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'Killing the Wrong Weapon'

December 27, 1987

Your recent editorial in support of the Midgetman missile ("Killing the Wrong Weapon," Dec. 20) offers curious arguments to defend an unnecessary weapon.

First, it is vital to note that the primary rationale for Midgetman, the theoretical "window of vulnerability" (through which Soviet land-based missiles would attack our land-based missiles), was slammed shut by the Scowcroft Commission in its 1983 report. Then, as now, the United States maintained a triad of weapons--on land, sea, and air--that effectively compensates for the vulnerability of any particular leg. Land-based missiles might be more vulnerable than those launched from submarines, but the Soviets are surely not going to attempt a first strike against only 18% of our weapons when 46% of our warheads are at sea and largely invulnerable and another 36% are aboard bombers.

Building and deploying the enormously expensive Midgetman will do nothing more than decrease the already negligible possibility of a Soviet first strike. At an estimated cost of $45 billion to $50 billion (making it the most expensive missile force of all time), the American people deserve a much less expensive and more effective insurance policy.

Such a policy is in the making. As you note, talks between the United States and the Soviet Union are focusing on reducing strategic weapons by 50% (actually more like 35% given the peculiar counting rules agreed upon by both sides). Why is it necessary to build the Midgetman when we could reduce the perceived threat by sharply cutting the numbers of Soviet warheads on land-based missiles?

The MX in whatever basing mode is a bad idea, but the Midgetman is neither necessary nor desirable. Instead of talking of increasing the survivability of our missiles, let's focus on the survivability of our people; it's them we should endeavor to protect from a nuclear war.

STEPHEN SCHWARTZ

Los Angeles

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