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Transcripts from the conference initiated by the American Friends Service Committee, New England Regional Office. 122 pages..,(Cambridge, 1983; AFSC.)
Reviewed by Patrick McDonald
It is an unfortunate truth that, in the struggle to mobilize our fellow citizens’ opinion against Armageddon, single issues such as the cruise missile are more easily presented to the public than the broader pattern of inherently complex realities which underlie such symbolic issues.
Nevertheless, to be truly effective and informed advocates of disarmament, we owe it to ourselves to be familiar with significant implications of the arms race, other than that of a possible exchange of force between the US and the USSR.
This book is a collection of papers presented at a conference held in December 1982 at M.I.T. Organized by the AFSC, it drew the abilities of many personalities prominent in the disarmament field to bear on an alternate but vital consideration in the broad scenario of human survival in nuclear age: increased ,and apparently actively premeditated military action by the US in the Third World.
Although the many facets of this situation are examined from viewpoints as seemingly diverse as the repression of political dissent in the Philippines and the aggressive actions of American client states such as South Africa, a consistent. and chilling pattern is common to most of the presentations.
Daniel Ellsberg and Noam Chomsky trace the historic roots of this policy ably and with well” documented arguments to the period after World War II and during most of the 1950s when, for a time, the US could in many instances dictate terms to the Soviet Union by directly or indirectly threatening to use its. nuclear arsenal, an arsenal which began by being unique and which later remained overwhelmingly superior.
The Soviet Union’s determined effort to close this gap following their humiliation during the Cuban missile crisis has resulted in a rough parity in nuclear strength at this time between the two nations.
The participants make a strong case for the argument that current American rearmament concepts are an attempt to return to those days of apparent invincibility – a period in which American military strength assumed virtually mythological dimensions and when the US felt it could send commandments carved in stone tablets to any part of the world and have them obeyed.
It is perhaps because this concept is a myth that this understanding is not so much Quixotic as potentially devastating. Christopher Paine- and Paul Walker demonstrate that, in order to, support Third World intervention in conventional terms, the development of nuclear deterrence has drifted more and more into the realm of first-strike scenarios. This development has been one of momentum rather than purposeful direction.
The authors reveal that the albeit relatively stable nuclear tension between East and West lies not in the nature of deterrence itself, but on the Third World foundation, the stability of which is decreasing rapidly. It is sobering indeed that events in Grenada, Latin America and the Philippines subsequent to the conference have strongly supported their thesis.
The only problem the reader may encounter in the 1983 edition is the large number of misprints; and in many of the later articles, omissions of entire pages of text, which make it difficult if not impossible to derive meaningful information from some of these presentations. If a later and corrected edition becomes available, however, the informed citizen would do well to invest a few hours in the reading of this book.