by Virgina Mill & Robert Carl Cohen
World Crisis, Possible Solutions, The Atomic Future

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.

In a debate with Dr. Edward Teller in February, 1958, over television station 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
of the forty billion dollars a year that we put into armaments.  We need to have great amounts of discussion; conferences between scientists and specialists of all sorts, of American and Russian; top level conferences, but also lower
conferences, until a satisfactory agreement has been reached."

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?

PAULING: I think there is a certain lack of realism in the United States,  because 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 significance of war is not appreciated in the United States.
     Yet,  more than anything else,  I think that our means of dissemination of information to the public have not operated in such a way as to educate the public; and the government itself has not been eager for the people of the United States to understand the situation as it is today.

COHEN & MILL: What would you say are the major reasons that the government hesitates to inform the people as to the true situation?

PAULING:It may well be, although I can only surmise this, that here is a feeling that 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.  There's no doubt that the talk about the "clean bomb" one year ago was made in order to quiet the public concern about fallout radioactivity.  And 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 the public an improper impression.
     In particular,  people thought that an effort was being made to develop weapons for use in nuclear war that had "decreased radioactivity," but this, in general, was not actually said by our government.  The reliable statements that were made did not include this statement.  It is known that the weapons that would be used in a war would be the more highly radioactive ones.  They are the most effective militarily.  And Secretary of Defense Neil McElroy last August made a public statement, a statement to a committee of Congress that was asking him questions about this matter, to the effect that we were removing bombs from our stockpile and adding something to them to increase the amount of local radioactive fallout.  This means to increase the effect on the people who would be subjected to fallout in a war.

COHEN & MILL:  What possible interest would the government have in thus misinforming the public?

PAULING:  I think that if the public were informed, there would be a public demand for international agreements,  with a decrease in the armaments burden 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 would be disturbed.  In a sense we might say that our prosperity, such as 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 can we decrease the military budget by 10 per cent, say, each year for several years, without upsetting the economy?
         When we have big business men in positions of importance in the government,  this is a factor that they will surely think about seriously.  I saw, recently, a statement by a government official that the United States could stand spending $60 billion a year on defense instead of $40 billion, that our economy would be able to cope with that.  This means wasting another $2O billion a year,  instead of spending it on schools, where we have such great need for money, or on other public works, on roads, our highway system, our hospitals.  Our medical care, too, is unsatisfactory.

COHEN & MILL: Do you feel, then, that there are commercial interests who hope to continue armaments production without having a major war?

PAULING: Yes.  I suppose that the policy is one of applying ever-increasing pressure to Russia by building up armaments, and, of course, the same thing goes on in Russia, but with the hope that war itself will be avoided.  I believe that it involves too great danger, however, taking too much of a chance.
     Now, I believe that this "increased pressure" policy is gradually being given up in favor of the "relaxation of tension" policy which is forced upon us by the nature of events: the development of such destructive weapons that we have to rule war out.

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?

PAULING: 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 not up to me to ask questions about major policy."
     Secretary McElroy said not long ago: "I believe the United States could survive a nuclear war,  but that the USSR could not."  I think that what he is really saying is: "I believe that, if there were to be a nuclear war, everybody behind the Iron Curtain would be killed, but there would be five or ten million people left alive in the United States."  But if he had expressed it in this way,  the impression that the public got would be much different.  I don't know whether he, himself, really has phrased his public statement, even in his own mind, in quite this way.
         I saw recently a discussion of what might be done with a great system of shelters.  The statement was that: "A hundred sixty million Americans would be killed, and twenty million would remain alive if there weren't shelters.  But then, if we devoted $50 billion to shelters, half the people would still be alive and the other half dead.  Then if we went on to an ideal system of shelters. perhaps we could have only 20 million people killed, instead of 160 million killed."
     Well, this seems to me to be a bare possibility.  If you wanted to devote a sufficient number of tens of billions of dollars to it,  and if you could get the people to adjust their daily lives in such a way that they could get into the shelters in time.
     They always say: "If there is enough warning."  Intercontinental ballistic missiles take only 20 or 25 minutes to make the trip; so it might well be that there wouldn't be the possibility of enough warning, and in that case you would have 160 million people  killed, even if the shelters were there.
     All of this seems to me just to be irrational, insane;  I can't understand why the obvious,  sensible alternative, of just getting to work on the job of solving world problems in a different way, isn't given serious discussion.  I can't understand it.

