MAJ. GEN. ROBERT L. SCHWEITZER has been drummed out of the White House, banished from the National Security Council and booted back to the Pentagon for giving his "personal views" in an inflamatory, uncleared speech.
Did the punishment fit the crime?
The immediate, bureaucratic reason is that he failed to submit his Gotterdammerung remarks to his boss, Richard V. Allen.
What he said was scary, all right, but not all that much more so than what his superiors, including the commander-in-chief, have been putting out lately.
His real offense may have been to talk out of school.The general is like a kid who goes out on the street and screams about things his parents have been talking about in low tones behind closed doors.
The general didn't get in trouble, surely, for saying that "the Soviets are going to strike."
Isn't that Reagan doctrine? Isn't that why, we're going to spend over a trillion dollars on defense in the next five years?
Was it because he said the Russians have achieved "strategic superiority"?
Allen himself -- who clears his stuff, do you suppose? -- said pretty much the same thing just six weeks ago.
"Because of inadequate defense spending over the disadvantageous strategic position," Allen told the Air Force Association.
Schweitzer, who once worked closely with Secretary of State Alexander Haig, from whom he may have acquired a habit of overstatement, put it a little more strongly: "The Soviet Union knows that for the first time they have superiority in every leg of the triad."
Was it because he said the Soviets were ready to go to war?
Another NSC staff member, Richard Pipes, gave an interview last March in which he suggested that we might be ready to go to war with the Soviets if they didn't shape up.
"Soviet leaders," Pipes told Reuters, would eventually be confronted with a choice between "peaceful reform of their communist system along Western lines or going to war."
Pipes is still working at the NSC.
The general detects "a drift toward war." Ronald Reagan was flagged down for comment. The tone of his voice suggested a real regret at the downing of such a splendid hawk. The general had been right until only recently, when the "drift" began to be corrected by wise Reagan defense policies.
One thing the general never saw at the White House was any drift toward peace.
The president never mentions it. Peace is sissy stuff at the White House. The aim of foreign policy is not peace, but what Allen calls "true security."
As far as they will go in indicating that peace is not actually wrong is to say that when we have bankrupted ourselves to match the Russians in nuclear arms we will have deterred them from launching a first strike.
Arms control is another unpopular subject. They don't like the word "control"; that's not good enough for them. They want arms reduction, which may be as elusive a goal as Richard Nixon's "generation of peace," the start of which was delayed for four years while he fought the Vietnam War.
Only one branch of the government talks to the Soviets. The Agriculture Department managed to negotiate a wheat deal with them. We plan to feed them as they plot our destruction.
The president and the secretary of defense know for a fact -- how discovered, they do not say -- that the Russians believe they can fight and "win" a nuclear war. We do not.
And the president was trying to give reassurances on that score the other day when he spoke to some editors. He said, and much of Europe leaped into the air on hearing him, that he did not think the use of tactical nuclear weapons on the battlefield would inevitably lead to a "pushing the button" in Moscow or Washington.
The Europeans, understandably, did not derive much comfort from this statement. As they were being incinerated, they were to take comfort that the United States would not be wiped out? It was asking quite a lot.
Secretary of Defense Weinberger rushed forward to calm the distraught continent. He is not the best witness, since he talks about missiles as if they were cigarette lighters.He professed surprise that "a stray quotation should suddenly attract so much attention."
"Stray" is the key word here. The entire Reagan administration is tone-deaf on matters nuclear, be it power, proliferation or weapons. They want to subsidize nuclear plants, remove safeguards on nuclear exports, and they discuss strategic weapons constantly and tactical weapons casually.
Gen. Schweitzer was hanging out with a pretty tough crowd at the White House. They could hardly have been shocked when their amplified views were played back to them. They were merely embarrassed and had to prove it by firing him. If they don't agree, they could start a little peace talk for a change.