May 24, 1981

Fading from memory now, as the last men who lived it slip away, is a sunny April day long ago on the Channel coast of Belgium. Spring takes this languid part of Europe without hesitation, so we are safe to assume that from the forward trenches a young soldier looked out across the kind of grassy fields he might otherwise have chosen to lie down in with the girl of his dreams. Around 5 P.M. on April 22, 1915, after an idle afternoon, heavy German guns resumed their bombardment of the small market town of Ypres. But the enemy’s light batteries remained silent, so that no shells fell along the Allied front outside the town. Instead of concussion, there was only the still evening air. Perhaps when the French colonials (mostly Algerian Arabs) and Canadians in the forward positions first heard the hissing sound coming from the German side, they thought some rounds had misfired — or maybe they thought nothing. But within minutes a greenish-yellow cloud, which distant observers compared to mist ”such as is seen over water meadows on a frosty night,” stretched itself for five miles over the front. As the cloud advanced on a light breeze, it killed 5000, injured another 10,000 and set the Allied army in absolute panic, dissolution and retreat.

Chemical weapons caused 1.3 million casualties in World War I, including 91,000 deaths (a half-million of these casualties were Russians, who suffered more than any other belligerents). Except for slow-moving face-offs of negligible military value after April 1915, it was the Battle of Ypres that formed our collective image of gas warfare. The lasting impression, needless to say, is that there is something peculiarly hideous about this kind of combat. Despite great advances in chemical technology, no one has dared to wage protracted war with lethal gas since 1918. Only by stretching definitions to include tear gas or nausea gas and herbicides do we find any contemporary experience at all — the massive American offensives in Vietnam, and reports of more recent activity by Soviet troops in Afghanistan for which there is as yet no positive proof. Poison gas seems somehow sinister beyond calculation. And there are even those in the armed forces who will venture to say that, regardless of how effective it might be under certain ideal conditions, it is unmanly.

Why, then, is the United States Department of Defense now ”in the process of developing new doctrine and tactics which will integrate our chemical weapons” into the modern battlefield, as Gen. Niles Fulwyler of the Army Nuclear and Chemical Directorate recently announced?

A year ago, Congress, without public debate or Presidential request, appropriated $3.15 million to begin construction of facilities in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, to resume production of gas shells and bombs after a 12-year ban. This relatively small amount of money belies the size of Defense Department expenditures for chemical warfare that may be in store: The department projects spending $2.47 billion for chemical development programs over the next five years, and, in a secret study for the department, a panel of the Defense Science Board recommends that this figure be increased by a factor of three or four.

The crucial decision now rests with the Reagan Administration. It has proposed a supplemental military budget for fiscal 1981 which contains $20 million to outfit the chemical-weapons facilities whose initial construction work Congress approved last year. If the 1981 provision is passed in both the House and Senate — where 12 Senators, including John Tower, Strom Thurmond and John Warner, recently announced that they would support it, despite the fact that Mark Hatfield had blocked it in subcomittiee — the indications are that Presdent Reagan will go ahead. The decision will raise numerous national questions of enormous significance: What will be done with these weapons? When, where and how would they be used? Where can they safely be stored? And will the undertaking not precipitate a chemical arms race as potentially threatening and difficult to control as the nuclear arms race has been? To understand why the need to defend against or wage chemical warfare is again being considered, it is necessary to step back no farther than 1968 — as long as one keeps in mind the old ghosts of Ypres.

On March 14, 1968, some 6000 sheep grazing in Skull Valley, Utah, 85 miles southwest of Salt Lake City, were killed by nerve gas known as VX. The gas had somehow drifted 30 miles off the open range of Dugway Proving Ground, an Army reservation (25 percent larger than Rhode Island) which is the main testing site for chemical and biological warfare in the United States. Like many of the technological mishaps of our age, it was the kind of event many officials swore could never happen. Following the uproar, Richard Nixon issued an order in 1969 that has restricted chemical weapons ever since: He renounced the first use (as opposed to retaliatory use) of lethal chemical arms in war. Congress, for its part, imposed legal and environmental restrictions on open-air testing, as well as barriers to obtaining new weapons specially designed to fire chemical rounds. These actions fostered the current public impression that the United States regards chemical warfare as most nations have for many years — more a dark remnant of history than a useful military implement. Although budget requests for research, development and procurement of chemical materiel remained substantial through the early 1970’s, overall spending reached a low point by 1975. During this period, the Army Chemical Corps slid into a rather depressed state. But by treating its research work as ”defensive” rather than ”offensive” (the two terms turn out to be much the same thing) the corps maintained its basic fiscal health. Thus, chemical weapons, ostensibly on the way out of the United States arsenal, were in fact still being studied in a corner slightly more obscure than before.

