Plain Truth Magazine
February 1982
Volume: Vol 47, No.2
Issue: ISSN 0032-0420
QR Code
Jeff Calkins  

If our only hope is disarmament, humanity is doomed. Fortunately, it isn't.

   DOES PEACE your Survival depend on the outcome of negotiations between the United States and the U.S.S.R. in Geneva?
   Does the fate of the world rest on what a few dozen arms experts from the United States and Soviet Union do around a conference table?
   A whole school of "peace" experts would certainly say so.

One View

   A considerable body of opinion says the only hope for human survival lies in disarmament. This school of thought is best represented by Frank Barnaby of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), when he says:
   "If our civilization is to survive there really is no feasible alternative to nuclear disarmament." (Emphasis added)
   The view is also represented by British opposition leader Michael Foot, when he tells a disarmament rally, "Only by disarmament can we properly protect our people."
   Now look at the facts as they are.

Neither Trust nor Good intentions

   Disarmament absolutely requires mutual trust. While, of course, there are those particularly in the European Peace Movement who would not object if the Soviet Union had the only nuclear weapons on the continent, a political majority in most countries in Western Europe still favor having enough power to remain independent of the Soviet Union. Thus disarmament cannot be, as they say, unilateral. One side cannot do it alone.
   In his speech on disarmament President Reagan said, "We cannot reduce arms unilaterally. Success can only come if the Soviet Union will share our commitment." And during Soviet President Leonid Brezhnev's trip to Bonn last November, his spokesman declared, "We have no weapon we do not wish to part with, if this were mutual."
   Yet each superpower clearly does not trust the other not to take advantage of weakness. Thus, in February, 1981, the Soviet Union's defense minister Dmitry Ustinov charged that the United States had "plans" to launch a "preemptive nuclear" attack against the USSR and East bloc nations to gain global superiority.
   On the American side, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Lawrence Eagleburger characterized Russian goals in Europe as menacing:
   "The Soviets have no higher goal than undoing the December 1979 decision [of the U.S. to deploy midrange missiles in Europe], leaving themselves with an undeterred capability to wage or threaten nuclear war in Europe."
   Because of such mistrust, disarmament negotiations often become perverse games of numbers juggling.

A MAD Doctrine

   What is it that prevents the Soviet Union from launching an attack on the United States?
   Even to ask the question subverts the idea of disarmament. The question itself implies that the Soviets just might do it if they could get away with it. It assumes that there is a component to human nature that not many in the peace movement even care to acknowledge: the desire on the part of the Soviet leaders to bring all the world under their domination.
   So what does prevent such an attack? In a word fear; fear that enough U.S. forces would survive to be used to devastate the attacker.
   But what happens if the first attack successfully destroyed America's own nuclear weapons before they could ever be used?
   The principle of attacking the other side's weapons is not new. In 1914, before bombers came into widespread use in military arsenals, Winston Churchill wrote: "The great defense against aerial menace is to attack the enemy's aircraft as near as possible to their point of departure." Today, the same principle would mean attacking the enemy's missiles while they were still in the ground, or the enemy's bombers before they could take off, or the enemy's submarines before they could launch their missiles.
   It is this fear that the other side could disarm your side before you could get your own forces off the ground which fuels the nuclear "arms race."
   That's why the big stumbling block in the SALT II agreement was verifiability. Bluntly, a majority of the American Senate was afraid that the Soviets would cheat on the agreement and gain the ability to launch a nuclear attack without having to worry about the American response.
   To prevent such a surprise attack, American nuclear war "experts" developed the idea of "mutual assured destruction" MAD for short.
   The idea is that neither power would dare launch a nuclear attack against the other because if it did, it would suffer devastation from the other side's "second strike." Of course, the idea depended on the other side having enough forces left after the first attack to launch that second strike something which America might not possess if Soviet weapons ever became accurate enough to destroy American weapons before those weapons even get off the ground!
   For its part, the United States has been willing to give the Soviets a guarantee that it would never launch a surprise nuclear attack against the Soviet Union.
   In the 1960s the United States deliberately dismantled its air defenses! It is a simple fact that Soviet bombers (or anyone else's for that matter) could attack major American cities undetected because of gaps in America's radar network and America's almost total lack of surface-to-air missiles with which to shoot those bombers down.
   Thus, a U.S. attack on the Soviet Union could never work because if even only a few Soviet bombers were to survive, they almost certainly would penetrate American airspace to destroy a number of American cities something politically impossible for an American President to allow.
   MAD explains why no nuclear weapons have been exploded since World War II. There was absolutely no chance a Soviet surprise attack could successfully disarm the United States: retaliation was sure. But MAD means a perpetual arms race; if the United States ever allows its forces to come to the point where the USSR could disarm those forces in a surprise attack, nuclear war would be possible. Thus each side must continually build "better" and more accurate weapons. MAD's critics wonder, "This is the way to peace?"

