Neg - Open Evidence Project

Discursive constructions of nuclear weapons posit the Bomb as God, differing
from gods past in its ability not to create but only destroy. We voluntarily become
mere parts of this divine machine with the promise that it will protect “us” from
“them,” while becoming psychically numb to its true implications. The only escape
from this death in life is the intensity of risk at the highest of stakes – in this world
annihilation becomes inevitable.
Chernus, 86 – journalist, author, and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder (Ira, Dr.
Strangegod: On the Symbolic Meaning of Nuclear Weapons, pg. 134-139, 1986)//BI
These responses must therefore be seen as essentially religious responses. In talking
about the Bomb we are talking
about a God, and our speech is sacred speech or myth. In acting, in preparing for nuclear war and
building up our nuclear arsenals, we are engaging in sacred behavior or ritual. And our speech itself is a
form of ritual. Every society is loath to give up its God, its sacred symbols, its myths, and its rituals. We are no different. For in
every respect, the symbolism of nuclear-weapons-as-God makes those weapons more appealing,
more compelling, more desirable, more necessary to our lives. If we are to part with them, we must, as a first
step, gain a dearer understanding of why we have not done so until now. But our study is not only a step on the path to
averting catastrophe. For in a sense the catastrophe has already occurred. The very existence of
thousands of nuclear warheads encircling the planet, even if they are never used, must have enormous
impact upon the society and every individual in it. Even if an understanding of these weapons were to lead to total
and permanent nuclear disarmament, we would still be compelled to live with the effects that they have had upon us psychologically,
emotionally, and spiritually. In order to deal with those effects responsibly and constructively, we must understand them. For as
long as nuclear weapons exist, and even after they no longer exist, we shall still be in their power until we have penetrated as deeply
as possible into their symbolic meanings and the ways in which those meanings have reshaped individual and societal life. The
most comprehensive and significant approach to this problem so far has been Lifton’s theory of
psychic numbing. Anyone who gives Lifton’s work a careful reading must admit that he has offered a compelling
and illuminating concept, one that is able to explain a wide variety of contemporary phenomena and show clearly
their links to the existence of nuclear weapons. Looking at the Bomb as a symbol has provided us
with even further evidence to support his view. But at the same time, the Bomb has also appeared
to symbolize realities that do not quite fit the theory of psychic numbing as the key to a total understanding of its
effects. Therefore, we must look at a complex situation in which psychic numbing is related to other effects in a variety of ways. This
should no be surprising, since it is clear that the Bomb, like all primary religious symbols, can represent differing,
conflicting, even contradictory realities simultaneously. Thus, as Lifton stresses, the Bomb symbolizes death as
total annihilation, utter extinction, an absolutely “broken connection” between death and the continuity of life. But in seeing the
Bomb as a symbol, it is clear that it may also symbolize, in a wide variety of ways, renewed and eternal life, vitality, power,
meaningful order. The Bomb as symbol promises to give precisely what it simultaneously takes awa y.
The copious evidence to support the theory of psychic numbing and the equally copious evidence to support alternative views
suggest that neither one can be absolutely the correct or incorrect view. Rather, each of us shares in both of these realities, in
different ways and to different degrees. But no one is able to escape the effects of either aspect entirely. None
of us can approach any honesty about ourselves, our society, or our world unless we probe as deeply and honestly as possible into the
effects of nuclear weapons upon our lives. If there is any hope that as individuals and as a society we can escape the chaotic absurdity
of the present, put the pieces of our world back together in a coherent and meaning fully unified worldview, we must take account of
nuclear weapons. They form a “piece” of our woridview that is crucially important. although we have consistently trained ourselves
to deny this. The similarities between the Bomb and other religious realities tell us part of what we need to know. But we must
also ask
how our new God differs from all previous gods, for only then can we see clearly how it affects us in
is a machine, a technological device invented by human beings. Yet the machine, being infinitely more powerful
than the humans who invented it, has become a Frankenstein’s Monster, independent of its creators and capable
of turning violently upon them. And “them” is now, of course, all of us. We have the choice of either cooperating
or resisting when the machine acts; because of its many appealing symbolic qualities, we generally cooperate. We
become partners in the machines actions and thus, in a very real sense, parts of the machine. We are all soldiers in the
unprecedented ways. One point, which has been implicit in our previous discussion, must now be brought out explicitly: this
front-line trenches, but the Bomb is our commander and we do its bidding. This is especially clear in the concept of MAD; the
citizens of all superpowers become linked together in a single machine, which demands more
and more sacrifices; the actions of one side must (according to this theory) necessarily evoke corresponding actions from the
other side. The
way in which we prepare for war reflects and foreshadows the way we shall wage
war: “In a push-button war involving nuclear missiles, there will be no direct contact between adversaries. The techniques of
war are fast becoming as impersonal and mechanized as pulling a lever to start a production chainbelt. In such a
setting, the best soldier is not the ‘hero’ but the ‘automaton.’ “ We voluntarily become automatons,
mere parts of a machine, in part because of our age-old mythic dream of being heroes and our
mythic desire to embody in ourselves the power inherent in the divine machine. What Moss says of the
Strategic Air Command bomber pilot may be true for all of us: “He is equally remote from the human will that makes a decision on
using or not using the bomb, and the human suffering that its use would cause. He sees himself as part of a complex instrument, an
agent between someone else’s will and its effect, a living button. His pride is to function in this role perfectly. He has a sense of
importance.”2 Ultimately, though, in our symbolic perception, it may very well be the Bomb itself whose
will we obey, for how can any human will dare to interfere with that of the divine? Even the greatest
national leaders are merely parts of the machine. And, as we have seen, our importance becomes not merely social or political, but in
fact sacred and cosmic in scope. At the same time, psychic numbing reinforces the pattern effected by
symbolic meaning. For if we are in fact “dead in life,” already suffused with the death taint of the Bomb, then it
is that much easier to see ourselves as machines and to take pride in being perfectly functioning
machines. Of course, this sense of the mechanization of human life was hardly created by the nuclear age. Here, as in so many
other instances, the Bomb is both a reflection and a shaper of our relationship with reality . But the
elevation of a machine to a central place in our symbolic world—the deification of a machine—surely makes it much more likely that
we shall see ourselves as automatons, Moreover, the technologically induced problem offers itself as a
solution. As this machine God intensifies our psychic numbing, we seek to escape that numbing
by finding meaning in a symbolic form of immortality that is itself technological, as Lifton suggests:
“Everyone in this age participates in a sense of immortality derived from the interlocking human projects we call science and
technology.” Thus, as technology absorbs those provinces of life that were previously considered spiritual, it may be lair to say that
technology has become the soul of the body of humanity.4 Yet we cannot be totally content with being machines. In fact, as we saw
previously, the existentialist movement may be said to have started with Dostoesski’s revolt against being a mere piano key, a part of
a machine. The sense of dehumanization and the sheer boredom—the flatness of life —which
afflicts automatons can be challenged only in situations of great intensity. Russian roulette may easily
become, as in the film The Deer Hunter, a primary symbol for the modem world’s escape from the dehumanization of a technological
God. The intensity of risk is combined with the joy of being entertained in a theater of life-and-
death. But for the ultimate “kick,’ the stakes must be ultimately high. Thus the machine deity
leads us to give ourselves over to it in a game of global Russian roulette in which we all hold the
pistol, And apparently we do so willingly. Machines must inevitably see all the world as a
machine: “The more a man acts on the basis of a self-image that assumes he is powerless, an impotent cog in a huge machine, the
more likely he is to drift into a pattern of dehumanized thinking and action toward others.” “We have become masters of
the impersonal and the inanimate. Our energy and even our emotions have gone into things; the things serve us but come
between us, changing the relationship of man to man. And the things take on an authority that men accept without protest. The
impersonality is epidemic. It is almost as though we feared direct contact, almost as though the soul of man had become septic.”
Thus we find our identity not by relating to other individuals as individuals, but by seeing ourselves
merely as a part of “the crowd” or “the nation,” whose emblem and savior is the Bomb, the ultimate
machine. We lose the subtleties and nuances of human complexity and see the world in absolutes, “us versus them” we view
human relationships in terms of the mythic, apocalyptic vision, a vision whose ultimate promise
is the annihilation of “their” machine and unlimited license for “our” machine to do whatever it
We embrace nuclear imagery to escape our ontological insecurity – each use
separates us further from reality
Chernus, 91 – journalist, author, and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder (Ira, Nuclear
Madness: Religion and the Psychology of the Nuclear Age, pg. 31-32, 1991)//BI
This interpretation of social identity throws new light on the relationship between psychic numbing and nuclear imagery. Nuclear
images, like all images, are not just private intrapsychic events. They grow out of an immense network of
interpersonal and social communications that create and reinforce the mappings of fantasy. We
cannot begin to think about the nuclear issue without stepping into this social fantasy; once we do, it
is difficult to escape. But this fantasy functions as part of a publicly shared false self system. It is detached from living reality
and can not respond authentically to changes in reality; it is a prescription for death in life. Every new nuclear
image only deadens us more and removes us further from reality. A catalog of the mappings involved in the
nuclear fantasy could well be endless. Different interpreters would focus on different aspects of experience to
explain the mappings projected onto the Bomb. For sociologists, the Bomb may embody the ingroup 's self-image
as it desires to annihilate the out-group. For political scientists, it may be a fantasy of the nation's
"manifest destiny." Economists may see it representing a lust for unlimited resources. Psychologists
may identify nuclear weapons with interpersonal hostility, dominance needs, repressed rage, or magical defenses against insecurity.
Freudians will find a mapping of infantile omnipotence desires. Jungians will find archetypal patterns of all sorts. Theologians will
consider the Bomb a mapped replication of our traditional image of God. But all will attest the existence of a social fantasy.
Fantasy is at work in the images surrounding the Bomb as well. We understand the arms race
because we know what a race is: a head-to-head competition with a winner and a loser. We contemplate building bomb
shelters because we have all fallen asleep in mother's arms and awakened safely the next morning. We consent to new
weapons development because proverbial wisdom and common sense tell us to plan today for
unexpected contingencies tomorrow. We rise to the various challenges of the nuclear age because we already know the
thrill of overcoming obstacles and receiving praise. All our experiences, as children and parents, as workers and players, as lovers
and haters, find their way into the psychological labyrinth of nuclear imagery, for that labyrinth is just one corner of the much larger
maze of social fantasy in which we live every moment of every day. Why do we embrace a social fantasy world
suffused with nuclear terror? The issue—as our politicians and generals regularly remind us—is security. But in
Laing's view it is not, as these leaders would have us believe, a question of military or political or economic
security. It is a question of ontological security. No matter how dangerous its component parts, the social fantasy
system weaves an irresistible ontological web, a nexus of fantasy that beckons with the illusory promise of secure reality. The
strongest strand in that web is personal identity.
Mythicization of nuclear war renders it desirable
Chernus, 86 – journalist, author, and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder (Ira, Dr.
Strangegod, pg. 86-87, 1986)//BI
If this kind of mythological imagery was a common response to bombs dropped in the past, it is
even more common
in responding to bombs that might fall in the future. Perhaps this is inevitable. In order to think about a
nuclear war at all, as we have seen, the mind is compelled to put itself in the role of survivor. It is
compelled to assume that something must follow cataclysmic destruction, and so it finds itself willy-niliy in
the age-old scenario of death and rebirth. Nuclear war easily comes to appear, especially in unconscious
fantasy, as the “big bang’ that will wipe away the accumulated terrors of history and bring the
birth of a pristine new world. The Bomb therefore comes to symbolize the endlessness of the chain of death-and-life,
playing the role of destroyer and creator that was once reserved for a less technological deity. The inescapable lure of this
mythic pattern is surely evident in the myriad fictional nuclear wars that have filled literature, television, film,
and comic books for forty years. In these science-fiction depictions, there is always at least a hint—and often much more
than a hint—that annihilation is acceptable, or even desirable, as the necessary prelude to new creation. The
appeal of science fiction, like the appeal of myth, comes in part from the very act of experiencing the story. As reader or listener or
viewer, one is taken out of the normal everyday world and projected into a “fabulous” time, in
which the events are more powerful, more intense, more grandiose than any we have actually known. Thus the
world of myth and science fiction is “surreal”— more than real. Yet at the same time it is, in the modern
view, unreal, as in our characteristic equation of “mythical” with “unreal.” But this, too, as we have seen, is a consolation and
even an
attraction when speaking of nuclear weapons: by casting them into an unreal setting we
can make our own world with its precariousness and all-enveloping danger unreal as well. Thus
mythicizing can make nuclear war more appealing, while the terrible danger of nuclear war
makes the mythicizing of it more appealing as well. Just as we are ambivalent about the dangers of nuclear war,
so are we ambivalent about the powers spoken of in myth.
Nuclear imagery is a response to ontological insecurity
Chernus, 91 – journalist, author, and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder (Ira, Nuclear
Madness: Religion and the Psychology of the Nuclear Age, pg. 16-17, 1991)//BI
How do these people imagine that such a dreadful loss of reality might occur? As Laing explored the inner fantasies of his
psychiatric patients, he found
three recurring themes that ring eerily true in the shadow of the Bomb.10
fears of being swallowed up, smothered, stifled, drowned, or
buried. "The image of fire recurs repeatedly. Some psychotics say in the acute phase that they are on fire, that their
bodies are being burned up." The second theme, "implosion," is a fear of "the world as liable at any moment to
crash in and obliterate all identity as a gas will rush in and obliterate a vacuum." "Petrification,'' the third theme,
denotes dread of "the possibility of turning, or being turned, from a live person into a dead thing, into a
The one that he calls "engulfment" includes
stone, into a robot, an automaton," as well as the emotional and physical effects of this dread: inner feelings of "emptiness, deadness,
coldness, dryness, impotence, desolation."11 These vivid images form the world of the ontologically insecure
self, a world that is itself insecure, oppressive, and imprisoning. These images also form the world of the nuclear
superpowers, for all have their counterparts in familiar nuclear images: the obliterating crash of a nuclear blast,
engulfment in the mushroom cloud, the implosion of rushing winds and firestorms, the frozen
world of nuclear winter, the empty desolation of Hiroshima in 1945, the trancelike numbing of stupefied survivors, the cold
aridity of a dead planet. So they suggest that nuclear imagery and nuclear policy may be understood as
responses to ontological insecurity. The analogy between the insecure self and the superpower may therefore hold an
important key to understanding the psychodynamics of Cold War rivalry and the nuclear arms race.
Depictions of “nuclear war” result in psychic numbing – turns the case
Chernus, 91 – journalist, author, and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder (Ira, Nuclear
Madness: Religion and the Psychology of the Nuclear Age, pg. 10-12, 1991)//BI
Whenever people survive an encounter with massive death, Lifton contends, the psychodynamics of the hibakusha are likely to be
repeated. According to his theory, a massive death encounter calls into question every form of symbolic immortality; it
raises the possibility that the stream of life as a whole may come to an end. Therefore it undercuts the
grounding of the self and undermines every image of personal vitality. For the ungrounded self, every new stimulus
that calls for new inner imagery evokes the threat of death. This threat can lead the self to refuse to seek new
imagery at all. When the formative process thus shuts itself down, the result is psychic numbing.
The self imposes upon itself a "form of symbolic death in order to avoid a permanent physical or psychic death."3 On the basis of this
theory, Lifton puts forth his well-known idea that psychic numbing is the central fact of the nuclear age. The
twentieth century, with its world wars, its unprecedented holocausts, and especially its threat of nuclear annihilation, has forced us
all to encounter death on a massive scale. So Lifton concludes that we are all psychically numbed survivors. We fail
to respond to the nuclear threat, he claims, because we have no adequate images of the Bomb and its
effects. We have no images because we are numbed survivors of our encounter with the massive death embodied in the Bomb.
Precisely because the potential consequences of nuclear weapons undermine all four forms of symbolic immortality, we have choked
off our formative process and rendered ourselves unable to head off those consequences. Lifton acknowledges his debt to other
thinkers in developing his concept of psychic numbing. He describes numbing using Paul Tillich's definition of neurosis: "the way of
avoiding nonbeing by avoiding being." 4 He also cites R.D. Laing's early work as an important influence on his own; he sees Laing's
concept of 'the false self' as substantially identical to his own idea of numbing: "What Laing calls 'the false self' I prefer to call the
dead self, or deadened self. That view is in keeping with Laing who, at another point, speaks of 'the murder of the self.'"5 But Lifton
is the only psychologist who has elaborated this concept specifically in response to the nuclear threat. There is no doubt that this is
an achievement of signal importance in our understanding of the nuclear age. Its value has been widely appreciated, and it remains
the most influential psychological interpretation of the nuclear dilemma. Within the nuclear disarmament movement, psychic
numbing has become almost a cliche. Yet Lifton's theory has received surprisingly little careful scrutiny. Nor have its implications
been sufficiently recognized. The core of his argument is that when people feel threatened by imminent death
they may paradoxically choose death as an escape route from the threat. This can happen not only
to individuals but to whole societies. His most radical claim is that modern American society (and perhaps modern Western
society as a whole) has chosen this route in the nuclear age. Although we are terrified of impending mass
annihilation and precisely because we are terrified of impending mass annihilation we simultaneously desire a
collective "murder of the self." Death in life describes not only our psychological plight but our deepest desire: just as
much as we want life, we also want the national and global death that we fear. Part I of this book will examine Lifton's theory and its
radical implications, with special reference to the ideas of Laing and Tillich that have informed the theory.
Arms control
Arms control rests on the same logic as our desire to freeze reality as a means of
Chernus, 91 – journalist, author, and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder (Ira, Nuclear
Madness: Religion and the Psychology of the Nuclear Age, pg. 74, 1991)//BI
There is a nearly universal assumption that disarmament through
the arms control negotiation process
is the only viable way out of the nuclear trap. But this faith in arms control is faith in a process of
mutual constriction. It looks forward to a day when the rational ego's expertise will devise a set of agreements so perfectly
balanced that each side will be eternally immobilized and prevented from moving against the other. 4 The test of every prospective
arms control treaty is its capacity to eliminate all risk. The disarmament movement's most successful initiative of the eighties—the
nuclear freeze—reflects the same desire to freeze reality as a way of defending ourselves. Images of
political stasis, permanence, and rigidity also abound in eras of détente. If the situation can be eternally frozen, we
hope, we and the whole world can be eternally safe. So the new-found friendship between the superpowers
resembles the friendships developed by schizoids. They are mutually negotiated arrangements for
interacting without the prerequisite of all genuine human interaction: the risk of mutual
vulnerability. No new political or military initiative can gain popular support unless it is first proven to be virtually risk-free.
Strategies of deterrence only reify our nuclear fantasies – mastery of the Bomb
becomes the only way to prevent its use
Chernus, 91 – journalist, author, and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder (Ira, Nuclear
Madness: Religion and the Psychology of the Nuclear Age, pg. 19-20, 1991)//BI
The omnipotence fantasy is also reflected in the various strategies of nuclear deterrence. With the amount
of violence at our disposal apparently infinite, it seems possible to compel the whole world to live within our chosen deterrence
fantasy forever. But deterrence images speak more loudly of the complementary fantasy: just as freedom behind the false self means
omnipotence, so security means isolation and invulnerability. Ontological insecurity makes every
relationship a potential pitfall. Relationships can only be arenas for self-preservation at best, never for true self-
enhancement. Thus the best relationship is one in which the other is unable to touch the self. Of course once the self is cut off from
the other it can have no real knowledge of the other; it can only relate to its fantasy images of the other. The world of mutual
deterrence is a perfect image of a society of schizoids. Deterrence strategies are based not on
what "the other side" is actually doing, but on our perceptions (and fears) of what the other
might do or merely be able to do at any time in the future in a worst case scenario. Psychologists have long noted that
deterrence strategies make it increasingly difficult for us to have any real knowledge of "the
other side"; instead they persuade us to believe ever more firmly in our own frightening
fantasies.19 Inevitably those fantasies convince us that we must be absolutely invulnerable. It is hardly surprising that each side
also strives to develop whatever defensive system it can technologically and economically afford. The American Strategic Defense
Initiative (SDI or "Star Wars") plan, as originally proposed by Ronald Reagan in 1983, is perhaps the ultimate analogue to the false
self fantasy of a shield providing perfect protection against whatever attack the other might mount. As long as there is
reality and life in the world, however, the world remains independent, unpredictable, and
threatening. The schizoid can feel completely secure only by imagining the world as a vast
empire of inert objects ruled by the self's unfettered will. The appeal of nuclear deterrence rests in part on such
a fantasy. Each side renders the other too petrified to make a move. Each side maps out its global strategy as if
every other nation were merely a piece in the strategists' puzzle—an object that can be manipulated at
will. The ultimate result is the Pentagon officer (and no doubt his Moscow counterpart) choosing nuclear targets at random, never
stopping to think that each new pin in the map may represent several million dead human beings. Images of annihilation
and images of invulnerable omnipotence nearly exhaust the repertoire of Cold War imagery.
