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Prospects of Peace Or War

ISSUE:  Winter 1976

ONE of the more interesting recent causes célèbres in the liberal intellectual community was provoked by the publication of a slim volume by economist Robert Heilbroner entitled An Inquiry into the Human Prospect. A professor at the New School for Social Research, Heilbroner has impeccable credentials as an economist with a heart. He has poured forth a steady stream of articles and books lamenting the inequities of contemporary social and economic systems. Imagine the consternation then when Heilbroner calmly set about in his recent essay to destroy one of the prime tenets of the American liberal mythology: that human progress at least over the long run is more or less inevitable, that man’s capacity to reason must eventually surmount the darker aspects of his character, particularly the instinct toward violence and aggression. In response to the question which most liberals consider as merely rhetorical—”Is there hope for man?”—Heilbroner replied that “the outlook for man, I believe, is painful, difficult, perhaps desperate, and the hope that can be held out for his future prospect seems to be very slim indeed. . . . The answer to whether we can conceive of the future other than as a continuation of the darkness, cruelty, and disorder of the past seems to me to be no; and to the question of whether worse impends, yes.”

The analysis that led Heilbroner to such a conclusion need not concern us here, nor for that matter the question of whether his general thesis is substantiated. What interests me about the Heilbroner book is precisely the pained outrage it aroused amongst so many of his intellectual confrères. I would like to focus here on one of the specific points argued in his essay, which is that man’s propensity to use violence in solving his disputes far from receding is likely to escalate in coming years. The belief that as man progresses there will be an increasing reliance on peaceful as opposed to violent resolution of conflict is, of course, an important part of the American intellectual tradition. It is a notion which indeed has been advanced by individuals of all political and ideological hues in this country. It can be traced in part to the influence of 19th century English thought, particularly as represented by people like Bentham, Cobden and Mill. The premise that peace is or can be just around the corner has had a particular impact on American foreign policy. It underlay Wilson’s crusade to end all wars in 1917 and Dean Rusk’s stance that American intervention in Vietnam could play an important part in discouraging future resort to aggression. It has received an added thrust through the developing detente between the United States and the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China. The question is whether the prospects of generalized or local violence in international affairs are in fact increasing or decreasing.

The evidence concerning trends in the quantity of human resources devoted to the instruments of violence—and the frequency of the use of those instruments—is far from clear. One study by Melvin Small and J. David Singer (“Patterns of International Violence 1816—1965”) argues that over the last 150 years there has been no significant variation in the frequency and severity of interstate wars. Even when all forms of political violence are considered—civil wars, riots, etc.—the picture is one of a fairly steady rate of violent occurrences and even roughly comparable casualties resulting from these events (perhaps in the range of 130, 000—150, 000 for 1865 and 100, 000 for 1965). Other analysts arrive at more gloomy conclusions. Professor Istvan Kende, a noted Hungarian student of the frequency and severity of warfare, counts no less than 97 wars (international and civil) between 1945 and 1969. This figure compares with the late Quincy Wright’s calculation of a total of 24 wars fought between 1900 and 1941.

All these estimates depend significantly of course on how one defines a “violent occurrence” in international affairs. Even deciding on the number of formal interstate wars is complicated by the fact that significant clashes between states often do not include a formal declaration of war. (Indeed, since 1945 there has not been a single such official declaration, ) Two things do seem evident, however. There is no reason to assume that man’s propensity for organized violence has declined in modern times. The most optimistic calculations show merely that it has not increased over the last two centuries. As far as the proportion of world resources devoted to armaments and war is concerned, there’s good news and bad news. George Modelski figures that total expenditures in this area rose from roughly 1 per cent of gross world product in 1865 to about 5.4 per cent in 1965. The respected Stockholm International Peace Research Institute calculates, however, that beginning in 1969 there was a decline in the total resources given to war or the capacity to make war. In constant dollars some $210 billion representing 8 per cent of GWP was spent in 1969, but this had ebbed to about $207 billion in 1973, accounting for only 6.5 per cent of GWP.

