The granting of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, a long-moribund organization, and to one of its last remaining members, 86-year old Polish-born Joseph Rotblat, reveals the bias of the grantors. Since Rotblat is certainly not a current newsmaker, the million- dollar prize should cause us to recall the history that endeared him to the Nobel committee.
The Pugwash conferences took their name from the location of the first conference held in 1957 in Pugwash, Nova Scotia, the home of Cyrus S. Eaton, multi-millionaire U.S. industrialist and investment banker. He was Pugwash’s chief financial backer and insisted that most of the conferences be held outside of the United States in order to avoid coverage by the American press.
Eaton was known for his fawning attitude toward the Soviet Union, in contrast to his wholesale condemnation of the American government and its leaders. Other prime movers in the Pugwash conferences included Lord Bertrand Russell and the Canadian defector to Poland Leopold Infeld.
The Pugwash conferences produced a mass of highly-specialized and technical propaganda designed to appeal to scientists and to those who fancy themselves as intellectuals capable of making national policy. Pugwash disinformation was always diffused in egghead lingo, but its message can be fairly summarized by the famous slogan “better red than dead.”
That was the pacifist cry of the 1960s. As the most disliked Senator said repeatedly in Allen Drury’s great novel of that era, Advise and Consent: “I had rather crawl to Moscow than perish under a bomb.”
The Pugwash contribution to the popularity of this obsequious pacifism was to provide the academic and scientific jargon that made it respectable among the intelligentsia. Pugwashers spread their line through the highest echelons of our government, business, scientific and academic communities.
The most important of all the Pugwash Conferences took place in Moscow November 27 to December 5, 1960. It was attended by Nikita Khrushchev and 24 prominent U.S. scientists, headed by Dr. Jerome B. Wiesner and Dr. Walt W. Rostow, who a few weeks later became leading policy planners of the newly-elected Kennedy Administration.
At that Moscow conference, Wiesner outlined a comprehensive program for nuclear disarmament and for transferring our military strength to an international agency. He urged the Soviet Union to develop a defense system that could absorb a surprise attack, and he suggested that the Soviets harden their own missile sites.
Walt W. Rostow gave the closing address under the title “The Long Run and the Short Run.” His theme was that “accidental war” was the only present danger, rather than any malevolent intent on the part of the peace-loving Soviets, and that the most urgent need was for the United States to push hard for a test ban treaty, which would “open the way to the step beyond.”
As an active player in the Kennedy Administration, Rostow was able to carry out his Pugwash objective. President Kennedy sent Averell Harriman to Moscow in 1963 to sign the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, by which the United States agreed that we would never catch up with the tremendous advantage the Soviets had gained by their giant series of nuclear tests in 1961-62.
When the Pugwashers were criticized on the ground that their plans would lead to U.S. surrender to the Soviets, they fell back on the slogan, “Nuclear parity will promote peace.” According to that curious assumption, all the Soviets desired was to feel secure against possible U.S. aggression; and therefore, we should correct any nuclear imbalance that favored America and work toward nuclear equality between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R.
The theory was absurd. If it were valid, we should build a national monument to Klaus Fuchs for supplying U.S. atomic secrets to the Soviets!
Yet Robert S. McNamara, Secretary of Defense in both the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations, made “parity” a cornerstone of his strategy to abandon our once overwhelming strategic superiority. He argued that “nuclear parity” would give the world “a more stable balance of terror,” and that, “when both sides have a sure second strike capability,” any nuclear exchange would be confined to military targets only.
The “nuclear parity” assumption was simply not true. Nuclear parity is precisely the condition that encourages one side to believe it can achieve a calculated win by means of a surprise attack, as Khrushchev tried in the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962.
When the evil empire finally crashed in 1990, it wasn’t because we crawled to Moscow on a Pugwash path. It was because President Reagan rebuilt our military strength and couldn’t be budged from his determination to build the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI).
America won and kept our independence because we were fortunate to have leaders who believed that liberty is worth dying for and ranks higher on our scale of values than peace. Patrick Henry would never have won the Nobel Peace Prize.