"A Defense of the SALT II Treaty"
Op-Ed, Boston Globe
April 2, 1979
Author: Paul Doty, Director Emeritus, Center for Science and International Affairs; Mallinckrodt Professor of Biochemistry, Emeritus
Regrettably, Mr. George Will (Feb. 25) has decided to withhold from the SALT debate his very considerable talent for elucidation. Instead, he transmits to us the increasingly familiar catalog of half-truths and flawed analyses by which many hardliners are seeking to frighten Americans, defeat SALT and inaugurate a military buildup far beyond our needs.
Consider his main points. The 250 launchers that SALT 2 would require the Soviets to give up, while we abandon none, are dismissed as being old and of little value. In point of fact, these launchers would be a mix of SS-11 ICBM’s, submarine-launched ballistic missiles and bombers, all of which are a vintage comparable to corresponding US weapons and which constitute a formidable force in their own right. Moreover, if the earlier aggregate launcher limit of 2400 had not been reduced, 150 of these would have remained and been available for replacement with more modern and capable launchers.
The lower US throwweight results from different choices both sides made long ago and which were legitimized in the Interim Agreement ‘freeze’ of 1972. A principal task of SALT 2 has been to remove this freeze so that an equal number of launchers are permitted for each side. If SALT continues, the throwweight gap will need to be addressed. Thus far it has not been a disadvantage for us. We can unilaterally redress it in large measure by replacing our existing IBMS’s with the largest allowed under the terms of the treaty. Instead, the Administration is opting for the smaller – not the larger – version of the new MX ICBM because the maximum throwweight that would be allowed under SALT 2 is not needed. Thus, it is not evident that we should be alarmed by an excess Soviet capacity that we have no reason to match. Moreover, this excess throwweight is not the source of their potential ability to threaten our present Minuteman force. About 2000 highly accurate warheads will suffice for this at present. If we succeed in making part of our force invulnerable, no attainable number will make it vulnerable.
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