George Shultz
George Shultz; drawing by David Levine


The first negotiating position on nuclear arms put forward by the Reagan administration during its first term was the late and unlamented “zero option.” It implied that the Soviets would destroy the intermediate nuclear weapons targeted on Europe that they had already put in place. In exchange for this the Americans would not deploy in Europe intermediate nuclear weapons targeted on the Soviet Union. Hardly anyone else, least of all the Soviets, took it seriously or as anything other than a self-evident indication that the United States was not seeking to negotiate seriously. The only reason for recalling it now is that it helps to get some perspective on the position that has been emerging.

The new negotiating position in the second term of the Reagan administration is still going through the usual bureaucratic birth pangs. Meanwhile, however, some consensus seems to have been reached within the administration about the conceptual setting for such a policy. Whether orchestrated or not, something resembling a coherent campaign for a seemingly different approach was launched in advance of the Shultz–Gromyko meeting on January 7–8. Two articles were particularly revealing. Both appeared in Foreign Affairs, Winter 1984/1985, often used for programmatic pronouncements by leading officials here and abroad. They are: “Arms Control With and Without Agreements” by Kenneth L. Adelman, director of the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency; and “Living With the Soviets” by Paul H. Nitze, newly appointed special adviser to Secretary of State George Shultz.

That two key officials should simultaneously come forth with variations on the same general theme suggests that we are dealing here with more than random individual inspiration. Such an apparent meeting of minds, even if from different directions and with different emphases, indicates that some sort of negotiating attitude has been forming in influential circles. Apart from what they may tell us about the long-range outlook within the Reagan administration, these articles also raise central issues in any consideration of nuclear-arms negotiations. These issues will haunt us long after the new negotiating position joins the zero option in the nuclear inferno or wherever old nuclear negotiating positions go after they have exhausted their usefulness.


The articles by Adelman and Nitze seem to be studies in ambivalence. They start by going in one direction and end by going in another.

Most of Adelman’s article would lead a reader to believe that arms-control agreements have worked out very poorly in the past and that there is no reason to expect anything better in the future. His first sentence sets the tone: “Of all the emotions arising from strategic arms control today, the most profound is disappointment.” No significant arms-control treaty is “perfectly verifiable”; the “force structures” of the US and USSR are so different that it is most difficult, “even with good faith and Herculean efforts,” to make them amenable to comparable reductions or trade-offs; frequent changes of leadership, first in the United States and then in the Soviet Union, upset the continuity and consistency necessary for satisfactory agreements. Such gloomy lessons of the past and forebodings of the future make up most of this article.

If one stopped reading six-sevenths of the way through Adelman’s article, one would get the impression that the obstacles to nuclear-arms control are so “staggering” that they are hardly likely to be overcome next time. Then, suddenly, a glimmer of light dimly appears through the enveloping darkness. It takes the form of a slogan—“arms control without agreements.”1

The article now develops the paradoxical idea of a nonagreed agreement or an informal nonagreement that would serve the same end as a formal agreement. This trick would be accomplished by having each side take some initiative, expecting the other side to follow suit. To make the new dispensation even more attractive, we are assured that “the focus should be on areas or strategic systems of greatest military importance.”

If ever there was a pie-in-the-sky offering to people who are starving for simple antinuclear sustenance, it is this. Most of the conditions that Adelman carefully sets up as virtually insuperable obstacles to agreed-on arms control are mysteriously waived for the benefit of nonagreed arms control. What happened to the indispensable need for effective verification? Or the built-in difference in “force structures,” which makes them so resistant to comparable reductions or trade-offs? If such impenetrable obstacles do not exist for nonagreements, even for nuclear systems “of the greatest military importance,” why should they exist for agreements? If, by some miracle, the two sides can adopt “parallel policies” merely by talking informally or by force of example, what prevents them from agreeing to the same parallel policies in a manner that enables them to know exactly what they are agreeing to?

