Here follow three analyses of the continuing controversy over America’s nuclear arms policy. Ken Masugi examines the Claremont City Council’s recent foray into foreign policy-making. Wayne Thompson explores the causes for European ambivalence about the deployment of American missiles in Europe. Finally, Kevin Long reviews a collection of essays aimed at reviving the traditional Catholic doctrine of the just war.
CLAREMONT LEARNS TO LIVE WITH THE BOMB
By Ken Masugi
In the Monty Python caricature of radical politics, Life of Brian, the leader of a Judean “liberation” group challenges his revolutionaries, “What have the Romans ever done for us!” His auditors are silent, until someone tremulously whispers, “Roads. They’ve built roads.” “All right,” retorts the leader, “what have the Romans done for us, other than build roads?” Suddenly someone else adds “Schools,” and the leader rephrases his cry, to “What have the Romans done for us besides build roads and schools?” Then person after person adds Roman contributions such as medicine, laws, and so on, thus vitiating what was intended to be a battle cry.
At first glance such a collapse appears to characterize the Claremont City Council’s January 10 resolution declaring Claremont “to be a city where the development and production of nuclear weapons is unacceptable.” This resolution seemed a far cry from what had been proposed at an October 25 Council meeting by over 1,000 petitioners seeking to make Claremont a “nuclear-free zone.” (See “Reductio ad Absurdum,” The Claremont Review of Books, December, 1983.) The original enthusiasm was not for a “resolution” or expression of sentiment but for an “ordinance” that carried criminal penalties (“Drop a bomb, go to jail,” some scoffed); the original proposal professed to “oppose,” whereas the later one merely found “unacceptable,” certain dispositions of nuclear weapons; and the first bravely included “deployment” of nuclear weapons in Claremont among the proscribed and punishable acts, while the second merely disapproved of their “development and production.” In addition, the new resolution declared support for “sister cities” that would urge “their respective national governments to negotiate with each other the mutual and verifiable reduction and elimination of such weapons.”
When the original ordinance was proposed, Council members Eleanor Cohen, Gordon Curtis, and Mayor Enid Douglass supported it, with Terry Fitzgerald and Sheldon Wellins in opposition. The Council sought unanimity on the controversial issue, and the matter was turned over to a two-member subcommittee of Cohen and Wellins, who produced a resolution, which passed unanimously.
But this product of compromise met with derision from supporters of the original ordinance. “It’s such a weak and namby-pamby resolution. It’s an example of how the cold-war mentality still operates,” declared former Claremont Graduate School professor Fred Warner Neal. (See “Reductio ad Absurdum,” October, 1983.)
The “sister cities” clause was attacked as superfluous. During the final Council debate, Professor George Blair maintained that Claremont should not confuse a clearly stated demand for a nuclear-free zone with separate foreign policy considerations. Moreover, Claremont’s timid resolution-using “unacceptable” rather than “oppose”-hardly qualified it to be placed with other cities which, in Blair’s words, “were brave enough to take real action.”
One might conclude that the sponsors of the original proposal were treated almost as badly as the guerillas of The Life of Brian, though one wonders whether it is possible to satirize a law setting fines for deploying a nuclear weapon. Claremont Courier Editor Martin Weinberger suggested the action was a waste of time, given the difference between the original proposal and what actually passed. In fact, however, the Council’s resolution marks a tremendous victory for the anti-nuclear weapons movement and reveals at the same time the limits of the politics of consensus and compromise.
To note an obvious example, the opening list of “whereas” clauses in the resolution repeats the clichés of those who favor unilateral disarmament, e.g., the notion that “only when the world is a nuclear-free zone void of nuclear weapons will future generations in Claremont and the world have an opportunity to develop their own abilities to the benefit of mankind. . . .” Moreover, the agreement with disarmament and nuclear-free zone advocates extends to deeper, more troubling levels.
At the January 10 Council meeting, Professor Harry V. Jaffa pointed out that the resolution was seriously in error in comparing independent American cities with Soviet cities, whose policies are controlled by the Central Committee of the Communist Party. Thus the “sister cities” clause fails, precisely because it attempts to establish even-handedness. The very notion that an American build-up in arms is as wicked as a Soviet build-up rests on the extraordinary premise that the two nations are moral equivalents. This is to judge the means of foreign policy as though they were the ends.
