MX: a bargaining chip or a bad bargain?

In reading the article by Sen. Dale Bumpers, ``The expendable MX'' [March 12], the clear logic and common sense of his argument made me wonder why the administration is so determined to plunge ahead with this program, especially since, as was pointed out, the Soviets had twice tried to thwart the Trident program, and the administration didn't take the bait. Senator Bumpers must have been disappointed when the vote came to release the money for the MX. One wonders if the senators, given a calm, unhectic atmosphere conducive to reasoning, would have voted differently.

It rings a faint alarm bell to realize that this, as well as other votes that seriously affect the welfare of our country, are made in such a trade-convention atmosphere. Mrs. Shirley Hanning Norfolk, Va.

I agree with Sen. Dale Bumpers that the MX missile is worthless militarily and as a bargaining chip.

The White House claims, among other things, that the MX will close the gap on the Soviets' numerical advantage in multiple-warhead land missiles and thus force Soviet concessions in Geneva. However, this perception is clearly unsound as the silo-based MX would be extremely susceptible to a first strike and must therefore be regarded as an offensive weapon which surely invites the Soviet Union to further increase its own arsenal in defense. Bumpers notes that it is difficult to defend the MX as a bargaining chip when the Soviets have already submitted a proposal in Geneva which would allow the US seven times the number of MX missiles which the Reagan administration has threatened to deploy! Furthermore, doesn't Reagan's insistence on the deployment of the MX contradict his, in my opinion, valid claim that large land-based, multiple-warhead weapons are destabilizing?

The US position would be strengthened if the Navy's highly accurate submarine-based D-5 missile, or Trident II, were used as a bargaining chip since it is much less susceptible to a first strike. Obviously this weapon worries the Soviets. Bumpers cites Soviet proposals in 1981, 1982, and 1983 to ban development of these missiles. Scrapping the MX would save billions of dollars, which could be used either to augment other areas of defense or to reduce the federal deficit. Leigh Spruill Carrboro, N.C.

Congress recently decided to spend $1.5 billion for the MX missile, while deciding to spend slightly over $100 million for emergency drought relief to Africa. Let me suggest the $1.5 billion instead be paid to American farmers to grow food for famine assistance, and the $100 million be used for missiles. This slight rearrangement of priorities should win more friends and create fewer enemies. Cynthia Matsakis Takoma Park, Md.

The ``MX politics'' editorial (March 28) is perceptive, while elliptical. It must be rounded out by focusing on unstated grounds for both the weapon's existence and congressional approval of the President's request for further production.

First, vested interests. Those of contractors, government planners, and bureaucrats; and jobs, employment, and the economy. All these concerns take on a life of their own. Second, interservice rivalry. Third, political log-rolling, favors, and pay-off. Fourth -- and most impelling -- psychological fear and uncertainty fueling US-Soviet rivalry.

The editorial is correct in its ultimate conclusion: If the MX were defeated, little harm would result to the US negotiating arsenal at Geneva. Why? US submarines bearing missiles and targeting the USSR exist as very capable deterrents. Elliott A. Cohen Pomona, N.Y.

The March 28 article, ``Cap on total MX production seen at 40 to 50,'' shows the extraordinary lengths the White House went to in order to secure passage of the MX legislation. The administration is pushing for accelerating arms procurement and research like a small boy pushing his parents in a toy store. Its arguments are based on the juvenile assumption that the Soviets are planning to launch a war against the West.

There is proof that the Soviets are brutally repressive ideological rivals of the West and seek, as most countries do, to spread their influence. There is no proof that the Soviets plan to launch such a war.

Finally, the Soviets could not trust their allies to back them if they should launch any war. Holly B. Wilkins San Diego

The political [importance of the MX] is not as a bargaining chip at Geneva but its use as a continuing part of the simulation of an upbeat domestic economy. [The missile] is obsolete before production of it begins. M. E. Selby Enumclaw, Wash.

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