by Midge Decter,                  (10/4/88)
        Executive Director of the Committee for the Free World
                  [and long-time AtE subscriber]

                NEW YORK TIMES Op-Ed Page 10-3-88
                 [Uploaded by Freeman 07656GAED]

  Anyone  of voting age knows enough about the world to take for  granted
that when he listens to campaign oratory what he will get is a character-
istically  and intentionally debased form of discourse. Thus, the  Presi-
dential  debate  should not in any way  have disappointed normal expecta-
  But when it comes to the issue of defense  policy  and  United  States-
Soviet  relations, even by the special standards  of campaigning Gov. Mi-
chael S. Dukakis has been giving disingenuousness a whole new  dimension.
He  is  trying simultaneously to soar with the hawks and  feed  with  the
doves.  The irony is that he must endorse the results obtained by  Ronald
Reagen while disavowing the means that were necessary to obtain them.
  It  is no secret that Governor Dukakis long numbered himself among  the
ardent opponents of nuclear weapons.  If that in any way qualifies as  an
actual position rather than a mere posture, he has indeed a position.
  Back  in  the  days when there was an active  movement  for  a  nuclear
freeze--the  days, remember, when the United States was  threatening,  or
promising,  to  deploy intermediate-range missles in  Western  Europe  to
offset  the already-deployed Soviet SS-20's, while the Soviets  on  their
side were engaged in a massive effort to keep this from happening--Gover-
nor Dukakis was a member of that movement in good standing.
  Currently,  it  is not unfair to say, he teeters back  and  forth  very
close to the edge of outright unilateralism, offering an occasional grac-
ious  nod to the Stealth bomber, say, but steadily opposed to all or  any
of  the weapons systems that have been declared necessary to a modernized
nuclear  deterrent:   that is, the MX, the Midgetman, and  last  but  not
least  in  the  litany  of  what he  is  aginst,  the  Strategic  Defense
Initiative, S.D.I., he insists,will, among  other disasters, sink our al-
ready overburdened economy.  His own defense policy is to strengthen what
he deems to be our shamefully neglected conventional forces.
  But the members of the peace movement who have for all these years been
advocating such a policy, and most especially Michael Dukakis, are now in
something  of  a pickle.  Having declared that the arms race  in  and  of
itself  would  inevitably end in  nuclear war,  they are  now  confronted
with  the achievement of Ronald Reagen, "warmonger" par  excellence,  who
has  succeeded in getting Mikhail S. Gorbachev to agree in principle to a
mutual reduction of nuclear arsenals.
  One  need  not  share President Reagen's faith that arms  reduction  by
itself  will contribute to our security--many of us, in fact, do  not--to
recognize that Moscow's concessions could only have resulted from  Soviet
worry about the renewal of American military strength: the renewal,  need
it  be  pointed out, that the Reagen Administration  undertook  and  that
Michael Dukakis opposed.
  Though  Governor Dukakis has in recent weeks taken Mr. Reagen  to  task
for  having  left the initiative in Mr. Gorbachev's hands, surely  a  man
intelligent enough to have got himself nominated for the Presidency knows
in his heart what did in the end actually bring the Soviets to the  point
of serious negotiation.
  There is no way he cannot know that it was the ungrading of our nuclear
weaponry,  the deployment of intermediate-range missles and the  decision
to  launch the S.D.I.  No doubt there are peace movement  true  believers
who,  in  loyalty to their old-time religion, refuse to  acknowledge  the
proof  of  Ronald Reagen's nuclear pudding; but unlike  Michael  Dukakis,
they are not engaged in asking the American people to hand over  to  them
personal responsibility for the nation's destiny.
  Mr.  Dukakis would clearly prefer that his audiences quickly skip  over
the  question of just how the country happened to get where it  presently
is  vis-`a-vis  the  Soviets and move on to  other  things.   During  the
debate, for instance, he observed that for 40 years we have regarded  the
Soviets  as enemies and now President Reagen has signed two arms  control
treaties  with them--following which, without even a hint of  what  might
have  connected  them in his mind, he turned to George Bush and  demanded
to  know  what he intended to do now anout the Soviet need  for  economic
  Leaving  aside  the almost comically inappropriate tone of  triumph  in
which  Mr. Dukakis issued this challenge, as if it were George  Bush  and
not  he who had been caught out in a contradiction, one can hardly  blame
him for his haste.  Given the chance to think it over, people might  have
been  reminded  that had his own views on defense policy  prevailed,  the
Soviets,  far  from  finding it advisable to reach  agreements  with  us,
would have had a hard time deciding whether to laugh with relief at their
luck  or  with  contempt  for America's  incapacity  to  grasp  the  real
properties and uses of power.
  Of  course,  Mr. Dukakis could do what some people do  when  they  have
learned  about some formerly cherished opinion: say no and move on.   But 
for  some reason, candidates for high office do not seem to find  this  a 
possible option.
  So it appears that Michail Dukakis will go on until Nov. 8, on the  one
hand unable, lest it cost him the election, to be the full-throated  dis- 
armer his true constituents want him to be, and on the other hand  hemmed 
in and  disarmed himself by the need to pretend  that he  means  to  beat 
Ronald Reagen and George Bush at their own game.
  The truth is, however,  that this is a game his ideas would  disqualify 
him even from playing, let alone winning.

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