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Salient. Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 26, No. 5. Monday, April 29, 1963



The Government's defence policy is one of alliance. We are allied to France, the Uk, the USA, and a number of Asian states of dubious political character.

The most important of these from our point of view is America. If America is attacked, we will be attacked (according to Khrushchev, anyway) so American defence policy has profound implications for us.

One of the foundations of American policy is the idea of the "pause." Briefly, the theory is that the decision to change from "conventional" weapons to nuclear ones in any conflict is so momentous that any politician will think twice before taking it. This will give rise to a "pause," a kind of nuclear breathing space which can be used to reach a negotiated settlement.

This is a very nice theory, or would be if it were sound. Possibly it might work in Asia, where conflicts tend to be the "USA puppet state v. Soviet Chinese puppet state" kind. But it will certainly not work in Europe, because there we have Americans and Russians face to face, and armed with "tactical" nuclear weapons.

Not only are the American forces so equipped, their allies are too, and the forces are under a unified command, called Shape (Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers in Europe).

Who will give the order to fire these "tactical" nuclear weapons? Whose finger on the trigger? Though the chain of command is clear enough from the front to Shape, there is a good deal of confusion from here on. But it seems clear that General Lemnitzer, the Supreme Commander, may give the orders on his own initiative. In fact, the speed of modern war probably means that there would not be time to consult anybody.

So the decision to use nuclear weapons rests with a soldier, and what soldier ever denied himself the best weapons at his disposal? Further, because the nuclear weapons will be on the battle front, there is a considerable chance of the chain of command being broken. If a local commander thinks (mistakenly) that his side is losing, and cannot contact Shape, the temptation to fire must be very great. The chance of nuclear weapons being used is therefore considerable.

So when they are used, the pause will be over, without ever having begun, and what we thought was a limited war will turn out to be a total war. The distinction between these types of war, though the Pentagon firmly believes in it, is completely imaginary. The "pause" which is supposed to divide the two is also imaginary.

When your strategy depends on something that is imaginary, your security is doubtful, to say the least. Since American strategy depends on such an imaginary quantity, it is fair to say that her security, and that of her allies. New Zealand in particular, is merely an illusion.

David Wright.