Hans Mark Interview: Conversations with History; Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley
Page 6 of 7
In you lectures here on campus, you will be sharing with us your views on national security issues which I want to talk a little about now. First, let's look at the problem of arms control. Have the treaties we've negotiated been good ones? Do you think arms control treaties are the route to go?
Some have been good, some have not been good. The first question you have to ask is, why do you want to make an arms control treaty, what are the objectives? The history of arms control goes back to the 1920s and the case of the naval treaties that were made between the wars. The preamble to the 1922 Washington Naval Agreement has a very succinct statement which gives the purpose of arms control. One is, you don't want to burden people to pay for all these battleships. The second is that it promotes peace. Those were the two objectives.
The naval treaties succeeded in the first objective; that is, they did limit the number of ships that were built, and probably more would have been built if the treaties hadn't been in effect. They didn't preserve the peace. So I think that it is an illusion to think that a treaty has much to do with peace.
These treaties are basically arrangements between competing parties that are made, primarily, for various political reasons, because various political leaderships feel themselves to be under various political pressures. What one has to think about is that they can, indeed, save money, and that's something that's important. They can, perhaps, even establish relationships that wouldn't exist otherwise, and therefore build some kind of a bridge or confidence. But they have very little to do with peace. If we go into the business of arms control to search for peace, I think we're missing the point. It won't work. It's too ambitious. In other words, if you try to make a treaty that really creates peace, I don't think it would be credible.
Now, having said all that, what are the criteria that you judge treaties by? What are the things that you want to do? Treaties that tend to eliminate weapons and weapon systems that exist are, in my judgment, the best ones because they're easy to verify: you can tell whether somebody's moved a missile out of a hole or whether their submarine has been cut up. They do save money: you don't build things that you would have built otherwise and you don't operate things that you'd have done otherwise. You don't save as much money as people think; let me put that on the record, too. If you look at the entire strategic nuclear forces of the United States, we spend about 15 percent of our defense budget on the strategic nuclear forces. That's about $40 billion a year out of the $300 billion that we spend on defense. The arms treaty might cut that $40 billion back a few billion dollars, and that's important. But it isn't a huge factor of two or so; it's a few billion dollars. With a national debt of a couple hundred billion, that counts. So money saving is, in my judgment, probably the best motive.
Now, another thing a treaty does, which I think is advantageous, is that you can also control the deployment of weapons, where do you deploy things. Again, that's relatively easier to verify than some other matters. A treaty like the IMF Treaty, for instance, is probably advantageous because that's one where each side has agreed to not deploy certain kinds of nuclear weapons in certain areas. There's a political problem that comes with that for us with the European alliance, but I think there's a silver lining to that problem because we should have been long ago telling our NATO allies that they need to take more of their own defense into their own houses. You know, we spend 7.8 percent of our gross national product on defense. The allies spend on the average of 3 percent. Britain spends about 5 percent and the others spend about 3 percent. And that's an imbalance. So the IMF Treaty helps the Europeans to think a little bit about what they do for themselves. So I think that's an advantageous treaty.
There are some treaties that I think are very real problems for this country, and those are the treaties that tend to control technology. There are people who think that you can stop new weapons systems from being created, by treaty. That is where I think we have gotten into most of the trouble that we have with our arms control policies, and into most of the agreements we have that are truly to the disadvantage of the United States. Let me give you an example of what I mean by going back again to the naval treaties.
The 1922 treaty limited battleships, which were the major naval weapon in World War I, but the writers of that treaty understood that technology would be changing and so they also included aircraft carriers in the treaty. They said each side can have nine, or some other number, of aircraft carriers. They recognized that airplanes were important weapons and that ships to carry them, therefore, ought to be limited. It's interesting that they wrote the provision into the treaty also that limited the number of guns that an aircraft carrier could carry, missing the point that the really important technical development that would come, and what really made aircraft carriers dangerous, were the new airplanes, not the guns. The treaty said nothing at all about airplanes. Now, what actually happened was that a big technical development came along with all metal airplanes that could be used as dive bombers and torpedo planes. In 1922, there weren't any. In 1922, airplanes were mostly scouting vehicles, and the torpedo planes and the dive bombers, which were the major airplanes of World War II naval weapons, were in the future. The all-metal airplane was actually developed as a civilian enterprise, because at that same time air transport was going, the government subsidized the air transportation industry through a mail subsidy because it was felt that that would be a good thing to do for the country. And so all-metal airplanes came about. And these, then, were modified for the military role as well. I'm not sure who could have written the treaty in 1922 to prevent the development of all-metal airplanes, which then turned out to be the important weapons. I don't think it could have been done. And yet, that's what we're trying to do in some of the arms control negotiations that we're engaging in now.
So, the ABM Treaty for example, how in retrospect do you see that?
The ABM Treaty was a mistake. It was a mistake because it attempted to limit technology. It attempted to limit the development and the testing of certain new things. And, as I said, limiting the deployment is generally okay; it's [limiting] the developing and the testing that's bad. Now, it's interesting, in 1972, I was a consultant to General Starbird who, at the time, ran the ABM program. And I got fooled. When the proposal to make the ABM Treaty came along, I kind of felt I didn't like it, but I never took the time to engage in the debate to try to kill it, which I should have done in hindsight. I didn't do that because I told myself that this thing wasn't going to work, there's no way you can make an ABM system.
