Barry M. Goldwater, 1987
Senator Barry M. Goldwater, a thirty-year member of the United States Senate, was Chairman of the Armed Services Committee of the Senate, Republican candidate for President of the United States in 1964, and is author of The Conscience of a Conservative. Today, Senator Goldwater shares some of his central views on the quest for peace.
Whiteley: Senator Goldwater, as you’ve thought about the problem of peace, where does your thinking begin?
Goldwater: I have a general feeling about peace. I use the word God only because I believe in God, but I would include all the deities of all the people. And when this world has accomplished the abolition of all discrimination, regardless of what it is from (color, point of origin, religion), when the men and women of this world can get along in complete understanding (and I think it’s the religious purpose of the world to have peace) - until we can accomplish that, and I don’t see it in the near future, I don’t think we can talk about setting peace by legislation or by edict.
Whiteley: You’ve really thought a lot about freedom over the course of your public career, and freedom for you is another key part of achieving peace.
Goldwater: Yes, our Declaration of Independence pretty well spells it out. They say that all men are created equal. Well they’re not equal except at the time of birth. The child born this second in Cuba has all the freedoms of the child born down at St. Joseph’s hospital, but in the next second that changes. Our child will be free; the Cuban child will not. I don’t believe there has ever been a living creature - bird, animal, snake, bug or man - that didn’t want to have freedom above everything else. You try to pick up a bird; he tries to get away. You try to hold a man down - even in a communist country, there is that inner desire to do better. In this country we have built our entire government, our entire concept of life, on freedom. If we don’t remember that we won’t remain a free country. So freedom should be the driving interest of anyone concerned with creating peace or eliminating war or discord.
Whiteley: As you’ve thought about the Soviet Union, ways that the United States can act to increase the prospects for freedom in the world, in the role particularly of the Soviet Union, where does your thinking begin?
Goldwater: I think if there were a way for us to sit down - well, I’ll use Gorbachev because he’s the present head of Russia, and I think he’s a lot different, being a younger man, than some of the old old-timers they’ve had. Those men were born with the thoughts of Lenin, and they carry them to their graves. I think Gorbachev knows that his country is living with a threat that is far greater than any war he might get entailed in. The economy of Russia is not good; it hasn’t been good for a long, long time. If we, the United States could sit down with Gorbachev and whoever else they want and figure out a way that we might be able to help the economy of Russia, and I don’t necessarily mean the present concept of the economy of Russia; but they would have to do some changing from a statecontrolled economy and government, to a more free economy, more like ours, where young people particularly will have a chance to grow up and retain more of their earnings. I know for a fact that there’s a lot of discord amongst the young people of Russia. Unless this happens I’m afraid that we’re going to live to see rebellion in the Soviet Union; something we don’t want and they certainly don’t want. I think we ought to make the effort, not to talk about tanks, aircraft, possible war, but to talk about what can we do to help you.
Whiteley: What kinds of programs might be of assistance? You well know from your own work that the Marshall Plan was something that the Soviets chose not to participate in.
Goldwater: No, I don’t know if that’s the answer. I don’t think there’s anything in Russia that Russia can’t use to provide a better living for the people. It may entail (almost an unthinkable thought) their moving away from a state-controlled government, moving away from a state-controlled economy. But it’s worth the effort, I think, to sit down and talk with him. I don’t believe now that building factories over there will help anything. They have the wherewithal, they have far more resources than we have, and their people are just as capable as we are of using their hands and their brain. I think a summit based on that would be most, most interesting.
Whiteley: Nearly, as we approach the 5th decade of the nuclear age, how secure is the United States?
Goldwater: I think the United States, if you’re basing your question on nuclear weapons, I think the world is pretty safe from nuclear weapons. I can’t believe that there’s any country on earth, with the possible exception of China, who would ever be tempted to use the ICBMs (the big ones). Tactical nuclear weapons will probably remain a part of the conventional force, but these weapons are not of the giant destructive nature of an ICBM. I’m not -- frankly, as a long-time military man, I’m more concerned about conventional weapons than I am about nuclear weapons.
Whiteley: Is that because you think that deterrence is stable with the balance of retaliation capability?
Goldwater: Anybody in any country who would sit down and equate the power to have a first-strike and avoid a second-strike, or to even have a second-strike would be foolish in my opinion. If we used ICBMs on Russia we would be in no financial position to help rebuild that country, which we would have to do. And the same way with the Soviets if they bombed us, or any other country. I do think though that we should continue to make very, very strong efforts to eliminate all ICBMs. The intermediate range right now is a little different horse, and the extremely short-range, the tactical stuff, is right now sort of an impossibility. But the big ones, we ought to do away with.
Whiteley: One of the legacies of the Reykjavik Summit between President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev was a call for large cuts in the ICBM force and ballistic missiles. How large a cut is possible?
