Clinton St. Quarterly, Vol. 9 No. 2 | Summer 1987 (Portland) /// Issue 34 of 41 /// Master# 34 of 73

FAREWELL ARMS CONTROL: INITIATINGAN INDEPENDENT PROCESS BY MARK SOMMER AND GORDON FELLER / / There are systems, ” • • wrote Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan in 1979 o f arms control, “that exhibit.. .properties producing the opposite o f their intended outcome, with the consequence that intensifying the effort to achieve the desired one achieves even more * * o f the undesired. / / Despite what were often the sincerest of first intentions, the tragic reality is that arms control as practiced by the superpowers has not only failed to control the arms race but has in real sense legitimated and even accelerated it. Arms control has been captured by the very forces it was sent out to capture. The dominant figures in the arms control establishment have always been either defense intellectuals or defense bureaucrats, despite the early involvement of some disarmament activists in the formulation of arms control policy. The pattern of thinking which equates more security with more arms set a permanent imprint on all efforts to control arms. These two contending and largely contradictory conceptions—security through arms and security through negotiation—could not both govern policy, and the odds in the argument were uneven from the outset. Despite the best hopes of arms controllers and an expectant public, arms control has never mounted an effective challenge to a militarized definition of national security. Proposed in the first instance as a brake on a pair of recklessly driven vehicles, arms control has become, in the hands of its drivers, a steering wheel veering towards the cliff’s edge. All that it has succeeded in curtailing have been those obsolescent weapons already deemed least useful and those technologies too expensive and unpromising to merit further development. And, as in the case of missile defenses, when those technologies do become more feasible, the treaties of earlier years become as disposable as yesterday’s diapers. A Tale of Two Treaties: The Limited Test Ban and SALT II To appreciate how this reversal of first purposes came about, it may be useful to review the tales of two treaties, one enacted and often celebrated as arms control’s highest achievement, the other aborted /n utero, in a late stage of pregnancy. Despite strong international opposition to atomic testing voiced in the “ Ban the Bomb” movement in Great Britain and elsewhere during the 1950s, the United States and the Soviet Union refused to agree to a test ban until the early 1960s. In the meantime, each raced to increase and improve its arsenal in order to gain a decisive advantage before the onset of the ban. Even when they did agree, not all test sites were outlawed: each reserved the right to continue testing underground. “ In 1963 the Test Ban was signed,” writes Johan Galtung, the Norwegian political scientist, “ only because there was, literally speaking, a hole in it: the permission to continue underground testing. The ultimate effect of the Treaty was the legitimization of the testing.” Through this gaping hole poured the arms race. At the time of its enactment, the Test Ban was thought to have accomplished three goals—protecting the atmosphere, braking the advancement of military technology, and establishing an essential foundation for further arms reductions and a comprehensive test ban. Assessed with these purposes in mind, the Limited Test Ban has failed sadly in its mission. As protection for the atmosphere, the Test Ban has become, in the apt phrase of McGeorge Bundy (President Kennedy’s national security adviser at the time of the negotiations), no more than “ a pollution control device.” The fact that the three signatories have ceased atmospheric testing is indeed a significant contribution to public health. But testing is only one of more than two dozen phases of the nuclear cycle in which poisons are released into the human and natural environment. These are the same poisons which so concerned the public in the 1950s—strontium 90 and cesium, among others. Public health threats have by no means disappeared. Cancer-related death is significantly higher among uranium miners than among the general population; shipyard workers who handle nuclear materials develop cancer at six times the normal rate. The Advisory Committee on the Biological Effects of Ionizing Radiation of the National Academy of Sciences estimates that one million Americans will develop cancer from man-made sources of radiation during their lifetimes. Leakage of radiation into soil and air from underground test sites presents still another hazard. A far greater danger is the growing number of nuclear weapons among non-participants in the Treaty. The U.S. Department of Energy conservatively estimated several years ago that by 1988 another thirty nations will have joined that most exclusive of international associations, the nuclear club. None is under any compulsion to join the Treaty or to abide by its provisions. The second intention of the Treaty was to slow weapons experimentation, the qualitative arms race. There can be no question that research and