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Has Reagan Gotten Soft?

May 09, 1986

Did I read right? Did Norman Podhoretz (whose article appropriately appeared on the far right of the Op-Ed page on April 30), editor of the ultra-right Commentary magazine, really say President Reagan has gotten soft?

Has the old cowboy lost his resolve to head off the Soviet Red Menace, and gone and seriously considered nuclear arms control? Podhoretz says he has, and that this is undermining the efforts of the more enlightened among us to expose the "great lie" of arms control, and that limiting our nuclear arsenal will give the Reds their long-awaited chance to jump ahead. Talk about your great lies!

The fallacy that superiority equals deterrence is an idea the military-industrial complex has been lobbying for and promoting for 35 years. Why not? It keeps them in business.

We can't expect Texas Instruments and General Electric to make their immense profits off such unsophisticated items as calculators and toasters, can we?

Rather than refer to the economic reality of the arms race, Podhoretz would have us justify a thrust to gain nuclear superiority by citing the fortification of Germany and Japan under the guise of arms reduction in the 1930s. Can he be serious? Does he really expect us to equate conventional arms with those capable of global destruction? We might as well be concerned with Soviet firecracker and pop gun superiority as well.

The fact is that this type of xenophobic paranoia is our worst enemy in the fight to neutralize the threat of nuclear disaster. Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev demonstrated his willingness to at least reduce that threat this summer by carrying out a self-imposed test ban that lasted until the middle of March, when he realized that Reagan, who allowed U.S. testing to continue through that Soviet respite, wasn't going to wise up.

Podhoretz would have the United States waste even more billions to neutralize this imagined Soviet threat by flogging the half-dead Strategic Defense Initiative horse. Well, the votes are in, and researchers involved in the "Star Wars" plan have already called it "at best an enormous waste of scientific and financial resources"--that's a direct quote from the Caltech Space Weapons Study group, who last year collected 500 staff signatures, including six Nobel Prize winners condemning Star Wars. Let's shoot the poor horse and put it out of its misery.


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