Monitor readers respond to nuclear issues

The Monitor ran a rather demanding 53-part questionnaire about nuclear weapons in the June 25 United States edition and Aug. 2 in the International edition.

The unexpectedly large response and the care and thought put into the 1,238 replies indicate that many Monitor readers are deeply concerned about nuclear dangers. And they are clearly committed to the search for ways to save mankind from their threat.

The responses to the first 24 questions were published in Dec. 15 editions of the Monitor. Responses to the second half of the questionnaire follow below.

25a.Do you think a (nuclear) freeze could be made technically verifiable?

Yes: 53.5 percent.

No: 30.7 percent.

25b.Is verification of a freeze essential?

Yes: 68.3 percent.

No: 19.5 percent.

26.If you belong to the majority of American voters who told pollsters they think a freeze would be useful (arresting the arms race) but also think it would be harmful (perpetuating Soviet superiority), how do you reconcile these two contraries?

I don't belong.

Freeze in spite of risks.

We, as a people, will answer ''yes'' to a freeze, just to send a signal to those in power that this whole arms race is a fiasco and something (but not necessarily a freeze) must be done about it.

Most of the media are doing a brainwash job on us.

A longing for reality to be different. A longing to return to a time when there was an easy answer.

It can't be reconciled. But neither can most of these questions and answers.

27.The US should:

Continue to refuse to ratify SALT II, since that would endorse Moscow's maintenance of heavy missiles, while banning American missiles of equivalent weight: 16.9 percent.

Ratify SALT II, since (a)President Reagan has said the US will abide by it anyway. (b)the US has never wanted to build heavy missiles in any case, and (c)voluntary but unratified observance means the US doesn't get the benefit of the Soviet dismantling of more than 200 missiles required once the treaty takes legal effect: 54.7 percent.

Other: 16.1 percent.

Comments: SALT I-II are for those who believe in Santa Claus.

Proceed to a freeze. SALT II is old and being followed anyway but would be used to pacify the peace movement.

28.In the START negotiations in Geneva the US should:

Place stringent demands on the permitted weight of missiles, since this is an area where the Soviet Union leads and no agreement that doesn't curtail this is worth it: 21.7 percent.

Place stringent demands on the permitted weight of missiles, as a ploy to scuttle the negotiations while putting the blame on the Russians: 1.7 percent.

Play down the weight issue, since the US hasn't itself wanted to build heavy missiles anyway: 46.6 percent.

Comment: You lost me.

29.Do you think there is great danger of nuclear war from:

A pre-World War I type of arms race sliding into rather unintended war? 29.2 percent.

A pre-World War II appeasement of an expansionist power and thus feeding of its appetite? 17.8 percent.

Both: 40.7 percent.


Accident. Computer failure, etc.

Other countries (other than the superpowers) starting a nuclear war.

30.Which of the following is the major cause of the arms race?

The two superpowers are equally to blame for East-West confrontation and the arms race: 25.2 percent.

The Soviet Union is more to blame because of its ideology of world victory of communism, its own and proxy military interventions abroad, and its refusal to acknowledge legitimate security needs of neighbors and near-neighbors: 29 percent.

The US is more to blame because of its neoimperialism and military interventions abroad: 4.9 percent.

The arms race creates its own autonomous momentum of action and reaction: 55. 6 percent.

Other (including some who checked several boxes): 7.1 percent.

Some truth in all of above.

Arms industry greed.

US is to blame as it did not liberate USSR in 1945-47.

We have always essentially been ahead (technologically), thus they have tried to keep up. But we did offer (our atomic monopoly) to United Nations after World War II and USSR would not agree.

31.The burgeoning US peace movement is:

At last recovering America's moral sanity: 26.8 percent.

At last creating the urgently needed political constituency for arms control that has never before existed: 57.1 percent.

Comment: But on a very fragile basis.

Creating dangerous pressures for unilateral disarmament and running the same risk as British pacifism in the late 1930s - feeding the illusions of the Soviet Union today (as Germany then) that the West would not resist aggression: 19.5 percent.

Threatening a tacit alliance between utopian soft-liners and hard-liners to defeat today's very imperfect and difficult but at least realizable arms control: 7 percent.

Comments: Right on! Do you really think so?

Other: 7.9 percent.

Perhaps all four.


Possibly a counterbalance to those who are overaggressive.


Just beginning to stimulate thought.

I do wish that the peace movement would support SALT II.