Two events changed this environment. During the Middle East war of 1973, Soviet-supplied Egyptian tanks and personnel carriers were found to contain air-filtration systems to protect their crews from radiation and, supposedly, chemically contaminated battlefields. Evidence that protective equipment was standard issue in the Soviet Army had been available since the 1950’s, but Western military analysts were particularly alarmed by the possible offensive implications of these armored vehicles: Since the West was not planning chemical attack, did the Soviet vehicles suggest that the Russians might be? Then, in January 1975, the United States became the 95th nation to join the Geneva Protocol of 1925 banning first use of gas or germ weapons. (Although we had initiated the treaty soon after World War I, the Senate had failed to ratify it because of intense lobbying by the chemical industry and other opponents.) Even upon final approval, however, President Ford made it clear that the United States — unlike other signatories — understood the Geneva Protocol to include neither herbicides nor the euphemistically named ”riot-control agents” that were part of our Vietnam arsenal. Three months later, a multinational committee began to meet in Geneva to discuss treaty language that would bring about total chemical disarmament. They are still meeting today, while the Russians and Americans argue over future inspection procedures.

These events created a vigorous push-pull debate in Washington. On one side, the Army seized upon the October War findings and announced that it would give fresh priority to improving its ability to fight on a toxic battlefield. On the other side, the Ford and Carter Administrations did not want to upset the Geneva talks or our efforts to persuade NATO allies to accept more important weapons like tactical nuclear missiles. Spending for chemical-war research increased from $29 million in 1976 to $106 million in 1981 (like all publicly available budget figures for chemical warfare, these figures must be considered low-end estimates). In 1977, following the first bilateral discussions between the United States and the Soviet Union on chemical disarmament, the United States spent as much on defensive equipment as it had during the five previous years combined. But Congress consistently denied Army requests for new offensive weapons. After a policy review that focused on treaty negotiations, such requests were not even included in the Administration budgets for 1979 through 1981.

After the Russians marched into Afghanistan in December 1979, however, attitudes in the U.S. government changed. Within a month, the State Department began to express concern over refugee reports that gas was being used by the invaders. By April, the Secretary of Defense, Harold Brown, said, ”There is mounting evidence that the Soviets are using incapacitating gas — and some reports they may be using lethal gas — in the Afghan countryside.” Much concern was expressed, in particular, over the sighting of a Russian decontamination vehicle in Kabul.

This Soviet invasion, together with our own policy failure in Iran, seemed to confirm the fears expressed by Gen. David C. Jones, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, before the Senate Armed Services Committee in the summer of 1979. ”Some believe,” he said, ”that a perceived Soviet military edge would lead (the Russians) to contemplate seriously a ‘bolt from the blue’ nuclear attack on the United States. … Rather, I anticipate such a disparity would be reflected in a more confident Soviet leadership, increasingly inclined toward more adventurous behavior in areas where our interests clash and where United States ability to respond by conventional means could be circumscribed.” Afghanistan became the sparkplug for military-policy initiatives in Washington.

New chemical weapons were a part of the action. But what exactly are these weapons? Poison gases are actually liquids that vaporize after dispersion, or fine solid dust clouds. They are selected to have a wide variety of effects: phosgene and chlorine cause choking; mustard burns and blisters the skin; hydrogen cyanide interferes with the blood; BZ — a hallucinogen like LSD — causes psychological incapitation. Most of these types are considered to be obsolete as weapons or, in the case of BZ, too unpredictable to use. Tear gas, pepper gas and DM, which are commercially available all over the world, severely irritate the eyes and respiratory tract or bring on nausea. In addition, the Army has developed many kinds of smoke and incendiary devices, including the napalm and white phosphorous that were used heavily in Vietnam.

The primary lethal chemical agents in modern arsenals are the nerve gases. Such gases as VX, GB and GD disrupt the human nervous system. They were discovered during the course of insecticide research in Germany before World War II and are chemically related to bug sprays like Malathion. Colorless, odorless and 10 to 100 times more toxic than mustard, they can enter the body through the skin or lungs.

