Congressional Action on SDI

George Bowler (Letters, Sept. 8) offers a criticism of congressional action on the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) that is clear, concise, and yet, like the SDI shield itself, full of holes.

Bowler argues that Congress erred in its rejection of the Reagan Administration's full SDI budget request. He urges Congress to adopt the position of (1) with a sufficient commitment of scientific and industrial resources, we can develop the technology for a viable defensive non-nuclear system, and (2) arms control is a farce and a surrender, because the Soviets can never be trusted to live up to any agreement.

Bowler's letter suffers from a lack of careful analysis. His first argument, that we can overcome the technological hurdles to SDI just as we overcame the obstacles to building the atom bomb, ignores the changing nature of technological progress. The very same human ingenuity that has enabled us to create increasingly complex weapons systems will render the construction of a viable defensive shield impossible.

Even if such a shield could be made effective under present conditions (which is doubtful, since even a 5% margin of error would allow thousands of deadly nuclear warheads to penetrate the system), its deployment would lead the Soviets to increase their offensive force levels and develop their own defensive capabilities.

Just as the atom bomb failed to prevent Soviet expansion, SDI will not end the threat of nuclear war. Instead, it will perpetuate the dangerous cycle of technology outdoing technology, thereby increasing the likelihood of a nuclear confrontation.

Bowler's second argument, that arms control is a hopeless endeavor, is an overly simplistic assessment of how we should deal with the Soviets. Arms control is not a question of black and white, of good guys and bad guys. It is a process by which both sides must arrive at a compromise after weighing the costs and benefits of an arms control agreement.

Given our existing monitoring capabilities and the Soviets' willingness to allow on-site verification, the dangers of Soviet deception cannot possibly outweigh the costs of continuing on an endless course of nuclear competition.

By summarily dismissing the possibility of arms control, and assuming that SDI is a cure when in fact it is part of the disease, Bowler leaves humanity with no other choice than to build more deadly weapons.


Los Angeles

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World