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Where the candidates really stand; war and peace issues.

Given the present political climate, there are limits on what either candidate, once in office, could achieve in the area of national security. Reagan could not move much further toward total military surperiority over the Russians without alienating America's European allies and seriously threatening the prospects for a sustained economic recovery. Mondale could not cancel too many weapons programs without alienating major Democratic constituencies in regions whose industries are heavily dependent on defense spending. Realistically, niether man could redically alter the existing military establishment, whether in the direction of full-scale expansion or genuine disarmament.

With this in mind, we can identify the key areas in which the candidates hold relatively similar positions:

[sec.] High-tech conventional weapons. Both Reagan and Mondale would proceed with the development of "emerging technologies" (E.T.) in conventional arms for Europe, such as sophisticated deep-penetration antiarmor missiles. Reagan would do so because the Pentagon and the contractors want them, and Mondale would do so to compensate for any reductions negotiated with the Soviet Union in tactical nuclear munitions.

[sec.] Defense spending. When all is said and done, the candidates' defense budgets would not be too far apart in total dollar amounts. Reagan could not raise defense spending much faster without producing strong resistance from those business and legislative circles that seek to reduce the Federal deficit. Mondale could not significantly lessen the rate of increase without encountering strong resistance from communities with major defense contracts. Moreover, Mondale's commitment to E.T. weapons will probably wipe out any savings achieved through the cancellation of major nuclear programs.

Those limits having been described, we turn to the areas in which the candidates differ.

[sec.] Space weapons. Perhaps the most critical difference between the candidates is on the issue of space weaponry. Reagan is firmly wedded to his so-called Star Wars programs, while Mondale advocates a ban on such systems. In the next four years, Reagan could lend so much momentum to the program that it would prove nearly impossible for his successor, from either party, to halt it. At present, spending on Star Wars systems is relatively modest, an estimated $2 billion in fiscal 1985. By the end of a Reagan second term, however, it could climb to $25 billion or more annually, creating a web of corporate and political interests that would resist any effort to cancel the program.

A U.S. military thrust into space could have grave consequences. Although it is unlikely that any of the proposed weapons would be operational in this century, if ever, their development over the next twenty years would increase anxiety in the Soviet Union and could provoke the Russians to undertake a major expansion of their nuclear arsenal, exposing the United States to greater danger. An American drive into space would also lend credibility to hard-line proposals that the United States develop a first-strike nuclear capability and would further encourage the opponents of arms control agreements with the Russians.

[sec.] "Counterforce" weapons and the nuclear arms race. While the Star Wars program has become the primary issue in the nuclear debate, there have been several other worrisome developments in the past year. Particularly significant is the Administration's decision to proceed with production of the MX missile and the Trident 2 submarine-launched ballistic missle. Deployment of hose highly accurate weapons, if approved by Congress, would provide the United States with a substantial counterforce capability; that is, a capacity to destroy Soviet intercontinental ballistic missiles in their hardened underground silos. Many experts believe that the acquisition of such a capability would greatly increase the risk of a nuclear conflict, since each side might be tempted to shoot first during a crisis rather than risk destruction of its ICMBMs. A major decision facing U.S. leaders will be whether or not to deploy those weapons.

Reagan favors deployment of the MX, Trident 2 and other counterforce weapons, while Mondale would scrap the MX altogether and ban most of the others in a nuclear freeze agreement with the Soviet Union. What Mondale would do if he could not negotiate such a freeze is less clear. While he opposes the introduction of counterforce weapons on general principle, he has so far refused to rule out deployment of the Trident 2.

On another key nuclear issue, the deployment of Pershing 2s and cruise missiles in Western Europe, a similar pattern emerges. Reagan would continue deployment in the absence of an agreement with the Russians, an agreement that is unlikely to be reached so long as the missiles continue to be installed. Mondale says he will suspend deployment of the Pershings to induce Soviet support for the Vienna "walk in the woods" formula, which reduce the number of intermediate-range missile launchers on each side until parity was achieved. Here again, it is hard to predict Mondale's behavior in the absence of a U.S.-Soviet agreement, but his commitment to negotiations--and willingness to offer the Russians a concrete sign of U.S. restraint--stands in sharp contrast to the Reagan approach.