This deus ex machina of nonagreed arms control is so far-fetched that it cannot be taken literally. If it has any rational explanation at all, it must be concealed in its implications for the forthcoming negotiations. Arms control with agreements has, from this point of view, one fatal defect—it requires successful negotiation. Arms control without agreements has one irresistible attraction—it does not require successful negotiation. In truth, most objections to agreed-on arms control hold many times over for non-agreements—the difficulty, for example, of knowing what the agreements really are, or how they can be parallel in their implementation, or how compliance could be verified even with alleged implementation. If Adelman’s plan is not a mere hoax or pure folly, it is meaningful only in the six-sevenths of his article devoted to discrediting arms control with agreements and not in the oneseventh fostering the illusion of arms control without agreements. In the end, both programs must overcome the same obstacles and prove themselves in the same way. Mutual arms control may be futile, but if so it is just as futile without agreements as with them.


Adelman’s ambivalence, however, has some method in it. Otherwise the director of the US Arms Control and Disarmament Agency would not have chosen to come out with a scheme for bypassing agreements in advance of a Soviet-American meeting to negotiate on whether to negotiate.


Nitze’s article also seems to be ambivalent. His subject is somewhat different but closely related in intention.

The first half of his article tells how difficult “living with the Soviets” is. When it comes to talking about peace, the two sides can hardly communicate because the word means different things to each of them. Arms-control negotiations have failed because a “clash of concepts” has prevented them from reaching “an equitable and acceptable solution.”

But then the article takes an abrupt and surprising turn. As if he were making a desperate effort to avoid giving up all hope, Nitze suggests that the “proximate aim” of arms control should be based on the “policy” of “live and let live.” This revelation soon leads him to a variant of Adelman’s substitute for real negotiations and a real agreement. Adelman’s “parallel policies” become Nitze’s “complementary actions.” As if he had forgotten how he had demonstrated the difficulty of talking the same arms-control language as the Soviets, Nitze now puts his faith in “constructive discussions” that would lead “to action on one side, concurrent with action on the other.” Out of these “constructive discussions” and concurrent or complementary actions would come “a number of significant and mutually advantageous trade-offs” in arms control. In effect, the article first plunges the reader into the deepest gloom only to open up a prospect of hope and cheer.

Here again the two parts of the article fit together so badly that we must conclude either that the author was hopelessly torn by contradictory views or that one view is but a decoy for the other. What are we really supposed to understand by this strange patchwork of pessimism and optimism?

The key is in the words “live and let live.” It is, of course, no more than a moral slogan or exhortation on the order of “love thy neighbor.” It cannot conceivably serve as a guide to “policy” in this treacherous and complex field. It had previously appeared, as the “concept” to liberate us from the stranglehold of nuclear weapons, in the book Weapons and Hope by Freeman Dyson, published early in 1984, excerpts of which came out in The New Yorker the previous year. Its well-meaning but thoroughly muddled treatment of the nuclear-arms problem would seem to be a strange source for Nitze’s latest cogitations.2 Even more remarkably, the same slogan was approvingly picked up by the ubiquitous Soviet spokesman, Georgi Arbatov, in an American television interview.3 A banality that unites people so different as Dyson, Nitze, and Arbatov must be empty of practical content and can be made to mean anything or nothing.

Yet it is hard to believe that it means little or nothing if hardheaded characters like Nitze and Arbatov can adopt it as their own. The clue is in the current enthusiasm for “trade-offs.” The previous negotiations were not sufficiently adapted for trade-offs because their boundaries were more narrowly defined. Trade-offs need “umbrella” negotiations in which a wide range of issues can be discussed. When President Reagan came out for umbrella negotiations in September 1983, the scene was set for a deal in which both sides could choose what they wished to keep and what they were willing to sacrifice. The real meaning of “live and let live” is “arm and let arm.” Out of umbrella negotiations will come—if anything does come—trade-offs that appear to give something to everyone—public opinion will be appeased by offering it reductions or delayed development in some categories; the nuclear warriors on both sides will continue to maintain or experiment with what they want the most; “bargaining chips” will cover up the flaws and flimflams in the wheeling and dealing of weaponry; and it will all end up with a solemn commitment to do better the next time.


