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Part Two: Report From Iron Mountain


Contrary to the decision of the Special Study Group, of which I was a member, I have arranged for the general release of our Report. I am grateful to Mr. Leonard C. Lewin for his invaluable assistance in making this possible, and to The Dial Press for accepting the challenge of publication. Responsibility for taking this step, however, is mine and mine alone.

I am well aware that my action may be taken as a breach of faith by some of my former colleagues. But in my view my responsibility to the society for which I am a part supersedes any self-assumed obligation on the part of fifteen individual men. Since our Report can be considered on its merits, it is not necessary for me to disclose their identity to accomplish my purpose. Yet I gladly abandon my own anonymity if it were possible to do so without at the same time comprising theirs, to defend our work publicly if and when they release me from this personal bond.

But this is secondary. What is needed now, and needed badly, is widespread public discussion and debate about the elements of war and the problems of peace. I hope that publication of this Report will serve to initiate it.



To the convener of this Group:

Attached is the Report of the Special Study Group established by you in August, 1963, 1) to consider the problems involved in the contingency of a transition to a general condition of peace, and 2) to recommend procedures for dealing with this contingency. For the convenience of non-technical readers we have elected to submit our statistical supporting data, totaling 604 exhibits, separately, as well as a preliminary manual of the "peace games" method devised during the course of our study.

We have completed our assignment to the best of our ability, subject to the limitations of time and resources available to us. Our conclusions of fact and our recommendations are unanimous; those of us who differ in certain secondary respects from the findings set forth herein do not consider these differences sufficient to warrant the filing of a minority report. It is our earnest hope that the fruits of our deliberations will be of value to our government in its efforts to provide leadership to the nation in solving the complex and far-reaching problems we have examined, and that our recommendations for subsequent Presidential action in this area will be adopted.

Because of the unusual circumstances surrounding the establishment of this Group, and in view of the nature of its findings, we do not recommend that this Report be released for publication. It is our affirmative judgment that such action would not be in the public interest. The uncertain advantages of public discussion of our conclusions and recommendations are, in our opinion, greatly outweighed by the clear and predictable danger of a crisis in public confidence which untimely publication of this Report might be expected to provoke. The likelihood that a lay reader, unexposed to the exigencies of higher political or military responsibility, will misconstrue the purpose of this project, and the intent of its participants, seems obvious. We urge that circulation of this Report be closely restricted to those whose responsibilities require that they be apprised of its contents.
We deeply regret that the necessity of anonymity, a prerequisite to our Group's unhindered pursuit of its objectives, precludes proper acknowledgment of our gratitude to the many persons in and out of government who contributed so greatly to our work.

[signature withheld for publication]
30 SEPTEMBER, 1966


The Report which follows summarizes the results of a two-and-a-half-year study of the broad problems to be anticipated in the event of general transformation of American society to a condition lacking its most critical current characteristics: its capability and readiness to make war when doing so is judged necessary or desirable by its political leadership.

Our work has been predicated on the belief that some kind of general peace may soon be negotiable. The de facto admission of Communist China into the United Nations now appears to be only a few years away at most. It has become increasingly manifest that conflicts of American national interest with those of China and the Soviet Union are susceptible of political solution, despite the superficial contradictions of the current Vietnam war, of the threats of an attack on China, and of the necessarily hostile tenor of day-to-day foreign policy statements. It is also obvious that differences involving other nations can be readily resolved by the three great powers whenever they arrive at a stable peace among themselves. It is not necessary, for the purposes of our study, to assume that a general detente of this sort will come about---and we make no such argument--but only that it may.

It is surely no exaggeration to say that a condition of general world peace would lead to changes in the social structures of the nations of the world of unparalleled and revolutionary magnitude. The economic impact of general disarmament, to name only the most obvious consequence of peace, would revise the production and distribution patterns of the globe to a degree that would make changes of the past fifty years seem insignificant. Political, sociological, cultural, and ecological changes would be equally far-reaching. What has motivated our study of these contingencies has been the growing sense of thoughtful men in and out of government that the world is totally unprepared to meet the demands of such a situation.

We had originally planned, when our study was initiated, to address ourselves to these two broad questions and their components: What can be expected if peace comes? What should we be prepared to do about it? But as our investigation proceeded, it became apparent that certain other questions had to be faced. What, for instance, are the real functions of war in modern societies, beyond the ostensible ones of defending and advancing the "national interests" of nations? In the absence of war, what other institutions exist or might be devised to fulfill these functions? Granting that a "peaceful" settlement of disputes is within the range of current international relationships, is the abolition of war, in the broad sense, really possible? If so, is it necessarily desirable, in terms of social stability? If not, what can be done to improve the operation of our social system in respect to its war-readiness?

