IN 1960, THE WORDS "strategy" and "strategic" carried traditional meanings. Both applied to planning and actions. But by 1967 a change had taken place. That year the Johnson administration approached the Soviet Union on the possibility of holding talks on "Strategic Arms Limitations." The weapons now defined the purposes.

By 1974 nuclear weapons thinkers had begun to talk about "strategic superiority" as some kind of quantitative measure of nuclear advantage. I did not quite understand what was meant by the term in 1974, nor did I fully understand Secretary of Defense Harold Brown later when he described "meaningful nuclear superiority" as a "disparity in strategic capability," which can be "translated into political effect."

I was consoled in my lack of comprehension by the fact that in 1974, Henry Kissinger, when asked what was meant by the term, responded by saying, "What in God's name is strategic superiority? What can you do with it?"

For the same Henry Kissinger, in his testimony on the treaty, said that his 1974 words had been spoken under stress, or in a moment of pique, and that he did in fact in 1974 know, and does now know, what constitutes "strategic superiority."

He said we now have it over the Russians, but added that unless we increase our defense expenditures by approximately 5 percent above inflation (we have indexed, among other things, social security payments, minimum wages and congressional salaries, so why not index "strategic superiority"?) with "linkage" to "detente," we will, some time in the early 1980s, reach a position of "essential strategic equivalence" with the Russians, and after that, gradually yield superiority to them.

Kissinger observes a "perilous momentum" in favor of the Russians, but whether this is a "pure momentum," or a "momentum of their potential," such as was identified by Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird in the Nixon administration, he does not say.

Whatever kind of momentum it is, Kissinger says it is developing "ominously" against the United States. According to some estimates, the United States now has enough nuclear warheads to kill all of the Russians (or at least all of the important ones) approximately 50 times, and the Russians can kill all of the important Americans 22 times. We thus have a "strategic superiority" in a ratio of 5.0 to 2.2. By the year 1985, if SALT II is ratified and implemented, the ratio will be 6.0 to 6.0, with Russians and Americans both able to kill each other 60 times. This is called Mutual Assured Destruction, or MAD times 60.

That prospect calls for thinking outside the established lines and patterns of thought about "strategic superiority." It demands "zero-based thinking," a method of thinking comparable to the accounting method used in the currently popular "zero-based budgeting."

Zero-based thinking about nuclear weapons must start with the assumption that MAD has already been achieved by both sides. It must seek, at that point, to answer the question of which nation has what I will call the best MSP (Minimal Survival Potential.)

Obviously the nation with the greatest MSP will have "strategic superiority." The United States has three principal MSP advantages.

The first is in our readiness for evacuation. We evacuate about 30 percent of the population of major urban areas to the suburbs five days a week, about 50 percent on weekends and two-thirds on special holidays, leaving in the central cities principally only the lame, the old and the poor.

In anticipation of a nuclear exchange, and so as to upgrade the value of our normal evacuation potential, the president should be given, in the name of national defense, authority to move holidays. Thus, he could advance, say Memorial Day to April 1, or the Fourth of July to June 15, with the understanding that when the advanced date was announced, people would accept the announcement as a signal that they should do on the advancement date exactly what they had planned to do on the regular holiday date. The movable holiday -- the MH -- could be "strategically" the "rough equivalent" to the MX.

Our second advantage is in our heavily armed citizenry. It is estimated that there are in the possession of U.S. citizens, protected by the Second Amendment to the Constitution and by the National Rifle Association, approximately 100 million guns of various kinds, together with adequate supply of ammunition. Russion citizens, on the other hand, are not so armed. Occupation of the United States, even after saturation bombing, would be a high-risk venture, as citizens with their guns would come down from the hills and rise from the rubble. Consider how much more difficult the Russian invasion of Hungary and Czechoslovakia would have been if the Hungarians and the Czechs had possessed guns and ammunition as Americans do.

Our third advantage, a growing one, was pointed out to me by a student product of the 1960, who observed that the movement in the United States to provide more and better facilities for the handicapped -- such things as ramps instead of steps, hydraulic lifts for entrance to buses and trains, heat-activated elevators, modified automobiles, changed industrial processes, etc. -- could, if carried far enough, add greatly to our "strategic superiority" and MSP capacity. All of these changes, he noted, would be helpful when those maimed by the great nuclear exchange (designated in nuclear war language as "dilatory" or "delayed" fatalities rather than as "prompt fatalities") would be able to launch a "final strike," and also begin putting civilization back together. He went on to suggest that the modifications being made in the name of helping the handicapped might be carried further in anticipation of the time when only mutants were left in charge.

It is quite possible, if zero-based thinking is followed, that in SALT II, assuming that MAD is not attempted and that we get by the "window of peril" recently identified by Kissinger, the discussion and controversy will not be over cruise missiles or neutron bombs or laser rays, as is now anticipated, but rather over assurances of fixed holidays and early warnings of changed dates, over parity of equality in citizens' possession of arms (this could be a strong point for the United States to make in the name of human rights) and finally, over limitations and verification of programs and projects to aid the handicapped and mutilated, and over preparations for the Age of Mutants.