In the best Socratic tradition, it is wise to remember that the beginning of knowledge is the recognition of ignorance. This seems particularly true when it comes to working out adequate arms control agreements. To mention only a few difficulties, there is skepticism about the motivations and intentions of our adversaries, there is limited information about the number and disposition of Soviet weapons systems, and there is uncertainty about what the future holds in the areas of science and technology and how these developments will affect national security. There seems to be little doubt, however, that there are no sensible military uses for nuclear weapons, and there are far too many of them in the world today. The purpose of this chapter is, first, to explore some of the difficulties in working out adequate arms control agreements, and second, to stress the importance of arms control as a major tool for insuring our survival while we search for a more adequate means of protecting our national security.
Despite the many problems associated with the arms control process, a serious political commitment is essential if we are to stabilize the arms race. The Reagan Administration came into office claiming that for the last ten years arms control negotiations had been used to hoodwink the American people. Tough talk of “godless demonic forces” has receded into the background, but the depth of the United States commitment to the arms control process is questionable, although it would seem that President Reagan would genuinely like to leave the world with fewer nuclear weapons than he found it. Although the Soviet Union advocates “peaceful coexistence” and apparently sees arms control as one way to reduce the dangers of nuclear conflict, the violations of previous treaties raise doubt about the depth of their commitment.
One must be cautious in claiming too much for arms control. There is legitimate doubt concerning the efficacy of arms control even to provide a short-term solution to the problems of stabilizing the arms race.