The latter figure does require interpretation before we jump to the conclusion that the situation is really improving. Much of the net drop in world military expenditures was accounted for by a significant decline in American spending for arms. Between FY 1956 and FY 1975 the proportion of American GNP devoted to the military went from 9.9 per cent to 5.9. The United States was responsible for more than 46 per cent of world military expenditures in 1955 but currently accounts for only about 30 per cent. On other fronts the pattern is far less encouraging. The Soviet Union, for example, has hardly matched the United States in the declining proportion of her resources devoted to arms. Indeed, the Soviet share of total world military expenditures has actually increased from 27 per cent in 1955 to something above 30 per cent today, Most tragic are the figures for the Third World. Among the group of countries least able to divert resources from social spending, defense expenditures as a percentage of total world spending on arms has gone from 5.2 per cent in 1955 to more than 16 per cent in 1975. What has happened is quite clear. Among many of the Western industrialized democracies there has been a long-term trend toward reductions in resources devoted to arms (the British proportion of world military spending went from 5 to 3 per cent in the period under consideration). Figuring in world terms, however, much of this saving has simply been eaten up by vastly increased expenditures by the developing world. A significant contributing factor here has been the ability and the willingness of the developed countries to transfer by sale, credit or outright gift much of their most sophisticated military technology to the Third World. The traffic in arms, not only in obvious areas such as Southeast Asia or the Middle East but even in relatively quiescent regions such as Latin America, has assumed startling proportions. In fiscal year 1975 the United States sold some $9.5 billion of arms to 136 nations. In 1958 only four Third World countries had supersonic aircraft in their armories. By 1968 this figure had grown to 28 and today it is more than 40. The United States is currently supplying Iran with the F-14A and the Soviets have given Syria the Mig-25—in each case the aircraft in question represents the most sophisticated the sending country has in its repertoire and in fact was made available for export scarcely two years after production had begun for domestic procurement.

Heilbroner’s gloomy prognosis then receives considerable support when we examine the general situation in world arms today. We might take a closer look at a few random aspects of that situation in order to gain a more precise idea of where we seem to be headed.


As already noted, it is somewhat unfair to accuse the United States of having been the prime villain in an escalating arms race over the last two decades, at least if we take percentage of GNP devoted to arms spending as being the decisive criterion. If we examine a particular segment of the total American defense posture—strategic nuclear arms—certain facts emerge which also run at least in part against the general image of uncontrollable defense spending fueled by the pressures of the American military-industrial complex. In terms of total megatonnage for both offensive and defensive strategic nuclear weapons, the peak was reached in the late 1950’s. The figure then was indeed almost two-and-one-half times that for 1972. If we count the total number of offensive and defensive warheads, the United States had in 1972 roughly 30 per cent fewer warheads in its arsenal than in 1964. In budgetary terms the United States was spending about three times as much on strategic arms in the period 1956—1961 as it was in 1974.

There have been recent developments, however, which represent something of a reversal of the trends presented above. For one thing, the number of offensive nuclear warheads in the American arsenal has greatly expanded recently, primarily because of the development of the MIRV, which allows multiple warheads on a single missile. Total numbers of warheads continue to be down compared to previous years primarily because of the virtual eclipse of defensive missile systems such as the Nike-Hercules. More generally, the Pentagon is aggressively pursuing a considerable expansion of its budget even as Congress attempts to maintain constraints on defense spending. The defense budget for fiscal 1976 as presented by the Administration amounted to $104.7 billion dollars. Even when inflation is discounted, this represented an increase of $8.2 billion over the previous year. Some of this expansion resulted from legislatively mandated costs of salaries and benefits for military personnel, an offshoot primarily of the effort to develop an all-volunteer army. But hardware expenditures were up rather impressively as well. An additional two billion was requested for Navy and Air Force aircraft, for example, as well as $2.4 billion for new ships. Research and development also received its share: from $8.6 billion to $10.3 billion, primarily for such new programs as the Trident ballistic-missile submarine and the B-l bomber.

More disturbing than the absolute level of the defense budget has been the new direction of American strategic thought, particularly as enunciated by former Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger. American defense planners are once again chasing the chimera of “flexible response” as first propagated by Robert McNamara in the early 1960’s. Among leading thinkers on American nuclear strategy over the past 15 years, there has been general support for the doctrine of MAD, or mutual assured destruction, Basically, this assumes that the prime function of America’s strategic nuclear weapons (i. e. , those aimed at the other side’s homeland) can only be deterrence. By convincing the Soviets that even after they have launched a first-strike against the United States they will still face unacceptable damage from an American second strike, we supposedly can insure that the Soviets will never in fact contemplate nuclear aggression, Actually, MAD posits that deterrence is also the only rational strategy for the Soviets, that is, the maintenance of a secure second-strike capability to discourage American aggression. Strategic nuclear weapons then have little or no offensive significance: unlike strategic bombing campaigns of the past, their use is hardly likely to contribute to a “victory” over our adversaries. Moreover, they are ill suited to being used selectively against, say, certain key military and/or industrial targets even while the main population centers are spared. The very nature of such weapons—both in terms of their inherent destructiveness and in terms of the emotional pressure that would likely accompany any use of them—seems to preclude their being employed in the context of anything less than a final apocalyptic struggle between the super-powers.

