The wave of articles and books concerning  nuclear-weapons policy has reached flood stage since 1981 in the wake of the protests launched by the born-again peace movement. The timing of this effort provokes suspicion. It is hard to take seriously as pacifists those figures who mix their opposition to American military policy with support for revolutionary warfare and terrorism in Central America, the Middle East, and Africa. The new disarmament movement, though claiming to oppose both superpowers, a rose in response to the Reagan Administration and its rearmament plans and not in response to the Soviet unilateral arms expansion of the 1970’s, which included large-scale deployment of first-strike weapons. Since most of the move­ment organizers are on the left, it is no surprise that they are more hostile to democratic-capitalist powers than toward the totalitarian-socialist powers, with which they bear an ideological affinity. Even for those movement followers who are motivated more by fear than by reason, it should be clear that the only practical political outcome of the peace movement will be to restrain American policy and encourage Soviet aggression.

The boom in “nuclear writing” has a vast host of authors jumping on the band­wagon. These two books are examples of the trend. Both are lightweight, easy reading due to their authors’ shallow thinking. Nuclear Hostages is primarily the reminiscences of a minor figure in­volved in the early days of atomic de­velopment interspersed with phrases deemed “relevant” to the current fad of nuclear dread. Often a single sentence will be inserted between two paragraphs, out of context but invoking catastrophic language. The last chapter skims over 20 years of developments. Its purpose seems to be merely to provide a forum for the author’s confused opinions about cur­rent policy and to justify the book’s title. Nuclear Future is a slim volume that seems designed for use as a supplement in an introductory course in international relations. Its lack of depth is a reminder of the low level of thought which has become common and expected (thus perpetuated) at the undergraduate level. It attempts to cover contending theories of strategy, but behind this surface objectivity are the standard liberal conclusions.

Bernard O’Keefe earned a degree in engineering in 1941, and as a Navy ensign was assigned to Los Alamos to work on timing devices for the first atomic bombs. In the 1950’s he worked on in­struments to measure the effects of atomic tests. He now heads a high-tech company and is chairman of the National Association of Manufacturers. His retell­ing of the story of how nuclear science progressed is interesting, but insufficiently detailed to add anything new to available information. Most people who pick up this book will do so because it is marketed as the views of an expert on nuclear strategy. They will be disappointed, for it is apparent that once O’Keefe departs from purely technical points or personal experiences, he ex­hausts his expertise. This is a problem with many scientists. They are accorded wide attention because of their ability to perform laboratory feats that, to the lay­man, border on magic, but their political and strategic acumen is often embarrassingly naive. One gets the impression that O’Keefe wrote his book in a hurry without much thought given to the implications of his opinions on the international balance of power.

His position is that nuclear weapons are too horrible to be used under any circumstances. O’Keefe contends that it may have been a good thing for the U.S. to develop atomic weapons first, before Germany or the U.S.S.R. did so, but that the arms race since World War II has been a mistake. He regrets that the Truman Administration moved ahead with a crash program to build an H-bomb in 1950. O’Keefe feels that “once again the opportunity to alter the course to catastrophe was lost.” He was in agreement with the General Advisory Com­mittee of scientists under Robert Oppenheimer which concluded unanimously that no crash program should be undertaken lest it prove to be irreversible. However, he concedes that no realistic alternative was possible after the Soviets exploded an H-bomb in 1949. The Korean War, which broke out six months after Truman’s decision, only served to confirm the fear of communist aggressive intent.

O’Keefe opposes all present attempts to improve the American arsenal. He calls the neutron bomb “the most impractical weapon yet conceived” because it would only provoke Soviet retaliation if used, thus negating any attempt to limit damage. However, NATO strategy is based on the use of tactical nuclear weapons to redress its inferiority in con­ventional forces. The choice is either to deploy the neutron warhead, which limits collateral damage, or to rely on older, more destructive weapons. The Soviets do not seem to draw a line between con­ventional and nuclear battlefield weapons as NATO does, so a war in Europe would probably be nuclear from the start. NATO’s choice of weapons should be made on grounds of effectiveness against the Soviets; on those terms, the neutron warhead makes considerable sense.

