What Activists Can Learn from the Nuclear Freeze Movement

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Mr. Wittner is Professor of History at the State University of New York at Albany.

Editor's Note: The following article is based on fresh research explored in the newest volume of Mr. Wittner's trilogy, The Struggle Against the Bomb, published by Stanford University Press. His new book is called, Toward Nuclear Abolition (2003).

At the moment, the Bush administration's militaristic approach to world affairs seems triumphant. From preemptive wars against "evil" nations, to scrapping arms control treaties, to developing new nuclear weapons, the would-be warriors are having things pretty much their way.

But, as indicated by events of the recent past, this situation can be reversed.

Two decades ago, Ronald Reagan had been elected President, and the hawks were riding high. Committed to a vast military buildup, they championed an array of new weapons programs, spurned nuclear arms control and disarmament treaties, and talked glibly of fighting and winning nuclear wars. The new President had opposed every nuclear arms control measure negotiated by his Democratic and Republican predecessors. The Senate was in the clutches of bellicose Republicans, while most of the public -- whipped into a nationalist froth by the Iranian hostage crisis -- heartily approved of military priorities.

Yet the hawkish consensus quickly unraveled. In the United States, the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign, the Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy, and Physicians for Social Responsibility mushroomed into mass movements. In June 1982, nearly a million Americans turned out for a rally in New York City against the nuclear arms race, the largest political demonstration up to that point in U.S. history. The Nuclear Freeze campaign drew the backing of major religious bodies, professional organizations, and labor unions. Supported by 70 percent or more of the population, the Freeze was endorsed by 275 city governments, 12 state legislatures, and the voters of nine out of ten states where it was placed on the ballot in the fall of 1982.

This antinuclear uprising had a substantial impact upon mainstream politics, especially the Democratic Party. After the movement's successes in 1982, the leading candidates for the Democratic Presidential nomination met with peace movement leaders, pledging their support for a Nuclear Freeze and other nuclear arms control measures. The Democrats pushed a Freeze resolution through the House of Representatives in the spring of 1983, and made the Freeze a part of the party's campaign platform in 1984.

Meanwhile, comparable movements, backed by public opinion and mainstream political parties, emerged around the world.

In response, U.S. public policy began to shift in a more pacific direction. Although anxious to place cruise and Pershing II missiles in Western Europe, the administration announced the "zero option" -- a plan to forgo deployment if the Russians removed their SS-20 missiles from Eastern Europe. This idea, taken directly from the banners of the European peace movement, seemed like a safe bet at the time, for it appeared unlikely that the Russians would accept it. But what if they did? Furthermore, thanks to popular pressure, the administration largely lost the battle to develop its favorite nuclear weapon, the MX missile, securing funding for only 50 of the 200 originally proposed. It also opened negotiations on eliminating strategic nuclear weapons, abandoned plans to deploy the neutron bomb in Western Europe, and tamely accepted the limits of the unratified SALT II treaty (though previously the Reaganites had lambasted it as a betrayal of U.S. national security). Moreover, the President began to proclaim that "a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought."

By October 1983, with antinuclear protests convulsing Western Europe, Reagan was ready to sound a full-scale retreat. "If things get hotter and hotter and arms control remains an issue," the president privately told his startled secretary of state, "maybe I should go see [Yuri] Andropov and propose eliminating all nuclear weapons." In January 1984, he followed through and, in a major policy address, proposed an end to the Soviet-American military confrontation and his readiness for nuclear abolition.

All this occurred during Reagan's first term in office -- during the years of Brezhnev, Andropov, and Chernenko. At this time, the resistance to a disarmament agreement came primarily from the Russians, terrified of the early bellicosity of Reagan and his circle.

In March 1985, however, Mikhail Gorbachev became Soviet party secretary, thereby transforming Soviet policy. Deeply influenced by the peace and disarmament movement, Gorbachev met frequently with its leaders and seized upon their ideas. In response to their advice, he unilaterally halted Soviet nuclear testing, freed Andrei Sakharov from house arrest, and cut the link between eliminating intermediate range nuclear weapons and the scrapping of Star Wars. This last move opened the way for the INF treaty, which removed all cruise, Pershing II, and SS-20 nuclear missiles from Europe.

Dizzy with the progress of the détente and nuclear arms control he had once denounced, Reagan ended up strolling happily around Red Square with Gorbachev, declaring that his earlier hawkish pronouncements belonged to "another time, another era."

If this dramatic reversal in U.S. public policy could be produced when the Reaganites controlled Washington politics, then a similar turnabout can be fostered today.

Certainly, the three key ingredients of success -- a mass movement, the backing of public opinion, and Democratic Party support -- seem to be emerging. Ever since the fall of 2002, all of these factors have been on the upswing. Admittedly, when the Iraq war began, a blast of flag-waving jingoism by the mass media and a sense of defeatism by activists led to a brief period of decline. Most Democratic politicians scurried for cover. But the failure to discover weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the disastrous results of the U.S. occupation regime in that country, and the growing public recognition that the Bush administration lied the nation into war have restored the anti-military momentum. Bolstered by these factors, activists are once again on the move, public opinion is shifting substantially toward a peace perspective, and the Democratic Party leaders are criticizing Bush on foreign and military policy issues.

Of course, these trends may be reversed. And there may even be short-term defeats. In 1984, despite the cresting of the antinuclear movement, Reagan easily won re-election over Walter Mondale. But, although Reagan remained in power, he did so at the price of changing U.S. foreign and military policy. If the movement plays its cards right, it might do as well -- or better -- today.

This article first appeared on ZNET and is reprinted with permission.

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Henry L Demond - 4/12/2010

Well my comments might lose their punch because I didn't notice the posting date at the top. I thought these references were to the current administration (2010). No reference was made to Geo. W. Bush by name. Well, to the point, what you have now is worse. Bush might not've flexed his muscles like Reagan, but he also didn't roll over and play dead like the current 2010 US leader. So there.

Henry L Demond - 4/12/2010

Ohmigosh I so disagree with this pollyanna assessment. There is mucho difference between cutting your weapons objectives in half, compromising in the name of peace and still appearing strong in the eyes of a belligerent world. What we have now is the leader of the free world laying prostrate before the scimitars and AK-47s of the East and offering nothing in the way of technological improvement or defense retro-fitting for our democratic buddies in eastern Europe. Besides, this analysis jibes in no way with the critics of Reagan who eschewed his massive defense budget increases. Nope, this current US navel-gazing administration is in no way parallel to Reagan-era opportunism. No way, no how. Sorry, Perfessor.

Glenn Williams - 8/27/2003

Having worked with the Contras, and been a target for the Baader-Meinhoff gang, I take exception to your characterizing them as "terrorists." Because the darlings of the American Left made huge monetary and in-kind donations to the Communist guerillas, and their regime after they took over the country by force, does not make them so. Reagan and Bush were correct about Sandanistas, and the Nicaraguan people showed they knew it too in the first post-Revolution election that threw the Commies out!