MAD has always had its logical flaws, both practical and moral. Once the Soviets achieved nuclear parity—and therefore their own second-strike capacity against an American first use of nuclear weapons—what was to prevent the former from launching a series of conventional attacks against which we might feel powerless to respond lest a self-destructive nuclear war result? In this sense the very incredibility of nuclear war made conventional conflict much more likely—especially since the Soviets would clearly be at an advantage in such a war given their superiority in ground forces and armor. From a moral perspective, the easiest way to assure “unacceptable” destruction was to target the other side’s large cities—not only in terms of the inherent pain he would feel at losing large segments of his population but also in terms of the somewhat uncertain accuracy of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Such a targeting strategy, however, violated one of the primordial principles of warfare, which was that non-combatants should as much as possible be spared the horrors of combat or its side-effects. In a supreme irony MAD posited that the ultimate morality—avoiding nuclear war—could only be achieved by promising the ultimate barbarism—the conscious devastation of innocent civilians.

It was in response to these dilemmas that first Secretary McNamara and later Mr. Schlesinger stressed the notion of flexible response. As stated by McNamara at Ann Arbor in 1962, a strategy of flexible response presupposes that a major war between the superpowers can and ought to be fought largely as it would have been in the pre-nuclear era. Central to this concept is the idea that one’s nuclear weapons should in the first instance be targeted toward the opposing side’s military installations, e. g. , missile sites, airfields, radar nets. Such a strike might be in response either to a Soviet conventional attack on, say, Western Europe or to a limited strike against our own military capabilities in this country. The idea of flexible response really was to give the President some option between surrender or Armageddon, that is, an all-out nuclear exchange. It was designed to deal with the problem of Soviet superiority in conventional arms and supposedly would encourage the Soviets themselves to reorient their own nuclear targeting strategy away from the automatic destruction of American cities. McNamara and the Johnson Administration later abandoned flexible response, primarily because of their concern about its practicability: the Soviets had shown little interest in the idea; there was a question of how many “productive” targets might be left after the enemy had launched most of his weapons already; and perhaps most important there was increasing doubt about whether one’s opponent would be content to limit himself to a nuclear response directed only at the military installations of the country which had initiated the use of nuclear weapons. This was seen as requiring almost superhuman self-control in the face of the awesome destruction that would occur even in a “limited” first strike. Notwithstanding these second thoughts, the Nixon Administration revived the concept of flexible response and it continues to be promulgated by the Ford Administration.

Yet the practical difficulties which persuaded an earlier Administration to abandon the concept remain and there is something else as well. For all its aura of superior sophistication and even superior morality, flexible response likely increases the dangers of some sort of nuclear conflict. If one’s opponents can feel that a given aggression may result in only a limited nuclear response, the temptation to engage in such aggression is probably increased. The point made earlier then becomes central: once the nuclear threshold is crossed, even in a “measured” fashion, the risks of an all-out nuclear exchange are extremely high. If it is hard to feel confident about American coolness in the face of a limited nuclear strike against our own territory, it is equally difficult to envisage the Soviets responding simply in kind to a strike against their military facilities. Sooner or later the odds are very heavy that the stakes will be raised to include cities-and thus the very sort of holocaust that all are presumably intent on avoiding.


Even as the major industrialized countries are reducing their defense spending, the nations of the Third World are increasing theirs. One aspect of this development that is of increasing concern is the spectre of nuclear proliferation, There has always been something of a debate amongst strategic analysts about the potential effect of more nations acquiring nuclear weapons. A small but influential minority has argued that such a development might well increase international stability. Drawing on the behavior of the states that have to date had nuclear weapons in their arsenals, these analysts have noticed a tendency to behave with extreme caution in crisis situations given the awful potential of a miscalculation. Pursuing this logic to its extreme, the best way to make General Amin behave himself would be to give him a few modest hydrogen bombs.