[sec.] SLCMs and the nuclear "firebreak. "Perhaps the most momentous military development of 1984 has been the deployment of Tomahawk sea-launched cruise missiles on U.S. ships and submarines, which began in June. The Administration plans to place 758 nuclear-armed SLCMs and 3,236 conventionally armed Tomahawks on some 150 U.S. warships (including four recommissioned World War II battleships). Many experts consider the Tomahawk a highly destabilizing weapon. It straddles the nuclear firebreak (the barrier between conventional and nuclear weapsons) because it can carry either nuclear or conventional warheads. The interchangeability feature also presents verification problems to any arms pact that seeks to limit SLCM deployment.

Mondale has shown himself to be considerably more aware of the importance of preserving the firebreak than Reagan has. The Democratic candidate has promised a moratorium on the deployment of the Tomahawk pending talks with the Soviet Union aimed at a total ban. He has pledged to seek a mutual pullback of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Warsaw PAct forces, a move which would greatly reduce the risk that those weapons will be used in the first few days of a European conflict. resident Reagan, meanwhile, favors massive deployment of the Tomahawk and the introduction of "neutron" artillery shells in Europe.

[sec.] Arms control and the U.S. Soviet relationship. Reagan harbors a deep and abiding hostility to arms control agreements with the Soviet Union. He opposed the 1963 atmospheric test-ban treaty, the 1968 nuclear nonproliferation treaty, the SALT I agreement and anitballistic missile treaty and the proposed SALT II agreement. Since coming to office, he has suspended talks on a comprehensive test-ban treaty and scuttled efforts to ratify the already-signed threshold old test-ban treaty (prohibiting nuclear explosions of over 150 kilotons). In pursuit of his Star Wars defense he is prepared to abrogate the 1972 ABM treaty.

Walter Mondale's oft-reiterated dedication to arms control can be given greater credibility than Reagan's recent campaign conversion. He has pledged to make improved U.S.-Soviet relations the number-one priority of his Administration and has reaffirmed his support for the ABM treaty, the SALT II agreement, the comprehensive test-ban treaty and the proposed ban on antisatellite weapons. Moreover, he has offered to take a number of unilateral initiatives to heighten Soviet interest in such agreements, including moratoriums on the testing and deployment of new nuclear weapons, on the testing of space weapons, on underground nuclear testing and on the deployment of sea-launched cruise missiles. Those would surely strike a responsive chord in Moscow and could invite the serious arms control discussions that have eluded the Reagan Adminsitration.

The candidates also on the kind of language and posture they feel this country should adopt in its dealings with the Soviet Union. Although Reagan proffered an olive branch to Moscow in his recent speech at the United Nations, his Administration has been characterized by a highly belligerent attitude. The Russians undoubtedly expect a certain amount of anti-Soviet rhetoric from any American President, especially one as conservative as Ronald Reagan, but they are not going to sit down at the bargaining table when such rhetoric is accompanied by indications of a deep-seated desire to eradicate the Soviet system altogether. So while the President may talk of improved U.S.-Soviet relations, he will not make much progress in that direction unless he is prepared to repudaite his earlier denunciations.

While not hesitant to condemn Soviet behavior in Afghanistan and Poland, Mondale has consistently affirmed the need to conduct U.S.-Soviet affairs on a stable, businesslike basis. "The superpowers cannot communicate by growling through megaphones," he declared in January. "As President, I will propose regular annual summit conferences with the head of the Soviet Union, and I will push for regular contacts between military and Cabinet officers of both countries." That may not seem like much, but it suggests a different style of doing business, and style could prove critical in promoting U.S.-Soviet arms negotiations.

[sec.s.] Central America. The U.S. role in that part of the world, likely to be one of the most divive and difficult issues of the next few years, is also one of the hardest to analyze in terms of the candidates' views. Officially, both Reagan and Mondale oppose the introduction of U.S. combat forces into the region and support negotiations under the auspices of the Contadora group. Both also favor stepped-up U.S. aid for President Jose Napoleon Duarte's regime in El Salvador. Within that framework, however, there are some notable differences in approach. Mondale appears to place heavier emphasis on negotiations, while Reagan has tended to favor gunboat diplomacy.

The candidates are rather far apart on other key points. Reagan favors continued U.S. aid to the anti-Sandinista contras, while Mondale has pledged to terminate such assistance. Reagan has also promised to resume the highly provocative series of military maneuvers he initiated in 1982, whereas Mondale has condemned such tactics.