Despite the softened language of the resolution, it implicitly accepts the fundamental anarchism of the nuclear-free zone movement, the constitutional absurdity that states and municipalities have the right to intervene in questions of foreign policy and can indeed nullify the decisions of the national government. Here is the old doctrine of states’ rights or nullification (originally used as the constitutional support for slavery and the “badge of servitude,” segregation), now thrust forward in yet another dubious cause.
Hence, Professor and former Claremont School Board President William B. Allen has equated the original proposed ordinance with an act of rebellion. He has compared the nuclear-free zone recommendation with the American colonists’ refusal to permit the British to quarter troops, “troops who henceforth became, along with all they stood for, the enemies of [our] forebears. . . . The message contained in the refusal to quarter troops in the American colonies was that the American colonists could not accept that their own fate and welfare could [be tied with that of the] British empire.” Of course, ordinance supporters lacked the nobility of purpose of the Founders. Supporters of either the ordinance or the “namby-pamby” resolution implicitly sanction secession or anarchy.
The nuclear-free zone movement justifies such extremes to itself, for it claims that without its triumph the human race is doomed to destroy itself. These zealots simply assume Hobbes’ premises: Mere life or survival, not any particular way of life, is the highest good. In this view politics has the ultimate end of preventing violent death. But unless men have something they are willing to die for, they have nothing to live for. A nation based on the premise that violent death is the worst evil will soon find itself enslaved, at the mercy of foreign masters. If a nuclear “catastrophe” were to occur, “the issues of tyranny . . . and of politics would have no meaning at all,” plead Rabbi Ben Beliak, a chaplain at The Claremont Colleges and supporter of the resolution. Such is the servility engendered by the Hobbesian premise of the nuclear-free zone advocates.
In an attempt to moderate extraordinary demands, the Council attempted to settle on resolution language that all would find tolerable. Consensus politics was the guiding ideal. Now certainly what is known as moderation, compromise, consensus, or “pragmatism” is the proper course concerning the majority of issues politicians face.
But in being accommodating here, the moderate wing of the Council supported the long-range goals of a radical political movement, whatever the relatively minor differences in the resolution’s language may have been. The far left simply proposed an absurd law with criminal penalties; the moderates compromised; and the result was moderate absurdity, not an approximation of reason.
In any case, as Councilwoman Fitzgerald fears, anti-nuclear weapons groups will count Claremont another volunteer in its pacifist army. Cambridge, Massachusetts, defeated a radical measure which would have banned nuclear weapons research; the Claremont version, while explicitly not proscribing such research, achieves the political goals of this movement-blaming American possession of nuclear weapons for the ills of the world. One can see Claremont becoming a model for disarmament advocates in many other communities, whatever disavowals the Council sends to anti-nuclear weapons groups.
Ironically enough, the nuclear-free zone advocates claim to be a “grass-roots” movement reflecting public concern. But those most prominent in it are from the academy, the most undemocratic institution in America (with the possible exception of the U.S. military). Driven by a low, ultimately Hobbesian view of human purposes and frustrated at not having power, elements of the academy pit themselves against the policy of the government elected by the people. Confronting us is another version of that massive town-versus-gown clash of the late Sixties, the protest movements.
The nuclear-free zone issue cannot be dealt with as though it were a question of allotting parking spaces, for it involves this nation’s fundamental political principles. Unless we understand those principles and their application, our resolve to defend our freedom will continue to atrophy. The Council’s debacle is yet another example of the practical consequences of the failure to recognize the merit of our political heritage-which demands resolute opposition to tyranny and sanctions all necessary means for doing so.
Division on the basis of principle is not pleasant for a society, for it involves the breaking of many of the useful and pleasant bonds which support community. But the most important bond of community is common commitment to a noble purpose, and of this the nuclear-free zone (read: unilateral disarmament) movement has no understanding whatsoever.
