Meeting of the National Council of the Arts, Sciences and Professions
The H-Bomb - or Peace
Carnegie Hall, New York, February 13, 1950. Linus Pauling
Science has made great contributions to the modern world. It is hard to exaggerate the greatness of these contributions, the depth of understanding of the material world that has been obtained. We have seen significant improvement through science of the standards of living of all people in all countries; but the improvement has not been nearly so great as it might be, because man, as he has learned to control nature, has not learned to control himself. In international affairs man has not progressed, but has retrograded, become more barbaric. We see nation's using science not to eliminate war, the scourge of the world, but instead to make it more horrible. Benjamin Franklin was prophetic when he said "The rapid progress true science now makes occasions my regretting sometimes that I was born so soon. It is impossible to imagine the height to which may be carried, in a thousand years, the power of man over matter. O that moral science were in as fair a way of improvement, that men would cease to be wolves to one another, and that human beings would at length learn what they now improperly call humanity."
The world has finally come to the critical point in time - the point at which the ultimate, irrevocable decision has to be made. This is the decision between, on the one hand, a glorious future for all humanity, and, on the other, death, devastation, and the complete destruction of civilization.
One hydrogen bomb would wipe New York out of existence, another Washington, another Chicago, another Los Angeles, another London, another Paris, another Moscow. What will there be left on earth then? Still hundreds of millions of people - if a billion people were to be killed by the detonation of two score hydrogen bombs in the first phase of an atomic war, there would still be a billion left - probably still fighting and full of hate for one another. But the atmosphere over the whole earth would be filled with radioactive products of nuclear reactions. No human being, no animal, no plant over the surface of the earth would in future years be safe from the insidious action of these great quantities of radioactive materials. Even though, by centuries of effort, the physical destruction caused by these hydrogen bombs might conceivably be repaired, the biological effects never could be averted.
Terrible as the situation is, we need not succumb to despondency. The decision about the future has not yet been made - and we, the people, can by the pressure of our opinions determine it. When, three years after John J. McCloy first brought the hydrogen bomb to public attention, interest in it became great, our leaders brought forth one plan: they said that the solution is for this country to "arm itself with the hydrogen super-bomb to preserve the peace of the world." These were the words of chairman Tom Connally of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. They were subscribed to by senator after senator; and even a distinguished scientist, Harold Urey, expressed the firm belief that we would have to keep the rest of the world under control, by force, by fear of the hydrogen bomb. President Truman announced that he had ordered production of the bomb "to see to it that our country is able to defend itself against any possible aggressor." But strong opposition developed at once. Twelve leading atomic scientists asked for a pledge against use of the bomb. Senator Brien McMahon proposed a new approach - a recovery program for the world, eliminating the causes of war. Senator Tydings suggested that President Truman propose an international disarmament conference to end the world's nightmare of fear. James Warburg called for outlawing all weapons. Professor Einstein asserted that the solution of the problem is formation of a supra-national judicial and executive body, and a declaration of the nation's to collaborate loyally in the realization of such a restricted world government. It is now evident to everyone that our State Department is not omniscient, that our foreign policy is not perfect and incapable of amendment. We must instead find the solution - it has not yet been given to us - and we must all help.
Let me say a word about the scientists. Scientists have good imaginations about the atomic future, and only a few - Harold Urey, one or two others - have been so lacking in understanding of the nature of the physical world and the nature of human beings as to say that force is the solution. I cannot give you a blue print for the future of the world. When I talk with my scientific colleagues I find that each of us has a slightly different plan - and none of us is sure that his plan will work. Only Harold Urey is sure that he knows the answer. He seems to think that the world is as simple as a deuterium atom, and that all we need to solve the world's problems is the hydrogen bomb. Harold, you are wrong. Force is not the solution. I do not know the solution; but I know that you are wrong. I know that war must be averted and that the people of the world will not stand for rule by force.
Can we, in the twentieth century, when democracy has spread over the surface of the globe as never before, accept the conclusion that great peoples will allow themselves to be ruled from outside by force? Can we believe that the people of the United States would submit passively to conquest by force, to rule through fear superimposed by an outside power? No - we know that, whatever the political future holds for the people of the United States, it must be a future determined by the will of the people of this country. In the same way, we can be sure that the people of Russia and of the other eastern countries would never submit passively to domination by the western powers, no matter whether they possessed the hydrogen bomb or not. A future of the world in which half of the people of the world are held in submission by the other half, through fear of this great super-weapon, could never be a safe future for anybody. The recent history of China shows how an effort to subjugate a great people, even supported by 6 billion dollars worth of weapons, is necessarily doomed to ultimate failure. Just as the people of China are determining their own destiny, so will the people of each great region of this globe determine their destiny in the future - hydrogen bomb or no hydrogen bomb.
What, then, is the solution? We know what the solution is - we have seen it over and over again in the relations between people. How do people of different beliefs, different natures, different ideals, different races get along together? How does a man get along with a neighbor whom he does not like? Not by preparing continually to fight him - that is not the civilized method. Instead, different people and different groups of people have learned to live together in peace, to respect one another's qualities, even the differences - they have learned this in every sphere except that of international relations. Now the time has come for nations to learn this lesson.
The question of an atomic war is not an ordinary political question. It is of equal concern to the left-winger, the right-winger, and the man in the middle of the road. The hydrogen bomb would not discriminate - it would kill them all. this problem of an atomic war, must not be confused by minor problems, such as communism vs. capitalism, the existence of dictatorships, the trend toward socialism, the problem of race and class discrimination. It is a problem that overwhelms them - and if it can be solved, they too can be solved.
What is the solution? I do not know - but I say that we must all work together to find it. We cannot leave it to the President alone, to a few officials in the State Department. The people of the world, who are also facing a hydrogen-bomb death, must express themselves, in meetings such as this. The scientists must express themselves. Congress must call for extended public hearings on the hydrogen bomb and its impact on foreign policy. Senator McMahon's proposal that two-thirds of the money now spent on armaments be used for increasing the welfare of human beings over the whole world should be carefully considered. We have many brilliant men who have solved other problems - why does not Congress appropriate some millions of dollars to subsidize a great research program on the causes and methods of prevention of war, to be administered by the National Academy of Sciences? The United Nations must renew its efforts toward effective control of atomic energy. All of the proposals for real world government must be re-examined. And - most important of all - the United States and Russia must engage in two-power negotiations.
I am sure that we may have hope. The stage is now set for a great act - the final abolition of war and the achievement of a permanent peace. Men of good will need only to work to this end to achieve it.
We shall not reach this end by presenting another Baruch plan. The world situation is such that the United States cannot remain safe to the last moment, retaining the decision to give up atomic weapons until other nations have made their sacrifices. Russia, which needs power plants for industrial development to a far greater extent than we do, cannot be expected to give up nuclear power nor even to turn over control of nuclear power plants to an outside group dominated by the capitalistic West. These are different problems - but they can be solved, by attacking them in a true spirit of compromise and cooperation.
We cannot leave our fate in the hands of men who are tired and discouraged and who believe in force as the solution - of men like General Frederick Osborn, former U.S. member of the U.N. Atomic Energy Commission, who has just said "The men of the Kremlin know only coercion. They cannot cooperate with us or anyone else. That is the lesson we have learned in three years in the Atomic Energy Commission of the United Nations....We had better accept this lesson we have learned in four frustrating years. We had better stop making the unrealistic demand that we compromise and negotiate with men who do not understand the meaning of these words."