As for "hanging chads," let's see. The Supervisor of Elections in Palm Beach County, a Democrat, approved the ballots, after the Palm Beach County Democratic (the majority party in that jurisdiction) and Republican Party Central Committees reviewed and endorsed them. They were completed with over 90% accuracy based on the instructions given to 8-year olds. The "thin veneer" was in demanding re-count after re-count, and then only in precincts where judges "interpreting voter intent" had a chance to get a Democratic win! The "minority heavy" precincts, where English is a "secondary language" and heavily leaning toward Bush were recounted for fear the GOP plurality would have increased. And then the Dems attempted to invalidate the "absentee" ballots of military members serving overseas, knowing their support of Bush, when the votes were tallied, made the Palm Beach county re-count academic anyway. Let's see, who was the "mouth-piece?" Oh yeah, a guy named "Daily" whose Illinois machine was bereft of its own election "irregularities" that could have also been fodder for "re-count" demands.

Tom - 8/26/2003

I certainly agree with Josh that

"the great majority of people who are against this current war don't hold pacifist beliefs"

However, that has not been the focus of my observations, or at least was not the intended focus.

I meant to address the rationale and arguments used by those who have actively and publicly protested the Iraq war. Despite good intentions in many cases, they have failed to articulate the opinions and solid criticisms of the much larger but more silent anti-stupid-war constituency. And that failure, in my opinion, largely explains why Bush & Co are getting away with their unAmerican outrages internationally.

Josh Greenland - 8/26/2003

"But just the phrase "anti-war" is suggestive."

No, it's misleading. It is often used to refer to the present movement against the current war. Generally, that's all it means.

"Tell me Josh, what, other than pacifism, can possibly be the ultimate rationale behind an "anti-war movement” which uses identical arguments, reasoning, and slogans to protest (a) rescuing med students on Grenada, (b) stopping genocide in Kosovo, and (c) the pretense that Saddam is in league with Osama and going to blow us up with uranium from Niger if we don't "take him out first", ala Sharon ?"

The anti-war movements of those times did NOT use identical arguments, reasoning and slogan to protest those three interventions, so your question is invalid. (However, if you want to insist, you might start by telling me which groups used the slogan No War for Oil when protesting the Grenada invasion and our Balkan involvement.)

"The difference between premeditated initiation of violence and self defense is well known to every theologian, lawyer, and most schoolyard kids. Why it escapes so many posters on HNN is a mystery I cannot solve."

I don't see the hoard of clueless HNN posters on this issue that you do, but I will ask in return, why does it escape Tom Gallatin that pacifism has nothing to do with offensive violence or violence in self defense?

Pacifism is the belief that violence against another human being is always wrong. As Jesse L correctly told you, the great majority of people who are against this current war don't hold pacifist beliefs. The only thing you can say about them as a group is that they don't like this war.

Albert Madison - 8/24/2003

In addition to Elia's choices of (1) overkill or (2) be killed, there is also (3) just plain kill. Much cheaper and safer than (1) and yet not (2).

Elia Markell - 8/24/2003

I guess this is the point of all this discussion, so I'd like to point something out about it ...

"The bottom line is that, however complacent or agitated people might be about the prospect of nuclear war, it is an ever-present danger as long as nuclear weapons exist."

The point, in other words, appears to be that it would be great if nuclear weapons did not exist. Yet were we to reduce that nuclear overkill we now have (somehow or other despite the "success" of the freeze movement), were we to reduce them to absolute zero, here is what we would have: A world without nukes. Also a world in which the know-how about nukes is so advanced any small nation can construct one. Then, quite shortly, a world where several such nations as well as non-state actors DO construct some. Then, because of a lack of our "overkill," a situation where all these rouge elements actually have vastly MORE power to inflict pain and blackmail on the world. A world of a dozen or so nukes would be VASTLY more dangerous than the current one of a few thousand.

I prefer the overkill.

James Jefferson - 8/22/2003

Thanks for clarifying your views, which now sound more balanced and substantive to me than the impression given by the HNN piece. You make a good point about heightened attention to "weapons of mass destruction" being a possible silver lining to the current fiasco in Iraq. I'll look for the book when I get a chance.


Oliver South - 8/22/2003

Jesse: "I believe this characterization can apply to most so-called "militant" groups."

For example (since relevancy to the topic of nuclear freeze is nowhere in sight anyway), the Nicaraguan "contras", darlings of Ronald and George the First, who came a few years after Baader Meinhof, were also a "gang of psychopaths" who employed a thin veneer of "rhetoric" as an excuse to push drugs and "murder innocent people"- after all, if they were really so committed to "freedom", they "could have easily crossed" into Florida and "lived happily ever after" in that paradise of functioning democracy. Some of them, actually, did so. But selling arms to Mideast terrorists was more lucrative than sun-bathing amidst hanging chads.

Lawrence S. Wittner - 8/22/2003

Yes, sadly, despite a considerable reduction in nuclear arsenals thanks to treaties and unilateral action, there remains tremendous "overkill."

Of course, you're quite right that when millions march today, the cry is usually "No to war" or "No blood for oil." Even so, there is considerable resistance to nuclear weapons and nuclear war, especially on the part of peace groups. (Just check the web sites of Peace Action or Physicians for Social Responsibility.) Indeed, even the Bush administration was able to tap into popular anxieties -- albeit quite cynically -- by focusing its pro-war rhetoric upon Iraq's alleged "weapons of mass destruction."

The bottom line is that, however complacent or agitated people might be about the prospect of nuclear war, it is an ever-present danger as long as nuclear weapons exist. For thousands of years, competing territories (most recently nation-states) have waged wars using the most devastating weaponry at hand. Thus, the introduction of nuclear weapons into this deadly game has put the world at enormous risk.

In this context, TOWARD NUCLEAR ABOLITION does not address a "specialized historical subject," but the question of human survival.

Elia Markell - 8/22/2003

You have outdone even Maureen Dowd in your use of elipsis. This mangling of what I wrote is not worthy of a response. Of course, Gorbachev was not around in 1981. THAT was exactly the point. Or do you not understand the meaning of the word "once"?

Thomas Gallatin - 8/22/2003

Weird denial

If millions carrying signs saying “No to War” week after week after week is not pacifism, what is it ? You are right, Jesse, in calling the movement against the Iraq invasion “fragmented”, but the fragment that said “we support wars of self defense, wars to prevent imminent humanitarian catastrophe, wars formally declared by the U.S. Congress after due deliberation and international consultation, wars sanctioned by UN resolutions, and wars that come only after alternatives have been assiduously exhausted, and we oppose the Iraq war, not because all war is wrong, but because this war fails to meet any of these criteria”, where was THAT “fragment” ? Believe me I was listening carefully, from August 2002 through April 2003, and the silence was deafening. If you have evident to the contrary, something our generation can use to defend itself when grandchildren come to us in horror, please present it ! Prestowitz’s position comes reasonably close to this, but his book appeared only later.

