`Star wars' and the Geneva talks

I am concerned with the terminology that is currently being used with reference to the nuclear arms negotiations which just took place in Geneva. United States negotiators left the conference indicating that they had ``won.'' The problem with such terminology is that it is both misleading and inaccurate. The word ``won'' implies a zero-sum situation in which one side's gain is automatically another side's loss. Meaningful reduction of existing nuclear arsenals will not take place so long as this type of mentality prevails. We must drop the jargon of winning and start thinking in terms of cooperation. Then, and only then, will progress be made. Then, and only then, will the world become a safer place in which to live. Dr. Clark D. Mueller, Florence, Ala. Recently I read three uncomplimentary articles about ``star wars''. The article [``Why the Soviet Union is so concerned about `star wars,' '' Jan. 10], by Dr. Robert M. Bowman [as well as the others], omitted a most important piece of information -- that none of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) weapons being studied would be armed with nuclear warheads.

Dr. Bowman's description of defense weapons is a bit out of date. Coastal artillery has been obsolete since before World War I. A more recent example would be the British RAF Spitfire used in World War II. This marvelous interceptor carried no bombs and had a limited range. However, it could intercept German bombers over the North Sea and, fuel permitting, it might even chase them back a short distance over France. The actual location of contact with the enemy did not change the character of the Spitfire from being a defense weapon.

With the terrific speed and short time for interception, a defense weapon must be in place where it can effectively shoot down an attacking nuclear warhead. J. M. Bennett, San Antonio

Many thanks for the ``star wars'' article by Dr. Bowman. Albert Einstein said that ``everything has changed except our way of thinking, and so we drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.'' Dr. Bowman has identified a basic change in thinking: What enhances the security of the Soviet Union enhances our own security.

1986 will be the International Year of Peace, as proclaimed by the United Nations. A conference (nongovernmental) at the University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji, on conflict resolution and peace studies deserves the efforts of our best and brightest. Edith Eckart, Arcata, Calif.

The Monitor's Jan. 14 coverage on arms talks in Geneva is not commensurate with the importance of the issues. The article, [``Reagan initiative puts US, Soviet hard-liners on spot''], by Elizabeth Pond seems to be obfuscation, intended or not. It lauds the ``risky masterstroke'' of a Reagan and Shultz ``defense'' initiative, i.e. ``star wars'' or SDI, as something revolutionary.

The Reagan proposal of a ``shield'' seems to me to be purest demagoguery: A play to the childlike wish for security, not much different from snake oil elixirs once sold as cure-alls.

All that has been promised for the system -- if developed -- is interception of a percentage of hostile ICBMs early in their trajectory. This neglects defense against cruise missiles with nuclear warheads, to which both sides are turning. Such ``defense'' seems intent on protecting missiles and not populations. Arms negotiations concern not just the fate of two nations but the entire world. It's more serious than a tax on tea or stamps. G. Sprengling, Blairsville, Pa.

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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