NUCLEAR DOCTRINE, RATIONALITY
and the MORAL POINT OF VIEW
Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences
University of Colorado
Of the papers in this
section, "Notes from the Brink," this is the longest, the most thoroughly
researched and carefully argued, and therefore, I trust, the most important.
Excerpts of this paper were presented at a seminar of the Institute of
Behavioral Science, University of Colorado, September 12, 1984, and at the annual
meeting of the Second International Social Philosophy Conference, Colorado Springs,
August 10, 1985.
Strategic nuclear policy-making displays a failure of rationality and moral
perspective. Accordingly, the philosopher's professional skills may prove to be
of considerable help in the effort to draw mankind back from the brink of
universal devastation. While nuclear irrationality takes many forms, four
primary errors of judgment in current strategic thinking are closely examined
here. They are: (a) the cult of precision, (b) fixated thinking, (c) a failure
to adopt a moral point of view, and (c) self-righteousness and moral dogmatism.
In the light of this analysis, some positive steps away from the brink of mutual
annihilation are suggested: (a) deliberate avoidance of an appearance of
aggressiveness, (b) persistent attempts to promote communication between the
Great Powers, and thus to foster correct mutual perceptions, (c) development of
a "habit of trust," through a mutual acknowledgment of the value
thereof, (d) adoption of a "tit-for-tat" strategy of small,
reciprocating, unilateral acts of disarmament and tension-reduction, and above
all (e) adoption of a "global moral perspective," whereby policies are
formulated and adopted, not for purposes of unilateral ("zero-sum")
advantage against "the enemy," but for the sake of ("plus-sum")
Part One: Rationality
To write about nuclear weapons is inevitably to adopt a cause... Our proper
enterprise as "thinkers" is to mount a struggle against the nuclear menace,
not a mindless struggle but a struggle where our contemplative
understanding is enlivened and guided by a passionate commitment to the
hard work of securing the full set of conditions for our survival as a people,
as a species, and as mental and moral participants in an embracing sacred
and natural order of life.
Richard Falk (2)
The Threat of nuclear war has engaged the professional attention of physical scientists and
psychologist, as well as military strategists, public policy analysts and weapons technologists.
However, only recently have philosophers displayed an active and productive professional interest
in this overriding global issue. That interest has been manifested in a number of philosophical
conferences on nuclear warfare, in the publication of several new books, and in the founding of the
"Concerned Philosophers for Peace." This essay will attempt, in like manner, to contribute the
perspective of contemporary analytic and moral philosophy to the nuclear debate.
What can the philosopher, qua philosopher, contribute to the various attempts to avoid nuclear
conflagration? Reflect, for a moment, upon the condition and quality of thinking behind the nuclear
policy-making by both major powers. We find that official responses to the present nuclear danger
are marked by a failure of rationality, a failure of moral perspective and insight, a bondage to habit
and prejudice, an unwillingness to review and assess presuppositions, a failure to recognize common
purpose -- in short, a failure of practical intelligence, revealed most vividly in the incapacity of the
great powers to find, acknowledge and implement mutually acceptable means toward their most
urgent common end of survival.
Is an appeal to and application of reasonableness of any use amongst the myths and delusions of
global power politics? Perhaps so, for those who utilize fallacy (at one time or another, each of us),
flatter reason by counterfeiting it. We choose to convince, often ourselves above all, through the
appearance of reason. Reason, though everywhere violated, is universally respected; and while
reason does not always convince, a belief in reasonableness often does. Thus the philosopher's
stock-in-trade -- his/her skill at employing reason in cogent argument and the detection of fallacy and
confusion -- can be a strong weapon in the struggle for nuclear sanity, provided this skill is applied
with clarity and tact. (3)
In this paper, I will discuss "nuclear doctrine," by which I mean basic assumptions that have directed
nuclear strategy and defense policy since shortly after the first use of nuclear weapons at Hiroshima
and Nagasaki. The word "doctrine," which has been adopted by many students, advisors and
proponents of nuclear war strategy is instructive.(4)
The term is, of course, derived from the language
of theology and suggests "matters of faith, not to be questioned, setting the rules and limits of
acceptable debate." This, I will contend, rather adequately describes much of epistemological and
meta-ethical status of strategic nuclear belief among those in influence and power.
An informed attempt to draw up an itemized list of the genus and species of nuclear irrationality
soon exhausts one's time, patience and emotions. Searching for fallacies in nuclear rhetoric is like
fishing in a hatchery pond -- the supply of game is both endless, and proliferating. Upon reviewing
much of the current nuclear rhetoric, I have identified several patterns of thought-error of particular
interest to the philosopher. Of these, four closely interdependent judgment-errors deserve special
attention and comment. They are: (a) the cult of Precision, (b) Fixated Belief, (c) Moral Myopia, and
(d) Self-Righteousness and Moral Dogmatism.
While most of my criticisms will be directed toward current United States defense policies, and the
habits and presuppositions associated with those policies, I believe that these criticisms are utterly
disproportional to the blameworthiness of each side. For while there is an abundance of blame to be
lavished upon the leadership, and even the citizenry, of both great powers, a glance back over the
thirty-five year history of this global contest, will show that the American record does not approach
the Soviets in moral failings -- particularly in cruelty and duplicity. However, recent
pronouncements and developments indicate a closing gap in ignorance, self-righteousness and plain
foolishness. despite the burden of blame due the other side, we should give Primary attention to the
American side of this confrontation for the simple reason that the government of the United States
is our government and, to it great credit, immeasurably more responsive than the Soviet to the
criticisms of its citizens. As American citizens and professionals, we have virtually no direct
influence upon the Soviet government. Such influence as we might have o the Russians will be had
through the American government and its foreign and defense policies. The best means of
meliorating the shortcomings of Soviet society and policy is by facing and acting upon our own.
Thus, if we wish to find and follow a way out of our strategic nuclear peril, it is clearly most
appropriate to begin at home. That will be the approach of this essay.
The Cult of Precision
[What if] the superpowers came to be generally regarded, not as the only
potential saviors of mankind, but as self-imprisoned giants who need to be
rescued from themselves?
W. B. Gallie (5)
The American and Soviet
military establishments have become symbiotic allies, each at
war with their own respective domestic economies.
Kenneth Boulding (6)
Nuclear policy-makers have routinely shown a strong preference for "hard data" (from such sciences
as applied physics and, most prominently, from weapons technology), over less precise though highly relevant data from such "soft sciences" as psychology, sociology, economics
and political science. (In such deliberations, opinions and analyses by professional moral
philosophers are unsolicited and totally ignored). The preference for exact data, often in inverse
proportion of "exactness" to relevance, is what I call "the cult of precision" (and also the "reliable-is-valid fallacy"). It is, perhaps, most dramatically illustrated by he dogged failure of the United States
government to sponsor "Peace Studies" or "Peace Institutes," even though one large "Institute" or
a thousand scholarships in "Peace Studies" could be funded for the cost of one F-14 fighter plane,
or one M-1 tank.(7) When technological solutions are proposed to human social, political and moral
problems, "the cult of precision" is manifest as "gadget mentality" -- a long-honored tradition in
American life, thought and public policy.