development is the technological engine of the arms race. But the Treaty’s massive exception of underground tests has permitted the development of far more lethal, speedy, and accurate weaponry. Since the Treaty was signed, at least a dozen new delivery systems have been developed and deployed—MIRV, Cruise, and the MX among them, all highly destabilizing to an already unstable strategic balance. Since the Test Ban failed to regulate delivery systems, research continued apace and rapidly outstripped any restraints testing could have provided. The third intention of the Limited Test Ban was to generate the political momentum necessary to achieve a comprehensive ban on testing, above and below ground. Instead, the Test Ban disarmed the disarmers, dampening public opposition to nuclear weapons by removing only the most visible environmental hazards while concealing many more menacing trends from public oversight. Anxious to believe that a significant step had been taken, the great majority of those who had been pushing for a Test Ban relaxed their pressure on the superpowers, prompting without which no progress would ever have been achieved, and thus allowed to be robbed from their pockets what their hands had just received. Indeed, we may even have lost more than we gained in the transaction. The price of banning weapons testing in the atmosphere was the codification in international law of the unlimited right to test underground. Like the Limited Test Ban, the SALT II process was widely viewed by arms controllers and the liberal community as an important step in the right direction. But, like the Test Ban, SALT II had the unintended effect of weakening rather than strengthening the institutions of collective security. The use of bargaining chips and the continuing race for relative advantage were institutionalized by the agreement, propelling expenditures and destructive capacity far beyond what they were prior to entering into negotiations. SALT II left untouched— and in fact made untouchable—the laying of any foundation on which alternatives to militarized forms of security could rest. SALT II contained “ no limitations of significance,” writes Senator Moynihan. It couldn’t limit significant weapons, writes John Newhouse, a SALT I negotiator: “ Stability demands that each of the two societies stand wholly exposed to the destructive power of the other.” He lists three goals or “ themes” of SALT: 1) parity, or comparability, as it is sometimes called; 2) crisis stability; and 3) mobility, implying a move from fixed-site to shiftingsite ICBM’s. Nowhere do we hear mention of reductions! The SALT treaty, writes Moynihan, brought “ an end not only to the hope of arms limitation but to the SALT process itself.” The seeds of SALT’Sfailure were planted long ago. By all accounts, the technological loophole which unravelled the SALT process may have been the failure to outlaw development of MIRV (“multiple independently targeted re-entry vehicle”—many warheads on a single missile) delivery systems in the SALT I agreements. It was an extraordinarily short-sighted arrangement, as Henry Kissinger himself admits in retrospect. Yet there may have been little choice at the time.. Without that exclusion it is questionable that the Joint Chiefs of Staff would have given their support, loathe as they would be to give up the prospect of gaining a unilateral advantage. But the adoption of MIRV technologies, first by the United States and then by the Soviet Union, has vastly enlarged both offensive arsenals, to the ultimate detriment of both sides. Indeed, the “window of vulnerability” so much dreaded by proponents of the MX was opened largely by the Soviets’ mimicry of our “ MIRVing” . A creature of deterrence theory whose first premise is mutual threat, SALT II turned a blind eye to all improvements in offensive weaponry and thus allowed, even abetted, the ominous drift towards first- strike technologies and strategies. In designating “ national technical means of verification” as the only acceptable instruments for monitoring SALT II agreements, the treaty ignored the innovative French proposal for a United Nations-instituted International Satellite Surveillance Agency, which might have provided a means for the rest of the world to better monitor compliance. Such transnational institutions and procedures hold out some promise of moving the world towards a more dependable and demilitarized security system, or perhaps even towards a genuine peace system. But no ideas or institutions of this sort were in the minds of the SALT negotiators. Moving human society towards disarmament by conflict resolution techniques and technologies is not presently, nor in the future, on the arms control agenda. What Went Wrong? Why has arms control failed? SALT II was an agreement between two sets of superpower policymakers together comprising no more than a large roomful of men and representing no more than a tenth of the world’s population, while everyone else— American and Soviet citizens and the other nine-tenths of the world, all nearly equally affected by their deci- ’ sions—sat out the game, without so much as a ticket in Ti m B ra un Clinton St. Quarterly—Summer, 1987 7