Courtesy Reuters

To Cap the Volcano

The summer of 1969 has seen men on the moon and almost half the American Senate voting against a defense decision supported by two Presidents. In the summer pride of the moon landing it is not pleasant to turn the mind back to the terrible topic of nuclear danger. Yet the splendid technical achievement of Apollo contains its own reminder that similar skills applied with similar single-mindedness have now led the two greatest powers of our generation into an arms race totally unprecedented in size and danger.

The next year or two offer to the United States and the Soviet Union what may be the best chance yet to limit their extravagant contest in strategic weapons. We Americans may not understand this opportunity very well, and our friends in Russia may not understand it either. That weakness of understanding, together with the transcendent importance of the subject, is an excuse for one more effort to put some light on it. I shall begin with a review of the ABM debate and then go on to consider some larger political questions which that debate did not address-questions which may grow in importance as strategic arms limitation talks (SALT for short) get started.

II

The debate on ABM deployment was remarkable less for its content than for the simple fact that it happened. The level of argument was high. In analytical force the Administration's supporters were less persuasive than its opponents. There were some excessive claims on both sides, but the overstatements of some Administration spokesmen, although not the President, offered particularly easy targets. What held a slim majority, in the end, was the traditional and powerful argument that in matters of this sort-especially with international negotiations in the offing-the sober recommendation of the President is entitled to the benefit of doubt. Both the case against the ABM and the case for supporting the President are likely to be at least as strong in the future as they have been this past summer, and

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