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To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
I have been reading the stories about the "peace march" by Harvard students with considerable sympathy for the underlying concerns which this demonstration was intended to express. Yesterday, however, I received in the mail a brochure, "Student Action for a Turn Toward Peace," which sets out in detail the policies which were pressed on the Government by the demonstrators, and I must say I was shocked and depressed by the irresponsibility and extremism of this document.
As far as I can see what this Policy Statement does is simply to list some of the cardinal aims of Soviet foreign policy and suggest that the United States unilaterally accede to these aims, with no negotiation or quid pre quo of any kind. For example, it is suggested that the United States unilaterally abandon its advanced missle bases in Turkey and Italy. This means of course that we simply give up the deterrent threat of a first strike in case of a Soviet non-nuclear move into, say, Berlin or Turkey itself. What should replace this threat, or what should be done in case there is such a move, is not indicated, other than the amusing suggestion that we establish a "UN presence" in Turkey. (I can imagine the Turks' delight at this.) In effect the proposal is that we extend an open invitation to the Soviets to expand without fear of retaliation. The assertion is that the Soviets will not respond to such an invitation. But where is the evidence that they will excercise such magnificent self-restraint?
There are other troublesome aspects about the Policy Statement. Not only do some of the proposals seem irresponsible, but the argumentation even on the serious issues is so extreme and tendentious that it undermines the document's force and credibility. Here, for example, is a paragraph on nuclear testing:
"For a government to endanger the lives of tens of thousands of people by the commission of an act to which they have not consented is profoundly immoral. The Soviet Union has recently committed such an act. One of the reasons we are here today is to ask that our government act in a more responsible fashion than the Soviet Union. The resumption of atmospheric nuclear testing has not been demonstrated to be a necessary step for the United States. The only significant argument that has thus far been advanced in the defense of testing concerns the development of an effective antimissie missile. But no one has shown that as a result of tests the Soviet Union can develop such a missile; or that United States testing would bring this country significantly closer to its development. The crucial problems are not ones that will be solved through nuclear testing. Distinguishing actual missiles from decoys and aiming U.S. antimissile missiles-these are problems which would have to be solved before the United States need even consider testing. At present they do not appear to be soluble."
Now, as far as I know there is not one jot of evidence for the implication that people by the tens of thousands might actually be killed by United States testing. Nor do I understand the relevance of "consent": every day the government makes crucial decisions without securing a majority vote on the matter; and in any event the decision which is being made cannot simply be phrased in terms of a decision to "endanger the lives of tens of thousands." Finally, how can the Peace Marchers be so sure that testing has not brought the Russians closer to an effective anti-missile missile and might not do the same for us? How is it that they are so privy to these secrets of state?
It is clear that the problem of fallout caused by testing creates the most difficult and agonizing kind of moral problem for the United States. Isn't it all the more important, in view of the acuteness and complexity of the issues, to maintain a certain responsibility of expression about them? Certainly the mere assertion that one is "for peace" does not excuse this kind of careless and hysterical argumentation.
On the merits of the testing issue, it again strikes me as irresponsible to demand that the President commit himself never, under any circumstances, to resume atmospheric tests. God knows, one can hope that it isn't the case, but if it is the fact that a failure to test would result in a serious military imbalance and, consequently, de-stabilization of the nuclear stalmate, the President might be absolutely justified in concluding that the resulting threat to peace outweighs the highly problematical (although not, for that reason, less tragic) risk of harm. As I say, I hope this is not the correct conclusion. But it seems to me frivolous to assert, without evidence, that this cannot ever be the situation.
There are two striking things about the entire Policy Statement. One is the assumption that the United States and the Soviets are basically alike, with the same interests, motivations, aims and attitudes. It is reminiscent of the line of 1942-44, that the Soviets, too, are a democracy, merely a "different kind" of democracy.) If we recede, they, too, will recede. If we make a positive step toward peace, so, by some inner logic, will they.
This assumption of reciprocity is, at least as of 1962, quite baseless. Although we often go much too far in assuming that we are entirely sinless and they totally evil, reaction to this exaggeration should not lead us into the other trap of equating two societies which still have very distinct interests and very distinct assumptions about the permissable uses of power. It still is our great interest to prevent the expansion of Soviet political hegemony, and all the evidence still indicates that the threat of force remains an indispensable tool of prevention. Soviet society has changed since the Stalin days, but it would be a renewed example of American provincialism to see them, therefore, wholly in our own image.
The second striking thing about the Policy Statement is how reminiscent in mood and tone it is of the pronouncements of the radical right. The Birch Society people tell us that the terrors of the present situation could be magically eliminated if only spies and subversives could be rooted out from our midst. The Peace Marchers, too, seem to have turned to magic as an escape from the endless agonies of patient, careful, analytical weighing of risks, alternatives and interests on a principled basis. Both extremes seem unable to face the responsibilities of power.
More than anything this country needs careful, intelligent and humane thought bearing on our foreign relations. That an intellectual community should have produced a document of such thoughtlessness as the Policy Statement is appalling. Paul M. Bator Asst. Professor of La
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