A splendid example of "gadget mentality" appears in President Reagan's "Star Wars" proposal: a
suggestion that an extensive system of satellites, radar installations, and lasers might be deployed
"to intercept and destroy strategic ballistic missiles before they reached our own soil of that of our
allies." He continued: "I call upon the scientific community who gave us nuclear weapons to turn
their great talents to the cause of mankind and world peace: to give us the means of rendering these
nuclear weapons impotent and obsolete." (8)
The "scientific community" has responded with a
lopsided rejection of the proposal. (9)
What is remarkable about the plan is its attempt to transform
a problem of international and ideological accommodation, communication and trust into an
engineering problem. But, of course, the arms race itself - an unresolved attempt at "peace through
deterrence" -- is the larger example of the same "gadget mentality."
The "cult of precision" is evident in the relatively scant attention given by policy-makers of recent
administrations to the ecological implications of nuclear warfare -- phenomena which are both
difficult to project and of foremost significance to nuclear policy. This neglect persists even after
the well-publicized scientific conference on "The World After Nuclear War" (October-November,
1983) which brought the prospect of "nuclear winter" to public attention. Why did it take so long
for the ecological implications of nuclear war to enter into public awareness and debate? Consider
a few events prior to that conference. (We will discuss the current government response, or
non-response, to "nuclear winter" in the following section on "fixated belief").
In the 1979 Office of Technology Assessment study of "The Effects of Nuclear War," about a half
page is given to the ecological question, with the following conclusion:
It is not possible to estimate the probability or the probable magnitude of [ecological]
damage . . . the incalculable effects of damage to the Earth's ecological system might be on
the same order of magnitude as the immediate effects, but it is not known how to calculate
or even estimate their likelihood. (10)
Though the OTA felt that such a study was "not possible," the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences
apparently felt differently. In 1982, a double issue of Ambio, the Journal of the Academy, was
devoted to the topic of "The Aftermath of Nuclear War." Prominent in that collection was a paper
by Paul Crutzen and John Birks (of NCAR, CIRES and the University of Colorado) which was
crucial to the development of the "Nuclear Winter" scenario which was soon to follow. The advisory
group of that issue of Ambio, choosing "to emphasize the environmental aspects of the aftermath of
nuclear war," concluded that "when environmental consequences are included in the study, many
more people will ultimately be affected by nuclear war than are directly killed by bombing and
radiation." (11) Concern about "nuclear winter," and related environmental effects of nuclear warfare,
did not arrive, ex nihilo, at the Washington conference in late 1983.
The 1979 OTA report similarly neglects the issue of Ozone depletion, devoting less than a page to
that crucial issue, and ignoring significant research on the question, published and available at the
time the report was in preparation. (12)
In the light of recent studies, it seems quite likely that the ecological and atmospheric "Effects of
Nuclear War" are more significant than the immediate consequences of blast, heat and radiation.
And yet the Congressional study bearing that title all but ignores these long-term effects. Why? In
both cases, the "inexactness" of the data is cited, and then the matter is effectively dropped. And yet,
it is just possible that this "soft data" might convey the message that a "totally successful" first strike
would prove to be suicidal to the perpetrator. Isn't that question worth pursuing -- even if the answer
is less than certain?
Policy-makers, then, choose data and allocate research effort in terms of
precision more than
relevance. This practice reminds one of the story of the fool, carefully searching the ground under
the street lamp. A friend happens by and asks, "what are you doing?" The fool replies, "I'm looking
for a coin that I dropped." "Oh I see," said the friend, "then you dropped it under the lamp." "Not
really," came the reply, "I dropped it way over there in the bushes, but the light is so much better
Our final example of "the cult of precision" is offered by Ford, Kendall and Nadis of the Union of
Concerned scientists. They report:
The habitual official neglect of likely Soviet reactions [to military policy] was brought home
to us in a conversation with a senior Air Force officer who was working on plans for the MX
missile. After listening to his description of the merits of the new missile, we asked, "What
do you expect the Soviets to do if we deploy the MX?"
The question, which was followed by a long pause, finally produced the reply that they didn't
know, but whatever they did, we'd then respond appropriately.
The Air Force, it has become clear has focused almost exclusively on the short-term
advantages of the MX missile without thinking through the full implications of deploying
"The merits of the missile" can be stated in the "hard data" of engineering. Soviet responses most
assuredly can not. Knowledge of "short term advantages" is "hard." Conjectures about "full
implications" of deployment are not. Yet the presumed purpose of the missile is to elicit
"appropriate" Soviet responses, and "short term" planning is devised to serve long term objectives.
It would seem that "the cult of precision" has resulted in a complete reversal of priorities and
What sort of thinking leads to such a strange distortion of perspective and inquiry? Perhaps the
politician's and military leaders' desire for power and control, and their disinclinations to confront
and question their cherished prejudices (a universal trait, alas!). "Can we build it" is a "hard-data"
question -- we know how to find out, and we can find out at our own initiative. "How will they
respond" is a "soft-data" question, involving matters of psychology, sociology, politics and other
"soft sciences," and also matters not under our control. Furthermore, in order to understand such
things, we would need to seriously understand "the Russian mind," thus, quite possibly, jeopardizing
some of our cherished prejudices about them. Among these prejudices, apparently is the assumption
that the Soviets will be so intimidated by our escalation that they will quit the race -- an assumption
which has been refuted without exception in the thirty-year history of the arms race.
"Softest" of all issues are the moral questions -- that is, they are least amenable to quantification,
experimentation, and lucid empirical interpretation. If the "cult of precision" is operative in policy
planning, then it would follow that an open examination and inquiry into moral issues should be
least conspicuous in such planning. I suggest that the record will show that, despite the Reagan
Administration's oft-professed pride in its high moral principles, its nuclear strategists and
war-planners are remarkably disinclined, when defending its policies, to critically examine their
moral premises, to engage in moral deliberation, or to reflect upon moral consequences. Instead, the
moral stance of our strategic policy-makers features simplistic presumptions of Soviet motives,
unquestioned acceptance of our moral probity, a habitual preference for technical ("hardware")
solutions over moral example and persuasion, and for displays of power over negotiation.
The dismissal of serious moral deliberation in strategic policy analysis perpetuates a trend that dates
back at least to the Kennedy Administration; namely, the pursuit of "value-free policy study." (14)
pursuit of "value-free policy" is fated to fail, for reasons that are as fundamental as simple semantics
and logic. Policy decisions are inherently "value decisions," since they state deliberate preferences
amongst sets of exclusive options -- options which bear upon human rights, liberties,
responsibilities, and quality of life. This inalienable condition of policy-making defines such
activity as "evaluative," and even "morally significant."