The word peace, as we have used it in the following pages, describes a permanent, or quasi-permanent, condition entirely free from the national exercise, or contemplation, of any form of the organized social violence, or threat of violence, generally known as war. It implies total and general disarmament. It is not used to describe the more familiar condition of "cold war," "armed peace," or other mere respite, long or short, from armed conflict. Nor is it used simply as a synonym for the political settlement of international differences. The magnitude of modern means of mass destruction and the speed of modern communications require the unqualified working definition given above; only a generation ago such an absolute description would have seemed utopian rather than pragmatic. Today, any modification of this definition would render it almost worthless for our purpose. By the same standard, we have used the word war to apply interchangeably to conventional ("hot") war, to the general condition of war preparation or war readiness, and to the general "war system." The sense intended is made clear in context.

The first section of our Report deals with its scope and with the assumptions on which our study was based. The second considers the effects of disarmament on the economy, the subject of most peace research to date. The third takes up so-called "disarmament scenarios" which have been proposed. The fourth, fifth, and sixth examine the nonmilitary functions of war and the problems they raise for a viable transition to peace; here will be found some indications of the true dimensions of the problem, not previously coordinated in any other study. In the seventh section we summarize our findings, and in the eight we set forth our recommendations for what we believe to be a practical and necessary course of action.


When The Special Study Group was established in August, 1963, its members were instructed to govern their deliberations in accordance with three principal criteria. Briefly stated, they were these: 1) military-style objectivity; 2) avoidance of preconceived value assumptions; 3) inclusion of all revelant areas of theory and data.

These guideposts are by no means as obvious as they may appear at first glance, and we believe it necessary to indicate clearly how they were to inform our work. For they express succinctly the limitations of previous "peace studies," and imply the nature of both government and unofficial dissatisfaction with these earlier efforts. It is not our intention here to minimize the significance of the work of our predecessors, or to belittle the quality of their contributions. What we have tried to do, and believe we have done, is extend their scope. We hope that our conclusions may serve in turn as a starting point for still broader and more detailed examinations of every aspect of the problems of transition to peace and of the questions which must be answered before such a transition can be allowed to get under way.

It is a truism that objectivity is more often an intention expressed than an attitude achieved, but the intention---conscious, unambiguous, and constantly self-critical -- is a precondition to its achievement.

We believe it no accident that we were charged to use a "military contingency" model for our study, and we owe a considerable debt to the civilian war planning agencies for their pioneering work in the objective examination of the contingencies of nuclear war. There is no such precedent in the peace studies. Much of the usefulness of even the most elaborate and carefully reasoned programs for economic conversion to peace, for example, has been vitiated by a wishful eagerness to demonstrate that peace is not only possible, but even cheap or easy.

One official report is replete with references to the critical role of "dynamic optimism" on economic developments, and goes on to submit, as evidence, that it "would be hard to imagine that the American people would not respond very positively to an agreed and safeguarded program to substitute an international rule of law and order," etc.

Another line of argument frequently taken is that disarmament would entail comparatively little disruption of the economy, since it need only be partial; we will deal with this approach later.

Yet genuine objectivity in war studies is often criticized as inhuman. As Herman Kahn, the writer on strategic studies best known to the general public, put it: "Critics frequently object to the icy rationality of the Hudson Institute, the Rand Corporation, and other such organizations. I'm always tempted to ask in reply, `Would you prefer a warm, human error? Do you feel better with a nice emotional mistake?'"

And, as Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara has pointed out, in reference to facing up to the possibility of nuclear war, "Some people are afraid even to look over the edge. But in a thermonuclear war we cannot afford any political acrophobia." Surely it would be self-evident that this applies equally to the opposite prospect, but so far no one has taken more than a timid glance over the brink of peace.

An intention to avoid preconceived value judgments is if anything even more productive of self-delusion. We claim no immunity, as individuals, from this type of bias, but we have made a continuously self-conscious effort to deal with the problems of peace without, for example, considering that a condition of peace is per se "good" or "bad." This has not been easy, but it has been obligatory; to our knowledge, it has not been done before. Previous studies have taken the desirability of peace, the importance of human life, the superiority of democratic institutions, the greatest "good" for the greatest number, the "dignity" of the individual, the desirability of maximum health and longevity, and other such wishful premises as axiomatic values necessary for the justification of a study of peace issues.