Thinking about the Bomb is defined largely by these two mutually exclusive alternatives. Absolute control of the Bomb's
dangers is proclaimed as the only possible alternative to the absolute unleashing of those dangers.
But controlling the Bomb is generally equated with controlling the enemy's threat. So Cold War thinking about political relationships
also assumes a schizoid quality. As in the schizoid's fantasy world, one must be either absolutely independent or absolutely
dependent. There is no middle ground, no place for thinking about mediating possibilities. All thinking, and acting, is defined by the
stark simple contrast of good and evil.
The concept of “mutually assured destruction” masks the suicidal desires
generated from psychic numbing – nuclear weapons create the mindset that
encourages their use
Chernus, 86 – journalist, author, and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder (Ira, Dr.
Strangegod: On the Symbolic Meaning of Nuclear Weapons, pg. 119-121, 1986)//BI
When we think about nuclear war between the superpowers, one
of the first phrases to come to
mind is inevitably “mutual suicide.” This concept is the basis for the theory of MAD, a prime
justification for nuclear arsenal, and for much of the sentiment for nuclear disarmament. We have already seen that the
government itself, through its civil-defense agencies, seems less than convinced of its validity. Nevertheless, government leaders,
and many other people, continue to repeat it frequently enough that it bears careful examination. Again, we are not interested in the
empirical accuracy of this prediction; whether in fact a nation could survive an all-out nuclear war remains, for some, a very grave
but still debatable question. But there is no doubt that “mutual suicide” is one of the most powerful images of nuclear war at work in
everyone’s mind. and thus it is certain that the symbolic meaning of the Bomb is somehow related to the issue of suicide. In fact, a
survey of some leading contemporary theorizing about suicide shows many striking points of contact with our discussion of the
symbolic dimensions of nuclear weapons. The theory of MAD depends on the assumption that national
leaders, being rational people, would not begin a war that means suicide for their nation. We have seen that
there is ample reason to question that assumption, as well as the prior assumption that national
leaders are always rational. Furthermore we have just noted that even supposedly rational people have
been willing to engage in various forms of human sacrifice. Now we must add that the assumption that only madmen
contemplate suicide is also highly questionable. Stengel states; “It is reasonable not to accept the suicidal act alone as a criterion of
mental disorder. . . . On the average one third of the people who commit suicide have been suffering from a neurosis or psychosis or
a severe personality disorder,” . Those who attempt or contemplate suicide often hold logically contradictory thoughts about it, and
thus they are irrational, but this does not make them mad in the psychiatric sense. The contradictions are, rather, reflections of an
ambivalence that may, at some level, be present in all of us. Most suicides “do not want either to live or to die,
but to do both at the same time—usually one more than the other.”2 Ambivalence over suicide is even apparent in the
teachings of the Christian church, which officially bans suicide and yet recognizes its appeal by praising martyrdom. The
ambivalence surrounding suicide, religious and otherwise, suggests that the suicide is not actually sure whether, through such an
act, life will be extinguished or renewed: “Suicide, then, is a highly ambivalent action. Even those individuals with very serious
intentions of dying by suicide rarely give up hope of living.” We shall explore further dimensions of this ambivalence and hope
directly. At this point, however, it should be apparent that national leaders who affirm the MAD-ness of nuclear
war as “mutual suicide” and yet simultaneously prepare for a postwar future, talking of a serious
commitment to use the weapons, are behaving very much like those individuals who contemplate or attempt
taking their own lives. Certain characteristics do seem to occur in the mental slates of most if not all potential suicide. One of
these is a sense of hopelessness, which many think is the primary factor in bringing on attempts at suicide, this, in turn, is linked to a
feeling of powerlessness, inability to change one’s situation for the better: “Present is an overwhelming sense of being hemmed in,
blocked, thwarted, a sense of the impossibility of achieving form or meaning…. Killing oneself may appear to be the only way to
break out of the ‘trap.’ “ Such a feeling of hopelessness and powerlessness is often cited as an element of
that meaninglessness which many see as pervasive in the present age. We have noted how the Bomb
reinforces such a feeling, and now it appears that this feeling may in turn lead to a willingness to
contemplate using the Bomb, even when such use is seen as suicidal. This feeling also deeply affects the attitude toward
the future: “One’s ultimate involvements are so impaired that one is simply unable to imagine a psychologically livable future.”5 In
some cases. “the self-inflicted deaths relate primarily to the individual’s falling out of his sense of a procession of generations…The
person who falls out of his society or out of his lineage is a person who has lost investment in his own ‘post-self—that which
continues after his death. “ Because the Bomb makes the possibility of any future questionable, heightening the tendency to “live for
the moment.” it must also heighten this aspect of the suicidal feeling. The feeling of losing continuity deepens the suicidal trap even
further by intensifying psychic numbing, the fcchng that one is already in some sense dead, for “one must see one’s self as already
dead in order to kill ii.”? “Death in life” heightens the ambivalence of not knowing whether one wants to be dead or alive and leads to
an apathy of not caring whether one lives or dies. Such a person often “has taken as many of the world’s assaults as he cares to Lake;
his limits or tolerance for continuing his bargain with life have been reached.” Again, many contemporary thinkers would see this as
a characterization of much of modern society as a whole. One philosopher suggests: “Contemporary man shows distinct signs of
having lost the animal joie de vivre—the exultation of simply being alive. One could even assert that many—and this includes
numbers el those who enjoy physical and social well-being—do not really care whether they are alive or dead.” Thus it may be
necessary to see many aspects of modern culture as “partial suicides”—behaviors that reflect ambivalence about life, yet a
simultaneous fear to actually kill onesell—”such as certain patterns of psychosis, addic tion, alcoholism, prostitution, delinquency,
incivility, under achievement, and ennui. There are numerous ways of committing partial suicide and permitting partial death, all
truncations of the spirit.” Lifton has argued at length that many behaviors and patterns in our culture
reflect this sense of ‘ partial death” or “death in life,” and that all of these are in some way linked to the
mass deaths of the present century, which are symbolized by the Bomb. Thus the psychic numbing generated and
embodied in nuclear weapons enhances the urge toward suicide and thus the urge to use these
weapons. Moreover, Lifton claims that suicide is much more likely if one already has experienced some model for it, which he
calls “death equivalents.” There seems, then, to be a vicious circle in which nuclear weapons as “death
equivalents” produce, in a variety of ways, the states of mind and feeling that make suicide more likely, and
these states in turn promote more willingness to consider the use of “suicidal” weapons.
Depiction of nuclear war as instantaneous extinction makes it all the more
appealing as perfect transcendence of death-in-life
Chernus, 86 – journalist, author, and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder (Ira, Dr.
Strangegod: On the Symbolic Meaning of Nuclear Weapons, pg. 119-121, 1986)//BI
This interpretation assumes that nuclear war would be the big whoosh—a
flash of global cataclysm
in which everything disappears instantly and painlessly. The lure of instantaneous extinction is
pervasive in symbolic perceptions of the Bomb. Even a highly respected social scientist. Stanley Diamond, could
say: “If the war should occur, the country will simply disappear some sunny day, while most of us are going about our apathetic
business.”” Of course, there is little likelihood that the end would be so simple for everyone. As George
Wald put it: “You think, Bang! and the next morning, if you’re still there, you read in the newspapers that 50 million people were
killed. But that isn’t the way it happens.” Referring to Hiroshima and Nagasaki victims, he went on to say: “A lot of them took a long
time to die ... millions of helpless, maimed, tortured and doomed survivors.’ ‘ Yet once again we must turn aside from the empirical
realities to examine the reality of symbolism. And the common perception of both suicide and nuclear
war, among those whose common sense can not accept the myth of heroic survival, is likely to be the myth of the big
whoosh. Suicide seen as total extinction is the analogue on the individual level to the religious return to primal chaos in myth and
ritual, as well as to the nuclear big whoosh. “The ordinary forms of suicide must stand as prototypes of acute
generalized total self-destruction.”’ But our survey of theories of suicide corroborates our previous discussions of the
appeal of voluntary annihilation: while the negative hope of escaping pain is a motivating factor, it is not nearly as significant as we
might think Rather, the appeal of extinction, even without an expectation of rebirth, is fundamentally
positive. The common thread here has been recognized more readily by artists than psychologists. Leonardo da Vinci viewed the
impulse to suicide as “the hope and desire of going back to primal chaos, like that of the moth lo the light. , . this longing which in its
quintessence Is the spirit of the elements .. , and inherent in Nature,”” Similarly, for Herman Hesse, suicides are those persons who
“find the aim of life not in perfecting and molding of the self, but in liberating themselves by going back to the mother, back to God,
back to the all, . . . They see death and not life as the releaser. They are ready to cast themselves away in surrender, to be
extinguished and go back to the beginning.” From this point of view, suicides are drawn to intensify rather than oppose
their situation—to take the apparently irreversible situation of anomie and make a virtue of its
necessity by carrying it to its ultimate conclusion in perfect chaos. ‘The satisfaction in doing so comes from
much more than yielding to powerlessness and escaping pain. In the fantasied big whoosh of suicide all the many
faceted attractions of transcending structure and dissolving in the limitless combine, luring the
suicide to one final act of merger with the “all.” Yet suicide offers more, for it holds out the promise of control; the
suicide consciously creates, and thus gains power over, the primal chaos, death, arid the infinite. Similarly, the Bomb
offers the hope of one last moment of cosmic empowerment in the instant of global extinction.
And it allows a suicide that is universally shared and consonant with the dominant values and worldview of our culture. Again we
find that nuclear weapons offer themselves as the most appealing solution to the very problems
they have created, having led us to equate death with utter annihilation—having made us feel
“dead in life”—they urge us to transcend this state. But transcendence turns out to mean the suicide of nuclear
annihilation, “the only form of transcendence worthy of the age.” Therefore, the vast majority of us do not seek out
empirical knowledge of what nuclear war might be; in fact, we avoid such knowledge. It is much
more appealing to rest content with the myth of the big whoosh, the one cosmic mushroom cloud in which
all reality is instantly returned to the primordial chaos. Phrases such as “the end of civilization,” “the end of human
life,” or even “the destruction of the planet” roll off our tongues easily. Is this not because we are
in awe of such a possibility, fascinated as well as terrified, in the same way that we are drawn
and simultaneously repelled by our own self-annihilation through transcendence? At a time in which
most other avenues of transcendence seem blocked to us, are we willing to contemplate one great instant of permanent, self-induced
transcendence? To flow up into the great mushroom cloud; to be filled with the unbelievable power of the atom; to explode the
oppressive structures within us and around us; to take the final plunge, along with all humanity, into a cosmic unity; to return to the
source from which all began. These are the deeply buried symbolic images that seduce us into following
the Bomb, our modern God, down the path to the martyrdom of mutual suicide.
Desire for “stability” necessitates death-in-life
Chernus, 91 – journalist, author, and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder (Ira, Nuclear
Madness: Religion and the Psychology of the Nuclear Age, pg. 74-76, 1991)//BI
All the emerging proposals for perfectly secure arms control treaties and negotiated settlements seem reasonable enough. In truth,
though, all aim to defend us principally against the schizoid's real enemy—the inevitable flux of reality itself,
whose code name in our political discourse is "instability." A society suffering acute ontological insecurity must
see every change as a threat to its tenuous reality and therefore fear "instability" above all. No doubt the threat may be
labeled differently at different times. In some eras it is "the Russians" or ''the Communists"; in
others it is the Bomb itself or the "terrorists" who could, with a bit of purloined plutonium and a suitcase, incinerate
a city. But despite these changes our goal remains the same: "stability," which is a political code word for the
extreme of psychic numbing—a world too petrified even to contemplate change. Therefore, we
increasingly pin our hopes for national security on the numbing power of the false self system and its apparently reasonable
technological program. Just as we used to prize the "firmness" of a "rigid defense posture" above all, so we now prize
"firmness" at the negotiating table as the only way to achieve the parity we must have at all costs .
Since our goal is a stable balance that we believe will benefit the whole world, it seems perfectly reasonable, even benign, to
cast ourselves as the immovable center from which the newly balanced world order proceeds , and
as the rigidly vigilant center from which that balance is maintainedby threat of renewed force if necessary. Yet the "stability"
we seek is actually the permanent petrification that the schizoid fears yet embraces, hoping to
avoid death by becoming dead in life.
The spiral of securitization necessitates destruction of our fears through universal
Chernus, 91 – journalist, author, and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder (Ira, Nuclear
Madness: Religion and the Psychology of the Nuclear Age, pg. 22-23, 1991)//BI
Our nuclear fantasies, like our nuclear arsenals, are intended to create
a wall of deterrence that wards off
all reality and condemns us to pure fantasy, leaving no way to test the actuality behind our fears .
Every fear, whether totally or only partially rooted in fantasy, increases our sense of unreality. Every fear reinforces the schizoid
defenses that shut out reality and increase our insecurity. This ever-deepening vicious spiral is the basic
pattern of schizoid life, a life in which every effort toward increased security makes one less secure. If
the nuclear superpowers are living the same kind of life in their Cold War rivalry, Laing's analysis would go far toward resolving an
enduring contradiction between nuclear means and ends: the more we depend on nuclear arsenals to protect
national security, the less secure we actually feel, because (as most Americans readily admit) the weapons
that we depend on to save us can only be used to destroy us. As Laing's analysis proceeds to further
dimensions of the schizoid strategy, it leads deeper into this web of contradiction. Omnipotence and annihilation fantasies helped
shape international relations long before the nuclear age. Images of engulfment, implosion, petrification, fire,
cold, desolation, and the like have always been part of these fantasies. But the Bomb has made
these images seem all too believable on a global scale, and it has forced every such image directed against the other to
rebound back at oneself. This should make the futility of the schizoid strategy clear. When faced with futility, though, the
schizoid self resorts to other attempts at escape that only imprison it more firmly in its dilemma.
A similar escalation occurs among the nuclear superpowers, who embrace a further set of fantasies that seem
uniquely suited to the nuclear age. One logical response to deepening fear is to declare external reality so
dangerous that it must be physically destroyed. Here the self fantasizes its own omnipotence
carried to the ultimate step: a final act of universal annihilation that leaves only a dead desolate
world, either frozen and petrified or engulfed in flames, insuring that no one and nothing can henceforth do it any harm. The self
does unto others, in fantasy, just what it fears the others will do unto it. This is, of course, the source of the oldest and perhaps the
most seductive of all nuclear images the image of "winning" a world-destroying nuclear cataclysm, with "our side" somehow
surviving in splendid and perfectly secure isolation.
Cling to nuclear imagery normalizes violence
Chernus, 91 – journalist, author, and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder (Ira, Nuclear
Madness: Religion and the Psychology of the Nuclear Age, pg. 39-40, 1991)//BI
When we leave the supposed comforts of the family nest and go out into the world, we naturally find more of the same. From the
local ballfield to the international diplomatic and military battlefield, all social structures replicate the same patterns of envy,
hostility, and struggle. All pledge their allegiance to the motto of every nexus: "Do unto others before they do unto you." The path
to security is always via threat of destruction, both received and given, and willingness to carry out that threat. The
violence encased in the Bomb and in all our nuclear images is only an immense magnification of the
violence inherent in every family. Though the scale is changed, the principles remain the same. And at every turn those
principles dictate that security and reality itself must be founded on violence. In such a world, exhortations to love our fellow man or
woman, or even our own children, are hardly likely to reverse the course toward nuclear destruction. The cycle seems
unbreakable. Every act of destruction and every threat commits us more firmly to the false self
system it is intended to protect. The more firmly we are committed, the more enmeshed we are in the web of suspicion
and violence. As the size of the nexus grows, so does the scale of violence. But we embrace and encourage this
growth because it means more and more people sharing our schizoid fantasies, confirming our false selves, and making our illusory
reality seem more indubitably secure. Nuclear images, as the centerpiece of the international fantasy nexus, work the same
paradoxical effect as all shared fantasies. They offer
a heightened feeling of reassuring reality while
simultaneously draining the world of genuine reality and fostering the spread of deadening
illusion. This is what the partners in the nuclear nexus, as in any nexus, desire. A nexus is always dedicated to the schizoid
strategy of freezing reality in its status quo; the spiral of insecurity makes every change appear threatening. As the members fight
desperately to freeze their own identities, their inert false selves, each insists with equal fervor that all the others remain just as
rigidly frozen. Authentic individual experience, with its unlimited possibility, must succumb to the rigid uniformity of the social
fantasy. Attributed identities, mapped fantasies, enforced loyalty, and mutual terror and violence are all potent weapons in this
battle. But the Bomb and its images may be our most potent weapons today. Since their web of fantasy
encompasses the whole family of nations, denying the possibility of any alternative, they make our shared fantasy seem absolutely
unquestionable and uniquely real. So we
cling to our images of nuclear violence, direct them against the
enemy, and reap a twofold gain: committing ourselves more firmly to the social fantasy and its schizoid
strategy while managing to forget the fundamental violence we are wreaking upon each other and
upon ourselves. Because our violence seems so normal, we barely notice it. In this atmosphere, the threat
of military violence can be taken for granted, while the possibility of violence against ourselves simply means more of the same.
The symbolism of the Bomb necessitates domination of the environment – as parts
of the machine, we view ourselves as radically separated from nature
Chernus, 86 – journalist, author, and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder (Ira, Dr.
Strangegod: On the Symbolic Meaning of Nuclear Weapons, pg. 134-139, 1986)//BI
In fact, the ultimate goal of machine people is always to have total
dominance, unlimited autonomy to
manipulate the environment—both human and natural—in endless technological ways ‘Thus the machine
God also shapes our relationship with our physical and material environment, leading us to the
environmental crisis that we now face. Again, the fouling of the air, water, and land was hardly begun in the nuclear
age, but the symbolism of the Bomb makes it much more difficult to escape from this predicament
too. Behind our callousness toward the natural realm there is not only a desire for quick and easy profit,
but a more fundamental view of ourselves as radically separated from nature. In the battle of the
machines to dominate the elements, we are clearly on the side of the machines—we are the machines—and
this battle is seen in radically dualistic, even apocalyptic, terms. Thus, having no meaningful relationship
with nature, we are free, perhaps even compelled, to manipulate it endlessly. The transformation of raw
materials into manufactured goods thus becomes our primary goal and value; if the Bomb is God, then the GNP is
chief of the angels. Yet our commitment to material goods as highest good may have a more complex significance.
It is fostered not only by the symbol of the Bomb as divine controller , manipulator, and dominator, but
also by the psychic numbing that the Bomb creates. If we dare not think about the true reality of
our lives—the sword of Damocles that constantly threatens total extinction at a moment’s notice— then we must
divert ourselves, making the other, numbed level so complex and interesting that we shall not have time to think about the
truth. And we must make ourselves so comfortable that we shall not care to deal with the danger .
Thus the Bomb and the economy are interlocked not only from a strictly economic point of view (though most people do believe that
more bombs arc good for the economy, despite the doubts raised by economists), but also from the psychological and symbolic
In preparation for global annihilation we commit partial suicide, only reinforcing
the vicious cycle of numbing and escape
Chernus, 86 – journalist, author, and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder (Ira, Dr.
Strangegod: On the Symbolic Meaning of Nuclear Weapons, pg. 139-141, 1986)//BI
The Bomb, the economy, and our lives all form parts of one interlocking machine, offering us enough
satisfactions that we refuse to ask about the deeper meaning of the machine’s life. When this question threatens to arise, the
diversions of life as theater of the absurd and global Russian roulette are there to entertain us and soothe our doubts. Thus we
desperately desire the security that we hope to gain from total domination and manipulation of
our world, but we simultaneously demand the insecurity that will make life interesting and
entertaining. And we certainly get this insecurity, for we have based our hopes of security on a God that, as we have seen, cannot
provide it. We hope to dominate the Enemy with a weapon that by its very nature cannot offer the freedom that we seek through
domination. We are caught in a vicious circle in which the quest for security can only breed the anxiety of insecurity. But
machines can’t feel anxiety, so it may be easier, for this reason too, to live as a machine. Finally, then, we
come to treat not
only the natural world and our fellow human beings as machines, but ourselves as well. We offer
ourselves, our thoughts and feelings, to the machine and the nation that embodies it, and we perceive those feelings and thoughts as
parts of the unreality that surrounds us: “Faced with the prospect of the destruction of mankind, we feel
neither violent nor guilty, as though we were all involved in a gigantic delusion of negation of the external as well as of our
internal reality.” We allow ourselves to be numbed, finding it the easiest way to cope with an
impossible situation, and thus we commit “partial suicide,” which in turn allows us to continue
preparing for total suicide on a global scale. We commit ourselves to a machine that is infinitely
violent and must wreak its violence on us if it is to be used on others . Therefore. as much as we fear the Enemy,
we must fear ourselves in equal measure, and this fear of ourselves reinforces the numbing. So we find powerlessness
attractive, even as we chase the delusion of ultimate power, for we know that this dream of ultimate power is
ultimately suicidal and thus we want to perceive ourselves as weak—incapable of, or at least not responsible for, pushing the button.
