"The balance of terror is very sturdy indeed," McGeorge Bundy, president of the Ford Foundation, said yesterday in a speech on nuclear arms which was part of the Harvard Arms Control Seminar.
Bundy, former dean of the Faculty and special assistant to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson for national security, spoke on "Bombs at Bay, or the Dog That Has Not Barked So Far: Reflection on the Avoidance of Nuclear War Since 1945," to an audience of about 100 people at the Harvard Yenching Institute.
Bundy discussed the relative stability in the nuclear arms situation and noted the "slow horizontal proliferation" of atomic weaponry among nations over the last 30 years. "The Canadians, the Swedes, and the Swiss could have developed nuclear weapons" but chose not to for various political, moral and economic reasons, he said.
Citing reasons why the United States and the Soviet Union have avoided a nuclear confrontation, Bundy said that neither state possessed "a suicidal frenzy of expansion or despair" that characterized Hitler's Germany. Both countries realized that nuclear weapons were catastrophically different from conventional weapons and that restraint was vital for survival, he added.
The stakes were not high enough in either the Berlin crisis or the Cuban missile crisis for either nation to consider the use of nuclear weapons, Bundy said. In the missile crisis, he said, there was "a nuclear danger--yes, a readiness to take the nuclear step--no," adding that the danger probably had a "salutary effect" in alerting the world to the threat of nuclear disaster.
Referring to the strategic arms balance, Bundy said, "The more it changes the more it's the same thing." He said current criticism of President Carter for not being "tough enough with the Russians" on arms was just a common political tactic used by opposition parties.
Bundy noted the difficulty of negotiating an arms agreement with superpowers like the Soviet Union while maintaining the flexibility required in negotiations between Congress and the President. He compared the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks (SALT) to the recent Panama Canal treaty debate to illustrate the complexities of international negotiations.
He said the military's strategic contingency plans should not influence the decisions of political leaders on arms and expressed confidence in international leaders' basic concern for humanity.
"Think-tank analysts" setting levels of acceptable loss in terms of lives were "inhuman" and the destruction of just one city would be unthinkably horrifying as evidenced by Hiroshima, Bundy said.
"I think we tend to forget what a nuclear exchange would be like" and "I think the sheer sense of danger in nuclear weapons has been missing in the last decade, he said, citing "the sobering experience of a thermonuclear explosion."
Calling the atomic bomb "an unusable weapon of terror," Bundy said something much less than parity or mutual assured destruction weaponry levels is required for U.S. national defense.
Pointing out that while written agreements are "not alone adequate" for reducing nuclear arms, Bundy emphasized the importance of the SALT II negotiations in limiting proliferation.
He said many numbers such as missile and warhead counts in arms limitation talks were "mindless" but that much progress has been made. He gave as examples the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty which stabilizes nuclear deterrence and the ban on nuclear testing in the atmosphere which protects the environment.
"The importance of the neutron bomb has been grossly exaggerated and it should be put aside," Bundy said, adding that the idea of "limited nuclear warfare" reduces stability in the international community.
Dismissing the possibility of the use of nuclear weapons in NATO defense, Bundy said, "It's a very risky business to contemplate the conventional over-running of Western Europe."
Bundy mentioned several obstacles to progress in disarmament including "the military-industrial complex," the popular notion that "weapons should be left to military men and that civilians are meddlers," and "the devolution of authority" to regional military commanders.
"We have to safeguard access to plutonium materials" to prevent nuclear blackmail by terrorist groups or unstable emerging nations, he said.
Bundy concluded that though the subject of nuclear arms is not "trivial," it should not be unduly exaggerated to frighten people. Bundy stressed the necessity of changing public perception of the danger of nuclear proliferation