I respect your views on Kosovo, but cannot agree that it was as bad as Iraq. The Albanians were begging for us to intervene to stop the mass slaughter in 1999. There was no such cry from Iraqis this year. With a few, mostly dubious, exceptions, they wanted pressure on Saddam but not military action against him. With a competent government in Washington, we could have set deadlines and ultimatums that would have generated international support for a war six months or a year down the road, but we had an incompetent government of cowardly and deceptive cynics that was in a hurry to “launch their new product” while 9-11 memories were fresh, before Afghanistan tanked, and in time get the aircraft carrier photo for the 2004 election campaign ("election", not "re-election"). And we had a pacifist opposition, whose leaders, trapped in past "glories" like the '80s anti-nuke “freeze”, could barely even conceive of the notion of trying to come up with any meaningful concrete alternative other than pacifism, i.e. do nothing. THAT is the lesson future activists, and American citizens generally, could learn and hopefully are now learning.

Jesse Lamovsky - 8/22/2003

I agree that Mr. Gore probably wouldn't have gotten us involved in an all-out war on Saddam Hussein (although the Administration in which he was a part of bombed the daylights out of Iraq and maintained the unmandated no-fly zones over that country for eight solid years; not to mention the Kosovo adventure which, despite its relatively multi-lateral nature, was every bit as unjustified as the Iraq war). My point was simply to illustrate the lack of a real "pacifist" component to the anti-war movement, such as it is.

Woody Wilson - 8/21/2003


"In the context of 1981...Reagan was perfectly willing to agree to ["zero-zeron]...once Gorbachev stopped playing games and came round."

Actually, in the context of 1981, Gorbachev was a relative unknown who was serving under Brezhnev, who was succeeded by Andropov, and then Chernenko. The sloppy errors that crop up when history is reduced to artificial "left" versus "right" debates.

Elia Markell - 8/21/2003

I have no doubt the zero-zero option was adopted in 1981 in part in response to the freeze movement. And in the context of 1981, with a beligerent Soviet Union going strong, of course people like Perle hald little hope that zero-zero would become a realistic possibility. The ploy however was one Reagan was perfectly willing to agree to actually do once Gorbachev stopped playing games and came round later. In the meantime, as a ploy, it does not prove Prof. Wittner's point. That is it does not prove the freeze movement forced Reagan to adopt a more conciliatory stand. As a ploy, in fact, it undercut the freeze's morally dubious readiness to accept a freeze of nukes as some great breakthrough for mankind. In other words, the fact that zeero-zero was in part a RESPONSE to the freeze movement does not make it a CONCESSION to the freeze movement. It was no concession at all. This is as plain as day given the fact that Reagan, interim agreement ideas or no, zero-zero or no, went ahead with the delpoyment of U.S. intermediate range missiles exactly as he (and Carter, by the way) had planned to all along when the Soviets refused to take his offer. The point of deployment was the maximum point of freeze movement millions in the streets. Thankfully, Reagan ignored them.

As for the "forest" of all the other nukes, including intermediates, as I said earlier, despite Prof. Wittner's confused remarks about SDI, Reagan stuck to his guns. He insisted: 1) No withdrawal of Pershings and cruises unless the Soviets take out their SS-20s; 2) On long-range missiles, no arms reductions in exchange for giving up SDI. The SS-20s were removed. The long-range reductions took place. SDI was never abandoned. Had the freeze had any effect, the SS-20s would NOT have been removed (I really would like to see where the freeze ever made the removal any real priority for itself -- I cannot recall it happening), the long-range missile numbers would have been frozen in place. The world would today be vastly more dangerous.

Jake Lee - 8/21/2003

Jesse Lamovsky writes:

"Democratic partisans...would probably support the war if it was waged by a Gore Administration"

Gore, and any internationally experienced Republican for that matter, would most likely not have launched the kind of hypocritical, unilateral, and botched war that the "Project for a New American Century", and its puppet Bush, hatched and foisted on an unprepared American populace and world. America has had lots of wars before, and some went better than others, but never before did it go to war amidst such widespread international condemnation, and that despite having a globally despised opponent ! Instead of articulately making these points, millions of Americans, including aging veterans of the "freeze movement", held up signs saying "No to War !"

Jesse Lamovsky - 8/21/2003

Actually, I really don't see much of an anti-war "movement" at all, per se. What we have is a very fragmented opposition that stretches all the way across the political spectrum, from the isolationist right of Buchanan and Raimondo (to which I adhere), to Democratic partisans who would probably support the war if it was waged by a Gore Administration, to the hard left of groups like International ANSWER. I don't know where pacifism fits in here, but I do know that none of these examples I've cited are pacifists in the slightest.

Jesse Lamovsky - 8/21/2003

My kudos to you for your informative piece. I'd like to point out that Baader-Meinhof was less a political group than simply a gang of psychopaths who employed a thin veneer of leftist rhetoric as an excuse to rob banks and murder innocent people- after all, if they were really such committed leftists, they could have easily crossed the border into East Germany and lived happily ever after in that "workers paradise". I believe this characterization can apply to most so-called "militant" groups.

James Jefferson - 8/21/2003

Unfortunately, people posting comments here don't like to read whole books, though I'm sure they would learn things from yours.

Where I am skeptical is in your focus on quantitative numbers rather than qualitative policies. Don't we still have tremendous "overkill" in terms of quantities of warheads ? If this was the key problem in the 1980s and the reason millions rallied and protested, why have I not heard a peep on this issue in the last 10 years ?

Millions still march, but the signs read "No to war", "No blood for oil", "Drop Bush not bombs".

There is a natural tendency for all historians, I think, to see great contemporary relevance in their specialized historical subjects. How have you guarded against falling into that trap, I wonder ?

Lawrence S. Witner - 8/21/2003

Mr. Markell, in his Aug. 21 rejoinder, misses the forest for the trees. In the early 1980s, the forest was the nuclear arms race, with tens of thousands of nuclear weapons deployed on both sides of the revived Cold War. They could -- and many persons feared they would -- wipe the USA, the USSR, and most other nations off the face of the globe. As Randy Forsberg, founder of the Freeze movement, explained the success of her campaign to the press: "The American people have decided that enough is enough."

The fact that, by the early 1980s, the USSR had replaced older intermediate range (INF) nuclear missiles with perhaps as many as 1,000 SS-20 intermediate range nuclear missiles and that the USA was planning to deploy 572 cruise and Pershing II intermediate range nuclear missiles in Western Europe did not really change the catastrophic nature of the danger faced by both nations. To use a common term of the time, there was plenty of "overkill."

