The Sept. 7 editorial "Why a Test Ban Treaty?" correctly points out that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty "is hung up in the Senate by Republicans desiring to use it as a hostage for a national missile defense of their particular design." Sen. Jesse Helms and others are spreading the false idea that Americans must choose between a test ban treaty and a missile defense. In doing so, they promote a fundamental crisis of governing in U.S. foreign policy: the paralysis of the treaty-making power shared by the executive and legislative branches.

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is the major culprit behind the choke hold that prevents all 100 senators from exercising their constitutional obligation to give advice and consent in making treaties. Since January, he has refused even to hold hearings on any other pacts until the State Department submits a revised Limitations on the Anti-Ballistic Missiles (ABM) treaty -- any version of which he opposes -- so that he can work to kill it.

The ABM treaty stands in the way of the notion that the United States should make yet one more attempt to deploy a budget-busting "Star Wars" national missile defense system. Mr. Helms and "backdoor isolationist" Republicans are holding hostage a comprehensive nuclear test ban to their own competing defense agenda.

Alas, Majority Leader Trent Lott has made it clear that he will not buck Chairman Helms and either force the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty on the Foreign Relations Committee's calendar or relieve the committee of responsibility, as he did in the case of the chemical weapons ban in 1997. The Foreign Relations chairman is making the preposterous claim that the test ban would interfere with "the right of the United States to deploy its nuclear defense capability when necessary to protect the American people" [Raleigh News & Observer, Aug. 26]. This is a red herring.

The only realistic solution to breaking the paralytic grip of Senate isolationists on American foreign policy is to strip the ailing Mr. Helms of his chairmanship and install second-ranking and former chairman Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana. He understands and practices a bipartisan approach in an interdependent world.


Davidson, N.C.

The writer served as executive director of the U.S. General Advisory Committee on Arms Control under President Carter.