"Moral Dilemmas and Nuclear Strategy"
Op-Ed, Christian Science Monitor
April 13, 1983
Authors: Paul Doty, Director Emeritus, Center for Science and International Affairs; Mallinckrodt Professor of Biochemistry, Emeritus, Albert Carnesale, Member of the Board, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Stanley Hoffmann, Editorial Board Member, Quarterly Journal: International Security, Samuel Huntington, Joseph S. Nye, Harvard University Distinguished Service Professor, Scott Sagan, Former Research Fellow, International Security Program, 1981-1982; Editorial Board Member, Quarterly Journal: International Security
Can nuclear strategy and morality be compatible? The Roman Catholic bishops of the United States have just addressed this question in their draft pastoral letter. Three important moral dilemmas are raised.
First, can initiating the use of nuclear weapons ever be morally justified? The dilemma arises because it is not known whether, in a conventional war, the use of nuclear weapons in an extremely limited fashion - to destroy a Soviet radar site, for example - would be more likely to lead to nuclear escalation or to stop the conventional war. If initiating the use of nuclear weapons led to escalation, the action would have been immoral. But if it led to a quick end of the conventional war in Europe, might not the action be seen as moral? Perhaps. But every effort would have to be made to keep close control of the risks: Small weapons would be needed; there should be no delegation of authority to dispersed military units; continual communications with the Soviet Union must be maintained; and there should be a clear idea of how to terminate the conflict.
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