Back To The Future
An interview with Senator Gary Hart
Senator Gary Hart, a Democrat from Colorado, is the first Vietnam generation politician to become a leading contender for the Presidency. In this interview, we discussed the future of US strategy and foreign policy.
NPQ - Forty years after the end of World War II, isn't it time to reevaluate our post-war strategy as a nation?
GH - It's way past the time to re-evaluate our assumptions. There was the, beginning of a re-evaluation in the early 1960s under the Kennedy Administration. His assassination, followed by involvement in Vietnam, cut off the redirection of our fixation with the East and the Soviet Union to an increasing concern about the poor countries of the southern hemisphere. Kennedy's assassination, the Vietnam War, Water gate and our economic difficulties have taken 20 years off the clock. We need to go back to about 1963 and pick up where we left off.
We ought to operate under several new assumptions. First, the superpowers are musclebound by a nuclear arms race. There is no security in continued stockpiling of such weapons. Some policy of arms control, arms reduction and detente is going to be necessary to redirect the energies, not only of the United States, but also of our Western and Northern democratic and industrial allies, toward the three-quarters of the people on earth that live on or below the equator.
Second, we live in an international economy and are going to have to compete. Competing will take a massive commitment to modernize American industry, and to develop industrial trade strategies that are based upon fair trade principles, but also on productivity and competitiveness.
There are collateral issues that accompany productivity and competitiveness. Our trade deficit in the past seven years has increased more with our Latin American trading partners than with Japan. One of the reasons is the economic austerity program which we have forced upon new South American democracies because of their debt. It is hurting the trade balance and costing us more than 750,000 American jobs. We have to open up markets for long-term trade agreements with Latin America, Africa and Southeast Asia.
Finally, the Western democracies, including Japan, have to assume a greater share of the cost of their own defense. That can be done without endangering the security of the western Pacific and Central Europe because rearmament can be in the form of defensive weapons. The Japanese, for example, can pick up more of the cost of offsetting a growing Soviet Pacific fleet with defensive, conventional forces instead of offensive forces.
NPQ - Has our strategic thinking been militarized to the detriment of the economic and trade dimension?
GH - Yes, but that is also a geographic phenomenon. The military dimension operates on an East-West axis and the economic dimension operates on a North-South axis.
NPQ - The international challenge to our standard of living and employment base comes from two directions. On the one hand, there are countries like Japan, Korea or Taiwan that organize their economies to capture world markets through aggressive export strategies. During the postwar era we have also seen the expansion of transnational corporations which produce globally and trade across national boundaries.
How do we confront this new world economy.?
GH - It requires an industrial strategy that identifies "keystone" industries and mobilizes a public-private partnership to develop specific strategies for those industries based upon targeting sections of the market. Our experts have to decide what kind of steel we can produce most competitively; what kind of cars we can produce most competitively; what kind of machine tools and so forth. Then, our investment strategy must be directed toward investment in these types of products. Internationally, our marketing strategies must be directed toward that share of the world market.
This requires a wholesale change in the way we do business in this country. It will require new cooperation. We are one of the last industrial nations that have a competitive or conflicting relationship between labor and management. That's got to go.
Not only do worker salaries have to be tied to productivity, but management salaries have to be as well. There have to be penalties for managers who make stupid investment decisions or who waste productive capital on non-productive mergers and acquisitions. Right now we reward short term profits brought on by unproductive investment or conglomerations. There are no penalties for making bad decisions.
We don't want to counter transnational production. It is a fact of life. One thing we can do is take away preferential tax treatment for companies that export jobs. A Domestic-International Sales Corporation, foreign tax credits or the investment tax credit for foreign investment could accomplish that goal.
NPQ - Bobby Inman, former Director of the CIA and now head of Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation, has said that international trade should become a charge of the National Security Council. Do you agree?
GH - I agree with the goal. I'm not sure I agree with the method. I don't think we should make trade part of our national security apparatus because not all international trade issues involve national security.
It could be done on an ad hoc basis - an active Rooseveltian presidency. We might someday need a new Department of Trade, but at present that's not really necessary. We could set up a Cabinet task force of Treasury, Commerce and Labor. Like a summit, the President would just be involved in the final decisions. It would involve the time of his cabinet, rather than all of the President's time.
NPQ - Zbigniew Brzezinski summed up a predominant view by saying that "detente is buried in the Sands of the Ogaden," referring to our conflict with Soviet influence in the horn of Africa. Others have said similar things about detente breaking down because of US-Soviet relations in Third World countries such as Angola and Afghanistan.
Can we separate our competition with the Soviets around the world from our strategic nuclear relationship?
GH - We have to. I don't think we have any choice. If we hold nuclear arms reduction hostage to every political or military event that occurs, particularly if that military event is on the Soviet border, as in the case of Afghanistan, then we're never going to make any progress in reducing strategic tensions.
There is going to be increasing unrest not only in the Third World, but in places like Poland and elsewhere. To say that "so long as you're repressing Solidarity, we're not going to negotiate arms control agreements with you" is to miss the whole point.
We don't negotiate arms control agreements to do the Soviets a favor. We do it to do ourselves a favor. The only reason to negotiate arms control is for the purpose of making this country more secure.
People opposed to arms control have always gotten it wrong. They say arms control was a favor that we did for the Soviets. It's not. It's a favor we do for ourselves. The Joint Chiefs of Staff supported the Salt 11 Treaty because it helped define and shape the size of the Soviet threat and helped them plan their response to it.
