The Great Deterrent Dialogue

March 1, 1963

Nuclear energy and the military-political challenges with which the new power has become inextricably involved in the tense years since World War II have set off an unprecedented debate in the United States—a debate to which many of the participants have come long on words and short on knowledge. Here is a scholarly and provocative commentary on the sound, fury, and substance of the great deterrent dialogue.

Believe me when I say that the contemporary American monopoly of nuclear weapons—which will pass away in the course of time—is a burden, and not something that Americans are happy about. —Walter Lippmann

Power without morality is imperialism. Morality without power is helplessness in a world of the Communist Grand Design. —Max Lerner

Deterrence, as Bernard Brodie has reminded us, is an important word. Whether or not it possesses qualities of magic is open to serious debate. The word itself conjures up an entire gamut of reactions. The current discussion of independent nuclear deterre­nts has intensified a dialogue that has been going on since the immediate post-World War II period. Several indisputable facts are responsible for this healthy repartee. The first controlled release of nuclear energy on December 2, 1942, propelled man into a new age fraught with the latent challenge of a better life or possible doom for much of the world.

The New World ushered in at Stagg Field of the University of Chicago has had several major consequences. Man has increased his understanding of nature; warfare has undergone a revolutionary change through the devastating impact of the nuclear-weapons revolution; and democratic government has found it­self face to face with the challenge of adjusting polit­ically, militarily, and psychologically to the nuclear era. The catalytic agent that has transformed the thermonuclear syndrome and placed it in an alto­gether different and more dangerous context has been, of course, the onset of the bipolar cold war between democracy and communism.

The knowledge gained by the controlled release of nuclear energy led to the evolution of new weapons and new strategies. This radical metamorphosis in po­litical and military thinking took place against the backdrop of the cold var. Thus the American strat­egy of nuclear deterrence evolved from two over­powering drives: that of the scientific revolution derived from a new, controllable energy source; and from the dynamic political, ideological, and military thrust of aggressive international communism. Because the United States accepted the free world’s banner and held it high, and because the consequences and responsibilities of this acceptance left no American uncommitted, the Great Dialogue ensued.

Its intensity could in large measure be traced to the devastating power of the new weapons. Further, it should be clear that the comprehensive character of the argument is due to the realization that stra­tegic nuclear deterrence is at once both a political and military strategy. Valid, reasonable, and practical discussion can take place only when this is recognized. When ideas are nurtured only by political or solely military considerations, they become distorted. And when emotionalism dominates, the context becomes hopelessly twisted.

The mass of writing on strategic deterrence in the age of the cold war is unparalleled. Although we have set forth in general terms the reasons for this, it must be added that this has become an American phenomenon. While it is true that significant writing has been done in Europe, the United States is today clearly in the ascendancy. The composition of partic­ipants in the Great Dialogue is of more than academic interest. Again, a marked break with our history and traditions is evident. When once those primarily con­cerned with military-political matters formed the consensus, today the “experts” include not only soldiers and politicians, but psychologists, sociologists, clergy, scientists, academics, doctors, and city planners. Nor has the role of former “bystanders” been mostly a secondary one. Many significant treatises have come from social and physical scientists as well as others. On the other hand, much has also been written that is irrelevant, excessively charged with emotion, or, worse still, uninformed.

An instructive example of the kind of opposite re­action frequently released by nuclear controversy is found in the writing of Herman Kahn. Following publication of Kahn’s On Thermonuclear War, James R. Newman, a mathematician and an editor of Scien­tific American, charged Kahn with “bloodthirsty ir­rationality.” Newman thought the book evil and tene­brous, “a moral tract on mass murder.”1 Incredibly enough, Ralph Lapp—in the wake of On Thermonuclear War—classified Kahn as a “disarmamentor!”2 While Lapp is probably closer to the truth, these reactions illustrate the point that writing on nuclear deterrence is precarious at best and often triggers quite opposite critiques.