This does not mean that NATO can ignore the weakness of its conventional forces. Whether the battle for Europe is nuclear or nonnuclear, Soviet superiority on the ground will be decisive. The smaller number of NATO combat units mean a smaller number of targets that the Soviets need to destroy. It is also pos­sible that escalation to nuclear weapons, rather than redressing the imbalance, might exacerbate it, as whatever qualitative edge NATO armies possess would be lost under nuclear bombardment. O’Keefe ignores this entire issue. He also ignores the Soviet SS-20, managing to discuss the deployment of U.S. Pershing II and cruise missiles to Europe without a single reference to the Soviet arsenal. It may be that he does not even know about the SS-20, for he bases his opposition to American deployment on the grounds that both superpowers currently have obsolete weapons. This provides an opportunity to free Europe of nuclear weapons because each power can re­move its obsolete weapons and refuse to replace them. The obvious flaw in this reasoning is that the Soviet SS-20 is a very advanced weapon that has already been deployed to replace older systems. The opportunity O’Keefe postulates is not there; the need for the U.S. to redress the imbalance is.

Probably his most naive position is on international terrorism. He wants strong antiterrorist measures because he fears that terrorism may escalate to the nudear level and might even trigger a nudear war through overreaction. This is fine, albeit overdrawn. His problem is in be­lieving that the Soviets are likely partners in an antiterrorist campaign. He reasons that the Soviets face the threat of terrorism themselves growing out of their dis­sident movement, and fails to note that the international terrorist network that plagues Westem interests is largely the creation of the Soviets and their proxies. Terrorism is an arm of Soviet policy they will not dismantle.

The terrorism issue also provides a contradiction in that O’Keefe is willing to restrict civil liberties to stop terrorism today, but he protests the security mea­sures he had to endure at Los Alamos. He discusses the Fuchs-Gold-Rosenberg es­pionage case and considers them guilty: “Fuchs  passed on virtually everything there was to be known at Los Alamos.” Yet his response to learning that the pro­ject had been infiltrated was to wonder “why weren’t the security barriers eased a little now that they had been breached? …Probably just the innate secretiveness of security people, the refusal to admit error. “What sort of logic is this? It is just one example of the contradictions and confusion which run through this book, leaving the reader frustrated.

Michael Mandelbaum, a Fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations, pre­sents a better-grounded discussion. He makes some valid points: that the ex­tremes of Armageddon and disarmament are both unlikely, that no political goal is worth the price of a full nuclear exchange aimed at cities. However, the political costs of disarmament in an environment of continued U.S.-Soviet rivalry are also too high. Nuclear technology cannot be forgotten and force, or the threat of it, does play a major role in international affairs. For more than a century, nation­alism and science have combined to produce arms races; the nuclear dilemma is only the most recent example. Only under a world government might dis­armament be possible, but the trends are all toward increasing global anarchy, not unity. Attempts to limit arms races by negotiation have not been very significant, Mandelbaum admits:

Political disputes cause war. Arms control agreements do not address them. . . . At the heart of the Soviet­ American conflict lie differences about the political organization of Europe and indeed the world. These are issues about which, on the whole, formal agreements are not possible.

He also concedes that arms buildups do not cause war:

There is no necessary connection be­tween large forces and a high danger of war. The reverse may be true….A  pre-emptive  strike would be seen to be more feasible against a few weapons than against a great many.

Mandelbaum does not think that the peace movement will have a major effect on policy. However, his liberal leanings lead him to handle the peace movement gently. He mentions the professional and religious wings of the movement; the Physicians for Social Responsibility, the National Council of Churches, and the Catholic bishops are the only groups mentioned by name. He also compares the peace movement with the organized effort to require a balanced budget by constitutional amendment. Both groups are rooted in distrust of government and a desire to influence policy by democratic means removed from the “priesthood” of experts. This is a rather disingenuous way to distort both right and left by link­ing them. He blames current distrust of nuclear policy on the Reagan Adminis­tration’s rejection of SALT II and on the new arms program. This overlooks the fact that SALT II was dead before Reagan was elected and that Reagan’s views on defense were well known and contrib­uted heavily to his election. The defense consensus has eroded since 1981, but that is partially the fault of the Administration’s failure to confront its critics and make a strong enough case for mili­tary strength. There have been too many changes in policy at START, on the MX, and in announced strategy which seems aimed at appeasing the peace movement. The peaceniks have not been quieted, but the Administration has undermined its own position in the public mind by talking arms control rather than national security.