Goldwater: Well, of course, with all due respects to my President and to Mr. Gorbachev, I don’t believe we ever heard the whole story of what went on at Reykjavik. If what we heard is true, and we can go and we can take one step, we can take the other steps needed to remove and destroy all intercontinental ballistic missiles in their country and our country. I think that should be our immediate goal.
Whiteley: Would you maintain ballistic missiles on our submarine forces?
Goldwater: When I say ICBMs, I include all of them. The submarine-launched missile is probably the most dangerous and it’s the one that the Soviets fear the most because they can’t tell where the submarine is or when the attack might come.
Whiteley: As you’ve thought about the arms control legacies of the 50s and the 60s and the 70s, what is your assessment?
Goldwater: Oh, they haven’t worked. The Senate has yet to ratify the last ICBM Treaty. I don’t think they ever will. I think there’s a great distrust of Soviet government amongst our government people, and there again, that is a target.
We should attempt to get these ruling people together, talk about it. I don’t think arms control can ever work with the world in its present condition.
Whiteley: What is the alternative? Unilateral actions?
Goldwater: Well, the alternative is to depend on conventional forces, which we’ve always done. I’m not going to sit here and suggest that we’ve reached a time when we can do away with the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marines, nor have they. But I think we’ve reached a time when we can sit down and talk about how big a force do we actually need to provide protection for our people and for our concepts. And the same with them.
Whiteley: What’s your answer when you think about that problem? You’ve been Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, you’ve had a life-long concern with the preservation of freedom, you’ve spoken out for three decades in your public life about the need to preserve freedom in the world. What kind of military force is necessary to do that?
Goldwater: A force sufficient to accomplish our responsibilities as a government to our people, and relative to freedom, to me that is the only cause worth fighting for. Now, if we can get that idea into the minds of other people living under other governments - and that’s why I keep getting back to this idea, let’s see if we can’t sit down and talk - if we could ever get that across to other people that their people want to be free. It isn’t just making money or living; it’s to be free to say what they want and do what they want, as long as the doing of those things do not include hurting a person.
Whiteley: We live in a world of 168 nation states. It’s a dangerous world out there from time to time. What are the viable forms of talking together.
Goldwater: Well, of course, when we created the United Nations we had very few countries; now as you say we have 168, most of whom can’t talk to each other, most of whom do not have sophisticated governments, nor are they ready for sophisticated governments. So I think we’re going to live a long time before we see the Third World countries willing to put up with a democratic (or whatever you want to call it) form of government where the people select their leaders and the people in effect, have control of the government. I’m not going to be here. I’m afraid it’s going to be a long time, but that gets back to my original feeling about peace; We get all these people together, sit down and talk, regardless of background, color, religion, then I think all these questions will be answered.
Whiteley: Your thinking often goes back to the Declaration of Independence as a document in our country, and with democracy as the key to freedom, a part of that in this country is a respect for the Rule-of-Law. What thoughts do you have for making the Rule-of-Law something that is a framework for talking within?
Goldwater: Well, I think the only answer to that is education, and I think back on the education I was exposed to in my life, I can’t recall any great emphasis being placed upon the Rule-of-Law. I hate to say this but I think it still prevails that a student might come out more with the idea that the rule of man is more important than the rule of law. So I think it has to go back to very basic education. This education would include a much better understanding of the Constitution, of the Declaration, of why they came about, of the total history of our country. Very few people in this country know that we’re not just two-hundred years old; we’re three-hundred years old. And we’ve spent the first hundred years trying every government known to man, including forms of communism, socialism, egalitarianism. And it wasn’t until the gentlemen sat down in Philadelphia that they began to realize that freedom was not freedom from something, such as our founding fathers came from Europe to discover (freedom from taxes, freedom from oppression by a lord or a king). Freedom was something (and they finally discovered that) that God gave us. So our God becomes a very important part of our freedom, but not too many Americans realize that. They don’t look upon America as the ‘land of the free’ and understand the responsibilities of government to maintaining that freedom. And that freedom being a gift of God, we had better act the way religion teaches us to live as a strong part of keeping that freedom.
Whiteley: You singled out education as one of the viable institutions of society in creating a more peaceful world. I’d like to give you a variety of choices before the democracy in the future, and ask you what your citizens ought to learn more about. First, you’ve given a lot of thought to the Soviet Union. What should people learn more about, about them?
Goldwater: I think they should learn or remember first that they are people. That they want to live just like we want to live. I don’t mean in the same sense, but they enjoy living. That they don’t live under a government that allows complete freedom such as we approach; that we should do all we can to change, not just the concepts of the Soviets, but the concepts of people all over this world who do not hold freedom as being important. And I have to tell you I haven’t seen the latest figures, but the last I saw there’s only 17% of the people in this world that enjoy freedom. Now when I was much younger that was 30%. The Soviet Union has made some progress with their philosophy without going to war. I think in the last ten years that effect that the Russians have on other people has been declining. It means that peoples in other parts of the world are interested in freedom. So again, we get back to education - what can we do to help the others understand.
