Committing the United States to building the MX intercontinental missile "commits us to the madness of limited nuclear war," Sen. Thomas J. McIntyre (D-N.H.) protested yesterday.
McIntyre, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Research Subcommittee, urged President Carter to steer the nation away from the this "madness" by reversing Defense Secretary. Harold Brown's recent tentative decision to push the missile another big step toward production.
Brown, in earmarking $245 million for the MX nuclear blockbuster in the fiscal year 1979 defense budget now in preparation, would advance the missile to the pre-production phase of development.
McIntyre said it "deeply angers this senator" that Brown moved to accelerate MX development without completing the study of the weapon that Congress ordered last year.
McIntyre said Congress ordered the Pentagon to explain how the missile conformed to national strategy because his subcommittee concluded the MX "was a runaway program" which did not fit into the President's strategic objectives.
Those objectives, McIntyre said, were to "avoid an outbreak of nuclear war" by reducing the motive for striking first. "The MX will give the Soviets a motive for striking first and will make the outbreak of nuclear war more likely," McIntyre contended in a statement.
Under nuclear policy which has evolved under various labels since President Eisenhower's day, the United States deployed nuclear weapons in bombers, submarines and missile silos to persuade the Soviet Union that it could not score a knockout blow in surprise attack. The United States would still have plenty of nuclear punch left over to devastate the Soviet Union in a relaliatory strike.
Besides trying to make a first strike look like a losing proposition for the Soviet Union, U.S. leaders in recent years have stressed that American strategic missiles are not designed to wipe out the Russian nuclear force by surprise attack.
But McIntyre, in his two-page statement for release today, argued that the MX would be so powerful and so accurate that Soviet planners would have to assume it was designed specifically to knock our Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles.
He said 300 MX missiles could "wipe out the entire Soviet ICBM force and their command and control centers in 30 minutes. In a period of crisis, the Soviets would be faced with the choice of either using their missiles or losing them. This would put a hair trigger on nuclear war. It would give the Soviets a military reason to strike first."
In the senator's view, the Air Force wants the MX to carry out what the Pentagon calls the "limited nuclear option," or LNO.
Here is a possible scenario under the LNO doctrine which McIntyre regards as "madness": the Soviet Union fires a salvo of missiles at American missiles in sparsely populated areas of the Northwest, destroying 100. The American President responds by firing back only enough missiles to destroy 100 Soviet ones. Then the two superpowers pause and negotiate.
McIntyre long has argued that nuclear war could not be orchestrated and that to pretend it could be risks worldwide incineration.
The Soviet Union, by building big nuclear blockbusters like the American MX is engaged "in the same damned foolishness" of going after landbased missiles, said McIntyre.
"So it is simply a matter of time," he continued, "until their large missiles became MIRVed and accurate enough to threaten our ICBMs. What we have in an ICBM arms race that threatens the future of mankind." (MIRV is the technique of putting a cluster of H-bombs in the nose of one missile.)
The silo-busters both sides are building must be limited to the point that MX missiles are not needed, the senator said, or else an arms control agreement "would not be worth a damn."
In the meantime, McIntyre said, Congress must insit that the President follow its 1976 mandate to relate the MX to national objectives.
McIntyre said his subcommittee concluded in 1976 that "Pentagon bureaucrats were moving the MX along and there by committing this country to the idea of limited nuclear war outside the formal presidential guidance which is supposed to define America's strategic objectives."
Carter has said he hopes to avoid deploying the MX, which would be based in tunnels between 10 and 20 miles long. The MX would be hauled back and forth inside the tunnel on wheeled vehicles so Soviet rocket forces could not take dead aim on the missile. A giant launcher wold punch a hole in the roof of the tunnel if the MX was to be fired.
Each MX missile would carry up to 12 H-bombs of about 200 kilotons each and land them on different targets with unprecedented accuracy, under Air Force plans. The MX could be deployed as early as 1984, with 300 of the missiles expected to cost what McIntyre termed a "hideously expensive" $40 billion.
Carter's first inclination was to slow down the MX, requicing President Ford's 1978 budget for the missile's development from $295 million to $135 million. Under the Ford timetable the million for the MX in fiscal 1979 compared to the $245 million Brown approved during a preliminary review of the Pentagon's 1979 budget.