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John Silber’ Roger Shattuck ,01 A Counter-proposal, Charges, and Contention Dr. John Silber, chairman of the University of Texas department of philosophy and chairman, also, of the Texas society for the abolition of capital punishment, followed Roger Shattuck on the program during the spring discussion of the arms race at the University of Texas and proposed that the United States “engage in quite irresponsible activity” to frighten the Russians into accepting inspection on Soviet territory and other reversals of the arms race. Some of the several hundred students and professors who had gathered for the forum then threw themselves into intense contention about what one called Shattuck’s “better red than dead” philosophy and what another charged that Silber’s position bordered on, “cultural paranoia.” Silber agreed with Shattuck that modern man is sick and that there are probably technological forces at work that are not under the control of our country. In his work against capital punishment and against present national policy which “makes it fantastically profitable to engage in narcotics on an illicit level,” Silber said, he had become vividly aware of irrational elements in public and official attitudes. He thought that the stockholders and managers of such companies as Boeing and General Dynamics to a large degree “control our foreign policy” and very much want our industrial output to be allocated “largely their way.” “How can we get control?” Silber asked. “The mechanisms for this, we need desperately to discover. . . . We don’t think of that book that will be written in 2050, how the military and industrial forces moved to independence from the society, and it all ended in a fantastic cataclysm.” He said the urgency of the situation is caused by the rising possibility of nuclear accidents and by the emergence, as possible nuclear powers, of such nations as China, which would “like nothing better than to get rid of three-fifths of its population.” Therefore, he said, “It is extremely important that we get rid of nuclear arms as rapidly as possible.” But not unilaterally, he said. He argued that the U.S. proved its good faith by not engaging in a war of deterrence ‘against Russia when, after World War II, it was in a position to do so, but, he said, the Russians, letting Germans slaughter Poles toward the end of World War II, walling off West Germany, suppressing the Hungarian revolt, have given us substantial grounds for supposing that they would not show such moral forebearance toward a disarmed U.S. Therefore, Silber said, the rational course appears irrational: “I think we should like Hamlet appear to be mad,” acting dangerously and irresponsibly to frighten the Soviets and give them something to gain by coming to terms with us. We should, Silber said, “show them how risky it is to trust the U.S.” Shattuck rejoined that this “might drive the Russians over the line that’s holding them now. . . . What they would be scared of would be of our using atomic weapons first. The only answer to that would be to use theirs first.” Silber asked, though, which was more dangerous, his proposal for “the appearance of intractability,” or prolongation of the present arms race in which the risk of accidental war continues to grow. At two points, Shattuck was asked whether, if the U.S. disarmed unilaterally, Russia would not move in on Berlin, and then New York. “We would lose militarily and tactically in certain ways, none of us know how many,” he replied. “They’re the lesser risks, they’re not a total risk, but loss of territory. As long as we’re all alive, there’s a chance of coming through.” Addressing a student who had excitedly suggested the Chinese would take over our factories, Shattuck said the student assumed immediate occupation; but that if this happened, he would count on every person present to resist. “You’re going to lose your right to protest,” the student said. “I’d rather fight that battle than have no battle at all to fight,” Shattuck responded. Victor Emanuel of Houston, a graduate student in political science, said Shattuck was actually taking the position that it would be better to let the Russians take over than to go on with present risks. Emanuel said, “We could reduce tensions. It is in the interests of Russians to cut down the spread of nuclear weapons. There are rational arguments to present to the Russians.” Emanuel saw no reason to risk dangers in either Shattuck’s or Silber’s direction. Silber responded that the student was taking the risks of accidental war less seriously than Silber did. Shattuck said he would have agreed with Emanuel three months ago, but had concluded that the student’s position was really a diversion from the real situation. “I don’t think any of these small measures are enough,” he said. “I don’t think you solve problems in international affairs,” Emanuel said. “That’s o.k. back before the atomic bomb not now,” Shattuck answered. Houston Wade of Austin advanced, against Silber, questions whether there really is so much difference between the U.S. and Russia. “Is there an essential difference in these two cultures that drives us to catastrophe? . . . [This] borders on cultural paranoia. Whatever we’re buying, is it worth, is it effectively established by, the difference between us? Is there some ideological difference? Are we both humane societies and civilized enough to reach a humane agreement at the conference table? We are the ones that have rejected international agreements at Berlin. We are the ones who have rejected agreements,” Wade said. Silber said the Russians want to put us out of Berlin, and built the wall. As against what he called “a simple countryboy desire for peace,” Silber said, “I do make a difference in the way I assess the relative outlook of the two countries.” Black and white? asked Wade. No, but evaluations of relative differences, Silber replied. “I’ll admit they are a darker shade than we are. How extreme is the shade?” Wade asked. “In considerable amount of good faith exhibited by the U.S. and an incredibly little by the Soviet Union,” Silber replied. Shattuck put in, “I don’t think you can make anyone rational by acting irrationally.” He thought Russia had acted, in test ban negotiations, in bad faith for acted in good faith, “maybe by accident, just then we began acting in bad faith.” A professor down front made the point against Silber, “How many people do we tell we’re only play acting? How do we contain our own congress?” Shattuck told Silber, “If you would say we will make every kind of response but we will renounce the use of nuclear weapons, I would go along with you.” Asking only “if the Soviet Union would be satisfied with that,” Silber said, “I’d be willing to hold our land forces and have nuclear weapons become unnecessary.” On this illusory note of agreement, the passionate discussion subsided. June 28, 1963 5