The question of nuclear disarmament is essentially a strategic and technical issue. Those who consider it solely an ethical problem and agitate for it on moral grounds alone can only confuse or embarrass U.S. policy.
Disarmament unquestionably has moral overtones, and public debate on that count can do little harm. But the central issue is its strategic value for the security of the U.S.; the ethical question must remain secondary, since self-preservation must be the nation's cardinal objective. In the '30's public over-optimism and moralizing on the issue of neutrality led the Government to tie its hands militarily, leaving the country unprepared for World War II. Public disregard of the strategic importance of preparedness distracted official attention from the realities and necessities of the world situation.
Professional scientific controversy suffices to elucidate the problem of fallout and nuclear radiation, and no amount of public debate can shed much light on the issue. Such unprofessional agitation can only propel the nation to a position of dangerous weakness and confusion. Disarmament may be desirable on grounds of reducing world tension and decreasing the possibility of open conflict, but it cannot be justified solely by moral arguments.
The pacifists and blue arm-band wearers suffer from a serious confusion of values and goals. War is, of course, both morally and politically undesirable, and so is the arms race. But war is not, as Captain Bigelow '29 of the Golden Rule stated, "morally impossible."
Pacifism is intransigent, holding peace as the highest objective. If it were, then it might be argued that universal Communism, dictated by Moscow, is the shortest road to peace. Disarmament, however, cannot assume the place of national security in American diplomatic strategy.
Perhaps Washington is partially to blame for the public confusion. The Government must be candid, as it is not now, and must do its best to offer the public a realistic appraisal of the dangers of continued nuclear testing, and the need for maintaining heavy military forces-in-being.
Those who agitate for disarmament purely upon ethical bases are doing a disservice to the nation. They are creating the type of distracting atmosphere which led to the ill-fated Kellogg-Briand Pact in 1928, and to the confining Neutrality Acts of the '30's. Some values and principles must have priority over others. If national preservation is the most immediate goal, other ethical principles may have to be, in part, be subordinated to that end.
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