Minds At War: Nuclear Reality And The Inner Conflicts Of Defense Policymakers

The difficulty of getting strategists and psychologists to communicate is frustrating, since they would seem to have so much to learn from each other. Steven Kull, a psychotherapist, is to be commended for trying. His premise is that several persistent American policies-seeking equal numbers of weapons or pursuing strategic defenses, for instance-are inconsistent with the reality of the nuclear age. He interviewed defense policymakers to determine how they rationalized these policies. His conclusions are thought-provoking even as they testify to the gap between strategists and psychologists, a gap that cries for investigation. Most mainstream strategists assume that the nuclear balance is stable and nuclear war all but unthinkable, and so the U.S. can pursue other objectives even if they slightly increase the risk of nuclear war. By contrast, most psychologists who become interested in nuclear issues, including Kull, seem to assume that war is much more likely, and hence its prevention overrides all else.

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