WITH A NEW blue-ribbon presidential commission assigned to come up with a suitable basing system for the MX Peacekeeper missile by March, the time for imaginative thinking is at hand. As reporters assigned to cover the western United States, we have often been troubled by orders to visit whatever stretch of wilderness has most recently been proposed for a missile site -- such as southeastern Wyoming or southern Nevada.
There are, we think, more interesting and entertaining parts of the world where we could be sent, and more politically viable solutions to the basing problem which could be proposed.
President Reagan cannot get agreement for a basing mode because only the Pentagon likes his idea. Here are some alternative basing systems that would involve wider-ranging popular coalitions, and at the same time provide more interesting reading for the young man in accounting who checks our expense accounts:
Hula Basing Mode: The president and the Pentagon seem determined to put the MX Peacekeeper into silos, but none of their ideas will work: not hardened concrete, not Dense Pack. Why not put the missiles into dormant volancoes? These all-natural silos are perfect -- and a boon to environmentalists because they are just the kind of rough landscape not likely to change much in appearance if the Soviets landed a missile or two of their own. Best of all, for missile crews and visiting journalists alike, Honolulu is a more congenial spot than Cheyenne, Wyo., to while away the hours waiting for Armageddon.
Tobacco-Belt Basing Mode: The surgeon general and the American Cancer Society would be pleased if the federal government bought up all tobacco-growing land in North Carolina for missile bases. The economic boost to local communities would surplant their tobacco subsidies and production of unhealthful cigarettes would be reduced. Those Democrats worried about such tools of mass destruction falling into the hands of North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms are probably smokers anyway, and can be disregarded.
Boys-of-Summer Basing Mode: Who would ever think to look for Peacekeeper missiles nestled under the grassy turf of Robert F. Kennedy Stadium in Washington? No one would be around in the summertime, since the park still lacks a major-league baseball team. In the winter, the missiles could be moved to positions under Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, since no major- league football is played there.
The Los-Angeles-Raiders Basing Mode: This one is better than a Stealth bomber. No one will ever know what city to find it in.
Replace-Your-Divot Basing Mode: By federal order, all golf courses in the country could be required to add an extra hole, for the purpose of putting a missile silo safely hidden under the fairway. This would increase the capacity of overburdened courses and please golf addicts who always feel they need one more hole to get even. But more importantly, sending a six-story column of gleaming white metal blasting out of the ground would be a most effective way of informing sometimes hard-to-reach congressmen and Cabinet members that a nuclear war is afoot.
Tundra Basing Mode: The idea is to put the Peacekeeper missiles in the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and let them slosh back and forth between Prudhoe Bay and Valdez. The only problem with this is that the Soviets might retaliate by putting their missiles into their new gas pipeline thereby either slipping nuclear weapons into Western Europe, or forcing both sides to add pipelines to the new START agenda.
Teamsters Basing Mode: Carter's racetrack idea did have a certain whacky charm to it, but the idea of building railroads in the desert is preposterous. Why not just contract the whole basing problem out to the Teamsters? The interstate system was, after all, built for national defense purposes. And with missile on the highways, no one else will want to be on the road, thereby also eliminating most future infrastructure-repair-bill debates. This would also allow the hawks to dedicate the nickel-a-gallon gas tax to keeping America strong.
Direct-Mail Basing Mode. If direct mail can deliver votes, why can't it deliver MX missiles?
Rio-Bravo Basing Mode: Remember the "Tortilla Curtain" previous administrations talked about, a chain-link fence along the entire U.S.-Mexican border? Why not simply line the Rio Grande with MX missiles? You could put them in Border Patrol cars. The Border Patrol would appreciate all the reinforcements while the undocumented workers who have been crossing the border virtually at will would be deterred, never knowing when the things would go off.
Reindustrialization Basing Mode: The Northeast-Midwest Coalition in Congress has been fighting Reagan's defense budget on the grounds that some of that money could be used to restore the industrial might of their region. Here's the perfect compromise: put the MX missiles in all the idled auto and steel plants in the old industrial heartland. That will mean either an invigorated local economy, or a further spur to the residents there to migrate to the Sunbelt where they will all vote Republican and take up golf (see "Replace-Your-Divot Basing Mode").
Greenpeace Basing Mode: Why not put the missiles on the backs of whales? That way the Pentagon gets their missiles and the environmentalists save their whales. Who is going to tamper with a whale armed with a Peacekeeper missile? Granted, this means the land-based missile becomes sea-based, but the Pentagon's long past the point of being choosy.