And if the forthcoming negotiations get nowhere, there is always the fallback position of Adelman’s “parallel policies” and Nitze’s “complementary actions” without a negotiated agreement. We may be closer to this fallback position than appeared likely immediately after the Gromyko–Shultz meeting because the next phase may well be an argument over what they agreed upon rather than an agreed-upon negotiation.4


If the negotiators have such little faith in negotiation, why do they continue to negotiate or pretend to do so? The answer was given by Adelman: “People in the United States and around the world expect Washington and Moscow to address and redress the nuclear buildup.”

The reason is political, not military. The problem of nuclear arms has become the supreme political symbol. If the Soviets walk out of negotiations, a political tremor circles the globe. The walkout changed little or nothing of substance; both sides were overarmed as much before the walkout as afterward. Yet the mere agreement to talk about engaging in more such talk set off such waves of hopefulness that Henry Kissinger announced the second coming of détente.

Kissinger’s case is another example of apparent ambivalence, only in reverse order. Adelman and Nitze started pessimistically and ended grasping at a straw of optimism. Kissinger first greeted the assumed resumption of arms-control talks in Geneva as part of “an essentially irrevocable process indistinguishable in substance from what used to be called détente.”5 Since détente is essentially a political relationship, Kissinger’s response to the prospect of the Gromyko-Shultz talks in Geneva demonstrated how politically charged nuclear-arms negotiations, even of the most tenuous kind, have become.

Having made détente inherent in nuclear-arms talks, Kissinger then moved in the opposite direction by expressing doubts about the value both of détente and of the prospective talks. The easing of tensions, he cautioned, provides no more than an “essentially psychological relief,” a change of tone but not of substance. Most of his article was devoted to raising all sorts of doubts about such issues as verifiability and the technological advances which, he believed, had made traditional arms-control theory “obsolescent.” The best that he could come up with to get out of this dismal state of affairs was to call for another “bipartisan commission to define the basic options for the president and his senior advisers,” as if that had not been the task of the recent Scowcroft Commission. Somehow Kissinger had succeeded in blowing hot and cold at the same time, as Adelman and Nitze had done. Something about the prospect of negotiations must produce a peculiarly ambivalent response.

But détente must be in the Washington air, because it had occurred not long before to another high authority, Professor Robert W. Tucker of Johns Hopkins, not usually one to be contented with such a mild prescription. “Willy-nilly,” Tucker discovered, the Reagan administration has been “propelled in the direction of moderate détente.” Yet he saw “comprehensive and formal” arms-control agreements further away than ever. Still, there was no need to give up all hope. The same ambivalence that saved Adelman from despair came to Tucker’s rescue. In the end, Tucker also found it possible to look forward to “parallel policies” rather than to formal agreements and to the very “arms control without agreements” that Adelman had proposed. Thus Tucker lined up with Adelman and Nitze in favor of a negotiating strategy that virtually conceded the failure of arms-control agreements in advance and provided a comforting way of getting the same thing without agreement. Nitze’s “live and let live” suspiciously resembles a translation of the Kissinger–Tucker “détente.” The long arm of coincidence could hardly get any longer.6

This is apparently the “soft line” within the ambiance of the Reagan administration. It was a “shock” to Irving Kristol to learn that Paul Nitze “hoped to come to some sort of ‘live and let live’ agreement with the Soviets.”7 The surprise here is not that Kristol was shocked by Nitze but that Kristol can still be shocked. Clearly Tucker and Nitze have committed disciplinary deviations from the neoconservative party line.

If this is the “soft line” within the administration, what is the “hard line”? It can be gathered from articles by Henry S. Rowen and Kristol.

