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.
Equalized shares of total Western defense expenditures would mean savings of about $100 billion from the Pentagon budget. These savings would reduce federal government deficits and could be invested in a Marshall Plan revival for Western democracies to cooperate in developing resources, expanding markets, improving living standards, and strengthening political and economic interdependence with nonaligned countries of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Such investment would reduce threats of default by dev eloping countries in payments of principal and interest on past loans to finance their imports from the US and other democracies. It would also substantially reduce risks of insurgencies and violence, because more people of third-world nations would participate with Western industries and governments in improving their living standards and would refuse to join military uprisings spawned by the Soviets. Having more people engaged in transactions for more employment, income, and purchase-sales of more product s under democratic-political freedoms constitutes a vital security requirement for peace.
Western cooperation on conventional arms would enable arms contractors freely to compete and thus to improve productivity and efficiency. There would be a reduction of competition among Western governments for arms export sales to OPEC governments, so as to repatriate currency outflows for oil imports. Cooperation would mean that Western governments and industries would agree on common contract terms for safeguarding military security and health and safety conditions; for transfers of currencies; for controlling costs, quality, and deliveries of materials; and for adjudicating disputes over performance obligations of parties to contracts. Thus Western political and economic solidarity would be strengthened vis-`a-vis transactions with the Soviets or nonaligned nations, while arms-industrial growth would be managed more effectively.
Forty years ago US initiatives via the Marshall Plan, the IMF, and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade established the most effective national industrial policy for peace at home and abroad. Today, as the West's superpower, the US bears responsibilities for initiating a revival of Western civil-industrial cooperation so that industrial growth is managed more freely, effectively, and peacefully to preserve democratic security and contain Soviet-Marxist expansionism.
Robert E. McGarrah is a professor of management at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.