‘Talking Down Arms’

Former Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger’s article (Opinion, Sept. 8), “Talking Down Arms,” posits the argument that President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative “is the only new idea that points away from excessive reliance on nuclear weapons.” Unfortunately, Kissinger and the Reagan Administration ignore the “old” idea of a comprehensive nuclear test ban, a plan that could conceivably save us the projected $1 trillion for “Star Wars’.”

According to experts such as the former director of the CIA, William Colby, and the Federation of American Scientists, this proposal would work well within our national technical means for verification of significant violations. Its effects, unlike SDI, would be stabilizing and tension-reducing.

An across-the-board cessation of research and development, testing and deployment could begin with a ban on testing and proceed from there. The precedent has already been set by the Limited Test Ban Treaty, prohibiting atmospheric testing.

Kissinger states that “all efforts to induce the Soviets to reduce or limit multiple warheads while defenses were dormant have proved in vain.” Salt II permits the Soviets 820 multiple warhead ICBMs and they have maintained compliance with 818. To characterize the past 13 years of the U.S. defense program as “dormant” is like calling “Rambo” a Quaker. How does one explain the MX, the Midgetman, the Pershing II, and cruise missile programs, all begun prior to the Reagan years?


In his concern about a Soviet first-strike capability, which is legitimate, he fails to mention that we paved the way with first strike weaponry, just as we did by developing multiple warheads first. The Pershing II, the Minuteman III, the MX, and the new Trident C-4 and D-5 missiles all have greater silo-killing accuracy than their Soviet counterparts. Kissinger conveniently omits the crucial U.S. Role as a leader in the first-strike arms race.

In his proposal for a bilateral agreement, Kissinger would reduce the number of launchers on both sides to less than 1,000. Since the Soviets have 500 more launchers than the Unite States, why should they make such a concession, especially since we would still maintain clear dominance in the total number of strategic weapons?

Would Kissinger accept a Russian proposal of a weapons ceiling of 1,000 for sea-launched missiles, trading away our superiority of 3,500 strategic weapons? The Soviets wouldn’t insult Kissinger’s intelligence,. Why does he persist in insulting his countrymen’s?

Finally, Kissinger inadvertently reveals the true nature of SDI strategy by listing as its No. 1 objective the “protection of the retaliatory force” (i.e. missiles). Military planners view SDI as a component of offensive strategy, not defensive. It permits (they believe) greater flexibility of response in offensive planning and decision-making. As this Byzantine nuclear chess game is played out by military strategists on both sides, the defense of population centers becomes an afterthought--a public relations package made more attractive by the false promise of survival. Not even Kissinger would admit that an SDI umbrella is leakproof. In a general nuclear war, even if SDI were 95% effective, every major U.S. city would still be obliterated.