This week, as the administration's strategic weaponry package -- mainly the B1 bomber and the MX missile -- begins to run the congressional gauntlet, one group of prim and proper Americans is in a fever: the small-is-beautiful grand strategists, the defenders of Jimmy Carter's wooden fleet and biplane air corps. I suggest we take their arguments cum grano salis: the money they save us today will amount to a piffle if, because of their economics, we have to fight wars tomorrow.
Of course, in their fevered world, the possbility of war does not seem to be a reality. Rather, the reality is endless argument against actually building Improved weaponry -- better it is to argue and to muse on a perfect weapon in a perfect future than to put actual bombers on the runway. I take it as evidence of these dreamers' rancorous estrangement from reality that they argue against building the B1 now because in the glorious future we may have the best bomber of all, Stealth What do we do in the meantime? Well, we save a lot of monery. This is a neat argument so long as one ignores that this is the century of the sneak attack and the undeclared war. Without the B1, America will be vulnerable for years until a weapon still somewhere on the drawing boards is in place. Pearl Harbor did not take years.
Of course, they have a lot of other arguments, and whether in cunning or in desperation they now throw them all against the administration's strategic package. The result is confusion, a province in which they dwell without noticeable unease.
Their intent is no longer to hornswoggle merely the simpletons on the left with horror stories of nuclear cataclysm. Now they will carry off those susceptible on the right with earnest protests that we are about to squander dear dollars on arms that are too puny and out of date. Wait for the 1990s, they solemnly Say, wait for Stealth. Finally, they try their magic on those of skittish mind in the center, arguing that: the weapons are ineffective, too costly, obsolescent, a distraction from developing the wondrous weapons of the future.
If these sophistries prevail on Capitol Hill now, the consequence will not be a safer America or a more peaceful world. On the contrary, the consequences will be inactivity and the illusion that once again the small-is-beautiful grand strategists are right in advising their economics. This is the thin ice on which they would then set out to deal with the Soviets.
Actually, it is increasingly apparent that the small-is-beautiful crowd never was right. Their economies have not slowed Moscow's military buildup, in any perceptible way. Had their arguments been thwarted a few years ago, we might already have the B1 in our strategic triad, thus making its bomber leg less vulnerable and the present strategic package less expensive. America would be a safer place.
To argue that the government is an inefficient conveyor of services is to argue the obvious. Much of the business of government today could be more economically and expertly handled by private organization -- for instance, the post office and possibly the public schools. Unfortunately, defense is not the kind of thing that can safely be privatized. Hence we either maintain our expensive military or we throw ourselves off the tender mercies of the Soviets. The little counsel of the small-is-beautiful strategists ought to be ignored. The confusion and captious dithering that they bring with them is dangerous to peace.