Rowen is an old hand at this business. He goes as far back in it as the early 1950s; he served most recently as chairman of the National Intelligence Council between 1981 and 1983. Rowen, like his long-time colleague, Albert Wohlstetter, advocates the development of “discriminate” nuclear weapons capable of destroying “key Soviet facilities with confidence.” We must, according to Rowen, “exploit fully our technological superiority in making smarter, more accurate more controllable, ‘stealthier’ weapons.”8

The two schools of thought are not as far apart as they may seem to be. The “soft line” is that it is necessary to go through the motions of negotiating at Geneva but without expecting anything very meaningful to come of it. The “hard line” believes, as Rowen puts it, that “we could do worse than have four more years of palaver while each side pursues its own programs; at least that would be better than signing more bad agreements.” He does not rule out some possible agreements of a marginal nature, but one thing must not even be negotiated—“to shrink nuclear forces.” No important US objective relating to the balance or role of nuclear forces “is obtainable through any remotely feasible arms-control agreement.” Full speed ahead, in effect, with the development of our favorite nuclear weapons, and no palaver about arms control with or without agreements.

The real difference between the “hard” and “soft” lines is political. The mere words “live and let live” shock Kristol because, he says, they imply that the Soviets may also be ready to “live and let live.” This is an “illusion” that Kristol had thought a Reagan administration least likely to have, and he sadly acknowledges that “apparently, this is not the case.” As for negotiations themselves, Kristol, like Rowen, is perfectly satisfied to have them “drag on, tediously and endlessly and pointlessly.” This prospect, he cheerfully reflects, “will dispose of the arms-control issue for the rest of this administration’s term in office.”

As soon as “live and let live” is translated into “arm and let arm,” Kristol and Nitze are not so far apart. Kristol can see only the Soviets going ahead to gain “military predominance.” Nitze implicitly recognizes that both sides will play the same game, and each must live with the other while doing so. Nor is there any great difference between the present negotiating attitude and that of the hapless zero option. Both would pay the same lip service to negotiations that are not expected to go anywhere.


I, too, have long held that nuclear weapons do not lend themselves to serious arms-control negotiations. To that extent, I share the view of the naysayers. Our difference is in the reasons for skepticism and the implications for policy. These differences set us far apart.

One reason for my skepticism is that control of nuclear weapons cannot be arrived at numerically. Yet negotiations inevitably turn on balancing numbers of this weapon or that. Nuclear weapons cannot be added or subtracted as if each represented a discrete, measurable amount of destructiveness. “Conventional” weapons were more manageable. A force of 10,000 tanks could overcome a force of 5,000 if the exchange were one for one or even three for two; the larger force would still have 5,000 or 2,500 left against none for the smaller. Such a calculation cannot be applied to nuclear weapons. A nuclear force of 10,000 warheads has no similar advantage over one of 5,000 warheads. The damage that can be inflicted by 5,000 warheads is so unimaginably great that it matters little whether more damage can be inflicted by 10,000 warheads.

This simple but fundamental principle of nuclear warfare was recognized early in the nuclear-arms era. It was put concretely by Robert Oppenheimer in 1953: “The very least we can conclude is that our twenty-thousandth bomb, useful as it may be in filling the vast munitions pipelines of a great war, will not in any deep strategic sense offset their two-thousandth.”9 It was expressed in a more homely way by President Eisenhower two years later: “There comes a time, possibly, when a lead is not significant in the defensive arrangements of a country. If you get enough of a particular type of weapon, I doubt that it is particularly important to have a lot more of it.”10 In 1960, according to Eisenhower’s science adviser, Professor George B. Kistiakowsky, a discussion took place in the National Security Council at which Eisenhower was told that the United States could produce almost four hundred Minuteman missiles a year. With “obvious disgust,” Eisenhower burst out: “Why don’t we go completely crazy and plan on a force of 10,000?”11 Little could he imagine how “crazy” we might become.