Such an attempt to draw value (i.e., policy) conclusions solely from factual premises - "oughts"
from "is-s" - is called by philosophers "the naturalistic fallacy" (interpreted broadly, rather than in
G. E. Moore's original sense). If, as I contend, public policy decisions (and particularly strategic
nuclear policy decisions) are inescapably value-laden and morally significant, then nuclear policy
decisions that are made by mobilizing facts and technology (both present and projected) in disregard
of value issues, commit the naturalistic fallacy. Accordingly, such decisions are drawn from partial
data and an inadequate foundation of premises. For instance, faced with the question, "what should
we do about the Soviet threat?", the usual response is "What military forces do we, and will we,
have at our disposal, and what can we do with them?" The implicit value assumptions that lead to
and direct such policy-making responses are rarely "brought up" for review and critical examination;
e.g., that the "right" way to resist force is with force, or the threat of force, or that the consequent
hazard to innocent civilians is an acceptable cost of military resistance, or that a militaristic foreign
policy will bear results that are acceptable to our domestic political ideals and institutions.
Fundamental to three decades of America foreign policy is the assumption that the best way to
disarm the Soviets is the to increase our arsenals. Missing from that record is an operative suggestion
that the Soviets might relax their belligerent posture if we manage to "disarm" their suspicions of
us. Such a suggestion leads directly to difficult moral questions: e.g., Are they suspicious of us, and
if so, why? Are these suspicions justified? What should we do about them? At what point do our
accommodation to Soviet suspicions begin to infringe unfairly upon our liberties and right of
self-defense? On the other hand, does our reliance upon force compromise our moral stance, and
even corrupt our national moral character and social/political structure? Such questions may lead
us to a review and reflection of some of our cherished moral premises. This is an exercise that both
sides seem quite reluctant to practice.
What is presently called "strategic thinking" in the United States is the
antithesis of genuine thought, a grotesque caricature of America's
extraordinary potential for building a reliable structure for peace ... As the
handmaiden of an insipid nuclear theology, [this "thinking"] offers clichés and stock phrases that serve only to close the eyes of the mind and make
impossible our seeing and understanding of the truth...
Louis Rene Beres (15)
"Fixated belief," a concept of interest to both psychologists and philosophers, refers to a dogged
determination to hold on to an idea or theory in the face of an erosion of supporting data, and despite
accumulating logical incoherence and direct refuting evidence. "Fixated practical beliefs" may be
plausible at a certain time in history, but be undercut by political and technological change. Military
tactics utilizing horse cavalry or fixed lines of defense (like the Maginot Line) are cases in point.
Other beliefs may be fixated to pre-scientific theories long since overturned by the weight of
evidence. Geocentrism and creationism are cases of this sort.
The fixation of belief was on the mind of Albert Einstein when he wrote: "the unleashed power of
the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and we thus drift toward unparalleled
While examples of fixated thinking abound in current nuclear doctrine, I would like to examine just
one striking case: the failure of the Reagan Administration to respond appropriately to the so-called
"nuclear winter" -- a meteorological-ecological "doomsday machine" which, many scientists have
suggested, would be set off by even an "moderate size" nuclear exchange. This prospect, which first
attracted public attention just a year ago, was thus presented to millions by Dr. Carl Sagan during
the ABC discussion which followed the filming of "The Day After" in November, 1983:
The "nuclear winter" that will follow even a small nuclear war, especially if cities are
targeted (as they almost certainly would be) involves a pall of dust and smoke which would
reduce the temperatures . . . pretty much globally to sub-freezing . . . for months. In addition,
it [will be] dark [and] the radiation [will be] much more than we've been told before. . . The
biologists who have been studying this think that there is a real possibility of the extinction
of the human species from such a war. (16)
Subsequent scientific studies and publications, while elaborating the details and disputing small
points, have tended to substantiate Prof. Sagan's general assessment.
If these analyses are correct, writes Herbert Simon of Carnegie Mellon University in
no nation can make a major nuclear attack even against an unarmed opponent without committing
suicide -- without itself receiving punishment as severe as that imposed on its intended victim." (17)
Evgeny Velikhov of the Soviet Academy of Sciences concurs: "Nuclear weapons can no longer be
tools of war or politics; they are only instruments of suicide... Nuclear superiority is a delusion.'' (18)
It seems that the doomsday scenario of nuclear winter has, to borrow Einstein's words, "changed
everything save our modes of thinking." In the ABC discussion which followed Dr. Sagan's
depiction of the "nuclear winter" (a depiction never disputed by the panel), such luminaries as Henry
Kissinger, Robert MacNamarra, Brent Scowcroft, trotted out the familiar and time-worn strategic
litany of "window of vulnerability," "deterrence," "civil defense," "confrontation." All this despite
repeated references by the moderator, Ted Koppel, to the scientists' projections. It was as if Dr.
Sagan had not said a word. Yet Sagan's pronouncement rendered crucial preconceptions of the
discussion participants at best pointless, at worst, delusive and absurd. For example:
The "window of vulnerability," (the alleged period of time during which our land-based ICBMs are
said to be "vulnerable" to a first strike) can be of no conceivable advantage to the Soviets since such
a strike would have to involve at least one attacking missile for each of our 1000-plus ICBMs.
Therefore, even a "totally successful" strike involving no retaliation against the USSR would
nevertheless utterly destroy the Soviet society. They are, in effect, equally "vulnerable" to their own
"first strike." Why then do we continue to hear of this "window of vulnerability" as an advantage
to the Soviets?
"Retaliation" is pointless. Once one side has set off the "doomsday machine," a massive "response"
amounts to no more than a coup de grace, immediately killing much of the aggressor's population
and thus sparing these individuals the agony of awaiting their certain demise in the coming "nuclear
winter" -- a fate which awaits the "survivors" of both sides. Nuclear deterrence is as rational as the
scene in Mel Brooks' "Blazing Saddles" where the sheriff escapes from a mob by pointing a gun to
his own head, thus "taking himself hostage."
A decision to invest in programs of "civil defense" reduces to a preference for drawn-out death by
starvation, radiation or freezing over death by instant vaporization. Die now or die later. "Survival"
after an attack is no longer an option. And yet, defenders of Administration nuclear policy continue
to cite the Soviet civil defense system as evidence that "the other side" is preparing for a nuclear war.
If, in fact, the Soviets are so foolish as to make a futile attempt to "defend" their civilian population
against the nuclear winter, we are not required to imitate their folly.
Talk of "strategic confrontation" or "the contest" or even "the enemy" is obsolete. We and the
Soviets face a common, if abstract, enemy: the consequences of our combined technological
brilliance and moral incapacity. Accordingly, though many Soviet Commissars may be brutal,
deceitful, and godless, we may just have to mind our own business and leave the reformation of the
Soviet government to time and the initiative of the Soviet people. (Such a laissez faire policy is
deemed by the Reagan Administration to be quite appropriate with regard to some despotic regimes;
e.g., those of Chile and South Africa.) Our real choice now is whether to live together or to die
together on this planet.
