FIVE 1960 INTERVIEWS WITH DR. LINUS PAULING
WAR AGAINST WAR - Four
Virgina Mill & Robert Carl Cohen
We went to explore with you these three general areas: the dangers involved in world crisis; the search for ways to ease these dangers, and the possible future uses of atomic energy.
COHEN & MILL: Do you feel that there is an irreconcilable conflict of interests between the East and the West which must ultimately lead to the destruction of one system or the other?
PAULING: Political systems change rapidly. If we look at England now and 50 years ago, we can see how great the changes are that occur. I hope that all of the political, social and economic systems in all of the nations of the world will improve as time goes by. This would include the system in the USSR where, of course, there is great need for improvement, especially with respect to the rights of the individual; and also the system in the USA and in all other countries where there is still a great amount of injustice done to human beings. It won't be long, 50 years, l00 years, before there will be no country in which there is a political system that we can say is identical with that which exists in the USA or the USSR now.
COHEN & MILL: What would you say are the most harmful aspects of the separation of the world into two armed camps and the spending of so much money on armaments?
PAULING: The great danger in the present crisis is that it carries with it a reasonable probability of the outbreak of nuclear war, with destruction of the world as its consequence. That's the great danger. Now, another aspect of the situation is that we are spending in the world a large share, on the order of magnitude of 10 to 15 per cent, of our national income, of world income, in a nonproductive way that doesn't benefit the people, on armaments. This is a real waste. The standards of living all over the world could be significantly increased if we were to make international agreements that would permit cutting down on the amount of money spent on armaments This would mean an increase in safety for the nations of the world, including the United States, rather than a decrease in safety.
a debate with Dr. Edward Teller in February, 1958, over television
KQED, San Francisco, Dr. Pauling said: "We need to put into
the effort for these international agreements an amount of work that is
comparable to that
COHEN & MILL: Do you believe that the American people are aware of the real dangers involved in atomic testing and the possible consequences of an atomic war?
PAULING:No, I don't think that they know. I think that people in general are surprised by the statements of fact that I make in my speeches, and that I make in my book: No More War. Much of the information is readily available, but it has not been popularly disseminated; So it is new to most people.
COHEN & MILL: Do you think that part of this lack of awareness is due to the fact that the American people have never experienced the horrors of war in their own homes; whereas people in Europe and Asia are much more aware of and sensitive to these things?
think there is a certain lack of realism in the United States,
of the fact that all our wars have been fought away from home. We
know what has happened to the soldiers that have gone out. There
are many families who have suffered from war; and still, the full
of war is not appreciated in the United States.
COHEN & MILL: What would you say are the major reasons that the government hesitates to inform the people as to the true situation?
may well be, although I can only surmise this, that here is a feeling
the progress along the path that has been mapped out for that nation by
the leaders of our government in Washington might be interfered with if
there were too much public discussion of the issues involved.
no doubt that the talk about the "clean bomb" one year ago was made in
order to quiet the public concern about fallout radioactivity.
this was just misleading, because the statements about the "clean
bomb" either were not right, or were worded in such a way as to give
public an improper impression.
COHEN & MILL: What possible interest would the government have in thus misinforming the public?
I think that if the public were informed, there would be a public
for international agreements, with a decrease in the armaments
on the United States. This decrease, of course, could only occur
if we were assured that there would be similar action taken in Russia.
The effect of cutting down on the armaments program is that industry
be disturbed. In a sense we might say that our prosperity, such
it is, is tied up with the armaments program. I don't think that
it need be, but it is clear that there would be a problem. How
we decrease the military budget by 10 per cent, say, each year for
years, without upsetting the economy?
COHEN & MILL: Do you feel, then, that there are commercial interests who hope to continue armaments production without having a major war?
Yes. I suppose that the policy is one of applying ever-increasing
pressure to Russia by building up armaments, and, of course, the same
goes on in Russia, but with the hope that war itself will be
I believe that it involves too great danger, however, taking too much
COHEN & MILL: Do you still believe, since our sending of troops into the Middle East and China, that Secretary of State (John Foster) Dulles is moving toward a "relaxation of tension"?
PAULING:Yes, I think so. I think that this was a fluctuation in policy, and perhaps not a very well thought out one at that. I believe that the Middle East illustrates my thesis that there isn't enough study made of world problems. The fact that our government could be so surprised by developments seems to me to prove that there isn't enough study made.