Caught in this contradiction, along with so many others, we escape by immersing ourselves in the air of
unreality, of craziness, surrounding it all, and thus the circle is completed: at every turn, the symbolism of the
Bomb as God, which makes nuclear weapons so attractive to us, reinforces the tendency toward
numbing, and numbing reinforces our commitment to the Bomb as God. A similar dialectical
interaction is evident when we turn to the other unique feature of the Bomb as God: while all other
gods are seen as sources of death, they are also sources of life. Only in our own day has a God appeared that is capable of
providing death but not life. The (often unconscious) awareness of this characteristic lies at the
heart of psychic numbing. But psychic numbing is in many respects intolerable. Its victims are
unwilling, perhaps unable, to admit its existence, and they may even be driven to suicide in order to escape from it. Since the Bomb,
which could create no new symbols of a meaningful future itself, had been born out of a context of old symbols of hope and
continuity, and since psychic numbing can be escaped only by grasping onto such symbols no matter how desperately, the old
symbols were grafted onto the Bomb and defined much of its meaning. Most crucially, the very nature of the Bomb—its “Godlike”
qualities—made it immensely suitable lo be the bearer and focus of these traditional. essentially religious, symbols. Hence the
fundamental ambivalence of the Bomb: it creates, enhances, and embodies the sense of death as utter
extinction, which produces psychic numbing, but at the very same time it offers itself as a
symbol of continuing life, a cure for the numbing, and its offer is largely accepted.
Acknowledging despair and forsaking action can break through apathy and result
in permanent awakening against the threat of extinction from nuclear war –
despair now is the necessary path to love later
Barash & Lipton, 85 – *professor of Psychology at the University of Washington AND **Psychiatrist (David &
Judith, The Caveman and the Bomb, 218-221)
Even as we look toward human feeling to help overcome the Neanderthal mentality, we
possibility of despair.
must therefore also confront the
Many Neanderthals, fearing the personal despair that might accompany their personal
Despair can quench the spears of
anti-nuclear fire, crumble the wall of refusal; indeed, just the fear of despair can have this
effect. Once deprived of that certitude of grasses, despair is “only human.” And yet, as Jesuit essayist William Lynch put
it, “There is nothing more feared and less faced than the possibility of despair ,” despite the fact that
“hopelessness is a more usual and more human feeling than we are wont to admit.” To despair, even briefly, is to
confront a dead end, nowhere to go, nothing to do, no hope. Moreover, it is peculiarly un-American, since
transformation, choose instead to remain in their private upholstered Stone Age.
ours is, after all, the country of boundless opportunity and cheerful optimism, of the Dale Carnegie course and the Liberace
smile. We want solutions, not complaints. Above all, we see ourselves as a problem-solving
people—but if there isn’t a solution, we don’t want to hear about the problem. (As usual, when we are
really worried about something, there is always humor to help us through, and also to tell us how anxious we really are. Accordingly,
Woody Allen has observed: “More than any other time in history, mankind now faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and
utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”) Some therapists have even
begun specializing in “despair work,” helping people cope with their nuclear angst, to deal creatively with their mushroom-clouded
future. It is a bit like “grief work,” in that there is typically a profound mourning that must be transcended. However, there is a big
difference: Successful grief work requires eventual acceptance of loss, such as the death of a spouse or a child. In the case of despair
work, however, the loss has not yet occurred—except in the imagination of the sufferer—and it must never be
accepted. Conventional grief is reflective and retrospective; nuclear despair is anticipatory and
prospective. What is common both to grief and nuclear despair is the sense of loss of control; the
antinuclear war activist must confront the possibility that all of his or her efforts may come to
naught. The outcome is completely uncertain. There is nothing pathological about those who
feel nuclear despair. Quite the opposite, there is something pathological about those who can go
about their business as usual, despite the fact that they and all around them are seriously threatened. Perhaps we can
gain something from feelings of despair, if instead of fighting them we recognize their healthy
roots, and follow them to a stronger source. After all, to be heartsick for the world is to feel a good
pain, proof that love and caring are still alive, as we are still alive. We are open systems, as Norbert Wiener
put it, “whirlpools in a river of everflowing water. We are not stuff that abides, but patterns that perpetuate
themselves.” We should feel for the world—we are part of it, and it is part of us. Can we “get the despair out,” as some
We will not lose all traces of despair until we either
lose all traces of love and caring, or until throughout our efforts and the efforts of millions of
others like us, this old planet is finally safe and secure. By shutting out despair and sorrow we
would shut out love, and deny our connectedness and caring. After all, we hurt for the world only when we
feel for it. On the other hand, by accepting the legitimacy of despair, and then going beyond it, we open
ourselves to our feelings, whereupon our hurt and our love become one. Indeed, we may never
really know the depth of possible love and caring so long as we hold back, fearing the pain of
despair. But by facing the one, we meet the other. The annals of scientific literature are
crammed with data on the likely medical, social, and ecological effects of nuclear war. Although
these studies are often presented in the hope of overcoming denial, they sometimes reinforce it,
leading to greater paralysis and demoralization, because the problem is so big that the “feeling
mind” turns off. We need to be informed not only by facts and by science, but also by the right
hemisphere of our brain, by the smells and sounds of life as well as death, by the flowers of Van Gogh and the symphonies
of Beethoven. For some, the presence of death, speaking at close range, is motivation enough. But as Kundera emphasized,
others are led to an ever more frenetic self-delusion as the Neanderthal denies or redirects those
feelings that make him uncomfortable. For the reformed Neanderthal, the direct threat to all he holds dear may be
therapists would have us “get the anger out?” Probably not.
enough to generate powerful and vital feelings of his own, once the self-delusional shell of personal invulnerability has been
penetrated. For yet others, perhaps the answer lies in the sheer love of life, in the irreplaceable colors of dawn and
sunset, the smell of a rose, the soaring expansiveness of a mountain or a skyscraper, the intricate beauty of a Bach fugue, or the smile
of a baby. Thus, when Dostoevski wrote that “beauty shall save the world,” perhaps this was not
silly romanticism, but rather literal truth. Having grasped the aching beauty and mystery of the
world-in-itself, the prospect of annihilation becomes especially unacceptable. To know and love
the world, to feel its glories and share its wonder, is to reject the prospect of its destruction. And
conversely, a coldness toward the world often correlates with an indifference toward its
destruction, whether through gradual environmental abuse or instantly, through nuclear war.
Giving ourselves up to total despair enables disintegration and subsequent
emergence of new responses – we must face the horror of nuclear war rather than
call to prevent it
Chernus, 86 – journalist, author, and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder (Ira, Dr.
Strangegod: On the Symbolic Meaning of Nuclear Weapons, pg. 159, 1986)//BI
Honesty compels us to admit, then, that we have been living in a classic
ordeal, a classic test of initiation. We
have had no choice; yet we may now turn this necessity into a virtue. For if our goal is to build and attain a new level
on which to live, we must put ourselves into such an initiatory situation. Every transition to a new
spiritual level demands the death of the old. For every higher level is a level of wider integration and greater wholeness, leaving
behind a level of relative fragmentation. Thus we must allow ourselves to experience a dissolution of the
parts of our lives, so that a new synthesis can be created. Certainly this must be true if wholeness is the meaning
of the fourth level. And only in a direct confrontation with death can such a dissolution and merger be
experienced. This is the evidence of religious traditions throughout the world. If we want to build a fourth level, we must
accept and even embrace our initiatory experience as something positive. Of course we must also
recognize that we have not completed the process; our three decade initiatory chaos is still upon us, and only we ourselves can
choose to complete the process. Nevertheless, we are en route, and it is the Bomb itself that has made this
possible. Our initiations must be in some sense individual and private, but they must also be done in community; society as a
whole must undergo the experience. Hence we can learn our path not only from the myth of the individual hero but also from the
myth of the heroic rebirth of whole peoples, even of the whole world. Indeed we have such a myth, kept alive for us by the Bomb, in
the tradition of the apocalypse. We can learn something valuable from this tradition too. We can learn that our initiation must be
acted out in real history—in the empirical reality of the political, social, and cultural world. And we can learn that no matter
how bad things may be now, they must get worse before they get better. ‘The chaos of today must be
intensified; death must be given Its full due before new life can begin. We must face more honestly and more deeply the
distortions in our lives—the insecurity of a fragmented and chaotic world whose survival hangs on such a
slim thread. In doing so, we must admit that we feel ourselves living in desperate times and immersed to some
degree or other in feelings of despair. Joanna Rogers Macy has written eloquently on this subject, showing how our
numbing leads us to repress the despair that must arise from an honest assessment of our
situation: “This refusal of feeling takes a heavy toll The energy expended in pushing down despair is diverted from more creative
uses.”2 Macy suggests that we must allow ourselves to feel this despair if our life energy is to be freed
again; this opening up of despair, as she describes it, clearly has initiatory dimensions. For in feeling the depth of our
despair we may, in fact, “disintegrate.” But this is “positive disintegration”: “It is helpful in despair work to realize that
going to pieces or falling apart is not such a bad thing. Indeed, it is as essential to evolutionary and
psychic transformation as the cracking of outgrown shells, ... Our ‘going to pieces,’ however uncomfortable
a process, can open us up to new perception, new data, new response.... There is healing in such
openness, for ourselves and perhaps for the world.”3 In admitting our craziness, we must face our despair. And In
facing despair, we deepen our craziness. Yet it is a necessary part of our initiation. We may also, temporarily, deepen our numbing.
In any “positive disintegration” there is resistance, a natural refusal of the psyche to fall apart ,
and thus there is refusal to feel, But this, too, may have to be accepted as necessary, with trust that it is merely temporary and that
those who accept the need to transcend their present state will transcend the numbing as well, Every facet of our “death in life” must
be tasted to its fullest. In order to “imagine the real” we must open ourselves to the feelings of total craziness,
total despair, and total numbing, as moments on our way to the fourth level.‚- This painful necessity points back to the central
importance of symbolism Macy writes: “To acknowledge and express our despair, we need images and
symbols….Exercise of the imagination is especially necessary, because existing verbal constructs seem inadequate to what many
of us are sensing…we are groping in the dark, with shattered beliefs and faltering hopes, and we need images for this phase if we are
to work through it.” While the Bomb shows us once again our need for symbolic images, it also shows us
that we may already have the images we need. For what better image of despair is there than the
image of nuclear war itself? What better image of madness and of “death in life” than nuclear catastrophe? But the
problem we have consistently encountered is the relatively unthreatening and even appealing
elements in all these images. And it may be that all such images of chaos, expressing numinous power and the coincidence
of opposites in the big whoosh, must inevitably have attractive aspects. Yet there may be some which come closer to
reflecting the total horror of nuclear war. These are the images we must agree to face if we are to
confront our despair and the reality that lurks behind it.
Imagine the Real
The alternative is to imagine the real – reject the affirmative’s simulation of
nuclear war prevention in favor of conceptualizing its occurrence
Chernus, 86 – journalist, author, and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder (Ira, Dr.
Strangegod: On the Symbolic Meaning of Nuclear Weapons, pg. 149-151, 1986)//BI
Exploring this third level, we have apparently discovered that we are trapped. At every turn our conclusions seem
to bar the way to any optimism about the future. And so, finally, we must ask the most difficult question: Is
there any way out
of this trap, this maze in which the Bomb seems to have ensnared us? Or are we Jestined to wander
through its labyrinthine psychological twists and turns until the symbol explodes its final reality upon us? If we are to find a
way out, we must start with an honest awareness of the true depth of our problem. First, we must
recognize that there are in fact three, not two, levels that must be dealt with. Then we must understand as fully as possible
the complex relationships, both of cooperation and of conflict, among these three levels. Our discussion thus far
has provided some sense of what these relationships arc. The first two levels seem to be mutually exclusive; we can go from
awareness to numbing and back again, but it is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to link them in an integrated whole. The level of
symbolic meanings interacts in a huge variety of ways with both these levels. The most basic pattern may be the conspiracy between
the symbolic level and the level of numbing. But we have seen that the partners in this conspiracy have conflicts themselves and live
somewhat uneasily together. Living on all three of these levels, we experience their tensions and conflicts as our own. As long as the
Bomb exists, it seems unlikely that any of these three levels will disappear, and it is equally unlikely that they can be reconciled.
Their uneasy coexistence will continue to dwell in each of us, and we shall be forced to live now on one, now on another, never
reconciling all three in a true harmony. Thus we shall suffer from the Bomb in a myriad of ways even if it is never again used. On
each of the three levels, nuclear weapons fragment our lives and rob us of the wholeness we so
desperately desire. The conflicts among these levels then compound the damage and wound our inner lives even more. This is
the true depth of our problem. But perhaps, having recognized this painful truth, we need not sink back
into despair. Perhaps we can recognize that there is a way out, a way that awaits us if we will
choose it. To escape from the trap that has ensnared us all, we can create and explore still another level on
which we look with full honesty at the other three and their effects on our lives. This fourth level
must take full account of all our present reality, as well as opening a door to new future realities.
Otherwise it will be merely another fragment of our fragmented lives, another partial level in conflict with those on which we already
live. The fourth level must include and yet transcend the other three, finding room for all their elements, bringing them all to full
consciousness, yet transforming them into a harmonious synthesis. The honesty it demands may well be painful. Giving up our
numbed state means letting ourselves feel—feel the full terror of what the Bomb might someday
do and the full craziness of what it has already done to us. Yet the only alternative is to continue the numbing,
the craziness, the wound of inner schism, and the increasing risk that one day all of it will end in a reality that will force upon us (he
honesty we so long avoided. The need for total honesty is pressed upon us from another direction as well. If our goal is to
transcend the fragmentation and partial reality of the modern technological world, to attain a sense of
wholeness and fulfillment in our lives, we must become whole people in the very process; the means must suit the
end. Technology seems to demand that knowledge be a partial thing. As the philosopher Martin Buber has shown. “knowledge”
today is usually equated with that analytical “I—It” knowledge that splits its object into qualities, features, and
aspects. It demands only the rational, analytical part of our minds, and so it demands that we
withhold the total fullness of our beings from the objects that we wish to know. If we come to the
issue of nuclear weapons with only this kind of knowledge in mind, we shall merely further
enhance the fragmented state of our minds and our lives. If we hope to transcend this state and find some kind
of wholeness, we must begin by bringing a kind of wholeness to our search. In Buber’s view, the way to
do this is to “imagine the real,” to put ourselves so totally and completely in the place of that
which we wish to know that it becomes totally real to us. This does not mean that we must give up our own
individuality and identity. Buber asserts that in this kind of “I—Thou” knowing we remain totally ourselves yet
simultaneously become fully identified with the object of our knowledge. If we fail to do this—if we bring
only part of ourselves to the relationship—we know only a part of what lies before us. If, on the other hand, we “imagine the real,” we
have the privilege and the obligation of knowing the object in its full and therefore its genuine reality. The longer we hide
behind partial knowledge to falsify the world, the longer we are trapped in a world of limited and
partial reality. Only “imagining the real” can provide a way out of this trap. And this demands that
we confront the real and full horror of nuclear weapons.
Only by recognizing the role of symbolism as reality can we proceed to a safe and
satisfying life
Chernus, 86 – journalist, author, and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder (Ira, Dr.
Strangegod: On the Symbolic Meaning of Nuclear Weapons, pg. 155-156, 1986)//BI
Yet all these Enlightenment values are the very values held just as fervently
by nuclear policymakers,
their faith in logical
strategists, and political and military leaders. We have seen ample evidence that they too put
analysis and the triumph of life over death, always holding the opposites apart. Arid proponents of nuclear
armament have always couched their arguments in the most literal terms. The media have largely accepted this literal treatment and
passed it along to the general public. Media presentations of the issue have been saturated with symbolic
meanings that have gone unrecognized as symbolism because we have assumed that all truth must be literal truth. So
the disarmament movement’s own roots are closely intertwined wish the roots of the very tree it hopes to fell. As long as it fails
to recognize the role of symbolism and the irrational in the psyche, it will fail to grasp the fascinating,
appealing qualities of the Bomb. If we are to “imagine the real,” the first step is to understand
that the reality we must imagine is largely a symbolic reality that crosses the line between
literalism and fantasy. The second step is to learn to deal with symbolism in its own language. We
cannot “imagine the real” completely, or even primarily, in literal terms. Literalism is the language of “I—It” detachment; the reality
we must imagine demands an attitude of “I—Thou” engagement, with a sensitive respect for the ambiguity and mystery of ultimate
questions. So it is counterproductive to suggest that we strip away the symbolic meanings we have
uncovered here, as if they were merely some superfluous camouflage-hiding the truth. If one symbolism is stripped away,
another will grow to takes its place. Rather, we must strip away the literalism that camouflages symbolic
truth; we must “realize the imagined.” Then we can proceed to find new symbolic meanings that can more
fruitfully nourish a safe and satisfying life. The fourth level must be created not by desymbolizing but by
*Answers To*
Constructed nuclear scenarios must be viewed as literary projects – interrogation
of the metaphors upon which our nuclear discourse is based should come first
Hirschbein, 5 – Ph.D. from Syracuse University, faculty member in Walden’s School of Public Policy and Administration
(Ron, Massing the Tropes: The Metaphorical Construction of American Nuclear Strategy, pg. 151-154))//BI
By and large, American nuclear strategists lack a sense of the tragic. This deficit may account for other liabilities.
William Borden (a contemporary of Brodie) is the exception. In 1946 he predicted that atomic bombs would Soon be available to
America’s adversaries, and that in the near future, intercontinental missiles would be armed with nuclear weapons. Unlike Brodie,
Borden was not sanguine about deterrence. On the contrary, he referred to the reassuring notion of mutual nuclear deterrence as a
fallacy based upon wishful thinking.2 He prophesied that: “Unless a world government intercedes in time [a decidedly unlikely
prospect in his view] an attack on the United States will surely come.”3 And he allowed that the impetus for such jeremiads was
“America’s happy-ending complex,” a ‘Hollywood peace.”4 As of this writing his prophesy has not been realized. Even if the future he
foretold never comes to pass, Borden’s writing provides a sorely needed corrective to the elegiac praise bestowed upon apocalyptic
weapons by prevailing deterrence doctrine—a sense of the tragic. We are the only species that contemplates its
own extinction. In times past this prospect was based upon supernatural fantasy or ruminations about the remote possibility of
some cosmic calamity. The nuclear makes the ultimate tragedy—species extinction—a real possibility. As
Jonathan Schell laments, the prospect of such a tragedy can be minimized but never eliminated. We have, in effect, eaten the
forbidden fruit and consequently our forlorn species must forever live with the real possibility that nuclear weapons will: Not only
put an end to the living generations but foreclose all future generations down to the end of time. it would mark the defeat of all
human strivings, all human hopes, all human ideas, past and future.5 The situation is doubly tragic. For, as Augustine averred Long
ago, to gaze upon the tragic without anguish is dehumanizing. This dehumanization is manifested in
the only viable defenses we have against the nuclear threat: psychological
defense mechanisms that enable us to
evade and repress the unprecedented peril posed by nuclear weapons. As Robert Jay Lifton recognizes,
“psychic numbing” is the very signature of these psychological defenses. We confront the unbearable
prospect of species extinction by anesthetizing ourselves.6 We would be dysfunctional if we reacted with alltoo-human emotions to the thousands of strategic weapons that remain on hair-trigger alert and to images of holocausts visited
upon us by the terrorist diaspora. We can tolerate the existence of these weapons not because we have
dehumanized some fictive enemy, but because we have managed to dehumanize ourselves.
These psychological defenses exact a heavy toll: cold-blooded indifference toward the suffering
of others and to the enormity of the threat nuclear weapons pose to ourselves. The reasons for this
dehumanizing psychic numbing are understandable but lamentable. But strategists don’t share this
lamentation They extol psychic numbing as a virtue, not a liability. They presuppose that useful, let alone
respectable, inquiry must be cool, detached, and unemotional. Personal feelings (such as sorrowful
anxiety about our nuclear predicament) impede inquiry: somehow repressing emotions facilitate the discovery of great truths.
This is an unreflective bias of much academic inquiry. To paraphrase Bertrand Russell—a great champion of
reason—I’d rather be insane with truth than sane with lies. Here then is a modest proposal for a humanized and
humane nuclear strategizing, a literature fully attentive to the reality of our humanity and of our nuclear predicament: 1.
