The ABM and Defense
To the Editor:
Over the years, COMMENTARY has contributed mightily to the enrichment of American cultural, intellectual, and political life, but in one regard it is truly unique: it is the only periodical of general circulation that undertakes systematically to alert its readers to the growing danger to our national security, to the urgency of the need to confront and overcome that danger, and to an ongoing discussion of the measures that must be undertaken to that end.
Carnes Lord’s “The ABM Question” [May] is the latest example (following hard upon “The Present Danger,” Norman Podhoretz’s brilliant and troubling call to arms in March). With consummate skill in exposition of an arcane subject, Mr. Lord makes clear why placing the revival of the ABM program on the defense agenda is a matter of the greatest urgency. Yet, amazingly (and endlessly frustratingly), the self-evident truths set forth in his article have been hidden for a decade from public view and have not received adequate discussion even in the defense community. The article also throws a bright light on the reasons for these national self-delusions. It should receive the widest circulation, since the ABM program is the only response to the Soviet’s first-strike monopoly that is both effective and timely. The MX system is effective, but it cannot be fully deployed for a decade.
In this connection, it may be of interest that last fall, in writing an article on SALT II for Freedom House’s Freedom at Issue (Nov.-Dec. 1979), I searched the literature of the ABM question with scant success. Nevertheless, I had also come to the conclusion and argued that the revival of the ABM program was an indispensable component of the American response to Russia’s first-strike monopoly and war-winning nuclear doctrine. Mine, however, was the conceptual reasoning of an amateur Clausewitzian while Mr. Lord’s article treats the subject exhaustively and with great professional authority and cogency.
Elias M. Schwarzbart
New York City