ustxtxb_obs_1980_02_01_50_00009-00000_000.pdf

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In this article David Rie.man carries on the tradition of the foes of nuclear weaponS development in the 1950s, who, in the words of their antagonist Edward Teller, the “father of the hydrogen bomb, objected to his projects “merely on literal grounds.” Riesman’s essay inaugurates a series continuing the contemplation of issues for the future begun in our 25th anniversary issue \(Obs., Dec. By David Riesman Cambridge, Massachusetts The overriding issue for me since 1945 has been control of nuclear weapons. I judge all policies, foreign and domesticand in the United States the two cannot be disentangledin terms of the degree to which they increase or decrease the vulnerability of humankind to destruction through the proliferation of nuclear weapons and a nuclear war. Judged in these terms, the decade just ended was a terrible one. The partial Test Ban Treaty was signed in 1963. at the height of the antinuclear weapons movement in the U.S. who have come of age politically since then, especially today’s college students, seem not to have had nightmares about nuclear destruction. Such nightmares were common,nleed almost universal, among sensitive undergraduates in the 1960s. Since nuclear catastrophe has not occurred, it does not seem to be a salient issue for most young, politically involved people. Students, to the extent that they have political concerns, focus on civilian nuclear power, which poses a minor hazard compared to the planetdestroying potential of nuclear weapons. The specter of nuclear war lay behind my own anxiety concerning Vietnam, an anxiety that originated in 1954 when the United States failed to sign the Geneva Accords and our foreign policy was dominated by the self-righteousness and Cold War outlook of John Foster Dulles. My fears were heightened when Presi dent John F. Kennedy came into office with his fallacious talk of a “missile gap” \(at a time when the Soviet Union had less than half a dozen ICBMs capable of to send to Vietnam first advisers, then counter-insurgency troops. I feared both the possibility of nuclear conflict and the consequences of the actual intervention, which came to involve the use of the frightful “conventional” weapons of biological warfare. My opposition to our involvement in Vietnam was strong from the start, even though I recognized that Kennedy’s initial enterprise there was defended by administration intellettuals as an effort, in part, to get away from the inflexible Dulles doctrine of massive retaliation. This new departure required a showing that the U.S. could fight and win a counter-insurgency war without resort to nuclear weapons. But as the involvement grew and success eluded U.S. policy-makers, voices began to be heard calling for \(as one Air Force general put Stone Age, and the danger that nuclear weapons might be used grew accordingly. We must be grateful to Johnson and Nixon and Kissinger for exercising prudent restraint in this respect, whatever else we may think of them. Fighting for the development of the hydrogen bomb \(a single one of which made a flattened wasteland of the the Cold Warriors, who engineered the ouster of articulate H-bomb opponent J. Robert Oppenheimer from the American nuclear program, sought to erase the distinction between large conventional weapons and small nuclear ones \(soused the term “nukes” to refer to these allegedly minor nuclear weapons. Today. seeing the slogan “no nukes” on the bumper stickers of the cars driven by the educated elite at selective colleges, I am reminded of the struggle to maintain the vital distinction between merely dreadful conventional weapons, of the type that needlessly destroyed Dresden and Tokyo, and nuclear weapons that threaten the long-term destruction of life as we know it. “No nukes” now refers, in contrast, to the relatively minor dangers of nuclear power plants, which offer environmentalists an easy avenue of attack against corporate villains, such as utility companies. There are undoubted hazards in the civilian use of nuclear power, especially in disposal of nuclear wastes. But every serious physicist with whom I have spoken believes that even the most serious damage that might have resulted at Three Mile Island, for example, would be a local disaster but not a calamity for the planet/comparable to a major nuclear exchange. Even a relatively small number of nuclear weapons, now available in such overwhelming quantities for the major nuclear powers, is enough to make MAD \(Mutual Assured Destrucbelieves in Murphy’s Law: namely, that if anything can go wrong, it will. The point is not to minimize the hazards of peaceful use of nuclear power, but to emphasize that a far greater danger is being all but ignored. To hear Americans at the SALT II congressional hearings discuss the possibilities of a first strikein which, as one put it, we could incinerate the Soviet Unionis terrifying. Such talk is terrifying in part because it makes the Soviet Union, which already feels itself sufficiently threatened from within and without, a more dangerous adversary. Under conditions of free trade with most-favored-nation status and a greater American willingness to recognize that we must live on the same planet with this major nuclear power, as they must live with us, the danger of nuclear confrontation is lessened. Hence, I have opposed the human rights doctrine of President Jimmy Carter and all those who support that doctrine from the outset. in spite of my full recognition of the terrible conditions of life in the Soviet Union \(though because it threatens the SALT II treaty and hopes for peace. I thought we should save our threats for serious international matters, and not spend them on domestic THE TEXAS OBSERVER 9