WESTERN EUROPE’S RELUCTANT SELF-DEFENSE
By Wayne C. Thompson
In 1977, before a gathering at the International Institute of Strategic Studies in London, West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt pointed to the relentless deployment of a new generation of Soviet intermediate-range nuclear forces (INF). Deadly SS-20 missiles, each carrying three warheads and with a range of 5,000 kilometers and a reload capability, were being aimed at virtually every important military and political target in Western Europe. Schmidt reminded his listeners that NATO had no land-based nuclear forces in Europe capable of reaching the Soviet Union and further noted that the SALT process had neutralized the superpowers’ strategic nuclear capabilities: “In Europe this magnifies the significance of the disparities between East and West in nuclear tactical and conventional weapons.” The Soviet Union’s INF modernization was therefore a threat to the political and military balance which, in Schmidt’s words, “is the prerequisite of our security.”
Two years later, European NATO ministers, meeting at Brussels, devised a policy for combating the Soviet arms build-up. Their plan, the so-called “two-track decision,” provided for the deployment of American Pershing II and cruise missiles in Western Europe, barring an agreement restricting the deployment of Soviet SS-20s.
The two-track decision, needless to say, was subsequently denounced by both Soviet authorities and by pacifist groups throughout Western Europe. For the Soviets, the decision represented a major roadblock to the fulfillment of their long-standing goal of decoupling the United States from Western Europe. The Soviets have never accepted the main premises of the Atlantic Alliance: that Western Europe is entitled to the same degree of security as the United States and that the U.S. has a right to treat Western Europe as an extension of American self-defense. The Soviet Union’s chief negotiator at the INF talks in Geneva, Yuli Kvitsinsky, inadvertently let this old cat out of the bag when he reportedly blurted out to his American counterpart: “You have no business in Europe!” (Time, December 5, 1983).
Western European critics of the deployment in turn cited a host of reasons to justify their opposition to the policy, all of which conveniently ignored the nature of the policy and the circumstances leading to its adoption. In blaming the United States and, more particularly, President Reagan, for the deployment decision, critics seemed to forget that the decision had initially been made by President Carter, and then only after two years of persistent lobbying by European defense authorities. Furthermore, critics, in charging that the plan was aimed at giving the U.S. a “first-strike” capability, failed to realize that the numbers, mix, and ranges of the new NATO weapons altogether precluded that possibility. The policy called for, at most, only 572 missiles, each with one warhead and no reloads. The fastest, the Pershing II, with a range of 1,800 kilometers, cannot reach Moscow, the political and military nerve center of the Soviet Union, while the cruise missiles, with a range of 2,500 kilometers, require almost three hours to reach targets within the Soviet Union.
European anxiety over the deployment of the missiles, to be sure, may well have been augmented by some loose talk in Washington during the early days of the Reagan Administration. President Reagan’s casual suggestion, in a press conference, that he could conceive of a nuclear exchange taking place between the United States and the Soviet Union outside their respective territories could easily be misinterpreted or distorted by persons having a shaky grasp of long-standing NATO defense strategy, or of the policy of deterrence. Reagan’s remarks created quite a stir in Europe even though the exchange he referred to has been theoretically possible ever since NATO’s “massive-retaliation” doctrine was supplanted by the doctrine of “flexible response” in the 1960s. Duly chastened by the uproar, Administration officials have since taken care to weigh the likely impact of their words on Europeans increasingly attentive to the possibility of nuclear war.
European opposition to the deployment, however, is surely attributable to other, more substantial causes as well. Indeed, in recent years, many of the fundamental assumptions on which the Atlantic Alliance was founded have been called into question. The consequent strains on the Alliance both contributed to the deployment controversy and hampered efforts to resolve it. They were most evident in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG), the linchpin of NATO and the only nation where Pershing IIs will be deployed.
First, whereas in former times it had been assumed that NATO attention would focus entirely on Europe and the North Atlantic, in more recent times some attention has been redirected to far distant regions. With West Germany and other Western European nations increasingly dependent on the Third World for oil and other vital commodities, the United States has insisted on occasion that they share in the burden of securing trade routes from possible Soviet interdiction. The Western European powers, however, have resisted the American promptings. With few exceptions, they lack the capacity to project significant and sustained military power outside of Europe; hence, they prefer to rely on economic and political leverage to influence developments in the Third World. Then, too, they get nervous whenever the U.S. contemplates military responses to Soviet challenges in those regions: Their great fear is that an American-Soviet conflict will spill over into Europe.
