Sen. John Glenn (D-Ohio) may have an idea. People tend to snicker when he asks earnestly, every chance he gets, why can't our mobile missiles be mobile?
Everyone else in official Washington is dumping all over the Europeans for the clamor they have raised about letting us put 572 new Pershing II and cruise missiles in their countries. Glenn, who is all for the Reagan plan, praises them for tolerating the trucking of the missiles they already have.
Glenn complains, in his pleasant way, that the only good reason the Pentagon gives him for not putting our nukes on wheels is the "unacceptable social interface"--which, of course, is Pentagonese for Americans screaming at the thought.
When Glenn trotted out his notion for the consideration of Paul C. Warnke, our former SALT negotiator, who is opposed to the Reagan plan, he got the usual putdown.
"Yes," Warnke said cheerfully, "I've heard it suggested that we put them on Amtrak and give the Soviets the timetable."
Others have pointed out, no less sardonically, that sending the nukes through high-crime areas might preempt first strikes by muggers and their ilk. They point out, too, that the missiles might be stolen, as are most things that move in those precincts.
If anything is to bring home to America the horrors of nuclear warfare, being stuck in rush-hour traffic on the freeway behind a Titan missile might do it. Or possibly hearing one rumble by one's tent in Yellowstone--Glenn thinks that the beasts could be parked in parks--would cause an instant reversion to the unthinkability of the use of nuclear weapons.
Propinquity is what counts in these matters. Just remember what happened to the Carter scheme of building an underground railroad for the MX. Ronald Reagan, faced with the rage of Utah and Nevada, which emphatically declined to have their land dug up to make 4,600 mobile homes for the MX, retreated.
No one called the people of Utah and Nevada names. No one accused them of being unilateral disarmers, soft in the head and soft on communism, or reprehensible "better Red than dead-ers"--all epithets hurled at the Europeans. Reagan was praised for defusing the issue. Yet he is in effect asking leaders of the NATO countries to take the kind of heat he sidestepped.
The people of Western Europe are reacting precisely as the citizens of Nevada did at the thought of having engines of destruction in their back yards.
Of course, Utah and Nevada and the other 48 states were comforted by Reagan's subsequent statement that a limited nuclear war could be limited to Europe. The Europeans were not.
The exiling of the MX to temporary silos, combined with the assurances that nuclear war is not contagious, have blanketed public opinion on the subject of the survival of the planet.
The Union of Concerned Scientists is attempting to do something about it.
The group has planned convocations on 146 campuses to counter the careless talk coming from the administration: the secretary of state's casual mention of a "demonstration blast," the secretary of defense's definition of a goal of "a credible deterrent" without saying what it is and the arms control and disarmament director's fervent advocacy of two new weapons, the MX and the B1.
It's the kind of chat that can be best summarized by the testimony of Gen. Russell E. Dougherty, former commander of the Strategic Air Command, and now executive director of the Air Force Association.
He told the three members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee who bothered to show up for a hearing on foreign policy and arms control implications that he finds the Reagan doctrine "refreshing" and "virile."
Says Henry Kendall, the distinguished MIT physicist who is chairman of the Union of Concerned Scientists: "This whole nuclear arms race is a cosmic masculinity test."
Europe's fury of alarm has produced more backlash than echo here.
Inside the White House, there is indignation that we are taking a propaganda pounding, instead of the Soviets, who have deployed 220 long-range SS20 missiles. Besides, the U.S. nukes in Europe were West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt's idea. He had second thoughts only when it occurred to him that the Soviets would strike back not at the country of manufacture but at the country of launch.
Glenn says that cruise missiles would confound Soviet planners and send Ivan the targeter into a perpetual swivel. But they might also focus Americans' minds on the thought that nuclear weapons are dangerous.
It should be remembered that Europeans reached their present state of consciousness by seeing missiles traveling up and down their roads. It's one of the reasons Europeans are in the streets today and why Ronald Reagan may be driven to the negotiating table.