In this concisely argued essay, Charles Krauthammer responds to several facets of the anti-nuclear position. He argues that the threat of retaliation is necessary for deterrence to work, that it has worked historically, that deterrence is itself morally superior to conceivable alternatives, and hence condemning the threat of retaliation (as the U.S. Catholic bishops and others do) is to condemn deterrence itself without providing a reasonable substitute for preventing nuclear war. He examines the alternative of unilateral disarmament (using historical examples) and finds it much inferior to deterrence as a guarantee of survival. He briefly evaluates the countervalue-counterforce debate, moving beyond it to reaffirm the moral superiority of deterrence itself and then challenge both the nuclear "freeze" campaign and the "no-first-use" advocates. Ultimately he concludes that all proffered alternatives to a realistic deterrence posture are sufficiently flawed to leave the deterrence position, with its necessary threat of nuclear retaliation, the most likely bet for survival in the nuclear age.
The contemporary anti-nuclear case takes two forms. There is, first, the prudential argument that the nuclear balance is inherently unstable and unsustainable over time, doomed to breakdown and to taking us with it. The animating sentiment here is fear, a fear that the antinuclear campaign of the 1980's has fanned with great skill. One of its major innovations has been its insistence on a technique of graphic depiction, a kind of nuclear neorealism, as a way of mobilizing mass
Reprinted from Commentary, October 1983, 48-52, by permission of the publisher and author, all rights reserved.