Second, while most West Germans still believe the Soviets pose the greatest threat to Western Europe, growing numbers are inclined to respond to that threat, not by vigilant defense measures, but by attempting to appease the Soviet leaders, who can always influence West German public opinion by threatening a deterioration of relations between the two governments.
Third, many West Germans no longer believe that the basic interests of their country and the United States are identical, at least in Europe. In a wide array of questions, from the timing and objectives of arms control negotiations to overall economic and political relations with the Soviet Union, cleavages between U.S. and West German interests have become apparent. From the West German point of view, for example, detente brought concrete improvements to Central Europe, and especially to Germans. They view detente as essential for contributing to long-term stability in Europe and for alleviating the human consequences of Germany’s division. Only by maintaining tolerable relations with the Soviet Union can West Germans have satisfactory relations with East Germans and prevent the door to a settlement of the “German question” from being slammed shut permanently. To West Germans, the American conviction that detente is indivisible demands far too high a price. Furthermore, they cannot accept the American view that increasing tensions with the Soviet Union are a sign that detente has failed. Instead, in their view, increasing tensions merely underscore the importance of pursuing a policy aimed at relaxing those tensions.
Fourth, West Germans now tend to question the United States’ hitherto undisputed economic, political, and military leadership of the Atlantic Alliance. The West German government has, in the past decade or so, become more independent and critical of the United States. It has been less restrained by the embarrassing German past and is now prepared to demand explicit trade-offs for its concessions. Chancellor Kohl has confidently announced to Americans, “We are equal partners.” Certainly the cliché that the FRG was an “economic giant and a political dwarf” is outdated.
West German Skepticism
Fifth, there is growing skepticism among West Germans and others over whether the United States will honor its guarantee to defend Western Europe with nuclear weapons. Such a defense has long been regarded as indispensable given the Warsaw Pact’s overwhelming superiority in conventional weapons, especially on the Central Front. America’s inclination to resort to nuclear weapons, however, has surely been diminished now that it no longer enjoys unquestioned nuclear superiority. As a result, more and more Western Europeans have come to doubt whether the U.S. would risk its survival to defend Western Europe.
The West German domestic reaction to American strategic deliberations and to the “two-track decision” reveals a paradoxical West German attitude toward American nuclear weapons. The popular fears that the U.S. was actually preparing for a nuclear war were fueled by American attempts to improve its nuclear war-fighting capabilities in order to enhance the deterrence value of its nuclear forces. Changes in American nuclear targeting of the Soviet Union had begun in the early 1970s in order to help make up for the growing American inferiority in terms of numbers of missiles and amounts of yield. These efforts were crowned by the widely publicized “Presidential Decision 59” during the Carter Administration. Reports that the Pentagon was continuing to work on improving such “war-fighting capabilities” have continued to play an unsettling role in the public debate within the FRG. The paradox remains: On the one hand, the FRG has always harbored fears that the United States might disengage its nuclear forces from the defense of the FRG. That is, it fears that the “American guarantee” might be withdrawn, and it therefore has always sought measures, such as the current missile deployment, to “couple” America’s forces in Europe with its strategic nuclear forces in order to underscore American resolve to use its nuclear might to defend Western Europe. On the other hand, many West Germans fear nothing more than that the Americans might just decide to use their nuclear weapons to defend Western Europe after all, and any move on the part of the U.S. to show that it intends to honor its nuclear commitment to its allies and to make it credible invariably leads to emotional domestic political difficulties in the FRG and to vehement criticism of U.S. policy.
Sixth, Western defense strategists had previously assumed that NATO’s policy of deterrence would continue to be comprehended and supported by most Western Europeans. Citizens, it was assumed, would either understand the need for such a policy, or at least suppress any qualms they might have concerning a nuclear-based deterrence policy. In the course of the INF debate, however, a growing number of vocal critics tended to focus on emotionally charged “worst-case scenarios” of nuclear holocaust in Europe, thereby chipping away at the credibility of the prevailing defense doctrine. The emotional rhetoric of the “peace movement,” which is consciously used as a weapon against the technological rationality of the military experts, makes it especially difficult for the West German government and the established parties to confront the protests with persuasive political arguments. Simple answers to complicated problems have become ever more appealing.
