Counter-Weapons in Atom War
To the Editor:
Professor Morgenthau’s challenging discussion of atomic force and its impact on our foreign policy (“Atomic Force and Foreign Policy,” by Hans J. Morgenthau, June) fails to mention one aspect of the problem—an aspect which has implications for the formulation of our foreign and military policy.
Atomic weapons are no more efficacious, militarily and strategically, than are the vehicles—aircraft or missiles—used to deliver them to their targets. At the present time, a deadlock exists because neither the Western powers nor the Soviet Union have developed counter-weapons which can cope with high-speed missiles (though greater success appears to have been achieved with respect to anti-aircraft defenses and warning systems). But indications are that in the United States at least, and in all likelihood also in other Western states and in the Soviet Union, work on the development of counter-weapons is in progress.
Should such a technical breakthrough occur on one side, it may mean that the present balance of atomic power, with its implications which tend to make war “obsolete,” will be upset; the nation which can neutralize the missiles and aircraft sent against it will have significant advantages over the opponent who has not developed such a technological defense line. Should such a breakthrough occur simultaneously on both sides, it may mean that large-scale, all-out atomic war will never be attempted, and that atomic weapons will be exclusively of the smaller tactical kind against which heavy counter-weapons may not be usable, or at least not practical.
Our concentration at this time on atomic armament at the expense of conventional armament appears justified if it is accompanied by an all-out effort to develop counter-weapons which can neutralize attacking atomic-warhead vehicles sent against us. In the long run, however, the double military establishment for which Professor Morgenthau pleads is the logical military policy for us to follow.
Abraham M. Hirsch
New York City