We have not found them so.

We have attempted to apply the standards of physical science to our thinking, the principal characteristic of which is not quantification, as is popularly believd, but that, in Whitehead's words, "...it ignores all judgments of value; for instance, all esthetic and moral judgments." Yet it is obvious that any serious investigation of a problem, however "pure," must be informed by some normative standard. In this case it has been simply the survival of human society in general, of American society in particular, and, as a corollary to survival, the stability of this society.

It is interesting, we believe, to note that the most dispassionate planners of nuclear strategy also recognize that the stability of society is the one bedrock value that cannot be avoided. Secretary McNamara has defended the need for American nuclear superiority on the grounds that it "makes possible a strategy designed to preserve the fabric of our societies if war should occur." A former member of the Department of State policy planning staff goes further. "A more precise word for peace, in terms of the practical world, is stability. ... Today the great nuclear panoplies are essential elements in such stability as exists. Our present purpose must be to continue the process of learning how to live with them." We, of course, do not equate stability with peace, but we accept it as the one common assumed objective of both peace and war.

The third criterion-breadth-has taken us still farther afield from peace studies made to date. It is obvious to any layman that the economic patterns of a warless world will be drastically different from those we live with today, and it is equally obvious that the political relationships of nations will not be those we have learned to take for granted, sometimes described as a global version of the adversary system of our common law. But the social implications of peace extend far beyond its putative effects on national economics and international relations. As we shall show, the relevance of peace and war to the internal political organization of societies, to the sociological relationships of their members, to psychological motivations, to ecological processes, and to cultural values is equally profound. More important, it is equally critical in assaying the consequences of a transition to peace, and in determining the feasibility of any transition at all.

It is not surprising that these less obvious factors have been generally ignored in peace research. They have not lent themselves to systematic analysis. They have been difficult, perhaps impossible, to measure with any degree of assurance that estimates of their effects could be depended on. They are "intangibles," but only in the sense that abstract concepts in mathematics are intangible compared to those which can be quantified. Economic factors, on the other hand, can be measured, at least superficialy; and international relationships can be verbalized, like law, into logical sequences.

We do not claim that we have discovered an infallible way of measuring these other factors, or of assigning them precise weights in the equation of transition. But we believe we have taken their relative importance into account to this extent: we have removed them from the category of the "intangible," hence scientifically suspect and therefore somehow of secondary importance, and brought them out into the realm of the objective. The result, we believe, provides a context of realism for the discussion of the issues relating to the possible transition to peace which up to now has been missing.

This is not to say that we presume to have found the answers we were seeking. But we believe that our emphasis on breadth of scope has made it at least possible to begin to understand the questions.


In this section we shall briefly examine some of the common features of the studies that have been published dealing with one or another aspect of the expected impact of disarmament on the American economy. Whether disarmament is considered as a by-product of peace or as its precondition, its effect on the national economy will in either case be the most immediately felt of its consequences. The quasi-mensurable quality of economic manifestations has given rise to more detailed speculation in this area than in any other.

General agreement prevails in respect to the more important economic problems that general disarmament would raise. A short survey of these problems, rather than a detailed critique of their comparative significance, is sufficient for our purposes in this Report.

The first factor is that of size. The "world war industry," as one writer has aptly caled it, accounts for approximately a tenth of the output of the world's total economy. Although this figure is subject to fluctuation, the causes of which are themselves subject to regional variation, it tends to hold fairly steady. The United States, as the world's richest nation, not only accounts for the largest single share of this expense, currently upward of $60 billion a year, but also "...has devoted a higher proportion of its gross national product to its military establishment than any other major free world nation. This was true even before our increased expenditures in Southeast Asia." Plans for economic conversion that minimize the economic magnitude of the problem do so only by rationalizing, however persuasively, the maintenance of a substantial residual military budget under some euphemized classification.

Conversion of military expenditures to other purposes entails a number of difficulties. The most serious stems from the degree of rigid specialization that characterizes modern war production, best exemplified in nuclear and missile technology. This constituted no fundamental problem after World War II, nor did the question of free-market consumer demand for "conventional" items of consumption---those goods and services consumers had already been conditioned to require.

Today's situation is qualitatively different in both respects.