No Soviet Guarantees

   Unlike the United States, the Soviet Union has not given any tangible guarantee that it would not launch a surprise attack. The Soviets have not so structured their nuclear forces that they would be vulnerable to a second strike from the country they attacked. Instead, the Soviet Union has only given verbal statements it would never attack anyone.
   Thus Soviet President Brezhnev told interviewers for Der Spiegel: "I can declare that the Soviet Union will under no circumstances employ nuclear weapons against states that forego production and acquisition of such arms and don't have them stationed on their territory. We are ready to guarantee that to any country, without exception, by treaty."
   Notice! "Guarantee... by treaty." Suppose the USSR broke the treaty? What would the attacked nation do? Shake a piece of paper at incoming bombers?
   At another time, TASS news agency commentator Yuri Kornilov declared: "The Soviet Union needs no war, does not threaten anyone and is not going to attack anyone."
   The problem, in a nutshell, is that the world has only their words. That's all. Just their unenforceable promise.
   No wonder hard-headed military planners men in whose care the very survival of nations is entrusted find they must look at the other side's ability, not its stated intentions. If a nation builds its military forces as if it planned a surprise attack, yet all the while proclaims its peaceful intentions, it cannot be trusted.
   At one point in a conversation with West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt, Brezhnev reportedly said: "We never wanted to be stronger than anyone else. And we do not have that aim now. We have no thought of attacking anyone." Yet over the past 15 years the USSR has engaged in the greatest military buildup in peace-time history. In almost every category of weaponry, numbers of long-range missiles, numbers of mid-range missiles, total power of warheads, numbers of tanks, infantry and planes, the Soviet Union long ago became stronger than anyone else.
   While the U.S. still leads in number of aircraft carriers and total number of warheads, even its lead in warheads is expected to disappear by the mid to late 1980s. Unlike the United States, the Soviet Union never dismantled its air defense system as a guarantee it would never strike first. Combine this fact with the Soviet buildup of 308 super-accurate SS-18 missiles capable of destroying hardened missile silos. And combine it with the Soviet pursuit of an aggressive civil defense plan. It suggests that the Kremlin wants at least the capability of being able to launch a nuclear attack on the United States and still survive.

A Pinch of SALT

   There are those who have likened the arms race to two apes on a treadmill, each too stupid to realize the race is pointless and simply get off. The conclusion they draw is that at least the United States should stop building any more nuclear weapons and then the Soviets, realizing the fruitlessness of their own buildup, would do the same thing.
   The problem with such an approach is that it assumes a surprise attack couldn't possibly disarm the United States. Yet military experts even doves now admit that by the mid-1980s (at the latest) the Soviets will be able to knock out America's 1054 ICBMs in a surprise attack a move only
The ultimate irony is that during the time the SALT I disarmament treaty was in effect the world moved closer to nuclear war!
preventable by a U.S. "launch on warning."
   Launch on warning is extremely dangerous, though, because the "warning" might be a false one and, in any case, an American President would probably want extra time to see if war could be stopped before any more missiles were fired. If he had to "push the button" after just a few minutes consideration, he might be condemning millions to death, which wouldn't be necessary if he could somehow limit the scope of the war to, say, mutual attacks on each other's missile bases.
   Since America's 300 or so long-range bombers face about 12,000 Soviet surface-to-air missiles, it is doubtful that any which survived a surprise attack could get through to their targets. That would mean the only thing standing between the world and nuclear war is America's missile submarine fleet.
   But submarine missiles pack less power than regular ICBMs and are less accurate. While they could destroy "soft" targets like Soviet cities in a retaliatory attack, they might not be able to hit military targets. After a Soviet surprise attack, they might only be good against cities, leaving the American President faced with a terrible choice: if he ordered his submarines to attack, U.S. cities would face certain destruction because the Soviet Union would easily have the power, even after its first attack, to destroy them; or he could surrender.
   While the United States has foregone adding to its nuclear forces, the Soviet Union has kept on building. Since 1967 the United States has scrapped its B-47, B-58, B-70 and B-1 bombers, the Jupiter and Thor missiles, the Skybolt missile, the Polaris missile and its single antimissile missile. The Soviets haven't scrapped anything. (Though they claim to be scrapping obsolete, liquid-fuel SS-4 and SS-5 midrange missiles)

