"We have to make a choice between the quick and the dead." So said presidential adviser Bernard Baruch in 1946 as the new-born United Nations gathered for the first time to wrestle with the new-born nuclear genie. For the better part of half a century it looked ominously as if the choice was with the dead. The two superpowers, locked in ideological enmity, built 100,000 warheads -- some so fearsome, accurate and clustered that, in themselves, they seemed to invite doomsday.
Today, miraculously, the choice seems to be with the quick -- with life. Washington and Moscow are still in an arms race, but it is an arms race in reverse. When Presidents Bush and Yeltsin meet at Camp David this weekend, each will be seeking to augment astounding drawdown offers that essentially end their bilateral competition and make them allies in preventing nuclear proliferation.
Mr. Bush, in his State of the Union address, jettisoned the "counterforce" strategy that, for two decades, implicitly threatened the Soviet Union with a knockout wallop no matter what nation initiated hostilities. He announced plans to eliminate the nation's most potent land-based missile system (50 MX missiles carrying ten warheads each), canceled the mobile Midgetman missile program, reduced submarine-based missile forces by a third and curbed cruise missile development.