What I have tried to do in this study is to take a thoughtful and reasonably hard-headed look at a given range of national security problems with which our nation is now, or soon will be, confronted. I have not tried to be the tough-minded strategist who looks nuclear war in the face and comes away unafraid; I am afraid and admit it freely. Nor have I tried to persuade myself that this awful condition of men and nations can be remedied if only there were good will; this would be a delusion. I am afraid and I am pessimistic. Individuals and societies are never completely masters of their own destiny. They are limited not only by their own weaknesses and frailties and vices, but by the fears and hopes and failures and successes of those who have preceded them. We of the nuclear-missile generation did not create this insane and degrading environment; we inherited it. But we have done little to improve it and a great deal to make it worse.
It is as if we are almost incapable of learning from experience. The tragedy is that knowledge about the material and physical