COHEN & MILL: Now, going into the possible solutions to this situation, what do you consider to be the first and most urgent step to be taken by our' government in order to alleviate the present dangers?
PAULING: I feel that the first step to be taken is the one of making an effective agreement about the testing of nuclear weapons and, I trust, not only with Russia, but also with all other nations in the world. Such an agreement is close to being made. The Geneva conference of specialists progressed in a very satisfactory way. This is something which might have been done two years ago; and it is very late in the day to be carrying out these technical talks. Well, that's the first thing to be done: make the agreement.
COHEN & MILL: Do you think that the government really has any foundation for believing that it would be possible for a nation to avoid detection of its atom bomb tests?
PAULING: Oh, there's no doubt that the tests, any significant tests, can be detected by a feasible system.
COHEN & MILL: How can the men in our government still go about adding new components to the bombs and making them even more deadly, when they must know that the very use of them would result in such destruction that all of our possible aims, both political and military, would be defeated?
I've wondered about this. I've wondered, do they just close their
minds to this possibility and work away in a limited region of activity
where each one says: "Well, my job is to do so and so, and it's
up to me to ask questions about major policy."
COHEN & MILL: Do you feel that the individual political and military leaders are so preoccupied with their own particular interests that they have lost sight of the overall situation?
I think that most people have a limited field of interest, that the
of individuals are limited.
COHEN & MILL: What can be done by the citizens, in or out of organizations, in order to change this dangerous tendency?
I think that different individuals can do different things, and there
more or less standard ways of operating: writing to Congress and to the
President, this is always something worthwhile; writing letters to the
newspapers - a good number of letters from individual citizens pointing
out one or another of the strange aspects of our policy get
So this is also a worthwhile thing to do. Then, of course, I
it is good that there are people who make a more striking effort: who
on a hunger strike in the halls of the AEC because they want to talk to
the AEC commissioners and present a plea; or who make walks for peace
the White House, or who sail out into the Pacific and then go to jail.
COHEN & MILL: Could you give an estimate of how many scientists there are who have refused to work on nuclear weapons?
An estimate is difficult, but there are undoubtedly thousands of
young people who are faced with the decision as to what to do, and who
make the decision away from nuclear weapons - away from armaments in
COHEN & MILL: Would you say that the use of such words constitutes attempts at evading the truth?
hundred thousand defective children born is called a "negligible"
by the AEC because, in fact, more than that are born each year,
But what the word "negligible" means is open to some discussion.
COHEN & MILL: Do you think that in the event of a nuclear war in which only one half of the people in the USA were killed outright there would be any chance of the survivors living?
I've tried to answer this question for the 250 bomb attack on the
States, and I have said that I couldn't decide whether at the end of a
year, or five years, or ten years such an attack would leave one
or five million, or ten million people alive in the United
There's no doubt that there would be a great amount of radioactivity
and that it would cause damage to people all over the world, but the
of how great this damage would be is such that it is hard to decide.
COHEN & MILL: Who were the scientists who signed your petition to the UN urging an international agreement to stop testing nuclear bombs? Did you approach only those scientists with whose political beliefs you were already familiar?
In general I sent copies to scientists whom I knew, or whose names were
familiar to me from the literature, or whose names I just picked out of
a reference. book. "The World of Learning" is one that I used.
COHEN & MILL: Lord Bertrand Russell stated recently that, if faced with the improbable choice, he would prefer living under Communism to death in an atomic war. Do you believe that these are the only two alternatives, or is there some other way out of the present situation?
Yes. I would have refused to answer this question, because I
the question is an unrealistic one. I can understand Lord
answering it in that way, in that we know that political systems change
pretty rapidly, and we know that conquered countries don't stay
very long; but the country that is destroyed by a nuclear war is
forever. If the United States were to be destroyed and the
people killed, that would be the end; so I can understand Lord
answering in this way.
COHEN & MILL: Would you say that it is actually dangerous to our own interests?
PAULING: Yes, to be sure, dangerous to our own interests, because our interest is in increasing the safety of the United States. And to increase the safety of the United States, we have to work against world destruction. And this mean to work for world order. China - well, this point that I made about the test stations takes care of it.
COHEN & MILL: Do you think that it is necessary to arouse peoples' awareness of their moral obligations, and to point out to them that this moral responsibility is necessary to their own self preservation?