Fixated belief is characterized by an inability to confront, recognize, and thus appropriately deal
with refuting evidence or alternative ideas. Consider, for example, Secretary Weinberger's encounter,
last April, with the following question by ABC's Steve Bell:
Any evidence that the Soviets worry about things like the so-called nuclear winter, a dust
storm [sic] that would change the climate forever and in effect wipe out everybody, that kind
Weinberger replied (in full):
Well, I think they have, obviously they have worries about the effects and results of a
nuclear war, or of a nuclear first strike which would bring a response. But it is essential one
way or another that they never get the impression or never have any reason to believe that
they could make a first strike against us and against the West with impunity. And that if they
did, that they would be free then to go on and dictate the terms and secure their goal of
world domination. That's the critical factor, and that's what we're trying our best to do, is
to get that degree of military strength back again, to regain that so they'd never feel they
could profitably make a first strike. (19)
The Secretary's reply is unresponsive to the point, or the implications, of the question. Instead,
he walks past the question, reciting the familiar doctrine of avoiding the possibility that the Soviets
might deliver a "first strike" and then "dictate the terms and secure their goal of world domination."
That scenario is utterly refuted by the prospect of "nuclear winter" which would leave the
perpetrators of a first strike with no world to "dominate." Thus are old ideas found to be fixated
despite the transforming implications of new facts. He also talks of the Soviets being restrained from
a "first strike" by "worries" of a nuclear response. He fails to acknowledge that the climatic
"response" of such a strike would render a strategic "response" from the other side utterly redundant
and pointless. Scientific evidence seems to suggest that atmospheric physics and chemistry, quite
apart from "retaliatory weapons," offers "deterrence" enough!
Weinberg's indifference to the implications and significance of "nuclear winter" reflects that of his
Commander in Chief. The topic has never been raised or mentioned in any Presidential news
conferences during 1984, nor did it come up in any of the "Great Debates" of the Presidential
Yet, the prospect of "nuclear winter" strongly suggests that our standard, received "defense policy"
no longer defends us. Why, then, do we persist with our senseless "strategic nuclear doctrine." Is
this "doctrine," as the word suggests, an article of faith rather than a consequence of careful and
informed deliberation? Is our defense policy in fact the result of technological, bureaucratic,
economic, even cultural, "imperatives" -- forces that are independent not only of human
compassion, aspiration and morality, but detached from compelling objective scientific evidence,
simple logic and plain common sense? Who or what is in charge of our destiny? Are we guided and
moved by intelligent humans and just institutions, or by blind social/cultural forces, irrational
fears--- in short, unevaluated "doctrine?" "Official" responses to recent scientific warnings and to
the implications thereof offer bleak assurances here.
Part Two: The Moral Point of View
I think that there is really only one gap that matters, the gap of
understanding, between us and nature, and between us as nations.... We
must try to solve this gap, and then we will find a better world in which we
Sergei Kapitza (1)
Morality is played out in a drama of many acts and with many actors: "acts" in the sense that
moral activity takes place in time -- with a plot that is brought forth out of the past and which
extends into the future; with "actors" in the sense that morality arises out of a conflict of claims
and a mutual interest in a peaceful and just resolution of those claims. Although, as an "actor,"
one may have a role in the drama, one will most ably and intelligently conduct that role if he is
also capable of being a spectator of the drama of morality, even though it is a drama of which he
has a part. Thus one must perceive his moral circumstance in terms of time, sequence,
circumstance, role and community.
Even in those rare circumstances where an individual can rightly presume to possess total moral
justification for his claims and complaints against another (say, a prisoner at Auschwitz), he must
take account of his adversary. He must understand what his moral opponent is thinking
(including the other's scheme of self-justification), how he might respond to one's initiatives, how
that response may open or foreclose options, etc.
Viewing the drama of morality -- its acts, plot, setting, props, actors, etc. -- as a spectator
philosophers often call "the moral point of view."
Of course, experienced strategic and foreign policy-makers well understand that they are
engaged in games of "international chess," or better, "poker". Indeed, these game metaphors are
political clichés. And such strategic "games" could not even begin to be played without some
informed expectation of the adversary's response. Still, the game of nuclear strategy, I suggest, is
being played badly, due, primarily, to a failure of historical and moral perspective -- due, that is,
to "moral myopia."
This "myopia" is manifest on our part, first, by a failure to view Russian society as embodying a
rich history and cultural tradition, and second, a failure to acknowledge that the Soviet Union is a
community of persons, and as such due moral respect and consideration.
The temporal myopia of the strategic arms race is typified by the willingness of the participants
to regard their brief and immediate moment on the stage of history as a fit model for all future
time, at the same time risking that they might be final moment of civilized history. Reflecting on
such a prospect, an anonymous staff writer for The New Yorker remarks:
how . . . presumptuous [it is] . . . for a single generation, such as our own, to imagine that
its wants and political causes might conceivably justify our jeopardizing not just our
inheritance, political and otherwise, but our inheritors as well -- our sons and grandsons
and the myriad unborn generations whose hopes and achievements we cannot know. This
takes truly colossal arrogance. Is it possible that our generation thinks its own transient
conflicts more weighty than the infinity of the human future? (2)
Furthermore, as Jonathan Schell has eloquently suggested in the second part of his book,
Fate of the Earth, by endangering the future of our civilization and species, we are gravely
impoverishing our present. (3)
"Historical myopia" is also exemplified by the operative presumption that our present foreign
policy concerns, and particularly our current patterns of international alliance and
economic-political rivalry, are somehow written into the fabric of the universe. Believing these
alliances and rivalries to be permanent, the leaders of the great powers seriously entertain the
thought that human civilization might be legitimately imperiled for the sake of maintaining their
"pattern" from the everlasting threat of the opposing "pattern." Yet, our enemies of a generation
ago are now our allies, and vice versa. Consider a startling example of this: The edition of
Newsweek that was on the newsstand December 7, 1981, contained, in the Business section, a
story about a corporate jet aircraft that was being manufactured by the Mitsubishi Corporation of
Japan. No mention was made in that article of the fact that most of the aircraft that bombed Pearl
Harbor exactly forty years earlier to that day "that will live in infamy" were built by the
Mitsubishi Corporation. Today we routinely encounter that name on the tailgate of a superbly
built compact truck. How soon we forget. Fortunately!
Far from being "fixed," the currents of socio-economic history appear to be moving, not as Marx
and Lenin predicted, but more in the direction of the Western powers. Scarcely a decade after the
"cultural revolution," the government of the People's Republic of China (formerly "Red China")
has adopted such radical economic reforms as incentive pay, private ownership of small farms
and businesses, and decentralized economic management. Hungary, in tolerating individual
initiative and entrepreneurship, has become both the most economically progressive and
prosperous nation in Eastern Europe -- a lesson not lost upon other members of the so-called
"Soviet bloc." In the Soviet Union itself, Mr. Gorbachev's reforms toward "glasnost"
("openness") and perestroika" ("restructuring") have outstripped, to the point of threatening, the
regimes in such "satellite" nations as Czechoslovakia and Romania.
