The Megadeath Intellectuals

The Arms Debate

by Robert A. Levine
Harvard, 352 pp., $6.50

(The author of this review was formerly a member of the White House National Security Council Staff.)

The universities have become more and more involved with defense policy since the beginning of the cold war. Harvard, Princeton, and Columbia now have sizeable institutes studying questions of defense and so do other universities. The money to finance these studies generally comes from one of the agencies that make up the National Security Establishment—the C.I.A., the Defense Department, the Atomic Energy Commission, or the Office of Emergency Planning. Or it may come from one of the foundations.

Most of the professors who work at these institutes are also paid as “consultants” by the Defense Department and similar agencies at the rate of $ 50 to $ 100 a day. When they work for corporations which are wholly subsidized by the government—the missile industry, for example—they may receive as much as $ 300 a day. A good many are also awarded handsome contracts to write papers for one government agency or another. Beyond this, there is a steady exchange of experts between the universities and those special organizations, like the RAND Corporation, the Institute for Defense Analysis, and the Office of Naval Research, which have been set up by the Defense Department or one of its branches.

What are we to make of these institutes and organizations? After examining a good deal of their work, while I was in the Government and now that I am out of it. I have come to the conclusion that their most important function is to justify and extend the existence of their employers. This is not to say that some of the papers they produce are not valuable contributions to defense policy. But the fact is that most are not, and in the last analysis it must be doubted that they are intended to be.

Mr. Robert A. Levine, the author of The Arms Debate, is very much a part of the world I have been describing. Trained as a professional economist, he wrote this book while a Research Associate at the Harvard Center for International Affairs, and he now works for the RAND Corporation. His purpose is to compare dispassionately the principal public positions that have been taken on the question of a desirable armaments policy—not only by people within the area of officially sponsored thinking, but by those on the edge of it, or outside it altogether. He does not accomplish this, but his way of going about it is worth examining.

He proceeds by categorizing the “debaters” into Schools of Thought:

First, we have the systematic Anti-War School consisting of such people as Bertrand Russell, Erich Fromm, and Paul Goodman. They want to disarm unilaterally—and immediately—either because they don’t view the Soviet threat as real, or because they consider that nuclear arms cannot be an answer to a political threat. They insist that preparation for war results only in forms of totalitarianism.

Second, the Marginal Anti-War School …

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Letters

Arms Debate December 26, 1963

Arms Debate December 26, 1963