Strategists might begin by allowing that they are pursuing literary projects not rocket science. They would
come to recognize that their carefully crafted scenarios are just that: stories—narratives
scaffolded upon ancient metaphors A strategist willing to face reality as it is would acknowledge the fictive a of the
strategic genre. In the words of James Fallows: “If every discussion about nuclear weapons began with the statement that no one
really knows he’s talking about, we would have come a long way toward a more balanced perspective on these weapons.”7 Admitting
that the strategic literature is literature is not demeaning. On the contrary, great literature enlivens the imagination while
penetrating the human condition. Dostoevsky’s tormented imagination says more about our humanity than B.F. Skinner’s
experiments with rats and pigeons. Jonathan Schell is no Dostoevsky, but his impassioned Fate of the Earth is preferable to Herman
Kahn’s glib reassurances about nuclear war-lighting. The literary references that follow offer a glimpse at what is sorely neglected in
the strategic oeuvre: our fragile, ever-fallible humanity and the looming tragedy of learning to live with nuclear weapons. 2.
Strategists should acknowledge the tragic dimensions of our nuclear predicament. Such candor would
be a welcome antidote to the breathless praise bestowed upon nuclear weapons of mass destructon. This is not the best of all
possible worlds. Strategists might look into themselves to better understand why their writing evades the
sense of the tragic. Existentialist writers such as Teilhard de Chardin recognize what would occur if strategists dissolved their usual
boundaries and left their everyday occupations and relationships: For the first time in my life…I took the lamp and, leaving the zone
of everyday occupation and relationships where everything seems clear, I went down into my innermost self, to the deep abyss
whence I feel dimly that my power of action emanates. At each step of the descent a new person was disclosed within me of whose
name was not longer sure, who no longer obeyed me. And when I had to stop my exploration because the path faded beneath my
steps, I found a bottomless abyss at my feet, and out of it came—arising from T know not where—the current which I dare call my
life.8 3. As authors bereft of authority strategists should recognize that they are interpreters of
ambiguous texts and cryptic performances, not objective observers of obdurate facts. They might
come to better understand why, like the nuclear weapons themselves, the strategic literature proliferates. They could profit from the
insight proffered by Montaigne almost five centuries ago: I know not what to say to it; hut experience makes it manifest, that so
many interpretations dissipate the truth, and break it. Who will not say that glosses argument doubts and ignorance, since there is
no book to be found…which the world busies itself about, whereof the difficulties are cleared by interpretation. The hundredth
commentator passes it on to the next, still more knotty and perplexed than he found it. When were we ever agreed among ourselves
this book has enough; there is no more to be said about it?” Do we find any end to the need of interpreting? There is more ado lo
interpret interpretations than to interpret things; and more books up books than upon any Other subjects; we do nothing but
comment upon one another. Every place swarms with commentaries…Our opinions are grafted upon another; the first serves as a
stock to the second, and second to the third, and so forth.9 4. Accordingly, strategists would take their obligatory,
modest prefatory remarks seriously by acknowledging their fallibility. Recognizing that their
reified metaphors are mere figures of speech, they would entertain serious doubts about the
stories they tell. The time is long overdue for strategists to acknowledge their warm-blooded humanity, and the dubious and
heartless nature of the metaphors they construct. Camus knew this long ago: Of whom and of what indeed can I say: “I know that!”
This heart within me I can feel, and I judge that it exists. This world I can touch, and I likewise indeed that it exists. There ends all
my knowledge, and the rest is construction.10
AT: Empirics/Literalism/Metaphors Bad
An empirical approach to nuclear war fails and is dangerous – it only reinforces
psychic numbing and justifies apocalyptic crusades against the objective “Enemy”
Chernus, 86 – journalist, author, and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder (Ira, Dr.
Strangegod: On the Symbolic Meaning of Nuclear Weapons, pg. 153-154, 1986)//BI
Even if scientific research could provide an absolutely verifiable, empirical picture of nuclear
war and its results, it is doubtful whether we would or could accept it merely as objective
information. We have seen that the Bomb, with its immense power, inevitably stirs up ambiguous responses
that can be expressed only in symbolic terms. We have seen that even the “experts,” the scientists and
strategists, cannot remain within the confines of literal language and perhaps do not wish to. This is hardly
surprising. Warfare has always been mythologized, from the battles of the ancient warrior gods to the images in which we recall the
two world wars. Yet nuclear war would go far beyond any of these in its intensity and scope, so it must demand the language of
symbol and myth. Regardless of the status of scientific research, our powers of reality testing will probably always
fail in the face of a threat of global catastrophe. Our perceptions of the nuclear issue may
therefore always take us into a psychological realm where reality and fantasy merge. Moreover,
even if we could imagine the reality of nuclear war in purely literal terms, there is good reason to
believe that we should not follow this path. Literal thinking and literal language impose a particular mode of thought
and feeling, one that is intimately linked with the Bomb and its symbolism. Literalism insists that in every situation
there is one single meaning and one single truth to be found. Thus it divides the world into true and false, right and
wrong, good and evil, with no middle ground allowed. It is the characteristic language of a culture bent on an
apocalyptic crusade to wipe out all evil. It allows no ground for a unified vision of good and evil or life and death
together. At the same time, literalism underscores our psychic numbing. With its statistics, computer projections,
and abstract theoretical models, the literal approach reduces the world to a set of finite means
and ends, each with a single simple meaning. It falls to grasp the complexities of human reality and
human response. It creates a dehumanized world, amenable to manipulation and control, in
which we learn to see other people and ultimately ourselves as mere inert objects. It is the
characteristiç language of a technological culture that has made a death-machine its deity. The inert words of literalism create an
inert world, in which every thing is just the thing it is and can be nothing else. In this one-dimensional world it is increasingly
difficult to give possible realities and imagined realities any meaningful place. So we are prevented by our mode of
speaking and thinking from exploring genuine alternatives to the existing situation. We are also
prevented from recognizing the reality and power of our symbolisms and fantasies. Since we define literal truth as the only valid
form of truth, we deny that our unconscious processes have any valid truth at all. So literalism becomes part of the
process of psychological repression. This is especially dangerous in the nuclear age,when the
difference between literal reality and fantasy is so hard to find. With fantasy images affecting us so powerfully, we must exert
ever more powerful processes of repression. One way to achieve this is simply to intensify our
numbing—to refuse to feel at all. Another way is to project our inner thoughts and feelings onto
external objects—to make the Enemy responsible for all the anger and hatred and dark Feeling that wells up inside us. As
numbing reinforces our commitment to dehumanizing technology, projection reinforces our commitment to the
apocalyptic crusade against the Enemy. So literalism again ties together both our ways of thinking about the Bomb
and our efforts to avoid thinking about it.
Nuclear war narratives are inherently metaphorical and fictive – empirical basis is
Hirschbein, 5 – Ph.D. from Syracuse University, faculty member in Walden’s School of Public Policy and Administration
(Ron, Massing the Tropes: The Metaphorical Construction of American Nuclear Strategy, pg. 37-38)//BI
Not surprisingly, debates about the prospects of limited nuclear war-fighting are informed
metaphors, not war-fighting experience. Critics of limited war scenarios liken reality to a slippery slope: any
use of nuclear weaponry plummets history into a black hole. Advocates of limited war-fighting liken reality to what I call a
“sticky ascent”: like some all-powerful gravity, the forces of prudence prevent higher levels of
escalation as “cool heads prevail.” The truth of the matter is, of course, that no one knows whether limited nuclear
war will likely escalate. One can only hope that no one wants to find out! Bereft of empirical data regarding nuclear
war-fighting, strategists author a literary discipline, a highly imaginative genre. They improvise
familiar, time-honored metaphors in order to talk and write about something as unfamiliar and
horrifying as nuclear war. They do so because, as Richard Feyran, a Manhattan project physicist, laments: “[My colleagues
have an] utterly vain desire to see the terrifying, ineffable world of nuclear weapons in terms of something familiar.”5 Despite the
fact that there are no facts regarding nuclear war-fighting, and perhaps because strategizing is rife with internecine disputes,
strategists often posit their conclusions with supreme confidence. As political analyst Philip Green observes:
all works encountered in the field seem invested with a tremendously authoritative air, an air that one
associates with scholarly work in the most well-established and systematically researched disciplines ... the study of
deterrence was not in any meaningful sense a discipline; and somehow all the authority produced
policy proposals and arguments one felt absolutely no urge to agree with.6 In defining a discipline, it is
tempting to begin with the easiest task— indicating what a discipline is not. Heeding the advice of Oscar Wilde I deal with
temptation by giving in. Green aptly concludes that strategic studies are not a scientific discipline. Nevertheless, these studies do
constitute a discipline, but, to be sure, it is more difficult to accomplish the underlying task of this study: revealing what strategizing
is about. I intend to show that American nuclear strategizing is a literary genre informed by a formulaic
authorial strategy and an ancient ensemble of derivative metaphorical constructions embedded
in Enlightenment optimism. (Indeed, as we shall see, a prominent political analyst claims that the nuclear arms race has
ushered in the best of all possible worlds.) The nature of the authorial strategy is dear; however, explicating the derivative
metaphors—the main task of this study—is a more formidable task requiring several chapters.
Symbolic responses are inevitable even under a framework of literalism
Chernus, 86 – journalist, author, and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder (Ira, Dr.
Strangegod: On the Symbolic Meaning of Nuclear Weapons, pg. 154, 1986)//BI
Yet even the most ardent literalism cannot banish the symbolic dimensions of our minds and our
responses to the Bomb. Indeed, our conviction that literal truth is the only truth paradoxically
strengthens the grip of symbolic meanings. The more literalism starves our supply of symbolic thinking and feeling,
the more it feeds our hunger, and the more intensively we cling to our symbols. Since we are convinced that these
nuclear symbols are actually literal realities, they take even deeper root in our psyches. When
warnings of the dire reality of nuclear war are cast in purely literal terms, they are received on the symbolic level (even if we can
seriously deny this) and their threatening aspect is largely nullified.
AT: Perm
Any retention of nuclear imagery locks us in to the fantasy, rendering us helpless
and complacent
Chernus, 91 – journalist, author, and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder (Ira, Nuclear
Madness: Religion and the Psychology of the Nuclear Age, pg. 44-45, 1991)//BI
But looking at the issue from every side often means simply rearranging the mappings of a fantasy world. Nuclear
offer choices, but all available alternatives lie within the confines of the
fantasy, so every choice leads deeper into the fantasy. Choices that might lead out of the fantasy would
lead right out of the reality that "everyone" inhabits, so genuine alternatives, and hence the possibility of
genuine change, must be denied. The fundamental rules of the game must remain unchallenged because
there is a rule against having a rule against breaking these rules—so in fact there are no rules and there is no
game. It all vanishes, just like the problems that cannot exist because we all agree to deny ever having denied the possibility
that they might exist. The result is the sense of helplessness epitomized by the nuclear dilemma. No
one, it seems, can act decisively to change things; no one is really responsible; no one is in charge.
like all social fantasies, does
Everyone is simply carrying out orders. And no one even knows quite where the orders come from, since the crucial orders are the
subtle injunctions that tell us how to experience reality just like everyone else. "This human scene is a scene of mirages, demonic
pseudo-realities, because everyone believes everyone else believes them."28 Thus the individual is compelled to make a decision
when no authentically independent or constructive decision is allowed. The easiest way to escape the pain of such a trap is
to detach oneself psychologically by experiencing both false self and world as unreal. In the typical pattern of
interpersonal knots, the problem is seized as a solution and numbing is intensified. In the end, no one cares
that authentic decision making has vanished. Since all action is futile, why bother to weigh and choose between alternatives? A
numbed acceptance of the status quo seems more reasonable and more satisfying
The perm’s haphazard combination epitomizes the nuclear madness that informs
public discourse and policy
Chernus, 91 – journalist, author, and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder (Ira, Nuclear
Madness: Religion and the Psychology of the Nuclear Age, pg. 137, 1991)//BI
Most of the time, of course, paranoid Cold War fantasies and optimistic detente fantasies
are acted out
simultaneously in ever-changing permutations. Paranoia and optimism are so readily compatible because they
are merely two different manifestations of the same dynamic of madness: in both cases, images of world-
and self-destruction make it not only possible but necessary to imagine ourselves invulnerable and omnipotent through the agencies
of the state. In both cases, images of annihilation and images of perfect security flourish side by side
because each fosters the other. The two sets of nuclear fantasies are also compatible because madness allows
contradictions without number. Public madness, mediated through the state's national security policies, lets us live out the most
contradictory fantasies without doubting our own sanity. Logically incompatible ideas, aims, and behaviors are maintained side by
side quite comfortably, simply because everyone else maintains them too. Confronting the nuclear threat, the public
madness clings to several "quasi-autonomous partial systems." It insists that only a mad-man bent on suicide
would start a nuclear war; but in the next breath it insists that we must retain the right of first
use and have enough weapons to defeat the enemy. It affirms military strength as the highest virtue; but in the next breath
it decries "the military-industrial complex" for sapping the nation's economy. It praises the Bomb as the
"umbrella" that keeps us out of war; but in the next breath it yearns for the simplicity and security of
the pre-nuclear era. It praises the technology that builds ever more sophisticated weapons; but in
the next breath it curses that technology as an ineffable danger. It is thankful that the danger of nuclear
confrontation is past; but in the next breath it laments having to live in a world that is "falling apart." Each of these views is the basis
for some piece of our declaratory or actual nuclear policy. And each may seem reasonable enough within its own framework of belief.
But there is no coherence among the various frameworks. Pieces of ideology and imagery from
any one system can be juxtaposed with pieces from any others without clear rhyme or reason.
Public discourse on the nuclear issue thus becomes just the sort of "word-salad" found in
schizophrenia, and public policies are enacted out of this "word-salad" and the "image-salad" that goes
along with it. The ego, despite its desire for unifying structure, accepts such chaos as ordinary reality because the chaos protects its
numbing. And the superpower state, while claiming to protect us with its structures of "national security," preserves the chaos by
monopolizing violence and images of violence. In the fantasy world of madness, only an omnipotent superpower can stave off the
threat—a threat that is constantly perpetuated by the public fantasies of the superpower.
AT: Realism
In the nuclear age, realism is wishful thinking – the world is one of symbols and
deception, not clear threats or rationality
Hirschbein, 5 – Ph.D. from Syracuse University, faculty member in Walden’s School of Public Policy and Administration
(Ron, Massing the Tropes: The Metaphorical Construction of American Nuclear Strategy, pg. 21-25)//BI
Despite its theoretic and practical difficulties, political realism exerts a powerful, sometimes fatal,
attraction. Realists relish the notion that they are virile thinkers who—unlike effete idealists—have the guts to face the world as it
is. In the words of Hans Morgenthau (the “Dean of Political Realism”): “Idealist critics of realism cannot bear to look at the truth of
politics straight in the face. Realism tries to understand the world as it really is rather than as people would like to see it. Those who
resist the truths of political realism deceive themselves.”2 Resisting the intoxication 0f wishful thinking, realists offer
a sober view of a deterministic political world of cruel, natural laws. But could it be that in the
nuclear age, a peculiar and dangerous epoch in which appearance usually counts more than reality, political realism is
outdated, wishful thinking? Realists are enamored by what they deem the eternal wisdom of the Ancients. Indebted to
Thucydides’ truisms, Hobbesian mechanistic thinking and Social Darwinism they conclude homo homini lupus. Unable to put these
old verities aside, they are inattentive to the symbolic turn in international relations: a world of
cryptic, dissembling texts and highly ambiguous, symbolic performances. A more authentic realism
would stress, more often than not, the texts intended for adversaries are not designed to communicate strategic realities or the
political actor’s intention; on the contrary, dissembling phrases are intended to bluff and deceive. Likewise, strategists must read
between the lines in interpreting an adversary’s declaratory policy and communiqués. Nevertheless, the world
according to political realism is transparent and uncomplicated: it’s a jungle out there, and only the strong,
clever, and unscrupulous survive: That’s both the law of the jungle and the eternal law of politics Reflecting upon the post-Cold War
world, former CIA Director James Woolsey concludes: “True, the Soviet dragon has been slain, but we live now in a jungle filled with
a bewildering variety of poisonous snakes, and in many ways the dragon was easier to keep track of.”3 The jungle, of course, is no
place for women, which is to say those who see the study of international relations as more of a soft, literary project rather than a
hard science of cruel laws. No wonder feminists are among the critics of realism. Contrary to congenial realist stereotypes, like many
other critics, feminists are not necessarily naïve idealists convinced that noble ideals can guide international relations, nor are they
advocates of utopian schemes. On the contrary, they hit realism where it hurts: Some feminists view realist bravado as selfconfessional—a strategy for valorizing one’s masculinity. Taking a less personal approach, others see realism as a body of genderspecific patriarchal assumptions reified as the natural as a body of gender-specific, patriarchal assumptions reified as the natural
order of things.4 As political theorist Jim George concludes, political realism is stripped of anything connected with stereotypical
feminine characteristics: “The omission of women is absolutely integral to the ‘theoretic’ identity of orthodox International Relations
practice ... [It] privileges ‘maleness’ in its entire gendered splendor over a ‘femaleness’ that, by definition, is incapable of anything
more than supportive insignificance.”5 However, certain feminists (well aware that “fear” and ‘insecurity” are overused, realist
terms) hit below the belt by suggesting that realists doggedly cling to ancient truisms because they are insecure, easily threatened
males, fearful of an uncertain, relativistic world in which the center no longer holds.6 Whether realists “talk the talk” because they
are insecure about their masculinity must be left for others to ponder. Realist presuppositions are a more pressing concern. For the
most part, realists subscribe to certain premises regarded as the facts of international life. To be
sure, there are variations on the realist theme, but in its simplest expression—a form not unknown to
strategists—realists liken the international realm to the Hobbesian state of nature. Accordingly, political
realism is guided by three premises; it is worth noting that the premises are informed by a metaphor taken rather seriously—the
multifaceted nation-state is likend to a solitary rational actor: 1. The international realm is beholden to sovereign states that are not
beholden to any higher authority 2. Like individuals, nation-states are rational—albeit selfish—actors that set realistic goals and act
accordingly. 3. And like individuals, nation-states struggle to survive and expand their power. (Power is generally understood as the
capability of invoking military might to maintain and expand hegemony.) This will to power is seldom tempered by moral scruples.