Death by nerve gas is gruesome by any standard. Because nerve impulses to muscles are disrupted, a whole array of reactions takes place: intense sweating, convulsions, uncontrollable vomiting and diarrhea, dimming of vision and final asphyxia following paralysis of the respiratory system. Depending on dosage, this may happen within several minutes or take hours. Moreover, neurological and psychiatric disorders can develop from nonlethal exposure. Antidotes exist and are now standard issue to NATO and Warsaw Pact troops, but they themselves are debilitating. A common remark outside scientific circles is that a pinhead drop of nerve gas applied to a person’s skin will quickly kill. This is not true. When injected directly into the bloodstream, nerve gases are in fact amazingly potent. But a poncho and gas mask are good defenses against even massive exposure. Referring to GB, Lieut. Col. Harold W. Shear, commander of the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, quipped in 1970: ”With a gas mask on, it can’t do a thing to you. I may be able to fly over you at low altitudes and, in its liquid form, drown you with it.”

In the United States, the first factories to make nerve gas were built during the Korean War in Alabama and Colorado. Production peaked around 1963 and ended in 1968. Most professional journals estimate the current American stockpile of usable lethal chemicals to be about 38,000 tons, slightly less than half of this VX and GB nerve gas, and the rest mustard left from World War II. This figure may be too high, however. The exact size of the stockpile is secret, but informed sources say that 28,000 tons is more accurate. About 68 percent of this is in bulk storage, with the balance loaded in about three million munitions such as artillery shells, rockets, land mines and bombs. These sources also report that the Joint Chiefs of Staff would like to possess about 30,000 tons or five million munitions. If the stockpiled chemicals were placed in their appropriate weapons, the total weapon load would weigh about 300,000 tons, compared with the current U.S. Army stockpile of conventional ammunition in Europe of about 500,000 tons. These figures do not necessarily show comparable military effectiveness or value but they do reflect relative sizes of inventory.

As for the Russian arsenal, almost nothing is verifiable. The last open reference to chemical-warfare capability by a Soviet official occurred in 1938. Because of the relatively large number of highly trained Chemical Defense Troops in the Soviet Army, however, and the way Soviet doctrine appears to integrate chemical-warfare operations into battle contingencies, it is prudent to assume that their capabilities are at least as good as ours. Sky-high estimates from American military sources that put the Soviet stockpile as much as 30 times larger than ours simply have no basis in confirmed fact. While he was Secretary of Defense, Harold Brown told the Senate Armed Services Committee that ”there is no decent estimate.” In 1975, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs admitted that ”it is not possible with any reasonable degree of assurance to predict or estimate the size of the Soviet Union’s agent stockpile.” General Fulwyler recently said in an interview, ”We cannot give you concrete evidence, but we can give you what we think is very reliable evidence that the Soviets have a significant stockpile.” (When asked if he would call our own stockpile significant, he answered, ”No, I would not.”) Furthermore, though the Russians probably responded to our nerve-gas production of the 1950’s and 60’s by increasing their own, there is no concrete evidence of any buildup since 1970. The degree of truth in the reports from Afghanistan that were being used to stimulate American support for the production of new chemical weaponry seemed, by the spring of 1980, to be almost beside the point. During an April 24, 1980, hearing before the House Subcommittee on International Security and Scientific Affairs, Undersecretary of State Matthew Nimitz could only make the following ambiguous summary of evidence: ”These reports from Afghan refugees in Pakistan and nationalist leaders have led us to conclude that the chances are about even that lethal agents have or have not been used by Soviet forces in trying to suppress the Afghan resistance.” To which Representative Jonathan B. Bingham, a New York Democrat, replied: ”I find it difficult, Mr. Nimitz, to understand what you mean.”

A hint of what was giving currency to the rumors had been supplied during a House Foreign Affairs subcommittee hearing in February. Republican Representative Robert I. Lagomarsino of California was questioning Edward M. Collins, vice director for foreign intelligence in the Defense Intelligence Agency, and Bruce C. Clarke, Director of the National Foreign Assessment Center of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Lagomarsino: ”Do we have any information on the use of chemical warfare in Afghanistan other than just rumors?” Collins: ”There is no confirmation at all. …” Lagomarsino: ”The common perception is that the Russians are using it there because there have been a lot of rumors in the papers.” Clarke: ”I don’t see anything wrong with letting that rumor run.”

Perhaps the situation was summed up best by Matthew Meselson, a professor of biochemistry and molecular biology at Harvard who is one of the leading authorities on chemical warfare. Sitting before the same subcommittee as Matthew Nimitz, Meselson testified: ”What we have in the present situation is the worst of both worlds. If the unconfirmed allegations of the use of poison gas are false, continued doubt serves only to erode the existing restraints against chemical warfare and to undermine the basis for effective arms control. If the allegations are true, our inability to document them prevents us from having much impact on the actual course of events.”