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?

PAULING: I think that most people have a limited field of interest, that the jobs of individuals are limited.
The government is made up of individual human beings, each of whom thinks about one aspect of the whole problem, and a rather "practical" one,  too.
      The President, perhaps, should be the one who devotes the most effort to thinking about the general policy or the nation.  Well, I doubt that he does very much of this.  Now, there are, of course, thousands or millions of people whose livelihoods are pretty much dependent on the armaments industry.  This includes thousands or tens of thousands of scientists 4O years old,  say, who have never done anything but work on weapons.  What are they going to do?  There is a natural tendency for them to think that things should go on the way that they have in the past, that they shouldn't just destroy their own jobs.  So it's a difficult situation, where there are many pressures that tend to cause the policy of the government to continue to be what it has been in the past few years.
     The great pressure of the imminence of destruction is pushed into the background through a sort of blind hope that everything will come out all right in the end, at any rate, all right for us.  So that this great pressure is ignored in considerable part.

COHEN & MILL: What can be done by the citizens, in or out of organizations, in order to change this dangerous tendency?

PAULING: I think that different individuals can do different things, and there are 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 published.  So this is also a worthwhile thing to do.  Then, of course, I think it is good that there are people who make a more striking effort: who go 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 to the White House, or who sail out into the Pacific and then go to jail.
     Four Quakers took their ketch,  the "Golden Rule," into the danger area in the Pacific last spring to protest against H-bomb tests.  Their example was followed by anthropologist Earle Reynolds and his family in their vessel the "Phoenix."  All were arrested.  Here we have people who have gone to jail for 60 days  because they were protesting against the policy of the government, and I think rightly so.  It is hard for me to see what the justification is for the AEC to have followed the course that it is following now.

COHEN & MILL: Could you give an estimate of how many scientists there are who have refused to work on nuclear weapons?

PAULING: 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 general.
     I haven't said anything as yet about the damage that the bomb tests do.  This isn't really a matter of controversy. There are uncertainties about it, it is true, but scientists agree about the facts, although some or them sometimes make misleading statements.  The United Nations report, or at least the New York Times account of it, agrees almost completely with the statements that I make about these facts.  (The report of the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Radiation)
     Now,  there is a difference in emphasis that the AEC spokesmen make.  In the statements that I make I talk about the number of "individual human beings," while they (the AEC)  talk about "percentages," or sometimes use words that you can call "weasel" words, like a "negligible" number.

COHEN & MILL: Would you say that the use of such words constitutes attempts at evading the truth?

PAULING:A hundred thousand defective children born is called a "negligible" number by the AEC  because, in fact, more than that are born each year, anyway.  But what the word "negligible" means is open to some discussion.
     Well, here we have a situation where Great Britain and the United States proceed to carry out duplicate tests.  I have stated that one large bomb can be tested only with the sacrifices of 15,000 as yet unborn children and, of course, a roughly similar number of adults, probably, who will die of leukemia and such diseases.
     There is some controversy here as to whether leukemia is caused by this amount of radioactivity.  We have two possibilities: one that it is and one that it isn't;  but there is a probability that there will be a similar number of deaths by leukemia.  All that we need to do to avoid this damage is to give the British the results that we have obtained from our tests.  Why shouldn't we do that?  Why do we need to keep this secret from the British?  Here we are sacrificing an estimated 15,000 unborn children, and probably the same number of human beings now living, who will be caused to die from cancer, just because we are unwilling to take the political step of turning some information over to the British.