While sovereign nation-states remain the principal players, times have changed: These days, there is but
one superpower, and the terrorist diaspora threatens national monopolies on violence—nation-states are terribly jealous of their
exclusive franchise on violence. The second premise is decidedly problematic. Are decision-makers invariably rational
actors who set realistic goals and act accordingly? They are in theory but are they in practice? According to
Thomas Schelling, the key premise of realism is “not just intelligent behavior, but ... behavior motivated by conscious calculation of
advantage.”7 Beholden to economic theory and carefully controlled laboratory experiments in bargaining, Schelling and other
strategists presuppose that decision-makers look back upon a familiar landscape, the realm of noonday
every day world of cost/risk/benefit analysis. This presupposition is just that: a
empirically derived. To be sure, ordinarily, political actors reality-test and act
accordingly. They are sufficiently rational to get elected or to seize, power and to accomplish a variety of goals. However, a
mounting body of evidence suggests that this rationality is not durable, especially in the midst of
a crisis— episodes in which actors hastily decide between peace and war. As Holsti, an analyst not unsympathetic to prevailing
presupposition, a first principle that is not
accounts of international relations, concludes: The evidence suggests that policy making under circumstances of crisis-induced
stress is likely to differ in a number of respects from decision-making processes in other situations. More important, to the extent
that such differences exist they are likely to inhibit rather than facilitate effectiveness of those engaged in the complex task of making
foreign policy choices.8 As historian Barbara Tuchman recognized, there is nothing new about irrationality in high places, especially
in crisis situations. Her March of Folly spans events from Old Testament sagas to the Indochina War. She concludes that leaders
often persist in pursuing failed, dangerous policies. Indeed, those who should have known better often persist in self-defeating
actions—they redouble their efforts when they forget their goals.9 Accordingly at the risk of betraying my gender, I want to show that
the uncharted, Post-Cold War jungle—to push the metaphor—is much more bewildering than Woolsey and other realists suspect. It
is a virtual jungle in which appearance and dissembling take precedence over reality and candid expression. Contrary to the
realist wishful thinking, the virtual jungle of our era is not a realm of natural laws amenable to
the eternal wisdom of political realism; it is a fictive, literary world in which mythic- poetic
figures of speech are often mistaken for reality. The past is familiar territory for the realist: a time
when reckoning ordnance and personnel made sense. But the present is a foreign country for the realist, for how does
one calibrate the balance of power in an age of assured destruction when appearance is everything and deterrence is a dubious and
dangerous experiment in applied psychology? Indeed, in this postmodern, post-Freudian world, realists hazard confident claims
about the intentionality of leaders far removed from their personal and professional lives. They might well benefit from the outdoor
hermeneutics of cultural anthropologists such as Clifford Geertz, who observes: We are all natives now, and everyone else not
immediately one of us is an exotic. What looked once to be a matter of finding out whether savages could distinguish fact from
fantasy now looks to be a matter of finding out how others across the sea or down the corridor organize their significative world.10
Given the symbolic turn in international relations, perhaps allusions to the jungle are inadequate if not misleading. We don’t
inhabit a world of unmistakable threats populated by individuals with transparent motives. Unlike
other animals, humans live in a highly symbolic world of language games—and we’re “it!” Strategists are
authors and interpreters of cryptic texts and symbolic performances. As Ernest Cassirer observed: Physical reality seems to recede in
proportion as man’s symbolic activity advances. Instead of dealing with things themselves man is in a sense constantly conversing
with himself. He has so enveloped himself in linguistic forms ... that he cannot see or know anything except by the interposition of
[an] artificial medium.11 Nuclear strategizing is about texts and language. This genre is studied in libraries and
archives, not laboratories or observatories. Strategy
is about semiotics—sending and receiving messages. (As McNamara
are often
designed to deceive rather than to communicate accurately. Deception is the name of the game. Strategizing is
explained during the Cuban missile crisis, he was trying to send a message, start a war.) These messages
about illusion and bluffing, about reading meaning in and out of texts. Like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, strategists search for the right
words, some magical incantation, to make everything right with the world. A more authentic realism—attuned to
these new unrealities—would recognize that the political realists’ tried (and occasionally true)
signposts and territories (be they classical or neo-realists) are seldom seen. It’s as we find
ourselves in a theater of the absurd after we have gone through the looking glass and fallen into some Lewis Carroll
fantasy. While nuclear war is not unthinkable for certain realists, it is unthinkable that chimeras such as
the balance of power are fanciful concepts, not real things. To be sure --before the metaphors gets completely
out of hand—residues and artifacts of the jungle remain. (It is comforting, perhaps, for realists to know that there are still predatory
“dragons”: nation-states doing what comes naturally in the state of nature.) But truth be known, it’s terribly easy to get lost
in a world of appearances, a tangled, dark forest of virtual reality—and unreality. Having mixed, if not
tortured, Woolsey’s metaphor, I want to be more explicit about the evanescent appearances, the dissembling messages, and the
puzzling performances that bedevil those who would navigate the post-Cold-War world. Mainstream analysts recognize that in the
post 9/11 world, reality isn’t what it used to be. The efficacy of supposed realities such as balance of power
and deterrence are, to say the least, in doubt. The radical change in international reality, however,
occurred long before 9/11; it occurred on August 6, 1945, with the detonation of the atomic bomb over
Hiroshima. To be sure, early strategists such as Bernard Brodie wrote with power and clarity about the atomic age changing
everything. And yet, much like Clemenceau, they clung to the doctrines of political realism that seemed discredited by events.
Indeed, for Brodie, the nuclear age changed every thing except his embrace of political realism. Summarizing Brodie’s educational
background and subsequent experience, Fred Kaplan explains that he transformed his notions of political realism “into an
intellectual construction grounded in lessons about power that he had learned in his school days at Chicago and every day were
reinforced in the halls he Occupied at Yale. The product was a pair of essays … [that articulated] the first Conception of nuclear
deterrence.”2 No wonder Einstein admonished that the nuclear age changed everything except our thinking. I want to contrast the
bad old days when realism was a somewhat useful guide to navigating international affairs and an antidote to wishful thinking for
the new realities (or better the reality of the new unrealities) of the post-Cold War nuclear age. In such an epoch when
appearance displaces reality and apocalyptic weapons proliferate, political realism per se seems
a forlorn expression of wishful thinking. An admittedly simplified, but Perhaps not wholly inaccurate, account of
American history might reveal be need for a more authentic realism. Such a realism would be marked by humility, given the
precariousness of our nuclear predicament and the realization that we know more about the atom than ourselves. Political
commentator Lewis Lapham recognizes the hubris that bedevils The theory and practice of political realism: “[Political Realism]
reflects the proud belief that man, as the pinnacle of everything that exists, is capable objectively describing, explaining and
controlling everything that exists, and of possessing the one and only truth about the world.”13
Relegating the nuclear bomb to the “unthinkable” creates the notion of the
sublime – this feeds a national apocalyptic imagery
Masco 6 (Joseph, Professor of Anthropology and Social Sciences at University of Chicago, Ph.D. UC San Diego, "The Nuclear
Borderlands: The Manhattan Project in Post-Cold War New Mexico," March 2006, slim_)
Attention to the local effects of the nuclear age, however, also promises a different vantage point on the
phantasmagoria of nuclear conflict promulgated during the Cold War, both disturbing its familiarity and challenging its
social purpose. Since Hiroshima and Nagasaki, nuclear war has repeatedly been marked in American
culture as “the unthinkable,” an official declaration that no government would willingly engage in
actions that could potentially end life on earth.3 But today, in the absence of the Soviet-U.S. global
polarism and during an expanding “war on terror,” we might interrogate the “unthinkability” of
the nuclear age anew, and ask: What kind of cultural work is performed in the act of making
something “unthinkable”? How has the social regulation of the imagination—in this case, of nuclear war—been
instrumental in American life since World War II? What are the legacies of this social project after the Cold War, in a world once
again negotiating “nuclear terror”? For to make something “unthinkable” is to place it outside of language,
to deny its comprehensibility and elevate it into the realm of the sublime . The
incomprehensibility of the bomb is therefore an enormous national-cultural project, one whose effects
constantly exceed the modernist logics required to build the nuclear complex in the first place. But what then encompasses
the cultural spaces left behind when a national project of the size and scope of the nuclear complex is excised
from political discourse? What happens when the submerged cultural legacies of nuclear nationalism come flooding back
into the public sphere, as they did for communities in and around Los Alamos upon the end of the Cold War in 1991 or for a broader
American public after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001? In a post–Cold War world, then,
we might usefully interrogate the cultural work performed by a nation-state in managing so explicit an
image of its own end, of controlling
the terms whereby citizens are confronted with their own, impossibly
sudden, nonexistence. For if it is reasonable, as Benedict Anderson has argued, to “begin a consideration of the cultural roots of
nationalism with death” (1991: 10), then the nuclear
complex remains a particularly potent national project, informing
of the nuclear age has from
this vantage point been perhaps the American nation-building project since World War II. The cultural logic of
ensuring the “immortality” of the nation, which Anderson has shown is character- istic of the modern nation-state, is
also, however, immediately compromised by the reality of nuclear weapons. The contradiction nuclear
arsenals evoke is that as more national-cultural energy is put into generating “security” through
improved weapons systems, the vulnerability of the nation to new military technology is ever
further revealed; indeed, as the U.S.-Soviet arms race demonstrated, it is worked out in ever-exacting detail. The pur- suit
of “security” through ever-greater technological means of destruction thus troubles the nation’s internal
coherence by constantly forwarding the everyday possibility of the ultimate national absence. Indeed,
what Paul Edwards (1996) has called the “closed world” system of American Cold War technology—the ideological commitment
to encompassing the globe with perfect technologies of command, control, surveillance, and military
nuclear power—ultimately offered nuclear superpowers a perverse new form of immortality, one drawn from
the recognition that a nuclear war might well be the last significant national act on earth. The “unthinkability” of the nuclear
age has right from the beginning, then, produced its rhetorical opposite; namely, a proliferation of discourses
about vulnerability and insecurity. 4 This is easiest to see in the periods of heightened international tensions of the early
one way in which citizens imagine both their collective lives and deaths. The unthinkability
1950s, 1960s, 1980s, and 2000s, when the unthinkability of nuclear war, in fact, made it impossible for many in the United States to
think about anything else. But even in periods of relative international calm, Cold War nuclear discourse
retained a specific trajectory in the United States, one that inevitably
focused attention on the imagined end of the
nation, and thus of life itself. Given that a 4 nuclear war has not yet occurred, this apocalypticism remains
at the level of a national imaginary. Nevertheless, an imagined end to the nation, or the human species,
energized the argumentative core of (post) Cold War nuclear discourse and continues to this day to enable social movements both
for and against the construction of the U.S. nuclear complex.5 In other words, the nuclear politics of the Cold War, the steady
discourse and coun- terdiscourse of nuclear/antinuclear commitments, has
promoted a specific apocalyptic vision
in the United States, one that has made it difficult to see how the nuclear age has already impacted
everyday lives.
Fixation upon existential risk renders invisible the institutional technocracy of the
nuclear project
Masco 6 (Joseph, Professor of Anthropology and Social Sciences at University of Chicago, Ph.D. UC San Diego, "The Nuclear
Borderlands: The Manhattan Project in Post-Cold War New Mexico," March 2006, slim_)
With the end of that multigenerational project known as the Cold War, we might now interrogate the repressed
spaces within nuclear modernism; that is, the social logics, technoscientific practices, and institutional
effects that were rendered invisible by this national fixation on extinction. We can now examine how more
than a half century of inter- national work to construct a global nuclear economy has affected every- day lives on
a local level, paying attention to the regional and cultural complexities and specificities of life in the nuclear age. For while we all still
live in a world quite capable of nuclear war, the cumulative effects of the nuclear complex are already both more subtle and more
ever-present than (post) Cold War culture has allowed, affecting some lives more than others, and impacting local ecologies and
cultural cosmologies in ways that we have yet to recognize fully. To approach nuclear technologies from the quotidian perspectives of
tactile experience, focusing on how people experience an orientation in time and space, and an individual relationship with a
national-cultural infrastructure, is to fundamentally rewrite the history of the nuclear age. Indeed, attention to the local
effects of the nuclear complex makes strange the invisibility of the U.S. arsenal in everyday
American life, and allows us to interrogate the national cultural work performed in the act of making so enormous a
national project reside in the “unthinkable.” Consequently, it may be more useful to approach
nuclear war as a phantasmagoria, a spectral fascination that distracts attention from the ongoing
daily machinations of the U.S. nuclear complex. Indeed, the constant end game articulation of nuclear
discourse has, I think, enabled two of the most profound cultural achievements of the nuclear age: the near erasure of
the nuclear economy from public view, and the banalization of the U.S. nuclear weapons in
everyday American life. The consequence of this historical structure is that the U.S. nuclear complex is
primarily visible today only in moments of crisis, when the stakes of nuclear policy are framed by
heightened anxiety, and thus, subject, not to reassessment and investigation, but to increased
fortification. The material and cultural effects of U.S. nuclear weapons— involving local, national, and global
structures—are more deeply embedded in everyday life than is visible in moments of national crisis, 5
making a contemporary analysis of the regional effects of the Manhattan Project simultaneously an
ethnographic study of a specific technoscientific project, a sociocultural investigation into American Cold War culture, and an
anthropology of American power in the twenty-first century
Nuclearism leads to the numbing of the individual – this culminates in
vulnerability and war
Masco 6 (Joseph, Professor of Anthropology and Social Sciences at University of Chicago, Ph.D. UC San Diego, "The Nuclear
Borderlands: The Manhattan Project in Post-Cold War New Mexico," March 2006, slim_)
Walter Benjamin’s, like Hecker’s, theory of progress is grounded in the terrifying reality of World War. But whereas Hecker looks to
technology to provide solutions to nationalist violence, Benjamin looks for answers in the vulnerability of the human body to
modern technology. Benjamin wrote the “Theses on the Philosophy of History” while trying to escape an advancing Nazi army in
1940. It has often been evoked by contemporary EuroAmerican scholars as a prescient critique of the anesthesia-effect of modern
life, the increasing sense of isolation and insulation from experience brought about by the combined
effect of the swift pace of new industrial
technologies and a flood of new urban forms (see Buck-Morss 1991). Ben- jamin
individuals to retreat inward, to take
psychological refuge from the new dangers of an increasingly industrialized world by cutting themselves off from
believed this overstimulation of the body after World War I forced
sensory experience, by anesthetizing themselves in everyday life.6 By drawing together contemporary social forms and their recently
outmoded predecessors to create a “dialectical image,” Benjamin sought to produce a “shock” effect, one that revealed the constantly
reconstructed sameness of modern life, enabling people to break through the trancelike state produced by a sea of changing
commodities and technologies, and envision an eman- cipatory social movement. In this way, he sought to create “a real state of
emergency” that would disrupt the historical possibility of fascism by changing the terms of “progress” to emphasize not the
machine, but the quality of everyday life and the fragility of the human body. Though Benjamin did not live to enter the nuclear age,
his critique of modernity in the 1930s remains relevant to any investigation into how nuclear
technologies have affected everyday life since the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For Benjamin saw not only the
liberatory potential of technology but also how the aestheticizing effects of technology could enable new kinds of mass control,
making industrial warfare even seem beautiful, and therefore, seductive (1969b: 241).7 In his most celebrated essay, “The Work of
Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” largely remembered for its embrace of technology as a form of social revolution,
Benjamin also warned that “all efforts to render politics aesthetic culminate in one thing: war” (1969b: 240–
41; see 8 also Buck-Morss 1992). The aestheticizing of nuclear technology by nation-states during the Cold War would elevate
Benjamin’s question about the social consequences of industrial technology into the realm of planetary survival. Indeed, America’s
initial response to fascism was pro- foundly modernist: it consisted of a radical break with history achieved through a new industrial
technology, the atomic bomb. The Manhattan Project, quite subversively, produced the kind of “shock”
effect Benjamin had hoped to achieve—a new experience of everyday life grounded in the
vulnerability of the human body. In the brief window between the bomb- ings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the start
of the Cold War, many in the United States, including some of the primary figures at Los Alamos, believed that the achievement of
the atomic bomb made war obsolete as a means of solving conflict and initiated a global movement for the con­ trol of nuclear
technologies.8 America’s explosive entry into the nuclear age, thus, produced a flash of insight enabling some in the United States to
imagine a fundamental restructuring of (inter)national order. This detonation in political consciousness was on the order of what
Benjamin hoped to achieve through his critical work, as national violence was now irrevocably tied to the possibility of human
extinction, a reality that seemed to demand imaginative new possibilities for organizing social life.
Apocalyptic focus legitimizes the state of emergency – this fosters social
calculation and reduces deaths to numbers
Masco 6 (Joseph, Professor of Anthropology and Social Sciences at University of Chicago, Ph.D. UC San Diego, "The Nuclear
Borderlands: The Manhattan Project in Post-Cold War New Mexico," March 2006, slim_)
The tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the “state of emergency” in which we live is not the
exception but the rule. We must attain to a conception of history that is in keeping with this insight.
Then we shall clearly realize that it is our task to bring about a real state of emergency, and this will improve our position in the
struggle against Fascism. One reason why Fascism has a chance is that in the name of progress its opponents treat
as a historical norm. The current amazement that the things we are experiencing are “still” possible in the twentieth century
is not philosophical. This amazement is not the beginning of knowledge—unless it is the knowledge that the view of history which 6
gives rise to it is untenable. —Walter Benjamin, Theses on the Philosophy of History Sig Hecker’s statement offers a compelling
modernist history of the nuclear age, a Cold War narrative of nuclear technology “buying time”
for humanity even as the stakes of national conflict grow ever higher. As director of Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL)
(1985–97), Hecker’s primary job was to certify the viability of the nuclear arsenal, to ensure that the United States
maintain the ability to inflict “over­ whelming power” against any would-be aggressor. His
genealogy of the bomb—moving from the crossbow to the thermonuclear warhead— forwards weapons science as
an inseparable component of historical progress. Published in LANL’s Newsbulletin on the occasion of the fifti­ eth
anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1995, Hecker’s essay reiterates the necessity of nuclear
weapons as a means of deterring both nuclear and conventional war. He ends with a call for Los Alamos
employees to “keep the horrid images of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in front of us as a stark reminder of what we must avoid” and to
focus attention “on dealing with the current nuclear dangers to the benefit of mankind so that at the 100th anniversary people can
look back and say the Manhattan Project turned out all right.” What is remarkable in this statement is not simply the brute
calculation of life attributed to the U.S. nuclear arsenal—80 million killed in twentiethcentury
wars before the bomb, 20 million after—or the taken-for-granted assumption that the existence
of nuclear weapons prevented a third World War in this century; it is that Hecker seems to suggest that the
bomb’s pri­ mary power is cultural not technological: nuclear weapons affect how peo­ ple think. But while the cultural work of the
bomb may have postponed a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, it did not slow the commitment to developing technologies of mass
destruction. Between August 6, 1945, and August 6, 1995, the power of nuclear weapons, as Hecker notes, increased many
thousandfold, and technologies were invented to deliver U.S. nuclear weapons to any part of the world in less than thirty minutes.
Hecker’s notion of the cultural work of the bomb is, then, quite specific, one based on separating the social
effects of the bomb from the reality of the bomb itself. For implicit within the cosmology of weapons scientists is
an under- standing that nuclear technologies are now forever part of the world sys- tem, and
consequently, the need for a state-of-the-art nuclear arsenal, as a deterrent, is a near-permanent
feature of modern life. Thus, the Manhat- tan Project can never really end. It can, however, “turn out all
right” in Hecker’s view, if a national commitment to new technologies enables renewed investment in nuclear power, a global system
for tracking pluto- 7 nium, environmental cleanup of contaminated sites, safe storage of nuclear waste, and ongoing investments to
maintain a state-of-the-art nuclear arse- nal. Within this philosophy of history, the end of the Cold War offers merely a moment of
pause, a chance to readjust the trajectory of the Man- hattan Project, but it does not significantly reduce (indeed, in
some ways it reenergizes)
the technostrategic worldview that enabled the U.S. nuclear complex to
become ubiquitous in the first place.
MAD and deterrence are symptoms of the national nuclear fetish – catastrophic
technologies shock the psyche and numb humanity
Masco 6 (Joseph, Professor of Anthropology and Social Sciences at University of Chicago, Ph.D. UC San Diego, "The Nuclear
Borderlands: The Manhattan Project in Post-Cold War New Mexico," March 2006, slim_)
Nuclear weapons, however, quickly became not merely a “historical norm,” they became the
national fetish in the United States. With the official start of the Cold War after the Soviets’ first nuclear test on
August 29, 1949, nuclear weapons became the one true sign of “superpower” status and the ultimate arbiter
of “national security.” Constant technological improvements in the scope and versatility of nuclear weapons and
missile systems ultimately enabled a global achievement of “mutual assured destruction” (or MAD)—a technoscientific
belief system that promised immediate retaliatory nuclear strikes for any nuclear aggres- sion. During the Cold War, the logics
behind MAD led to a constantly shrinking window of warning for an incoming nuclear strike. In
other words, technological advances within the nuclear complex were paralleled by a global contraction in time
and space, creating a “closed world” of American and Soviet technology, which, by the early 1960s, was
always less than thirty minutes away from a global firestorm. At the beginning of the twenty-first century these technological systems
remain firmly in place: the United States and Russia each maintain over ten thousand nuclear weapons in their arsenals and
continue to have nuclear submarines on constant alert, positioned to launch immediate and overwhelming nuclear (counter)strikes.
Thus, the technological infrastructure of the Cold War lives on, as do the cultural and environmental effects of our first half century
in the nuclear age. 9 By tracing the transformation of nuclear weapons from a technology producing cultural critique to a
technonational fetish, we can see a coun­ terhistory to Hecker’s story of technological progress. Following Ben­ jamin, we can
trace the cultural reception of preceding “catastrophic” technologies like gunpowder in the sixteenth
century or dynamite in the nineteenth century, looking for the human relations rendered invisible by the
power of these technologies and noting their tactile effect on experiences of everyday life. For
each of these military technologies produced psychological shocks manifested in a new awareness of the fragility of
the human body, and therefore produced the possibility for new under- standings about the consequences of (nationalist) violence.