The arguments for attempting to restrain proliferation seem far more commanding. Essentially, they involve the premise that, with an ever-increasing number of nuclear weapons states, the chances of such weapons being employed through conscious intent, accident or miscalculation rise almost geometrically. Moreover, even a “localized” nuclear exchange might be enormously difficult to quarantine, especially if the respective sides had different superpower sponsors, e. g. , Israel and Egypt. If proliferation is indeed dangerous, then contemporary developments are reason for great concern. The decision by India to go nuclear may well have opened a Pandora’s box, especially since it represented the first addition to the nuclear club since China’s admission in 1964. A more basic worry is the failure of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty in 1968 to accomplish its central purpose. The NPT was signed by some 100 nations and to date has been officially ratified by 80. What makes this supposed “accomplishment” rather irrelevant is that the great majority of the signatories would have had no chance to develop nuclear weapons anyway. As Alva Myrdal has pointed out, of the approximately 20 countries which at the time of the NPT did have a nuclear potential, only four have completed the formal process of ratification: Canada, Sweden, Australia and East Germany. Amongst the notable non-ratifiers are Argentina, and Brazil, Egypt and Israel (the latter widely assumed to have at least primitive nuclear weapons already), Spain, South Africa and Pakistan (which can hardly be expected to do so now that arch-enemy India has joined the nuclear ranks).

No doubt the basic reason for the lack of compliance with the NPT amongst the relevant parties is that in a world in which there is still no central authority to protect the rights and indeed the very existence of the member units, nuclear weapons are seen as the ultimate alternative for securing national interests. There are two other factors as well. In the first place, the original treaty was largely a product of direct bilateral negotiations between the United States and the Soviet Union. It is inexplicable that the two superpowers did not attempt to engage the states toward whom the treaty was directed in a systematic dialogue on the terms of the accord. There were legitimate concerns that the then non-nuclear states had, such as the constraint the treaty might place on development of the peaceful use of nuclear energy. West Germany, for instance, balked at ratifying the NPT largely on these grounds. More basically, those states which did not presently command nuclear weapons wanted some assurance that those who did would make a serious effort to restrain and even reduce their own nuclear weapons capability. The final treaty did contain a clause in which the United States and the Soviet Union paid lip service to this desideratum, but their actions since 1968 have hardly been evidence of a desire to implement it. The United States, for example, blithely proceeded with the development of MIRV technology in seeming disregard of this aspect of the NPT. The terms of the SALT I accords, moreover, can hardly be viewed as a step in the direction of restraint, except insofar as the respective sides agreed to limit their ABM systems—and they agreed to this largely because they concluded that a fully-effective missile defense system was beyond the reach of either one of them anyway. In sum, the NPT is generally viewed by those outside the superpower club as no more than an attempt by the latter to cement their nuclear monopoly and thus their predominant political and power position.

Actually, the NPT was from its origins somewhat of an exercise in public relations puffery. If the nuclear weapons states were truly desirous of impeding the spread of nuclear capabilities, they could have simply made a series of unilateral statements indicating that they would not in fact export either the technology or the material relevant to weapons manufacture. In fact, this had for some years before the NPT been the practice of the relevant parties. There was no particular need for a formal treaty to obligate the negotiators to a policy which they had been pursuing on their own anyway. As for the peaceful use of nuclear energy, the NPT is firm in saying that any nation that wishes to import nuclear materials for peaceful purposes must open itself to the inspection of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It is somewhat curious that the largest exporters of nuclear technology, specifically the United States, have not always seemed to be concerned about the limitations the NPT did impose in this regard. The American offer of nuclear reactors to both Israel and Egypt, for example, did not in its initial formulation demand that the former adhere to the NPT or even submit to IAEA inspection! It may be that the superpowers fear proliferation as a general proposition, but this can and does give way to more specific political and strategic considerations should conditions seem to warrant it.