Finally, Western Europeans have increasingly come to question the efficacy of American military power and the capacity of American leaders to employ it wisely. American military setbacks in Vietnam and Iran have stimulated such doubts, while successful ventures like the invasion of Grenada have only further dismayed those Europeans who regard the U.S. as too bellicose.
The disagreeable consequences of the deployment controversy are thus clear: It has polarized positions on defense and called attention to paradoxes associated with nuclear deterrence, while at the same time it has failed to restore completely the credibility of the nuclear guarantee for Europe. Yet even if the controversy has been unsettling for those who desire earnestly to promote the security of Western Europe, it has not, by any means, been an altogether regrettable occurrence, and its consequences have by no means been entirely unfavorable.
Contrary to first impressions, the deployment decision has not given rise to widespread anti-Americanism. Only within militant leftist circles does this phenomenon come blatantly to the surface, with highly publicized bombing and rocket attacks against U.S. military personnel and facilities. Among the bulk of the West German population, anti-Americanism is statistically insignificant, as virtually every opinion poll has confirmed.
In addition, the deployment controversy has failed to provide a noticeable boost either to pacifism, which had already been strong in Germany since 1945, or to neutralism. Many pacifist slogans, to be sure, continue to be heard, and opinion polls often reveal that as many as one third of all respondents and a half of all young people subscribe to vague notions of neutrality. Nevertheless, it is even more telling that opinion polls also reveal that an overwhelming number of Germans support their Federal Army and the stationing of U.S. troops in West Germany. Moreover, four out of five West Germans and all the political parties in the Federal Parliament except the Greens favor their country’s remaining in NATO. Chancellor Kohl spoke for most West Germans when he stated a few days before the INF deployment began: “We are not wanderers between East and West” (Die Zeit, December 9, 1983, p. 2).
Surely the most important survivor of the bitter INF deployment controversy has been NATO itself. Despite the common fear of the Soviet Union, which has always been the glue holding the Atlantic Alliance together, many persons have always harbored doubts about the durability of this unique experiment. In all of history there is no precedent for a highly pluralistic alliance among democratic states in peacetime. For the United States, membership in any kind of alliance in times of peace is unprecedented. NATO has not only remained intact following a crisis, but it has again demonstrated coherence and resolve in carrying out an important political decision under pressure.
The outcry which continues to resound will undoubtedly make all member governments more nervous about making decisions of great weight in the face of sensitive publics which still tend to be more vocal than informed on defense matters.
But the Soviet Union’s propaganda and blustering have thus far failed to intimidate decisively the Western Europeans. The Soviets will no doubt continue to try to manipulate public opinion in NATO countries, but they have received few encouraging signs that this enterprise will be successful. The Soviets’ flagrant intervention in the domestic affairs of democratic states and their, habitual heavy-handedness and brutal behavior in the world have served as a reminder even to many critics within the Atlantic Alliance that there is still good reason to be wary of olive branches offered from Moscow.
RESTORING CATHOLIC JUST WAR DOCTRINE
Justice and War in the Nuclear Age
Philip F. Lawler, Editor
Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1983.
119 pp., $17.25 (cloth), $6.25 (paper)
By Kevin G. Long
Alexis de Tocqueville, in his classic study of the United States, Democracy in America, displays his astonishment at the fierce loyalty of American Catholics to a predominantly Protestant country. He attributes their patriotism to the fact that they constitute “the most republican and the most democratic class in the United States.”
Tocqueville was particularly impressed by the militant republicanism which animated an enormous public rally to collect arms and money for freedom fighters in Poland. At one point, a priest came forward to lead the audience of “two or three thousand” Catholics in the following prayer:
Almighty God! the God of armies! Thou who didst strengthen the hearts and guide the arms of our fathers when they were fighting for the sacred rights of their national independence! Thou who didst make them triumph over a hateful oppression, and hast granted to our people the benefits of liberty and peace. . . . Thou, who didst create man in the same image, let not tyranny mar thy work and establish inequality upon the earth. Almighty God! do thou watch over the destiny of the Poles, and . . . shed forth thy terror over their enemies. . . . (Democracy in America, Vol I, Chap. 17)
The entire assembly, adds Tocqueville, responded with a thunderous “Amen!”
