Courtesy Reuters

Balance Sheet on Disarmament

From time immemorial man's search for peace has been offset by his desire and instinct for conquest and defense. For just as long, probably, the concept of disarmament, meaning the destruction and elimination of weapons or their conversion to peaceful uses, has recurred in men's minds as a hopeful means of attaining peace. Today we are approaching-if we have not already reached-the era of ultimate weapons. That is to say, we live now in a period in which weapons have become so destructive in their power that they can or could encompass the end of mankind itself. If it is said that even more destructive weapons lie ahead, and that we have yet to reach the ultimate, one can safely repeat that we are at a stage of weapons development where destruction is possible on so "grand" a scale that the direct and indirect consequences of their use would be incalculable and totally beyond all standards of previous comparison.

If we do not find a reliable alternative to the settlement of international disputes by war and threats of war, there is a strong probability that it is merely a question of time before the world will find itself engaged in a cataclysmic conflict from which it would require decades, if not centuries, to recover. Possibly the continuance of a nice balance of terrible deterrents can hold off such a catastrophe indefinitely. Arms races have sometimes petered out in the past; most of them, however, seem to have ended in wars. Whatever the balance of probabilities in this respect, the situation today is such that mankind must face up to the necessity of eliminating war as an acceptable arbitrament of international disputes.

At the forefront of the ways and means discussed for the elimination of war is again the proposal that all nations should disarm themselves. It remains the most seriously pressed proposal for the achievement of peace.

There are those who contend that disarmament is more than a means to assist

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