A Pinch of SALT II

   In 1972, the USSR and the United States signed the first strategic arms limit agreement (SALT I the initials stand for Strategic Arms Limitation Talks). SALT I was an arms control agreement widely hailed at the time of its signing (particularly by the Nixon administration) as a great step forward for world peace and detente (a word you don't hear anymore since the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan).
   We now know that the Soviets cheated on SALT I during the 1970s (though detente-minded Ford and Carter state departments chose to, in the words of Aviation Week, "cover up" the violations). The Soviets tested a mobile antimissile system, tested to upgrade an antiaircraft system to an antimissile system, concealed missile submarine sites from U.S. verification satellites, concealed the production of the mobile SS-16 and SS-20 missiles, and encrypted missile test data all in violation of their promises in SALT I to limit their deployment of antimissile missiles and allow for satellite verification of strategic forces.
   The ultimate irony is that during the time the SALT I disarmament treaty was in effect the world moved closer to nuclear war!
   The Soviets used the time to build the monster SS-18 missile, capable of knocking out American land-based missiles because of its extreme accuracy within a quarter of a mile of its target. The Soviets also used the time to build up antiaircraft defenses to ward off any retaliatory strike from American bombers.
   While the United States developed the Trident submarine and Trident missile, it held back for the most part on upgrading its forces in hopes of yet another SALT treaty, SALT II. When the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in early 1980 made passage of SALT II in the United States Senate impossible, the United States was left with the possibility that in a matter of years the Soviets theoretically were going to be able to pull off a disarming first strike at least against U.S. land-based missiles and ward off attacks from an aging U.S. bomber fleet.

"The Paper It's Written On"

   While it may be true that, as Winston Churchill said, "to jaw, jaw is better than to war, war," treaties and negotiations cannot of themselves make the world safer.
   Hans Morgenthau, in his classic text on international relations Politics Among Nations writes: "The modern philosophy of disarmament proceeds from the assumption that men fight because they have arms." Rather, "men do not fight because they have arms. They fight because they deem it necessary to fight."
   We are face to face with an unpleasant fact about human nature. Human political leaders cannot be counted on not to take advantage of weakness. Human nature will get away with what it can get away with the only ultimate bound on it is force. Since Cain and Abel, human beings have tried to dominate each other and have in return tried to resist. This may seem like a rather dim view of human nature, but it accords with everything we know about man from history or from God's written word, the Bible.
   "The [human] heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked..." (Jer. 17:9).
   Note the words of one arms analyst, Bruce Douglas Clayton, writing in the generally dovish Bulletin of Atomic Scientists:
   "Given the history of human behavior with regard to weapons, nationalism, territoriality, militarism, disputes, armed confrontations, and war-making in general, is it reasonable to expect the nuclear powers to disarm themselves? Will total brotherhood be achieved within the next few years? It has never been achieved before."
   Mr. Morgenthau writes that "all politically active nations are by definition engaged in a competition for power of which armaments are an indispensable element."
   The lust for power is as old as the devil's challenge to God (see Isaiah 14:12-15). And it is part of a certain spirit that has existed in human beings since Adam took from the forbidden tree in the Garden of Eden: there is a certain hostility and pride which nations can be relied on to reflect. The desire to dominate others for its own sake was the key element of the devil's challenge to God and an attitude that human beings have always, as a matter of simple historical fact, exemplified.
   "From whence come wars and fightings among you?" asked the apostle James (Jas. 4:1). "Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?"
   It is a painful fact and not easily acknowledged.
   There is a story of a nuclear strategist, the late Bernard Brodie, who once dismissed the idea of a surprise nuclear attack by the Soviet Union against the United States as not "worth spending much money on." Why? he was asked. His answer: "Human beings don't act that way."
   Of course, human beings do act that way. Conquest has been one of history's constant themes.

