The Doctors and the Bomb

The furor caused by the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize to the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, represented by its two leading sponsors and leaders. Dr. Bernard Lown of the United States and Dr. Yevgeny Chazov of the Soviet Union, provides a fine opportunity to review the revival of the politics of nuclear weapons in the mid-1980's. The impulse to public service on the part of professional servants runs deep, despite the fact that respectability, or better, professional legitimacy, afforded by good work in one area does not readily translate into other areas. This is a constant source of irritation to people who rise high and are mighty in their own fields, but who are not able to translate such elite status into generalized recognition.

This is not to suggest that the more than 100,000 physicians said to be members of the IPPNW are self-serving or ambitious. Rather, it is to remember that talent, even scientific expertise, in one area, does not guarantee a valid political perspective in another. The most obvious lacuna in the debate over nuclear weapons is the absence of any significant body of public opinion. East or West, which argues the case for the use of nuclear arms. Despite occasional bluster, in most real crisis situations, both sides in the Cold War are extremely careful to limit the scope of a given conflict to a nonnuclear range of options. However heated the rhetoric about Nicaragua, Angola, or...

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