32.''Better Red than dead'' is:

The only responsible attitude in an insane nuclear age: 4.3 percent.

A false choice, because with adequate deterrence we can avoid being either Red or dead: 50.5 percent.

A false choice, because Moscow isn't all that threatening to the West: 25.3 percent.

Other: 20 percent.

A red herring.

Not even germane to the issue.

As Buckley states, ''Better the possibility of being dead than the certainty of being Red.''

There are always other creative choices.

33a. Is deterrence our best choice as a short-term policy?

Yes: 60.9 percent.

No: 28 percent.

33b. Is deterrence good enough as a long-term policy?

Yes: 15.8 percent.

No: 73.1 percent.

34. What is the best basis on which citizens can judge nuclear weapons policy?

Fear of a nuclear holocaust: 35.3 percent.

Confidence that the deterrence that has averted nuclear war so far will continue to work, if we just leave the issues to the experts: 18.5 percent.

Other: 40.8 percent. Comments include:

Fear and courage and knowledge and intelligence and patience.

Dread tempered by optimism.

Only fear will motivate people to take the necessary steps to make their government take notice. But ''fear'' is just the beginning, the motivator to become informed so that proper judgment will follow. It seems that without fear for our survival, apathy will remain. The psychological problem is dealing with such fear over a long term.

Sermon on the Mount.

Confidence in God's power to guide and guard mankind.

35. In looking at the very complex issues that will be coming up in the 1980s - the MX, ballistic missile defense, cruise, ASAT (satellite killers), ASW (antisubmarine warfare), crisis instability, etc. - which politician(s), organization(s), analysts(s), or publication(s) do you trust most to guide you through the maze?

[Not surprisingly for a poll among readers of this paper, the Monitor got the most votes of confidence. The American Friends Service Committee, the Physicians for Social Responsibility, and the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists also ranked high.

Quite a few expressed strong mistrust of any ''experts.'' More honorable mentions ran the gamut from Garry Trudeau to President Reagan, Human Events to Mother Jones, the Sierra Club to Sen. Jesse Helms, the Pentagon to the Union of Concerned Scientists.)

36. Did you read any of the material suggested in this series for further reading?

Yes: 22.2 percent.

No: 61.9 percent.

If so, which book(s) or article(s) did you find most illuminating?

(Jonathan Schell's ''The Fate of the Earth'' won hands down, with 115 entries. Also-rans included St. Augustine and Ground Zero's ''Nuclear War - What's In It For You?'' There were several vows to read further - and several replies of ''don't know - didn't read (the Monitor) series.'')

37. Do you think the American citizen can influence the government's nuclear weapons and arms-control policy?

Yes: 88.4 percent.

No: 5.5 percent.

Reservations included: Yes, to a limited extent.

We don't realize our own power.

Yes - but I don't think he should.

No, they are not qualified.

38a. Did you write your senator (or the President) about SALT II ratification?

Yes: 27.4 percent.

No: 63.6 percent.

38b. If so, were you for or against ratification?

For: 29.4 percent. Against: 10.1 percent.

38c. What was your main reason?

[For SALT:] It was the only game in town.

SALT II at least put some ceilings on weapons that would have precluded further expansion, and the USSR would have to retire some old weapons.

''Better jaw, jaw, jaw than war, war, war.''[Against SALT:] Not fair to Americans.

I don't trust the Russians.


Does not ban warfare.

[Blank:] 851/2 years old - do not understand SALT. (But filled in entire questionnaire thoughtfully and in detail.)

39a. Have you taken part in any community discussions, programs, or demonstrations about the issues of nuclear weapons?

Yes: 34.7 percent.

No: 60.5 percent.

Comments by nonparticipants:

No, but I'm going to now.

No, this (questionnaire) is my first step.

No, I think civil disobedience should be strictly penalized.

No, antinuclear demonstrators are all inspired by, organized by, and partially funded by communist-dominated organizations. It would be criminal to support them.

39b. If so, which one(s)?

My husband and I have spent the last year doing all of the above. It dominates our lives.

I am a full-time peace worker for the Mennonite Church.

I contributed to the Town Board of Selectmen's decision not to include the Nuclear Arms Freeze issue on our Town Warning of agenda items in March 1982. Hubbardton was one of less than 50 towns in Vermont which did not include this issue.

Ground Zero week.

June 12 New York City rally backing UN disarmament conference.

Republican Party caucus.

San Diego World Affairs Council.