Nuclear proliferation is generally discussed in terms of formal governments. There is an aspect of the proliferation problem, though, that involves both governmental and non-governmental groups. Since World War II, we have become accustomed, if not inured, to the use of seemingly random or arbitrary violence by groups attempting to alter some aspect of the prevailing social or political order. The activities of the IRA and the PLO are perhaps the most publicized. To date, these organizations have been limited in their destructive capability by the fact of their having access “only” to conventional tools of violence. Such limitations may not endure much longer. In terms of the increasing availability of weapons-grade nuclear materials and also in terms of the increasingly commonplace knowledge of principles of nuclear weapons technology, it may only be a short time before some terrorist organization extends the logic of its activities to nuclear blackmail. It requires approximately eleven pounds of plutonium-239 to construct a nuclear device equal to the power of that dropped on Hiroshima. At present more than 13 tons of plutonium-239 are being produced each year by nuclear power plants. Estimates place this total at 750 tons by the end of the century. This material has a radioactive half-life of some 24, 400 years. We can hardly be confident of its being kept from unauthorized groups over a period of decades, much less centuries. What is more unsettling is that even at the present time the measures adopted to secure the plutonium generated by nuclear power plants are hardly iron-clad. A report by the General Accounting Office, for example, cited one instance in the United States in which a shipment of plutonium was tied down on an open flatbed truck with no alarm system or two-way radio. The driver was not even given a specific route to follow to his destination. In many instances, those guarding shipments of weapons-grade material do not even have firearms because of the difficulty of obtaining gun licenses in the various states through which the shipment may pass. In actuality, there has been a small but under the circumstances significant amount of fissionable material “lost” or unaccounted for from American nuclear plants. In one case investigated by the Atomic Energy Commission, an amount sufficient to build one Hiroshima-type bomb was missing from a plant in Pennsylvania. Although the AEC later concluded that the loss was due largely to sloppy accounting procedures, the precedent for the future was not reassuring.

The problem of inadequate controls over nuclear materials would not be of such concern were it not for the fact that the expertise required to convert this material into at least a primitive explosive device is no longer particularly arcane. Most experts agree that information on bomb construction is the least of the problems facing a would-be home mechanic in nuclear violence. Nuclear physicist Theodore Taylor for one estimates that a reasonably competent individual with access to the necessary materials could construct a crude nuclear device in a matter of weeks. Taylor has been disputed by colleagues, but one is hardly reassured by a recent incident in which a student of M. I. T. working on his own managed to come up with all the theoretical calculations needed to construct a bomb. The individual in question was not even a graduate student (he also requested that his name be kept secret lest he be apprehended by an organization like the PLO and forced to apply his newfound knowledge in a practical way).

How a newly-acquired nuclear capability might be applied is a complicated question. Robert Heilbroner imagines a situation in which a Third World country, economically desperate, might hold one of the cities of a wealthy industrialized country in hostage until, say, 10 per cent of the latter’s national wealth was transferred to the former. There are certain problems in such a scenario; if the blackmailed power refuses to deal, the choice left to the blackmailer is to carry through the threat—and face total devastation in return—or to back down and lose any future credibility. Still it is not out of the question that in a situation of total economic breakdown, fueled in particular by exploding population and out-distanced food resources, a small country led by a fanatical or irrational leadership might clutch at the straw Heilbroner outlines. On balance, however, nuclear terrorism is probably to be feared more from non-governmental groups who have no specific territory or—in the case of the ruling elite—vested interests to protect. If Al-Fatah should manage to implant a crude device in the center of London, perhaps smuggled ashore from a freighter, the British would be hard put to select a suitable target for retaliation should the device actually be set off. Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Jordan all harbor large numbers of Palestinians: which of them deserve nuclear devastation for the misdeeds of a group within their borders over whom in some instances they may have little or no control? Whether groups like the PLO, the IRA or the Japanese Red Army would ever actually contemplate the nuclear game is a question of its own which involves psychological as much as political or geographical factors. Clearly, the threat of nuclear devastation represents not just a difference in degree but also in kind from the sort of activities these groups have been associated with so far. But should their in many cases legitimate grievances remain festering, there is a very real question about how long it would be before an extremist individual or group within the larger movement would seize control of the organization and go the ultimate step. The history of protest movements reveals that the longer their demands go unsatisfied, the more tendency there is for the ultras to assume command.


The burden of this article may call to mind the famous one-sentence book report by the ten-year-old girl who was asked to report on a lengthy tome on penguins. After due consideration, the girl summed up her impressions by saying that “this book told me more about penguins than I wanted to know.” Certainly we have all been assaulted over the last three decades with somber analyses about how the world is assuredly going to hell in a handbasket, the only question being how soon we will get there. Prominent space in these pronunciamentos has generally been given to the problem of recurring war, spending on the military and nuclear weapons. Those who continue to repeat such warnings run the risk of being dismissed as at best repetitious and at worst as bores. The situation will not go away, however. Any reasonable analysis has to conclude that the dangers of both localized and general war are as great and probably greater than they have ever been in the human experience. In 1961, C. P. Snow delivered a lecture which subsequently resulted in considerable criticism. He argued that if significant arms control measures were not very shortly implemented, then there was a virtual mathematical certainty that nuclear weapons would be used in anger somewhere in the world before the end of the decade. We all know that his prediction did not come to pass: there have not been any really significant arms control measures yet no nuclear weapons have been used in war since 1945. Still I would suggest that Snow was basically correct—not in his chronology but in his basic premise. Unless measures of the sort he alluded to are in fact enacted, there is little doubt that in the lifetime of our younger population—say, those under 40—there will be some sort of nuclear violence somewhere in the world.

