LEADERS of American industry and government ought to reconsider strategies for military deterrence and Soviet containment. Increasing frequency of terrorist incidents and military insurgencies raise doubts that the Soviets have been contained from spreading their Marxist-communist violence among nonaligned nations.
Increasing capabilities and numbers of nuclear weapon systems may have raised risks more than probabilities of deterring nuclear war. The time from missile launch to impact on target has been reduced from 30 minutes to six minutes. Nuclear weapons technology has proliferated to other, less responsible governments. Meanwhile, the security of the US and Western democracies continues to decline, because governments and industries seem less able to fulfill people's expectations for higher living standards. Yet, there is a way out of these dilemmas: Nuclear military deterrence is not an effective means of USSR containment or ensuring Western security.
Unilaterally, the US could transform the arms race: from nuclear-military to conventional-military confrontation in Europe; from conventional or covert military confrontation to political/economic containment in nonaligned nations of Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Per capita income is about equal among Western democracies. If those nations would cooperate in spending the same aggregate total and the same percentage of their aggregate GNP for conventional military-industrial deterrence as they have in recent years for nuclear deterrence, the West's capabilities would be sufficient for the US and NATO to renounce their longstanding threats of nuclear retaliation against invasion by Soviet-led conventional forces of the Warsaw Pact.
Gen. Andrew Goodpaster, former supreme commander of NATO military forces, has asserted that such cooperation would increase the effectiveness of NATO conventional forces by an average of 50 percent, and, for tactical aircraft units now unable to rearm or refuel at all NATO members' air bases, by 300 percent. A study by the US State Department concluded that NATO military expenditures could be reduced by about $20 billion if standard equipment were deployed. Renunciation of the NATO threat of first use o f nuclear weapons could lead to East-West negotiations for a nuclear-free zone in Europe, and perhaps to more effective US-Soviet controls or reductions of strategic nuclear forces.