Editorials:

O'Gara, James

THE WHIRLPOOL OF WEAPONS NO, WE DIDN'T plan it that way. It simply happened that for die same issue of Commonweal, columnist Thomas Powers chose to sketch a grim picture of a world bent on war even...

...but apart from indicating a tour deforce of sustained discussion between analysts frequently found in polemically divided camps, the Panel' s report also provides future debates with at least some factual and conceptual base lines on which otherwise opposed thinkers agree...
...And the Nation of January 24 is devoted entirely to an essay by the British historian E. P. Thompson on the build-up of nuclear weapons in Western Europe...
...Other voices are converging on the same point...
...COURTING TROUBLE In New York, a federal appeals court ruled that voluntary student prayer meetings on school property outside of school hours violated the separation of church and state...
...A second problem with the Carnegie Panel's work has to do with its scope...
...There are significant differences between the outlook of this journal and the pacifism represented by the Berrigans or the quasi-pacifism of many liberals...
...In the Christian Century of January 7-14, the distinguished theologian John C. Bennett sees the need for those reluctantly accepting a role for nuclear deterrence and those committed to one or another form of pacificism "to work together in opposition to the limited-nuclear-war-theorists" who are coming to dominate U.S...
...These questions have no brief answer, but we can offer two modest suggestions...
...Among the points that we can extract from this first report are these: 1. With difficulty the American economy can absorb the proposed increases in defense spending...
...Given the global holocaust toward which the accelerating nuclear arms race is driving us, and given the apparent paucity of ideas for escaping from this whirlpool of weapons, one might have imagined that establishing a "broad middle ground" was less of a necessity than legitimating entirely different and perhaps unorthodox proposals...
...Much of that lobby is now ensconced in power with President Reagan...
...In fact, SALT was "sold" by linking it to new arms spending...
...the disarmament process itself has now come to a virtual standstill...
...It is a hybrid of hawks and doves-purposely so-and thus it aspires to a painstaking "neutrality," listing "options" and avoiding recommendations...
...defense policy...
...Christianity and Crisis devoted an issue last December to "Saying No to Doomsday" and a current issue (January 19) to a discussion of tactical nuclear weapons...
...In Tennessee, the state's Attorney General detonated a fierce controversy when-following a parent's complaint-he issued an opinion that group prayers by high school athletic teams before, during, and after games, as well as at practice, violated separation of church and state...
...The reasons for this convergence of concern are obvious...
...That decision, however unpopular, was a sound one...
...In Minnesota, the ACLU sued to prohibit prayer at a high school graduation-and the school board responded by substituting a moment of silence...
...Security and the Future of Arms Control, and informs the first of the Panel's reports...
...defense policy operates would be easy...
...Are religious groups, no matter how voluntary, denied an access to school facilities available to the Junior Achievement club and the Young Republicans...
...They were supported by the ACLU, but not, however, by the Supreme Court, which agreed that Christmas carols "have achieved a cultural significance" justifying their presence in the schools...
...national security policy...
...It has been eighteen years since the Supreme Court ruled that mandatory prayers in the public schools were unconstitutional...
...A year ago, the same sense that U.S...
...defense policy was at a turning point provoked the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace to establish a blue-ribbon Panel on U.S...
...A similar process is occuring today in the area of nuclear strategy, and a similarly militant although differently focussed right-to-life-movement may again be the result...
...What is meant, wrote Thomas Powers in these pages (October 10), was "the absorption of nuclear weapons as one more item in the military inventory'' and ' 'a gradual acceptance of the possibility of war.'' Of equal importance is the fact that this formal change in policy took place in a post-Afghanistan climate that George F. Kennan decribed as the "militarization of thought and discourse'' in Washington...
...Although it can be argued that the counterforce strategy announced last Fall in Presidential Directive 59 was actually an operating principle of U.S...
...It never satisfies the militants in these disputes...
...2. It is not true that the U.S...
...but democracy, after all, is often a matter of small adjustments.r of small adjustments...
...A strenuous lobby had been urging a foreign policy that was more ready to contemplate the use of military force-including nuclear weaponry...
...but unless the Reagan administration changes its tune on either taxes or deficits, the most likely, candidates to pay for these increases are those in lower-half income brackets...
...Thus Cardinal Krol, in endorsing SALT, rejected the idea that such disarmament be the occasion for new military expenditures and emphasized that moral toleration of the existing balance of terror rested only on the grounds that it was a temporary condition leading to real disarmament...
...That approach has its grave problems-to which we'll return...
...In Louisiana, a federal judge upheld a law allowing school boards to institute prayers for students whose parents signed consent forms, while providing a "silent meditation" period for other students...
...today has fallen behind the Soviets in strategic weaponry but rather "can retain great confidence in its retaliatory capabilities against the Soviet Union throughout the 1980s...
...The Panel speaks in quite different tones from the Berrigans or Bennett or Thompson...
