On Jan. 12, 1984, two weeks after the West German defense ministry announced that the first nine U.S. nuclear-tipped intermediate-range Pershing II ballistic missiles were operable on West German soil, then-Massachusetts Lt. Gov. John Kerry found himself in West Germany’s Black Forest on an acid-rain fact-finding mission. Someone had awakened the ambitious Kerry at 3 a.m. to tell him that Paul Tsongas would not run for re-election to the Senate. “The issue of war and peace was on the table again,” Mr. Kerry later told the Boston Globe, and he jumped into the race before the end of January.
Led by then-President Carter, NATO had agreed in 1979 to deploy 108 Pershing IIs in West Germany and 464 nuclear ground-launched cruise missiles (GLCM) in West Germany and other European nations in response to the Soviet Union’s unilateral deployment of the multiple-warhead SS-20. The deployment would occur unless an agreement was reached with the Soviets over the dismantling of their SS-20s. Had the 1983 nuclear-freeze campaign, which Mr. Kerry embraced, been successful, then the Pershings and GLCMs would never have been deployed; the Soviet Union would have maintained a monopoly over the United States on modern land-based intermediate-range nuclear missiles in Europe; and the Intermediate Nuclear Forces treaty, which was signed in Washington in 1987, almost certainly would not have been achieved.
The No. 1 issue in the state’s 1984 Democratic Senate primary was the nuclear freeze. Mr. Kerry’s chief opponent was Rep. James Shannon, who had outscored Mr. Kerry 100-94 on an endorsement questionnaire by Freeze Voter ‘84. Mr. Kerry had fudged his answer on the question of deploying additional Trident submarines, which carried 24 ballistic missiles, each with eight nuclear warheads. Told by his campaign manager that it was “critically important that we get a 100 percent rating,” Mr. Kerry jumped at the chance to change his response on the Trident issue, denying Mr. Shannon sole possession of the group’s endorsement, which both candidates later shared.
According to the Globe, Mr. Kerry denied “trying to be on both sides of [the Trident issue].” He said he mistakenly believed new Tridents would be needed as replacement for older subs. In fact, that was precisely why additional Tridents were necessary. The 1972 SALT I treaty, to which then-President Reagan continued to adhere, limited the United States to 41 operational ballistic-missile submarines. By the early 1980s, the U.S. force included 31 Poseidon subs and 10 1960s-era Polaris subs, which the Tridents were to replace. Moreover, the freeze also would have eliminated the B-2 bomber, which performed flawlessly in Afghanistan and Iraq.
History irrefutably demonstrates that Mr. Kerry was wrong on the freeze in the early 1980s. He was also wrong to oppose the 1991 Persian Gulf War. With his record, he is the wrong candidate to serve as commander-in-chief .