3-47. If you believe in the power of conscience (or moral suasion) to change the world, then do not glorify
fear: any threat or appeal to fear, however subtle, tends to produce anger and thus to interfere with the
progress of reason, which is the foundation of conscience.
Even God, I dare say, does not deal in fear. Fear is the absence of God, or the absence of divine reason, or
of the Spirit of God. That Spirit is referred to biblically as a comforter (John 14:16-17), not a threatening
presence. One cannot simultaneously truly believe in God and fear God: "For God has not given us the spirit
of fear, but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind." (II Timothy 1:7) If the God that one says that one
believes in is the God of fear, then one does not believe in God at all, but in some idolatrous product of
someone's imagination. When we do fear God, that is, we are fundamentally deluded, for in God there is
nothing to fear.
When we say that we are going to "teach someone a lesson" or "put the fear of God" into someone, we are
speaking what could be called "idolatrous" nonsense. This is the ultimate "blasphemy" against the Spirit of
3-48. Threatening persons does not make them easier to control: it makes them mad as hornets and
generally unmanageable and unpredictable.
3-49. What is faith in God but faith in alternatives to fear?
3-50. Perhaps we should radically redefine peace as the freedom from fear. "Peace through deterrence"
would then be seen as the obvious contradiction that it is: "peace through fear."
3-51. Peace as freedom from fear entails not only freedom from overt threat, but freedom from most methods
of social control, including the fear of adverse public opinion--fear of becoming a social outcast.
In a state of perfect peace, persons would be responding entirely to the intrinsic sanctions of conscience, not
to any extrinsic attempts to coerce, bribe, manipulate, or threaten them with destruction, incarceration, or other
punishment or deprivation of freedom.
3-52. John Paul II, in his World Day of Peace Message in 1982, posited not only a right of self-defense, but a
duty of it as well. Augustine was even more emphatic, arguing that it is a "Manichean heresy" to say that war
is evil in and of itself: "War and conquest are a sad necessity in the eyes of men of principle, yet it would be
still more unfortunate if wrongdoers should dominate just men."4
Whatever happened to the simple, humble ethic of the Prince of Peace? What is "turning the other cheek" but
a metaphor for abjuring a claimed right of self-defense?
3-53. How can we let a barbarian culture, such as the Nazis, overrun a peaceful and civilized culture? This is
the ultimate challenge for the pacifist, and there is more than one response to it. One of them is that, if we
must become barbarians in order to stop barbarians, then of what value is our own surviving culture? Has it
not become barbaric also?
The questions are not hypothetical. We did meet the Nazis. We did defeat them. Perhaps we even became
the new barbarians, the nuclear terrorists, barbarians and terrorists on a scale never before seen, prepared to
destroy the world for the sake of our own dubious security.
Therefore, fear not the transgressor, the aggressor, or the barbarian. If we must fear, then let us fear what we
are or what we may become. Fearing that, let us risk everything to become all that we might be.
3-54. In the face of organized aggression, let us demonstrate that we care less about our own safety than
about the moral community that is even now emerging.
Let us demonstrate to the aggressor that we care more about her or his spiritual well-being than about our
own physical and material well-being: let him kill us if so doing will cause him--someday--to rethink the error of
3-55. An assault upon the institution of war is perhaps the most mammoth undertaking conceivable. For this
project, and this alone, God himself saw fit to intervene directly, to come to earth in the form of man. Beside
this challenge, triumph over physical disease, building of the Suez and Panama canals, going to the moon, all
pale by comparison. There is nothing that captures the imagination like the idea of eternal, worldwide peace.
Yet, we do not act upon our imaginations--even at the level of interpersonal relations.
3-56. The assault upon the institution of war is in some ways a risky undertaking. It must go forward without
sanction from the state, for the state is born and maintained of war. One might even say that the state has a
vested interest in war: without conflict the state would be out of business. Therefore we may expect the state
to spend enormous sums of money not only to be prepared to wage war, but to promote the institution of war
through promotion of the military and of nationalism.
Against such massive efforts by the state, what chance does peace have, being capable of coming into being
only by the actions of myriads of individuals? The answer is surely that peace is the will of God, and the will of
God surely cannot be frustrated indefinitely. It is also my belief that peace on earth is the will of God, and that
we do ourselves a disservice--and commit a disloyalty to God--when we say that global peace is not possible.
3-57. Perhaps the cause of peace requires us to believe that peace is not only possible, but inevitable. I do
not accept this, however: it has the ring of Marxism about it, the assumption of the inevitability of the success
Somewhere between saying that peace is inevitable and peace is impossible lies the reality: peace is possible.