In addition, arms control legitimizes spying. It is only because of arms control agreements that we have the fight, if you will, to fire satellites over the Soviet Union unmolested. This was something that was achieved through negotiation.
NPQ - Senator Lugar has argued we should pursue a course called "the Reagan Doctrine," which basically means supporting anti-Soviet guerilla forces around the world, from Angola to Afghanistan, Nicaragua, Ethiopia and Cambodia.
In his view, not only should we link Third World competition with our strategic nuclear relations, but we should positively engage the Soviet-linked regimes. If we don't, he argues, the Soviets will believe that our will is weak.
GH - The concept of the Reagan Doctrine is overly simplistic. First of all, we should continue to provide, as we have, covert support to the Afghan rebels. But it would be a tremendous mistake to believe that that's standing up against Russian adventurism.
Afghanistan is a classic case of standing up to Russian paranoia about its border. By no means do I support what the Russians have done there, but to see Soviet military activity anywhere as a threat to us everywhere is just the kind of John Foster Dulles oversimplification that has gotten this nation into such trouble in the past.
Second, we shouldn't assume that every left of center government or socialist revolution is directed from Moscow. The world is a lot more complicated than that. Most of these revolutions don't want Soviet hegemony over their country and their future. We ought to play on that. Our foreign policy ought to be close to what Mao Zedong said Chinese foreign policy was, namely, to resist hegemony without seeking hegemony.
Finally, if we identify with every counter-revolutionary group in the world we are going to find ourselves with some very seedy, anti-democratic characters, which is part of the problem we are having in Nicaragua. If the Reagan Doctrine means that we have to get into bed with the Somozas of this world and their followers, then I don't think that's very good for this country I hope Senator Lugar doesn't believe that.
NPQ - What you've said raises the central question of defining our vital interests as a nation. What are our vital interests today?
GH - We ought to periodically scrutinize our commitments and test them to see whether they mean the same things today they meant five or twenty-five years earlier. That includes NATO. If there is logic to the commitment, then it will withstand the scrutiny and be strengthened by it. The notion that we can't question our involvement in NATO is to say that such an evaluation might discover that it doesn't make sense to be in NATO.
I think that scrutiny will bring us back to the fact that the NATO commitment - the defense and strengthening of the Western Alliance - is important to us. Our security relationships with Japan are important to us. Some variation of the Monroe Doctrine is important to us - not to permit a non-hemispheric power to establish a military presence in the Western hemisphere. Basically, what I would call the mainstream, bipartisan commitments of postwar America should remain our vital interests.
Yet, how we fulfill these obligations is something that should always be rethought. I happen to believe that the military structure of NATO ought to be revised over time. The American commitment ought to be more air and sea but less land related. The Allies ought to pick up more of the land commitment.
We ought to strengthen our conventional forces through reform and reduce the tactical nuclear weapons in Europe.
Recently, the West German Social Democrats and government authorities in East Germany called for a chemical weapon free zone in Europe. I've been an opponent of the Administration's effort to build the binary weapons, so I agree with this. One of the reasons for my opposition was precisely this: the Europeans will not let chemical weapons be prepositioned in Europe, and they're not much of a deterrent when they're located over here.
NPQ - What role do you foresee for "Star Wars" in any future national security strategy?
GH - It's too early to say. A lot depends on the results of the research, which I support at pre-Reagan levels. That is, the thoughtful investment of research dollars in defense technologies. I tend to side with the experts who say that the possibility of a comprehensive defense sufficient to deter a first strike attack, particularly in a period of crisis or tension, is just meaningless. Moreover, the cost is literally unbearable. I don't think it makes much sense.
The only thing that makes sense technologically or economically is point defense, some sort of anti-ballistic missile system. But population defense is never going to occur. And a point defense is destabilizing. All a ballistic missile defense does is lock us into a land-based strategy.
We have to get away from fixed, land-based MIRVed ICBMs because of the increased accuracy of missiles. If we try to shelter or defend them, a signal is sent to the other side that fighting and winning a counterforce nuclear exchange is possible.
NPQ - Can we afford to maintain our present defenses, build a "Star Wars" system, support anti-Soviet guerillas around the world and compete economically with the Japanese and others all at the same time?
GH - No, "Star Wars" alone is a trillion dollar program. Reagan's response is, "how can we afford not to?", but it won't produce the results which Reagan believes - a technological shield that defends the population.
Much of the national debate on "Star Wars" is wasted. The critical decisions will not be made on Reagan's watch, but on that of the next President, or perhaps the one after. The world is going to be a lot different then. We ought to simply go forward with a thoughtful investment of research dollars, keep out technological base expanding, but not fundamentally change our strategic doctrine until we know what we are talking about. And that won't happen before 1995 or 2005.
Under Ronald Reagan's timetable, resources needed for education, civilian research and development, retooling our industry and retraining our workforce will be seriously squeezed. While defending the front door against the Soviets, we will lose our prosperity through the back door of economic competition with our allies.
NPQ - What should be our national strategic objectives in the coming decade?
GH - We need to maintain the commitments that are integral to this nation's security - political, military and economic. We need to redirect our energies and those of our industrial allies to the poor countries of the southern hemisphere, to stabilize democracies in the Third World and expand commercial ties with those economies, and expand their economies. We must raise the nuclear threshold, not only between the superpowers, but begin to build much stronger borders against the proliferation of nuclear technology to Third World nations.