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?

PAULING: I've tried to answer this question for the 250 bomb attack on the United 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 million, or five million, or ten million people alive in the United States.  There's no doubt that there would be a great amount of radioactivity produced, and that it would cause damage to people all over the world, but the estimation of how great this damage would be is such that it is hard to decide.
     A moderate nuclear war would cause some millions of cases of leukemia and bone cancer, and the genetic consequences would probably be very serious.  There's a real possibility that a great war would change the pool of human germ plasm in such a way that the human species  as we know it would not survive.  I'm not sure whether there Is enough information at hand to permit a more definite statement
to be made.
     I know many people have said that a large nuclear war would mean the end of life on earth.  There is a chance that a large nuclear war involving, say, 10,000 ten megaton weapons, would mean the end of the human race on earth.  But whether this is absolutely sure, whether there would be enough of the pool of human germ plasm left so that at the end of a thousand years there would be a race of human beings, a good-sized race, I just don't know.

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?

PAULING: 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.
     Now, I don't know enough about them to know what their political thinking is, not even in this country, because scientists are mostly pretty quiet about politics, not very many of them speak up and, you know, at scientific meetings there's very little talk about political questions in general.  Many rather close friends that I have, or people that I see often at scientific meetings, I have no idea about their political thinking.  These petitions were sent out helter-skelter to scientists all over the world.  Most of them came back with signatures attached.  So that's that.

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?

PAULING: Yes.  I would have refused to answer this question, because I think the question is an unrealistic one.  I can understand Lord Russell's answering it in that way, in that we know that political systems change pretty rapidly, and we know that conquered countries don't stay conquered very long; but the country that is destroyed by a nuclear war is destroyed forever.  If the United States were to be destroyed and the American people killed, that would be the end; so I can understand Lord Russell's answering in this way.
     Now,  I don't think that these are to be considered as the only alternatives.  I think that the political, social and economic system that we have is a good live one, and that it is going to keep being alive.  It will change, of course, and I think that the Russian system will change, too.
     Of course, in a sense we can say we have the Chinese system, also, which is an important one now.  We don't know very well just what it is at the present time; but there are 650,000,000 people in China, a great nation.  We have to have China as part of the United Nations, obviously, in the attack on world problems.
     We should have inspection stations for bomb tests in China, but what can you do about this when China isn't part of the United Nations?  The first step, clearly, is to have China part of the United Nations.
     Of course, there are many very able Chinese persons, good Chinese scholars and scientists.  It clearly is wrong to keep China out of the United Nations.  That's an irrational attitude.

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?

PAULING: Well,  I think that a system in which you have competition between privately controlled organizations is a very good one, and works very well; 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 present time the government supports atomic energy projects almost complete, yet there is an effort made for the profits to go to private companies.  I think this is wrong.
     I believe that all major nuclear power plants should be owned and operated by the government, or by municipalities such as the Pasadena Municipal Light plant, which has worked for 50 years very well - and they're going to have a nuclear facility one or these days, too.  It seems to me wrong that we should have monopolistic facilities that are run for private profit,  but with the profits really certified by government agencies in such a way that there is no effective free enterprise and competition.

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?

PAULING: Oh,  there are great dangers in nuclear power plants based upon fission.  There's a great problem of what to do about the highly radioactive products 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 problem is solved.  I don't see how to solve it.  Probably the best solution would be to rely upon fusion power plants.
     Well,  now,  this is such a hard problem that it's impossible to predict.  Will there be any fusion power plants 50 years from now, or 25 years from now?  Probably some time between 25 years and 50 years from now there will be.  They don't have the great danger of the fission products.  There are, of course, neutrons produced that might cause some trouble. So I rather think that it would be wise to slow down the development of fission 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.

Next: POSTSCRIPT - 2000