Regardless of who wins the election, the campaign has shown the presidential and congressional candidates what a profound hold the cause of peace has on the American people. The importance of this on future policy can hardly be overestimated.
When the campaign began, both Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan were either soft-pedaling or denouncing SALT II. At one point, Reagan was calling for a blockade of Cuba, while, at another point, Carter was launching a military raid into Iran in an ill-fated effort to rescue the hostages. That brand of jingoism was suddenly abandoned, however, when the polls began to demonstrate just how much American voters feared the danger of stumbling into war.
Now in the homestretch of this campaign, the peace theme has dominated all else (including the Carter-Reagan television debate), with both Carter and Reagan reassuring the electorate that they can be depended on to keep the United States out of war. Seldom has an issue been so ardently, and simultaneously, embraced by all the candidatees, including the independents.
The upshot is that no matter who wins the presidency, the American people can reasonably count on either the revival of SALT II or the development of SALT III, or both. Moreover, even if Reagan wins, the rush toward an unrestrained arms race with Russia is going to encounter popular opposition. The next Congress will think before topping the trillion dollars already envisaged for future military outlays.
A number of our allies privately favor the reelection of Carter because they are skeptical about Reagan's recent retreat from his earlier belligerence. Nonetheless, even Reagan's principal hardline advisers are now saying "not all elements of SALT II are bad," and part of it could possibly become the basis for an interim agreement.
In winding up his own reelection campaign, Sen. Jocob Javits, the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, took a look at future U.S. policy. "Down the road," he said, "we will again revert to beneficient, international, all-inclusive peace-seeking."
The next president, whoever he is, will have to take into consideration the growing reluctance of our allies, and other friends, to join us in unlimited military expenditures. Britian has been the staunchest supporter of Carter's effort to persuade the NATO countries to increase that organization's military budget by 3 percent a year, but the government of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher is apparently having second thoughts.
If reports leaking out of Britain's Treasury are true, that government may feel compelled to cut back substantially on its NATO commitment, just as Denmark, Belgium and Holland have fallen short of the proclaimed goal. China and Japan are now talking about military reductions.
The improved worldwide climate for detente with the Soviet Union is another factor that the next president will have to deal with. It the next American president does not give some heed to this, he will be playing into the hands of Russia; it is obvious that Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev is intent on promoting detente in the Western world, possibly in the hope of dividing the United States from its allies.
Hardly a day goes by without Brezhnev talking up detente to the leaders of one nation or another. Whether he is sincere or not, he is clearly making an impression, even on prominent American visitors to Moscow, such as Rep. Stephen Solarz (D-N.Y.) and Dr. Armand Hammer, the industrialist. r
Solarz reports that he found "real interest in improving relations with the U.S." among Soviet party, government and academic leaders. Hammer said Brezhnev had personally told him that he would do anything he could, short of yielding military superiority to the United States, to restore good relations with Washington, inasmuch as the only alternative was "the threat of war."
Secretary of State Edmund Muskie warns that the United States might be "endlessly at war all over the globe" if Reagan is elected president. The Soviet leaders, while seemingly favoring Carter over Reagan, are not all that alarmed. As one Soviet official sophisticated in the ways of America put it, "whoever is president always moves to the middle ground."