Halle, Louis J.
June 1980
Foreign Affairs;Summer80, Vol. 58 Issue 5, p1129
This article presents the author's view regarding humankind's chances of escaping nuclear warfare and what provision should be made to ensure the retention of a hopeful future in any case. In the largest perspective it is not implausible that life as a whole, having developed for so long and so hopefully on earth, should nevertheless disappear from it at last, leaving it as lifeless as other planets, or leaving it inhabited only by such primitive forms as bacteria. What distinguishes us human beings from all the less advanced forms of life on earth is that, having at last become conscious of the challenge of survival, we have consciously undertaken to shape our own future. Virtually the sole device by which our kind has averted a nuclear war during the first generation that has possessed nuclear armaments has been that of mutual nuclear deterrence. Granted an element of moral inhibition against destroying life in cold blood, granted an element of uncertainty in the use of weapons never used before, granted an intuitive fear of reaping the whirlwind, the only strategic device we have yet found for preventing nuclear devastation has been the threat of retaliation in kind. The danger that mutual deterrence will break down is augmented by the prospect of what appears to be, in the long run, a virtually inevitable nuclear proliferation.


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