Two New Studies on Arms Control: Only Schelling's Worth Reading

THE NATION'S SAFETY AND ARMS CONTROL, by Arthur T. Hadley, 1961 (The Viking Press, New York), 160 pages, $3.00.

If the initial paragraphs of this review sound snotty, I can't help it.

Postulate 1: There exists a distinct, if non-measurable difference between the intellectual quality of the Harvard community and that of anyplace else.

Postulate 2: Persons within this community prefer sophisticated arguments to non-sophisticated presentations.

Fact 1: Two new books on arms control have recently been published, almost simultanously. Both are by-products of the now-famous "Summer Study on Arms Control," held here last year by the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Safe Conjecture 1: A significant number of persons within the Harvard community are deeply interested in arms control, and will want to know which of these two books, if either, they ought to read.

Initial Conclusion: By all means, read Schelling and Halperin. Nearly every reader of this review will find Hadley totally worthless.


The terse study by Schelling and Halperin, both members of the University's Center for International Affairs, attempts to explicitly define the term "arms control." Superbly concise, it presents both the prospects and problems in a cool, logical style understandable to any reader. It avoids both the massiveness and the technically of last fall's issue of Daedalus, also a product of the summer study.

Wherever Thomas Schelling has travelled, he has impressed audiences with his sharp, precise, unembroidered mind. Halperin, less traveled, is considered one of the fastest rising thinkers in the field. The pithy but systematic style of both men is apparent throughout the book.

Strategy and Arms Control is "not an advertisement" but "a sympathetic exploration of arms control." It tries to show where arms control differs from lay connotations placed on oft-heard pleas for arms limitation or wholesale disarmament and "how naturally arms control fits" into military strategy.

Essentially, the book is written to convince traditionally defense-minded people that arms control is a necessity in the nuclear age, that military strategy alone is no longer the only requirement for national defense. Arms control, as Schelling and Halperin explain it, is not something distinct or self-contained, not some item we inaugurate after negotiating an international agreement. Rather, they contend, arms control is an integral part of national security. Even at this moment, for example, we and the Russians refrain from certain actions, e.g. political assassinations, because abstention serves both blocs beneficially. Thus, we already have some arms control.

The chief purpose of this book is to convince military strategists (amateur ones, that is) of the potential usefulness of arms control--to develop methods of avoiding unintended war, to decrease certain military (technical) causes of war, like the incentive to pre-emptive or accidental war, and even to minimize the scope and damage caused by wars that might occur.

Implicitly, the book assumes that orthodox problems of strategy are receiving plenty of attention--in a sense, strategy can take care of itself--but that arms control, the necessary complement to strategy, needs a boost.

Schelling and Halperin franky discuss the difficulties inherent in arms control, such topics as how arms control which makes general war less likely increases the possibilities of local wars because the fear of general war is no longer as significant.

In sharp contrast, Arthur Hadley offers a schoolboy's polemic for arms control.

He quite rightly emphasizes the close interrelation between strategy and arms control, and the need to stabilize the deterrent equation before attempting any meaningful arms reduction. But he hinges his arguments for stabilization--then-control (or reduction, if attainable) on two temporary weaknesses in the U.S. posture--the vulnerability of our strategic retaliatory forces and the emptiness of massive retaliation.

The effect is distracting. Hadley discusses these strategic weaknesses to briefly that he emerges a poor man's Herman Kahn. He proceeds to arms control after showing the need for stabilizing, i.e., boosting deterrence. But he has proven his case only to his own satisfaction.

Not only does Hadley deal inadequately with strategy, but he also presents arms control in a shallow manner. Although he says several times that arms control is no panacea, his failure to explore the actual essence of arms control yields that impression. In other words, the reader puts down his book thinking that if only the nation were as bright as Hadley and consequently understood the need for arms control, it could then buy "it" downtown somewhere.

In short, Hadley is so concerned with showing how important arms control is that he neglects the equally critical problems of implementing it. He neglects the bulk of what Schelling and Halperin discuss--arms control itself.

But while Schelling and Halperin are excellent in discussions of certain areas where each has done special research (surveillance forces, limited wars), their treatment of some topics is entirely too sketchy. Sometimes, as with politico-military points, the authors simply admit this and dismiss it, saying it is beyond the scope of their book which aims at the military consequences of arms control. Even admitting this defense, at other times one finds the presentation altogether lacking in detail; for instance, the sub-chapter on the Nth country problem, is only four paragraphs long. The ultimate effect is a solid treatment of some topics and a sketchy one of others leaving the book in a certain sense unbalanced.

Schelling and Halperin make the novel point that inspection has been vastly overemphasized. They argue that arms control agreements should be based on mutual interest, and an interest strong enough that both sides should want to convince the opponent it is in fact complying with the agreement. Each side should have a fundamental interest in "persuasively demonstrating its own compliance."

Hadley's book, by injecting concreteness through its constant mention of Minutemen and Polarises, may be fine for persons completely uninformed about strategy. But this very timeliness now will create an early obsolescence, while Schelling and Halperin manage to treat arms control as a more theoretical notion.

If the Twentieth Century Fund believed in advertising the books it publishes, we might seo this ad: "To be fully informed, read Schelling and Halperin." However true this statement is, the book has received no publicity to speak of. Thus the public will read Hadley; Harvard types should follow the advertising council's advice and discriminate.