Specifically then, on what issues does the Great Dialogue turn? Although subsidiary considerations flourish, the major areas with which writers on stra­tegic deterrence have concerned themselves are these: arms control and disarmament, strategic doctrine (e.g., counterforce and finite deterrence), weapon systems, accidental war, and the military influence on national policy. Each subject illustrates the polit­ical-military nature of what Michael Maccoby has called the “problem of deterrence .”3 And it must be admitted that to many writing about deterrence the subject has become the object of problem-solving. Nothing better illustrates the point than the massive literature of disarmament and arms control.

In retrospect, it seems almost unbelievable that Henry Kissinger could write two years ago that “no aspect of American policy has received less systematic attention than arms control.”4 The obsolescence of such a statement today serves as a reliable index of the amount of serious writing on arms control during the last few years alone.5 Yet, a profound transformation has occurred within the disarmament and arms-control realm since 1960. The change in character—and more important in goals—can be seen by the shift in emphasis from disarmament to arms control. In general, the change is one from idealism to reality and practicality that was dictated by incessant Communist pressure and aggressiveness. This shift was accelerated by the Soviet rupturing of the test moratorium and validated by the swift pace of the Soviet arms buildup in Cuba, culminating in the events of last October. It was also influenced by the failure of disarmament negotiations and test-ban talks; by Communist disdain and hypocrisy; by a general intensification of the cold war; and by technological advance.

Perhaps the basic difference between disarmament and arms control is that the latter aims toward a given end point which will allow stability in an age of unprecedented technological change. Too, advocates of arms control view their objectives as an inherent part of defense policy. Arms control, it is argued, will result in more stability, not less; it will give us more, not less, security. But it is not enough that arms control be seen as part of defense policy; it is, in fact, integral to American foreign policy.

Successful arms control or disarmament will be achieved only when it is fully integrated with our international objectives and the realities affecting them. Thus, any such policy must be intimately connected with—and cognizant of—international political, psychological, military, economic, and social factors. The overwhelming international reality of our time that bears directly upon all of these elements is the global confrontation between freedom and communism. It is this basic fact that has hovered over the negotiations at Geneva and that has, of course, frustrated efforts to reach some measure of agreement. As Louis Henkin has observed, never has any policy been the subject of so much discussion and negotiation and yet seen so little progress.6 In fact, no negotiations have ever persisted despite such a marked lack of success.

Again, only two years ago it could be said with some validity that there could be no successful arms negotiation until “our intellectual house” was put in order.7 With the passage of time, we have come to understand that, as important as our own preparation is, it remains but one side of a two-way street. The key to arms control remains the Soviet attitude. It has been the Russian national and world outlook, filtered through forty-five years of bolshevism and communism, that has been in large part responsible for the dreary disarmament dialogue and almost total absence of significant accord since World War II.

The idea that the sincerity of our approach will ultimately persuade the USSR to come to terms and see the error of its ways is a dangerous illusion. It is wrong because it runs counter to forty-five years of communism and because it nurtures unrealistic hopes. The final report of the Nineteenth American Assembly on Arms Control delineated US foreign policy goals in these terms:

A world in which nations settle their differ­ences by peaceful means, in which changes in international relations can take place peace­fully; in which there is no danger or fear of mass destruction, and national armaments are effectively reduced and controlled; in which all nations, whether long established or newly emerging, are able to develop their resources and institutions to give their people a decent life in freedom. These goals, we believe, are goals of most peoples.8

This is undoubtedly an accurate reflection of what we, as Americans desire. It is clearly subscribed to by many of the world’s peoples. Unfortunately, there is some question whether—based on its record—the Soviet Union adheres to these goals and little ques­tion that Communist China does not. The Red Chinese do not even pay lip service to them. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to convince the Soviets of what is in their interest simply because it is clear that many of their primary interests do not coincide with ours. Khrushchev has openly declared that it is perfectly legitimate for Communists to support “wars of national liberation,” i.e., insurrectionist moveme­nts leading to violent revolution through subver­sion and armed attack.

Apart from Communist ideology and international political objectives, any conclusion that the Commu­nists share our reluctance to employ military force is false. While the threat of nuclear war dominates our thinking, our policies, philosophy, and our actions, the Communists use this hesitancy as a lever to fur­ther their aggressive aims either by threat or by naked force. Since Sputnik I threw open the gates to the space age on October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union has scored spectacularly in space. Through heavy rocketry, they have made great strides in military technology.