Gorbachev's reforms have their limits, to be sure -- at least for the short term. Within this bloc,
and especially the Soviet Union, private publication and dissemination of information is still
suppressed through the regulation and restriction of duplicating and photo-copying machines, and
of personal computers. It is a policy which is fated to fail, since no industrial nation can compete
in the modern world economy without these essential instruments of data management. In short,
as Gorbachev acknowledges, if the Soviet Union is to have a viable world economy, it must
necessarily be a more open society. He may yet be astonished, as will the rest of us, at what
comes out of the Pandora's box that he has just opened. Marx and Lenin never thought of
And yet, despite this incredible and unpredictable flux of socio-political-economic change, we
still characterize our global adversaries as "the evil empire," adopting a fixed policy of threat, and
hostility, refusing to communicate, and "digging in" for a long siege of more of the same --
aiming nine-thousand strategic warheads at this opponent, and preparing to add several thousand
more to that number. (4)
Just what is this "Soviet Union" which we thus threaten to obliterate? We mean, variably, a land
mass, the political leadership thereof, and the military and strategic forces under the control of
that leadership. What we tend to forget is that the "Soviet Union" also refers to a society of two
hundred and seventy million human beings, with a history, with traditions, with a rich culture,
and anticipating a future -- in short, a society of persons with both private and public lives. And
what is our government's posture toward this community of human persons? George Kennan's
indictment is scathing and eloquent:
This endless series of distortions and oversimplifications; this systematic dehumanization of the leadership of another great country; this routine exaggeration of Moscow's
military capabilities and of the supposed iniquity of Soviet intentions this monotonous
misrepresentation of the nature and the attitudes of another great people -- and a
long-suffering people at that, sorely tried by the vicissitudes of this past century; this
ignoring of their pride, their hopes, yes, even of their illusions (for they have their
illusions, just as we have ours; and illusions, too, deserve respect); this reckless
application of the double standard to the judgment of Soviet conduct and our own; this
failure to recognize, finally, the commonality of many of their problems and ours as we
both move inexorably into the modern technological age; and this corresponding
tendency to view all aspects of the relationship in terms of a supposed total and irreconcilable conflict of concerns and of aims: these, believe me, are not the marks of the
maturity and discrimination one expects of the diplomacy of a great power; they are the
marks of an intellectual primitivism and naivete unpardonable in a great government. (5)
While a moral perspective might permit one side to be morally indignant at the other, it does not
allow one to lose sight of the humanity of the adversary. Yet, over the years, strategic nuclear
policy has tended to forget that, in "resisting Soviet aggression," we are threatening the lives and
welfare of two-hundred and seventy million human beings, not to mention the lives and welfare
of two-hundred and twenty million of our fellow citizens. A respect for the lives, welfare and
liberties of persons is essential to the moral point of view. But not, apparently, to "strategic
The moral point of view is inherently systemic and
rule oriented. As any student who has
encountered such moral puzzles as "the prisoner's dilemma" and "the tragedy of the commons"
can attest, the "moral whole" is more than the aggregate sum of its individual ego-parts. A few
years ago, President Reagan seemed, for a moment, to sense this when asked about his intentions
to resume arms reductions talks. He replied, "it takes two to tango." True enough! And yet, we
appear to have become so engrossed in our own "steps" that we have lost sight of the "tango."
For instance, we insist, in effect, that we must first "overtake the [alleged] Soviet lead" before we
engage in arms limitation talks, so that we may "bargain from strength." Removed from it's
context, that position has the minimal merit of being logically coherent. But once we return to
the "stage" of conflict, we find that the Soviets make the same demand. In fact, on virtually the
same day (June 16, 1983), Secretary of State Schultz, and his counterpart, Andrei Gromyko, gave
"mirror image" demands of each other. (6) Once we step outside our own role, and view the
conflict as a whole (i.e., the "tango"), we encounter a simultaneous insistence of "no advantage,
no negotiations," and that collective stance
is logically inconsistent with negotiations. So long as
both sides hold to that position, they are locked in a "tragedy" in a classical sense; described by
Whitehead as a "solemnity of the remorseless working of things." (7)
This tragedy follows
inexorably from a failure of both sides to "take a moral point of view" -- their failure to view the
problem from the perspective, not of an interested participant of the contest (the "agent"), but of a
disinterested spectator viewing the systemic whole. This failure -- this adoption of a reductive
"agent perspective" -- is but another aspect of "moral myopia."
Focusing upon their respective roles in the strategic drama, each side confines its attention to its
own interests, and to the threats of the "opponent" to those interests. They view each other as
"competitors" in a contest -- a "tug of war" conflict, whereby every gain for one side is a loss for
the other. But, as Richard Barnett asks, do we really make ourselves more secure by making our
adversary less secure? Is this the only way for the great powers to deal with each other?
Well-ordered societies and systems of morality are devised to replace competition with
cooperation -- zero- and minus-sum games with plus sum games. (8)
If, by viewing the global
struggle from the point of view of a detached observer, we find over-reaching common problems
that overwhelm the subsidiary disputes -- problems that might best be faced, perhaps
faced, through negotiation and cooperation, our perspective may change radically, and we will
regard the "zero-sum" assessment to be wildly inappropriate. Well, we have that common
problem: survival -- a point made even more conspicuous by the emergence of the prospect of
"nuclear winter." And we have a common enemies: our mutual distrust, technological
imperatives, and entropy -- the constant tendency for complex systems (e.g., high-technology
communications systems and weapons) to unravel.
MORAL DOGMATISM AND SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS
The view of the Soviet Union that prevails today in large portions of our
government and journalistic establishments [is] so extreme, so subjective,
so far removed from what any sober scrutiny of external reality would
reveal, that it is not only ineffective but dangerous as a guide to political
George Kennan (9)
"The greatest of faults," it has been said, "is to be conscious of none." Are the strategic planners
of this Administration guilty of such a fault? Consider the following exchange, at a recent Senate
Foreign Relations Committee hearing, between Senator Alan Cranston and Secretary of State,
Cranston: Can you tell us what the United States, for its part, has done to contribute
to the tension that exists between the United States and the Soviet Union.
Schultz: Nothing! [The complete response]. (10)
And there is more. Consider also Robert Scheer's report of a conversation with Eugene Rostow:
"When I . . . asked [Rostow] if he believed that the Soviet Union had any legitimate grievances
against the United States, he replied, 'None whatever.'" (11)
Recall too, President Reagan's
observation that "the Soviet Union underlies all the unrest that is going on" in the world, and his
remark before the evangelical ministers at Disney World, earlier this Spring, that the Soviet
Union is "the focus of evil in the world" and "the Evil Empire." (12)
Perhaps most ominously, we hear from the Secretary of Defense, Casper Weinberger, that:
The Soviets . . . know perfectly well that we will never launch a first strike. And all of
their attacks, and all of their preparations I should say, all of their acquisitions in the
military field in the last few years --have been offensive in character. (13)
But do the Soviets "know perfectly well that we will never launch a first strike"? How does
Weinberger know that they "know" this? Let's try to look at it from their point of view. The US
is introducing, with the MX, a weapon which, due to its vulnerability and accuracy, makes sense
only as a "counterforce" weapon (i.e., targeted against opposing missiles), and "counterforce"
means, virtually by definition, "first strike" (otherwise there is not "force" to strike, only empty
silos). (14) Why, then, the MX? Either we are building it "sensibly" for a first strike, or we are
building it "senselessly" as a result of a "technological-industrial" imperative. I happen to believe
the latter. (Recall what the engineers said about the SST project a decade ago: "But it's the state
of the art," and "you can't stop progress!"). (15)
But should we expect the Soviets literally to stake
their lives on such a belief in our wastefulness and irrationality? In addition to all this, we have a
President and his cabinet (including Weinberger) talking about "survivable," even a "winable"
nuclear warfare. If Weinberger, and his associates, believe that the Soviets "know" that we will
not strike first, and if, in fact, they do not "know" this, then this fundamental misunderstanding
places us all in grave peril.
