The Superpowers and Nuclear Arms Control: Rhetoric and Reality

By Dennis Menos | Go to book overview
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5
The Politics of Arms Control

On most major arms control issues, the United States does not speak with a single voice. There is the official U.S. government position adopted by the administration, but invariably, there is also a second very powerful voice, that of the Congress. The pluralism (which must delight but also confuse the other superpower) is evidence of the increasing breakdown in executive- congressional relations on many aspects of arms control, compounded by partisan political bickering. Despite some recent "accommodations" (such as the compromise agreements on the defense budgets concluded just before the Iceland and Washington summits and the Senate's overwhelming ratification of the intermediate-range nuclear forces [ INF] treaty), a bipartisan and constitutionally correct concensus on U.S. arms control policy simply does not exist. 1


SOURCES OF FRICTION

Few issues in recent times have caused a deeper schism between the president and the Congress than nuclear arms control. The reasons are not hard to discern. Arms control is an issue that neither the president nor the Congress can handle alone. To formulate and implement a truly integrated national arms control policy, one that the American people will support and the Soviets respect, requires extremely close ties and collaboration between the two responsible branches of our government. In actual practice, the very opposite has been happening, especially during most of the decade of the 1980s.

Recalling the basic constitutional prerogatives involved, on arms control as in all aspects of foreign policy, the president speaks for the nation. He

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