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Reagan's Undoing of SALT Treaty

June 22, 1986

President Reagan's decision to no longer be bound by the artificial limits of a flawed treaty that the Soviets no longer respect, and have been violating for some time, has provoked the wrath of certain commentators among the demi-learned, to whom arms control is an article of faith, and any treaty, no matter how besmirched, a holy relic. I refer to Richard N. Goodwin's column (Editorial Pages, June 13), "It's Now Our Duty to Take On Reagan's Undoing of SALT."

In the world of the real, arms treaties must be more than mere symbols; they are either effective in their purpose, or they are not. And, indeed, to view an "arms race" as the problem and "arms control" as the cure is to fundamentally miss the point, for the growth of arsenals is a reflection of the tensions between nations, not their cause; the symptom, not the disease.

Nations arm because they fear or despise one another, or both, or because one nation seeks dominion over the other, and the other would defend itself. In short, disarmament is a futile and illusory goal, for nations disarm only when tensions have abated, but, once tensions renew, they rearm again; thus, even if disarmament succeeds in the near term, over the longer term its success can only be fleeting, and for us to place our faith in a doctrine so discredited both by reason and by history is to display the most callous disregard for the cause of peace, and for the future of generations yet unborn.

Similarly, it should be noted that the rejection of a particular treaty does not represent the end of the arms control process per se; it does represent a turn away from illusory arms control and a turn toward genuine arms control, for treaties that are not based on reciprocity are worse than no treaty at all, for they give us neither one thing nor the other--they foster a false assurance of security while masking a deadly reality, that the competition continues, whether or not we choose to compete, and we can either respond to the challenge, or be defeated.

To be sure, this view is poison and anathema to those who would make a virtue of appeasement, and to whom pacifism is a sacrament. However, if arms control is worth pursuing, it is worth pursuing effectively. And, thus pursued, it can only be achieved through an appreciation of reality, not through indulgence in illusion.

DONALD W. BRIDGES

Monterey Park

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