be fired in less than a minute. We have only 54 liquid-fuel ICBMs left in our arsenal, the huge Titans, still useful as big city-killers, though vulnerable to a first strike. We began to phase out the liquid-fuel Atlas and to deploy the solid-fuel Minuteman as far back as the autumn of 1962. It is startling to learn that we only now “believe,” in Clifford’s words, that the Soviets have begun to deploy a solid-fuel missile of their own, though “at a relatively slow rate.” “Their new solid-fuel ICBM,” Clifford added (p. 46), “appears to be no better than our earliest Minuteman missiles, first deployed in fiscal 1963.” Fiscal 1963 began July 1, 1962. US intelligence estimates of Soviet power are not given to understatement. If that is the best the intelligence men can say, the lag is serious indeed.
The fact is that during the past six years we have not only replaced all our liquid-fuel Atlases with solid-fuel Minutemen but introduced two new and improved models of Minuteman; the missile industry, like the automobile, believes that the way to maintain sales is to get the customer to trade in his old car every few years for a new model. Our present force consists of 600 Minuteman Is and 400 Minuteman IIs, and the Minuteman III—with MIRV, i.e., multiple warheads—is already being phased in.9
To go from Minuteman I to Minuteman III, as we have seen, is to increase the number of warheads by at least three for the same number of missiles. Even the Senate group closest to the Pentagon in outlook, the Preparedness Subcommittee of Senate Armed Services under the chairmanship of Stennis, said in its report last September 27:10
Instead of an increase in numbers of missile launches, we have planned to meet the greater and still growing Soviet threat by qualitative improvements such as Poseidon, Minuteman III, MIRVs, increased accuracy; penetration aids and silo hardening. The Joint Chiefs themselves have not recommended a quantitative increase in missiles to meet the current threat [emphasis added].
The numbers game is discounted on this more sophisticated level of discussion. What the Joint Chiefs ask, says the Stennis report, is not more missiles but “the phasing in of an advanced ICBM, which they believe would provide for the modernization [a lovely word, in two or three years a missile model is already “ancient”—IFS] of the force while increasing our total missile throw weight. Technical improvements which the Joint Chiefs foresee include better warhead design and increased reliability, survivability, penetrability and accuracy.” What the Stennis report might have added but doesn’t—the Pentagon does not like to mention the subject—is that more “throw weight” would presumably make it possible for the new ICBM to carry more warheads than Minuteman III, further multiplying our striking power.
If we MIRV, the Soviets will eventually MIRV their missiles, too. In the letter submitting his report to the full Armed Services Committee, Senator Stennis says, “of major importance in the strategic nuclear field, are the apparently well documented press reports that the Soviets have flown a multiple re-entry vehicle. This compounds our concern….” But these “press reports” apparently were not “well documented” enough to be confirmed in this year’s posture statement. In any case we are several years ahead in this technological breakthrough and have already begun to deploy Poseidons and Minuteman IIIs.
Lest it stupefy the reader, we will touch only in passing on two other components of the nuclear equation in strategic offensive forces which the new numbers game omits—the intercontinental bomber (we have 646, or four times the Soviet fleet of 150) and the underwater missiles carried by nuclear submarine. We have 656 missiles (in process of being MIRVed, as we have seen, into ten times as many warheads) as against the Soviets’ 45. When all these numbers and the technological factors are added in, the imbalance is so great that it makes talk of a new missile gap—even if the Soviets pass us in the number of ICBMs—a colossal deception. The gap in our favor is enormous.
Much the same holds true of the strategic defensive. It is true that the Russians have already built some elements of an anti-ballistic missile system around one city, Moscow, while we have yet to deploy our Sentinel at all. But their, ABM system is already obsolete, and it would be to America’s advantage if the Russians wasted scarce resources in deploying it. “Their GALOSH ABM system,” Clifford reported in January, “resembles in certain important respects the Nike-Zeus system which we abandoned years ago because of its limited effecitveness.” It is the same system Eisenhower wisely vetoed when the Joint Chiefs recommended its deployment in 1959. Even the Stennis report (p. 10) says “the fact that it has not been deployed at other cities probably indicates that Soviet officials have reservations about its effectiveness.”
Perhaps they are at last readier to learn from our experience than the present advocates of the Sentinel ABM system in this country. “Had we produced and deployed the NIKE-ZEUS system [which GALOSH resembles] proposed by the Army at an estimated cost of $13 to $14 billion,” Deputy Secretary of Defense Cyrus Vance told a Senate inquiry11 two years ago, “most of it would have had to be torn out and replaced almost before it became operational, by the new missiles and radars of the NIKE-X system. By the same token, other technological developments in offensive forces over the next…[deleted by Pentagon censor] years make obsolete or drastically degrade the NIKE-X [Sentinel] system as presently envisioned [italics added].”