The Communists, as they always have, look upon military force as a means to further their expansionist policy. Walt W. Rostow, Counselor and Chairman of the State Department’s Policy Planning Council, has observed that the West must close to the Commu­nists those “areas of vulnerability” where they con­tinue to probe and foment unrest prior to actual military operations.9 The lesson of seventeen years of post-World War II history is that the Communists have never deviated from their tactics of threat and open aggression when it serves their objectives. The Soviet resumption of nuclear testing in the atmosphere and the Cuban adventure, with all their elements of deceit, arrogance, and calculation, seems not to have deterred us from our continued illusions.

Only when the Soviets themselves realize that it is somehow in their interest to come to terms will there be a significant change in the international climate. In the meantime, the fantasy that they are as much committed as the West to the peaceful settle­ment of international problems will serve only to whet the appetite of those bent upon conquest.

Much has been written recently describing what we can do to bring about a world free from the spec­ter of war, a world in which arms remain merely a nightmare of the past. There are few who do not sub­scribe to this objective. It will remain unfulfilled, however, until we recognize once and for all that disarmament is a two-way street. Our policies, actions, and attitudes are extremely important—but only one side of the coin. The fact remains that as long as the Communists believe it is in their interest to incite worldwide revolution by every means at their disposal, no matter how much we desire peace there will be no true peace.

We have not considered the proposals for complete unilateral disarmament mainly because the bona fide unilateralist position is no longer taken seriously either in the government or within the circle of those who write seriously on disarmament and arms control. The erosion of unilateralism has occurred for much the same reasons governing a scaling down of objectives from total disarmament to some measure of arms control. Even those like Erich Fromm, who have in the past advocated total unilateral disarma­ment, admit that these proposals are unacceptable to either the US or the Soviet Union either now or in the foreseeable future.10 In the meantime, the neces­sity for patience is as valid when applied to disarmament and arms-control proposals as it is in ad­monishing the adventuresome among us who want to let fly with everything.

However, although unilateral disarmament has fallen into ill-repute, another—but more limited—form of unilateralism has come into ascendancy. Sometimes called “graduated unilateral action,” “unilateral ini­tiative,” or “reciprocal initiative,” it was first enun­ciated in theory by Charles E. Osgood, a professor of psychology and Director of the Institute of Com­munications Research at the University of Illinois. Later, the same case was put forward by Erich Fromm. Much of the Osgood-Fromm approach, of course, is based upon psychology (“psycho-logic” and “cognitive stereotypy”). Both men have measurably contributed to the increased awareness of the psycho­logical basis of deterrence, although at least part of their reasoning remains distorted since both tend to ignore recent history and continually fail to ap­preciate political-military realities.

The unilateral-initiative school argues that, first of all, the combination of obliterative weapons and rigid international tensions makes for a novel situa­tion calling for radical innovation. The “deterrence problem” is found in “the tensions/arms-race di­lemma.” By applying a strategy of “reciprocal tension reduction . . . within tolerable limits of security” a way can be found out of the arms-tensions grip.11 According to Osgood, the dilemma requires a com­pletely new kind of approach, including an analysis of “the cold-war mentality” and a hard questioning of psychological assumptions which have been largely taken for granted .12 The objective is to preserve our way of life by staying alive without “adopting a total­itarian way of life as a means to military power.”

The unilateral initiative view rejects complete un­ilateral disarmament as impracticable while holding that mutual deterrence and attempts at mutual agree­ment by negotiations are not feasible. Our policy of deterrence leads inevitably to an arms race which Osgood feels we would ultimately lose since “the totalitarian system seems better able to wage a con­flict on these terms than a democratic system.”13 Ac­cording to this reasoning, the longer the arms race continues, the more we are likely to fall behind.

