Dr. Strangelove, I Presume?

Among the curious twists of the debate on national missile defense is the trend among conservatives to condemn the immorality of nuclear weapons. In a recent "BreakPoint" commentary heard on 1,000 radio stations, Christian conservative Chuck Colson spoke of "the moral insanity" of mutual assured destruction. According to Colson, thoughtful people question the doctrine of nuclear deterrence because the threat to annihilate millions of innocent civilians is morally untenable.

It's gratifying that Colson and other conservatives have finally "got religion" on this point. But by coupling their condemnation of nuclear weapons with support for national missile defense, these conservatives undermine the integrity of their argument and put themselves back into the very same moral bind they seek to escape.

The global threat from weapons of mass destruction is indeed great, and it is increasing as nuclear weapons and ballistic missile capabilities spread to other countries. There are now eight nuclear weapons states—the original five (United States, United Kingdom, Russia, France, and China), along with Israel (with an arsenal of more than 200 weapons) and the latest entries, India and Pakistan. Several other countries, including Iran and Iraq, have been or are currently engaged in nuclear weapons development. Finding a way to protect against these dangers is a moral imperative. But the answer does not lie in technology, especially one as unproven as missile defense.

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Sojourners Magazine May-June 2001
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