Even here our planned ABM program is many times the size of the Soviets’. They are wasting money putting an already obsolete system around one city. We are on the verge—if we go ahead with Sentinel—of wasting many times that amount by deploying a soon-to-be-obsolete “thin” ABM system big enough to give a dubious “area defense” to the whole country and “point defense” to more than a dozen cities. Even in folly, we may insist on being “ahead.”
Even before the Russians finish deploying GALOSH around one city, we are preparing a further expansion of striking power big enough to overwhelm a much more extensive and up-to-date Soviet ABM when and if they deploy one. Such is the endless see-saw of the nuclear arms race.
In any discussion of “sufficiency” it is essential to take a close look at what our military think sufficient. To see the dimensions of the expansion projected for the next four years it is necessary to go back to McNamara’s final posture statement of last year and read the section entitled “Capability Against the ‘Highest Expected Threat’ in the NIE.” The NIE stands for the National Intelligence Estimates. These are agreed upon by the US Intelligence Board (of twelve separate intelligence agencies, no less!). The Board provides a range of estimates as to Soviet power in the next few years. A McNamara footnote explains (p. 57) that the “highest expected threat” is actually higher than anyone really expects, since this “is actually composed of the upper range of NIE projections for each [italics in original] element of the Soviets’ strategic forces.” That is, strategic missiles, missile-armed submarines, and bombers. “In many cases,” the footnote continues, “these represent alternatives and it is highly unlikely that all elements would ever reach the top end of the quantitative range simultaneously. Therefore, the ‘highest expected threat’ is really a greater threat than that projected in the NIE.”
With that in mind, the reader may be prepared more fully to grasp the stupendous multiplication of our retaliatory power sketched by McNamara when he says:
Even if the Soviet strategic forces by 1972 reach the higher end of the range of estimates [these are classified—IFS] projected in the latest NIEs and even if they were to assign their entire available missile force to attacks on our strategic forces (reserving only refire missiles and bomber-delivered weapons for urban targets), about one-half of our forces programmed for 1972 would survive and remain effective.
Then McNamara says:
If the Soviets expand the Moscow ABM defense and deploy the same or a similar system around other cities at the highest rate projected [again the figures are classified—IFS] in the latest NIEs, about three-quarters of our surviving weapons would detonate over their targets.
Apparently—though McNamara does not say so explicitly—some 1600 1-Megaton warheads could under those circumstances reach their target. That is four times the 400 1-Megaton warheads we mentioned earlier as enough to wreck the Soviet Union. Here McNamara inserts the table to which we earlier referred. It purports to show Soviet population and industry destroyed in such an attack in 1972, assuming a total Soviet population of 247 million, of whom 116 million would be urban. This is the horrendous table:12
We see in this table that even if only 100 warheads got through it would destroy 59 percent of Soviet industry and kill 50 percent more people in one blow than the Nazis did in the four years of World War II. If the Soviet Union published a table of this kind we would accuse them of trying to terrorize us into giving up the nuclear arms race altogether.13
As if to pile horror on horror, McNamara added: “Even if the Soviets deploy a substantial number of [additional] ABM interceptors by 1972 our strategic missile forces alone could still destroy more than two-fifths of their total population (more than 100 million people) and over three-quarters of their industrial capacity.” What an arsenal we must be building up!
McNamara goes on to explain that “these results, of course, reflect the decisions we have taken in recent years to enhance the future capabilities of our ‘Assured Destruction’ forces.” These, he says, include (1) the replacement of Polaris by Poseidon with MIRVs; (2) improved missile penetration aids, i.e., chaff and decoys to confuse the radars which set in motion the other side’s ABMs; (3) an increase in the planned number of Minuteman III ICBMs with MIRVs; (4) development of new small re-entry vehicles “to increase substantially the number of warheads or penetration aids which can be carried by a single missile”; and (5) “The development and production of SRAMs for our strategic bombers.” This last is an acronym for Short Range Attack Missiles. These would enable our intercontinental bombers to stop short of Soviet bomber defenses and fire nuclear missiles into Soviet territory.
In addition to the SRAM, the Air Force has begun a campaign for a new weapon system called SCAD (see The New York Times, February 5). These add a new horror to our alphabetical military nightmares. SCAD stands for Subsonic Cruise Armed Decoy. These are small pilotless but nuclear armed aircraft which could be launched from a carrier plane toward enemy targets from beyond the Soviet Union’s defense perimeter. One enthusiastic planner was quoted as saying, “SCAD does for bombers what the multiple warhead does for missiles—it makes the enemy’s defense problem virtually impossible.” It would take a new and larger intercontinental bomber to carry SCADS, and this is what the Air Force hopes for. The cost, of course, will be in the billions.