True or false, the course of events that would reopen the fight over new American offensive chemical weapons was accelerated by Representative Richard Ichord, a Missouri Democrat and military hardliner. Although the Army had decided to request seed money again for the chemical-weapons plant in the fiscal 1981 budget, a study ordered by Zbigniew Brzezinski, then national security adviser, determined that neither the State Department nor the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency would support the facility, on the ground that it would hurt negotiations with the Soviet Union. The Pentagon then withdrew the funds from its overall 1981 request, and there things would have rested had it not been for Ichord. In the beginning of May, as chairman of the Research and Development Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee, he cited Afghanistan and offered an amendment to the $5.5 billion military-construction appropriations bill that would reallocate the $3.15 million originally asked for by the Army. This item was only two paragraphs long, buried among such flashy topics as the MX missile and military bases in the Middle East. It was not even debated on the House floor before the bill was overwhelmingly approved.

Apparently surprised by how easily Ichord’s amendment slipped through, the Carter Administration took steps to remind Congress of its ongoing opposition. Secretary of State Edmund S. Muskie and Defense Secretary Brown wrote letters to Congressmen saying that funding of a new nerve-gas plant was ”premature.” Brown also testified to this effect before the Senate Armed Services Committee, but his statements obviously reflected a White House position rather than the Pentagon’s. (He himself had approved the original Army request.) By September, enough hawkish medicine about Afghanistan and a massive Soviet chemical-warfare buildup had been administered on Capitol Hill to persuade the Senate to join the House initiative. Arguing that ”our chemical-warfare posture must again be made credible” and claiming that ”by any meaningful measure of relative strength in the chemical-armaments field, the Soviet Union enjoys a preponderant advantage over the United States,” Senator Henry Jackson introduced an amendment congruent with Ichord’s. An effort by Senator Gary Hart of Colorado to delay a decision on new weapons pending a top-level policy review failed by one vote. Many Senators were ready to throw in the next $20 million needed to build the complete plant, but Mark Hatfield headed them off by threatening a full-scale debate. Jackson’s amendment went on to easy approval, 52 to 38, and the Senate’s military construction bill finally passed, 89 to 3. Given the promilitary election year mood, President Carter did not move to overturn Congress.

All of this military and Congressional skirmishing was aimed at the production of a new type of armament known as the ”binary” nerve-gas munition. The present ”unitary” United States stockpile (and, as far as anyone knows, the Soviet stockpile) of artillery shells and bombs is directly filled with an active nerve agent — either VX, which evaporates about as quickly as heavy lubricating oil and is therefore spread as a body-contact hazard, or GB, which is nearly as volatile as water and would be sprayed to contaminate the air. Unitary nerve-gas munitions present storage and handling difficulties, because if they are damaged and leak, for example, their handlers will be gassed.

Binary weapons, by contrast, contain two nonlethal components that are allowed to mix to form the deadly nerve agent only after the shell, bomb or rocket is fired away. Although the ingredients may be noxious themselves, they do not present the same handling problems. Binaries have been on the Army’s drawing boards since 1949, but the impetus to produce them was not strong until after the 1968 sheep kill in Utah.

But are binaries intrinsically better weapons than those we already possess? And will they solve domestic storage controversies in Arkansas, Colorado, Utah, Oregon or other states where chemical weapons are stockpiled?

According to several members of the Defense Science Board panel on chemical warfare, the objective in modern chemical warfare is not to cause casualties, but to ”degrade” the performance of enemy troops by making them put on cumbersome protective gear. Mobility is the name of the game, especially in a hypothetical NATO-Warsaw Pact battle, so whoever can maneuver best has the advantage. In this regard, Pentagon sources admit that NATO forces are better off than their Warsaw Pact counterparts. Below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, our current chemical-warfare ”ensemble” (gas mask with hood, charcoal-impregnated jacket and pants, rubber gloves and boots) imposes a minimal burden unless soldiers are involved in heavy work. In central Europe, the average daily temperature is below 70 degrees for nine months of the year. Soviet troops, on the other hand, wear bulky rubberized coveralls and masks that provide much less freedom. Still, if they are as well trained as Western intelligence experts claim they are, they can probably fight quite well despite their hot, heavy gear. The conclusion to be drawn here is that only a surprise attack on unprotected troops would bring a major offensive advantage. Against prepared forces, conventional explosives are more effective. This, by the way, was precisely the lesson of World War I.