This inflexibility is geographical and occupational, as well as industrial, a fact which has led most analysts of the economic impact of disarmament to focus their attention on phased plans for the relocation of war industry personnel and capital installations as much as on proposals for developing new patterns of consumption. One serious flaw common to such plans is the kind called in the natural sciences the "macroscopic error." An implicit presumption is made that a total national plan for conversion differs from a community program to cope with the shutting down of a "defense facility" only in degree. We find no reason to believe that this is the case, nor that a general enlargement of such local programs, however well thought out in terms of housing, occupational retraining, and the like, can be applied on a national scale. A national economy can absorb almost any number of subsidiary reorganizations within its total limits, providing there is no basic change in its own structure. General disarmament, which would require such basic changes, lends itself to no valid smaller-scale analogy.

Even more questionable are the models proposed for the retaining labor for non-armaments occupations. Putting aside for the moment the unsolved questions dealing with the nature of new distribution patterns---retraining for what?-- the increasingly specialized job skills associated with war industry production are further depreciated by the accelerating inroads of the industrial techniques loosely described as "automation." It is not too much to say that general disarmament would require the scrapping of a critical proportion of the most highly developed occupational specialties in the economy. The political difficulties inherent in such an "adjustment" would make the outcries resulting from the closing of a few obsolete military and naval installations in 1964 sound like a whisper.

In general, discussions of the problem of conversion have been characterized by an unwillingness to recognize its special quality. This is best exemplified by the 1965 report of the Ackley Committee. One critic has tellingly pointed out that it blindly assumes that "...nothing in the arms economy--neither its size, nor its geographical concentration, nor its highly specialized nature, nor the peculiarities of its market, nor the special nature of much of its labor force---endows it with any uniqueness when the necessary time of adjustment comes."

Let us assume, however, despite the lack of evidence that a viable program for conversion can be developed in the framework of the existing economy, that the problems noted above can be solved. What proposals have been offered for utilizing the productive capabilities that disarmament would presumably release?

The most common held theory is simply that general economic reinvestment would absorb the greater part of these capabilities. Even though it is now largely taken for granted (and even by today's equivalent of traditional laissez-faire economists) that unprecedented government assistance (and con-comitant government control) will be needed to solve the "structural" problems of transition, a general attitude of confidence prevails that new consumption patterns will take up the slack. What is less clear is the nature of these patterns.

One school of economists has it that these patterns will develop on their own. It envisages the equivalent of the arms budget being returned, under careful control, to the consumer, in the form of tax cuts. Another, recognizing the undeniable need for increased "consumption" in what is generally considered the public sector of the economy, stresses vastly increased government spending in such areas of national concern as health, education, mass transportation, low-cost housing, water supply, control of the physical environment, and, stated generally, "poverty."

The mechanisms proposed for controlling the transition to an arms-free economy are also traditional--changes in both sides of the federal budget, manipulation of interest rates, etc. We acknowledge the undeniable value of fiscal tools in a normal cyclical economy, where they provide leverage to accelerate or brake an existing trend. Their more committed proponents, however, tend to lose sight of the fact that there is a limit to the power of these devices to influence fundamental economic forces. They can provide new incentives in the economy, but they cannot in themselves transform the production of a billion dollars' worth of missiles a year to the equivalent in food, clothing, prefabricated houses, or television sets. At bottom, they reflect the economy; they do not motivate it.

More sophisticated, and less sanguine, analysts contemplate the diversion of the arms budget to a non-military system equally remote from the market economy. What the "pyramid-builders" frequently suggest is the expansion of space-research programs to the dollar level of current expenditures. This approach has the superficial merit of reducing the size of the problem of transferability of resources, but introduces other difficulties, which we will take up in section 6.

Without singling out any one of the several major studies of the expected impact of disarmament on the economy for special criticism, we can summarize our objections to them in general terms as follows:

1. No proposed program for economic conversion to disarmament sufficiently takes into account the unique magnitude of the required adjustments it would entail.
2. Proposals to transform arms production into a beneficent scheme of public works are more the products of wishful thinking than of realistic understanding of the limits of our existing economic system.
3. Fiscal and monetary measures are inadequate as controls for the process of transition to an arms-free economy.
4. Insufficient attention has been paid to the political acceptability of the objectives of the proposed conversion models, as well as of the political means to be employed in effectuating a transition.
5. No serious consideration has been given, in any proposed conversion plan, to the fundamental nonmilitary function of war and armaments in modern society, nor has any explicit attempt been made to devise a viable substitute for it. This criticism will be developed in sections 5 and 6.

(end part two)


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