In spite of this, the Freeze campaign repeatedly condemned the INF deployments by both sides and proposed compromise solutions. But its basic thrust was to halt the nuclear arms race as a "first step" to nuclear disarmament.

Mr. Markell also misses the context of the "interim solution." The "zero option" was adopted in late 1981 by the Reagan adminsitration as a useful public relations gesture. It was designed to make the Reagan administration appear committed to nuclear disarmament, while the reality was that its key proponents (such as Richard Perle and Caspar Weinberger were sure that the Russians would never accept it. Thus, they hoped to appease the peace protesters AND to move forward with deploying their own missiles. But the peace protesters (especially in Western Europe) were not appeased and, thus, pressure mounted (from Margaret Thatcher and other West European leaders) to come up with something more "negotiable" -- in this case, the "interim solution." Naturally, Perle and other hawks in the administration, who wanted fullscale U.S. missile deployment, opposed the "interim solution" and anything else that would limit their military options.

As to the INF treaty: The issue is not who "won," but what impact the nuclear disarmament movement had. The point I am making is that the movement (NOT SDI) convinced Gorbachev to go for this treaty and, by this point, had so badly clobbered the Reagan administration that the President couldn't back off from his earlier propagandistic offer (the "zero option") to get rid of all the INF missiles.

Anyway, once again, all this is laid out -- with appropriate references to more than a hundred interviews with former government officials and nuclear disarmament campaign leaders, as well as to many formerly top secret government documents -- in my TOWARD NUCLEAR ABOLITION (Stanford University Press).

Tom Gallatin - 8/21/2003


In the time you took to compose your latest extended harangue, you could have been to Barnes and Noble and back. Sorry I don't have time to type 17 pages of text (or the 10 or so which make up the bulk of Prestowitz's comprehensive analysis and vision). It would be too long for a comment anyway. Nor am I inclined to try to reduce it to an HNN-style soundbite for those too lazy to read. You clearly have not read the book or you would have come up with relevant comments about its fundamental message rather than nitpick around the edges on Kyoto and land mines.

Prestowitz, a real conservative, exposes the phoniness of the Bush Administration's pretense to conservatism and a foreign policy consistent with conservative values. But he writes thoughtfully and I think most readers here who agree with the spirit of L. Wittner's original article, will nonetheless also be favorably impressed by Prestowitz.

“Rogue Nation” is not a great piece of literature, but it hits many nails on many heads. In particular, it explains how one can be both in favor of a strong, active military ("non-pacifist") and in favor of working effectively with a range of other countries ("non-unilateralist"). I ONLY brought the book up at all, Bill, because YOU claimed it was "beyond" you to understand what I meant by "non-pacifist non-unilateralism". (Prestowitz's title is worth ignoring, but don't misspell it as I did a couple of posts ago if you are afraid of intolerance towards transvestites.). "Rogue Nation" is selling well and the jacket endorsements include George Soros and Peter Sutherland, neither of whom is an academic or a "collectivist". I am "relying" on it for no "original thought", but it does summarize well what many of us have believed for a long time. (For a real historian, 17 pages is a "summary" !).

Meanwhile, Bill, if you would like to get off your high-horse and provide us with some information instead, maybe we could hear about George W. Bush's combat service record in Vietnam.

Elia Markell - 8/21/2003

I say thanks, also.

I cringe daily driving to work listening to NPR talk about Palestinian "militants" who send children to blow up babies. But it is not just NPR. AP uses the same preposerous set of euphemisms, and Reuters is almost as bad as the BBC.

Glenn Williams - 8/21/2003

Thanks for reading it, and your kind words.

Elia Markell - 8/21/2003

Prof. Wittner still fails to understand how the events of the 1980s unfolded. First, this:

"The Nuclear Freeze proposal that galvanized a U.S. mass movement in the early 1980s called for a bilaterally-negotiated halt to the testing, production, and deployment of nuclear weapons. Thus, it applied to Soviet missiles as well as to American missiles."

At that point (1982-83), the key battle ground was over intermediate range missiles. And at that point, the Soviets had already deployed their SS-20s, whereas the U.S. had not deployed its counter to these. Hence, at that point, the freeze proposal was, in effect, a proposal to freeze the Soviet missiles in place and freeze out the U.S. missiles meant to counter them. I repeat my view, the freeze movement was utterly unconcerned about the Soviet threat these uncountered missiles posed.

As to whether Reagan ever compromised zero-zero, Prof Wittner says Reagan soon adopted an "interim" solution. I guess he and I have a different understanding of the word "interim." I do not see how a tactical half-way step on the road to the complete roll-back constitutes a compromise in the ultimate goal. In any case, this point completely undercuts Wittner's claim that Reagan only proposed zero-zero in the first place under pressure from the freeze movement. How could the freeze movement have pressured him into his original stand, but then also pressured him (through the NATO allies) to compromise that stand?

Regarding INF, Reykjavik and SDI, Prof. Wittner is far more confusing than he seems to see. He tells us Reagan's refusal to give up SDI prevented an INF agreement at Ryekjavik, that agreement came later, even though Reagan STILL clung to SDI, but that Gorbachev accepted INF anyway by "decoupling" SDI from INF. In essence, Gorbachev decided not to push Reagan further on SDI because he realized Reagan was not going to budge on it. How this translates into SDI not influencing Gorbachev's decision escapes me, unless, as Wittner does, one is willing to accept Gorbachev's self-serving spin about it. The fact that Gorbacheve "compromised" by decoupling SDI from INF and that Reagan did not compromise by holding on to SDI sounds to me far more like proof of Gorbacheve giving in to Reagan than Reagan giving in to Gorbachev, the freeze, or anyone else.

Bill Heuisler - 8/21/2003

Depending on one little book for original thought is dangerous.
Nuclear Freeze, pacifists, non-interventionists: all part of the same collectivist mantra. None have any value or relevance, and your attempt at pedagogy and profundity comes across as banal.
It's time to jerk you back to reality. You've now backed off the Niger comment, disavowed Kyoto as "token", said the Land Mine Treaty was hardly mentioned and presumed to give me homework.

Enough. You began this dialogue with a series of trite comments:
"Liberate Niger from Niger's uranium", "think-tank draft dodgers", "non nation builder in the white house" and then proposed the completely unsupported theory of a "Growing partisan realization...America needs non-pacifist, non interventionist foreign and military policy." Claptrap.

To support this nonsense you bring up a book...and assume I've not heard of it or read it. Then you talk of a formerly silent majority that disagrees with the ridiculously divergent choices you assert without any evidence or supporting data.

After this pronouncement you spend the next three posts scorning my knowledge of global warming, minimizing Kyoto and land mine treaties and giving me homework so I can share your inane options of either pacifism or thousand-year war. You give no arguments and share no data, but insist we read your little book and accept snide political comments unworthy of a historian.