In the meantime SCAD is one of ten “Advanced Development Projects” for which Clifford asked almost a quarter billion dollars in additional research and development funds in the new fiscal 1970 budget. One of these is a new ABM to succeed Sentinel and a new “Underseas Long-Range Missile System” in case Soviet anti-submarine capability becomes a threat to Polaris and Poseidon. Another is an Ocean Engineering project which may take us one step further toward the new idea of hiding ICBMs under the ocean floor. The armed forces also have not yet given up the idea of using the MOL (the Manned Orbital Laboratory) as a step toward weapons in space, despite an international treaty against it. This, dear reader, only skims the surface of what is on the drawing boards and in the laboratories; we have only touched the highlights of the unclassified material on strategic weapons. We have not even touched the plans in the works for counter-insurgency, which promises new Vietnams, or such goodies as new bacteriological and chemical weapons.
For the military, there will never be “sufficiency.”
I would like to make three grave observations in conclusion.
(1) With MIRV, we are entering a new period of darkness. What I mean is this. The U-2 and the SAMOS satellite dissipated the missile gap nonsense because we could actually see and count how many ICBMs the other side had. There is no way to see from afar, or to be sure, just how many MIRVs there are on each missile. This may bring us back to that atmosphere of panicky conjecture and exaggeration so useful to the arms lobby and the military.
(2) The deployment of an ABM will make each side fearful lest the other venture a first strike, calculating that the ABM, if improved sufficiently and buttressed by fallout and blast shelters, may cut down casualties to an “acceptable” level. Each side will become more fearful of adventurism on the other.
(3) MIRVs open a new era in the arms race, and raise the threat of a first-strike capacity. If one side can, by MIRVs, obtain, let us say, a tenfold advantage over the other, it may have enough to destroy the other’s missiles—or think it has. This will take the balance out of the “balance of terror.”
McNamara implies that the MIRV was developed as an answer-in-advance to a Soviet ABM. But there is evidence that MIRV was first developed to provide capacity for a first or preemptive strike. At last year’s Senate hearings on the fiscal 1969 military budget, Senator Mansfield put a series of questions to Dr. John S. Foster, Jr., whom Laird has retained as the Pentagon’s Director of Research and Engineering. These have gone almost unnoticed but deserve close attention. Question No. 10 asked, “Is it not true that the US response to the discovery that the Soviets had made an initial deployment of an ABM system around Moscow and possibly elsewhere was to develop the MIRV system for Minuteman and Polaris?” The unexpected answer was:14
Not entirely. The MIRV concept was originally generated to increase our targeting capability rather than to penetrate ABM defenses. In 1961-62 planning for targeting the Minuteman force it was found that total number of aim points exceeded the number of Minuteman missiles. By splitting up the payload of a single missile [deleted] each [deleted] could be programmed [deleted] allowing us to cover these targets with [deleted] fewer missiles. [Deleted.] MIRV was originally born to implement the payload split-up [deleted]. It was found that the previously generated MIRV concept could equally well be used against ABM [deleted].
In 1961-62 our strategic force was far greater than the Soviet Union’s. If we then sought a MIRV in order to cover more aim points, this could only have been for a counterforce or preemptive strategy. That was the time when McNamara, as shown by his famous Ann Arbor speech of June 16, 1962, was moving in that direction. “For a short time,” General LeMay says in his new book (p. 269), “I thought we had convinced Mr. McNamara, but I soon learned how wrong we were. To be successful, such a counter-force strategy requires a clear nuclear superiority because it takes more than one missile to destroy another.” MIRV, by increasing the number of warheads manyfold (Dr. Foster admitted to Mansfield), might soon give us in the neighborhood of 10,000 warheads, in place of our present 1700 or so single-headed missiles.
At present the US has three strategic forces, each of which is big enough to strike a mortal blow at the Soviet Union even if the other two were destroyed in a first strike. If we add SCADs to our bombers and MIRVs to the Minuteman and to the nuclear submarine (Poseidon), we will have what must begin to look from the other side, with its present level of forces, like three separate strategic forces, each with a first-strike capacity. The MIRV is incomparably more unsettling to “the balance of terror” than the ABM. The MIRV is the Great Leap Forward of the nuclear arms race. McNamara put it very quietly in this colloquy before the House Appropriations Committee hearings last year on the 1969 military budget:15
Mr. Mahon [D. Tex., chairman of the committee]: I am concerned lest the Soviet Union make some kind of “quantum jump” in the development of their strategic forces…. Is it your view that neither the United States nor the Soviet Union in the next few years will come up with an entirely new weapon which will outmode present weapons?