In 1970, when we were having the debate, we didn't have microchips and computers that you could put on a small disk, we didn't have the sensors we have today, we didn't have infrared sensors that could see temperature differences of a few hundredths of a degree. We didn't know how to operate in space very well yet. We didn't have the shuttle, we didn't have all the things which you can construct with people there. If you look at the ABM problem today, the technical answer is very different from what it was fifteen or eighteen years ago. I didn't mention lasers. The high-intensity laser was invented in '69, just about when this debate was going on. It was a laboratory curiosity at the time. We probably should have foreseen that signing that treaty would eventually get us into real trouble. As I say, I did not participate in the debate, and I should have. In hindsight I was wrong.
But what about the arguments that say you have to control technology, you have to channel it because it's the technology that fuels the arms race? Arms races lead to the kind of instability that might, if we're not careful, result in war.
It is the technology that also fuels the economy. Of the things I mentioned, microchips, sensors, space operations, they would have happened anyhow, whether the defense department was there or not. Lasers were a defense development, a DOD development. I believe that it is not only not possible, but also terribly mistaken to channel technology. It is not only possible but necessary to channel the applications of technology. The deployment of weapons is an application of the technology. That you control. That you channel. You can measure the production of a weapons system, you can measure whether somebody's built one hundred airplanes because you can't hide them, or it's very hard to hide them. You cannot measure whether he's developed a single airplane. And that's where I come apart with the ABM Treaty, and with people now who are proposing similar kinds of provisions in the START Treaties.
I guess the Soviet Union and the United States are situated differently in terms of pursuing these matters, even if a treaty has been signed, is that what you're suggesting?
Oh, very much so. There are really two asymmetries; one is simple to understand, the other one is a little more complicated. One reason why I am very much in favor, say, of treaties that limit deployments or numbers of weapons is because the Russians find it easier to spend a lot of money on these things. They really do spend money hand over fist on defense. And therefore, they field a lot more weapons systems than we do. On the other hand, in the development of new technology, they're not so good. Now, if we sign a treaty that limits the numbers, that generally helps us because it means that we limit their spending. And I think there's reason to believe that Gorbachev and his friends are now coming to the same conclusion, that maybe that's not a bad thing for them to do, either. On the other hand, if you limit technology, you limit something that we're good at. We are better than the Russians, generally, at creating new technology. So one reason for not engaging in treaties that limit technology is that we hurt ourselves, we tend to hurt ourselves more than we hurt the Russians.
The other reason is a more complicated one, and it's illustrated again by what happened after the ABM Treaty. When the ABM Treaty was signed, it had provisions in it for the deployment of ABM systems that were based on the then-existing technology. The treaty specified that each side could deploy a system with one hundred ABM missiles around the national capital, and another system around one of the missile fields on land somewhere. The Russians executed both deployments. In short, they did everything that was permitted under the treaty. I remember the debate at the time, we said, "Hell, this thing isn't going to work anyway, why should we bother to deploy it and pay all the money?" So we did a desultory deployment and stopped.
The Russians, in spite of the fact that they are not as good at doing technology as we are -- and that has to do with their political organization, not with their brains. They've got plenty good people. The problem is they organize themselves in such a way that they don't create incentives for people to do this. In spite of the fact that they're not as good as we are at that, they had faith that things will change and that eventually ABM will become possible. The reason that they deployed those systems, back in the 1970s, was to train the troops and to get people used to thinking about it. They've got thousands and thousands and thousands of people in their armed services now, to whom the whole business of antiballistic missile defenses is second nature. They've served in it for twenty years. They all know it doesn't work very well. But the faith that something new would come along to make it happen was there.
There were some of us who also had that faith here but we said, "Gee whiz, when it comes, we'll play catch-up." And so we never fought very hard with our military establishment to get something deployed -- also a mistake, I think. So I think it would have been best for us to do a limited deployment and to keep up with the Russians on that, and then to talk about what we actually deploy when it exists, not before it exists.
The whole problem with the interpretation of the ABM Treaty is that if you try to invent words in 1970 to describe the technology in 1990, you're going to miss some things, and so you're going to have accusations of people cheating on this and the other thing. These are all things that weren't invented. So, I think that was a bad treaty, and I think we should sit down with the Russians [and] renegotiate it. And renegotiate it in such a way that it is more to our advantage.
What sort of a problem is posed by the nonparticipation in these treaties of actors like the Japanese, who clearly would be on the verge of breakthroughs in a lot of this technology?
Well, that's another reason for concentrating on massive deployments rather than on testing and on technology. Japan, France, Britain, China, India, Brazil, three or four other big nations are all capable of doing these things. They all have people who know how to do this. What they haven't got are the massive deployments, the thousands of weapons that the Russians and ourselves have. To me it is the massive deployment that is really the threat. That's what kills people, not the testing of a missile. What kills people is the massive deployment, that's what you have to stop. You can and should, to repeat, regulate the application of technology. You cannot and should not regulate the creation of a new technology, because nobody knows what will come out of it.
Next page: Looking to the Future
© Copyright 2002, Regents of the University of California