A recent three-month course at the church to which I belong (Central Presbyterian, Atlanta).

40. Will you be pinning down the congressional and senatorial candidates in your district this fall on their opinions on the issue?

Yes: 62.5 percent.

No: 22.8 percent.

Other: 14.5 percent, including: Not likely.

Yes, after reading this (Monitor) series of articles.

41. How can we best get beyond the ''balance of terror'' to ''create between East and West the kind of international understanding and openness . . . where states simply do not have to take seriously the possibility of armed conflict between them?'' (Quinlan.) If you were president of the US, what would you do as a first step?

I don't think we ever will. Man is too greedy and too power-hungry.

We must make the UN work.

Have a strong NATO and get out of UN.

Just what Reagan is doing.

Push for satellite particle beam.

Try to reduce USSR's feeling of being surrounded.

Establish international peace think tank of nonviolent conflict resolution.

In order to have ''world consciousness,'' we must educate our people. It may take a long time, but it must be done.


I would guarantee that Russia be paid in US grain for her arsenals that she destroys and that the US be paid in Russian oil for her military systems she destroys.

Keep nuclear deterrence, to forestall any rash or aggressive move by either Russia (in our view) or the US (in theirs). Keep official and unofficial links open. Stress the long-term selfish interest that both superpowers have in avoiding nuclear war. Stage an internationally sanctioned nuclear blast (maybe somewhere in the Pacific) in full view of the world's major leaders. Maybe they could be on warships 50 to 100 miles away and witness with their own eyes the awesome destructive power of a single blast. Stress the long-range self-interest of both superpowers in slowing, and ultimately reversing, the arms race.

The USSR is close to economic chaos. Keep pressure on until Soviets withdraw from Eastern Europe.

Comments on the questionnaire:

The most poorly designed questionnaire I've ever seen, let alone tried to answer.


Questions simplistic and misleading. Unworthy of the objectivity of the Monitor.

I frequently could not stomach any of the options presented.

I found the questionnaire troubling because I had to think through issues rather than read about them.

A very fear/appeasement/pacifist slanted series and questionnaire.

It seemed to add up to ''business as usual.'' Doesn't it seem about time that a Christian approach be made to this problem?

Thank you for this exercise. I've spent well over 40 hours reflecting, referencing, etc., and broadened my own perspectives in the process.

You have posed some difficult questions made more difficult by ''why.'' Those who answer and return this questionnaire must, of necessity, have done some soul-searching, some questioning of what they really believe. I await the analysis of these returns with some anxiety.

You may be interested to know (this) is my first response ever to a newspaper. I am also sending copies to President Reagan and to my congressman. I have been a member of the silent majority too many years.

There are some very poor questions in this group. They (some of them) seem to seek a forced answer. This is one of the most serious flaws in the news media and will ultimately lead to restrictions.

I filled out the enclosed form reluctantly. The premise of the form is that the killing of our fellow men is a norm - then how to lessen it. I would welcome a form that would ask if any war solves any problem.

This questionnaire has been a great help to me. It has made me question my viewpoints, not really thought out, and has brought me to a new outlook. I realize I'm totally against nuclear weapons, and believe that nothing that could happen to me, to the country, or to the world would be as dreadful as any rise of nuclear weapons. Thank you.

[The following comment is from one letter.]

I could not answer most of the questions in your questionnaire, neither can I ignore them. If we have no material defenses against the Soviet powers we would seem to be like a sitting duck, but I cannot condone the use of nuclear weapons by anyone.

I can only pray that those who have the power over this monster will handle the situation wisely, and try to know that [in the words of the founder of this newspaper, Mary Baker Eddy] ''One infinite God, good, unifies men and nations; constitutes the brotherhood of man; ends wars; fulfils the Scripture, 'Love thy neighbor as thyself;' annihilates pagan and Christian idolatry, - whatever is wrong in social, civil, criminal, political, and religious codes; equalizes the sexes; annuls the curse on man, and leaves nothing that can sin, suffer, be punished or destroyed'' (''Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,'' page 340).

Reprints of the nuclear weapons series may be purchased by calling toll-free 1-800-225-7090, ext. 2123. In Massachusetts, call collect (617) 262-2300, ext. 2123. Or write to: The Christian Science Monitor Reprints Service, PO Box 527, Back Bay Station, Boston, MA 02117.

of stories this month > Get unlimited stories
You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Unlimited digital access $11/month.

Get unlimited Monitor journalism.