Each new means of destruction, however, also required a greater level of social anesthesia to
normalize its impact on everyday life. For Benjamin, this dulling of the senses to violence was accomplished through a
fundamen- tal reorganization of the human sensorium under modern industrial life. The industrial revolution
restructured everyday life around repetition (the factory assembly line), speed (city life), and
technologically mediated violence (industrial accidents and mechanized war). The repetitive
shocks to the body as sensory organ produced by these new social forms required a new means of processing
stimuli, a system based not on engaging one’s environment but on insulating and protecting the
sensorium from it. As Susan Buck-Morss explains it (1992: 18), Benjamin believed that: being “cheated out of experience” has
become the general state, as the synaesthetic system is marshaled to parry technological stimuli in order
to protect both the body from the trauma of accident and the psyche from the trauma of
perceptual shock. As a result, the system reverses its role. Its goal is to numb the organism, to deaden the
senses, to repress memory: the cog- nitive system of synaesthetics has become, rather, one of anaesthetics. That is, the
traumatic experience of rapid technological change has produced a reversal of the polarity of the
human senses, which increasingly work not to engage the world but to insulate individuals from
Nuclearism catalyzes a national state of emergency – this facilitates proliferation
and war
Masco 6 (Joseph, Professor of Anthropology and Social Sciences at University of Chicago, Ph.D. UC San Diego, "The Nuclear
Borderlands: The Manhattan Project in Post-Cold War New Mexico," March 2006, slim_)
The historical process that registers each new “catastrophic technology”
as the end of warfare, the
makes the prospect of war 11 “unthinkable,” is ultimately through this anestheticizing process
absorbed as simply another fact of modern life, one more shock to the bodily sys- tem from which the psyche
requires insulation. From this perspective, the Manhattan Project represents a link in a certain modernist
chain of being, one that has consistently relied on technology to solve problems of the social, and where the human
sensorium evolves by deadening itself in order to normalize the ever-accelerating changes in the
technological possibilities of everyday life. For Benjamin, increasing levels of social anesthesia demand
new kinds of shock therapy, new means of reorienting indi- viduals to the emancipatory possibilities in everyday life. The
innovation that
end of the Cold War provides a rare moment of pause in the technological advance- ment of a nuclear, militarized American
modernity, and thus offers an opportunity to assess from a new vantage point the effects of the bomb. In this light, the nuclear
bomb is literally an explosive and an explosive cosmological practice, a world-making enterprise
that can reorganize how people experience everyday life. In fact, if we locate the Manhattan Project within a
genealogy not only of technological progress, but also of an ongoing “state of emergency,” what is unique about
the bomb is drawn less from its destructiveness than from the acceleration of time and
contraction of space it produces. Paul Virilio concurs, arguing in War and Cinema that “weapons are tools not
just of destruction but also of perception—that is to say, stimulants that make themselves felt through chemical,
neurological processes in the sense organs and the central nerv- ous system, affecting human reactions and even the
perceptual identification and differentiation of objects” (1989: 6). As a means of reorganizing a tactile
engagement with the everyday, nuclear technologies therefore have profound effects regardless of nuclear
warfare. The instantaneous destructive power of nuclear weapons and the long-term dangers posed by
nuclear materials—the dangers of the millisecond and the multimil- lennium—require a postnational, transhuman view of
the future. Indeed, the reliance on nuclear materials that remain deadly for hundreds of thou- sands of years immediately
troubles a national-cultural perspective, as these dangers long exceed any reasonable assumption about the lifetime of the nationstate. Nuclear materials not only disrupt the experience of nation-time (confounding notions of both the present and the
future), they also upset the concept of nation-space, in that they demonstrate
the permeability, even irrelevance, of
national borders to nuclear technologies (to intercontinental missiles and radioactive fallout, for example). The first
thing that nuclear technologies explode, then, are experiences of time, undermining the logics of the
nation-state by simultaneously enabling both the absolute end of time and the exponential proliferation 12
of a toxic future.
They are the nuclear disciplinary machine, reducing subjects to strategic
calculators who must think nuclear apocalypse into being
Chaloupka 92 (William, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Colorado State University, 1992, “Knowing Nukes: The
Politics and Culture of the Atom,” pp. 21-22)
An oppositional politics, fully capable of problematizing this (hyper-) exuberant nuclearism, is possible on bases other than such
suspect categories as euphemism, survival, unspeakability, and numbing. Through out this book, I am trying to reposition
antinuclearism within such a defensible political practice. At the very least, this implies an intellectual project: to paraphrase
Foucault, there is a struggle over issues of knowledge, set off by nuclear criticism. The political mood of the language-and-politics
position is well framed by nuclear criticism. More precisely, a political mood could yet form, one that would contrast
sharply with an exiting nuclear opposition that in the United States, has adopted a paradoxical
structure, as if driven to mirror that paradoxes of nukes themselves. Antinuke talk has been
ponderous—so responsible and serious that it just obviously defeats itself, and must invent the defense that “people
don’t really like to talk about nuclear war very much.” Paradoxically, opponents then test that humorlessness by asking
citizens to become independent entrepreneurs of risk, weighing the likelihood and amplitude of possible disasters. It
should not be surprising that such a politics works only intermittently if at all. To summarize: as obvious a goal as “survival” may be,
it nonetheless carries with it a series of code and a rhetoric. Survival implies a global unquestionable project- a faith
really- and it therefore brings along baggage we might not wish to carry. Following Foucault’s model of the specific intellectual,
intervening in the relations of power and knowledge, we can identify some of this baggage. When we
approach survival (and humanism, and liberalism in general) from that angle, we see some primary terms
becoming far more problematic than we may have understood. The unspeakability of nukes—part of a characteristic
liberal injunction to speak—turns out, instead, to point to a problem with the whole scheme of representation. Furthermore, our
concern with technological dependence and accidents turns out to beg important issues of
agency. In the wake of these discoveries, we should at least suspect that it is disciplinary power—more than technology, or
reticence to speak or a too-awesome topic—that has been accumulating. And in the face of that accumulation, the
injunction to aid survival and counter unspeakability by simply canceling euphemism is obviously just too
limited a response. In upcoming chapters, I will try to suggest a different sort of opposition, informed by the theoretical
considerations outlined above. Even if principled renunciations of the nuke—in the name of humanity or survival—
have misfired, other interventions may be possible, may even be better.
Fearing the bomb buys into a disciplinary politics that colonizes Being – destroys
value to life
Chaloupka 92 (William, Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Colorado State University, 1992, “Knowing Nukes: The
Politics and Culture of the Atom,” pp. 21-22)
Like few other issues, nuclearism strains to become more than an instance. It aspires to be context and case, to shape public and
private life. It seeks a symbolic position of such force that other concerns would arise within the context of nuclear technology,
sometimes even when explicit, connections are absent. The policies, practices, and discourses of nuclear
technology seem to have a capacity to capture attention that rivals even their destructive
capability. In short, nuclearism organizes public life and thought so thoroughly that, in another era
of political theory, we would analyze it as an ideology. The framework of survival or defense has
become pervasive in Western political cultures, dominating not only the budgets and debates of
public life but the more private dimensions as well. In our time, when one dreams of public life,
the fantasies may even be atomic. The level of compulsion attendant to nuclear questions could become a subject of
interpretation; a critic could choose to discuss these questions as more fundamental than issues that merely confirm existing
frameworks and habits. For citizens of nuclear states, nukes are the metaphors for success and failure, the constraints for
experimentation, the analogy for all other “problems. Nonetheless, these same citizens seem reluctant to take nukes so
seriously. The background for my project is a suspicion that a sort of conservatism, a
slowness to move, characterizes
even the most alarmist talk of nukes. The various positions on nuclearism are phrased within
familiar political ways of speaking, despite their proponents’ considered judgment that precisely
these undertakings have made the world so different, so dangerous. The nuclearism adopted by states and
diplomats presumes a Machiavellian counterbalance of threats, while opponents presume the efficacy of humanist commitment.
Despite obvious differences, both positions reinforce a contemporary, ideological ways of understanding politics.
Permutation solves – criticizing representations doesn’t preclude the need for
concrete action
Rorty, 97 (Richard Rorty, Professor of Humanities, University of Virginia, Truth, Politics, and Postmodernism, Spinoza
Lectures, 1997, pp. 51-2)
This distinction between the theoretical and the practical point of view is often drawn by Derrida, another writer who enjoys
demonstrating that something very important – meaning, for example, or justice, or friendship – is both necessary and impossible.
When asked about the implications of these paradoxical fact, Derrida usually replies that the paradox doesn't matter
when it comes to practice. More generally, a lot of the writers who are labeled `post-modernist; and
who talk a lot about impossibility, turn out to be good experimentalist social democrats when it comes to
actual political activity. I suspect, for example, that Gray, Zizek, Derrida and I, if we found ourselves citizens of the same
country, would all be voting for the same candidates, and supporting the same reforms. Post-modernist philosophers have gotten a
bad name because of their paradox-mongering habits, and their constant use of terms like `impossible; `self-contradictory' and
`unrepresentable'. They have helped create a cult of inscrutability, one which defines itself by opposition to the Enlightenment
search for transparency - and more generally, to the `metaphysics of presence; the idea that intellectual progress aims at getting
things clearly illuminated, sharply delimited, wholly visible. I am all for getting rid of the metaphysics of
presence, but I think that the rhetoric of impossibility and unrepresentability is counterproductive
overdramatization. It is one thing to say that we need to get rid of the metaphor of things being accurately represented, once
and for all, as a result of being bathed in the light of reason. This metaphor has created a lot of headaches for philosophers, and we
would be better off without it. But that does not show that we are suddenly surrounded by unrepresentables; it just shows that
`more accurate representation' was never a fruitful way to describe intellectual progress. Even if we agree that we shall
never have what Derrida calls "a full presence beyond the reach of play"; our sense of the possibilities
open to humanity will not have changed. We have learned nothing about the limits of human hope from metaphysics,
or from the philosophy of history, or from psychoanalysis. All that we have learned from `post-modern' philosophy is that we may
need a different gloss on the notion of `progress' than the rationalistic gloss which the Enlightenment offered. We have been
given no reason to abandon the belief that a lot of progress has been made by carrying out the
Enlightenment's political program. Since Darwin we have come to suspect that whether such progress is made will be
largely a matter of luck. But we have been given no reason to stop hoping to get lucky.
Nuclearism Good
Fear of nuclear war is necessary to prevent its occurrence
Futterman, 94 – physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (J. A. H., “Obscenity and Peace: Meditations on the
Morality of Nuclear Weapons Work,” 1994,
I could say that if I didn't do it, someone else would, but that answer was rejected at Nuremberg. (It's also a better reason to leave the
weapons program than to stay.) I continue to support the nuclear weapons business with my effort for many reasons, which I discuss
throughout this piece. But mostly, I do it because the fear of nuclear holocaust is the only authority my own
country or any other has respected so far when it comes to nationalistic urges to make unlimited
war. As William L. Shirer states in his preface to The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (Touchstone Books, New York, 1990), "Adolf
Hitler is probably the last of the great adventurer-conquerors in the tradition of Alexander, Caesar, and Napoleon, and the Third
Reich the last of the empires which set out on the path taken earlier by France, Rome and Macedonia. The curtain was rung down on
that phase of history, at least, by the sudden invention of the hydrogen bomb, of the ballistic missile, and of rockets which can be
aimed to hit the moon." Now this contrasts with the argument of those who would "reinvent
government" by putting up bureaucratic roadblocks to maintaining the reliability of the US nuclear
arsenal through research and testing. They reason that if the reliability of everyone's nuclear arsenals declines, everyone will be
less likely to try using them. The problem is that some "adventurer-conqueror" may arise and use
everyone's doubt about their arsenals to risk massive conventional war instead. An expansionist
dictatorship might even risk nuclear war with weapons that are simpler, cruder, less powerful, much riskier (in terms
of the possibility of accidental detonation) but much more reliable than our own may eventually become without adequate "stockpile
stewardship."[14] But the inhibitory effect of reliable nuclear weapons goes deeper than Shirer's deterrence of adventurerconquerors. It changes the way we think individually and culturally, preparing us for a future we cannot now imagine. Jungian
psychiatrist Anthony J. Stevens states, [15] "History would indicate that people cannot rise above their narrow sectarian concerns
without some overwhelming paroxysm. It took the War of Independence and the Civil War to forge the United States, World War I
to create the League of Nations, World War II to create the United Nations Organization and the European Economic Community.
Only catastrophe, it seems, forces people to take the wider view. Or what about fear? Can the horror which we all
experience when we contemplate the possibility of nuclear extinction mobilize in us sufficient libidinal
energy to resist the archetypes of war? Certainly, the moment we become blasé about the possibility
of holocaust we are lost. As long as horror of nuclear exchange remains uppermost we can recognize that nothing is worth
it. War becomes the impossible option. Perhaps horror, the experience of horror, the consciousness of horror, is our only hope.
Perhaps horror alone will enable us to overcome the otherwise invincible attraction of war. " Thus I
also continue engaging in nuclear weapons work to help fire that world-historical warning shot I mentioned above, namely, that as
our beneficial technologies become more powerful, so will our weapons technologies, unless genuine peace precludes it. We must
build a future more peaceful than our past, if we are to have a future at all, with or without nuclear weapons — a fact
we had better learn before worse things than nuclear weapons are invented. If you're a philosopher, this means that I regard the
nature of humankind as mutable rather than fixed, but that I think most people welcome change in their
personalities and cultures with all the enthusiasm that they welcome death — thus, the fear of nuclear annihilation of
ourselves and all our values may be what we require in order to become peaceful enough to
survive our future technological breakthroughs.
Nuclearism checks atrocities – confronting aggressors is key to utilitarianism
Futterman, 94 (J.A.H., Ph.D. from UT Austin, University of California Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory,
"Meditations on the Morality of Nuclear Weapons Work,", slim_)
With the above statement as background I observe that many peace activists confront the evil impulse
in the
powers of war with the evil impulse in themselves. They rightly see nuclear war as a threat to the
planet, and therefore a threat to themselves and humanity, and so confront the threat of violence with anger.
Such an attitude is self-defeating, because acting from it creates more conflict, rather than less. Rather than
making peace, such action merely makes war on war. Now the peace activists didn't invent this type of response. In the same spirit,
nuclear weapons were first invented by good people who were confronting the evil of the Nazis
(who were trying to develop their own atomic bomb) with the evil impulse in themselves. And by continuing to develop
and/or maintain a stockpile of them we give our assent to this evil impulse. I give my assent. Atomic Bombing of
Nagasaki I give it because in response to the Nazis, I would have done the same thing. In response to
Stalinism, I would also have done as my predecessors did. I believe that Nazism had to be defeated at all costs,
and Stalinism had to be contained, in order to preserve and enlarge the freedoms that I hold dear for myself and for all people.
Such a response satisfies the criterion of Utilitarianism — the greatest good for the greatest
number — at least in its outcome so far. Even the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which hastened the defeat of the
evil of Japanese Imperialism, satisfies the criterion of Utilitarianism in that it spared the loss of American lives and the even worse
devastation of Japan and loss of Japanese lives that would have resulted from a conventional invasion. And I suppose I would have
supported it for that reason. (And if you think there we could have demonstrated the bomb over an unpopulated area, remember
that we used our entire stockpile of two bombs, and that it took two cities, to bring about the surrender.) [29] But the image of an
orphaned baby, burned and screaming, annihilates forever the argument that it was good. [30] It was an evil response of good
people to evil, and it was the best that we humans could do at the time. Aftermath of Nagasaki Bombing And so the question of
whether I am good or evil in my participation in the nuclear weapons business is already
contained in the discussion of yezer tov and yezer ra, above. Or in the Christian idea that we are simultaneously sinners and
saints. I am neither one nor the other — like you, I am both. In associating with a nuclear weapons program, I
confront the evil of potential aggressors against America with my own evil impulse. On the other hand, it is
necessary (but not sufficient) for us to defend our turf, even in this outrageous manner, if we are to defend our freedom.
(Otherwise we risk being attacked just for being vulnerable. And if the old enemy is no longer visible on our
horizon, all we need do is to become complacent for a new one to appear.) Just as an individual needs his
evil impulse to live, so does a nation. The question is not how to eliminate the evil impulse — the question
is how to harness it. How can we use it for good?[31]
Nuclearism inevitable – maintenance and deterrence are key to effective
Robinson 1 (C. Paul, Sandi National Laboraties, “A White Paper:Pursuing a New Nuclear Weapons Policy for the 21st
Century,” March 22,, 9-23-06)
I served as an arms negotiator on the last two agreements before the dissolution of the Soviet Union and have spent most of my
career enmeshed in the complexity of nuclear weapons issues on the government side of the table. It is abundantly clear (to me) that
formulating a new nuclear weapons policy for the start of the 21st Century will be a most difficult undertaking. While the often oversimplified picture of deterrence during the Cold War-two behemoths armed to the teeth, staring each other down-has thankfully
retreated into history, there are nevertheless huge arsenals of nuclear weapons and delivery systems, all in
quite usable states, that could be brought back quickly to their Cold War postures. Additionally,
throughout the Cold War and ever since, there has been a steady proliferation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass
destruction by other nations around the globe. The vast majority of these newly armed states are not U.S. allies, and some already
are exhibiting hostile behaviors, while others have the potential to become aggressors toward the U.S., our allies, and our
international interests. Russia has already begun to emphasize the importance of its arsenal of nuclear
weapons to compensate for its limited conventional capabilities to deal with hostilities that
appear to be increasing along its borders. It seems inescapable that the U.S. must carefully think through how we
should be preparing to deal with new threats from other corners of the world, including the role that nuclear weapons might serve in
deterring these threats from ever reaching actual aggressions. I personally see the abolition of nuclear weapons as an
impractical dream in any foreseeable future. I came to this view from several directions. The first is the
impossibility of ever "uninventing" or erasing from the human mind the knowledge of how to build
such weapons. While the sudden appearance of a few tens of nuclear weapons causes only a small stir in a world where several
thousands of such weapons already exist, their appearance in a world without nuclear weapons would
produce huge effects. (The impact of the first two weapons in ending World War II should be a sufficient example.) I believe
that the words of Winston Churchill, as quoted by Margaret Thatcher to a special joint session of the U.S. Congress on February 20,
1985, remain convincing on this point: "Be careful above all things not to let go of the atomic weapon until you are sure, and more
sure than sure, that other means of preserving the peace are in your hands." Similarly, it is my sincere view that the majority of
the nations who have now acquired arsenals of nuclear weapons believe them to be such potent
tools for deterring conflicts that they would never surrender them. Against this backdrop, I recently began
to worry that because there were few public statements by U.S. officials in reaffirming the unique role which nuclear weapons play in
ensuring U.S. and world security, far too many people (including many in our own armed forces) were beginning to believe that
perhaps nuclear weapons no longer had value. It seemed to me that it was time for someone to step forward and articulate the other
side of these issues for the public: first, that nuclear weapons remain of vital importance to the security of the U.S. and to our allies
and friends (today and for the near future); and second, that nuclear weapons will likely have an enduring role in
preserving the peace and preventing world wars for the foreseeable future. These are my purposes in
writing this paper.
Deterrence Good
There’s an infinite set of root causes to war that can’t be empirically verified – err
toward testable hypotheses about war initiation – only deterrence solves
Moore, 4 – Dir. Center for Security Law @ University of Virginia, 7-time Presidential appointee, & Honorary Editor of the
American Journal of International Law, (John Norton, Solving the War Puzzle: Beyond the Democratic Peace, John Norton Moore,
pages 41-41)
If major interstate war is predominantly a product of a synergy between a potential nondemocratic aggressor and an absence of
effective deterrence, what is the role of the many traditional "causes" of war? Past, and many
contemporary, theories of war have focused on the role of specific disputes between nations, ethnic
and religious differences, arms races, poverty or social injustice, competition for resources, incidents and
accidents, greed, fear, and perceptions of "honor," or many other such factors. Such factors may well
play a role in motivating aggression or in serving as a means for generating fear and manipulating public opinion. The
reality, however, is that while some of these may have more potential to contribute to war than others, there may well
be an infinite set of motivating factors, or human wants, motivating aggression. It is not the independent
existence of such motivating factors for war but rather the circumstances permitting or encouraging high risk
decisions leading to war that is the key to more effectively controlling war. And the same may also be true
of democide. The early focus in the Rwanda slaughter on "ethnic conflict," as though Hutus and Tutsis had begun to slaughter each
other through spontaneous combustion, distracted our attention from the reality that a nondemocratic Hutu regime had carefully
planned and orchestrated a genocide against Rwandan Tutsis as well as its Hutu opponents.I1 Certainly if we were able to press a
button and end poverty, racism, religious intolerance, injustice, and endless disputes, we would want to do so. Indeed, democratic
governments must remain committed to policies that will produce a better world by all measures of human progress. The broader
achievement of democracy and the rule of law will itself assist in this progress. No one, however, has yet been able to demonstrate
the kind of robust correlation with any of these "traditional" causes of war as is reflected in the "democratic peace." Further, given
the difficulties in overcoming many of these social problems, an approach to war exclusively
dependent on their solution may be to doom us to war for generations to come. A useful framework in thinking
about the war puzzle is provided in the Kenneth Waltz classic Man, the State, and War,12 first published in 1954 for the Institute of
War and Peace Studies, in which he notes that previous thinkers about the causes of war have tended to assign responsibility at one
of the three levels of individual psychology, the nature of the state, or the nature of the international system. This tripartite level of
analysis has subsequently been widely copied in the study of international relations. We might summarize my analysis in this
classical construct by suggesting that the most critical variables are the second and third levels, or "images," of analysis.