But what are the psychological bases and assump­tions which we must understand? All of us, to some degree, are victims of “psycho-logic,” i.e., adjusting our world view to a set of highly subjective values. This is particularly true when we become emotional or deal with matters in which we are unfamiliar. Psycho-logic is especially prevalent in international affairs. Thus, it follows that we expect the Soviets to cheat on any arms-control agreement and to use a negotiation for propaganda purposes. In “cognitive stereotypy” our perspective becomes warped by emotion and motivation, hindering objectivity. Our values and opinions which harden, therefore, are precisely those which restrict perspective. According to Osgood:

Most Americans are filled with the basically irrational conviction that the only way to avoid military conflict with the Communist world is to prepare for it. Now we are in a better posi­tion to understand this conviction. Uncon­sciously projecting our own norms and values, we feel threatened when they are not adhered to and attribute it to the essential boorishness and deceit of others. By encouraging self-de­lusion and condoning a double standard of na­tional morality, our psycho-logic has created an oversimplified world inhabited by angels and bogy men. Everything becomes channeled into this one overwhelming polarity of good and evil—Cuba is seen as a Communist outpost (when there is probably nothing more Com­munist about Castro Cuba than there is demo­cratic about Franco Spain). . .14

The heart of the unilateral initiative view lies in “graduated reciprocation in tension reduction.” This is seen as a reciprocation-inducing peace offensive. In general, such acts must be seen by an opponent as reducing his external threat and must be carried out regardless of a commitment by the opponent to reciprocate. Such acts must be announced in advance; widely publicized; and be unpredictable and diverse. Finally, they must not endanger the US “heartland” or reduce our second-strike ability.

Examples of proposed acts are these: A unilateral test ban; ending of discriminatory trade and travel restrictions with Red China; denuclearization of one of our Japanese bases; or having space launchings supervised by an agency of the UN. The major failing of graduated reciprocation lies in its root assumption “that the Russian people and leaders are more like us than like the bogy men our psycho-logic creates, and that they are as eager to reduce the chances of full-scale nuclear conflict as we are.15 Un­fortunately, this assumption is false, based as it is on psychological models and theories, rather than on demonstrated acts of individuals or recent history.

It erroneously assumes that Soviet leaders think something like we do. It does not begin to take into consideration the seventeen years of history since 1945: The attempted Soviet overthrow of Iran in 1946; the Communist takeover in Czechoslovakia of February 24, 1948; the Berlin blockade beginning on June 24, 1948; the North Korean attack which began the Korean War on June 25, 1950; the Chinese Com­munist invasion of Tibet on November 13, 1950. It is not necessary to complete the dreary recitation which includes the Polish revolts, Hungary, and the Inter­national Commission of Jurists’ finding of genocide against Red China in Tibet. Does this indicate a similarity in Communist and democratic actions?

It must also be remembered that reciprocal initiative is not new. A kind of unilateral initiative has, in fact, already been attempted—and found wanting. On June 14, 1946, Bernard Baruch, on behalf of the United States, formally offered to share American atomic-energy secrets and to surrender America’s atomic stockpile to a world atomic department. The Soviets rejected this proposal. To further analyze possible similarities in thinking and action, it might be useful to ponder whether the Russians would have offered such a proposal to us if they—and not we—had possessed an atomic monopoly in 1946. Additional unilateral reciprocal acts have been tried by the United States. Shortly after the Kennedy Administration came to power, it attempted an exchange of correspondents with Communist China as a method perhaps of reducing tension with that nation as well as possibly gaining some information. The proposal was turned down. Efforts to elicit significant Soviet participation in space have also failed. And the unwritten—but tacit—uninspected nuclear-test moratoriumbroken by the Soviets is further evidence of an unsuccessful kind of reciprocation.

We can sympathize with attempts at reducing cold-war tension. We cannot, however, turn our eyes from the record as if it didn’t exist.16 Nor must we be paralyzed by fear. It is difficult to ignore the evidence that unilateralist thinking has been infected by a signal failure to come to grips with the nuclear revoluti­on—politically, militarily, or psychologically. Max Lerner has pointed to the danger of thinking in abso­lute terms.17 It has become a truism to note that the Communists play upon our fear of destruction. Soviet nuclear diplomacy is in great measure based upon emphasizing, rather than minimizing, the destructive potential of Russian nuclear weapons. “In this sense, fear becomes an instrument for political maneuver, and the manipulation of the human con­science becomes one of the important facts of world politics today.” 18

Lerner has effectively shown that the two power systems are motivated by what he terms a “conscience differential.” Soviet and American drives and thinking are not similar. This understanding has been used effect­ively by the Communists in psychological and political war. There is some evidence, too, that excess­ive, paralytic fear19 has caused people to seek scapegoats—divorced from reality—in explaining “cold-war mentality” or our present “problem of deterrence.”20 Inevitably, their gaze turns to the military.

