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Hawks, doves and owls: an agenda for avoiding nuclear war.

Hawks, Doves and Owls: An Agenda for Avoiding Nudear War.

Hawks, Doves and Owls: An Agenda for Avoiding Nuclear War. Graham T. Allison, Albert Carnesale, Joseph S. Nye Jr. Norton, $14.95. Hawks, doves, and reporters tend to make the same mistake in thinking about the nuclear standoff. They dwell on the numbers (launchers, missiles, warheads, throw-weights) and propose policies (freeze, build-up, build-down) accordingly. This is a little like watching two hot rods tearing toward one another in a game of chicken and discussing the event in terms of wheelbases and horsepower. The point is to avoid a collision neither driver can survive.

This book is among the more accessible in a glut of recent academic writing on the problem, not of reducing or abolishing nuclear arsenals, but of minimizing the risk that they will be used.

Allison, Carnesale and Nye, all of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, provide an introduction and a list of specific proposals at the end. The meat is sandwiched in between in the form of essays by other academics. Each chapter spins out more or less plausible scenarios that fit one of the "five general paths to nuclear war'--escalation in Europe, nuclear accident, sneak attack, etc.--and then sets out to isolate factors that can be controlled.

As might be expected of a book that boasts "advance praise' from such polar opposites as Senator Edward Kennedy and the Pentagon's senior policy hawk, Dr. Fred Ikle, much of the book cuts a wide swath down the middle. For example, the authors are for better hotlines and more face-to-face meetings. Some of it is facile: "A verifiable agreement with the Soviet Union prohibiting production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons could make a useful contribution to raising the nuclear threshold,' with no discussion of the dilemma embodied in the word "verifiable.' There are annoying doses of pseudoscience; my favorite is the graph entitled, "Subjective Estimate of the Probability of a National Security Disaster in the Next Decade or So.'

Still, the fact that many of the points are easy to agree with does not make them less important. And some of the arguments are more provocative. Liberals will find a couple of heresies adroitly, though too briefly, propounded. The authors reject a no-first-use pledge for allied nuclear forces in Europe. Not only do they defend the current policy of "flexible response,' which declares nuclear weapons will be used in the event the allies are overrun by conventional attack; one author suggests a similar policy for the Middle East. Did Senator Kennedy read this part?

The book also argues that the United States should think hard about the notion of limited nuclear war. To many liberals, this strays from the gospel of deterrence into dangerous fantasies of nuclear warfighting. Hawks, Doves and Owls argues that it is possible and important to design "firebreaks' for stopping a catastrophe before it becomes a species-extinguishing inferno.
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Author:Keller, Bill
Publication:Washington Monthly
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Oct 1, 1985
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