Sen. Henry M. “Scoop” Jackson was a tenacious, well-informed, defense-minded Democrat who played a central role in arms control debates during the 1960s and 1970s. He was a reliable vote for progressive domestic causes, and a deep skeptic of détente with the Soviet Union. Jackson favored missile defenses and was greatly concerned about trend lines in U.S.-Soviet strategic capabilities. He viewed the 1972 SALT I accords — the ABM Treaty and the “Interim Agreement on Strategic Offensive Arms,” which was sent to both houses of Congress for approval as an executive agreement — with deep foreboding. He valued the Kremlin’s potential advantages in land-base missiles far more than U.S. advantages in sea-based and bomber capabilities.
Jackson was outmaneuvered on the SALT I accords by two cold warriors in the White House, Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger, who wanted deals with the Kremlin and who understood the art of the possible – which did not include the deployment of nationwide missile defenses.
The Nixon administration badly oversold the SALT I accords on Capitol Hill. Secretary of State Wlliiam Rogers testified that, “A brake has been applied to the build-up of Soviet strategic forces,” and that, “As a result of our current success we are provided a more secure and stable strategic relationship with the U.S.S.R.” Secretary of Defense Melvin Laird testified that the SALT I agreements “move us closer to our ultimate goal – a world system in which peace is a universal practice rather than a hope.” Rogers was cut out of the negotiations by Kissinger, and Laird must have had a hard time keeping a straight face when he delivered these remarks.
Jackson knew that the deck was stacked in favor of the SALT I accords. (Only two Senators voted against the ABM Treaty and the Interim Agreement.) His game plan was to seek overwhelming passage of a motherhood and apple pie amendment that would provide greater U.S. leverage in negotiations to follow, while also laying the foundation to critique the resulting agreement. As the amendment’s champion, Jackson positioned himself to become the arbiter of how poorly the executive branch fulfilled his guidelines.
The language of Jackson’s amendment, expressing the sense of the Congress:
… urges and requests the President to seek a future treaty that, inter alia, would not limit the United States to levels of intercontinental strategic forces inferior to the limits provided for the Soviet Union.
What could be more motherhood and apple pie than that?
In Senate debate over his amendment, Jackson artfully used different constructs to explain his intent. Here are some samples from my shoe box:
All I am asking is what is wrong with parity so that we have the same number of land-based ICBMs and sea-based missiles? (August 3, 1972)
I am confident that the Senate of the United States would not wish to see this country undertake, in an international treaty having the force and weight of the Constitution itself, ceilings on U.S. defenses that are greatly inferior to the levels permitted the Soviet Union. (August 3, 1972)
When we talk about equality, we must talk in terms of equality in numbers of launchers, taking into account of throw-weight. (August 11, 1972)
What I am certain that we can agree on is the necessity that we not accept in SALT II levels of intercontinental strategic weapons that are inferior to the levels of intercontinental forces permitted for the Soviet Union. My amendment does that. (August 14, 1972)
Over the long run, there is no substitute for equal numbers of launchers taking account of throw weight differentials. (August 14, 1972)
I have said repeatedly that the intercontinental strategic forces to be balanced on the basis of equality are ICBMs, SLBMs, and intercontinental-range bombers. (September 7, 1972)
The Senate passed the Jackson amendment by a vote of 56 to 35 on September 11, 1972. Not surprisingly, Senator Jackson judged the Carter administration to be woefully deficient in meeting his standards for the SALT II Treaty.
The Senator who now comes closest to emulating Scoop Jackson’s methods is Jon Kyl, who rounded up Republican votes to block ratification of the CTBT in 1996. Senator Kyl, as Jeffrey has posted, is now seeking to define what constitutes an acceptable strategic arms reduction treaty after the one now being negotiated by the Obama administration.