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Game plan; how to conduct the U.S.-Soviet contest.

Game Plan: How to Conduct the U.S.-Soviet Contest.

Game Plan: How to Conduct the U.S.-Soviet Contest. Zbigniew Brzezinski. Atlantic Monthly Press, $18.95.

Dr. Brzezinski's world is not one that I recognize. I'm glad I don't live there. The basic premise of his interesting, if at times bewildering book, is that the United States and the Soviet Union constitute two imperial systems engaged in a global conflict in which one or the other will prevail. His conclusion is that the present "bilateral imperial coexistence' cannot endure indefinitely. Indeed, Dr. Brzezinski asserts that "the United States and the Soviet Union by all pervious standards should have gone to war against each other on many occasions.' He maintains that the contrasts between the two countries are greater than those that brought us into war against Nazi Germany. As he sees it, "without the fearful restraint generated by the destructive capacity of nuclear weapons, the two superpowers in all probability would have gone to war against each other on more than one occasion.'

Dr. Brzezinski apparently believes the global competition between the United States and the USSR to be so pervasive and so much the product of centuries-old Russian ambition that even a complete and healthy change in the Soviet political and economic system would leave us locked in a struggle for world domination. In his world: "In a paradoxical sense, for America, communism in Russia has been a historical blessing because it has locked the immensely gifted and patient Russian people into a system that stifles, squanders and sacrifices their great potential.'

As I see it, the United States and the Soviet Union have not gone to war because there is no necessary conflict between their genuine "geopolitical interests.' The survival and well-being of neither depends on taking something away from the other. And whatever Mr. Gorbachev's failings, he does not appear to be a Stalin or Hitler and his Politburo colleagues will see to it that he stays that way.

Nor can I see that either power has the attributes of a true imperium. In Dr. Brzezinski's delineation of Moscow's Empire, he includes the 545 million people in the Soviet Union itself, its Eastern European satellite states and what he calls its "imperial clients,' notably Cuba, Nicaragua and Ethiopia. For the United States, its imperial system is said to embrace the 780 million people living here, in allied countries and in those of "dependent clients.' Unarguably outside both purported imperial systems are the People's Republic of China, with a population of over a billion, and India, with about as many people as ascribed to the American empire.

Western Europe, though tightly linked to the United States, is miscast in this analysis. If we elect to treat these vibrant countries as dependent clients by, for example, making unilateral decisions to pursue strategic defense, and scrap existing constraints on offensive systems, they may reassess their voluntary affiliation and pursue a course that takes them well beyond the greater self-reliance that Dr. Brzezinski urges.

As the author recognizes, any Sovict claim to imperial status is gravely impaired because they lack the respect once given to the Romans and now, even if grudgingly, to the United States. Soviet representatives at times seem to feel like Rodney Dangerfields on the international scene. Moreover, I am not conscious that "much of the global discourse' is devoted to debate about the relative merits of American and Soviet political and philosophical concepts. For many in the developing world, the superpower competition is largely irrelevant and even a big bore. And when it comes to the relative appeal of American and Soviet ideas, it's no contest. We're easily the more lovable superpower.

Nor can I see that we have been blessed by the fact that the Russians are trapped in a repressive and uncreative system. The world would be blessed rather by the evolution of the Soviet Union to the stage of political freedom and private initiative. As a precedent, I do not, for example, regret the emergence of Japan as a modern, free and highly industrialized society. They are a formidable competitor in world trade, but I don't look back with nostalgia at the Japan that bombed Pearl Harbor. Similarly, I have no gnawing apprehensions about a world in which the USSR might become a free market democracy. I see no reason to assume that it would be intractably hostile to the United States and its interest.

I do not disagree, however, with several of the author's prescriptions. With regard to our conventional force posture, I believe he is right in stressing the proper mission of the Navy as sea control, not land attack on the Soviet homeland. I also agree that we ought to have rapid deployment forces that can help us respond to military challenges to American security other than a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. Moreover, to the extent that he suggests that we should be "prepared to apply force at any early sign of Soviet or Cuban military involvement' in Central America, I am in full agreement. But a counter-intervention policy is the antithesis of his suggestion that we might intervene militarily to achieve "internal self-determination' in Nicaragua. I would be equally opposed to the use of our military forces to achieve self-determination for the people of Chile, or the vast majority in South Africa. Dr. Brzezinski, however, believes that our mistake in the Bay of Pigs fiasco was in not committing U.S. military forces. Had we done so we would have given the Soviets a model for the superpower intervention known as the Brezhnev Doctrine.

It is with respect to his views concerning strategic nuclear weapons that I find myself in greatest disagreement with the author's premises and proposals. I believe he is mistaken both as to the versatility of nuclear weapons and the present value and potential of nuclear arms control.

Whatever the rationales for first use of tactical battlefield nuclear weapons, there are no circumstances under which it would be in the interest of the United States or Western Europe to convert a conventional war into a strategic nuclear exchange. The notion that either the United States or the Soviet Union can employ nuclear weapons, as Dr. Brzezinski puts it, "at levels ranging from the tactical to the strategic, selectively at a large variety of targets and over protracted periods of time,' does not withstand analysis. As the author points out, this was an underlying thesis of Presidential Directive 59 issued by President Carter in June of 1980. PD 59 called for the ability to fight a limited and protracted nuclear war. When this approach was ridiculed as a terminally bad joke, then-Secretary of Defense Harold Brown rationalized it as an enhancement of deterrence. In a speech to the Navy War College, he explained, in effect, that we knew there could not be a limited and protracted nuclear war, but we could not be sure that the Soviets knew it, and therefore for the sake of deterrence, we had to pretend we did not know it either.