Besides a surprise attack, what other scenarios might be attractive to someone contemplating chemical war? One leading member of the Defense Science Board panel recently suggested that a nerve-gas projectile lobbed onto an aircraft-carrier deck would be mighty nasty. Seasoned Navy men will tell you, however, that the most dangerous thing to a sailor is the sea. The objective in attacking a ship is to put it on the bottom. A much more feasible use of poison gas, from the Soviet point of view, would be to disrupt the ports and airfields so critical to NATO logistics. Theoretically, chemicals could stop operations without destroying facilities. But because of the large amounts needed, terrain contamination is practical only if done selectively. And to strike narrowly defined targets, ideal weather conditions are mandatory. This, too, was one of the lessons of World War I.

The only targets that would unquestionably be devastated by chemical weapons are unprotected civilians. Matthew Meselson has suggested that GB contamination intended to cause 20 percent casualties among soldiers carrying masks but not at first wearing them could, under ordinary weather conditions in central Germany, kill noncombatants 12 miles or more downwind and incapacitate people at twice that distance. Battlefield chemical warfare in Europe would probably, therefore, inflict millions of civilian casualties. Perhaps this is why the West German armed forces and other NATO armies have officially disavowed all access to chemical weapons.

Needless to say, the binaries will not diminish these drawbacks. In fact, because the first binary weapon slated for mass production — an artillery shell– underwent only minimal open-air field testing before Richard Nixon’s 1969 ban (none of the other planned binaries has ever been field-tested), binary munitions may be inferior to our present stocks. The Army hotly contests this, claiming that modern laboratory testing with simulants justifies full confidence. General Fulwyler flatly declares that binaries can be fully integrated into our forces without open-air testing. But nobody knows for sure. Saul Hormats, the designer of our current unitary munitions, says that ”to embark on a multibillion-dollar production program without statistically significant testing would be a criminal waste of money. To supply production-line rounds to our forces without confirmatory field trials would be worse.”

It is no secret that field commanders, let alone G.I.’s, do not like chemical weapons. For many of them the prospect of using munitions that have never been fired under open field conditions must seem suicidal.

The domestic-storage safety issue has been taken up by both opponents and proponents of the binary concept at different times for different purposes. For decades, the Army emphasized the safety of its existing stockpiles — for instance, that not a single human fatality related to handling chemical weapons has ever occurred. For the past several years, however, the Pentagon has insisted that its stocks are obsolete and increasingly unserviceable and ought to be demilitarized soon to avoid potential health hazards. This change in opinion coincides neatly with the move toward binaries. Opponents of chemical-warfare modernization, on a reverse course, used to criticize the American weapons sites as unsafe, but now tend to point out that old unitary munitions and bulk containers are in good shape and are perfectly compatible with the latest equipment. Perhaps the only way to see through this political posturing is to examine one storage situation. The most visible, by far, is the Rocky Mountain Arsenal outside Denver.

A lot has changed in Denver since the Korean War days of the early 1950’s, when the actress Piper Laurie was named ”Miss Flame Thrower” by the arsenal’s proud staff. All that remains of more than 30 years of chemical-weapons production is a relatively small pile of 888 ”Weteye” bombs, each 20 inches in diameter, 103 inches long and filled with nerve agent GB. Denver has gotten a bit bigger since World War II, so the arsenal no longer enjoys rural solitude. Actually, the Weteye storage yard is under the flight path of commercial airliners that use Stapleton International Airport. This fact, plus the occasional discovery of leaky Weteyes, tends to make Denver-area residents sensitive to chemical-warfare matters. These bombs, moreover, are all that remain of our air-to-ground nerve-gas capability. They were scheduled for demolition in 1973, but the Navy (which owns them) decided to hang on to them until binary replacements — called Bigeyes — are available.

Last year, officials at the arsenal confirmed that minute quantities of GB had been detected in the void space of the airtight shipping containers of 70 Weteyes. By minute, they meant between .00003 and .0001 milligrams of nerve gas per cubic meter of space. Such ”leaks” are not like a drippy faucet. Because of microscopic weld defects around the bomb filler caps, vapor seeps out through a tortuous path. The limit for acceptable leakage, set by the Defense Department and accepted by the United States Public Health Service, is .2 milligrams per cubic meter, or 2,000 times greater than the worst case detected.

