3. The Political Consequences
of the Atomic Bomb

MOST OPINIONS about the historical meaning of the discovery and use of atomic weapons* can be divided into two general types. One, the less conspicuous, though adhered to by a number of military leaders, maintains that no essential change in warfare or in history is brought about by the introduction of atomic weapons. Atomic weapons are just one more item in a long list: clubs and stones, swords, spears, ships, bows and arrows, gunpowder, rifles, cannon, machine guns, airplanes, gas, rockets, atomic bombs. . . . New weapons have altered the range at which killing and destruction can take place, and have increased the amount of killing that can be accomplished at one moment. The differences, however, are only of degree. Tactics, defensive and offensive, must accommodate themselves to the quantitative changes. The great principles of military strategy stand unaltered. An atomic war will look quite different from older fashioned wars, and will require different tactical preparations and dispositions; but it will be decided by the same combination of resources, morale, and strategic superiority that has always been in question.

The other set of opinions, in extreme contrast, holds that the discovery of the use of nuclear energy, and its adaptation to warfare, have thrown us into an altogether new stage of world history. War, and in time human life, are at the beginning of a total change, un-

____________________
*
Atomic bombs are not, of course, the only new weapons of mass destruction. It has been claimed that some others, not yet disclosed, are still more devastating in effect than atomic bombs. For the sake of simplicity, I shall speak of "atomic weapons" or merely of "atomic bombs"; but I wish to be understood to refer in each case to the entire group of new weapons of comparable, or greater, destructive power. I may add, as my own opinion, that I should expect the nuclear weapons, based as they are on the unlocking of a new level of physical reality, to prove of much the greatest importance.

-26-

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