Mandelbaum ends up adopting some of the positions of the peace movement. He opposes the deployment of new weapons, which amounts to a unilateral freeze. He sees no threat from the U.S.S.R. First-strike weapons would normally in­ dicate aggressive intent, and he acknowledges that the Soviets view nuclear war differently than does the U.S. But he still concludes that ”what appears aggressive to Americans is evidently compatible, in Soviet eyes, with defensive intentions.” Why? Because he believes that the Soviets have defensive intent, therefore their actions must be within that framework. If observed behavior does not fit theory, ignore the observations.

He does not see any chance for a Soviet first strike. He accepts the notion that the U.S. and U.S.S.R. are at parity in weapons. He does not cite figures, which would undermine his complacency. The Soviets have a first-strike force of 607 MIRV’d ICBM’s with 4,400 warheads capable of knocking out hardened sites. They have an additional 718 ICBM’s and 950 submarine-launched missiles with single warheads for use against cities. Their first-strike force is twice the size needed to destroy the 1,054 U.S. silos (two warheads per silo is deemed suf­ficient). Those bombers not caught on theground will stand little chance against the massive Soviet air-defense network. That only leaves U.S. submarines, now only 33 in number, one-third to one-half of which are in port and thus vulnerable at any given time. Submarine missiles are too small for use against anything but cities, thus inviting a massive Soviet assault on the American population if Soviet cities are hit in retaliation for a first strike against military targets. The Soviets thus possess escalation domi­nance. Even without an attack, Soviet superiority could block American actions and act as an umbrella for aggres­sion by conventional means.

There are three ways to provide secur­ity: preemptive strike, active defense, and deterrence. Mandelbaum dismisses out of hand preemption or any nuclear first use. Active protection is appealing, but he does not think it is feasible. He holds the position that a defense against attack would have to be “perfect” or it is a waste of money. This is nonsense. Avoid­ing almost any amount of nuclear dam­age would pay for quite a large defense force. The new technology in lasers and particle beams make a defense easier and cheaper. Mandelbaum mistakenly argues that the ABM Treaty was signed because everyone knew defense was impossible. Actually, the Soviets pushed for the treaty because they were behind in ABM tech­nology. The U.S. signed out of a naive belief that it would promote arms control in general and bolster detente. This proved wrong on both counts. The Soviets have pushed ahead with both ABM missiles and energy weapons. The reintroduction of the idea of defense by the Reagan Administration is the most important strategic event of the decade. 

Like O’Keefe, Mandelbaum ends up falling back on the pure-deterrence theory of mutual assured destruction (MAD). However, MAD is a negation of thought and an exercise in irresponsibil­ity. Either there is no war to think about because of successful deterrence or there is Armageddon, which leaves nothing to think about. Mandelbaum starts out in ­weighing against extremes, yet offers only extremes. The idea behind MAD, that we should not devise ways to protect our­selves or seek victory over our enemies should war come, is totally at odds with both history and common sense. In stra­tegic thought, the Soviets are the tradi­tionalists and the Americans are the rev­olutionaries. The Soviets have been dili­gently attempting to find a way out of the Armageddon trap which will still allow them to pursue an expansionist foreign policy. They ask: What if deter­rence fails? An answer couched in terms of mutual suicide they find to be unac­ceptable, so they build weapons and formulate plans to fight and win a nuclear war. There was a hope that the Reagan Administration would implement a policy of preparing for the risks of war, but op­position from both liberals and radicals has derailed the Administration, leaving its weapons program without a strategic foundation. In this debate, “respectable” liberals like O’Keefe and Mandelbaum are more dangerous than any number of street demonstrators.