In 1978, General Maxwell D. Taylor, the former Army chief of staff and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, repudiated “the fixation on weapon numbers,” which encouraged “a senseless arms race for numerical parity or superiority.” He advocated a more rational and effective policy based on “the destructive potential of our forces,” to be determined by the level necessary for mutual deterrence, not by “seeking decisive superiority in all categories of military strength, nuclear and conventional.”12 And in the Winter 1981/1982 issue of Foreign Affairs, two distinguished authorities with long experience in the field, Spurgeon M. Keeny, Jr., and Wolfgang K. H. Panofsky, wrote: “A devastating attack on the urban societies of the United States and Soviet Union would in fact require only a very small fraction of the more than 50,000 nuclear weapons currently in the arsenals of the two superpowers.”13

Theorists have tried to work out some measure other than a numerical scale for nuclear weapons without making much impression on policy makers, who need something simple and easily communicable to grasp. In the end, deals must be reduced to so many weapons on one side traded for so many—often different—weapons on the other. When differences develop over numbers, they can be settled by splitting the difference, as happened in the SALT I negotiations in Moscow in 1972. Experts who get too finicky and troublesome, as Gerard Smith did in the SALT I negotiations, are shunted aside by political operators, as Smith was by Kissinger at that time. The celebrated “walk-in-the-woods” transaction in Geneva in July 1982 between Paul Nitze and Yuli Kvitsinsky was a numerical “package deal”—a sure sign that neither one gave away anything significant, despite the displeasure of their masters in Moscow and Washington. The proudest boast of the best deal is that it has put a “cap” on one or another category, another give-away that more would be wasteful or that something else would be more desirable.

If this is what we face, why do both sides go on piling up and developing more of these weapons? Where is the momentum coming from?

Much of the momentum derives from the very process of negotiation. One of the major causes has been technological.

In SALT I, it was believed by the Americans that the Soviets wanted most of all to get an ABM (Anti-Ballistic Missile) agreement, for which they were willing to make some concessions. In SALT II, the Soviets came to the negotiations with a disturbing ability to MIRV or put multiple warheads on their most threatening intercontinental ballistic missiles, and the Americans appeared with a development of Cruise missiles that apparently worried the Soviets the most. At present, the Soviets seem most determined to cut off the so-called Strategic Defense Initiative (“Star Wars”) and anti-satellite (ASAT) programs of the United States. The Americans seem to think that these programs will give the US the edge in coming negotiations. In all these cases, the negotiations have been conducted in the shadow of new nuclear technologies which have dominated the tactics and trading of both sides.

Both sides have been unable to resist the temptation to achieve some sort of technological advantage of a supposedly offensive or defensive character. The Soviets made such an apparently offensive move by taking up the originally American MIRVing technique and multiplying warheads far beyond what the Americans had thought of doing. Now the United States has made an apparently defensive move by proposing to develop systems for shooting down high-flying missiles (SDI) or satellites (ASAT). In the past, already developed technologies were at stake; this is the first time a technology whose feasibility is unknown may dominate future negotiations.

The technological temptation is greatest for the United States because it considers itself to be technologically more advanced than the Soviet Union. This is the main reason why hard-liners like Rowen are so enthusiastic about pushing ahead with Cruise missiles and SDI whatever the cost to arms control. Rowen says what others think and do about exploiting to the fullest our technological superiority. The Rowen approach is refreshing. He at least spares us the will-o’-the-wisp of nonagreed agreements. He has no use for fairy tales about the vital need for 11,000 offensive warheads and 2,000 delivery vehicles. He does not pretend that the MX is more than “a marginal project.” He simply wishes to let nothing stand in the way of developing whatever he thinks may do us the most good. The all-important thing for Rowen is that we should “get it on our own.”

The real rationale for our Star Wars program is precisely the full exploitation of our vaunted technological superiority. The defensive apologia that has been given to it is a travesty of military principles and practice. There is no such thing as a pure, isolated, absolute defense or defensive weapon. Every weapon, even land mines, can be used defensively or offensively, depending on the circumstances.14 An arms race to develop “defensive” weapons is just as much an arms race as one to develop “offensive” weapons. When a new system of weaponry is developed, no one knows what the final outcome will be in offensive as well as defensive potentiality. A one-sided defensive advantage is tantamount to a potentially crushing offensive capacity, because the other side’s offensive can be blunted while one’s own offensive weapons remain theoretically immune from the same protective screen. Whether or not Star Wars is going to be a technological triumph or a colossal waste of money, it betrays a still-unquenched American hankering to exploit a technological superiority or competitive advantage. Apparently nothing has been learned from the MIRV experience, which started in exactly the same way as a move to gain an American lead and ended with a Soviet countermove that out-MIRVed the original MIRVers.

