Arms Control

By Lowenthal, Mark M. | Issues in Science and Technology, Summer 1993 | Go to article overview

Arms Control


Lowenthal, Mark M., Issues in Science and Technology


Jack Mendelsohn's "Next Steps in Nuclear Arms Control" (Issues, Spring 1993) cogently presents the case for keeping up the momentum gained in this area over the past few years, but does so in inverse order. He gives three reasons for doing so but places the need for a rethought and reshaped U.S. nuclear strategy at the end. The arms control cart is, once again, placed before the policy horse.

U.S. arms control policy has often been hobbled by the view that arms control is a positive end unto itself, which it is not. Rather, arms control makes sense, and is politically successful, only when tied directly to broader national security goals.

Assuming that START I and II enter into force, it is more likely that there will be a necessary period of reevaluation before we reach any new agreements. Several priorities emerge. First, is the need to rethink not just U.S. nuclear strategy, but also broader U.S. national security requirements and the role nuclear weapons can and will play. Coupled with this is the need to recognize that we are not likely (and probably do not want) to reach a period of total nuclear disarmament. We also need to reflect, once again, on why nuclear weapons are a problem. Is it the weapons themselves or the state that hold them? Did nuclear weapons cause the Cold War, or were they a symptom of that struggle? As a reference point, consider that the nuclear arsenals of Britain and France have never been a cause for concern.

Second, and closely related to this last point, is the concern that as nuclear arsenals get smaller and as proliferation problems persist, new calculations and perhaps new strategic concepts will be required.

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