THE REFORM OF POWER by Leonard Beaton


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Beaton, who died in 1971, was a highly respected authority on questions of arms and security, author of The Struggle for Peace (1969) and co-author with John Maddox of The Spread of Nuclear Weapons (1962). In this book he proposes that governments start building ""international security institutions"" to control the use and development of war implements. General and complete disarmament is dismissed as a chimera and, when retained as a nominal or actual goal, an active hindrance to realistic cooperation. Beaton discusses the prerequisites for such cooperation, which include a well-established pecking order among nations and an ability to reassure lesser powers that the world will not be Hobbesian, thus obviating the need to build up additional costly arsenals and armies. The new security arrangement -- for which Beaton repeatedly poses NATO as a prototype -- would depend on internationally-minded professionals of the Hammarskjold mold to build trust and strengthen governments' sense of common interest. So long as her foreign policy continues to be defensive, China poses no obstacle; and this plan, Beaton thinks, could transmute the antagonisms between the U.S. and the Soviets. Safeguards against the use of nuclear arms and biochemical devices (""the poor man's nuclear weapon"") are discussed in a not terribly reassuring way. One questions whether governments are currently evolving their security policies in relation to ""imaginary disarmed worlds"" or whether it would in fact be so dreadful if they did. Even hard-core disarmament advocates will find this a persuasive and important book, although thoughtful critics will ultimately reject it as too narrow, exemplifying a genre which declines to plumb the political and especially economic causes of the great-power arms race.

Pub Date: June 29th, 1972
Publisher: Viking