RUSSIAN ROULETTE: The Superpower Game by Arthur Macy Cox

RUSSIAN ROULETTE: The Superpower Game

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Except in its aspirations, a minor contribution to the current stir over nuclear weapons, nuclear holocaust, and nuclear freezes. Cox (The Dynamics of Detente, The Myths of National Security) begins by depicting an American nuclear alert, in June 1980, in response to a supposed Soviet nuclear attack. The alert was based, unsurprisingly, on a computer malfunction (the same computer erred three days later, we hear, producing another false alarm); but Cox evokes the event to highlight the fact that, according to the Senate Armed Services Committee, there were 3,703 false alarms over the 18-month period prior to June 1980--147 of them sufficiently serious to require evaluation of their authenticity. The regularity of false alarms, serious enough now, will become potentially catastrophic should either side (or both) adopt a policy of ""launch under attack,"" whereby nuclear missiles would be fired at the first sign of an attack for fear of having nothing left with which to retaliate. The stationing of Pershing II missiles in Europe, now under hot debate, would push the Soviets toward such a policy, since these missiles could strike targets in the USSR within six minutes. Cox thinks that the two sides are at rough parity now, so now is the time to reduce nuclear arms; but, mindful of American hawks' reactions to Soviet adventurism in the Third World (principally the ""mistake"" in Afghanistan), he advises a two-pronged approach: negotiations to reduce the nuclear arsenals coupled with negotiations toward a nonintervention pact regarding the Third World. That this coupling dooms the idea in advance is shown by the ""commentary"" of Soviet-US expert Georgy Arbatov--who flatly rejects the non-intervention pact: he and his government don't see themselves as interventionists. Still, Cox clings to his idea. The political agreement would have to come first, he believes, since only political stability can make arms reductions possible. He favors a negotiated freeze and reductions to the lowest possible level of deterrence. The aims are laudable; the feasibility, highly questionable.

Pub Date: June 14th, 1982
Publisher: Times Books