Try a thought experiment: Imagine the following utterances from the wall of the Kremlin, during
a May Day celebration:
"American leaders. . . have to choose between peacefully changing their capitalist
system . . . or going to war."
"The USSR should plan to defeat the US and to do so at a cost that would not
prohibit our recovery. . . Victory or defeat in nuclear war is possible, and such a
war may have to be waged to that point. . ." [We can survive a nuclear war], "Japan, after all, not only survived but flourished
after a nuclear attack."
Had we heard such things, we would have been justly alarmed. But these words, with the name
and reference to the powers reversed, were uttered by senior officials in the Reagan
Another quiz: who said this?
Our land-based missiles are becoming vulnerable to attack. The other side is
seeking to obtain an increase in its strategic nuclear arsenal relative to our own. If
they should start a nuclear war, we would be forced to retaliate in kind. (17)
The allegation of a 'lag" which [our adversaries claim they] must close is a
deliberate untruth... We will be compelled to counter [their] challenge by
deploying corresponding weapons systems of our own. . . (18)
The remarks, respectively by Marshal Ogarkov and President Andropov, are identical in form, if
opposite in reference, to remarks by Secretary Weinberger and President Reagan. It is difficult,
at times, to tell the players without a scorecard.
It is, of course, the business of the strategic planners, to understand just what is on the minds of
the Soviet leaders. However, the pronouncements of Schultz and Weinberger, quoted above, give
us little confidence to believe that our planners are minding their business. Believing, as they
apparently do, that they have made no moral errors, that they are in no way responsible for
international tension, and that the Soviets act out of ruthless guile and villainy, but never out of a
sense of "legitimate grievance" or misapprehension of our motives, they are quite unable to
understand the thought processes of their adversaries. Moreover, this moral self-absolution and concomitant attribute of total blame upon the other side, provides unpromising prospects for
fruitful negotiation and accommodation. In short, the Administration seems to perceive the
global strategic encounter between the great powers, not as a contest between competing political
alliances and economic interests, but as a holy war.
Of this list of myths and fallacies of strategic thinking that we have reviewed, perhaps the
psychologically governing error is that of self-righteousness, for that failing closes off the
possibility of finding error in one's own point of view, or of recognizing justification or common
interest in the adversary's position. Self-righteousness excuses the enlistment of fallacy in
defense of the dominating mythologies and dogmas from rival ideas, rational challenge and
review, and from revision and alteration. For all that it is, unfortunately, a politically formidable
posture, in that it lends uncritical legitimacy to the government in power and stifles critical
dissent by directing public energy and attention toward the presumed "threat" from the "other
The "self righteousness" and "moral dogmatism" that we have just examined exemplifies what
some philosophers characterize as "bewitchment" (19) -- a confinement of the mind by means of
such conceptual apparatus as myths, paradigms, "frames of reference," or "language games."
Such "bewitchment" constrains and confines the conceptual viewpoint, the options and the
judgment of an individual or community by rendering them unwilling, even incapable, of
acknowledging (much less analyzing) the presuppositions of their thought, their vocabulary of
concepts, the structure of their thinking, or the fundamental frames of reference from which they
"reach out" to encounter and evaluate the world of their experience and activity. "Moral
dogmatism," in other words, is a "fixation of belief" in the realm of morality.
A TURN TOWARD SURVIVAL
For nearly forty years, both contestants in the global arena have persisted in their arms race and
their escalating belligerence, apparently oblivious to the fact that this behavior has utterly failed
to bring about the desired result of capitulation of the adversary at best, or at the very least,
mutual security. Persistence in these policies has only compounded the failure thereof -- a
response known to abnormal psychology as "compulsion neurosis." Surely it is past time to try a
Gregory Kavka has clearly indicated this direction: "a solution to the balance of terror," he
writes, "must be achieved by . . . changing U.S. and Soviet perceptions of each other and
gradually building mutual trust between the two nations and their governments." (20)
How are we
to do this? First, we take deliberate steps to avoid even the appearance of aggressive intent, all
the while keeping our defensive powder dry. Recently, we have done just the opposite. For
instance, both sides have managed to excite mutual suspicions and to tighten the trip wires to
disaster by (a) multiplying warheads on single missiles ("MIRVing"), (b) increasing the accuracy
of the missiles, and (c) decreasing warning time by moving intermediate missiles "up front."
How, then, do we get the genie back into the bottle? The moral philosopher, following Rawls,
might urge that both parties move deliberately toward a "well-ordered" framework for
communication and accommodation. The ordered strategy is first to convince ourselves of the
seemingly obvious truth that a successful surprise first strike is insane to attempt, virtually
impossible to accomplish, (21) and, in view of the "nuclear winter," quite possibly suicidal, even if
"totally successful." Accordingly, we must stop talking and acting as if we thought otherwise.
Second, the Soviets must be similarly convinced (if they are not already). But this is just the
beginning, for now, and thirdly, each must know that the other knows of the insanity and
impossibly of an attempted surprise first strike, and finally, in both cases, X must know that Y
knows that X has this crucial understanding. (Lest we get lost in these proliferating logical
orders, it simply amounts to this: mutual knowledge of innocent intent, and the mutual
acknowledgment of that knowledge, is the basis of a well-ordered, and therefore secure
association. Because such a condition exists between ourselves and the British, we are quite
unperturbed by the thought that just one of their nuclear submarines could conceivably kill
millions of our citizens).
This "defusing" of the "first-strike threat" is but a stark example of a general path that may be
taken toward a civil, even amicable, association. This hopeful resolution of our deadly encounter
must be pursued through communication, gestures of mutual respect, and an innumerable series
of small transactions (economic, scholarly, scientific, and so forth) leading to a "habit of trust."
This may seem visionary, even utopian. But is it? International alliances and enmities are
written in sand. In forty years, our "valiant allies" have become "the Soviet menace," against
which we and our former enemies have formed an alliance. Within this alliance against the
"despotic communists" we have welcomed the support of the Somozas, Pinochets, Marcoses and
Bothas and have justified this policy with Jesuitical distinctions between "totalitarianism"
(unacceptable) and "authoritarianism" (tolerable). Alliances, of course, are born of perceived
necessity. But what greater necessity faces us than that of avoiding the final holocaust? A
policy of accommodation such as I have suggested here will, of course, be burdened with
uncertainty and risk. But that risk can not begin to compare with risk we face today: twenty
thousand strategic nuclear warheads poised and ready for firing, restrained only by the presumed
sanity of several hundred military officers and by the quality control and redundant "fail safe"
mechanisms of a few giant computers.
