This article appeared in the November 29, 1952 edition of The Nation.
Now that the US has exploded its first hydrogen bomb, a negotiated peace with the Soviet Union is more important than ever.
The announcement that the atomic age has now given birth to the H-bomb, said to be a thousand times more destructive than the 1945 A-bomb, must be considered in the light of several major realizations. On October 26, 1952, John Foster Dulles, President-elect Eisenhower’s new Secretary of State, and Dr. Arthur H. Compton, in interviews with Richard G. Baumhoff of the St. Louis Port-Dispatch, agreed that it is now too late to outlaw or abandon the use of atomic weapons. Doubtless both men spoke in the knowledge that the explosion of the H-bomb would shortly be announced. This was the first time, Mr. Dulles said, that he had expressed himself on the subject of outlawing atomic arms: his position is simply that there is no valid reason to differentiate between atomic and other weapons. On the basis of his personal inspection of war damage in Tokyo, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki, he believes that "the atomic bomb is a much more merciful death" than that caused, say, by the type of fire bombs used in raids on Tokyo. "The whole effort of every military establishment" he said, "is to increase its ability to kill and destroy." Hence the outlawing of nuclear weapons is neither necessary nor practical. Nor can there be any general effective regulation of armament without international control so great as to constitute, in effect, a world government. Since Russia would accept only a Communist world government, armament control becomes impossible. The best hope, he feels, is that the increasing destructiveness of war will operate to discourage war.
Speaking as a scientist, Dr. Compton said that he concluded as early as June, 1950, that it was no longer feasible to exclude the use of atomic weapons even by agreement. Militarily, as he sees it, the abandonment of atomic weapons would place us at a disadvantage in relation to Russia, since in case of war Russia could strike hard close to its borders, while our heavy blows would have to be delivered at "points remote from the home place." From the technical point of view, the situation is simply that possession or even production of atomic weapons can now be so effectively concealed that not even the most careful system of inspection could uncover it. Dr. Compton said that he knew of no way, nor had he ever heard anyone suggest a way, by which hidden stockpiles might be located. Furthermore, work on the use of uranium for the production of atomic industrial power has now gone so far that it would be exceedingly difficult to differentiate between peaceable and potentially warlike uses of atomic energy. "The thought of the Baruch report," he said, "was that one could trace uranium and its use. However, in the years that have elapsed since the report every nation presumably has acquired its stockpile of uranium. It is no longer possible to trace where uranium is mined; it has already been mined, and where it has been put would be impossible to tell," Brigadier General Thomas R. Phillips (retired), military analyst for the Post-Dispatch, confirms this judgment. "Atomic disarmament is no longer possible— such is the belief of many responsible officials, both civilian and military, in the Pentagon." Fissionable material has become, in the military view, "just another, and tremendously powerful, high explosive. It no longer only powers a weapon of mass destruction but has given birth to a whole family of atomic weapons"—atomic artillery, atomic guided rockets, atomic anti-aircraft.