Nuclear Weapons and Law

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

4.

Nuclear Weapons and the Law: Enhancing Strategic Stability *

John Norton Moore**

No one can contemplate a nuclear exchange with anything but horror and a determination to make certain that it never occurs. Indeed, enhancing strategic stability and reducing the risk of war is the single most important task facing mankind. Accordingly, it is altogether proper that international lawyers and all other citizens should concern themselves, as Professor Weston and Professor Meyrowitz have eloquently argued, with issues of nuclear weapons and arms control. More importantly, however, all such efforts, including those suggested by Professor Meyrowitz, 1 must be judged by their contribution on the merits to enhancing stability and reducing the risk of war.

I might add in that connection that it does seem to me a little anomalous, thirty years after the height of the legal realist period, that the heart of the intellectual discussion so far today should be whether lawyers should take a stand in dealing with normative issues. That should be taken for granted. Rather, the heart of the intellectual discussion and our moral obligation in dealing with these issues is to deal with them on the merits and by the standard of what in fact reduces the risk of war and the kind of Armageddon that all of us want to avoid. Let me also add that I believe that all of us in these debates have an obligation to take seriously and listen seriously to the arguments of those on both sides of the discussion. It is all too easy, in dealing with an issue as emotional as this, to label those presenting imaginative new proposals as simply naïve dreamers on the one hand, or to say that those that have serious questions about the efficacy of such proposals are simply defenders of the status quo or of the horrors of nuclear weapons. Moreover, because of the special nature of this issue, it seems to me there is also a special moral obligation to candor, scholarly rigor and avoidance of polemics in presenting or appraising such issues. Since I owe that obligation of candor to you as an audience, and to Professor

* Reprinted, with permission from the Brooklyn Journal of International Law, Volume 9, Number 2 (1983).

** Walter L. Brown Professor of Law and Director, Center For Law and National Security, University of Virginia School of Law.

1. See Meyrowitz, The Law of War and Nuclear Weapons, 9 BROOKLYN J.INT'L L. 227 (1983).

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