Nuclear arms and you

This is a moment when we would like to sit down with each and every one of you reading this page or belonging to the millions in the Monitor's extended family made possible by print and radio syndication. We would like to ask if you are aware of the enormous force you represent for meeting a demand of the age: to save humanity from nuclear destruc-tion.

We are asking the question on this particular day with thanks to the remarkable number of you who displayed enough deep concern to wrestle with our 53-part questionnaire on nuclear issues - whether you praised or criticized the way it was done!

But, as any sampler of voluntary opinion will tell you, the replies usually are a mere hint of the unexpressed response. So our gratitude goes beyond the 1, 328 readers whose views were published last week (Dec. 15 and 16) to all those who in their own fashion are adding to the momentum for peace. Essential in this regard is the first step that so many have taken or are struggling to take: the living of individual lives that exemplify the love, understanding, and resolution of conflict which provide a climate for these on the international scale.

Anyone can represent this force for peace - or counterforce to war in the jargon of the day - as part of a world public capable of much more than many of its members suppose.

''You may be interested to know (this) is my first response ever to a newspaper,'' wrote one reader replying to the nuclear issues questionnaire. ''I have been a member of the silent majority for too many years.''

Said another: ''I've spent well over 40 hours reflecting, referencing, etc., and broadened my own perspective in the process.''

For an analysis of the replies, mainly from Americans but including 90 others , please see the Dec. 15 front-page article by staff correspondent Elizabeth Pond, author of last summer's series on nuclear weapons. Among striking specifics: that even more persons considered the arms race dangerous (87.5 percent) than immoral (73.5 percent); whereas 87.4 percent felt moral considerations should figure in nuclear weapons policy, 50.9 considered it morally acceptable for the US to possess nuclear weapons, and 35.8 percent favored unilateral US renunciation of nuclear weapons.

The yearning for decisive action to turn back from the nuclear brink was notable in the choice of best overall arms control policy. The overwhelming favorite was George Ken-nan's proposal for an across-the-board reduction of both Soviet and American nuclear arsenals by 50 percent ''without further wrangling among the experts.'' It garnered 45.7 percent, followed by SALT-type proposals and the Kennedy-Hatfield mutual freeze, with the Jackson-Warner freeze-after-US-buildup far behind.

''Without further wrangling among the experts.'' This seems to touch a chord with a citizenry on the way to reasserting its role of providing guidance to those who represent it.

Not that expert opinion can be ignored. Many readers - not only in this questionnaire but in their letters to us throughout the year - indicate that they have consulted the experts on various matters or may be experts themselves.

But in democracies the public cannot virtually abandon any issue to the experts - as it did with nuclear weapons for several decades - or to any other segment of society. When it does, it has nobody but itself to blame if it doesn't like the results.

What heartens us to today is all of you who are doing your part not to let such a thing happen.

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