It is not only politics but also strategy and arms control that make strange bedfellows. Consider the current unacknowledged agreement between elements of the left and the right as they simultaneously launch similar attacks against deterrence and NATO. The only thing that prevents one from illustrating these similarities by assembling an "attack video" is that it is almost impossible to figure out just who is plagiarizing whom.
For example, the notion of a general ballistic missile flight test ban is currently endorsed by four of the six Democratic presidential candidates -- it is opposed only by Albert Gore and, less clearly, Bruce Babbitt. The idea was sowed by congressional staffers and began to sprout in Iowa, where nuclear deterrence is apparently socially unacceptable and where hapless visiting candidates are pushed into positions that no president could responsibly sustain.
A ban on flight tests of ballistic missiles would mean that, while trying to maintain a nuclear deterrent, the United States would have to abandon over a period of time any reliance on untested (and thus decreasingly reliable) ballistic missiles. It would consequently mean the end of our ballistic missile submarine fleet, as well as the end of our land-based ICBM force. The submarines are the survivable bedrock of our ability to deter war, and the ICBMs, if made survivable, are their most valuable adjunct.
Yes, bombers and cruise missiles would be left to us under such a ban -- left to face, unaided, the Soviet Union's massive air defenses.
In short, it is almost impossible to think of a worse arms control proposal from an American point of view than a general ballistic missile flight test ban. Almost, but not quite. Because this current crowd-pleaser in the Iowa caucuses is merely a gradual method of implementing an even more damaging proposal -- the offer by President Reagan a year ago at Reykjavik to ban ballistic missiles outright. Reagan's proposal in Iceland's famous haunted house was a way of undermining deterrence by a date certain. In Iowa the antinuclear groups that dominate the caucuses are willing to have the undermining take place more gradually, to have our deterrent rot slowly. Chalk one up for Midwestern moderation.
On the issue of U.S.-Soviet relations there are also some increasing, probably unconscious, parallels between left and right. For example, there are many recent exuberant statements about glasnost from national figures of a liberal persuasion. Certainly Mikhail Gorbachev's beginning efforts at reform are interesting, are positive and should be encouraged. But Peter the Great, Alexander II, Lenin and Khrushchev all had their reforming periods. Sometimes Russia's neighbors got a respite from that nation's millennium of expansionism, and sometimes not. It is only prudent to avoid getting palpitations about glasnost and perestroika until we, the Afghan rebels, Solidarity and the rest of the world see more substantial results.
But, again, this giddiness about glasnost is a pale copy of what is still the proposal that no member of the administration below the very top can mention with a straight face: the president's often reiterated idea that the United States should give (in some formulations, sell at cost) SDI technology to the Soviets. Only a complete transformation of the nature of the Soviet state could bring such an idea within the pale of reason.
A third interesting mirror image between right and left occurs in the form of opposition to the small mobile ICBM (Midgetman), the best bet for preserving the survivability of the land-based leg of our nuclear deterrent over the long run. Midgetman is opposed by two of the six Democratic candidates (Jackson and Dukakis). It also has some opposition in Congress from both conservatives and liberals, and in parts of the administration. Opponents from one side tend not to want to spend money on ICBMs, period. Those on the other side want to spend funds on SDI rather than on anything else. For many of these elements of both right and left, maintaining a survivable ICBM force for deterrence is, at best, of second-order importance.
Finally, the isolationism that held sway on the right of American politics for many decades, and then migrated to the left during the Vietnam War, has now found a foothold on the right again. Irving Kristol and other conservative and neoconservative intellectuals have started to propose withdrawal from NATO, in favor of heavier reliance on SDI.
Most who are bashing the alliance and deterrence feel free to do so because they believe that a deus ex machina is about to descend to the world's stage and solve all our strategic problems. For some, such strategic salvation is expected to come from an early SDI deployment. For others, it seems to come from the assumption that in short order Russia's empire will be dramatically converted into government by a genial group of capitalist-minded commissars running a free-market economy that is more or less on the verge of democracy.
These two notions have in common a high degree of fantasy. Those who defend deterrence and the alliance have recently seen hostile action, sanctioned by such fantasies, on both flanks. It is time to return the fire. The writer, a former undersecretary of the Navy, practices law in Washington.