The role of the military in democratic society has recently received much attention. It is useful, how­ever, to again point out some of the emotionally spu­rious and undocumented allegations put forward: (1) It is charged that the military control national policy; (2) that the military are locked in alliance with the far Right; (3) that they have committed us to the cold war; and (4) that the military monolith is pre­venting serious disarmament negotiations. We have discussed these charges previously in this magazine.21 Lately, however, two additional arguments have been increasingly leveled, both pregnant with serious over­tones. Neither is new, but have been advanced within the “Great Dialogue” on deterrence. And consistent with previous attacks, the fire has primarily originated with the ultraliberal far Left.

Specifically, it has been charged that the growth of American military forces threatens—and indeed dooms—the very fabric of democratic society we are trying to preserve. Secondly, others claim that the power and instability of the military “trigger finger” guarantee an accidental war at some unspecified fu­ture date. Arthur Waskow, in attacking strategic counterforce doctrine, has argued that our very lib­erties would be in danger since this strategy is based on the acceptance of an endless arms race. This would mean increased taxes; expanding control over raw materials and labor; and “constantly harsher attacks upon minority dissent. . . . Free enterprise and free speech would be probable early victims.”22

It follows then, that totalitarian nations are more readily geared to waging cold war and building de­terrent forces. As we have seen, Osgood holds that the longer deterrence continues, the more likely we will lose.23 The confidence with which these predictions and assumptions are advanced is matched only by their foundation in ignorance.24 Apart from the US record in two world wars, the cold war is now in its seventeenth year, and, rather than falling behind, the evidence indicates that we have been at least holding our own if not in fact pulling ahead as far as nuclear deterrence is concerned, especially in operational ICBMs.

Incredibly enough, this curious lack of faith, con­fidence, and optimism is advanced by people who supposedly champion an optimistic outlook along with a belief in the resiliency and flexibility of democracy —namely, the American liberal.25 John Spanier has pointed to the penchant of American liberalism to re­gard power as evil.26 While there is some truth in this, it is not by any means the whole explanation. And while there is a strain of inherent distrust of the military in liberalism, this, too, remains only part of the liberal astigmatism.

These innate traits have been present before. The new ingredient, of course, becomes nuclear weapons technology with its use of complex machines, game theory, and “buttons.” The liberal intellectual suspects an undue reliance on the machine and an arbitrary suppression of man’s intellect. This is superimposed upon the myths of the “military mind” and the lack of competence in the crude professional soldier.27 It is the fantasy compounded of the new weapons and the old military. Herein lies both the irritant and the mythology. For it is a contemporary fact that about the only things the new professional soldier has in com­mon with his predecessor is his abhorrence of war and his mission. With the revolution in weapons has come the transformation of not only the officer corps, but the mass of soldiery. The scientist and technolo­gist in uniform has arrived. Air Force officers today who serve in our nuclear strategic deterrent force are trained and specialize in sophisticated techniques and operations far removed from the traditional battle­field.28

More importantly, the military have not molded our society, but have rather been created by it. In perhaps the best social and political analysis of the professional officer corps, accepted as such by liberals and con­servatives alike, Morris Janowitz has correctly ob­served:

. . . Instead of political realism, a set of stereotyped assumptions has pervaded domestic politics with respect to the professional mili­tary. For example, it is typical to assert that the military establishment is the major source of thought or policy which overemphasizes the use of force in the resolution of conflict.