3-58. Consider the following fragments from a paper entitled "Peace Is Our Profession" by a former graduate
student of mine, a very amiable and intelligent Air Force Academy graduate who went on to become the
commander of a B-1 bomber crew. Like all good students during the era of events preceding the bombing of
Libya (1986), he was much appalled by and concerned with the problem of terrorism. As was (and is) the case
for so many reputable thinkers, he made a clear distinction between "terrorism" and "deterrence":
I'll ponder what "right stuff" is found in people who wait patiently for the signal to launch missiles or drop
bombs--"administrators" who can claim "Peace Is Our Profession" and without whom there could be no policy
of deterrence. . . .
Although the military man will establish and maintain cooperative behavior toward the goal of deterrence, a
flood of new discretion roars in should deterrence fail.
This Air Force officer, no mere cog in anybody's machine, believed that nuclear deterrence helps to prevent
nuclear war, and in his paper he expressed the idea that cooperating with the system (by obeying orders
coming down the hierarchy) is the right thing to do as long as deterrence is working. Yet, he grappled with the
enduring intellectual and practical dilemma as to what to do if deterrence should fail:
Once the system breaks down, a different set of processes allows new alternatives to be considered. Should
the weapons be sent on their assigned paths of destruction? Those who control nuclear weapons. . . must
convince themselves that nuclear warfare is not the greatest of evils--indeed, a giant step in rational thought. .
. . At first inspection, to find something more evil than nuclear war seems impossible. However, closer
examination forces the consideration of modern Soviet communism as a potentially greater evil. . . .
[A] thorough study of the predicted effects of a nuclear strike against the U.S. must conclude that much of the
"free" world would survive unharmed. Contrary to the widely publicized opinions of anti-nuclear groups, I'm
convinced that much of the world's population would, in fact, be spared. Without revealing any of my classified
knowledge, I contend:
1. Total destruction of U.S. and Soviet population centers is impossible. . . .
2. Fallout will be the most widespread threat. However, fallout is also the easiest to defend against. . . .
3. Most of the world's existing warheads will not be involved. . . . At any one time, the vast majority of
warheads are in storage. A significant number will be destroyed by others targeted at the same location
(called "fratricide"). Some will fail or refuse to be launched, and some will fail mechanically. . . .
From these three points, I challenge the "nuclear winter" and "Armageddon" predictions bemoaned by those
who either aren't aware of some critical facts, or prefer not to exercise logical examination of these facts. I'm
not making light of the seriously frightening aftermath of a nuclear war--I'm merely arguing the high probability
that quality life will continue, forcing us to make appropriate decisions on how to protect that life. [Emphasis
It would be easy to end the quote at this point and leave the reader with the impression that this particular
officer is doing nothing more than simply trying to rationalize away the horrors of nuclear war. In fact, he is
trying to deal with the longstanding issue of the morality of following orders: the perennial problem of
"administrative discretion," albeit in the context of nuclear deterrence and U.S. strategic policy.
Ending the above quote out of context would not be doing justice to his arguments, which take a surprising
twist and continue in a way that defies easy categorization. He certainly is not arguing from egoistic premises,
whether at the personal or national levels, for he goes on to argue that not only personal, but national,
sacrifice may be the moral requirement for the larger cause of freedom for humanity:
Consequently, a retaliatory strike against the Soviets would prevent them from forcing their will on others, even
if the U.S. perished. Biblical study reveals Christ refused to defend himself as an individual, but attacked evil
when it threatened the spiritual life of God's people. . . . [Cites scriptural account of Christ driving the money
changers out of the temple.]
We could never tolerate inferior minds in control of nuclear weapons. Those people who do have the "right
stuff" must be encouraged to seek and remain in nuclear administrator roles. . . . In today's world, without
them there could be no peace.5
Although the arguments above can be best understood in the context of the Cold War, their continuing
relevance is obvious with appropriate modifications to the post Cold War era. Indeed, if anything, the
argument in favor of the use of nuclear weapons is perhaps stronger in a world in which only limited nuclear
exchange is likely.
I must yet ask the reader of the above to consider several questions:
(1) If the above writer (or one of his colleagues or a counterpart in an updated scenario) were indeed to
launch his weapons and inflict, say, 100,000 to 3,000,000 casualties (mostly civilians if the weapons were
targeted against cities), would his good intentions prevent him from causing consequences more horrible than
those caused by all but a handful of the world's terrorists, and would the resulting consequences justify calling
him, a conscientious enemy of terrorism, a terrorist?
(2) If a member of the PLO were to put a gun to the head of an airline pilot but never fired it, or if the above
officer were to aim his missiles at the Soviets but never launched, would either, or neither, or both, be de facto
(3) How are the usages of such concepts as "terrorist" and "terrorism" shaped by ethical assumptions and
normative linguistic frameworks?
(4) How are normative linguistic frameworks linked to empirical facts and associated empirical conceptual
In the answers to such questions lies the solution to the problem of the morality of nuclear deterrence, since
what is really at stake is whether or not a teleological ethic of consequences is preferable to a categorical
renunciation of violence and the threat of violence.
This is a general problem of ethical theory, and I shall return to these and related theoretical issues in
[Please continue to