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Key Issues Ethics Issues William P. Clark to Archbishop Joseph L. Bernadin

William P. Clark to Archbishop Joseph L. Bernadin
November 16, 1982

I would like to take this opportunity to respond, on behalf of President Reagan, Secretary Shultz, Secretary Weinberger, Director Rostow, and other Administration officials, to the request for our views on the second draft of the pastoral letter recently prepared by the Ad Hoc Committee on War and Peace for review by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops. Let me assure you

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that we have read these drafts with great interest and care.
I believe we can agree that the purpose of any moral theory of defense is not, in the first place, to legitimize war, but to prevent it," and this, of course, is what American deterrence policy is designed to achieve. I believe we can also agree that any proposed change in strategic systems or doctrines, as well as any recommendation, whether proposed by the U.S. Government or by your committee, should be judged "in light of whether it will render steps toward arms control and disarmament more, or less, likely." We believe that our weapons systems (which are not designed to be "first-strike" systems), our deterrence posture (which is defensive), and our arms control initiatives (which call for deep and verifiable reductions) do conform to these objectives.

As with the committee's first draft, I am especially troubled in reading the second draft of the pastoral letter to find none of the serious U.S. arms control efforts, including major initiatives and ongoing U.S.-Soviet negotiations, described or even noted in the text. Ours are not proposals for freezes on current high ceilings. Such freezes would remove incentives for achieving reductions and would, in any case, require extensive prior negotiations to reach agreement on what numbers and systems to freeze, and on how such freezes might be effectively verified. Ours are initiatives for reduction, or even elimination, of the most destabilizing systems. They involve new verification and confidence-building measures designed both to build trust and to assure compliance.

Because these important initiatives and negotiations have again been ignored in the draft pastoral letter, although they so clearly conform to the hopes of all concerned with reducing the arsenals and the risks of war and promoting the path of peace, I would like to summarize them for you again. I do so with a renewed hope that the comments your committee receives from U.S. Government officials in response to the committee's requests will be carefully considered, just as your committee asks that its draft letter "receive a respectful consideration" from others.

This Administration's arms control efforts include the following major initiatives:

In the U.S.-Soviet negotiations on strategic arms (START), which began on June 30, 1982, we are proposing to being with a one-third reduction in the number of warheads on the land and sea-based ballistic missiles and a reduction in the most destabilizing systems of all, the land-based ballistic missiles, to about one-half of the current U.S. levels. In a second phase, we propose to reduce the destructive potential of the remaining missiles to equal levels, lower than we now have, and we could include other strategic systems as well.

In the U.S.-Soviet negotiations on intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF), which began on Nov. 30, 1981, we have proposed to begin with the total elimination of the forces considered the most destabilizing and threatening by both sides, the land-based missile systems. We and our NATO allies have offered to cancel plans for the deployment of U.S. Pershing and ground-launched cruise missiles in exchange for the corresponding destruction of Soviet SS-20, SS-4 and SS-5 missiles. Other elements of the balance could be limited subsequently.

In the multilateral negotiations on mutual and balanced force reductions (MBFR), the U.S. and its NATO allies are proposing to the Warsaw Pact nations major initial reductions in military personnel to common ceilings and a wide range of new verification measures.

In the areas of limiting nuclear testing and chemical and biological weapons, the U.S. is actively participating in discussions in the Committee on Disarmament in Geneva to develop the verification and compliance procedures that would make such limitations truly effective. We are, of course, particularly distressed by the extensive and inhuman use by the Soviet Union and its allies of toxins and chemicals against the defenseless populations of Afghanistan, Laos and Cambodia.

In all of our ongoing arms control negotiations and discussions, we are emphasizing the importance of substantial early reductions and of effective verification and confidence-building measures. Your committee will surely recognize the Administration's nuclear reductions proposals clearly conform to the pastoral letter's recommendations for cuts in nuclear arsenals, and that the other multilateral efforts in which we are currently engaged conform closely with the letter's call for efforts "aimed at reducing and limiting conventional forces and at building confidence between possible adversaries, especially in regions of major military confrontation, as well as those addressed to outlawing effectively the use of chemical and biological weapons."

I continue to believe that as the Bishops Conference reviews new drafts of the pastoral letter, a clear presentation of these initiatives should lead to the Bishops Conference's strong support for them. As I noted in my comments on the first draft, such support would prove enormously helpful in making clear to the world America's seriousness in our efforts and would, in particular, add to Soviet incentives to agree to the reductions and verifiable limitations that we are seeking.