Those are not the choices; there is a much wider variety. Neither Powell, Rumsfeld, Chaney nor Bush is a draft dodger. The nation builder remark is sophomoric. Your thoughts and theories are muddled and feeble. That "groundswell who've come to that opinion" exists only in your mind...or your book. Is it beyond your meager talents to summarize an argument or are you an inkhorn exhibitionist - proud of books, doubtful of knowledge? Can you think for yourself, speak for yourself? Please try.
Bill Heuisler

Tom Gallatin - 8/20/2003


When in the past was the Little Hot House Age ? It's global warming, not cooling that is the problem now, no matter how good your air conditioner is in Tucson.

Maybe it's too good, and that's why you can't be bothered to go outside in the heat to get to bookstore and read a book that pertains very much to the subject on the table here: American foreign policy and so-called peace movement. Kyoto was shot down in the Senate, because nobody cares much about this token symbolic treaty, except you apparently, although I rather suspect you keep bringing it up as cover for not wanting to do your homework.

Bottom line: If you want to know what "non-pacifist non-unilateralist foreign and military policy" is about, as you at least pretended to in your original post, log off your Flat Earth Society website, read the relevant 17 pages of Prestowitz, and engage your brain. Or stay inside, nurse your beer, and have the future possibilities for America and the world remain "far above" and "beyond" you (as you put it). Not to mention the hippy babes who are probably out of reach, out of desire, and off-limits anyway. It's a free country (until Ashcroft tells us otherwise): the choice is up to you.

I might be willing to discuss land mines, and why you won't see an ice age in Tucson anytime soon, when these topics are raised in a future HNN article, not before. And, meanwhile, no more irrelevant misogyny from me either.


Bill Heuisler - 8/20/2003

Mr. Williams,
Great rant. Thanks for your service to our country.
Bill Heuisler

Bill Heuisler - 8/20/2003

Are you trying to get me in trouble? You wrote, "Pick up a copy of "Rouge Nation". Ignore the silly and misleading title..."

Well, I took you at your word. I tried...
Got a few smirks and cracks like "Transvestites taking over the world?" How embarrassing. But I weathered their scorn, sat down and thought about it for an hour and realized you were referring back to Clyde's book. Whip-crack intelligence is painful in the midst of global warming. Or is it just Tucson in August? Another hour drifted by. But there's just as much scientific evidence of cooling as warming and there's overwhelming evidence of cyclical earth temperatures man can't hope to affect or control. Remember how the little Ice Age ruined Baltic wheat crops around 600 AD when we were kids? No? Well look it up at Borders. Where has twentieth Century Man gotten the chutzpah to imagine he can enact laws to control the behavior of Ma Earth? Same place Karl and Fred got the idea they could replace God with Dialectic.

Anyway, Clyde seems to think the middle ground between pacifism and the policies of President Bush is a really ferocious public relations campaign. We could market our amiability like Coke: give money to countries who hate us, station troops in countries who think we're Philistines. Novel ideas.
Bill Heuisler

Albert Madison - 8/20/2003

Lawrence Wittner's thoughtful rebuttal effectively disposes of at least the main thrust of Elia Markell's critical comments, however it does not persuade me either that missile negotiations were an important reason for the end of the Cold War, or that the tactics of the freeze campaign are, in any substantial fashion, usefully applicable to today's very different challenge of trying to reverse the foolish foreign and military "policy" of the Bush Administration.

Tom Gallatin - 8/20/2003

Bill, someone of your obvious intelligence, experience, and love of history deserves something more informative than comic books and cliff notes.

Your knowledge of global warming makes the Flat Earth Society sound like the Royal Society in comparison, and no self-respecting oil executive would be caught dead with that kind of comic book, but neither the environment nor even arms control is the fundamental issue here.

Kyoto and the land mines treaties are a minor part of Prestowitz's original book (regardless of how they are treated in comic book versions) and are, at best, extremely tangential to my original point about there being solid alternatives to both the World according to Dennis Kucinich AND the World according to Paul Wolfowitz.

Try this, you might actually enjoy it:

Go to your local Borders, Barnes & Noble, or non-chain alternative. No beer will be served, but they’ll probably have a place to sit down somewhere, stretch your feet, and browse a few books.

Pick up a copy of "Rouge Nation". Ignore the silly and misleading title, unless you want to flirt with cute hippie chicks, who might mistake you for a peacenik guru if they see the title in your solid hands. You don't have to buy the book either. Just take it to a handy browsing corner and read the final chapter. It is 17 pages, and I would wager a six pack that you can read it in less time than it would take to down that six pack and watch the sun set. Read that chapter (written a few weeks before the statue was toppled, but still up to date) and you may discover that America is not limited to a choice between between pacifist surrender and a thousand year "war on terror". At the least, you will better understand why there is a ground swell of Americans who have come to that opinion.

Lawrence S. Wittner - 8/20/2003

As a number of the previous comments seem based upon misinformation, let me add to what I said in my brief article.

The Nuclear Freeze proposal that galvanized a U.S. mass movement in the early 1980s called for a bilaterally-negotiated halt to the testing, production, and deployment of nuclear weapons. Thus, it applied to Soviet missiles as well as to American missiles. It was a simple and fair proposal and, not surprisingly, it was backed by virtually every major church body, union, and professional association in the United States. Polls showed that it consistently had the support of from 70 to 80 percent of the American public. Dismissing the Freeze campaign as a dangerously leftwing, pro-Soviet, and pacifist venture seems, at best, based on ignorance.

Mr. Markell writes that "Reagan never varied from his zero-zero stance." But, in fact, Reagan and his aides began compromising fairly early. Under very strong pressure from other NATO leaders (who, in turn, were getting cold feet thanks to massive antinuclear demonstrations), Reagan agreed to what became known as the "interim solution," which provided that the U.S. government would reduce its planned missile deployments if the Soviet Union cut back its missiles to an equal level. Hawks in the administration hated the "interim solution," for it would block the U.S. government from deploying the full complement of U.S. missiles. Nevertheless, chastened by the need to maintain allied support , Reagan announced the new policy on March 30, 1983.

Mr. Markell also maintains that SDI forced Gorbachev to accept the zero-zero formula and the resulting INF treaty. I wonder what his evidence is for this contention? Indeed, the evidence all points in exactly the opposite direction. Reagan's determination to cling to SDI was what prevented an INF agreement at Reykjavik. Nor did Reagan ever secure any agreement by bargaining away SDI, which he clung to doggedly until the end of his presidency. What broke the impasse over an INF treaty was Gorbachev's willingness to decouple SDI from the package. And what was the source of this idea? It had been pressed upon him by antinuclear scientists (US and Soviet, the latter including Andrei Sakharov) at a February 1987 conference in Moscow. Writing in his book PERESTROIKA, Gorbachev recalled: "My discussions with them made a great impression on me. I discussed the results of the congress with my colleagues in the Politburo and we decided to make a major new compromise -- untie the Reykjavik package and separate the problem of medium-range missiles from other issues." This is confirmed by the once-secret records of the key Politburo meeting, which indicate that Gorbachev said that "the biggest measure that would make an impact on the outside world, on public opinion, will be if we untie the package."

