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Defense Sense: The Search for a Rational Military Policy

anon — May 1984

Congressman Ronald V. Dellums, with R.H. Miller and H. Lee Halterman, edited by Patrick 0’ Heffernan. Ballinger Books.

Reviewed by Matthew Clark

US Congressman Ronald Dellums is a senior memher of the House Armed Services Committee, and Chair of its Subcommittee on Military Installations and Facilities — but he is by no, means a hawk. He was the first member of Congress to call for termination of all funding of the MX and Pershing II missiles, and he was an original co-sponsor of the Nuclear Freeze resolution in the House of Representatives.

In January, 1982, Dellums tried to have the House Armed Services Committee expand its hearings in order to examine the political and economic basis of the military budget. After his request was denied, Dellums convened — on his own initiative and with funding from the peace movement — the Special Congressional Ad Hoc Hearings on the Full Implications of the Military Budget. Defense Sense is a partial record of those hearings.

The book is divided into six sections, which consider, in turn, 1) the nature of the new arms race, 2) the foreign Rolicy goals and assumptions underlying. the arms race, 3) the US military hudget in some detail, 4) the impact of military spending on the civilian economy, 5) the moraJ issues raised by the prospect of nuclear war, and 6) some specific alternatives.

Most of the book consists of testimony from twenty-five witnesses, including Robert Aldridge, Herhert Scoville, Richard Barnet, Wi1liam Winpisinger, Bishop John T. Walker, Archbishop John R. Quinn and Philip Berrigan. The level of discussion is generally quite high, but it is also clear and simply stated. I particularly recommend Franklyn Holzman’s contribution, “Administration Misrepresentations of Soviet Military Spending.” The subject has been discussed elsewhere (by Ruth Sivard in World Military and Social Expenditures and by Tom Gervasi in The Arsenal of Democracy II, among others), but Holzman’s account is the clearest I’ve yet seen.

The sixth section consists of Dellums’ own policy proposals, which he presented to Congress in July 1982, as a comprehwsive alternative military budget. It was defeated, of course, but Dellums promises to continue introducing updated versions of his proposal “until the madness of the arms race is halted and then reversed.”

Cynic that I am, I don’t usually expect much from elected officials. I was pleased and surprised by this book, both the testimony of the witnesses and Dellums’ own analysis. He clearly encouraged the participants not to mince words, although their opinions generally stand well, outside the Cold War foreign policy consensus. Those who want to make the world safe for capitalism will pro.; bably not like this book, but those who want to examine the underlying causes of the arms race, and those who want to think about some serious alternatives, will find it stimulating.