Wolfgang Panofsky's article on the Strategic Defense Initiative (Editorial Pages, July 11), "Star Wars Isn't a Science Yet," is remarkable, not for its insight, but rather for the lack of memory Panofsky displays.
Panofsky's article criticizes SDI as the catalyst for a new arms race. Moreover, he says, it is technically dubious, economically ruinous, and a violation of the ABM Treaty.
His opinion on the subject, however, has not always been so negative. The signing of the 1972 ABM agreement was the culmination of a furious strategic and scientific debate in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Panofsky was one of the individuals at the center of that debate. He would do well to remember his arguments then before delivering any more sermons now.
In 1969, testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Panofsky spoke on behalf of an agreement limiting ABM systems. But he also advocated their development at some point in the future if certain conditions appeared in the strategic balance.
He told the Senate then, " . . . my view is that if the Soviet number of missiles keeps increasing at a continuing fast rate . . . then defense of hardened missile sites would be an objective which I would support. He added, " . . . we may need a really effective defense of our missiles."
Since the ABM Treaty was signed in 1972, the Soviet Union has added about 6,000 nuclear warheads to its intercontinental attack forces. The Soviets have produced approximately 2,000 new intercontinental ballistic missiles during this period, and their present arsenal of 1,398 ICBMs represents the top of the Soviet line. So advanced and accurate are these missiles that the Soviets could destroy over 90% of American's ICBMs on the ground using only one model--their SS-18 missile. The Soviets also possess a capacity to destroy our bombers and our submarines in port. The United States has no matching capability against Soviet systems.
Panofsky's conditions were met long ago. Yet he apparently has forgotten his old admonition and continues to vociferously oppose ballistic missile defense. His failure to abide by his earlier statement can mean only one thing: that Panofsky's opposition to SDI is motivated not by strategic or scientific reality, but by his political views. We should not take him seriously until he at least admits as much. DANIEL O. GRAHAM Washington Retired Army Lt. Gen. Graham is director of High Frontier, a group promoting the Strategic Defense Initiative.