Such an assumption overlooks the extent to which the armed forces are a creation of the larger social structure, and the extent to which they serve the economic and political needs of the civilian population. It is a concept which sees the military establishment as a sort of self-contained organ, as a vestigial appendage, rather than a creation of contemporary society. It is a view which is oblivious of the deep fac­tional divisions in strategic orientations within the military profession itself.29

It is an almost inevitable paradox that those who cry out loudest against emotion and irrationalism are themselves the purveyors of the very goods they most scorn. And yet, late writings on the complexities of deterrence and thermonuclear weapons suggest that liberalism might be staging a lively comeback against some of its own mythologies. It was Max Lerner, one of American liberalism’s foremost and literate thinkers, who challenged those of his own kin that proclaimed the necessity for a philosopher as king:

Even if it were possible for the philosopher to become king, he might be less sensitive to all the pulls and pressures of a real world than the man who is specialized to them and fuses his feel for the common experience with his feel for power.30

Turning to the second recent allegation against the military—they are heading us toward certain accidental war—we find it similarly lacking in exposure to the hard realities of technology and politics. Persistent predictions of accidental war were reinforced—crudely and from ignorance—by the novel Fail-Safe by Eugene Burdick and Harvey Wheeler.31

Those who, like Burdick and Wheeler, argue that accidental, unpremeditated, or inadvertent thermonuclear war cannot be avoided claim that, first of all, we have become prisoners of the machine. Automa­tion and the use of electronic brains have dehuman­ized man and made him a slave, a tool of the machine. As a result, many of us—especially the military-scien­tific breed—have lost the capacity to think. It is this total dependence upon gadgetry and the loss of the rational reasoning process that lies behind our awful predicament. Thus, in Fail-Safe both we and the Rus­sians are driven to a thermonuclear exchange by forces ostensibly beyond our power to control.

But more than that, we are slaves not only of the machine but, as “Khrushchev” explains in Fail-Safe, “prisoners of . . . our suspicions and our belief in logic.” We do not trust each other; we suspect the other side’s every move and word and believe that only we are correct, rational, and logical. And because we possess the means to obliterate the human race, the combination is at once explosive, dynamic, fore­boding, and final. Our doom is sealed. It is but a matter of lime. This is true, it follows, even though neither side consciously desires war.

It should be clear, once and for all, that the prob­ability of accidental conflict has been overdramatized and exaggerated. It has not been based on fact, for much of the pertinent information is classified. Ameri­cans are supposedly a pragmatic people, incessantly demanding “the facts.” Yet, curiously, we tend to grasp imaginary straws when it comes to the question of possible inadvertent war.

A consistency seemingly inherent in the reasoning of alarmists is that it is always the US that is stumb­ling into a thermonuclear accident. And yet it would seem reasonable to assume that we have more elab­orate safety mechanisms built into our weapons, de-livery vehicles, and command-control equipment than the Soviets. These safeguards are not only adequate but make certain that—like positive control—any error ­made (mechanical or otherwise) will be on the margin of safety. In other words, in the positive-control procedure, an error or malfunction would result in the bombers’ turning back rather than continuing to the target.

There would seem to be a higher probability of war by design than by accident. Given the US national policy of reacting with our strategic deterrent power only in the event of a clear nuclear assault upon the US or its allies, the greatest danger becomes that of a nuclear Pearl Harbor. In order to preclude a premed­itated surprise nuclear onslaught, America must remain strong. We must make certain that no enemy ever doubts that we have both the means and the will to protect our vital interests throughout the world. This means that—in the absence of effective arms control or disarmament—our nuclear deterrent must remain clearly superior as the shield of the free world and the force which makes our diplomacy ef­fective while serving as a foundation for any limited, conventional action in which we might become involved.

But it is not solely a matter of weapons and control devices. What of the underlying political philosop­hies guiding the opposing sides in the cold war? The democratic ethic, nurtured by the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, guided by our history and traditions, dictates that we are not a people influenced greatly by hatred, jealousy, or fanatici­sm when it comes to all-out war. Are there those who would not believe that we will not strike first? That we are not guided by charity and tolerance? That the President and the military are not responsible and deeply conscious of what is involved

It is, unfortunately, another question when we weigh the guiding philosophy of international communi­sm. We should like to assume the Soviets are moved by a rational political philosophy and mentality of international intercourse. However, Hungary, Tibet, and Berlin leave room for doubt. Clearly, the Red Chinese are almost irrationally belligerent. As Michael Lindsay pointed out, the Chinese Communists are undoubtedly—in their present stage of revolutionary development—political fanatics. And we have not yet evolved an adequate method of dealing with a fanatical and militant totalitarian regime.

