Having generally opposed appropriating funds for the MX missile over the last several years, my decision now to support the president's request for additional funds for the missile was not an easy one. That was especially true, given my general concern about the growth of the military-industrial complex and my feeling that, as much as any other factor, Ronald Reagan's rhetoric has heated up the arms race in the past two years. But I believe a case can be made to complete the research and development on the missile and proceed with flight testing, still reserving final judgment on deployment. Why?
The Scowcroft Commission (and, I hope, its successor) ties arms control and foreign policy consideration to defense policy. As far as I can remember, this linkage between what we spend on defense and why we spend it has little historical precedent. While the MX may seem to be a terribly high price to pay for this development, a reasonable case has been made to proceed with an arms control
program along the lines outlined by the
Scowcroft Commission, which contains
the MX, a small, less destabilizing mis sile with a single warhead, and a re vised START position. Without pro ceeding with the MX, I fear we will
have abandoned the constructive
progress made by this commission,
and arms control may become a
thing of the past for the remainder
of this administration, which could
be for another six years. That
would be a catastrophe.
The president has,
from moder ates in
both Houses and both
parties, begun to revise and modify previously held arms-control and negotiating positions. I think he realized that he was beginning to lose his popular mandate in the defense area and that his jingoistic rhetoric was not very persuasive to a majority of Americans. For whatever reasons, he has chosen to work with Congress to begin to achieve a bipartisan posture in the areas of defense and foreign policy. While I personally believe that the president's inflexible positions, as well as his rhetoric, have discouraged that bipartisan cooperation, we should not pass up this opportunity to try to achieve a united, responsible consensus in dealing with the Soviets on arms control. Basing the MX in Minuteman silos is not terribly stabilizing. Clearly the missile is vulnerable to a Soviet first- strike in this configuration. But there is also no acceptable alternative for a land-based system within the next 10 years. We do possess non-land-based means to counter the Soviet threat (e.g., cruise missiles, Trident submarines) but none seems to matter as much to the Russians. Therefore, arguments regarding the substance of the MX seem less relevant than the fact that the Russians are more concerned about our land-based missiles than anything else. In this case, perception is more important than reality.
To kill the MX now, I have come to believe, may indeed reduce the Soviets' inclination to "give" on their giant land-based missiles, which is the heart of what we want in an arms control agreement. I have come to the conclusion that the basic question is this: will the funding for MX help or hurt our ability to reach an ultimate reduction in nuclear weapons arsenals? It is a very close question but, on balance, I believe that we are closer to an agreement and to a reduction in these crazy weapons of mass destruction, if we proceed--at least initially--on funding for the missile. Thus my shift in position is based on the hope that a favorable vote on the MX also will change Ronald Reagan's and Yuri Andropov's positions at the negotiating table in Geneva.
My faith in the administration's promises to be more moderate is not blind, however. If I see a breach of the president's agreement to moderate his START proposals or a material deviation away from the Scowcroft Commission's recommendations, all bets are off. As it is, I make my commitment one step at a time. I do so knowing that this initial vote does not put one MX missile in the ground, and hoping and praying that I will never have to vote for actual deployment of the missile because the president as well as the Soviet Union will actually strike a deal in Geneva.