While wars are waged with weapons, peace is secured through communication, patience and
wisdom. And while our arsenals are overstocked, our supply of insights and wisdom is pitiably
small. Thus we are far more likely to be destroyed, not by one side's misperception of the other's
military strength and will, but by the inflation by each side of its own moral status, and by the
devaluation by each side of the other's moral worth. Why don't the leaders of the Great Powers
acknowledge this? Because, perhaps, they are incapable of exercising the moral courage and
will necessary to acknowledge fallibility and error on their own part, and to concede at least some
merit and value in their adversaries.
This failure of will, insight and candor, rests, I suspect, upon deep psychological and historical
roots. Thus we find in history a virtually instinctive and automatic preference for force and
violence over conciliation and accommodation -- even when the price of accommodation may
be minuscule compared to the cost of confrontation. Why is this? Perhaps, in part, because force
may be prompted by a desire to obliterate the perceived evil in others -- a desire which overrides
a willingness to adopt a posture of accommodation and conciliation, whereby one might be
obliged to examine and perhaps acknowledge the evil and error within oneself. Quite possibly
governments, as well as individuals, often prefer to risk annihilation rather than admit fault,
ignorance and error.
Such reluctance displays a lesser courage and a diminutive intelligence. On the other hand,
applied virtue, in this case humility, can display both good politics and sound reasoning. An
admission of error and a concession to one's adversary, presents an invitation and an opportunity
for a response in kind (not unknown in the history of Soviet-American relations). (22)
humility and the admission of error and ignorance by one contestant may be literally "disarming"
-- a unilateral act that makes way for bilateral accommodation and cooperation. By this means,
confession may not only be good for the soul, it may also be the means for preserving one's skin.
And the remarkable thing about this process is that neither side need look to the other before
putting the right foot forward. The "game" proceeds, tit-for-tat, with alternating gestures and acts
of accommodation and conciliation, so long as each step is met with reciprocating concession
and good faith. If both parties genuinely desire disarmament and accommodation, this process
of reciprocating concession is not only effective it is demonstrably rational -- according to the
mathematics of game theory. (23)
In the course of this paper, I have argued that the grave danger facing human civilization is, to a
large extent, the result of a failure of reason, and of a lack of moral perspective among the
leadership of the great powers. That failure of reason is manifest in conceptual confusion and
equivocation, inappropriate action under uncertainty, bewitchment by fallacy and myth,
unquestioning acceptance of dubious and unanalyzed presuppositions, and plain invalid
inference. The shortcoming of moral perspective is displayed in historical myopia (i.e., a failure
to view political and strategic problems in the context of continuing processes through time and
generations), in ethnic myopia (a failure to consider the rights and interests of the members of
our common species, much less of those residing in the adversary nations), and in a grounding of
policy upon threat, conflict and ideological difference, rather than the contestants' broader arena
of common purpose, common interest, and common humanity.
Have we a chance? Given the stakes, there is neither epistemological warrant nor moral excuse
to abandon hope and a determined effort to avoid apocalypse. Human history displays a series of
improbable yet timely responses to grave peril. Communal and eventually national experience
bespeaks a universal human progress toward Hobbesian accommodation. Outside of prisons
and asylums, there are few individuals in the state of nature. From families, to clans, to villages,
cities, to nations, Hobbesian accommodation has grown concomitantly with
communication, commerce and power. There remains one final state of nature: that which now
exists among nations. We must work diligently to bring that final anarchy under the rule of law,
and the perspective of moral community. We must do so as if our very lives depended on it -- for
surely they do.
Copyright 1986, by Ernest Partridge
Earlier and briefer versions of this paper were presented at a seminar of the Institute of
Behavioral Science, University of Colorado, September 12, 1984, and at the annual
meeting of the Second International Social Philosophy Conference, Colorado Springs,
August 10, 1985.
Robert Jay Lifton and Richard Falk, Indefensible Weapons, New York: Basic Books,
1982, pp. 128-9.
Regarding the Philosopher's contribution to nuclear policy analysis, Nigel Blake and Kay
Deterrence theory is concerned with the actions and reactions of supposedly
rational people. Philosophers spend much of their time analyzing the concept of
rationality and have pertinent criticisms to make of the way in which it is treated
in deterrence theory. Secondly, Deterrence in practice involves careful
interpretation of political situations, diplomatic signals, and deployments of
weapons. The methodology of interpretation is in part a philosophical concern...
Much] current political interpretation is of a dangerously poor quality. Thirdly,
national defense policy must be predicated on particular views of the West's real
interests and the duties of allies to each other; questions about duties and real
interests, and about what does or does not advance of fulfil them, are also
philosophical questions... Attention to the quality of argument is no less
important than attention to facts... [In] the areas just mentioned -- resolution of
paradoxes, analysis of rationality, political interpretation and discussion of duties
and interests -- unearthing new facts has little relevance. Deeper philosophical
analysis is called for, and this has been noticeably lacking.
"Introduction: A Skeptical Look at the Nuclear Debate," in Blake and Pole (eds),
Dangers of Deterrence, Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1983, p. 2.
The term appears often in the literature (cf.
The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, The New
York Review of Books, etc.). My immediate source is Henry Kissinger, in the ABC
Nightline discussion of the Television Film, "The Day After," November 20, 1983
(transcript, p. 5).
"Three Main Fallacies in Discussions of Nuclear Weapons," in Nigel Black and Kay Pole
(eds), Dangers of Deterrence, London and Boston: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1983, p.
Personal conversation with the author.
Nigel Calder notes that "the budget of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency
... is less than half of what the U.S. Defense Department spends on military bands."
Nuclear Nightmares, Viking, 1979, p. 158.
President Reagan's address to the nation, March 23, 1983.
For a sampling of scientific responses to Reagan's proposal, see
The Bulletin of the
Atomic Scientists, June/July, 1983, pp. 4-8.
Office of Technology Assessment, US Government Printing Office, March 1979,
pp. 114-5. (Hereafter, "OTA").
Ambio, XI:2-3, 1982, p. 162.
OTA, pp. 112-4.
Daniel Ford, Henry Kendall, Steven Nadis,
Beyond the Freeze: The Road to Nuclear
Sanity, Boston: Beacon Press, 1982, p. 76.
This presumption is reflected in the term "policy science," popular two decades ago. See
Daniel Bell, The End of Ideology, Theodore Roszak (ed), The Dissenting Academy, New
York: Vintage, 1968, and Lawrence Tribe, "Policy Science: Analysis or Ideology?",
Philosophy and Public Affairs, 2:1 (Fall, 1972).
"Mr. Reagan's Nuclear Strategy," The Center Magazine, November/December, 1982, p. 19.
ABC News Nightline, transcript, p. 4.