There are those who claim—like D. F. Fleming—that we are even more responsible than the Commu­nists for the present polarization of the world. It is assum­ed the US is guilty of a “cold-war mentality” and that we have fallen into a rigidly controlled pattern of thinking every bit as dangerous as Marxism-Lenin­ism. Yet, it is difficult indeed to argue that the evolu­tion of the concept and tools of deterrence has not, in fact, been a rational reaction on our part—a response to the enslavement of Eastern Europe and to the tragedies of Hungary, Berlin, Korea, and Tibet.

Why have we constructed, at great human and material cost, this intricate, complex system that we call the deterrent? The answer would seem to be that we have done this to protect ourselves from a danger more real and powerful than the chance of losing control of the machine—the danger that we will lose our freedom to totalitarian aggression.

It is perhaps a gamble that the American people and their political leaders have irrevocably decided that we must take. For, in the final analysis, we must weigh whether the preservation of liberty is worth the almost zero chance that an accident might occur. What we are saying is that—more than machines or weapons—political leadership, or the lack of it, is crucial.

The danger is that of paralysis in coming to terms with the nuclear revolution. Although there is risk involved in guarding our freedom, there is far greater danger, as President Kennedy pointed out, in doing nothing. This, I think, has been recognized by almost all Americans. We have determined that the threat to our survival is real and not imaginary or the result of irrationality and rigid thinking. Thus, we have re­acted in a way wholly consistent with our history and traditions. Today more than ever before it is true that “the condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.” And John Philpot Curran further observed that when free men cease to be vigi­lant, the result is servitude.

For, when all the words of the “Great Dialogue” over deterrence are analyzed and filtered through the channels of reason and awareness of history, one over­powering fact remains: Strategic nuclear deterrence has for seventeen years kept us free and prevented an all-out attack on the US and the free world. It is ex­ceedingly difficult to argue with unvarnished success.

Our ability in understanding recent history and in applying the lessons thus learned may well determine the course of this century. Our predicament calls for a major effort in transcending the limitations of short-run pressures by identifying our long-range require­ments. But we cannot win the peace alone. The ad­monition of John Foster Dulles still rings true: “Peace is the product of many wills and not merely of one alone.”


1See Newman’s polemic in the March 1961 issue of Scientific American. The article was excerpted in the Washington Post, February 26, 1961. Kahn’s book was a significant and powerful addition to deterrent literature, but its force was blunted by repetition, poor editing, and in some instances, poor writing.

2BuIletjn of the Atomic Scientists, September 1961, p 288.

3Mithael Maccoby, “Social Psychology of Deterrence,” BAS, September 1961, p 278.

4 Henry Kissinger, The Necessity For Choice, Harper I Brothers, 1960, 1961, p 279.

5Evidently, there are those—who for one reason or another—still proclaim that we have done little thinking about the objectives of deterrence. For example, Lewis C. Bohn seriously declares that: “Perhaps it has been natural and in part inevitable, but it is still an amazing fact that, for all the billions we have spent on nuclear deterrence and for all the policies we have built on this cornerstone, we have never paused to scrutinize its ultimate purpose, nor set ourselves to examine how that purpose might be accomplished with other and perhaps less perilous means.” (Lewis C. Bohn, “Peace with Disarmament—or Without?” in Disarmament: Its Politics and Economics, Seymour Melman, Editor, America Academy of Arts & Sciences, 1962, p 64. Emphasis supplied.)

6See Louis Henkin, “The Citizen’s Interest in the Control of Armaments,” in Louis Henkin, Editor, Arms Control: Issues for the Public, The American Assembly, 1961. This book remains one of the best on the subject.

7Henry Kissinger, The Necessity for Choice, p 279.

8Louis Henkin, Editor, Arms Control: Issues for the Public, p 202. (Emphasis supplied.)