Actually, the case for renewed warnings about the escalating threat of war and especially nuclear war today flows out of the very fact that the general public has largely put this problem out of its consciousness. A fascinating study which traced the relative attention given to the dangers of nuclear war was offered by Rob Paarlberg in the Spring 1973 issue of Foreign Policy. Paarlberg discovered that in terms of media coverage the nuclear threat was given greatest prominence during the first years of the Kennedy Administration. This was the period of the building of fallout shelters and first the Berlin and subsequently the Cuban confrontation. After the missile crisis subsided, so did public attention on the dangers of World War III. In fact, periodical coverage on this issue fell by a factor of eight between 1964 and 1971. Even the Vietnam conflict failed to reverse this trend. The upshot was that by 1970 the so-called “Fever Chart”, i. e. , public fears concerning the dangers of a nuclear exchange, had fallen to a 26-year low. This drop was in almost inverse proportion ironically to the nuclear weapons race. Secretary McNamara coneluded in 1964 that the United States had about all the offensive nuclear warheads it needed to insure deterrence against a Soviet nuclear attack. The number at the time he spoke was about 400. As of today, the United States has more than 7, 000 offensive warheads in its arsenal. Take also the matter of nuclear weapons testing. Public attention given to these weapons may have declined after 1963 but their continued development hardly did. From July 1945 to August 1963—the date of the nuclear test ban agreement—the nuclear powers averaged about 24 nuclear tests per year. From August 1963 to December 1970 the average was 42.

There is no doubt that public concern about nuclear war has continued to subside over the past few years. The prime factor in this development has obviously been the budding detente between the United States and its principal adversaries, the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China. More generally, the success of the Nixon-Kissinger team in negotiating at least a superficial resolution of outstanding issues such as Vietnam and the Middle East has contributed to a feeling of complacency amongst the American people concerning the risks of superpower confrontation. The key word here however is “superficial.” It is taking nothing away from the remarkable negotiating skills of Doctor Kissinger to observe that essentially his whole effort has been toward maintaining a rough equilibrium and status quo in the relations amongst the great powers. One needn’t focus undue attention on the debacle of Vietnam to observe that such a policy seems calculated only to forestall various chickens ultimately coming home to roost.

Even Kissinger himself has sometimes expressed exasperation at the manner in which all his intricate negotiations seem hardly to affect the momentum of weapons development as it has existed since 1945. Returning from Moscow after a round of SALT talks in which the demands of both the Soviet and American military seemed identical in their search for an “edge” over the other side, Kissinger exclaimed, “What in the name of God is strategic superiority? What is the significance of it politically, militarily, operationally at these levels of numbers? What do you do with it?” What indeed? The point of Kissinger’s complaint, however, still seems to be largely ignored in many sectors where it counts. Even assuming that Kissinger succeeds in implanting his own version of equilibrium on superpower relations, there is little room for comfort. The tentative SALT II accord as reached at Vladivostok allows for a total of 2400 delivery vehicles on each side, 1300 of which may be equipped with MIRV’s. In the case of the Soviet Union this permits a considerable expansion of what she had at the time of the agreements. Because the United States has already equipped a considerable number of her missiles with MIRV’s, it is closer to the upper limit. In any case, SALT II, even if it is eventually concluded exactly along the lines agreed to at Vladivostok, scarcely represents an agreement in the spirit of the original commitment the super-powers made in the NPT to first limit and then reduce their strategic arms. The final conclusion seems self-evident. Unless the major nuclear powers, and in their own way all states possessing significant means of mass destruction, commit themselves to what Kissinger called in another context a “conceptual breakthrough,” in this instance a basic transformation in the way nations associate the tools of violence with the resolution of interstate conflict, Heilbroner’s thesis will be fulfilled. What is needed is a change in the system itself. Heilbroner disputes that such a change is really possible. He may be wrong, but any sober observer of the world scene would have to agree that at present the prospects for permanent global peace are anything but pleasing.


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