Would Reagan authorize U.S. intervention if other measures failed to prevent a guerrilla takeover in El Salvador? Would Mondale? At this point, what each would do in that situation is difficult to determine. Certainly, the U.S. build-up in Honduras suggests Reagan's distinct readiness to engage in large-scale military operations in the area, but it is possible that opposition from Congress, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Honduras itself would militate against his doing so. And though Mondale has denounced Reagan's saber rattling in Central America, he has not fully ruled out a direct U.S. military role. At one point during the contest for the Democratic nomination, he chided Senator Gary Hart for proposing to "unilaterally withdraw from Central America" and "pull the plug on the region." More recently, Mondale has threatened to "quarantine" Nicaragua if it fails to curb its support for revolutionary activity in the region. Given these uncertainties, stance and language may again prove critical: by stressing the importance of negotiations and assigning pre-eminence to the Contadora process, Mondale shows that he would favor the sort of peaceful solution that Reagan has largely succeeded in thwarting.

[sec.s.] Presidential advisers. To a greater degree than his predecessors, President Reagan has delegated foreign policy decision-making to his aides, and he is likely to do so even more frequently during a second term. If is in this area, perhaps more than in any other, that a sharp contrast between the candidates emerges. Reagan has tended to surround himself with people who are ardent foes of arms control talks with the Russians, while Mondale has selected advisers with a strong commitment to nuclear arms control.

That is not to say Mondale's key aides are starry-eyed idealists. Most of them are former Carter functionaries who take decidedly conventional, centrist positions. David Aaron, Mondale's chief foreign policy adviser, served as an aide to Zbigniew Brzezinski; Walter Slocombe, an important military adviser, served as Deputy Under Secretary of Defense to Harold brown, himself an adviser to the Mondale camp. But if Mondale's brain trust comes from the center of the national security spectrum, Reagan's comes from the far right, from a fervently anti-Soviet camp that until 1981 had been largely excluded from policy-making after the darkest days of the cold war. Termed "zealots" by former Central Intelligence Agency official Arthur Macy Cox because of their fierce determination to diminish Soviet power whatever the cost, they include Assistant Secretary of Defense Richard Perle, Under Secretary of Defense Fred C. Ikle, Navy Secretary John F. Lehman Jr. chief arms control negotiator Kenneth L. Adelman and U.N. ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick.

The zealots have been counter balanced to some degree by the pragmatists on Reagan's staff, who, in fact, are largely responsible for his election-year advocacy of improved U.S.-Soviet relations. If Reagan is re-elected, however, and especially if he is re-elected by a wide margin, the zealots will perceive a fresh "mandate" to intensify their drive against the Soviet Union and its allies. This could entail stepped-up assaults on the government of Nicaragua; increased covert operations against pro-Soviet regimes in Africa and the Middle East; provocative military exercises in the Caribbean, Indian Ocean and Northwest Pacific; and U.S.-backed counterinsurgency operations in Guatemala, the Sudan, the Philippines and other nations ruled by pro-U.S. dictatorships. It will certainly mean an uncompromising stance on arms control negotiations with the Soviet Union and a renewed propensity to engage in military risk-taking in the Third World. In the context of the Reagan policies previously described, this fanaticism could increase the risk of nuclear conflagration.

So much, then for the specific issues. How do we fit all this together to arrive at a final evaluation of the candidates? For those to whom the issue of war and peace is fundamental in 1984, the foregoing analysis leads to a safe prediction: Walter Mondale will not end the arms race, but he might create the sort of environment that would permit significant progress toward new U.S.-Soviet restrictions on the deployment of more dangerous nuclear munitions. Ronald Reagan will proceed with the development of counterforce and space weapons, thereby intensifying the arms race and discouraging the renewal of arms control negotiations.

For some, this will be sulficient ground for rejecting the prospect of a second Reagan administration. For others, who may be dubious about a Mondale Presidency, there is still the issue of the Presidential advisers. However we interpret the positions of the candidates themselves, we must also consider the views of their closest advisers. I, for one, will never feel safe with a clique of zealots making decisions that could mean the difference between war and peace.
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Author:Klare, Michael T.
Publication:The Nation
Date:Oct 27, 1984
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