"Remember the Hivites"

   Lawrence W. Beilenson, author of Treaty Trap, points out that man's tendency to break treaties goes back a long, long time. Consider, he notes, the disarmament agreement made between the sons of the biblical patriarch Jacob and the Hivites in Genesis, chapter 34.
   The young Hivite named Shechem, the son of Hamor, had seduced Dinah, Jacob's daughter. Afterwards, "Hamor the father of Shechem went out unto Jacob to commune with him" (verse 6). At this "conference" the Hivites offered intermarriage of the two peoples (verse 9) and the sharing of Hivite land (verse 10) in return for Jacob's allowing Dinah to wed Shechem. The sons of Jacob agreed but wanted one more concession all the male Hivites had to agree to be circumcised (verse 15), an operation which, of course, rendered them in no shape for combat for the next few days.
   So, "on the third day, when they [the Hivites] were sore,... two of the sons of Jacob, Simeon and Levi, Dinah's brethren, took each man his sword, and came upon the city boldly, and slew all the males" (verse 25).
   In this case, the Hivites only had an oral agreement that the sons of Jacob would live peaceably with them (compare verses 10 and 21). And as the old joke about oral agreements goes: they're not worth the paper they're written on. The Hivites had no guarantee that the sons of Jacob would not take advantage of their temporary weakness.
   A reader of the account in Genesis 34 may notice that when the sons of Jacob accepted the "disarmament agreement," they did so "deceitfully" (verse 13). Unlike a contract a private citizen might make, international treaties are unenforceable except through war. If a treaty is made deceitfully, the other side may lose everything as the Hivites did.
   Now consider the modern context of the disarmament movement in Europe. The London Economist summarizes what would happen if Western Europe just went ahead and renounced nuclear weapons without the Soviets doing likewise:
   "If Western Europe rejected nuclear weapons the Russian response would pretty certainly be a grateful, if puzzled, smile. The more honest of Western Europe's nuclear disarmers have lately started to realize this. They therefore explain that 'if the Russians did not start to match our disarmament moves in the west, we should have to reconsider.' It would be too late to reconsider."
   "Too late to reconsider" like the foolish Hivites in Genesis 34 or Prime Minister Chamberlain in 1938 who came back from a conference with Hitler in Munich waving a piece of paper, proclaiming "peace in our time."
   Mutual trust is absolutely necessary for disarmament, but it is absent among nations. The Soviet Union has never renounced its goal of communizing the world. The West can never be sure that any disarmament agreement negotiated with the Soviets isn't really a ploy to leave the West vulnerable to a surprise attack. Nor can the Soviet Union ever really renounce its goal, because the very ability of the Soviet leaders to stay in power depends on giving the Soviet people something outside themselves and their domestic system to sacrifice for.
   Were the Soviets to become a status quo power, they would have to acknowledge, as Chinese communist leaders have done, their failure to provide high living standards for their citizens. That would in turn force them to change their system (as Chinese have begun to do) and that is something Soviet leaders will not do, because it would mean admitting that the goals to which they have devoted their lives and the sacrifices they have imposed on their people were in vain.
   Thus as a practical matter there can be no disarmament that does not in some way promote the Soviet domination of the world. Therefore, as long as the United States and other nations care about freedom and independence, there can be no disarmament.

Why There Will Be Peace Anyway

   "Disarmament," declared The Plain Truth 19 years ago, "is the result of peace, not the way to it." Peace will come when Christ returns to this earth and forcibly sets up his government over all nations. It will take Christ to end the international anarchy that insures that disarmament treaties can be cheated on or broken in today's world.
   The Bible reveals that the returned Christ will "rule [the nations] with a rod of iron" (Rev. 19:15), and force the nations to "beat their swords into plowshares" (Isa. 2:4). While the Bible says man doesn't know the "way of peace" (Isa. 59:8), God does, and the Gospel itself is, among other things, a message about the peace (Eph. 6:15) which God will impose from on high.
   In the meantime, hope of preventing war rests with whatever fear the American nuclear arsenal can inspire in Soviet leaders, an ever more slender reed as the world enters the mid-1980s. Disarmament negotiations can seem to lessen "international tensions," at least as they are publicized in the Western media, but they cannot reach the underlying causes of war which don't derive from weapons but from the very nature of the human heart itself. Indeed, the Bible leaves us a stern warning about putting trust in negotiations to bring peace:
   "For when they shall say, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape" (I Thess. 5:3).

Back To Top

Plain Truth MagazineFebruary 1982Vol 47, No.2ISSN 0032-0420