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Why the world will not disarm — why there will be peace anyway

If our only hope is disarmament, humanity is doomed.
Fortunately, it isn't.


DOES PEACE — your Survival — depend on the outcome of negotiations between the United States and the U.S.S.R. in Geneva?

Does the fate of the world rest on what a few dozen arms experts from the United States and Soviet Union do around a conference table?

A whole school of "peace" experts would certainly say so.


One View

A considerable body of opinion says the only hope for human survival lies in disarmament. This school of thought is best represented by Frank Barnaby of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), when he says:

"If our civilization is to survive there really is no feasible alternative to nuclear disarmament." (Emphasis added)

The view is also represented by British opposition leader Michael Foot, when he tells a disarmament rally, "Only by disarmament can we properly protect our people."

Now look at the facts as they are.


Neither Trust nor Good intentions

Disarmament absolutely requires mutual trust. While, of course, there are those — particularly in the European Peace Movement — who would not object if the Soviet Union had the only nuclear weapons on the continent, a political majority in most countries in Western Europe still favor having enough power to remain independent of the Soviet Union. Thus disarmament cannot be, as they say, unilateral. One side cannot do it alone.

In his speech on disarmament President Reagan said, "We cannot reduce arms unilaterally. Success can only come if the Soviet Union will share our commitment." And during Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev's trip to Bonn last November, his spokesman declared, "We have no weapon we do not wish to part with, if this were mutual."

Yet each superpower clearly does not trust the other not to take advantage of weakness. Thus, in February, 1981, the Soviet Union's defense minister Dmitry Ustinov charged that the United States had "plans" to launch a "preemptive nuclear" attack against the USSR and East bloc nations to gain global superiority.

On the American side, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger characterized Russian goals in Europe as menacing:

"The Soviets have no higher goal than undoing the December 1979 decision [of the U.S. to deploy midrange missiles in Europe], leaving themselves with an undeterred capability to wage or threaten nuclear war in Europe."

Because of such mistrust, disarmament negotiations often become perverse games of numbers juggling.


A MAD Doctrine

What is it that prevents the Soviet Union from launching an attack on the United States?

Even to ask the question subverts the idea of disarmament. The question itself implies that the Soviets just might do it if they could get away with it. It assumes that there is a component to human nature that not many in the peace movement even care to acknowledge: the desire on the part of the Soviet leaders to bring all the world under their domination.

So what does prevent such an attack? In a word — fear; fear that enough U.S. forces would survive to be used to devastate the attacker.

But what happens if the first attack successfully destroyed America's own nuclear weapons — before they could ever be used?

The principle of attacking the other side's weapons is not new. In 1914, before bombers came into widespread use in military arsenals, Winston Churchill wrote: "The great defense against aerial menace is to attack the enemy's aircraft as near as possible to their point of departure." Today, the same principle would mean attacking the enemy's missiles while they were still in the ground, or the enemy's bombers before they could take off, or the enemy's submarines before they could launch their missiles.

It is this fear — that the other side could disarm your side before you could get your own forces off the ground — which fuels the nuclear "arms race."

That's why the big stumbling block in the SALT II agreement was verifiability. Bluntly, a majority of the American Senate was afraid that the Soviets would cheat on the agreement and gain the ability to launch a nuclear attack without having to worry about the American response.

To prevent such a surprise attack, American nuclear war "experts" developed the idea of "mutual assured destruction" — MAD for short.

The idea is that neither power would dare launch a nuclear attack against the other because if it did, it would suffer devastation from the other side's "second strike." Of course, the idea depended on the other side having enough forces left after the first attack to launch that second strike — something which America might not possess if Soviet weapons ever became accurate enough to destroy American weapons before those weapons even get off the ground!

For its part, the United States has been willing to give the Soviets a guarantee that it would never launch a surprise nuclear attack against the Soviet Union.

In the 1960s the United States deliberately dismantled its air defenses! It is a simple fact that Soviet bombers (or anyone else's for that matter) could attack major American cities undetected because of gaps in America's radar network and America's almost total lack of surface-to-air missiles with which to shoot those bombers down.

Thus, a U.S. attack on the Soviet Union could never work because if even only a few Soviet bombers were to survive, they almost certainly would penetrate American airspace to destroy a number of American cities — something politically impossible for an American President to allow.