A brief message like this cannot be convincing, of course. But, if people are open-minded enough to consider the evidence for peace movement and public impact upon nuclear policy over the past three decades, they should take a look at my new, heavily documented book, THE STRUGGLE AGAINST THE BOMB (Stanford University Press).


Lawrence Wittner

Glenn Williams - 8/20/2003

Her interview continued:

"... in a bar in the bourgeois Berlin district of Charlottenburg... '[But] I at least want to get some money out of it,' ... Referring to a coffee-table-style book of pictures of the Baader-Meinhoff Gang, including a few of herself, called "Pictures on the Run '67-'77," which she published two years ago to wide critical acclaim, she says: 'I earn my money from the RAF [Red Army Faction], so why not keep it up?' The statement seems ironic from a former revolutionary and fervent anti-capitalist." ... "On a positive note, she says, this period of youth revolt produced the Green party..."

I shudder to think that in 20 or 30 years, some aging al Qaeda survivor will write a book calling his group "political activists" too. But then again, never mind. Just listen to what the apologists for Hamas and Hezbollah are saying in the media today, or the one idiot in our own Congress who equated terrorists with the Minutemen during the Revolutionary War!

Thanks for listening to my rant.


Glenn Williams - 8/20/2003

This is a true story, and I found that I had to share it. After hearing the news from the Middle East yesterday, an experience I had over this past weekend really hit home - like a sledgehammer. I saw something that upset me very much. Having spent 20+ years as a Ranger and Airborne qualified Infantry officer, not much usually does, so you know this had to get me.

While following my wife through her favorite shops in Ellicott City, Maryland, one of the more "trendy" ones had a copy of a certain book they used as a prop on one of their design displays. It was entitled, "Baader-Meinhoff - Pictures on the Run '67-'77" by Astrid Proll. Having served in Germany from '76 to ''79, it immediately caught my attention. For those of you who may not know, the Baader-Meinhoff gang was a German part of a pro-Marxist terrorist organization in Western Europe calling itself the "Red Army Faction." I had my first exposure to them in '76 as a brand new, no time in grade second lieutenant of Infantry. I had been in the Federal Republic of Germany, the BundesRepublik Deutchland, for about 2 weeks when my battalion was called out on alert in the middle of the day: armored personnel carriers fully uploaded with combat gear, complete basic combat loads of all calibers of ammunition (a 4:1 ball to tracer mix, not blanks), fragmentation, smoke and CS (ie. "Riot Control Agent," a.k.a. "tear gas") grenades, body armor, brand new filters in our chemical protective masks, etc., the "whole nine yards." We weren't going to the Fulda Gap to stare down tanks and BMPs from Group Soviet Forces Germany along the Inter-German Border, but to downtown Frankfurt am Main where the Baader-Meinhoff "urban guerillas" (which was 70s leftist chic for "terrorists") had set off two bombs in the public access areas of American installations, and another one at Rhein-Main AFB.

I browsed the pages of the book, but when I came across a piece of text that called them "political activists," I could not believe my eyes. You see, these B@$%ARDS shot at me and my comrades. In all, they were responsible for killing over 90 people, almost all of whom, in true terrorist fashion, were innocent German civilians! I was officer of the guard one night at our ammunition supply point when these "activists" tried to raid the place to obtain some Redeye missiles. They wounded one of our German night watchmen, a civilian employee of the American Labor Service, but could not get near the secure area where US troops guarded the bunkers before the place was swarming with MPs and Polizei. For those who may not know, the Redeye was the forerunner of the Stinger. I guess "political activism" included shooting down a Lufthansa or American flag airliner landing or taking off at the Frankfurt flughof! In another incident, my unit was training at the Seventh Army Training Center at Grafenwoher when the Baader-Meinhoff thugs succeeded in getting their hands on some M-72A2 Light Anti-Armor Weapons (LAW) there. Again, for those who may not know, the LAW is a now-obsolete American rocket (with a one-shot disposable launcher) that was the counterpart of the Soviet RPG-7, rocket propelled grenade. This triggered a massive search by CID (US Army Criminal Investigative Division) and CriPo (German Criminal Polizei) agents, backed up by BGSG - 8 (the Bundesgrenzschutz, or BGS, is the Federal para-military police and border patrol troops, and their Gruppe-8 is the famous anti-terrorist unit that in '77 stormed a Lufthansa airliner being held on the tarmack at Mogadishu, aboard which PLO terrorists were holding all 86 passengers and crew hostage: BGSG-8 killed the 3 terrorists, rescued all the hostages, and did not lose one commando of their own), and the embryo of what would become US Army Special Forces Operational Group D, now commonly called "Delta Force," in backup. We expected the B-M pukes to "give the LAWs back" to us as fireworks in observance of our bicentennial on July 4, 1976. Luckily, the LAWs were recovered in a raid on a B-M hideout.

God bless the Polizei! The no-nonsense German cops carry sub-machineguns in the trunks of their patrol cars! They circulated "wanted posters" with pictures of these Baader-Meinhoff $0Bs. Each time one was killed or captured, they would issue an updated poster after marking the face of the late terrorist with a big red "X". We caught one of the b@$%ards at the gate of the Kasserne where I was stationed, trying to get passed the guards and into a crowded NCO club on a dance night, with concealed explosives all over his body. Another big red "X," this time courtesy of some alert GIs!!!

I looked up the author on the web, and found that she gave an interview to a British newspaper last year. You can imagine how I felt when I read this! Here are some quotes you may find interesting.

"... 'you have also to remember that it was a group of no more than 30 people, yet it did something unheard -of - it took up a concept and followed it through' ... She remarked 'that this is not dissimilar to the 11 September terrorists,' though insists she does not mean to take the comparison any further." >> Glenn's comment: Yeah, right. They 'only' murdered 90 people.

Bill Heuisler - 8/20/2003

You've caught me. Why read a book when you can wait for Cliff Notes and Classic Comics?

The point on Kyoto was the 99 Senators. Do you sincerely believe Kofi has the best interests of the US at heart? And the best interests of the US are what our Lawmakers and Presidents should be about. When a group of admittedly Leftist scientists say the US should close down a portion of our industrial capacity while ignoring the biggest polluter in the world (China) there just might be an agenda. And the Senators caught it. Why can't you?

Isn't minimizing Marine casualties important? You wrote,
"Turning the other cheek is a noble stance, and farsighted." Nice. Politically correct. But presumptuous and ahistoric.
Turn your own cheek, Tom, but don't tell me to turn mine.

