On with the arms race

September 30, 1991

It's well and good that President Bush has proposed the dismantling of a substantial sum of nuclear weapons. But close examination of his number-dazzling speech on Friday reveals that there's less to his arms-control proposal than meets the eye.

First, despite all the numbing statistics the president threw around, relatively few weapons are to be retired, and even those have become obsolete, either technologically or politically. What's the point of having thousands of missiles aimed at a Soviet Union which, for all practical purposes, no longer exists? Are the new Baltic republics a threat to America?

hTC Second, Bush's proposal in effect allows the U.S. to keep the strongest leg of its nuclear triad -- submarine-based missiles -- while the Soviet Union must dismantle the principle leg of its nuclear triad, the land-based long-range ballistic missile. Why do we need our submarine missiles any longer? Do these monster weapons really defend us, or just make us look like a bully?

And finally, even as he proposes to dismantle obsolete weapons which have all but impoverished us, Bush proposes to forge ahead building new ones. On with "Star Wars," he says. Got to protect ourselves from Iraqi Scud missiles, you know. And got to build a whole fleet of Stealth bombers -- never mind that the cost will probably grow to a billion dollars apiece.

Yes, we welcome Bush's proposed nuclear weapons cuts. But let's keep our perspective: It's barely a beginning.

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