Balancing the nuclear realities

Pat Holt's article ``The balance of terror and nuclear sufficiency'' [Aug. 7] belies a dangerous misunderstanding of nuclear realities and an inexplicable disdain for President Reagan's Strategic Defense Initiative. He admits that MAD is philosophically and morally indefensible, but argues in its favor because ``it has worked for 40 years.'' Apparently only a full-scale nuclear war will convince Mr. Holt that the MAD policy no longer provides a credible deterrent to Soviet attack.

Holt tries to deny SDI's existence. He writes, `` `star wars' is most unlikely to work,'' ignoring the preponderence of scientific opinion. Scientists like Dr. Robert Jastrow (founder of NASA's Goddard Institute) have shown that the technical objections to SDI really amount to politicized pseudoscience. Dr. James Fletcher headed the Defense Technologies Study Team, which has examined SDI more closely than any other group. His conclusion is that a defense could be built in the short term which would pro vide 90 percent protection, and that improvements in that system could lead to a completed defense capable of protecting more than 99 percent of the US population and infrastructure from nuclear attack. Indeed, the entire debate over SDI has changed from ``Can it be done?'' to ``Is it a good idea?''

On this count, Mr. Holt is equally mistaken. He implores the Soviets to make us an offer we cannot refuse -- an offer that would entail our abandoning SDI. Moreover, he asserts, ``We ought to have sense enough to abandon it on our own initiative.'' It is hardly necessary to point out that this is exactly what the Soviets would like from us -- a unilateral halt to our strategic defense program, which would leave them to run a solo race to complete their ABM systems.

The fact that SDI will upset the ``balance of terror'' which passes for security is not a bad thing. In fact, strategic defenses will create a better, more stable situation. That fact, in and of itself, makes it desirable. The chance to step off the nuclear treadmill makes it imperative that we proceed with the SDI program. Daniel O. Graham, Lt. Gen. USA (Ret.) Director, High Frontier Washington

Prior to 1973 the industrial nations of the West took unfair economic advantage of the countries bordering the Persian Gulf. Nor can one doubt that an attempt to reinstate those exploitative practices could generate a general revolt in that region. Yet, Shireen T. Hunter's prescription [``The heavy costs of too-cheap oil,'' Aug. 8] of having the Western nations underwrite the price of oil at its present, artificial level, would appear to lock those Gulf states into permanent dependence on the West, dep riving them forever of their relevance and dignity as nations. If the oil-producing countries are to stand on their own as partners of the world community, they must take the initiative in developing their human resources before their mineral resources run out. Edward H. Denton Rio Rancho, N.M. Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published and none individually acknowledged. All are subject to condensation. Please address letters to ``readers write.''

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