PAULING: Yes. For the first time in the history of the world realism, national selfishness, and morality are working in the same direction. Up to the present time it has been possible for a nation to be immoral, that is, to attack a weaker nation and benefit itself, and now this possibility is ruled out. I think that it is a good thing to point out that morality has a place in the world. It hasn't been done enough, even by some of the leaders or the church. Of course, you have to fight for the basic principles of democracy let us say, to have a word (freedom of speech?-Ed.) as expressed in the Bill of Rights, but the way to fight for it is not to kill most of the people in the world. That would make things worse, rather than better.
COHEN & MILL: Can you suggest ways in which the nations might best be able to develop mutual trust and confidence?
PAULING: As more and more agreements about disarmament and other international problems are made, we must at first continue to mistrust Russia, and Russia must continue to mistrust us. Each step must be taken carefully. In the course of time, as there is more and more reliance on international law, there will be developed a feeling of mutual trust and confidence, but it will take a long time for it to be done. The fact that it doesn't exist now does not need to prevent us from going ahead with the solution of world problems.
COHEN & MILL: Do you think that disarmament would affect such things as, for instance, the resentment toward this country which exists among the people of many other nations?
PAULING: I think that our position in the minds of the people of the world would be greatly improved if we were to decrease our armaments and speak out for the solution of international problems in a rational and lawful way that does justice to all the nations and the people of the world. If we were to become the leaders in bringing morality into the conduct of world affairs, it surely would redound greatly to the benefit of the United States.
COHEN & MILL: Do you feel that atomic energy can best be utilized for peaceful purposes in the United States under private enterprise, or through control by the people via the government?
Well, I think that a system in which you have competition between
privately controlled organizations is a very good one, and works very
but that organizations which do not compete with one another should not
be run for private profit. This means that I believe that nuclear
energy should not be turned over to private companies. At the
time the government supports atomic energy projects almost complete,
there is an effort made for the profits to go to private
I think this is wrong.
COHEN & MILL: Would you say that, in other words, the people are paying tax money to enable private companies to make profits from the people themselves?
PAULING:Yes, that's right, and it should be the people themselves who benefit from any profits that are made. You can have private companies operating these plants, if you like it better, but the ownership of all nuclear power plants should be by the people through their government. I'm opposed to Admiral Lewis Strauss, former Head of the AEC, on this.
COHEN & MILL: Do you think that the use of atomic power will be felt to a greater degree in the countries which at present are principally agrarian and underdeveloped, more so than in the countries which are industrial and already have developed power sources?
PAULING: Oh, I don't know, because there are resources, for example, water power resources, that are not utilized now in many of the underdeveloped countries, and I wouldn't want to make a categorical statement of the sort that you have made. On the other hand, or course, the underdeveloped countries are the ones for which there is the greatest chance of improvement of all sorts now. To raise the living standard a bit in the areas where the average annual income is $l00 a year, to add another $100 a year can be of very great significance, whereas to add $l00 to the annual income of people in the United States would not matter very much.
COHEN & MILL: Do you feel that there are any dangers inherent in the peacetime uses of atomic energy?
there are great dangers in nuclear power plants based upon
There's a great problem of what to do about the highly radioactive
from fission power plants. I think that it would be wise to hold
back the development of nuclear power from fission at the present time,
and to have a minimum number of these power plants built until this
is solved. I don't see how to solve it. Probably the best
would be to rely upon fusion power plants.
COHEN & MILL: Would you say that this is another argument in favor of public control of atomic power, since a private company might not be able to handle the responsibility properly?
PAULING: Well, we are sure to have public control, anyway. For one thing, you see, no private company will take over responsibility for a nuclear power plant. There's no insurance company that will insure it. The government has had to give out a 500 million dollar insurance policy backed by the government because the private companies won't. Well, what is this for? Free enterprise for risk capital? The government is taking all of the risks when there is risk involved; and why should profits go to anybody except the people as a whole?
COHEN & MILL: Could you give one statement which you feel would sum up what you believe the future will be of the world and of the uses of atomic energy in peace?
PAULING:I feel sure that we are going to win out in the fight against nuclear war, and against the reliance on force for the solution of world problems. I believe that in the course of winning out, this great discovery of the ways of obtaining energy from the nuclei of atoms will be used more and more for the benefit of mankind, rather than for destruction. I'm just by nature an optimist, and perhaps, as a result of experience, too, I'm an optimist; and here we have a great problem: I'm sure that it will be solved, by working for the solution.