On the political side, the negotiators themselves engage much of the time in a dialogue of the deaf. The Americans spend so much time and energy negotiating with themselves that they have little left for anything else. The Reagan administration, the worst offender in this respect, took sixteen months to arrive at any kind of a negotiating position at the opening talks during Reagan’s first term. The Soviets hardly negotiate at all. They rarely make concrete proposals; they prefer to leave them to the Americans; even when they want a proposal, they suggest that the Americans should make it.

This procedure does not tie the Soviets down to anything and forces the Americans to make and remake proposals if they want the negotiation to go forward at all. The Soviet negotiating attitude is: what will you offer us that we can accept? No such thought is given to what the Soviets will offer that the United States can accept. Soviet negotiators do not generally come with a negotiating position; they seem to be required to find out what may be the best deal they can get from the other side before referring it to Moscow for a decision—and then it is usually turned down as not good enough. A British ambassador in Moscow is said to have described negotiating with the Soviets as similar to putting a coin in a faulty slot machine: nothing comes out. You can shake the machine but you waste your time talking to it. Soviet public opinion, peace movements, and other such nuisances do not count in influencing how the Soviet machine works. Yet the Soviets often get credit for the best of intentions, and the United States gets more than its share of the blame.15

All in all, the best thing that can be said of nuclear-arms negotiations is that they make most people feel better—all except those hard-liners who regard them as a waste of time but still spend much of their time worrying about them. Making people feel better is, however, not the real task of negotiations; it is to make them feel safer, or better yet, be safer.


I have left for last a defense of Star Wars by Professor G.A. Keyworth, President Reagan’s science adviser.16 Keyworth, an official who is or should be more knowledgeable about these matters than the others, makes three points at the center of this controversy. The last point should lead us directly to another and better way to go.

The first point deals with one of the most persistent and most frightening of the threats supposedly presented by the Soviets’ nuclear-arms buildup. It is the claim that only the Soviet Union has the long-range missiles capable of launching a preemptive first strike against the United States, which does not have the same means to threaten the Soviet Union in the same way.17 Much of the propaganda for Star Wars hinges on this allegedly one-sided Soviet threat.

But, according to Keyworth, “inevitable advances in technology have now put both superpowers’ retaliatory forces at risk to preemptive attack” (italics in original). In effect, the Soviets have as much to fear from a first strike as we do. That is not what we have been led to believe by self-appointed experts in our newspapers and magazines.

Keyworth’s next point follows from his first: “Common sense would show that even an initial ballistic missile defense makes a first strike virtually inconceivable by either side.” Just what this “initial” defense would entail is not altogether clear. It presumably refers to a first phase of Star Wars in which landbased missiles would be protected by means of some new technology worked out in the course of developing the full Star Wars system. President Reagan has made the initial objective even more confusing by limiting it to “research,” which could hardly by itself make a first strike “virtually inconceivable,” as Keyworth claims. The scientific and technological promoters of Star Wars are evidently saying one thing and the political salesmen are saying something else. Whatever the “initial phase” may be, it is apparently being pushed not for its own sake but to sell the entire Star Wars enterprise because the main thing now is to get it started.

Yet Keyworth’s claim for the effectiveness of an initial ballistic missile defense is itself enough to make one wonder why the whole visionary program should be necessary. The aim of both is ostensibly to prevent a successful first strike. If the initial phase could make a first strike “virtually inconceivable by either side,” why is any succeeding phase necessary? Why cause such a ruckus—over a program that will cost so much and need so much more time to develop, with such dubious ultimate chance of success—if a much more modest, shorter-term, far less expensive means could serve the same end?18

We now come to Keyworth’s third and most significant point. His argument goes that with both superpowers at risk of a preemptive attack and with a first strike made virtually inconceivable by even an initial, partial antiballistic missile defense, then:

This would return us to an era when ballistic missiles represented a retaliatory deterrent, not a preemptive threat. That, in turn, provides a path to balanced reductions in missiles to the point where both sides need maintain only small numbers in purely retaliatory roles.

