"MUNICH" and "appeasement" are words that connote much more than the disastrously weak inept pre-World II British policy to which they allude. Cowardice, treachery, even treason are the additional implications the words have taken on in 40 years of strained American political debate. So you can hardly blame the administration for getting pretty angry when Sen. Jackson delivered his Munich/appeasement speech on the eve of the president's departure for Vienna. Like the president's own earlier unfortunate use of the word "warmongers" in connection with those who may end up opposing the SALT II treaty, Mr. Jackson's speech raised the prospect of a perfectly terrible sulphurous exchange that could take the place of a reasonable national argument about the wisdom of the deal Mr. Carter is striking in Vienna this weekend.
The signing of the accords should transform the argument. The feinting and faking and charging and denying and leaking and all the rest may now come to an end. The real argument may start. The people - negotiators, scientists, diplomats, military - who favor the SALT II package will have to put their faith and facts to the test of sustained and determined opposition. They have been saying for months that they were struggling with a hand tied behind their back, that once the accords themselves could be made public, they would be able to demonstrate the overwhelming wisdom of their case. Now they get their chance.
A word on the debate. It will be a gruesome summer if the discussion doesn't offer something better than the appeasement-versus-warmonger type of combat or the equally uninteresting debating-point exchange that has characterized so much of the pretreaty fighting. This debating-point stuff is rendered exceptionally easy and, evidently, equally tempting because of the large realm of technological uncertainty and complication attending strategic arms. Anyone can "prove" just about anything - relevant or true or not to best an opponent in an exchange. "Cute" arguments are there for the taking. Especially on the administration, pro-treaty side these could be real boomerangs.
The administration has up until now shown a streak of intolerance for any argument about this treaty and what you could call an instinct for the juggernaut: an inclination to bomard and deluge and propagandize opponents and waverers, as distinct from reasoning with or listening to them. It has not always been clear that they even considered debate quite legitimate . That will need to change. If, as we suspect, they do have a strong case for the agreements they have negotiated, then they should be willing to expose it to the toughest tests of criticism and sustained argument from others.
They shoud also understand that other things besides a strictly construed SALT II will be under consideration. The SALT debate - the administration's own timing in announcing for an MX missile confirms it - will engage much broader questions of American defense than those directly dealt with in the documents. It will also bring to the fore questions about - yes - the character and strength of purpose and reliability of the president himself. You hear a lot of talk, in defense of the SALT II accords, suggesting that these are bloodless, automatic arrangements, which are so airtight they hardly require the intervention or management of human agents - that the habits of the Russians and the nature of the Americans presiding over the deal are all but beside the point.
This, of course, isn't true. What Mr. Carter is about - the credibility of his assertions that the SALT II accords are safe and beneficial, the confidence people have in his resolve and his ability to keep the accords safe and beneficial - these things will be very much in the midst of the argument. And they should be. In that strange little skirmish with Sen. Kennedy late last week, the White House showed itself very eager to get into print and into the public consciousness the image of the president as a tough guy - they went to great lengths to make sure his unaccustomed imprecation made the news. They will have ample opportunity as the SALT debate unfolds to make that point in more cogent and plausible and important ways. People know that Jimmy Carter wants peace, has worked very hard to achieve an arms-control deal and deserves much credit for the events in Vienna this weekend. They want to know that the president who has brought them these accords is also strong and shrewd. They want to know, in other words, that Sen Jackson's appraisal is dead wrong. In his talks with the Russians for the remainder of the Vienna visit and in the months of political argument ahead, he will have the chance to show them.