Whiteley: I’d like to take several intertwined problems that will be with the coming generations and ask you what we need to learn more about with each of them. First, terrorism.
Goldwater: Well, terrorism is one of those attributes, if you want to call it that, of human nature. I think there’s a little bit of terrorist that lives in the hearts of almost everybody. You drive down the street and you don’t like what the guy ahead of you is doing so you start honking your horn, and giving him the finger, and you pass him and you yell at him. That’s a form of terrorism. You’re trying to convince him by your willingness to be nasty that he ought to do what you want. As I say, it’s part of the human nature of mankind every place. Now what do we do to control that? Well, education has a place in it so we can teach our young people to constantly do unto others as they would have them do unto themselves; to teach the young ones that it doesn’t do any good to pick fights with people.
Then you get into the problem of the international terrorism; again, this is an expression. These are people who are living with the idea that they’ve never had a place on earth like the PLO, they’ve never had a place to call home and ‘by George, we’re going to get it’ if it means killing you. I’ll be honest with you, I don’t know what you do about that. People will say well, let’s go over and hang them all. You can’t hang them all; you’ll never find them all. I have no good answer for that and I sat on two committees that considered this subject day after day after day, and about all we came up with was the establishment of an anti-terrorist group in the United States Army, and I don’t know whether they’ve done any good or not.
Whiteley: But you’re very hopeful about the role of the family in helping young people learn to relate to their fellow human beings in a more positive way.
Goldwater: Well, education is a big part of that when you say family. I think we have to instill in the churches, or through the churches, and through the schools, and through association, the tremendous place that the American family plays in the total lives of all of us. And you look today, or listen today, to the plight of hundreds of thousands of young Americans and older Americans, and you get asking questions; you find out they never had any family life. Their mother and father particularly, they both had jobs. Who stays home and takes care of the kid? Who tells the child what’s right and what’s wrong. He becomes more or less dependent upon groups that he goes with. Wherever you find strong family life you find little problems in the communities. I’ve often thought about what it would be like to not have the advantages of a family life, and I can’t conceive of it. And yet there are many Americans who are living that way. Yet again - education.
Whiteley: As you sat on the Senate Armed Services Committee over the years and when you were Chair, there were always debates about new weapons systems that became quite controversially, whether it’s the B-1 bomber, the MX missile. One of your hopes for the world is an elimination of strategic offensive ballistic missiles. What do you want your fellow citizens to think about as new weapons systems come along, because you also want to be able to defend freedom?
Goldwater: That’s not an easy question to answer, because I think I’ve made it abundantly clear that with the world being what it is today that we must maintain armed forces of sufficient strength to protect our freedoms; not to go out to protect somebody else, but to protect our freedoms. Now when you get a concept of a new weapons system there are several measuring rods you should apply. Will the weapon that is replacing be as thoroughly served as the new weapon. You mention the B-1 bomber. The B-52 I first flew thirty years ago, yet it’s still one of our top weapons, but not all that good. So if we want to retain the ability to apply strategic force anyplace to protect us, we have to have a new bomber, and it has been the B-1. There’s one more coming along, the advanced tactical bomber, I can’t make up your mind yet about that.
Whiteley: What principles should people keep in mind?
Goldwater: I think the people in the Congress who serve on these committees should keep in mind what the conventional force is for. It’s not to go out and fight wars that we might start; we don’t want to start wars. It’s to defend the freedoms of the United States.
Whiteley: To project to the decades ahead, chronicle the hope you have for peace for peoples, what would you hope that your fellow citizens would do differently?
Goldwater: Well, I would hope that they would gain a better and more comprehensive understanding of the Declaration of Independence, which is after all our seed. And they say all men are created equal. At the moment of birth, yes; the moment after that, no. And then they have to understand more strongly the place of government in maintaining this freedom. Now one of the things that really bothers me is the growing reduction of people in this country who go out to vote. I think the last presidential election there were fewer than 50% of the people in this country elected our president. Now if we’re going to continue that way, to the end that we are eventually ruled by people selected by minorities (and when I say minorities, I don’t mean the color of skin or religion, - I just mean the numerical minority), then the whole concept of what we’ve been talking about goes.
Whiteley: Peace is an illusive goal. It’s one that you pointed out people throughout the world want to achieve. Do you believe that individuals can make a difference in the pursuit of peace?
Goldwater: No question. If we could get the whole world to be willing to destroy religious differences, color differences, source of origin differences - if we could sit in this room for example with 168 different people from that many countries, and walk out of it in complete agreement relative to the freedoms, that would be a hell of a step forward. We might have peace then. I think it’s going to happen, but I’m not going to be here. I’m thinking for example of the new world countries that are probably 250 to 300 years away from the sophistication needed to understand government. But it’s going to come.
Whiteley: Senator Goldwater, thank you for sharing with us today your insights into the way to a more peaceful world in the nuclear age.