It all seems so simple. First, it must be assumed that both sides have the same antiballistic missile defense, or one side would gain an intolerable “defensive” advantage over the other. With such a defense, both sides could shoot down enough incoming missiles to make a first strike “virtually inconceivable.” In that case, they would realize that they had no use for those “offensive” missiles and would be willing to get rid of them. At that point, they would need “only small numbers” for deterrence.

Unfortunately, both sides will not have the same antiballistic missile defense unless both sides engage in a mad race to develop one simultaneously. Yet the very reason for the United States to undertake it immediately can only be its present technological superiority. The United States must thus be motivated to get there first. After the expenditure of untold billions of dollars and the unlimited consumption of resources over uncounted years, the United States would finally be willing to hand over its new advantage to the Soviets, as President Reagan has blithely suggested, even though another president and another Congress will then be in office, and it would be necessary to blow up the Pentagon to make its guardians give away such a priceless military treasure. And nothing like this could happen unless the Soviets were willing to wait patiently to be the beneficiary of American nuclear altruism.

When has such a fantasy ever been proposed as a serious basis for negotiations between two great powers? Yet there is something most valuable that can be rescued from this farrago of absurdities. It is buried in Keyworth’s scheme for making those thousands of the most dangerous missiles unnecessary.

There is another word for it: redundancy. The logic of Star Wars, according to Keyworth, is that an antiballistic missile defense would make those missiles useless and thereby clear “a path to balanced reductions.” In effect, Star Wars is a technical gimmick to make most of the weapons in the present arsenals of both sides useless, unnecessary, redundant. Only in that way could it work its wonders in behalf of arms control, deterrence, reductions. Once this has come about, both sides will need “only small numbers.”

But what have we had all this time if not redundancy? What were Oppenheimer, Eisenhower, Taylor, Keeny, and Panofsky thinking about, some of them decades ago, if not redundancy? Why is Star Wars necessary to make most of those 50,000 weapons redundant? Isn’t there an easier, cheaper, and safer way?

It is the struggle for power that makes negotiations a mockery of arms control, because negotiations are only a continuation of the struggle for power by other means. If there is to be arms control, it will not come about this way. It will come about when each nuclear super-power acts in its own best self-interest, not influenced by what it thinks it must do to prepare for or get ahead in competitive negotiations. It is simple sanity and plain self-interest to recognize that nuclear competition serves no useful purpose. It is the competitive element that feeds this monster, and negotiations are in practice another form that the competition takes.

Thus—to come back to our starting point—there are two ways of looking at arms control without agreements. One seeks to liberate itself from agreements in order to pursue a policy of “arm and let arm” in the guise of “live and let live.” The other seeks to get out of the blind alley of competitive negotiations and put the responsibility on each nuclear power based on the limits needed for deterrence instead of on an unlimited striving for advantage and superiority.

As Dr. Keyworth says, “Both sides need maintain only small numbers in purely retaliatory roles” as soon as they realize that most of their weapons and warheads have been made exorbitantly redundant. The nuclear powers can so ravage each other with “only small numbers” of what they have now that there is no need to wait on Star Wars for this realization to sink in.

In The New York Review of Books of July 15, 1982, I wrote:

The best that can be hoped for, in the present circumstances, is a policy of plain, simple, and sufficient deterrence which any nuclear power can determine for itself. Such a course might be contagious, because it is saner, safer, and cheaper. It could also lead to reductions in the present scale of nuclear arms, if both sides calmed down and rationally decided what was best for them. But the main thing is that it does not depend on what others do. It puts the responsibility where it belongs—on each nuclear power, without alibis, scapegoats, trade-offs, loopholes, declarations of good intentions, bilateral freezes, double talk, or reinventing the world.

I have seen no need to change my mind.

January 14, 1985

This Issue

February 14, 1985