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'Panic at the Pentagon'

March 18, 1986

Your editorial (March 2), "Panic at the Pentagon," performs a high public service by reminding its readers how vulnerable we are to the dangers of becoming, in the words of Dwight Eisenhower, a "garrison state."

This prophetic, heroic statesman did his best to warn us against "the acquisition of unwarranted influence . . . by the military-industrial complex" and he proved particularly prescient when he wrote the following less familiar words:

"Some day there is going to be a man sitting in my present chair who has not been raised in the military services and who will have little understanding of where slashes in their estimates can be made with little or no damage. If that should happen while we still have the state of tension that now exists in the world, I shudder to think of what could happen in this country."

Such a man seems to be sitting in that chair now, a man who has said, "You have to remember, we don't have the military-industrial complex we once had"--a man who apparently equates national security with bloated budgets pushed upon one particular federal bureaucracy, which, unlike the others, is looked upon as a sacred cow.

Unlike his experienced predecessor, this man fails to understand that too much money means too much power and too much arrogance; in this case, as you correctly point out in your editorial, the arrogance to permit only the President and a few top Pentagon officials to read a recent report that reveals the shaky foundation on which our national nuclear strategy rests.

Our system of government is based upon the belief that the best way to prevent the abuse of power and to preserve our precious heritage of checks and balances--a belief that underlies Eisenhower's words of warning--is to keep our people informed.

In the light of public scrutiny it becomes difficult if not impossible for a few misguided or mischievous policy-makers to take us in directions that can lead to the garrison state referred to by President Eisenhower, and even to the nuclear destruction that worried him enough to warn us against "a huge increase in newer elements of our defense" or "a dramatic expansion in basic and applied research."

The report to which your editorial refers apparently indicates that astronomical sums we spend buy us increasing insecurity; that we are putting our money where our myths are by depending upon a "frighteningly vulnerable" nuclear command and control system.


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