Nuclear Weapons and Law

By Arthur Selwyn Miller; Martin Feinrider | Go to book overview

21.

Presidential Power and Nuclear Defense *

Arval A. Morris**

It is becoming common knowledge 1 that the combined nuclear arsenals of the United States and the Soviet Union contain more than 50,000 warheads, having a destructive power more than one million times greater than the atomic bomb that destroyed Hiroshima. In terms of blast equivalences, these weapons represent four tons of TNT for every living person on earth. One United States Polaris submarine can destroy 128 Soviet sites, and carries more firepower than all the weapons used in World War II. The new Trident submarines are still more powerful. These new weapon systems and the underlying strategic planning leave old notions of deterrence behind. These weapons are building toward a capacity to fight as well as to deter nuclear war, and some civilian and military analysts are even asserting that a nuclear war can be fought and “won”. The United States and NATO have long expressed their policy to use nuclear weapons first—especially “tactical” nuclear weapons—if necessary, to stop a Soviet invasion of Europe. 2

The United States is improving and developing more and more precise missiles and anti-submarine systems, thereby affording the

* Reprinted, with permission, from Nova Law Journal, Volume 7, Number 1 (1982), where it appeared as “The Constitution and Nuclear Defense.”

** Professor of Law, University of Washington.

1. The next several pages draw heavily on the literature of the Lawyers Alliance for Nuclear Arms Control, Inc., 11 Beacon Street, Suite 719, Boston, Mass., 02108, but any one of dozens of contemporary sources would have done as well. This group seeks to end lawyer apathy in the area. This is especially critical since lawyers learn and practice the skills of conflict resolution which are the very skills that must be applied to the nuclear arms race if we are to avoid nuclear war. Lawyers separate fact from fancy, distinguish the relevant from the irrelevant, and negotiate lasting agreements building upon common or compatible interests in efforts to obtain peaceful solutions to problems of conflict. Nowhere are these skills more in need today than in nuclear arms limitation, reduction and elimination.

2. See Mossberg, Wall St. J., Oct. 15, 1982, at 4, col. 1, Haig and Weinberger here confirmed this policy under the heading Nato Chief Warns of New Soviet Strategy to Deny the West the Use of Its Nuclear Punch.

-339-

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