But Dr. Brzezinski takes PD 59 seriously. He proposes the carefully calibrated deployment of first strike weapons and strategic defenses that would "not deprive the Soviet side of the assurance that in all circumstances it would still retain a broad retaliatory capability against U.S. society.' Although elsewhere he disparages the "antiquated doctrine of mutual assured destruction, [MAD]' what he proposes is to try to tinker with MAD, thereby creating ominous consequences for strategic stability.

Perhaps Dr. Brzezinski's major misapprehension has to do with his perception of America's vulnerability. He suggests that, "Under prevailing conditions, it is unlikely that any Soviet military planner could confidently expect that a Soviet nuclear attack would so disarm the United States as to prevent an extremely damaging retaliatory response.' [Emphasis added]. Elsewhere he characterizes the strategic balance as one in which the Soviets could have "no assurance that the United States would be unable to inflict massive destruction on the Soviet Union in the event of a Soviet first strike.' [Emphasis added]. According to Dr. Brzezinski, our relative position is inadequate and steadily weakening.

The fact is that we are less, rather than more, vulnerable to a first strike than is the Soviet Union. Over half of our strategic warheads are in the least vulnerable basing mode, the submarine. By contrast, more than 75 percent of the Soviet's strategic warheads are in the most vulnerable basing mode--land-based inter continental ballistic missiles. The survivability of submarine-launched ballistic missiles is being increased by the deployment of the longer-range Trident C-4 and D-5. Long-range cruise missiles on our strategic bombers add significantly to the strength and survivability of this part of our deterrent triad.

The centralized direction of the USSR from Moscow, and the less than voluntary allegiance of its component states, renders it politically far more fragile than the United States. Far-fetched as the scenario may be, a limited exchange costing them Moscow, and us Washington, would leave us with a country. It's less clear where it would leave the USSR.

In arguing for strategic defense as a needed stabilizing component, Dr. Brzezinski asserts: "Of course, if the initiative is technically unfeasible, economically ruinous, and militarily easy to counter, it is unclear why the SDI would still be destabilizing and why the Soviets should object to America's embarking on such a self-defeating enterprise, and even less clear why the Soviets would then follow suit in reproducing such an undesirable thing for themselves.'

The reasons why are not that hard to find. In the late 1960s, the Soviets were moving toward a territorial anti-ballistic missile defense. We knew it to be a mistake for them, but we knew also that we would have to take measures to counter it and to match, it, and that these measures would be expensive and would trigger a race in offensive arms that would leave both sides less secure. The same reasoning applies today. As pointed out by Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger in his letter to the President just before last November's Summit, even a probable Soviet territorial defense would mean that we would have to increase rather than decrease our own offensive strategic forces.

It was our concern about Soviet anti-ballistic missile defenses that led to the first SALT talks in 1969. Today, there is still no alternative to negotiated arms control as a means of ensuring strategic stability. But, Dr. Brzezinski parrots the tired charge that arms control agreements have "had the effect of uniquely obstructing the modernization of U.S. forces.' A more legitimate complaint is that they have not done enough to restrain the build-up of nuclear arsenals on both sides.

Under the terms of the agreements, however, care has been taken to permit the kinds of modernization that would improve survivability of the retaliatory deterrent. In this respect, the United States has been free to do, and has done or is doing, everything that makes sense and some things that make little or none. The longer-range submarine ballistic missiles, the cruise missiles on strategic bombers and mobile missiles have all been permitted, along with less sensible programs. The sorry history of the MX missile need never have been told if we had had the wisdom to accept a Soviet proposed ban on any new ICBMs with multiple warheads. What has hampered MX development and deployment (though not enough) is the absence of a strategic rationale for it and growing popular appreciation of the ludicrousness of the various basing schemes, including the multiple shelter plan of the Carter years. (It should be noted that this plan did not involve "two-hundred survivably based launchers with two-thousand missiles.' The scheme was that 200 missiles would wander among 4,600 shelters.)

At the present time, neither side can have any legitimate concern about the survivability of its deterrent. This strategic stability can be preserved and even enhanced by relatively simple measures of nuclear arms control. But, instability can be created if, as recently announced, the Reagan Administration scraps the SALT restrictions and, as Secretary Weinberger and others advocate, repudiates the ABM Treaty. This could lead to massive increases in offensive warheads, deployment of strategic defenses of unknown and unknowable properties, and a resulting situation in which each side will have a legitimate apprehension that striking first may be the least bad choice at a time of major crisis.

The avoidance of that risk must take priority in any sensible policy for U.S.-Soviet relations. Separating arms control from geopolitics, contrary to Dr. Brzezinski's apprehensions, will neither generate euphoria in the American public nor lead to unilateral disarmament. It will mean that the inevitable political differences between the two countries will not present a growing risk of nuclear catastrophe.

I believe that Dr. Brzezinski overstates the intensity and inevitability of the global contest in which the United States and the Soviet Union are engaged. But to the extent that he is right and I am wrong, arms control becomes even more important. Even in his world, they would share an interest in rational survival.
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Author:Warnke, Paul C.
Publication:Washington Monthly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1986
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