Tom Gallatin - 8/20/2003

Josh, you are correct in the sense that most "anti-war" demonstrators act for more diffuse reasons. Many are just out for a good time. But just the phrase "anti-war" is suggestive. Why don't they use words like anti-government waste, or anti-stupidity, anti-traitor,anti-coward, anti-hypocrite, or anti-bullying, any of which suggest much more persuasive reasons for dissenting from the "mainstream" belief that Donald Rumsfeld and Richard Perle knew best how to deal with Saddam ?

The difference between premeditated initiation of violence and self defense is well known to every theologian, lawyer, and most schoolyard kids. Why it escapes so many posters on HNN is a mystery I cannot solve. Tell me Josh, what, other than pacifism, can possibly be the ultimate rationale behind an "anti-war movement” which uses identical arguments, reasoning, and slogans to protest (a) rescuing med students on Grenada, (b) stopping genocide in Kosovo, and (c) the pretense that Saddam is in league with Osama and going to blow us up with uranium from Niger if we don't "take him out first", ala Sharon ?

Wittner, to be sure, does not reveal his ultimate beliefs in this short piece, but phrases such as "would-be warriors", "bellicose Republicans" and "a peace perspective" are suggestive.

My objection to pacifism is not moral, it is practical. Turning the other cheek is a noble stance, and farsighted...most of the time. But not ALL the time, and not in every situation.

Josh Greenland - 8/20/2003

I don't understand how you're seeing pacifism as the dominant tendency in the anti-war movement. Non-interventionism is not pacifism, and objecting to every war since WWII is not pacifism, nor is anti-militarism necessarily pacifism. The present anti-war movement is a mix of people with different politics, including people who favor interventionism but not in Iraq now. In some ways it would be nice if the Quakers and other genuine pacifists were running the antiwar movement, but that ain't the way it was, is or ever will be in this country.

Tom Gallatin - 8/20/2003

Bill, beating around the bush was never a fault of yours.

I'm willing to take it on faith that somewhere there are substantive reasons and hard facts that could support your views on treaties. Very possibly there were many New England senators who considered the Louisiana Purchase to be anti-American, anti-industrial BS, even if they used less earthy vocabulary.

And I will completely overlook the possibility that Attila the Hun may have made important diplomatic choices based on the sole criterion of minimizing his casualties in future battles.

But, tell me honestly, have you actually READ the book, "Rogue Nation" ?


Bill Heuisler - 8/19/2003

Mr. Gallatin,
Unreconstructed? Thank you, consistency is a difficult virtue.

Rogue Nation pretends not to be anti-American, and yet takes the an anti-US position of benevolence, altruism and intelligence when examining treaties we've rejected as against our interests. RN treats many international treaties uncritically; it passes off Kyoto and Land Mines as prima facie good and appropriate. The book says America's intentions are usually good, and that the world admires Americans when they live up to their own ideals, but insists on looking at the the United States through angry foreign eyes who see us as selfish and hypocritical.

Let's take Land Mines from the point of view of unreconstructed Jarheads. Prohibiting land mines will cost Marine lives because landmines protect outnumbered flanks of defensive positions and corridors of approach to night bivouacs. Instead of setting up strongpoints, defensive infantry (peacekeepers?) will have to cover every foot of perimeter with warm bodies. Those who don't like land mines will never have to consider facing human-wave attacks of the type favored by Chinese and Iranian Generals.

Remember Kyoto was rejected by 99 Senators. Were they selfish or did they think the Treaty was short-sighted, anti-industrial BS?
Rogue Nation takes the position those Senators were wrong. Well I don't care if Clyde worked for RR. He's wrong.
Bill Heuisler

Tom Gallatin - 8/19/2003

"Non-pacifist non-unilateralist foreign and military policy" is far above the rest of us at HNN. It's certainly beyond me."
Bill Heuisler

Bill, I've seen enough of your comments in recent months to appreciate your ability to read and digest history books and reports of current events. Take a careful look at "Rogue Nation" by Prestowitz, a Republican and former Reagan Administration official, published this year, and then see if you are still convinced that the only choice for America today is between pacifism and Dubyaism. I agree that this dichotomy is widely portrayed as paramount, however, the formerly silent majority that disagrees with both is starting to speak out. Open your eyes and mind, and you just might discover something new.

I also agree that it will be awhile before the Niger story is fully revealed. Meanwhile all of us, not just the non-"nation-builder" in the White House, can learn some lessons from the recent past.

Tom Gallatin

Bill Heuisler - 8/19/2003

Mr. Gallatin,
Your contempt for the discussion on HNN intrigues me after reading your blurred versions of recent history.

The 80s Anti-Nuke campaign was doomed by RR's success. To say the Leftist pacifists failed because of too much pacifism is like saying Stalin failed because of too-much Socialism. The point is probably true, but how could it have been otherwise?

Niger sold and sells Uranium to France and Russia. Some of the French uranium was used in supplying the Osirak Reactor in Iraq in the 80s. The same French companies doing business then with Saddam have large accounts-receivables with his fallen regime. Prematurely writing off the Niger connection before all the cards are turned over is foolish and opportunistic.

Most combat vets from Vietnam opposed the war because we weren't trying to "win" in the sense of destroying the enemy and his will to fight (bombing the Red River Dikes, invading, etc.) - the absolute opposite of pacifism

In my opinion, pacifism is suicidal in the face of fanatics and only seriously proposed by other fanatics. In fact, pacifism is not an option post 9/11. Unilateralism means acting alone without benefit of alliances like the United Nations who have not successfully defended another nation nor kept any peace since Korea. The Anglo-American-Australian Alliance extant against Saddam is one of like-minded free people and would fit your requirements of non-unilateralism if you weren't more interested in bashing W than proposing realities.

Obviously your wishful inclination toward a, "non-pacifist non-unilateralist foreign and military policy" is far above the rest of us at HNN. It's certainly beyond me.
Bill Heuisler

Thomas Gallatin - 8/19/2003

What held back the '80s anti-nuke campaign, and utterly doomed the more recent mainstream "movement" against the war to liberate Iraq from Niger's uranium, was the refusal of those activists to countenance any serious alternative to full-fledged pacifism.

Knee-jerk pacifism was only a minor liability for anti-Vietnam War protesters, many of whom were not arm-chair pacifists anyway but combat vets, and where the common sense policy being advocated was to just leave the Indochinese military quagmire and bring the boys home. Pacifism was a more serious -but still not fatal- hindrance in the context of protesting against the Cold War arms race, because under "MAD", actual armed conflict between US and USSR was only rarely a serious possibility.

As an alternative to the think-tank draft dodgers, who, invigorated after 9-11, took over America's foreign policy, unbridled pacifism looked and was and is ridiculous, to the public eye. There is, however, a strong and growing and bipartisan realization that what America needs now is a non-pacifist non-unilateralist foreign and military policy. Someday, this reality of this possibility might even penetrate the upper echelons of HNN, who seem enamoured of a "Jane, you ignorant slut" form of "right versus left" debate.