...On the other hand, the Supreme Court struck down a Kentucky state law requiring the posting of the Ten Commandments-as "the fundamental legal code of Western civilization"-in every public school classroom...
...And yet the Panel has worked out ways of dealing with a pluralism of sharply opposed positions in the strictly military area...
...We do not consider the balance of forces in Europe a non-problem, or think that debates over the draft or access to Persian Gulf energy sources are nothing more than signs of resurgent militarism, adequately disposed of by phrases about "dying for Exxon.'' Nonetheless it should be known that the changing attitudes about nuclear war are anathema to non-pacifist as well as pacifist morality...
...We are a pluralistic society...
...The second is that the courts and the Constitution cannot settle everything...
...In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, a group of residents sued to have Christmas carols banned from public schools...
...Of course, a Panel that would have discussed moral constraints as well as economic, military, and diplomatic ones might have had a somewhat different composition and spoken a somewhat different language-last resort, noncom-batants, and double effect, along with counterforce, circular error probable, and equivalent megatonnage...
...Does the First Amendment really require the systematic exclusion of all religious symbol and activity from "public space...
...The Panel's report may serve more to lubricate strained relations among defense analysts than to stir public response or new thinking...
...One gets the impression that our nuclear posture is constrained by our economy but not by our deepest beliefs...
...In between guaranteeing "free exercise" and prohibiting "establishment,' ' there is a gray area that should be left to the discretion of local elected officials, and that will inevitably vary according to local sentiments and sensitivities...
...The first is that neither faith nor civic virtue are well served by the "official religion" or its vague surrogates ("silent meditation") that depend upon practices enforced by law or peer pressure...
...For many traditonal Christian thinkers, the old deterrent strategy barely made it under the wire...
...Its first report focuses on defense spending, on the strategic balance, and on options for SALT...
...and nuclear strategy has slid much further toward preparation for actual use of nuclear weapons...
...That is, a wide range of options-including both new arms programs and proposals for renegotiation-could be pursued by the Reagan administration without irreversibly breaking off the SALT process...
...One of the Panel's problems has to do with its very purpose, "to develop the public understanding necessary for a new and broad middle ground to support U.S...
...No one imagines that adding explicit consideration of the moral framework in which U.S...
...yet obviously it left numerous issues unresolved...
...Nowhere in this, or in future reports, are we offered any consideration of our military posture and our national values...
...America published an article in its December 27 issue asking whether the liberal approach to disarmament was, in fact, as "realistic" as the more absolute and urgent demands of pacifist activists...
...The right-to-life movement resulted from the fact that a relatively elite and isolated institution, the Supreme Court, made a sweeping decision that, whatever else one might think about it, was out of keeping with the morality of a vast number of Americans...
...Thus in the very first case mentioned, the court went too far in finding the mere use of school buildings by voluntary student prayer groups equivalent to the state's "imprimatur on a particular religious creed...
...It is surprising, that a blue-ribbon panel, despite its search for a "broad middle ground," despite its attention to matters of psychology and "will," should ignore the practical political dangers, let alone the moral ones, of our strategic shift...
...It simply happened that for die same issue of Commonweal, columnist Thomas Powers chose to sketch a grim picture of a world bent on war even after the ravages of nuclear conflict (see page 37) and columnist John Garvey chose to write about the anti-war protesters, including Philip and Daniel Berrigan, who are under indictment for entering a weapons assembly plant and damaging nose cones for Mark 12A warheads (page 39...
...At the state's championship playoffs, football coaches and players defiantly flouted the ruling...
...At what point, on the other hand, does the association of religion and public authority become an "establishment," offending the rights of both non-believers and believers who feel their own religious convictions are of a different sort...
...For Commonweal, at least, the possibility that new weapons systems may be required for international stability is not ruled out a priori...
...3. SALT has about a year's grace...
...policy for many years, that document formalized the new approach...
...On the other hand, the denial of the school buildings for such groups does not strike us an infringement of free exercise of religion, as the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights maintained...
...The local officials should have some leeway to reflect local judgments...
...There is cause for worry in the Soviets' rapid improvement of their nuclear position relative to the U.S., although the various proposed expenditures promise to more than offset Soviet gains in a few years...
...Finally, all conclusions about the sufficiency of American forces rest not just on data about weapons but on value judgments about the uses of nuclear forces' in carrying out a foreign policy...
...A decision to torpedo SALT, then, would not so much arise from strictly military constraints as from a political judgment about the implacable will of Moscow or the need to bolster the American will for confrontation...

Vol. 108 • January 1981 • No. 2


 
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