MAD explains why no nuclear weapons have been exploded since World War II. There was absolutely no chance a Soviet surprise attack could successfully disarm the United States: retaliation was sure. But MAD means a perpetual arms race; if the United States ever allows its forces to come to the point where the USSR could disarm those forces in a surprise attack, nuclear war would be possible. Thus each side must continually build "better" and more accurate weapons. MAD's critics wonder, "This is the way to peace?"


No Soviet Guarantees

Unlike the United States, the Soviet Union has not given any tangible guarantee that it would not launch a surprise attack. The Soviets have not so structured their nuclear forces that they would be vulnerable to a second strike from the country they attacked. Instead, the Soviet Union has only given verbal statements it would never attack anyone.

Thus Soviet President Brezhnev told interviewers for Der Spiegel: "I can declare that the Soviet Union will under no circumstances employ nuclear weapons against states that forego production and acquisition of such arms and don't have them stationed on their territory. We are ready to guarantee that to any country, without exception, by treaty."

Notice! "Guarantee . . . by treaty." Suppose the USSR broke the treaty? What would the attacked nation do? Shake a piece of paper at incoming bombers?

At another time, TASS news agency commentator Yuri Kornilov declared: "The Soviet Union needs no war, does not threaten anyone and is not going to attack anyone."

The problem, in a nutshell, is that the world has only their words. That's all. Just their unenforceable promise.

No wonder hard-headed military planners — men in whose care the very survival of nations is entrusted — find they must look at the other side's ability, not its stated intentions. If a nation builds its military forces as if it planned a surprise attack, yet all the while proclaims its peaceful intentions, it cannot be trusted.

At one point in a conversation with West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, Brezhnev reportedly said: "We never wanted to be stronger than anyone else. And we do not have that aim now. We have no thought of attacking anyone." Yet over the past 15 years the USSR has engaged in the greatest military buildup in peace-time history. In almost every category of weaponry, numbers of long-range missiles, numbers of mid-range missiles, total power of warheads, numbers of tanks, infantry and planes, the Soviet Union long ago became stronger than anyone else.

While the U.S. still leads in number of aircraft carriers and total number of warheads, even its lead in warheads is expected to disappear by the mid to late 1980s. Unlike the United States, the Soviet Union never dismantled its air defense system as a guarantee it would never strike first. Combine this fact with the Soviet buildup of 308 super-accurate SS-18 missiles — capable of destroying hardened missile silos. And combine it with the Soviet pursuit of an aggressive civil defense plan. It suggests that the Kremlin wants at least the capability of being able to launch a nuclear attack on the United States and still survive.


A Pinch of SALT

There are those who have likened the arms race to two apes on a treadmill, each too stupid to realize the race is pointless and simply get off. The conclusion they draw is that at least the United States should stop building any more nuclear weapons — and then the Soviets, realizing the fruitlessness of their own buildup, would do the same thing.

The problem with such an approach is that it assumes a surprise attack couldn't possibly disarm the United States. Yet military experts — even doves — now admit that by the mid-1980s (at the latest) the Soviets will be able to knock out America's 1054 ICBMs in a surprise attack — a move only preventable by a U.S. ”launch on warning."

Launch on warning is extremely dangerous, though, because the "warning" might be a false one and, in any case, an American President would probably want extra time to see if war could be stopped before any more missiles were fired. If he had to "push the button" after just a few minutes consideration, he might be condemning millions to death, which wouldn't be necessary if he could somehow limit the scope of the war to, say, mutual attacks on each other's missile bases.

Since America's 300 or so long-range bombers face about 12,000 Soviet surface-to-air missiles, it is doubtful that any which survived a surprise attack could get through to their targets. That would mean the only thing standing between the world and nuclear war is America's missile submarine fleet.

But submarine missiles pack less power than regular ICBMs and are less accurate. While they could destroy "soft" targets like Soviet cities in a retaliatory attack, they might not be able to hit military targets. After a Soviet surprise attack, they might only be good against cities, leaving the American President faced with a terrible choice: if he ordered his submarines to attack, U.S. cities would face certain destruction because the Soviet Union would easily have the power, even after its first attack, to destroy them; or he could surrender.

While the United States has foregone adding to its nuclear forces, the Soviet Union has kept on building. Since 1967 the United States has scrapped its B-47, B-58, B-70 and B-1 bombers, the Jupiter and Thor missiles, the Skybolt missile, the Polaris missile and its single antimissile missile. The Soviets haven't scrapped anything. (Though they claim to be scrapping obsolete, liquid-fuel SS-4 and SS-5 midrange missiles)