Still, these bombs stored five and a half miles from a major airport are filled with nerve gas, not ice cream. They are exceedingly unpopular. Therefore, Senator Gary Hart succeeded in June 1980 in passing an amendment to the fiscal 1981 military construction bill that requires the Pentagon to detoxify or remove the Weteyes within one year. But the Pentagon has indicated that it would far rather keep them than detoxify them — that is, remove the contents from weapons and store it in thick tanks, or mix it with other chemicals to render it nonlethal. The current plan is to airlift the Weteyes from Stapleton to Utah, and then truck them into the Tooele Army Depot, about 50 miles west of Salt Lake City. Tooele is a massive desert storage area that also operates a $67 million detoxification plant. Whether the Weteyes ever get to Tooele remains to be seen. At a Salt Lake City news conference last January, Gov. Scott M. Matheson of Utah, who was instrumental in halting previous transfers, said he was sure the Pentagon’s transfer plans provided a ”happy day for Gary Hart,” but they were bad news for Utah.

Under the first phase of the binary work, initial production of GB artillery shells would begin in fiscal 1983. Not until 1986 would Bigeyes be started for the Navy and Air Force. The last phase allows for expansion to new systems, such as multiple-launch rockets. It would probably be many years, therefore, before Weteyes — let alone other unitary weapons — would be demilitarized. More to the point, however, is the fact that binary ingredients are not harmless themselves. DF, one of the components of GB, is almost as toxic as strychnine. QL, a VX mixer, causes nausea, breathing difficulties and skin rashes. In the subjective realm of public opinion, it seems doubtful that the residents of Colorado, Utah or anywhere else will feel comfortable with these substances. Since World War I, chemical warfare has been waged only against defenseless forces who had no ability to retaliate in kind. Chemical weapons have never generated enthusiasm in high military circles. Bullets and blast are much more dependable, and are therefore preferred. Chemical warfare has been kept out of the military mainstream for six decades as a result of psychological aversions, moral proscriptions and international law. Yet, as Julian P. Robinson, a scientist and chemical-weapons expert at the University of Sussex in England, has written, ”One of the more remarkable characteristics of chemical warfare in the West, particularly in the United States, is the long-standing contrast between the lack of serious military interest in chemical warfare and the continued allocation of resources to chemical-weapons programs. There is a disjunction here which cannot satisfactorily be explained solely in terms of no-first-use commitment.”

Most chemical weapons mentioned in open literature are intended for a NATO-Warsaw Pact battle in central Europe. The United States maintains one deployment of these arms somewhere in West Germany (the Russians, likewise, keep one stockpile in East Germany). But West Germany has made many public statements that these stocks serve no useful purpose. British officials are not quite so unequivocal, but continue to ban offensive stockpiles while accentuating defense. For Denmark, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, Norway and Turkey, the Geneva Protocol is a commitment against any use of chemicals, even in retalition. Only France, which resides outside the NATO command but is a Geneva signatory, maintains its own offensive inventory. Obviously, without a major policy change in the NATO alliance, new weapons produced in America will stay in America. As of today, no one from Congress or the executive branch has formally consulted with any NATO government about accepting binary munitions. Of what value would they be if they are not quickly available in the European theater?

In the final analysis, we must take a hard look at whether we want to begin like-for-like escalation in the name of deterence. Do we really want to take the ”If they have 10,000 statues of Lenin, we need 10,000 statues of George Washington” approach to security? The history of nuclear weapons shows that good intentions are not enough. Once the binary program gets started, Pentagon insiders admit that the Army will want open-air testing. Chemical proliferation abroad is then inevitable. Saul Hormats believes that if we stopped our chemical posturing, we would send the Soviet Union an unequivocal signal that any escalation to chemical warfare on its part would trigger a nuclear reply. European governments tend to favor this tack. It is ironic that one of the reasons often cited for rejuvenating chemical warfare is the present state of nuclear parity in Europe.

There is, unfortunately, one other factor. The Army does not like to talk about it, but there is the lingering fear, seen in Vietnam, that the modern battlefield may already be such a horrible place that soldiers will simply refuse to fight. If a man feels he has a reasonable chance to use his wits and skills to survive mortal combat, he will probably try. But when such wits and skill seem irrelevant, he may mutiny. In Vietnam the reaction was called ”fragging.” The lieutenants of World War I who led infantry attacks with .45-caliber pistols raised high — not to kill the enemy, but to shoot deserters — are a specific nightmare to Chemical Corps planners. Like nuclear weapons, chemicals take the finesse out of war. By embracing new chemical weapons, America may ultimately push its young men out, as well.