Re-forming the questions on arms control

Hehir, J. Bryan

Church/world watch Re-forming the questions on arms control J. Bryan Hehir THE latest round of aims negotiations at Geneva between the United States and the Soviet Union poses two distinct...

...This narrow strip of common interest will not alter other dimensions of the U. S. -Soviet relationship...
...Second, how do U.S.-Soviet relations in general relate to the specific question of nuclear arms negotiations...
...Geneva is neither the beginning nor the end of the arms control process...
...It is not simply that the negotiations will be frighteningly complex and the U.S.Soviet relationship will be, as always, conflictual...
...It will not alter competition in the Horn of Africa, jockeying for leverage in the Middle East, or jousting in Central America...
...But in a world where nuclear weapons won't go away, I am convinced arms control cannot be put away...
...I do not even deny the formidable new problems facing any agreement in a MIRVed world and with anti-satellite weapons threatening the normal means of verification...
...While these other voices are not, they still place increasing emphasis on steps other than large scale negotiations to restrain the arms race...
...Central to this paradox is the way in which negotiations in progress are used to justify ' 'one more system'' for each of the superpowers as part of the proposed bargain...
...Having seen the arguments, I am disturbed but not convinced...
...Nuclear weapons have created an objective common ground between the superpowers...
...But the process of arms control is larger than Geneva and must be kept alive...
...I have very modest hopes and severe objections to the negotiating strategy at the present moment...
...One of the reasons I remain stubborn on arms control is because the process fits one dimension of the U.S.-Soviet relationship...
...Its contribution may, at best, be only a slice of the solution to preventing nuclear war, but it must be pursued...
...It is easy to invest the arms control process with expectations it cannot meet...
...technological change, much of it rendering verification of treaties impossible, has doomed attempts to shape successors to the Test Ban Treaty or SALT I. Today, more fruitful measures lie in independent steps that could be taken by each of the superpowers to enhance stability in the nuclear relationship...
...These doubters of arms control constitute a formidable constituency precisely because of their diversity...
...the particular edge given to the question of success in the 1980s is whether negotiated arms agreements are possible at the strategic nuclear level...
...And in striking contrast to the early 1980s, no one wants to be seen as an obstacle to a negotiated halt to the arms race...
...In the mid-1980s, however, the question has a particular sharpness...
...Church/world watch Re-forming the questions on arms control J. Bryan Hehir THE latest round of aims negotiations at Geneva between the United States and the Soviet Union poses two distinct questions...
...These include people who have helped design the arms control process and have spent years trying to make it work...
...When negotiations begin, so much in the public eye, the inevitable question of what we can or should expect arises...
...Will and Brezinski share a pessimism about Soviet intentions...
...It does not rest, at its most basic level, on the intentions, aspirations, or motivations of either the United States or the Soviet Union...
...But none of this should obscure what we share in common almost in spite of our political systems...
...But debate among experts manifests more doubt from both left and right than we have been accustomed to find in the policy community...
...For readers of Will only the tone of the argument is any surprise...
...It may fairly be said that Will is hostile to the concept of arms control...
...They both lose in an absolute sense if nuclear weapons are used...
...First, what are the prospects for "success" in the negotiations...
...It rests on the utter disproportionality between any use of nuclear weapons by either power, and the political objectives either might try to obtain by resorting to these weapons...
...George Will, for example, has not changed his view for many years: he sees negotiated arms agreements with the Soviets as a chimera, and he is waging a sustained campaign against the Reagan administration's soft-line toward the Soviets...
...Others coming from a different place in the political spectrum express doubts about the possibilities of arms control...
...Zbigniew Brezinski judges the era of major negotiated treaties between the superpowers to be over...
...The state of expert opinion is probably more pessimistic about this question than is the general public...
...J. bryan hehir 3 May 1985: 263...
...We may need to think differently about how to pursue negotiated controls, but we should not be focusing the debate on whether arms control should be pursued...
...Today, the public may be more interested in and more supportive of arms negotiations than it was at anytime in the 1970s...
...They reluctantly express the view that arms control too often confirms rather than restrains arms competition...

Vol. 112 • May 1985 • No. 9


 
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