Freeze talk was hot at the Hilton last night.
The heady Arms Control Association -- a group dedicated to the words "control" and "freeze" -- gathered famous faces for a decade past for a chicken dinner to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the signing of the ABM (the Anti-Ballistic Missile) Treaty. To be sure, those years of historic negotiation were the good old days to them. But not to fear, after a minimal amount of time in the background, the group is revved up once again over the Reagan administration's recent arms-control proposals.
In a word, those proposals are not quite good enough.
"I'd like to think it's not just propaganda," said Gerald Smith, chief U.S. negotiator for SALT I. "I don't think the proposal will be easily grasped by the Soviets, but I think it's a good start. I'm very unhappy about the time period they have stated -- years of effort. The whole balance could change if it takes years. That's not good enough."
"The proposal has to be elaborated," said Herbert Scoville, president of the association. "By itself, it will not improve stability and it could decrease stability. The idea is to reduce the incentive of the first strike.
"I'm willing to publicly give Mr. Reagan the benefit of the doubt of good intentions," continued Scoville. "But on the other hand, we have to put the pressure on to make sure he doesn't get away with any subterfuge."
The Arms Control Association was started in 1971. It is made up of about 1,400 Americans devoted to arms control, and an impressive board of directors -- many of whom were involved in the signing of the ABM accord. The treaty essentially allows for mutual deterrence or what is commonly known as mutual vulnerability between the United States and the Soviet Union. Simply, if one nation fires a missile intended to destroy a city, the other can destroy a city in retaliation.
"It's probably the most important arms control treaty ever, even if it is perverse," said Barry Carter, vice president of the association. "Both sides have the ability to annihilate the other side's population."
Harold Brown, secretary of defense under President Carter, delivered the 13-page technical keynote address to the group of about 150 gathered in the Capital Hilton's Federal Room.
"The [ABM] treaty should not be altered, adjusted or even tinkered with unless the reasons for doing so are extraordinarily pressing and convincing," warned Brown.
So concurred all of the true believers present. Well, almost all.
"This organization has been pushing arms control for years," said member Vincent Rock, "and things just seem to be getting worse."