9See address by Rostow to the Purdue Conference on Inter­national Affairs, March 15, 1962, reprinted in the Department of State Bulletin, April 16, 1962.

10Erich Fromm, “The Case For Unilateral Disarmament,” Daedalus, Special Issue on Arms Control, American Academy of Arts & Sciences, Fall 1960.

11Osgood’s views can be found in “Suggestions for Winning the Real War with Communism,” Conflict Resolution, Decem­ber 1959; “Reciprocal Initiative,” in The Liberal Papers, Doubleday Anchor, 1962.

12Osgood feels that “the debate so far has been carried on more by physicists and generals than by social scientists and intelligent laymen. I think it can be easily shown that mili­tary technology merely exacerbates the problem—it neither explains our dilemma nor offers any solution.” (Osgood in “Reciprocal Initiative,” The Liberal Papers, p 156).

13Osgood in “Reciprocal Initiative,” The Liberal Papers, p 166.

14Osgood in “Reciprocal Initiative,” The Liberal Papers, p 192.

15Osgood, “Reciprocal Initiative,” The Liberal Papers, pp


16A balanced and reasoned critique of unilateral initiatives can be found in Robert A. Levine, “Unilateral Initiatives: A Cynic’s View,” BAS, January, 1963.

17Max Lerner, The Age of Overkill: A Preface to World Politics, Simon and Schuster, 1962, especially Chapter VI, pp 295-301.

18Max Lesner, The Age of Overkill, p 298.

19Edward Teller has long campaigned against nuclear fear. See his The Legacy of Hiroshima, Doubleday, 1962.

20D. F. Fleming, an emotional critic of the US military, has admitted the existence of “the paralyzing advent of hydrogen bombs.” See Fleming, “The Broken Dialogue on Foreign Af­fairs,” The Annals of the American Academy of Political & Social Science, November 1962, p 134.

21“The Case Against Our Armed Forces,” December 1961.

22Arthur I. Waskow, The Limits of Defense, Doubleday, 1962, pp 28-29. A vigorous and sometimes misinformed critique of deterrence and counterforce. Waskow’s world disarmament is followed by American civilian resistance training which somehow calls for less indoctrination, centralization, and loss of freedom than deterrence presumably entails.

23Osgood, “Reciprocal Initiative,” The Liberal Papers, p 167.

24The same views have been espoused by Walter Mills (“In­dividual Freedom & the Common Defense,” The Fund for the Republic, November 1957, p 8) and Erich Fromm (“The Case for Unilateral Disarmament,” Daedalus, Fall 1960, p 1016).

25This pessimistic view is not by any means advanced by all liberals. Some notable exceptions are professor-philosopher Sidney Hook; Max Ascoli, editor-publisher, The Reporter; Senator Thomas Dodd; and Senator Paul Douglas.

26John W. Spanier, American Foreign Policy Since World War II, Frederick A. Praeger, 1960, Chapter VIII.

27Ralph Lapp has declared: “If the [nuclear] weapons them­selves are no longer strictly soldiers’ tools, in the traditional sense, nuclear strategy is even further removed from the limited competence of the military mind.” (Ralph E. Lapp, Kill and Overkill: The Strategy of Annihilation, Basic Books, 1962, p 9.)

28Walter Millis has effectively depicted the new military in “Puzzle of the ‘Military Mind,”‘ New York Times Magazine, November 18, 1962.

29Morris Janowitz, The Professional Soldier: A Social and Political Portrait, the Free Press of Glencoe, 1960, p 4.

30Max Lerner, The Age of Overkill, Simon and Schuster, 1962, p 301.

31See my review in the December 1962 issue of this magazine.

A historian at SAC Headquarters, Offutt AFB, Neb., Mr. Wolk specializes in military-political aspects of the cold war. A frequent contributor to AIR FORCE/SPACE DIGEST, he wrote “Scientists, Politics, and the Bomb” (October ’62), “Deterrence Under Fire” (March ’62), and “The Case Against Our Armed Forces” (December ’61). He recently completed a book on strategic weapons, doctrine, and national policy. Opinions and conclusions expressed in his articles are his own and do not necessarily represent official positions or views of the Air Force or the Strategic Air Command.