MINDS AT WAR: Nuclear Reality and the Inner Conflict of Defense Policymakers by Steven Kull

MINDS AT WAR: Nuclear Reality and the Inner Conflict of Defense Policymakers

Email this review


Here, Kull (Social Science/Stanford) addresses the psychodynamics of the nuclear arms race through a close examination of the arguments used to justify the war-fighting orientation of the ""traditional stream."" Drawing on searching interviews with leading defense policymakers and specialists, the author identifies a pervasive ""inner conflict"" that retards these strategic thinkers' adaptation to ""nuclear reality."" Kull argues that deep-seated psychological interests militate against the reality-bearing nature of security-oriented thinking. The crux of the resulting conflict is the primacy of emotional needs and ontological beliefs, reified in scenarios and policies that conventionalize nuclear weapons and rationalize their use in the name of national security. Demonstrating a mastery of the strategic literature and an acumen honed in ten years of practice as a psychotherapist, Kull subjects these rationales to corrosive review. In the course of examining such policy questions as maintaining a balance of nuclear forces, seeking advantageous termination, developing hard-target kill capability, and pursing the elimination of population vulnerability, the author exposes a ""leveled structure"" of rationales that turn on the desire to act as if the nuclear revolution had never occurred. Finding the same phenomena at work among the Russians he interviewed, Kull concludes that the ""adaptive stream"" has its work (by no means hopeless--reality is a formidable ally) cut out for it. An exciting and impressive study that gives the creative use of psychology the last word on the all-too-human nature of the doomsday onslaught.

Pub Date: Sept. 16th, 1988
Publisher: Basic Books