PEACE MOVEMENTS believe they can change the policies of governments. But the problem is that governments do not control the arms race. Arms manufacturers, producing ever more sophisticated weapons, are making a farce of international arms control negotiations.
The creativity of weapons designers and manufacturers has never sparked brighter than over the last two decades. A vast armoury of ingenious nuclear weapons has taken shape — bombs, artillery shells, torpedoes. depth charges, battlefield missiles, mines. anti- aircraft missiles and even, incredibly, air-to air missiles. Now, having created the largest, most mind- and-world-blowing weapons ever made, they are whittling away the megatonnage and taking nuclear weapons into the microchip age. The smallest device is the American W54 nuclear mine, with an explosive force of only ten tons of TNT equivalent. Tiny, vicious and deadly, these baby nukelets may, ironically, be all that’s needed to light the blue touch paper of nuclear holocaust
This fudging of the threshhold between conventional and nuclear warfare means that any future military conflict between NATO and the Warsaw Pact could develop rapidly into a tactical nuclear war. And this risk has led many senior military men to advocate a nuclear-free zone extending up to 150 kilometers each side of the NATO/Warsaw Pact frontiers in Central Europe. Their hope is that this would prevent the use of battlefield mini-nukes like NATO’s Lance battlefield missile and the Soviet SS-21 and FROG 7.
It might have been a good idea. But the arms business always seems to stay one jump ahead.
The Lance missile — the standard NATO battlefield missile, with a range of 120 kilometers and a warhead eight times the Hiroshima bomb— is produced by Vought, part of the American LTV conglomerate. Just as the Lance is being threatened with redundancy by the nuclear-free zone idea, Vought have announced their new ‘Improved Lance’, more accurate than the current missile, and with three times the range. They hope to sell 1,000 of them to NATO armies and have launched a major advertising campaign in military and technical journals. Needless to say, the Improved Lance, with its 360 kilometer range, will make the proposed 150 kilometer nuclear-free zone each side of the border totally irrelevant.
And the corporate power that bypasses arms limitation agreements also finds ways to change government decisions. When Jimmy Carter was elected US President in 1976, his review of US strategic developments concluded that the pricey BI bomber was an unnecessary luxury. In July 1977 he ordered it cancelled. But the BI builders —Rockwell— had different ideas. Intense pressure from them ensured that four prototypes kept flying, Over the next four years they kept up the pressure in the highest places. And the companies involved carried considerable weight: in fact they read like a check-list of the US defense industry. Apart from Rockwell, Boeing was responsible for boards the defensive avionics and General Electric produced the engines. The Cruise missiles to be carried by the BI were also made by Boeing, with guidance developed by Litton. McDonnell Douglas and Honeywell.
When Ronald Reagan came to power in 1980, the BI lobby intensified and the programme was fully approved in 1981, with 100 aircraft ordered at a cost likely to exceed $40 billion. And all before there was any firm evidence that the Soviet had similar plans. The announcement of the development of the new Soviet Blackjack strategic bomber followed afterwards. But Northrop, Boeing and Vought are already developing their new baby — an advanced technology bomber known fondly as Stealth.
And the missile-makers are keeping pace too, with developments like the M-X Peacemaker (sic) missile from Martin Marietta and Lockheed’s Trident Mark II. These two missiles will each be accurate enough to destroy Soviet missiles even in their protective silos. Such weapons, backed up by the new bombers with their cargoes of Cruise missiles, help undermine the very idea of deterrence by making both sides trigger-happy in a time of crisis, each concerned that if they don’t use their weapons first they might lose them.
Behind these developments lies what Eisenhower called the military-industrial complex, which had its origins in the vast projects of the Second World War era — like the Manhattan Project. which produced the world’s first atom bomb.
The Manhattan Project. with its 4.000 permanent staff and 38,000 people under contract in 37 installations, was the forerunner of today’s civilian standing army of industrialists, scientists and bureaucrats a vast machine with its own momentum, its own pervasive influence on government and a presence in every major nation. In the United States. universities, cities — even whole states — have become dependent on military spending, generating a series of large and well-organised lobbies, each ready to utilise fear of the enemy as an excuse for further military expenditure.
And a broadly similar system flourishes in the Soviet Union too, with weapon design teams always ready to point to US technical superiority in their efforts to increase their own power and influence.
World-wide, at least 25 per cent of all research and development spending goes on military projects, compared with only 10 per cent for health. The major participants are the United States and the Soviet Union but they are not alone: in the UK. For example. at least 30 per cent of research and development is for military purposes. The system has a momentum of its own, outside political control, and is producing weapons faster than even the most efficient arms control negotiations can possibly handle them.
The SALT 2 talks, for example, involved seven years of negotiations aimed at setting upper limits on numbers of missiles, but with little attention paid to the number of war-heads on each missile. During the negotiations the weapons researchers worked over-time and by the end had perfected the technology of fitting a single missile with up to ten independently targettable warheads. As a result. both the United States and the Soviet Union actually doubled their numbers of strategic warheads while the SALT 2 talks were in progress!
The same process is going on with the current START and INF negotiations in Geneva While the negotiators sit round a table discussing reductions, their own governments back home are busy unwrapping their new nuclear hardware — like the US air-launched Cruise missiles and the new warhead system on the Soviet SS-I8 missile.
Peace movements are right to believe they can change the policies of governments. In the final analysis, however, governments might not be the real problem. The greatest challenge will come when governments committed to disarmament try to implement such policies in the face of the powerful forces at work within their own countries.