Michael Novak's "Moral Clarity in the Nuclear Age" was compiled as an independent set of moral views during the period when the U.S. Catholic Bishops were attracting considerable media attention to the various drafts of their pastoral letter dealing with nuclear weapons. The article constituted virtually the whole issue of the April 1, 1983, National Review. In this excerpt Novak argues that a realistic appraisal of the Soviet Union's nuclear capability and its cultural history places a moral mandate on U.S. leaders to maintain a nuclear deterrent. He reasons that the moral obligation to defend the innocent outweighs the current moral objections to both the countervalue and counterforce nuclear deterrent strategies. "To abandon deterrence occasions the greatest evil, for it entails endangering that liberty which is more precious than life itself." He attempts a response to the view that deterrence is morally flawed because it uses an evil means (threatens to destroy the innocent) to bring about a good end (deters nuclear war). His response involves an analysis of the concept of intentions as they are employed in deterrence policies.
Religious leaders who wish to influence public policy by influencing public opinion owe a special debt to democratic states, and incur an obligation to defend them against those who would destroy them. "Rulers must be supported and enlightened by a public opinion that
Reprinted from National Review, April 1, 1983, pp. 368-370, 381-386, with permission from National Review, Inc., 150 East 35th Street, New York, N.Y. 10016.