Ways to turn back the nuclear tide
From an address by a former US diplomat and a long-time analyst of US-Soviet affairs on the occasion of his receiving the Grenville Clark Prize at Dartmouth College last month.
The recent growth and gathering strength of the antinuclear-war movement here and in Europe is to my mind the most striking phenomenon of this beginning decade of the 1980s. It is all the more impressive because it is so extensively spontaneous. It has already achieved dimensions which will make it impossible for the respective governments to ignore it. It will continue to grow until something is done to meet it.
This movement against nuclear armaments and nuclear war may be ragged and confused and disorganized; but at the heart of it lie some very fundamental, reasonable, and powerful motivations: among them a growing appreciation by many people for the true horrors of a nuclear war; a determination not to see their children deprived of life, and their civilization destroyed by a holocaust of this nature; and finally, as Grenville Clark said, a very real exasperation with their governments for the rigidity and traditionalism that causes those governments to ignore the fundamental distinction between conventional weapons and the weapons of mass destruction and prevents them from finding, or even seriously seeking, ways of escape from the fearful trap into which the nuclear ones are leading us.
Such considerations are not the reflections of communist propaganda. They are not the products of some sort of timorous neutralism. They are the expression of a deep instinctive insistence, if you don't mind, on sheer survival - on survival as individuals, as parents, and as members of a civilization.
What is involved for us in the effort to turn these things around is a fundamental and extensive change in our prevailing outlooks on a number of points, and an extensive re-structuring of our entire defense posture.
What would this change consist of?
We would have to begin by accepting the validity of two very fundamental appreciations. The first is that there is no issue at stake in our political relations with the Soviet Union - no hope, no fear, nothing to which we aspire, nothing we would like to avoid - which could conceivably be worth a nuclear war, which could conceivably justify the resort to nuclear weaponry. And the second is that there is no way in which nuclear weapons could conceivably be employed in combat that would not involve the possibility - and indeed the prohibitively high probability - of escalation into a general nuclear disaster.
If we can once get these two truths into our heads, then the next thing we shall have to do is to abandon the option of the first use of nuclear weapons in any military encounter.
We might, so long as others retained such weapons, have to retain them ourselves for purposes of deterrence and reassurance to our people. But we could no longer rely on them for any positive purpose even in the case of reverses on the conventional battlefield; and our forces would have to be trained and equipped accordingly.
But there is something else, too, that will have to be altered, in my opinion , if we are to move things around and take a more constructive posture. . . . I find the view of the Soviet Union that prevails today in our governmental and journalistic establishments 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 action.
And we shall not be able to turn these things around as they should be turned , on the plane of military and nuclear rivalry, until we learn to correct these childish distortions - until we correct our tendency to see in the Soviet Union only a mirror in which we look for the reflection of our own superior virtue - until we consent to see there another great people, one of the world's greatest, in all its complexity and variety, embracing the good with the bad - a people whose life, whose views, whose habits, whose fears and aspirations, are the products, just as ours are the products, not of any inherent iniquity but of the relentless discipline of history, tradition and national experience.
Above all, we must learn to see the behavior of the leadership of that people as partly a reflection of our own treatment of it. Because if we insist on demonizing these Soviet leaders - on viewing them as total and incorrigible enemies, consumed only with their fear or hatred of us and dedicated to nothing other than our destruction - that, in the end, is the way we shall assuredly have them, if for no other reason than that our view of them allows for nothing else, either for us or for them.