Report from Iron Mountain - Anonymous

Section 1—Scope of the Study

When the Special Study Group was established in August, 1963, its members were instructed to govern their deliberations in accordance with three principal criteria. Briefly stated, they were these: 1) military-style objectivity; 2) avoidance of preconceived value assumptions; 3) inclusion of all relevant areas of theory and data.

These guideposts are by no means as obvious as they may appear at first glance, and we believe it necessary to indicate clearly how they were to inform our work. For they express succinctly the limitations of previous "peace studies," and imply the nature of both government and unofficial dissatisfaction with these earlier efforts. It is not our intention here to minimize the significance of the work of our predecessors, or to belittle the quality of their contributions. What we have tried to do, and believe we have done, is extend their scope. We hope that our conclusions may serve in turn as a starting point for still broader and more detailed examinations of every aspect of the problems of transition to peace and of the questions which must be answered before such a transition can be allowed to get under way.

It is a truism that objectivity is more often an intention expressed than an attitude achieved, but the intention—conscious, unambiguous, and constantly self-critical—is a precondition to its achievement. We believe it no accident that we were charged to use a "military contingency" model for our study, and we owe a considerable debt to the civilian war planning agencies for their pioneering work in the objective examination of the contingencies of nuclear war. There is no such precedent in the peace studies. Much of the usefulness of even the most elaborate and carefully reasoned programs for economic conversion to peace, for example, has been vitiated by a wishful eagerness to demonstrate that peace is not only possible, but even cheap or easy.

One official report is replete with references to the critical role of "dynamic optimism" on economic developments, and goes on to submit, as evidence, that it "would be hard to imagine that the American people would not respond very positively to an agreed and safeguarded program to substitute an international rule of law and order," etc. Another line of argument frequently taken is that disarmament would entail comparatively little disruption of the economy, since it need only be partial; we will deal with this approach later. Yet genuine objectivity in war studies is often criticized as inhuman. As Herman Kahn, the writer on strategic studies best known to the general public, put it:

"Critics frequently object to the icy rationality of the Hudson Institute, the Rand Corporation, and other such organizations. I'm always tempted to ask in reply, 'Would you prefer a warm, human error? Do you feel better with a nice emotional mistake.'"

And, as Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara has pointed out, in reference to facing up to the possibility of nuclear war,

"Some people are afraid even to look over the edge. But in a thermonuclear war we cannot afford any political acrophobia."

Surely it would be self-evident that this applies equally to the opposite prospect, but so far no one has taken more than a timid glance over the brink of peace.

An intention to avoid preconceived value judgments is if anything even more productive of self-delusion. We claim no immunity, as individuals, from this type of bias, but we have made a continuously self-conscious effort to deal with the problems of peace without, for example, considering that a condition of peace is per se "good" or "bad." This has not been easy, but it has been obligatory; to our knowledge, it has not been done before. Previous studies have taken the desirability of peace, the importance of human life, the superiority of democratic institutions, the greatest "good" for the greatest number, the "dignity" of the individual, the desirability of maximum health and longevity, and other such wishful premises as axiomatic values necessary for the justification of a study of peace issues. We have not found them so. We have attempted to apply the standards of physical science to our thinking, the principal characteristic of which is not quantification, as is popularly believed, but that, in Whitehead's words, " . . . it ignores all judgments of value; for instance, all aesthetic and moral judgments." Yet it is obvious that any serious investigation of a problem, however "pure," must be informed by some normative standard. In this case it has been simply the survival of human society in general, of American society in particular, and, as a corollary to survival, the stability of this society.

It is interesting, we believe, to note that the most dispassionate planners of nuclear strategy also recognize that the stability of society is the one bedrock value that cannot be avoided. Secretary McNamara has defended the need for American nuclear superiority on the grounds that it "makes possible a strategy designed to preserve the fabric of our societies if war should occur." A former member of the Department of State policy planning staff goes further.

"A more precise word for peace, in terms of the practical world, is stability. . . . Today the great nuclear panoplies are essential elements in such stability as exists. Our present purpose must be to continue the process of learning how to live with them."

We, of course, do not equate stability with peace, but we accept it as the one common assumed objective of both peace and war.

The third criterion—breadth—has taken us still farther afield from peace studies made to date. It is obvious to any layman that the economic patterns of a warless world will be drastically different from those we live with today, and it is equally obvious that the political relationships of nations will not be those we have learned to take for granted, sometimes described as a global version of the adversary system of our common law. But the social implications of peace extend far beyond its putative effects on national economics and international relations. As we shall show, the relevance of peace and war to the internal political organization of societies, to the sociological relationships of their members, to psychological motivations, to ecological processes, and to cultural values is equally profound. More important, it is equally critical in assaying the consequences of a transition to peace, and in determining the feasibility of any transition at all.

It is not surprising that these less obvious factors have been generally ignored in peace research. They have not lent themselves to systematic analysis. They have been difficult, perhaps impossible, to measure with any degree of assurance that estimates of their effects could be depended on. They are "intangibles," but only in the sense that abstract concepts in mathematics are intangible compared to those which can be quantified. Economic factors, on the other hand, can be measured, at least superficially; and international relationships can be verbalized, like law, into logical sequences.

We do not claim that we have discovered an infallible way of measuring these other factors, or of assigning them precise weights in the equation of transition. But we believe we have taken their relative importance into account to this extent: we have removed them from the category of the "intangible," hence scientifically suspect and therefore somehow of secondary importance, and brought them out into the realm of the objective. The result, we believe, provides a context of realism for the discussion of the issues relating to the possible transition to peace which up to now has been missing.

This is not to say that we presume to have found the answers we were seeking. But we believe that our emphasis on breadth of scope has made it at least possible to begin to understand the questions.