Anthology – Peoples’ Plan for Life, Now and Forever …
Nicholas Thompson’s The Hawk and the Dove [Henry Holt & Co. © 2009, ISBN: 978-0-8050-8142-8] about Paul Nitze and George Kennan’s friendship and opposing views of foreign policy of the U.S. in the 20th Century right up to their deaths at very advanced years. The author, Nicholas Thompson, is the maternal grandson of Paul Nitze, and as such was given full access to all of Nitze’s files, many unexamined by anyone before Mr. Thompson. We are all in everlasting debt to him for bringing forth information that had not previously been disclosed. Heading the list of revelations is his grandfather’s behavior leading up to the SALT II Treaty ratification debates in the U.S. Senate. As a preface to it, he summarizes their opposing views on nuclear policy vis-à-vis the Soviet Union.
[beginning on page 270] “The fundamental difference between Nitze and Kennan was grounded in two long-running disagreements. The first was whether the United States, or anyone, could handle nuclear weapons. Nitze had always believed the answer was yes, from the Strategic Bombing Survey, through his arguments over limited war, to today. Kennan, forever scarred by Hamburg, believed it was no. Nuclear weapons were far too dreadful to leave in any human hands.
“Their second disagreement was perhaps more important, and it came from their differing views of the United States. Nitze’s goal was to make the U.S. arsenal more survivable. He wanted our nuclear arsenal more survivable. He wanted our nuclear stockpile to be harder to destroy and he wanted the Soviet arsenal to be less well equipped to launch a first strike. Both principles, he believed, served the cause of peace. The United States would never start a war, but the Soviets might. The whole point of Nitze’s work was to make such an attack less likely to succeed and thus less tempting.
“Kennan, by contrast, had never subscribed to Nitze’s vision of American benevolence. He considered his country fully capable of starting a war, either through malice or through folly. As important, Nitze might believe that our arms buildup was merely defensive. But Moscow would not see it that way. Each weapon we added was one less city that could survive an American strike. Tensions would rise. And with everyone armed and on edge, a minor incident could initiate a massive conflict – as had happened with World War I.
[continuing on page 270] “Nitze liked to use models [physical, scale models] to demonstrate Soviet military supremacy. …The models served his primary mission in the late 1970’s – derailing the SALT II agreement. As in the past, Nitze’s argument was that size did matter. …
“For the next five years, the two sides discussed the treaty, with Nitze fighting it all the way. …The battle raged through the summer [of 1979]. The administration needed two thirds of the Senate for ratification, meaning that Nitze and other opponents needed thirty-four supporters to block it. Everyone knew the vote would be tense and close, and Nitze was relentless: talking, testifying, writing, arguing. (Kennan, on the other hand, refused an invitation from the Senate to testify.)
“By late August 1979, advocates of the treaty thought they had sufficient support and wanted to bring a vote to the Senate floor. But then Nitze pulled his most devious move yet.
“One morning, a friend of his from the CIA came over for breakfast – a former station chief who was quite senior in the agency. The two men began to chat about the Soviets. The United States, Nitze said, was finally ready to recognize the Russian threat. All that was needed now was some incident that would energize people.
“The agency man then mentioned that a Soviet brigade was still based in Cuba. After the 1962 missile crisis, about seventeen thousand Soviet troops had stayed to help train Castro’s army. Over the years, most had left; that a few thousand remained would not have surprised anyone in Washington. But, the gentleman from Langley told Nitze, he had new information: the agency had photographs and other evidence to suggest that the brigade was training for combat, not just instructing Cubans. Nitze listened carefully, then waved the story off. Everyone knows that, he said. But then he paused and thought for a minute. Maybe not everyone knows that, he said. Maybe a few people have forgotten. Maybe it was time to remind them. Yes, this was definitely news that could be recycled.
“Chaos soon followed. Frank Church, of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, declared that the SALT II treaty could not pass unless the Soviets removed the brigade. Moscow protested that the troops had been there for a decade and a half, and that their mission had not changed. In fact, they considered the charge to be so bogus that the Soviet leadership concluded someone in the White House must have decided to pursue a new, harder policy.
“Eventually the Carter administration withdrew the SALT II treaty. The final factor was the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979. But the battle had been lost before that, and the Cuban brigade leak was a key factor. Ralph Earle, the administration’s lead negotiator on the treaty, remembered the incident with horror. ‘It was so distorted and overplayed,’ he said, yet it ruined the treaty’s prospects. It was the “banana peel,” Earle said, upon which the SALT II came crashing down.
“The scuttling of the treaty was a defeat for arms control, and for détente too. One of Nitze’s longtime Soviet counterparts, General Nikolai Detinov, the top aide to [Soviet Minister of Defense] Ustinov, reflected thirty years later that the rejection of the treaty changed the tenor of the debate within the Soviet Union and made everyone in the leadership more tense. Had the Senate ratified the treaty in the summer of 1979, “we would not have gone into Afghanistan,” Detinov asserted. In fact, he added, the derailing of the SALT II ratification meant the derailing of the best chance that the two sides had to find a peaceful way out of the arms race.
[Page 280] “The first three years of the Reagan administration were probably the most dangerous of the Cold War. The new occupants of the White House wanted to show Moscow that these were no longer the namby-pamby days of Vietnam retreat and Jimmy Carter malaise. In Reagan’s view, Moscow was an evil empire and the contradiction-riddled, pseudo-Leninist monstrosity could be pushed into retreat by American energy, decency, and confidence…
“Marshall Nikolai Ogarkov told a Warsaw Pact chiefs of staff meeting in September 1982: ‘In 1941, too, there were many among us who warned against war and many who did not believe a war was coming. Therefore, since the danger of war was not assessed correctly, we had to make many sacrifices. Thus the situation is not only very serious, but also very dangerous.’
“…Driven partly by this fear,…during the 1980’s the Soviet Union had extensive discussions about deploying a doomsday machine that would automatically direct full-scale retaliation for an American strike, even if everyone in the Kremlin were dead and all normal lines of communication severed. These plans were abandoned in 1985 when the Soviets deployed a system known as Perimeter that would allow for semi-automatic response. The system centered upon hidden ‘command missiles’ protected in heavily hardened silos designed to withstand extraordinary blasts as well as massive electromagnetic pulses. Each missile had the launch codes that could fire off a fleet of ground ICBMs targeted at American cities. The command missiles would soar above the radioactive ruins and send down low-frequency radio signals that would start the apocalyptic vengeance.
“Who would issue the order to launch the command missiles? Someone high up in the Kremlin or military command could do so. But if everyone with authority was dead, the missiles could be launched on the order of some junior official in the command center – as long as three criteria had been met. Some top official, in a moment of crisis, would have had to have sent a signal to unlock the missiles; all communication with the military authorities would have to have ceased and a network of sensors measuring data such as radiation and pressure would have had to determine that the Americans had really hit. In other words, if the Soviet expected the United States to attack soon, they would have had a nearly foolproof way to guarantee that they could strike back.”
Nitze was one of our most trusted public officials for much of his career. His exclusion from a leading role in the Carter administration annoyed him. He seemed normal and he was. That puts the period to my argument. We will likely put an end to all life because we can. You might take note as well, that the common belief that the Soviet’s incursion into Afghanistan is what finally bankrupted their ideology and their system, has parallels to the United States in 2011. God forbid – right?!?