Subsequent history has borne out Tocqueville’s observations. The militant patriotism of American Catholics has always been evident in their disproportionate representation in the United States armed forces. In the American Civil War, for example, there were fifty Catholic generals in the Union Army. Again, in the First World War, at a time when Catholics constituted only 17 percent of the American population, they made up about 30 percent of the Army and almost 50 percent of the Navy. In World War II, 67 Catholics earned the Congressional Medal of Honor.
It is therefore difficult to explain the curious behavior of the current crop of American Catholic bishops, the most vocal of whom have advocated a policy of unconditional surrender to the nation’s enemies. The recent pastoral letter on war and peace, while not quite so extreme, tends strongly in the direction of pacifism. The authors of Justice and War in the Nuclear Age, most of whom are Catholic laymen, have set out for themselves a threefold task: accounting for the bizarre volte face of the American hierarchy, reasserting the traditional Catholic concept of the just war, and proposing realistic moral alternatives to nuclear disarmament.
The first essay in this collection is by Robert R. Reilly, now on the White House staff, who argues that the concept of a just war depends upon the distinction between justice and tyranny, which in turn presupposes a recognition of an unchangeable human nature. The concept of nature formed the cornerstone of Greek philosophy and, hence, of Western civilization itself:
[Only the recognition of Nature] enables man to acknowledge his fellow human beings as members of the same species. This act of the intellect is at the basis of our civilization. We have forever since called barbarians those who are incapable of it. (p. 8)
Reilly then succinctly chronicles the modern attack upon philosophy itself, beginning with Rousseau and culminating in Nietzsche, Marx, and Lenin. By insisting that human nature, far from being unchangeable, is infinitely malleable, these intellectuals have paved the way for a tyrannical garrison state. Only by recognizing the depth of moral evil which lies beneath modern totalitarian ideology, concludes Reilly, can the West hope to survive.
The second contributor, Professor of Government James V. Schall, S.J., of Georgetown University, begins his exposition of the intellectual origins of the peace movement by distinguishing two very different meanings of the word “peace.” The first, colloquial but improper, is mere cessation of hostilities. This sort of peace is perfectly compatible with tyranny whenever it is negotiated on terms favorable to the tyrant.
True peace, on the other hand, is brought about only by a decisive victory over the forces of evil and the establishment of an order based upon justice. Even though the Christian scriptures reveal that perfect peace or justice cannot be attained in this world, the Fathers and Doctors of the Church are unanimous in teaching that any reasonably just order must be preferred to, and vigorously defended against, tyranny.
Echoing a theme in Reilly’s essay, Fr. Schall notes the malicious mischief which Utopian ideology has produced in the modern world. Utopias were envisioned by the ancients, but without tyrannical designs on the lives and liberties of the inhabitants. Here, as elsewhere, Fr. Schall cites Leo Strauss to good purpose:
The classical solution is Utopian in the sense that its actualization is improbable. The modern solution is Utopian in the sense that its actualization is impossible. The classical solution supplies a stable standard by which to judge any actual order. The modern solution eventually destroys the very idea of a standard that is independent of actual solutions. (On Tyranny, quoted on p. 34)
Fr. Schall’s analysis of the logic of pacifism raises a number of disturbing observations. By suggesting that war is the greatest evil, the American bishops implicitly affirm the corollary that survival is the greatest good, a position diametrically opposed to Revelation. If George Washington was correct in identifying religion as the pillar of public morality, then the virtual abjuration of Christianity by the leaders of its largest denomination certainly bodes ill for the regime.
While the first two essays concentrate upon the intellectual bases of pacifism, the third, by Thomas F. Payne of Hillsdale College, examines the particulars of international relations and arms control theory. Payne has produced an impressive case that “the condemnation of nuclear deterrence is both uninformed and naive.”
A cursory review of attempts at arms litigation throughout the twentieth century provides overwhelming evidence that significant arms agreements are possible only amongstatus quo powers. A stable international peace, in other words, is possible only when legitimacy is mutually recognized and an approximate balance of power precludes all but marginal aggression. The presence of anti-status quo powers-whether revisionist like Imperial Germany or revolutionary like Soviet Russia-reduces all negotiations to a pointless charade.