"Mutual Deterrence or Mutual Suicide,"
Science, 223 (24 February, 1984), p. 775.
Quoted in Anne Ehrlich, "Nuclear Winter...."
Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, April,
1984, p. 115.
ABC News Nightline, April 10, 1984, Transcript, p. 4.
Quoted in "Nuclear Winter," Calypso Log, March, 1984.
"The Talk of the Town," The New Yorker, May 13, 1972. As with all such columns, the
name of the author was not disclosed (notwithstanding my written request to the
publishers for that name). However, the content and style strongly suggest the work of
Jonathan Schell, then, as now, a member of the New Yorker staff.
New York: A. Knopf, 1982. This conclusion is also argued in my "Why Care About the
Future," in Partridge (ed), Responsibilities to Future Generations, Buffalo: Prometheus
As of April, 1982, the exact number was 9,552. Soviet Warheads totaled 7800. (The
New York Times, April 2, 1982). These numbers were confirmed by the Stockholm Peace
Research Institute report, The Arms Race and Arms Control, 1982, and The Center for
Defense Information, "U.S. - USSR Strategic Nuclear Forces," 1982.
"On Nuclear War," New York Review of Books, January 21, 1982.
New York Times Moscow Correspondent, John F. Burns, used that very term "mirror
image." Reporting on Mr. Gromyko's speech before the Supreme Soviet, Burns writes:
"In substance the address seemed in many ways like a mirror image of Secretary
of State George P Schultz's statement to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Wednesday, with Mr. Gromyko depicting Washington as the cause of the impasse
in arms control. . ." Continuing, Burns reported that [Premier Yuri Andropov]
"hinted that the Kremlin was ready to increase arms expenditures still higher if the
Reagan Administration continued to shun "peaceful coexistence." (New York
Times, June 16, 1983).
Science in the Modern World, New York: Mentor, 1948, p 17. Cf., Garrett Hardin, "The
Tragedy of the Commons," Science, Vol. 162, (13 December, 1968), p. 1244.
The philosophical literature devoted to these ideas is enormous, extending through Locke,
Rousseau and Hobbes back to Aristotle. The most influential modern statements are by
John Rawls (A Theory of Justice) and Kurt Baier (The Moral Point of View). The best
brief statement of the systemic-contextualist approach to morality that I have encountered
is by Michael Scriven, in the final chapter of his Primary Philosophy, New York:
McGraw Hill, 1966.
In an address to the Naval War College (June 25, 1982), Weinberger admits only one
possible source of a war: i.e., war "forced on us by an aggressor." He does not include a
large number of other possible causes. Jerrold R. Zacharias, Myles Gordon, Saville R.
Davis, "Common Sense and Nuclear Peace," Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, 39:4
(April, 1983), pp 5-6.
This excerpt broadcast on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" (and recorded
by the author), June 16, 1983, the day of the hearing.
Robert Scheer, With Enough Shovels, Random House, 1982, p. 44.
Cf. The Wall Street Journal, June 3, 1980. The "Disney World remark" is recalled from
memory. Such observations did not, however, originate with this administration.
Recently, former President Richard Nixon wrote: "It may seem melodramatic to say that
the US and Russia represent Good an Evil, Light and Darkness, God and the Devil. But
if we think of it that way, it helps to clarify our perspective of the world struggle."[!!]
(Parade, October 5, 1980).
On the television interview program, "Meet the Press," March 27, 1983.
Herbert Scoville, Jr. writes: "A vulnerable missile which threatens opposing missiles is
only an advertisement of intention to use it in a first strike. thus the MX is only an
invitation engraved in American gold for the Soviets to attack us first." "Confrontation is
Only a Prescription for Nuclear disaster," The Center Magazine, November/December,
See again, the quotation by Ford, Kendall and Nadis, cited in note 10, above.
The remarks were made, in turn, by Administration advisors: Richard Pipes (The
Washington Post, March 29, 1981. See also Pipes' article "Soviet Global Strategy,"
Commentary, April, 1980), Colin Gray and Keith Payne ("Victory is Possible,"
Policy, Summer, 1980), and Eugene Rostow, formerly the Director of the Arms Control
and Disarmament Agency (Confirmation Hearings, Committee on Foreign Relations,
United States Senate, June 22-23, 1981).
Marshall Nikolai V. Ogarkov (then Chief of the Soviet General Staff), paraphrased by
Theodore Draper, in "On Nuclear War: An Exchange with the Secretary of Defense,"
New York Review of Books, August 18,1984, p. 32.
Quoted in Soviet Military Power, U. S. Department of Defense, Washington, DC: US
Government Printing Office, 1983.
Of course, I have Wittgenstein and Kuhn primarily in mind here.
"Deterrence, Utility, and Rational Choice," Theory and Decision, 12 (1980), p. 60.
And why is this so? Just consider the logistics. Such a strike must involve the utilization
of thousands of individuals, tens of thousands of pieces of equipment, and millions of
working parts, with perfect communication and coordination, split second timing, and
absolute secrecy. For if the other side gained even a partial hint of what was going on,
the attempt would have to be aborted -- or, worse yet, the other side would be tempted to
"pre-empt the pre-emption." (Would none of the thousands involved in the preparations
for the surprise attack be tempted to "blow the cover" if only to avert the pending
catastrophe? Would all be totally committed to the scheme?) The interesting feature of
this speculation is that one need not be an "expert" to come to a realization of the
practical impossibility of a successful pre-emptive attack. Simple common sense
suffices, and technical knowledge about megatonnage and accuracy, about intelligence information, etc., is quite superfluous. And yet, this incredible improbability of a "bolt
from the blue" surprise attach is the spectre which we call "the window of vulnerability"
which has led to our development of missiles with "house address accuracy." For
informed confirmation of this, see A. G. B. Metcalfe, Strategic Review, Spring, 1983.
Russell Hardin, "Contracts, Promises and Arms control,"
Bulletin of the Atomic
Scientists, October, 1984, pp. 14-7. Hardin cites the case of Kennedy's unilateral
cessation of atmospheric tests, followed by Khrushchev's agreement to do likewise and to
cease production of strategic bombers. The Limited Test Ban Treaty was signed later, in
August, 1963. Earlier, the Russian's withdrawal of missiles from Cuba was followed,
after a "discrete interval" by the removal of America missiles from Turkey, though this
was not part of the "Cuba bargain." Finally, the provisions of the SALT I agreement,
formally lapsed in 1977, are still being observed by both sides, as are the provisions of the
unratified SALT II agreement. Hardin suggests that in the context of "cooperative
reciprocating disarmament," format treaties may be unnecessary, and might even be
positive hindrances to the process.
According to Axelrod and Hamilton, "Tit-For-Tat" (i.e., reciprocating individual acts of
mutual advantage) is, within certain parameters, the most stable strategy for the evolution
of cooperation and altruism in nature, and the most rational resolution of the classical trap
of "the prisoner's dilemma." Robert Axelrod and William D. Hamilton, "The Evolution of
Cooperation," Science, 211, (27 March, 1981), pp. 1390-6.