Peaceful use of US-Soviet conflict. New Year's resolution for post-Reykjavik era

THE summit meeting at Reykjavik has raised hopes for an end to the United States-Soviet superpowers' nuclear arms race. Yet, these hopes may be foredoomed. There are powerfully vested conservatives interested in sustaining nuclear arms deterrence. And democratic allies of our vital national interests worry about dependence on the West's conventional military deterrence capabilities. Moreover, US-Soviet ideological conflicts transcend the nuclear era of the past 40 years. Our needs for Soviet containment are too strong for expectations that US-Soviet nuclear disarmament would lead directly to peaceful US-Soviet relations 20 years hence. Still, the US, unilaterally, could launch a two-stage process for transforming the US-Soviet arms race: (1) from nuclear to conventional military confrontation or deterrence in Europe and Northwest Pacific; (2) from conventional and/or nonconventional, surrogate-military repressions or insurgencies in Asia, Africa, and Latin America to a race between US and Soviet industrial powers to develop the world's remaining, untapped resources and unfulfilled demands for jobs and income.

Thus, US-Soviet contention could be shifted from geopolitical-military powers for controlling populations and territories to political-economic-industrial powers for controlling resources and closing gaps between ``rich and poor'' nations.

The first step would require the US to lead Western democracies in efforts to bolster their conventional military deterrent capabilities in European and Northwest Pacific regions. This can be achieved if the US would adopt a policy for military-industrial cooperation. Western powers of NATO and Japan would expend the same percentages of their total GNP and their same total defense expenditures to develop and deploy common (standard) conventional weapons (instead of different weapons intended for the same missions). IT is estimated that deployment of standard weapons would boost the readiness and effectiveness of all NATO forces by 50 percent. For some tactical air units now unable to refuel or to re-arm at different NATO airbases, the effectiveness would be increased by 300 percent. By developing standard weapons, Western expenditures for military supplies and maintenance would be reduced dramatically, and the ratio of material and manpower deployed for combat purposes to those for logistical support would be increased substantially. A US State Department study indicated that $20 billion could be saved from the NATO budget. US-allied cooperation would mean less competition and duplication of weapons for the US Army, Navy, or Air Force.

Per capita income of Western democracies has been about equal. Therefore, per capita defense expenditures for conventional military deterrence should be more nearly equal than they have been. Washington's agreement to procure more US conventional weapons components from allied industries would provide incentives allied governments need to boost their per capita defense expenditures to levels more nearly equal to that of the US. Their manufacturing employment and exports would be increased. Thus, by creating a common Western arms market, the US could save about $100 billion from current defense expenditures of nearly $300 billion. Western allied arms-industrial cooperation would mean that Western government and industries would agree on common contract terms for trade, currency transfers, and for safeguarding military security; also for health and safety conditions, for controlling costs, quality and deliveries of equipment; and for operating and maintaining the equipment.

Thus, Western political and economic or industrial solidarity would be strengthened. Divisive, nationalist pressures for protecting trade, currency valuations, and jobs would be reduced. More cooperation by Western governments would enable Western manufacturers to compete, consort, or merge interests in serving their common defense market, as they have in serving the common Western market for consumer-industrial products. Their productivity and efficiency and the quality and performance reliability of Western defense equipment would be improved. There would be reduced competition among Western governments for expanding arms exports to OPEC governments in order to repatriate currency outflows in payment for oil imports; or to spread mushrooming costs of redundant, ``high-tech'' weapons facilities among nonaligned nations.

Using its savings and precedents from experiences in Western arms-industrial cooperation, the US could initiate cooperative programs for a Marshall Plan revival, that is, for Western governments and industries, together, to invest more in developing resources, providing employment, and increasing purchasing powers in nations and markets of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. This would enable the US to expand its export trade and reduce its trade deficits; nonaligned nations would improve their economies, and repay their loans from the US and other Western democracies. Threats of default in such repayments, and consequent collapse of Western banking interests would be averted. European and Japanese as well as US industries would recover from their economic stagnation of recent years. Pressures for uncontrolled, illegal emigrations from poor, third-world nations to ``rich'' industrialized, Western nations would be reduced. There would be fewer political problems of enforcing the new immigration control law for US businesses and government.

Instead of working on ``Star Wars'' or ``Peacekeeper'' strategic nuclear missiles, US scientists could be redeployed on projects to develop new space facilities for controlling weather and reducing risks of floods and famine; or technologies for food and energy production; and for closing North-South gaps in standards of production and living.

With much more credible deterrent capabilities of its conventional military forces, NATO could renounce its longstanding threat to use nuclear weapons in response to invasion by Warwaw Pact conventional forces. Our British and French allies would support US efforts to negotiate with the Soviets for a ``nuclear-free zone.'' This could build momentum for reductions in US and Soviet strategic nuclear weapons, as discussed at Reykjavik. THE Soviets could concentrate more on bolstering their economy, and less on maintaining military offensive or defensive capabilities. As in the past, the Soviets might respond by launching industrial-economic projects in nonaligned countries.

Most important, US leadership, Western security, and Soviet containment would be strengthened and risks of nuclear proliferation and holocaust could be reduced. Instead of a strategy of industrial growth in destructive capabilities based on secrecy, violence, and social divisiveness, the US would return to a strategy of civil-industrial growth based on political/economic freedoms, trust, and open accountability of government and industry.

There are peaceful uses of conflict between the US and Soviet superpowers. Possibilities for nuclear disarmament without ``Star Wars'' can be realized by unilateral initiatives of our leaders in Washington.

Robert E. McGarrah is a professor of management at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a former Defense Department official.

of 5 stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read 5 of 5 free stories

Only $1 for your first month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.