WHY did Richard Nixon decide to deploy the Johnson-planned ABM system, though in "substantially modified" form? The decision was an astute attempt at compromise between all-out advocates and all-out opponents of the system. But it would be wrong to ascribe to the President only political or public relations motives. Last June, during his campaign, he praised the proposed Sentinel system as essential to the credibility of the U.S. nuclear deterrent. At his second news conference as President a month ago, Nixon observed that "this system adds to our overall defense capability."

His rationale has not always been consistent. However, as Nixon...

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