Payne introduces into the arms control debate, which typically flounders at the level of vague moral platitudes, a sober grasp of Realpolitik. In stark contrast to the improbable scenarios fabricated by “scholars, journalists and other commentators,” Payne constructs from the Soviets’ own operational doctrine the most likely chain of events:
All Soviet forces, conventional and nuclear, are organized and equipped so as to enable the Soviet Union to fight and win a war for the control of Europe. . . . In a relatively short time-some estimate as little as 72 hours-the Soviet spearheads would reach the Rhine, and the struggle for political hegemony over Western Europe would be over.(p. 72)
Since American strategy has long depended upon deterring a first strike against the homeland, the United States would have nothing to gain, and everything to lose, by launching a retaliatory attack in response to a Soviet drive into Western Europe. The doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), to which American military thinking has been committed for well over a decade, is riddled with both moral and strategic flaws, as Angelo Codevilla, a staff member on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, makes abundantly clear in the fourth essay. On the first point, the deliberate targeting of civilian populations can be understood only as a return to the prehistoric barbarism previously alluded to by Reilly. Yet the gross immorality of MAD is rivaled by its military insanity when one considers the Soviets’ offensive capacity:
The most rational way for the Soviet Union to attack the U.S. would be to send about 3,000 nuclear warheads against our 1,053 missile silos [and] about 50 other air force bases in the U.S. and Europe. . . . Our submarines in port could be blockaded there by nuclear mines. (pp. 89-90)
Since these targets are far removed from major population centers and typically about 30 miles from minor ones, Codevilla estimates that the immediate death toll would be “less than two million-a fraction of one percent of the U.S. population.” More devastating would be the psychological terror among the survivors and the subsequent paralysis of national will. After such an attack, Codevilla continues: “The only militarily, politically and morally reasonable option at that point would be to surrender a disarmed but lightly damaged U.S. to an unscathed and heavily armed Soviet Union” (pp. 90-91).
The best insurance against this unpleasant eventuality, Codevilla argues, is an immediate expansion of the High Frontier-a program of high-tech laser and particle-beam weaponry to be deployed in space. By capturing the “high ground,” these weapons would be capable of destroying an entire barrage of intercontinental ballistic missiles in flight. Pioneering research in this area, however, has been restricted to laboratories in the private sector, largely because the American military bureaucracy is still wedded to the MAD concept.
Although the High Frontier provides the most promising alternative to the threat of nuclear blackmail, by rendering existing offensive weapons obsolete, the most vociferous opponents of nuclear proliferation have yet to utter a word in its behalf. For this reason alone, one is strongly tempted to question the sincerity of their pronouncements and even the purity of their intentions.
The final essay was an address delivered at the Bishops’ Conference in 1982 by Most Reverend John J. O’Connor, former Vicar General for the United States Armed Forces and a member of the committee which drafted the Bishops’ pastoral letter. Bishop O’Conner (a former Admiral in the chaplaincy and a Ph.D. in Government) has been outspoken in his support of a strong American defense posture. Most significantly, he was appointed in January of this year to succeed the late Cardinal Cooke as Archbishop of New York, one of the most influential offices in the American Catholic Church. In his address, the bishop reaffirms the validity of the just war tradition of Christian thought, concluding his remarks with a citation from Joseph Cropsey’s Political Philosophy and the Issues of Politics:
It might be that we pay for peace by abject surrender. This is unthinkable. It is unthinkable because the argument in favor of doing so is based upon the premise that, morally and politically, nothing matters-nothing, that is, except survival. The proper name for this position is not philanthropic morality, but nihilism without intestines. (p. 112)
A few months after the publication of the American bishops’ pastoral letter, the Catholic bishops of France approved by a vote of 93 to 2 a pastoral letter of their own,Winning the Peace, in which they endorsed the policy of nuclear deterrence. Interestingly, their arguments proceeded along lines quite similar to those in Justice and War in the Nuclear Age. The French bishops, unlike their American counterparts, had the wisdom and humility to defer in their analysis of military strategy to “a specialist in this matter”: “The conqueror always loves peace. He would wish to penetrate our territory without meeting resistance” (Karl von Clausewitz, quoted in Winning the Peace, sect. 1). Tocqueville would have been proud!