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The Daniel Ellsberg interview

...continued from page 7

In your book, do you come to a conclusion on how it can be reversed?

They should not exist, our ICBMs. And they haven't had any rationale (to keep them) for 50 years, since we have had submarine-launched missiles, which are not vulnerable (to attack). These are vulnerable. We already have the ability, very accurately, to destroy Russian-based land missiles, if we want to get them off the ground fast if there is warning, a false warning for example. Suppose the warning isn't false. That they really are attacking. Do the ICBMs do anything for us if we send them off? Zero.

A Russian attack would be suicidal for them, and for us. Our response would be suicidal for them and for us, and for everybody else. There's absolutely nothing to be said for these (missiles), except that they provide jobs and real estate values and votes in Montana, North Dakota and Wyoming. The senators from those states formed an ICBM caucus so that they don't get rid of these ICBMs. Secretary of Defense William Perry under Clinton has written in op-eds that we should get rid of our ICBMs and we should have done it long ago. Heads of staff, like General Cartwright, or General Lee Butler, who was head of Strategic Air Command, said get rid of the ICBMs. But no. As I said, someone has to build them, and that's jobs.

Should the Russians attack them? No, that's totally irrational. The same with us. But here we are, 'decision making under uncertainty,' which is the mark of a species that should not be trusted with nuclear weapons.

'Mutually assured destruction' is still the strategy?

That was just a phrase that McNamara used, but it describes the reality. In view of that reality, he should have recommended, in strategic terms, cutting down our warheads to a level that would be sufficient to deter.

Here's a question: Herb York, director of Livermore Laboratory, one of the two campuses at the University of California that has designed all of our nuclear weapons. He was the first director of that, then he was the director of research and engineering for the Defense Department. He asked, "How many explosions on our enemy's territory are needed to do that. How many survivable hits are needed to deter attack?" How many cities do you have to destroy, or have the capability, to deter an attack. What would you say? Think about it. You're president, what would it take you to deter attack on another country? How many cities are you prepared to lose?

I would say one would be enough.

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