Albert Madison - 8/19/2003

Elia's criticism of James and Oscar "takes a turn so to the liking" of many anti-intellectuals who post here. How cool to first decry the "chattering" inanity of "academia", and then embrace stupidity by railing against that same ill-defined mass of eggheads for being too smart.

Swinging from one extreme to another can be exhilarating, no doubt, and quite possibly explains why Elia left Progressive magazine and the anti-freeze movement behind, while taking the strident hypocrisy evident there (in not protesting with equal vigor against both Soviet and US armaments) with him.

Elia Markell - 8/19/2003

This discussion by James and Oscar takes a turn so to the liking of academia. Never are our glorious intellectuals more thoughtful than when discussing the intelligence of those who lead them -- being themselves of course most fit to lead of all, though, surprisingly, never being chosen to lead. Alas.

However, what is all this is doing in the area reserved for those who might want to respond to the substance of what I wrote? I can well believe I was not "convincing" to James, for example. If no chalk marks ever line your blank slate, after all, you can't be expected to draw any reasonable conclusions from them.

Oscar Chamberlain - 8/19/2003

While I do not subscribeto the conservative hagiography of Reagan the anti-Communist intellectual, it seems to me that much of the harsh criticism of his intellect has also been in error.

Reagan seems to me to have been someone with a few firm convictions but also with a clear understanding of his own strenghts and weaknesses.

He knew he was not capable of managing the government in a detailed way. So he did not try. Instead, he showed an admirable capacity for choosing extremely competent people to manage his administration and to move the country roughly in the direction he wanted it to go.

(That I consider that direction unfortunate is not relevant to this analysis.)

As a professor of mine decades ago said about Louis XIII, it takes a ruler of some quality to recognize his own limitations and then choose men of higher ability to compensate for those limitations.

Oscar Chamberlain - 8/19/2003

Wittner may overstate the case for the Freeze movement, but it did have some impact.

It kept arms negotiations on the political front burner, despite Reagan administration desires to move away from such negotiations (at least until well after Gorbachev took power). Widespread popular support for such agreements created political limits that they had to contend with.

It did diminish support for the maintenance of a high level of American military superiority, though that probably had more of an impact during the Bush I and Clinton Administrations.

However, the widespread visibibty of the movement may have acted, inadvertently, as a screen for portions of the military (with bipartisan support) to begin moving toward a new posture of massive superiority. This can be seen most clearly in the development of a space defense program (underway in the Clinton Administration) with a clear goal of creating an armed American capability in outer space.

James Jefferson - 8/19/2003

Why do Markell's ubiquitous comments so often sound like sports reporting ? Maybe he was a cheerleader in high school ?

At any rate this bit of cheerleading for Ronald Reagan is even less convincing than Markell's usual cheerleading for George W. Bush.

I am not going to defend Wittner's equally silly cheerleading for the largely ineffective and irrelevant freeze movement of the 1980s, but the illogic there does not make Reagan, probably the most ignorant American president of the twentieth century, into some kind of grand, farsighted statesman. Schulz and Weinberger deserve some credit, but not the president who thought he personally liberated Auschwitz.

Elia Markell - 8/19/2003

This is a truly bizarre reading of the Reagan policies in the early 1980s and a total misconstruing of the purposes (and utter futility) of the nuclear freeze movement.

First, on the Euromissile debate, here and in Europe, PLEASE read Jeffrey Herf's "War by Other Means."

Reagan's proposal of zero-zero was derided by the freeze movement peaceniks as a con. It was certainly not and was not seen as a caving in to the freeze's pressures. The freezniks quite cleary said, in fact, that zero-zero was a ruse, since in their view the Pershing IIs and cruise missiles were first-strike weapons. I remember this vividly, since at the time I worked for the Progressive magazine, and I can tell you everyone there truly believed Reagan was set to start World War Three.

In fact, (as I believe the freezniks secretly sensed and feared) Reagan was throwing back in their face the phoniness of their own moral equivalency stance, seeing them and raising them. That is, his zero-zero opition totally deflated the left by taking the idiotic notion of a freeze one step further to what would be an actual decrease in intermediate-range nukes. Only in his plan, Reagan insisted the Soviet SS-20s be included as well — and be seen therefore as the deadly warmongering missiles they in fact were. The freeze movement, to its utter disgrace, REFUSED at every step ever to include the Soviet missiles in its calls for a freeze. Reagan undercut them by insisting, first, the everyone's missiles be included, and secondly, that everyone go down in numbers of nukes, not simply stay steady.

As it turned out, Reagan (at the European nations' request, of course) did deploy the Pershings and cruises, and the freeze movement utterly faded away (not before taking down Walter Mondale with it, of course, in 1984).

In the meantime, Reagan never varied from his zero-zero stance, even though it was derided (as I have indicated) in 1983. By 1987, Gorbachev finally agreed to it. Far from doing so in a context of some blissful acceptance of a nuke-free world by RR, he did so because RR was coupling decreases in nukes with the threat of SDI. It was this combo that won the day, not any impact from the freeze.

In any event, absolutely typically of the vile contempt of the chattering classes toward Reagan, much of the press then proceeded to praise GORBACHEV(!!) for the 1987 INS agreement, when of course it was Reagan's idea first, last, and always.

Stephen McCullough - 8/19/2003

The writer ignores the very reason Gorbachev was forced to the table at the INF talks, the introduction of Pershing II's to Europe. What incentive did the Soviets have to give up the SS-20s until the U.S. countered them? Also, he fails to mention the outcome of the 1984 election when the U.S. voters overwhelmingly rejected the Democrat party platform and canidate.

mark safranski - 8/19/2003

" In March 1985, however, Mikhail Gorbachev became Soviet party secretary, thereby transforming Soviet policy. Deeply influenced by the peace and disarmament movement, Gorbachev met frequently with its leaders and seized upon their ideas. In response to their advice, he unilaterally halted Soviet nuclear testing, freed Andrei Sakharov from house arrest, and cut the link between eliminating intermediate range nuclear weapons and the scrapping of Star Wars. This last move opened the way for the INF treaty, which removed all cruise, Pershing II, and SS-20 nuclear missiles from Europe."

This will certainly be news to Gorbachev and Shevardnadze. The writer left out how the freezeniks convinced Gorby to bug out of Afghanistan. Evidently they had their hands so full as foreign policy consultants to the Kremlin it left little time for the Freeze protesters to advise Deng Xiaoping about Tiannemen Square


Nieh Okan - 8/18/2003

History certainly can be ironic. If the Sandinistas had only been clever enough to attack targets in America, the misguided peacenik movement in the U.S. might have been stopped in its tracks twenty years sooner. Just imagine, President Dan Quayle in the White House for his second term, and Bill Clinton still stuck in an Arkansas trailer with Paula Jones. With luck, we might even be bombing Paris by now.