WITHOUT ABM TREATY THERE ARE NO LIMITS TO OFFENSIVE
By Robert McNamara
Robert McNamara, former U.S. Secretary of Defense and president of
the World Bank, developed the strategic concept of "mutually assured
destruction." His comments are adapted from a recent interview with
Global Viewpoint editor Nathan Gardels.
Included is a sidebar from Tang Jiaxuan, the foreign minister of China.
WASHINGTON -- In November 1966, when I met with President Lyndon Johnson
in Austin, Texas, to go over the proposed defense budget, we had photographs
that showed the Russians had begun to deploy an anti-ballistic missile
system around Moscow.
We assumed it would be insane for them to deploy it just around Moscow
and, therefore, concluded this was a first step toward a nationwide system.
In response, the U.S. Congress at that time wanted appropriations for
the counter-deployment of a U.S. ballistic missile defense system.
I opposed this, arguing that the proper response was a further buildup
of the U.S. nuclear force to compensate for any losses caused by their
defense. When President Johnson made this case to Soviet Premier Alexi
Kosygin in 1967, I remember Kosygin pounding the table and making the
opposite case: "Defense is moral; offense is immoral." But that
is absurd. What is moral is what avoids the use of nuclear weapons.
In the end, we pursued a joint track of no defensive system and limits
on the buildup of offensive weapons. Ultimately, that led to the ABM Treaty
and the SALT arms reduction treaties.
My theory then, and my belief today, is that you cannot limit offensive
weapons by treaty in the face of an unlimited defense. If one side is
limited by treaty, say, to 3,000 warheads and the other side installs
a defense system with no restraints, at some point that unlimited defense
will kill so many of those 3,000 warheads that "unacceptable damage"
cannot be assured and the stability of deterrence is lost.
That is what underlies the linkage between the ABM Treaty and limits on
If I were in the shoes of Russia or China, it would be logical either
to limit arms reductions or, in the case of China, build up. We Americans
will argue among ourselves, some saying this defense system will make
us perfectly secure and others saying it won't work.
Not knowing, how will the Russians or Chinese ever accurately appraise
the "kill capability" of our defense system? How can a leader
be charged with defending his own country respond? He can only do the
responsible thing in the face of uncertainty and assume the worst-case
If you are dealing with the security of your country, with the possibility
of nuclear war, you have to look at the worst cases. So, it is neither
an irrational nor illogical response to expand offensive capability in
the face of a U.S. deployment of missile defense. That is what makes the
situation so dangerous for the future.
IS THE REAL INTENTION OF A U.S. MISSILE SHIELD TO GAIN ADVANTAGE OVER
By Tang Jiaxuan
Tang Jiaxuan is the foreign minister of China. The following is excerpted
from an article he wrote exclusively for Global Viewpoint earlier this
year. China says its position remains the same.
BEIJING -- Just as the ABM Treaty cannot be viewed in isolation,
neither can a U.S. missile defense program. Offense and defense are always
indivisible. Enhanced defensive capabilities, to a large degree, mean
improved offensive capabilities as well.
This is particularly true for the United States, the only superpower.
The United States possesses the biggest nuclear arsenal and the most sophisticated
conventional weapons in the world, and it pursues a nuclear deterrence
policy based on first use of nuclear weapons. A missile defense system
will thus become a multiplier for U.S. offensive weapons. It will severely
impede the nuclear disarmament process in the world at large and will
render the U.S. initiative on the reduction of offensive nuclear weapons
People cannot help but ask what on Earth is the real intention behind
U.S. insistence on developing a missile defense system in defiance of
the international community? Is it really to defend against missile threats
from the few so-called "problem states" or for greater military
advantage over other big countries?
(c) 2001, Los Angeles Times Syndicate International, a division of Tribune
For immediate release (Distributed 12/13/01)