Secretary McNamara: I think it extremely unlikely. There will be continued development in such weapons. The true significance of more recent developments are obscured somewhat by the fact that they did not involve as dramatic a physical [italics added] change as took place between the bomber and the missile. I, myself, do not agree with your statement that there are not changes going on today as important in terms of strategic capability as those that occurred between the bomber and the missile. The fact is that the destruction capability between the Atlas and the Poseidon or between the Atlas and Minuteman III, in my opinion, was substantially more than between the B-52 [our last intercontinental bomber] and the Atlas [our first intercontinental missile]. [The emphasis is added.]
Such are the incredible dimensions projected for our military machine. Unless some new agreement puts an end to the endless spiral and proliferation of new weapons and anti-weapons, it will devour an ever increasing share of the material and scientific resources on both sides and make war, should it come, many times more destructive. When Nixon accepted “sufficiency” instead of “superiority,” suspended work on the Sentinel ABM and ordered a review of the defense budget, sent the nuclear non-proliferation treaty to the Senate and declared his intention to hold missile talks with the Russians, he began to stir hopes which run counter to everything he said in the campaign. Has he the resolution, even if he should want to, to confront the Pentagon and its formidable allies, including his own Secretary of Defense? Or will all this fizzle out into a tactical and temporary retreat to disarm the strongest wave of opposition the country has yet seen to military spending and the ABM? We should know the answer soon with Nixon’s decision on the Sentinel and his review of the defense budget.
(This is the third article in a series on America’s military establishment.)
March 27, 1969
Nixon’s “Security Gap” speech, CBS, October 24, 1968. ↩
Air Force and Space Digest, February 1969, which was prepared before the Inaugural. ↩
Agenda for the Nation, Doubleday, 632 pp., $3.50. ↩
The Future of the Strategic Arms Race: Options for the 1970s by George W. Rathjens, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, New York, 1969, $.60. This was released two days after the Nixon press conference. The Carnegie Endowment called attention to the fact that its pamphlet had also advocated “sufficiency.” ↩
Quarles, now dead, was the object of constant denigration by Joseph Alsop, the main journalistic purveyor of this nightmare and of its successor, the “missile gap.” On April 24, 1959, Alsop attacked Quarles as “Mr. Missile Gap,” when Alsop feared Quarles might become Secretary of Defense. ↩
America Is in Danger, by General Curtis E. LeMay, Funk & Wagnalls, 1968, 352 pp., $5.95, p. 88. ↩
For the morbid, it is worth adding that despite this vast nuclear arsenal we also allocated more than $190 billion to our general purpose forces during the same eight years. The total assigned in those eight years to “defense” (surely it deserves quotation marks in this context) was more than $500 billion or half a trillion dollars! ↩
At the same time McNamara warned, ” ‘superiority’ is of little significance. For even with any ‘superiority’ realistically attainable, the blunt, inescapable fact remains that the Soviet Union could still effectively destroy the United States, even after absorbing the full weight of an American first strike . Under these circumstances, surely it makes sense for us both to try to halt the momentum of the arms race which is causing vast expenditures on both sides and promises no increase in security” (pp. 52-53, final posture statement, 1969 budget). In a similar vein Clifford warned in his final posture statement for fiscal 1970 (p. 49), “We stand on the eve of a new round in the armaments race with the Soviet Union, a race which will contribute nothing to the real security of either side while increasing substantially the already great defense burdens of both.” No such sentiments have ever been expressed by their successor, whose book, America’s Strategy Gap: A House Divided, Regnery, 1962, 180 pp., $4.95, is a Goldwaterite “better dead than Red” manifesto. ↩
Status of US Strategic Power. A Report by the Preparedness Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, 90th Congress, 2nd Session, September 27, 1968, p. 11. ↩
Ibid., pp. 11-12. ↩
US Armament and Disarmament Problems. Hearings before the [Gore] Subcommittee on Disarmament of Senate Foreign Relations, February 3 to March 3, 1967, 90th Congress, First Session, p. 58. ↩
Underline in original because, as McNamara explains, “beyond 400 would not meaningfully change the amount of damage.” ↩
A more than adequate substitute is provided—with majestic objectivity—by McNamara himself in a table on p. 64 showing the number of fatalities on both sides in the event of an “all-out strategic exchange” in the mid-1970s. This shows that even if the US built up offensive and defensive forces to a maximum so-called Posture B, including an anti-missile defense, which he says would probably end by costing $40 billion, the Soviets, by a maximum program of their own, adding MIRVs and penetration aids, plus 550 mobile ICBMs, could kill 90 million Americans even if we struck first! Mobile ICBMs, constantly moving around on vehicles, would be almost impossible for an enemy to target. ↩
Senate Appropriations Committee Hearings on the Department of Defense Budget for Fiscal 1969, 90th Congress, 2nd Session, Part 4, p. 2310. All the deletions are in the original, as made by the Pentagon’s censors. ↩
Op. cit., Part 1, pp. 251-2. ↩