Government structures, at the second level, seem to play a central role in levels of aggressiveness in
high risk behavior leading to major war. In this, the "democratic peace" is an essential insight. The third level of
analysis, the international system, or totality of external incentives influencing the decision for
war, is also critical when government structures do not restrain such high risk behavior on their
own. Indeed, nondemocratic systems may not only fail to constrain inappropriate aggressive behavior, they may even massively
enable it by placing the resources of the state at the disposal of a ruthless regime elite. It is not that the first level of analysis, the
individual, is unimportant. I have already argued that it is important in elite perceptions about the
permissibility and feasibility of force and resultant necessary levels of deterrence. It is, instead, that
the second level of analysis, government structures, may be a powerful proxy for settings bringing to power those who may be
disposed to aggressive military adventures and in creating incentive structures predisposing to high risk behavior. We should
keep before us, however, the possibility, indeed probability, that a war/peace model focused on democracy
and deterrence might be further usefully refined by adding psychological profiles of particular
leaders, and systematically applying other findings of cognitive psychology, as we assess the likelihood of
aggression and levels of necessary deterrence in context. A post-Gulf War edition of Gordon Craig and
Alexander George's classic, Force and Statecraft,13 presents an important discussion of the inability of the pre-war coercive
diplomacy effort to get Saddam Hussein to withdraw from Kuwait without war.14 This discussion, by two of the recognized masters
of deterrence theory, reminds us of the many important psychological and other factors operating at the individual level of analysis
that may well have been crucial in that failure to get Hussein to withdraw without war. We should also remember that
nondemocracies can have differences between leaders as to the necessity or usefulness of force and, as Marcus Aurelius should
remind us, not all absolute leaders are Caligulas or Neros. Further, the history of ancient Egypt reminds us that not all Pharaohs
were disposed to make war on their neighbors. Despite the importance of individual leaders, however, we should also keep before us
that major international war is predominantly and critically an interaction, or synergy, of certain characteristics at levels two and
three, specifically an absence of democracy and an absence of effective deterrence. Yet another way to conceptualize the
importance of democracy and deterrence in war avoidance is to note that each in its own way
internalizes the costs to decision elites of engaging in high risk aggressive behavior. Democracy
internalizes these costs in a variety of ways including displeasure of the electorate at having war imposed upon it by its own
government. And deterrence
either prevents achievement of the objective altogether or imposes
punishing costs making the gamble not worth the risk.I5 VI Testing the Hypothesis Theory without truth is but
costly entertainment. HYPOTHESES, OR PARADIGMS, are useful if they reflect the real world better than
previously held paradigms. In the complex world of foreign affairs and the war puzzle, perfection is
unlikely. No general construct will fit all cases even in the restricted category of "major interstate war"; there are
simply too many variables. We should insist, however, on testing against the real world and on results
that suggest enhanced usefulness over other constructs. In testing the hypothesis, we can test it for consistency
with major wars; that is, in looking, for example, at the principal interstate wars in the twentieth century,
did they present both a nondemocratic aggressor and an absence of effective deterrence?' And although it is by
itself not going to prove causation, we might also want to test the hypothesis against settings of potential
wars that did not occur. That is, in nonwar settings, was there an absence of at least one element of
the synergy? We might also ask questions about the effect of changes on the international system in either element of the
synergy; that is, what, in general, happens when a totalitarian state makes a transition to stable democracy or vice versa? And what,
in general, happens when levels of deterrence are dramatically increased or decreased?
Effective deterrence controls escalation and is the best predictor for war
Sharp, 8 – Assoc. Dep. General Counsel for Int’l Affairs @ DOD & Adjunct Prof. of Law @ Georgetown (Former Dir. Of
Research at the Law Library of Congress, Democracy and Deterrence: Foundations for an Enduring World Peace, Air University
Press, Maxwell Air Force Base, May, 2008, Dr. Walter Gary Sharp Sr.,
Moore concludes in Solving the War Puzzle that war arises from the interaction of all three Waltzian levels
(individual, state or national, and international), whereas some proponents of the democratic peace principle focus
only on government structures to explain war and some traditional realists focus only on the international system. Both realists and
democratic peace proponents tend to emphasize institutions and systems, whereas Moore reminds us that people—leaders—
decide to pursue war: Wars are not simply accidents. Nor, contrary to our ordinary language, are they made by
nations. Wars are made by people; more specifically they are decided on by the leaders of nation states—
and other nonnational groups in the case of terrorism—who make the decision to commit aggression or
otherwise use the military instrument. These leaders make that decision based on the totality of incentives affecting
them at the time of the decision. . . . . . . [Incentive theory] tells us that we simply have a better chance of
predicting war, and fashioning forms of intervention to control it, if we focus squarely on the effect
of variables from all levels of analysis in generating incentives affecting the actual decisions made by those with the power
to decide on war.42 Incentive theory focuses on the individual decisions that lead to war and explains
the synergistic relationship between the absence of effective deterrence and the absence of
democracy. Together these three factors—the decisions of leaders made without the restraining effects of deterrence and
democracy— are the cause of war: War is not strictly caused by an absence of democracy or effective deterrence or both together.
Rather war is caused by the human leadership decision to employ the military instrument. The absence of democracy, the
absence of effective deterrence, and most importantly, the synergy of an absence of both are
conditions or factors that predispose to war. An absence of democracy likely predisposes by [its] effect on leadership
and leadership incentives, and an absence of effective deterrence likely predisposes by its effect on
incentives from factors other than the individual or governmental levels of analysis. To understand
the cause of war is to understand the human decision for war; that is, major war and democide . . . are the consequence of individual
decisions responding to a totality of incentives.43
Hegemonic deterrence solves ontological security
Lupovici – Post-Doctoral Fellow, Munk Centre for International Studies University of Toronto (Amir, “Why the Cold War
Practices of Deterrence are Still Prevalent: Physical Security, Ontological Security and Strategic Discourse,” 2008
Since deterrence can become part of the actors’ identity, it is also involved in the actors’ will to achieve
ontological security, securing the actors’ identity and routines. As McSweeney explains, ontological security is “the
acquisition of confidence in the routines of daily life—the essential predictability of interaction through which
we feel confident in knowing what is going on and that we have the practical skill to go on in this
context.” These routines become part of the social structure that enables and constrains the actors’ possibilities (McSweeney, 1999:
50-1, 154-5; Wendt, 1999: 131, 229-30). Thus, through the emergence of the deterrence norm and the construction
of deterrence identities, the
actors create an intersubjective context and intersubjective understandings
that in turn affect their interests and routines. In this context, deterrence strategy and deterrence practices
are better understood by the actors, and therefore the continuous avoidance of violence is more
easily achieved. Furthermore, within such a context of deterrence relations, rationality is
(re)defined, clarifying the appropriate practices for a rational actor, and this, in turn, reproduces this context and
the actors’ identities. Therefore, the internalization of deterrence ideas helps to explain how actors may
create more cooperative practices and break away from the spiral of hostility that is forced and
maintained by the identities that are attached to the security dilemma, and which lead to mutual perception of the other as an
aggressive enemy. As Wendt for example suggests, in situations where states are restrained from using
violence—such as MAD (mutual assured destruction)—states not only avoid violence, but “ironically,
may be willing to trust each other enough to take on collective identity”. In such cases if actors
believe that others have no desire to engulf them, then it will be easier to trust them and to identify with
their own needs (Wendt, 1999: 358-9). In this respect, the norm of deterrence, the trust that is being built between the
opponents, and the (mutual) constitution of their role identities may all lead to the creation of long term
influences that preserve the practices of deterrence as well as the avoidance of violence. Since a
basic level of trust is needed to attain ontological security,21 the existence of it may further strengthen the practices of deterrence
and the actors’ identities of deterrer and deterred actors. In this respect, I argue that for the reasons mentioned earlier, the
practices of deterrence should be understood as providing both physical and ontological
security, thus refuting that there is necessarily tension between them. Exactly for this reason I argue that
Rasmussen’s (2002: 331-2) assertion—according to which MAD was about enhancing ontological over physical security—is only
partly correct. Certainly, MAD should be understood as providing ontological security; but it also allowed for physical security, since,
compared to previous strategies and doctrines, it was all about decreasing the physical threat of nuclear weapons. Furthermore, the
ability to increase one dimension of security helped to enhance the other, since it strengthened the
actors’ identities and created more stable expectations of avoiding violence.
The aff allows us to alter our perception of arms buildups and see them as nonthreatening
Lupovici, 8 – Post-Doctoral Fellow, Munk Centre for International Studies University of Toronto (Amir, “Why the Cold War
Practices of Deterrence are Still Prevalent: Physical Security, Ontological Security and Strategic Discourse,” 2008
I further claim that the arguments suggested in this paper have some policy-oriented implications on the questions of how actors can
be influenced and why some actors are less easily deterred. Deterrence norm creates a context within which
weapons are interpreted as a means of deterrence. Moreover, the importance of context and actors’
intersubjective knowledge is not limited to the superpowers in the nuclear age, but can also apply to other kinds of actors. In other
words, deterrence strategy will generally work better when actors have intersubjective knowledge of
deterrence, which indicates that deterrence practices, to some extent, are dependent on the processes of learning and
socialization. 56 In addition, this study suggests that strategic policy decisions must take into account not only
the physical needs of the opponents but possible threats to identity and ontological security. In
addition, the research has a few interesting theoretical and empirical implications for the study of the connections among the
concepts of physical security, ontological security, and identity, as well for the further mapping of these connections. The idea
and practices of deterrence created the role identities of the actors, which gradually provided a
substitute for earlier identities of aggressive enemy. This allowed the superpowers to escape from the ontological
security dilemma, since they were provided with an alternative that both enhanced their physical security and did not threaten their
role identities. The point here is that this is precisely the factor that aggravated the threats of 9/11. The American inability to
deter was not only a physical security problem but an ontological one. Thus, attempts to practice
deterrence and restore its deterrent posture resulted in the Gulf war. A few further implications can be suggested. First, mutual
deterrence practices may be understood as a mechanism that allows for breaking away from the
ontological security dilemma. Not only are actors able to increase their ontological and/or physical security, but
increasing either of these may serve to increase the other, and through this provide a more solid sense of security. Second, this
study also enhances the assertion that establishing new identities may serve as a mechanism
that allows for breaking away from the ontological security dilemma. Further, this research provides a
reply to Copeland, who suggests that the “divide between constructivism and systemic realism is all about past socialization versus
future uncertainty.” He argues that constructivists have difficulties explaining how prudent rational leaders deal with future
uncertainties (2000: 205-6; 210). This paper demonstrates that the constructivist approach may explain not only how uncertainties
shape behavior, but how they result from the actors’ identities. Therefore, considering deterrence as a construction
of rational practices may explain how in some contexts it helps actors overpower uncertainties
(Cold War) while in others it creates the uncertainties (post–Cold War terrorism).
Psychology Bad
Interrogation of psychological causes of nuclear war is useless – policy approaches
are key
Blight, 86 – PhD in cognitive psychology, served as director of the Avoiding Nuclear War project at the Harvard Kennedy
School of Government, Chair of Foreign Policy Development at the Centre for International Governance Innovation and Professor at
the Balsillie School of International Affairs (James G., “How Might Psychology Contribute to Reducing the Risk of Nuclear War?,”
Political Psychology, Vol. 7, No. 4 (Dec., 1986), pp. 617-660, JSTOR)//BI
I believe, with many others, that avoiding nuclear war is the most important public policy problem of our
time. As a psychologist, I do not believe my colleagues and I have contributed significantly to its solution, which must, in my view,
consist of piecemeal attempts to understand the dimensions of the risk of nuclear war and then to suggest ways of reducing that risk.
I do not believe that reducing the risk of nuclear war is primarily a psychologists' problem
although, as a psychologist, I do tend to frame the issue so as to make certain psychological aspects of the problem appear to be
basic. Failure on the part of psychologists and psychiatrists to enter more fully into the policy
makers' construction of the central aspects of nuclear risk lay, it seems to me, behind our tendency,
especially at the level of intermediate causes, toward solutions we pluck off our own shelves but which are
not easily integrated into the policy makers' modus operandi. It has also led, I think, to utopian schemes put
forward as solutions to the deep psychological causes, solutions which fail to take adequately
into account either the historical record or political reality. The great concern of nuclear policy makers is with a
crisis between the superpowers. But nuclear crises are not well understood; in fact, the sort that everyone fears is without precedent,
for it is imagined to precipitate a major nuclear war and unprecedented devastation. Because crises are poorly understood psychologically, as evolving belief-states - crisis management, which may at some future point represent the last
shred of hope for avoiding a nuclear war, seems to me to lack almost completely a relevantly
useful, psychological knowledge-base.
Psychological approaches have zero chance of solving the nuclear threat
Blight, 86 – PhD in cognitive psychology, served as director of the Avoiding Nuclear War project at the Harvard Kennedy
School of Government, Chair of Foreign Policy Development at the Centre for International Governance Innovation and Professor at
the Balsillie School of International Affairs (James G., “How Might Psychology Contribute to Reducing the Risk of Nuclear War?,”
Political Psychology, Vol. 7, No. 4 (Dec., 1986), pp. 617-660, JSTOR)//BI
But nuclear depth psychology is distinguished principally by the emphasis its advocates place upon deep
psychological processes, the
pathology of which is believed to explain an arms race they regard as
patently irrational - in the sense that the end toward which they believe it is taking us, nuclear war, is the very inverse of the
goal sought by advocates of a vigorous nuclear weapons competition between the superpowers. In short, nuclear depth
psychologists believe that what they take to be our present and escalating nuclear danger can be
traced to problems in our collective thinking about nuclear war and nuclear deterrence and that
these problems are deep and usually outside the awareness of those who make and execute
nuclear policy. They thus conceptualize risk of nuclear war as mainly a psychological problem: If we could alter the way we
think in fundamental ways, chiefly by shifting to a less parochial, more global perspective, the deep psychopathology would be cured,
the arms race would be terminated, and the risk of nuclear war could be greatly reduced, perhaps ultimately even to zero. Two
schools of thought dominate nuclear depth psychology. I will characterize them within the terminology suggested by Holt (1984, pp.
211-212). On the one hand, there are the cognitivists, those who believe that the deep psychopathology driving the arms race is a
pathology of personal cognition, albeit one involving the cognitions of a great many leaders in the United States and the Soviet
Union. To put the point somewhat colloquial- ly, but pointedly: Cognitivists believe the arms race is crazy because crazy people
are running it. As we shall see presently, this approach
to the problem of nuclear risk has led many people
straightaway to the view that the cure for superpower psychopathology is not fundamentally
different in kind from the psychotherapeutic process required to cure any sort of psychological
illness involving thought disorder. For most cognitivists, not only may the problem of nuclear risk be conceptualized
psychologically, but so also may the cure, which is some process akin to psychotherapy. The other principal school of nuclear depth
psychology is that of the interactionists. Advocates of this view tend to believe that there is no evidence suggesting the presence
of widespread pathology in the cognitions of the in- dividual leaders of either superpower. Rather, they argue that the deep
psychopathology is more abstract, embodied in what they take to be a pathological relationship between the two countries. Within
what nuclear depth psychologists take to be crazy patterns of interaction between the super-powers, especially institutionalized
mistrust and assumptions of ubiquitous hostile intent, the leaders are seen as functioning quite rationally, as a rule, and one of the
forms taken by their rational adaptation to a crazy system is participation in the nuclear arms race. Thus, according to the
interactionists, if risk of nuclear war is to be reduced significantly, the quality of the super- power relationship must be changed
fundamentally, and this implies a mainly political, rather than psychotherapeutic, cure for superpower psychopathology. The most
famous cognitivist among nuclear depth psychologists is Helen Caldicott. Categorical and self-righteous in her assertions, shrill in
her writing and speaking, Caldicott might easily be ignored by serious students of nuclear psychology if it weren't for her astonishing
popularity. She is a best-selling author, a speaker who is much in demand, a founding member of the reestablished Physicians for
Social Responsibility (PSR) and, more recent- ly, a driving force behind Women's Action for Nuclear Disarmament (WAND). Thus
one must assume that a great many people have, in Caldicott, found a voice commensurate in content and tone with their own deep
fears and beliefs about risk of nuclear war (but see Coles, 1984). Caldicott's writing is filled with ad hominem
psychological asaults like the following: The definition of a paranoid patient is someone who imagines a certain scenario in
his or her own mind, decides (with no objective evidence) that this is exactly what someone else is thinking, and then decides to act
on that notion. The paranoid delusions projected onto the Russian leaders come straight from the minds of American strategsts and
leaders, and these ideas probably reflect exactly what the Americans are planning to do themselves and bear little relationship to
Soviet strategy or reali- ty. (1984, pp. 174-175). Leading candidates for this diagnosis of paranoia are, according to Caldicott, "socalled broad-minded intellectuals who sat on Reagan's MX Commission" (The Scowcroft Commission). Moreover, she asserts, "such
fantasy thinking is still practiced at the highest levels of government, including President Reagan and Defense Secretary Weinberger,
and is overt paranoia" (1984, p. 174). One may find similar diagnoses in Kovel ("paranoid madness"; 1983, p. 84) and Menninger
("exhibitionistic drunken gesturing of two suicidal giants"; 1983, p. 350). Unfortunately for Caldicott and her cognitivist colleagues,
however, her diagnoses are simply, demonstrably wrong. The Soviets have a vast nuclear arsenal; their missiles and
bombers really are aimed at us; they really do have rather precise plans for using them to destroy us in a nuclear war (see, e.g.,
Holloway, 1985; Meyer, 1985). However this state of affairs may have come about, our leaders do not simply imagine
the Soviet nuclear threat. It is real, as anyone who examines the evidence may see. In moving from her
analysis of the problem of nuclear risk - crazy leaders - to her therapeutic prescriptions for a cure, Caldicott's irrelevance to the world
of nuclear policy-making becomes total. Because she believes that deeply sick people are driving the risk of nuclear war upward, she
must choose between two broad prescriptive alternatives: something akin to political revolution, by which our leaders, at any rate,
would be forcibly replaced; or therapy, by which they would be healed. Kovel (1983) leans toward the former alternative; Caldicott,
however, favors some novel forms of therapy, such as a kind of marriage counseling, in which each superpower would be required to
"pledge" its "troth" to the other (1984, p. 292), monthly wrest- ling matches between "the men who control the
alleviate the built-up aggressions" (p. 305), and parental advice to "grow up and become responsible nations" (p. 337). One may at
first wonder whether Caldicott puts forward such suggestions as these seriously but, noting the unrelentingly humorless tone of her
writing, one suspects that she does. But because her cognitivist diagnoses are patently false, and because the
realization of her prescription
is so wildly improbable, the likelihood that the course she advocates will
actually lead to a reduction in the risk of nuclear war ought to be rated at very nearly zero.
Empirics/Falsifiability Good
Empirical falsification is the only sound epistemological grounding for policy
Fischer, 98 – professor in the department of political science at Rutgers (“Beyond Empiricism: Policy Inquiry in Postpositivist
Perspective,” Policy Studies Journal, Vol. 26. No.1, Spring, 1998, pg. 129-146, online at
Neopositivism (or logical empiricism) has supplied the epistemological ideals of the contemporary social
and policy sciences (Hawkesworth 1988; A theory of knowledge put forth to explain the concepts and methods of the physical
and natural sciences, neopositivism has given shape as well to a social science in pursuit quantitatively replicable causal
generalizations (Fay 1975). Most easily recognized as the stuff of the research methodology textbook, neopositivist
principles emphasize empirical research designs, the use of sampling techniques and data
gathering procedures, the measurement of outcomes, and the development of causal models
with predictive power (Miller 1993; Bobrow and Dryzek 1987). In the field of policy analysis, such an orientation is
manifested in quasi-experimental research designs, multiple regression analysis, survey research, input-output studies, cost-benefit
analysis, operations research, mathematical simulation models, and systems analysis (Putt and Springer, 1989; Sylvia, et al. 1991).
