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Art Buchwald

The Overkill Ratio Is Under Discussion

January 15, 1985|Art Buchwald

In the world of nuclear arms, missiles do not kill people, nations kill people.

Therefore at the start of the new arms negotiations it's time both the Soviet Union and the United States take a new approach to the question of disarmament.

Instead of negotiating the reduction of offensive and defensive nuclear weapons, we should negotiate limits on how many times each superpower may kill a person in the event of an all-out war.

At the moment it is believed that the United States and the Soviets have stockpiled enough weapons to destroy each other's citizens 10 times over.

The first step then is to produce an agreement that would reduce the nuclear arsenals in both countries to the point at which they could only kill every American and Soviet citizen five times.

Cutting the KR (Kill Ratio) in half won't be easy, but it is possible to persuade the superpowers to agree to it, particularly when it can be argued that you only have to kill a person twice to make your point in an all-out holocaust. With a Kill Ratio of five, both sides would still have a margin of safety in case their missiles malfunction or fail to hit their targets.

The U.S. military will argue that the Soviets may sign a treaty agreeing to kill every American only five times, and then cheat, by stashing away enough weapons to kill them seven times.

The Soviet military could balk at cutting the KR in half on the grounds that while the United States might reduce its weapons, they are still at a disadvantage because if we refuse to include West European warheads in the count, each Soviet citizen could still be killed eight times.

At this point the negotiators in Geneva would have to resort to compromise.

The Americans could address the U.S. military fears by insisting on on-site inspection of both nuclear stockpiles. If it were found that the Soviet weapons on hand had enough power to kill the Americans more than the agreed-upon KR of five, the United States could abrogate the treaty and proceed to build new weapons that would kill every Soviet citizen 15 times.

In exchange for on-site inspection, we would include the West European nukes in our KR, and reduce American stockpiles until both the U.S. and West European KR came out to five.

If the Kill Ratio formula is unacceptable there is no reason for the superpowers to leave the bargaining table.

Another solution might be to work out a fair agreement on how many people each side may be permitted to wipe out in the event of a war. Neither country would have to reduce its arsenal, but would be limited to firing only enough missiles to waste 100 million people on the other's territory.

The obvious question is: Who would monitor the pact to see that the superpowers did not bag more than their limit? This could be done by the International Red Cross, which would have access to all the stricken areas. If either side went over the 100-million ballpark figure, the other would then be permitted to match them body for body.

With the limits set by the treaty, it would not only be a waste of money for the superpowers to continue the arms race, but there would be an incentive to reduce their nuclear arsenals accordingly.

I have no illusions that either the Kill Ratio reduction proposal or the 100-million limit on casualties can be successfully negotiated overnight.

I'm throwing them on the table as a starting point in the new negotiations. When it comes to serious disarmament talks you have to start somewhere.

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