November 1968

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SCIENCE AND THE CITIZEN Source: Scientific American, Vol. 219, No. 5 (November 1968), pp. 54-65 Published by: Scientific American, a division of Nature America, Inc. Stable URL: Accessed: 02-02-2018 13:45 UTC JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact [email protected]. Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at

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a kind of farewell address after seven years in office, fonner Secre­ tary of Defense McNamara has set forth what he believes should be the basic assumptions and general line of reasoning underlying the negotiating po­ sitions of both sides in the forthcoming talks between the u.S. and the U.S.S.R. on the prospects of limiting the arms race in the area of strategic nuclear weapons. McNamara's thoughts on the subject, which are essentially the same as those he expressed directly to Premier Kosygin at the Glassboro conference in June, 1967, are outlined in Chapter IV ("Mutual Deterrence") of his new book The Essence of Security. In McNamara's view the cornerstone of a strategic policy based on the con­ cept of mutual deterrence is the main­ tenance of an "assured-destruction ca­ pability," that is, "a highly reliable abil­ ity to inRict unacceptable damage upon any single aggressor or combination of aggressors at any time during the course of a strategic nuclear exchange, even after absorbing a surprise first strike." At present, he writes, both the u.S. and the U.S.S.R. have a strategic nuclear ar­ senal "greatly in excess of a credible assured-destruction capability." What neither nation has at present, he con­ tinues, and what neither side can acquire in the foreseeable future, is a "first-strike capability," that is, the ability of one nation to attack another nation with nu­ clear forces first and thereby eliminat,e the attacked nation's retaliatory second­ strike forces. It is in the context of this mutual ca-

pability for assured destruction, McNa­ mara believes, that the U.S. should view the recent Russian decision to deploy a "light " antiballistic-missile system around Moscow. In his judgment such a system "does not impose a threat because we have already taken the steps necessary to assure that our land-based Minute­ man missiles, our submarine-launched new Poseidon missiles and our strategic bomber forces have the necessary pene­ tration aids." It is in the same context, McNamara continues, that the U.S. should consider the question of "whether or not we should deploy an ABlI'I system against the Soviet nuclear threat." Although technology in this area has advanced substantially in recent years, "it is im­ pOl·tant to understand that none of the systems at the present or foresee­ able state of the art would provide an impenetrable shield over the United States." Moreover, "were we to deploy a heavy ABM system throughout the United States, the Soviets would clearly be strongly motivated to so increase their offensive capability as to cancel out our defensive advantage." The inevitable conclusion to be drawn from this "nu­ clear action-reaction phenomenon " is that "it is futile for each of us to spend $4 billion, $40 billion or $400 billion­ and, at the end of all the spending, at the end of all the deployment, at the end of all the effort, to be relatively at the same point of balance on the secur­ ity scale that we are now." In an appendix to his book McNamara draws a distinction between a "heavy " $40-billion ABM system designed to protect U.S. cities against a Russian at­ tack-a system he continues to oppose­ and the "light," China-oriented Sentinel ABM system decided on by President Johnson, approved by Congress and now under construction. Although he con­ cedes that "there are marginal grounds for concluding that a light deployment of U.S. ABM's against this possibility is prudent," he cautions that such a deci­ sion contains two possible dangers. The first is that "we may lapse psychological­ ly into the old oversimplification about the adequacy of nuclear power." The second is that "in deploying this relative­ ly light and reliable Chinese-oriented ABM system ... pressures will develop

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