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The Postwar Era: Between an Unfree World and None

Courtesy Reuters

Would nuclear war endanger civilization or even the human species? Does that possibility require us to subordinate all considerations of freedom to survival and to dismiss any possibility of responding justly to a nuclear attack—or at least without committing suicide? The question has a familiar ring to anyone whose memory stretches back as far as 1958 to the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and the famous controversy between the philosophers Bertrand Russell and Sidney Hook over whether it was better to be "Red or Dead."

The question, at any rate, is not dead. It is implicit in nightmare visions like "The Day After" that continue to flood our television and movie screens, and it appears in even more gruesome form in the cold and dark post-nuclear world described by some scientists. The horrors revealed by science can exceed, it seems, those of science fiction: the sense of one meeting, in 1983, was

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