Nuclear Arms & the Cold War
To the Editor:
Britain, G. L. Arnold insists (in “Britain and the Bomb,” May) is tired of the cold war: “The spring of 1959 finds the British government and public in a mood to have done with the cold war.” Evidence of this mood Mr. Arnold finds in the Aldermaston march, which the Spectator reports “provided the greatest turn-out for any cause that London has seen since the war.” But . . . he has got strontium 90 and the cold war inextricably mixed up; he identifies the Aldermaston marches with opposition to the cold war. . . .
This confusion results in indecisiveness on the author’s part as to the proper stance an “analyst of world affairs” ought to take vis-à-vis campaigns for nuclear disarmament. They are frankly a bit annoying (“irritants”—but “minor”); they can’t be ignored, for 15,000 persons marched last Easter (say such things are “inseparable from living”); they can be minimized only with difficulty, for some of the persons joining them are important and sensible (say “it will not do to suggest that the campaign has been taken over by the Communists,” throw in “though launched by outsiders”; and concede “it can no longer be written off as a pacifist stunt”); but serious treatment of them is out of the question. . . . One has to play it cool (admit “The protest marchers in fact have a political case” but question their acuity “What good they can do . . . is not clear”); and above all maintain one’s poise (“If it were not for this . . . the political scene at the moment would be pretty dull”).
This is bad enough. But the confusion underlying it is especially deplorable in view of the author’s reasoned conclusion that “there must be, if Britain is to survive—a modus vivendi that takes the deadly sting out of the cold war.”
The “deadly sting” is indeed what most of us find objectionable in the cold war. Can it be that we all . . . have a good deal more in common with the Aldermaston marchers than we find it presently convenient to publicize?
Mr. Arnold writes:
I am not quite sure what it is that Mr. Miller finds objectionable about my remarks on the Aldermaston marchers. . . . However, I am prepared to offer an explanation of my attitude which I hope will strike Mr. Miller as reasonable: living, as I do, in England, I am conscious that most of my fellow countrymen share, to a greater or lesser degree, the apprehensions which lie behind the annual protest march, and it is precisely for this reason that some of us are put off by the crankiness which tends to creep into pacifist demonstrations.
Specifically, I (we) should be happier if the anti-nuclear campaign did not employ such absurd arguments as that a “moral lead” on Britain’s part is all that is required to promote universal disarmament and/or control of nuclear weapons. This is nonsense . . . From a British standpoint there is a case for getting out of the nuclear race and letting the United States carry the whole burden. This is what the marchers are really after, but it is probably not what their American sympathizers would want to happen. Personally I am all for self-preservation, and nothing would give me greater immediate satisfaction than the thought that the country I inhabit has contracted out of world affairs; but I should not claim any moral status for my purely selfish feelings in this regard. Since I was trying to picture the British scene as a whole, I felt it necessary to stress the element of insularity which of late has come to dominate British opinion. . . . In my view this semi-conscious urge to withdraw into one’s national shell accounts for the popularity of Mr. Macmillan’s recent excursions and for the greater public support which the anti-nuclear campaign is winning, notwithstanding its close association with the left wing of the Labor party. These are all the manifestations of the same current of opinion. If one happens to believe that the present moment is not particularly well chosen for a display of sentiments which are evidently not snared by Britain’s European associates, one will be inclined to restrain whatever sympathy one may have for the long-term aims of the protest marchers. I have yet to discern among their backers anything like a reasoned concern for the freedom and safety of other Europeans.