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Conference Calls Shelter Program Possible Peril to Democratic Nation


A peacetime shelter program might harm American society to the point of jeopardizing democracy, according to a report by a Peace Research Institute conference. Three University professors participated in the conference: David Riesman, Henry Ford II Professor of Social Sciences, Erich Lindemann, professor of Psychiatry at the Medical School, and Raymond A. Bauer, professor of Business Administration.

Racial discrimination or unequal shelter facilities for different economic or ethnic groups could worsen inter-group conflicts in the nation, the conference report charged.

Since interference by dissidents or bungling by untrained or panic-stricken individuals could cripple a program's effectiveness, civil defense demands virtually universal support, the conference pointed out. Individual liberty might therefore be sacrificed to regimentation of practice drills, and private interests subordinated to the demands of public agencies, thus threatening basic values of a democratic society.

Inefficiency or malpractice in the implementation of a civil defense program could create "widespread disillusionment with democratic government," the conference warned. Discrepancies between advanced technology and current procedures, or a time lag in transmitting improvements to local groups, as well as outright corruption, could produce dissatisfaction and mistrust.

The Soviet Union could further undermine public confidence by "suggesting to the American people that their government's promises of protection were illusory," conference members added.

In the international sphere, the conference cited several ways that a civil defense program might inhibit effective foreign policy.

CD Inhibits Negotiation

Because the public "might interpret civil defense to mean that The Enemy threatens imminent death," popular hostility to the idea of negotiating with communist states could restrict America's ability to parley, the report warned.

"The call for civil defense has meant 'Crisis!' as definitely as the Cuban affair and the Berlin confrontation; many Americans responded similarly to all three," the conference reported.

Economic complications stemming from civil defense would also block negotiation, conference members said. The vested interests of governmental agencies, private builders and suppliers, and a cadre of trained shelter managers would by their very existence if not by active agitation interfere with planning for general disarmament, they claimed.

In addition to affecting negotiation, civil defense could also disrupt American foreign policy by concentrating atten-of thermonuclear war, thus diverting thought and resources from the alternatives of conventional warfare or political propaganda.

"Might civil defense attract funds and money away from the use of economic abundance as a tool of foreign policy?

"Might civil defense distract attention from efforts to work out means and institutions for controlling international tensions and keeping conflict within non-violent boundaries?

"Might the possibilities of unorthodox political and propaganda weapons (such as the race for space, deliberate corruption of an enemy's governmental officials, or exploitation of Russian-Chinese differences) be lost sight of as fallout shelters become a major part of national life?

"If the American people should turn away from more sophisticated and subtle means of pursuing conflict, the American government would face greater difficulties in dealing with situations demanding something besides an all-or-nothing response."

Besides complicating U.S. diplomacy vis-a-vis the Soviet Union, a shelter program could seriously injure relations with allies and friendly neutrals, the conference added. "Through civil defense, the American people would in effect be working for their own survival while tacitly abandoning non-Americans to thermonuclear death."

Riesman's observations have found that "in at least one ally, Japan, there is considerable uneasiness over the American shelter program and fear that it may symbolize a turning inward of American interests and policy.

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