The only reliable approach to knowledge accumulation, according to this epistemology, is empirical
falsification through objective hypothesis-testing of rigorously formulated causal generalizations
(Popper, 1959: Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith 1992:231; Hofferbert 1990). The goal is to generate a body of empirical generalizations
capable of explaining behavior across social and historical contexts, whether communities, societies, or cultures, independently of
specific times, places, or circumstances. Not only are such propositions essential to social and political
explanation, they are seen to make possible effective solutions to societal problems. Such
propositions are said to supply the cornerstones of theoretical progress. Underlying this effort is a fundamental
positivist principle mandating a rigorous separation of facts and values, the principle of the "fact-value
dichotomy" (Bernstein 1976; Proctor 1991). According to this principle, empirical research is to proceed independently of normative
context or implications. Because only empirically based causal knowledge can qualify social science as
a genuine "scientific" endeavor, social scientists are instructed to assume a "value-neutral"
orientation and to limit their research investigations to empirical or "factual" phenomena. Even
though adherence to this "fact-value dichotomy" varies in the conduct of actual research, especially at the methodological level, the
separation still reigns in the social sciences. To be judged as methodologically valid, research must at least
officially pay its respects to the principle (Fischer 1980). In the policy sciences the attempt to separate facts
and values has facilitated a technocratic form of policy analysis that emphasizes the efficiency and
effectiveness of means to achieve politically established goals. Much of policy analysis, in this respect, has
sought to translate inherently normative political and social issues into technically defined ends to be pursued through
administrative means. In an effort to sidestep goal-value conflicts typically associated with policy issues, economic and social
problems are interpreted as issues in need of improved management and program design; their solutions are to be found
in the technical applications of the policy sciences (Amy 1987). Often associated with this orientation has been a
belief in the superiority of scientific decision-making. Reflecting a subtle antipathy toward democratic processes, terms such as
"pressures" and "expedient adjustments" are used to denigrate pluralistic policymaking. If politics doesn't fit into the methodological
scheme, then politics is the problem. Some have even argued that the political system itself must be changed to better accommodate
policy analysis (Heineman et al. 1990).
AT: Chernus
Permutation solves best – both literal and symbolic language are necessary
Chernus, 86 – journalist, author, and Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder (Ira, Dr.
Strangegod: On the Symbolic Meaning of Nuclear Weapons, pg. 156, 1986)//BI
Symbolism has its dangers too. If our goal is to confront the full
reality of nuclear war, every
symbol and every mythic image may tend to lead us further away by masking that reality. Surely
those who attempt to “imagine the real” must be aware of the pitfalls on both sides of their path.
They must assimilate empirical information with full awareness of the tendency to mythicize it and to dehumanize
it, while they must absorb symbolic images of nuclear war with full awareness of the temptation to avoid the truth
and its horror. The fourth level demands a sensitive use of both literal and symbolic language. Ideally, a
new language may be needed, which synthesizes both approaches and teaches us how to weave them together most effectively in the
pursuit of wholeness. Only with such a new language could we confront the phenomenon on both
conscious and unconscious levels and unite the two into a single perception. This new mode of thought and speech is
probably a distant reality. But its raw materials can be created today. While the disarmament movement is pressing ahead with
increasingly precise facts on the empirical side, there is still much to be done in creative exploration of the symbolic side.
Chernus ignores empirics and his theories are non-falsifiable
Summers, 91 – PhD, Department of Psychology, Mount Allison University (Craig, Book Review: Chernus, Ira. Nuclear
Madness: Religion and the Psychology of the Nuclear Age, Nuclear Texts and Contexts, No. 6, pg. 2-3 Spring 1991,
As a central theme, Nuclear Madness: Religion and the Psychology of the Nuclear Age states that: “The question to be asked about
nuclear weapons . . . is: What fantasy images are embedded in our attitudes and behaviors?” (p. 83). But Psychology as a
discipline and profession is based on empirical research, not fantasy images. Author Ira Chernus
does acknowledge that his approach is not easily interwoven with formal psychological research
(discussing theologian Paul Tillich, p. 48; also pp. 105- 106). But he nevertheless uses arguments, such as those from Mircea
Eliade, that “can be neither verified nor falsified by empirical research” (p. 193), an ominous note for social
scientists reading the book. Chernus overlooks vast areas of empirical research in political science,
economics, political psychology, and even the scientific evidence on nuclear winter, stating that “the
empirical reality of a large-scale use of nuclear weapons eludes scientific understanding” (p. 64). As one example to the contrary, in
psychology there have been innumerable experimental studies of imagery, both in terms of imaginal
thinking, and a narrower literature specifically focusing on nuclear imagery (e.g., Journal of Social Issues, v. 39[1]). Skirting
these seems to be a gross omission in a book purporting to use imagery as a basis for a psychological understanding of
the nuclear age.
Alt Fails
Chernus misapplies Lifton’s observations and lacks a coherent alternative
Summers, 91 – PhD, Department of Psychology, Mount Allison University (Craig, Book Review: Chernus, Ira. Nuclear
Madness: Religion and the Psychology of the Nuclear Age, Nuclear Texts and Contexts, No. 6, pg. 3-4 Spring 1991,
Infantile omnipotence desires? All will attest to the existence of social fantasy? Nuclear Madness does, but it is surely a
backwards for any reader attempting to learn something of explanations in contemporary
political psychology. In relying on clinical metaphors from over forty years ago, Chernus has tied
his philosophy to a clinical approach with little actual evidence, and which is generally no longer
accepted. Psychic numbing and mental illness could be used successfully if not treated as just a metaphorical explanation for
nuclear irrationality. This is a difference between Lifton’s (1967) actual psychiatric observations and
Chernus’s numbing metaphor. But Nuclear Madness dwells on descriptive images and similes,
not actually pursuing responses to the nuclear threat using either side of psychology: (a) the experimental and
observational bases, which have been extensively documented, or (b) clinical psychopathology, which would be worth seriously
pursuing. One could propose very real psychiatric grounds for the suicidal nature of being a passive bystander or having vested
interests in the nuclear arms race (see Charny, 1986). Masking, numbing, rationalizing, or however ignoring the potential for nuclear
omnicide is a psychological process that poses a very real threat to human life, and may thus fit the criteria for inclusion as a
pathological disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders III (American Psychiatric Association, 1987).
People with different political agendas could make completely different conclusions using the
material in Nuclear Madness. It
is also the case that completely different premises and images could be
used to arrive at the same conclusions. A discussion of sexual and pornographic images of the nuclear threat in
Rosenbaum (1978) is equally metaphorical. It is descriptive, but not explanatory. Perhaps no real explanation is necessary in Nuclear
Madness, though, or even any conclusions on religious thinking or psychological processes. Chernus’s description of “the bomb” as
“a symbol of neurotic ambivalence” (p. 67; also 56, 61) is almost just an abstract, artistic image. This would be okay if presented this
way in the introduction. As it is, though, we are misled from the title on into thinking that this book will provide
an understanding of psychological perceptions and responses to the nuclear threat.
Psychic Numbing Wrong
Chernus’ fundamental premise of psychic numbing is poorly established and
doesn’t account for other factors
Summers, 91 – PhD, Department of Psychology, Mount Allison University (Craig, Book Review: Chernus, Ira. Nuclear
Madness: Religion and the Psychology of the Nuclear Age, Nuclear Texts and Contexts, No. 6, pg. 2-3 Spring 1991,
This book attempts to explain political psychology in the nuclear age through nuclear imagery and psychiatrist R. J. Lifton’s (1967)
construct of psychic numbing. To start with an image of my own, the nuclear threat could be characterized by two men (gender
intended), each holding a gun to the other’s head as a means of security. The inherent danger and illogic in this is of course mad; a
madness defined by Mutual Assured Destruction (M.A.D.). The book draws heavily on metaphors of madness in attempting to
explain this situation, and in attempting to “point to new political possibilities that will lead beyond the nuclear trap and void” (p.
70). The logic followed in the book is that psychic numbing causes us to shut off any thoughts about
a fundamental threat to our existence. We therefore develop no images of nuclear doomsday, and
this is essentially why we do not act to prevent it. It is not completely clear, however, why numbing
makes us inactive regarding the nuclear threat, but not about other threats. Certainly death is a more
immediate threat to blacks in South Africa or to those in bread lines in Eastern Europe and the U.S.S.R. Yet rather than being
numbed into paralysis, these victims defy government threats of bloodshed to hold public rallies. Numbing may not be
cause of general inactivity regarding the nuclear threat; unlike demonstrations against foodlines and racism, we
may just find it too longterm, large and improbable to deal with in our day-to-day lives. Psychology as a discipline
and profession is based on empirical research, not fantasy images. Author Ira Chernus does acknowledge that his approach is not
easily interwoven with formal psychological research (discussing theologian Paul Tillich, p. 48; also pp. 105- 106). But he
nevertheless uses arguments, such as those from Mircea Eliade, that “can be neither verified nor falsified by empirical research” (p.
193), an ominous note for social scientists reading the book. Chernus overlooks vast areas of empirical research in political science,
economics, political psychology, and even the scientific evidence on nuclear winter, stating that “the empirical reality of a large-scale
use of nuclear weapons eludes scientific understanding” (p. 64). As one example to the contrary, in psychology there have been
innumerable experimental studies of imagery, both in terms of imaginal thinking, and a narrower literature specifically focusing on
nuclear imagery (e.g., Journal of Social Issues, v. 39[1]). Skirting these seems to be a gross omission in a book purporting to use
imagery as a basis for a psychological understanding of the nuclear age. Similarly, although the subtitle “Religion and the Psychology
of the Nuclear Age” appears to describe a study of religion, this book uses a religious approach, based on “infinitude” (p. 51) and
immortality. It supports Lifton, who allegedly “recognizes that the nuclear dilemma has religious roots” (p. 187). However, religious
roots are much more directly dealt with in books such as those by Mojtabai (1986) and Del Tredici (1989), who discuss Amarillo,
Texas and the Pantex nuclear-weapons plant there. This is a book that relies heavily on lofty language and philosophical jargon (e.g.,
“radical finitude”, p. 53). Relating mythological terms like “the underworld” (p. 254) to nuclear deterrence is
about as useful to a real understanding of the nuclear threat as former U.S. President Reagan’s references
to “the evil empire.” These grandiose descriptions fail to recognize simple economic realities. The
scientific-military-industrial complex and the nuclear industry are often supported simply because they provide companies and
shareholders with profits, and employees with jobs. Therefore, it may not be that numbing occurs because of the
magnitude of the threat, but that rationalization occurs because of vested interests in the threat. It would
therefore be worth considering whether there is any difference between numbing in the hibakusha that survived Hiroshima, and
rationalization (or numbing) for questionable work that pays well. This distinction may perhaps be studied empirically. As with
imagery, there are also empirical studies that could have been considered in any book dealing with
these types of psychological mechanisms (e.g., Festinger & Carlsmith, 1959 and all of the subsequent studies
validating cognitive dissonance). The only evidence for numbing in the book is Lifton’s observations of
victims in Hiroshima, which are then linked to potential victims of the contemporary nuclear threat. Lifton himself recently
associated the thought processes in perpetrating Nazi mass killing, and in contemporary “perpetrators” of the nuclear threat, which
would have been very relevant to reference here (Lifton and Markusen, 1990). The tendency throughout Nuclear Madness is to
increasingly leave the initial evidence and begin describing events as schizophrenic, neurotic or mad.
AT: Masco
Relegating the bomb to the “unthinkable” delegitimizes nuclear strategies – this
stigmatization is key to elimination
Ritchie 13 (Nick, Lecturer at University of York, Ph.D. from University of Bradford, former member of Oxford Research Group
specializing in nuclear disarmament, proliferation, and arms control, "Valuing and Devaluing Nuclear Weapons,", 2013, slim_)
Most recently, the 2009 report of the International Commission on Nuclear Non-Proliferation and
Disarmament (ICNND) stated: If
we want to minimize and ultimately eliminate nuclear weapons, the critical
need is to change perceptions of their role and utility: in effect, to achieve their progressive
delegitimation, from a position in which they occupied a central strategic place to one in which
their role is seen as quite marginal, and eventually wholly unnecessary as well as undesirable.17 It argued that there
exists a strong base upon which to devalue nuclear weapons, notably the ICJ’s 1996 Advisory Opinion on the
threat or use of nuclear weapons, arguments that nuclear weapons have little or no utility as instruments of war-fighting, that
there ‘is a strong taboo on the actual use, if not possession, of nuclear weapons’, and arguments that the
currency of nuclear weapons has diminished with the end of the Cold War such that they no longer
represent a route to political prestige and global influence (if they ever did).18 The NPT process and succession of international
commissions in the 1990s and 2000s cemented two key concepts in the disarmament narrative aimed at qualitative change in
nuclear policy and practice: reducing the role of nuclear weapons and delegitimizing nuclear weapons. The 2007 Carnegie study gave
force to the concept of devaluing nuclear weapons and together these ideas were a central strand of the 2009 ICNND report. In fact,
the strength and range of the recognition that devaluing nuclear weapons in the security policies of the
NWSs is an essential process along the road to nuclear disarmament is impressive.19 The concepts of
reducing the role and delegitimizing nuclear weapons have specific connotations but are subsumed, I argue, within a broader
concept of devaluing. The concept of delegitimizing, for example, means to render illegitimate or, as Gill puts it, ‘to
diminish or destroy the legitimacy, prestige or authority of an entrenched idea or object’.20 This has
been routinely associated with two dynamics: a process of formally ‘rendering illegal’ the possession and/or use of
nuclear weapons in international law; and the informal stigmatization of nuclear use captured by the notion
of a ‘nuclear taboo’.21 Devaluing and delegitimizing are not synonymous. Nuclear weapons could be stripped of
much of their value but still be considered legitimate weapons to possess and use in extremis. Likewise,
delegitimizing nuclear weapons does not mean stripping nuclear weapons of all value if possessor states
still imbue considerable value irrespective of widely accepted and codified illegitimacy. Nevertheless, a process of normative
and potentially legal delegitimation will diminish the values assigned to nuclear weapons through
explicit and widespread political and social stigmatization.22 Legitimating and delegitimating nuclear weapons
will be explored in a subsequent article.23
Conceptualizing value of nuclear deterrence is a prerequisite to their
Ritchie 13 (Nick, Lecturer at University of York, Ph.D. from University of Bradford, former member of Oxford Research Group
specializing in nuclear disarmament, proliferation, and arms control, "Valuing and Devaluing Nuclear Weapons,", 2013, slim_)
Knowing Nuclear Value The concept of devaluing nuclear weapons has become a fixture of NPT politics and discourse.
It encompasses but also goes beyond related notions of marginalizing and delegitimizing nuclear weapons.
Yet the concept of ‘devaluing’ has received little analytical treatment in terms of what devaluing might actually constitute in
sociopolitical terms for the nuclear weapon states (NWS) and the political challenges involved. Conceptualizing the value
of nuclear weapons as a precursor to their devaluation in security policies as part of a step-bystep process towards a nuclear weapons-free world is under-studied and begs the question ‘how
do we “know” nuclear value?’ The value of nuclear weaponry is not objective or pre-determined. Instead, values
are assigned in a particular socio-historical context. More specifically, it is the perceived beneficial effects of
possession and deployment that are valued. Multiple effects mean that nuclear weapons are valued in multiple ways by possessor
states. Perceptions of beneficial effects are part of a society’s nuclear weapons discourse that tells us what nuclear weapons are and
what they can do across a range of social and political domains. Nuclear discourse itself is nested in a broader
strategic culture. Kartchner defines strategic culture as a set of shared beliefs, assumptions, and modes of
behaviour, derived from common experiences and accepted narratives (both oral and written), that
shape collective identity and relationships to other groups, and which determine appropriate ends and means
for achieving security objectives.33 Discourse, here, is a socially constructed and historically contingent system of
signification, or ‘code of intelligibility’, that reflects, enacts, and reifies relations of power by reproducing accepted ways of being and
acting in the world and silencing others.34 It is discourses that shape our understandings of appropriate nuclear policy practice and
processes of valuing/devaluing nuclear weapons.35 This brings us closer to Foucault’s conception of discourse not
simply as synonymous with language but as
a form of discipline whereby formal and informal discursive
practices define the boundaries of a discourse and determine what can be done and said, and how. Discourses and
discursive practices draw authority by reference to a set of ‘truths’ that shape how external actors, events, and desired outcomes are
defined and interpreted, and what information or knowledge is considered ‘real’, legitimate, and therefore relevant.36 Power and
knowledge directly imply one another, in our case the power to define, legitimize, and institutionalize what constitute ‘normal’
understandings about nuclear weapons and nuclear practice. As Edward Lock argues: ... strategic culture represents a
political web of interpretation in which strategic practices gain meaning. This web shapes the
military practices of states by rendering certain strategic practices as possible and legitimate while
others remain either impossible or illegitimate.37 Foucault labelled this a hegemonic ‘regime of truth’ and from a contingent and
situated regime of nuclear truth emanates what we can label a ‘regime of value’ in which nuclear weapons are discursively
embedded. In sum, we can ‘know’ the value of nuclear weapons through analysis of nuclear discourse
embedded in a broader strategic culture that assigns beneficial effects to nuclear weapons that constitute a socially
and historically situated regime of nuclear truth.38
AT: Chaloupka
Chaloupka’s theory lacks definition and has no practical application
Brians 92 (Paul, Prof Department of ENglish WSU,, AD: 7/1/10)
The confusion underlying this apparent tangle has two closely related sources: Chaloupka plunges in, dismisses
initial conceptualization, and defines by accretion. Of course this book’s audience is scholarly, but I do not believe
anyone can say what Chaloupka means by “modernism,” without which “postmodernism”
becomes a slippery term. In their anthology, Bradbury and McFarlane define modernism as a literary movement between
1890 and 1930. In the Preface to his anthology, Peter Brook describes postmodern as the capitalist world (television, mass
production, and consumption) and its opponents. What is modernism to Chaloupka? We are provided a key summary of features
near the end: liberal and Marxist commitment to scientific certainty (134). And he is still defining
postmodern/postructural/deconstructive and liberal humanist discourse in the last chapter. I do not have space to
describe all the reasons why this book makes difficult reading. (Is “nukespeak” criticism “a simple critique of
euphemism,” when Hilgartner, et al.’s Nukespeak is a major analysis of secrecy and censorship in the United States?) But let me end
mainly positively. By insisting upon the failure of the traditional Enlightenment liberal humanistic, scientific, opposition to nuclear
war preparations (Chap. 4 on Star Wars and the Freeze), and by urging an alternative strategy of postmodern irony, he nudges all of
us in the peace movement to rethink our assumptions and methods. Liberal humanist antinuclearist politics has offered (referring to
Helen Caldicott) “a sober, anti-ironic terrorism of images” (133–34), but has it generally degenerated into finalities that resolve
questions, reify value choices, and avoid realistic politics (137)? He too sweepingly dismisses the flexibility and
the achievements of the liberal humanist antinuclearists. But of great value, postmodern politics seeks
“to delegitimize the subtle, contemporary forms of authority” in both nuclearists and
antinuclearists (128), and discards programs but offers ironic possibilities in the face of the paradoxes of power. However,
the “discourse that would raise those discomforts in a critical manner has hardly begun to be
identified” (138).
Chaloupka’s critique is politically suicidal – it’s prevents anti-nuclear groups from
effectively coalescing
Krishna, 93 – professor at the University of Hawaii, PhD from in political science from the Maxwell School at Syracuse
University (Sankaran, “The Importance of Being Ironic: A Postcolonial View on Critical International Relations Theory,”
Alternatives: Global, Local, Political, Vol. 18 No. 3, Summer 1993, pp. 385-417)//BI
In offering this dichotomous choice, Der Derian replicates a move made by Chaloupka in his equally dismissive
critique of the more mainstream nuclear opposition, the Nuclear Freeze movement of the early 1980s, that,
according to him, was operating along obsolete lines, emphasizing "facts" and "realities" while a "postmodern"
President Reagan easily outflanked them through an illusory Star Wars program. (See KN: chapter 4) Chaloupka centers
this difference between his own supposedly total critique of all sovereign truths (which he describes as
nuclear criticism in an echo of literary criticism) and the more partial (and issue-based) criticism of what he calls
"nuclear opposition" or "antinuclearists" at the very outset of his book. (KN: xvi) Once again, the unhappy choice
forced upon the reader is to join Chaloupka in his total critique of all sovereign truths or be
trapped in obsolete essentialisms. This leads to a disastrous politics, pitting groups that have the
most in common (and need to unite on some basis to be effective) against each other. Both Chaloupka and
Der Derian thus reserve their most trenchant critique for political groups that should, in any analysis, be regarded as the closest to
them in terms of an oppositional politics and their desired futures. Instead of finding ways to live with these
differences and to (if fleetingly) coalesce against the New Right, this fratricidal critique is politically
suicidal. It obliterates the space for a political activism based on provisional and contingent
coalitions, for uniting behind a common cause even as one recognizes that the coalition is comprised of groups that have very
differing (and possibly unresolvable) views of reality. Moreover, it fails to consider the possibility that there may
have been other, more compelling reasons for the "failure" of the Nuclear Freeze movement or
anti-Gulf War movement like many a worthwhile cause in our times, they failed to garner sufficient support to influence state policy.
The response to that need not be a totalizing critique that delegitimizes all narratives. The
blackmail inherent in the choice offered by Der Derian and Chaloupka, between total critique and "ineffective"
partial critique, ought to be transparent. Among other things, it effectively militates against the construction of provisional
or strategic essentialisms in our attempts to create space for an activist politics. In the next section, I focus more widely on the genre
of critical international theory and its impact on such an activist politics