Courtesy Reuters

U.S. Military Policy


SERIOUS arms-control talks seem to have begun but the question of how best to exploit their promise persists. In the past, our national strategy with regard to armaments had to be consistent with many fixed domestic political (and bureaucratic) facts of life: the attitudes of Congress, the power of the Pentagon, the prevalence of cold-war ideologies, and so on. Today these presuppositions of arms policy are in flux. Conscious efforts to reshape these domestic factors have become an integral part of the problem of managing the arms race. Indeed, they can in large measure substitute for formal treaties which are much more difficult to achieve. In developing a strategy for the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT), arms controllers must therefore answer the question: How much really needs to be negotiated to end the arms race? The answer to this question will illuminate such important issues as the emphasis to be placed upon the talks at this time and the way in which the discussions should be used.

The most conventional approach to arms control tends to ignore domestic problems. It assumes bargains in which a monolithic entity called the United States agrees to refrain from acquiring certain weapons if an adversary monolithic entity called the Soviet Union promises to refrain from acquiring the same or related weapons. Neither will refrain without such agreement because of an "action-and-reaction" phenomenon in which each side responds to the actions of the other, producing an arms spiral. Most observers consider this phenomenon intuitively obvious; it is what people think of when they think of arms race. And it provides the justification for the formal treaty that is presumed to be the alternative to the race. According to this view, it is when, and only when, the other side stops "acting" that our side can stop "reacting"-and vice versa. Hence a simultaneous halt, presumably formal, is the only theoretical answer.

But does the evidence for this action-and-reaction phenomenon really

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