While much of his attention at a Kennedy School of Government symposium on September 5 focused on an airline hijaking in Pakistan, Secretary of Defense Casper W. Weinberger '38 took time to praise the Reagan Administration's Strategic Defense initiative (SDI) as the best, realistic deterrent to nuclear war.
"The best way to avoid nuclear war in the long term is to spend all of our efforts, time and ability to try and work out a Strategic Defense Initiative," Weinberger said.
Weinberger joined Randall Forsberg, executive director of the Institute for Defense and Disarmament Studies, as principal speaker at the symposium entitled "Beyond Deterrence: Avoiding Nuclear War in the Longer Run."
The secretary said the "moral difference" between the two superpowers forces the U.S. to develop SDI and bolster its military arsenal to make it clear to the Soviets that "it would be in their national interest not to fight and not to launch an attack."
He said the Soviet arrest of alleged American spy Nicholas Daniloff '56, a reporter for U.S. News and World Report, demonstrated this "moral difference," and added the action endangered future agreements with Moscow.
Forsberg, however, criticized SDI as more a complement than deterrent to the threat of nuclear war, "which could conceivably convince the Soviet fear of a U.S. first strike."
"We must eliminate both the capability and the propensity to wage war for any purpose other than defense against external aggression," Forsberg said.
The events unfolding in Pakistan occupied Weinberger's attention throughout the symposium, and several times he was handed notes updating the situation. Towards the end, he interrupted the discussion to state the hostage drama had ended.
Also serving on the panel with Weinberger and Forsberg were K-School Dean Graham T. Allison '62, Albert Carnesale, K-School academic dean, and Joseph S. Nye, Jr., director of the Center for Science and International Affairs.
The latter three, who are co-authors of "Hawks, Doves and Owls," a book about deterring nuclear war, advocate alternatives to the existing nuclear deterrent system, including greater emphasis on political and social understanding between nations with nuclear capabilities.
They have predicted the existing program of deterrence, if left as is, will lead to a nuclear war within 50 years.