Michael KreponNaysayers and Defenders of Arms Control

Our son has introduced me to Drive By Truckers – a great band, but I’d be disinclined to rent them hotel rooms. My new favorite lyric (the song is Marry Me, in Decoration Day) is “Just cause I don’t run my mouth don’t mean I got nothing to say.” Those who trash and defend arms control have plenty to say. This collection of shoe box quotes is extremely selective. Feel free to add.

Arms control is an unnatural act.

— Paul Warnke

[The creation of ACDA] would be almost an ideal place for subversives to attempt to infiltrate… it seems clear to me that this is going to be a Mecca for a wide variety of screwballs… It would be a great pity to have this Agency launched and shortly become known as a sort of bureau for beatniks.

— Robert A. Lovett

If we have to start over again with another Adam and Eve, then I want them to be Americans and not Russians.”

— Senator Richard Russell

It’s not hard to block an arms control agreement – they’re hard to get even when everyone is trying.”

— Paul Warnke

The greatest hope for progress toward mutual arms security lies in the technological-military competition itself, and in mutual, informal arrangements for the unveiling of military secrets.

— Robert Strauss Hupé

Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate.

— John F. Kennedy

Having lacked the courage to denounce disarmament from the beginning as the surest road to war, the West must now seek ways and means to escape international censure for being reluctant to commit suicide.

— Barron’s National Business and Financial Weekly

\I assert that for the first time in human history, the failure to agree to a sane, effective and righteous control of weapons of war constitutes in and of itself an act of aggression.”

— Senator Brien McMahon

Arms control has been an infectious disease for many years longer than has AIDS, and like AIDS, it has no cure.

— Seymour Weiss

“What underlies these over-reactions and technological excesses? The answer is very largely patriotic zeal, exaggerated prudence, and a sort of religious faith in technology. Malice, greed, and lust for power are not the main sources of our trouble. In a way, that’s too bad: if evil men were the progenitors of these dangerous errors we could expose them and root them out and all would be well.

— Herbert York


  1. Lurking Observer (History)

    I think it would be rather enlightening to hear what the Soviets (and Chinese) might have had to say about arms control.

    Especially now that we have access to Soviet archives, I’m surprised that there hasn’t been a closer look at who our negotiating counterparts were, how their programs meshed w/ their negotiating positions, and what their unbowdlerized view of arms control might have been.

  2. Andrew Tubbiolo (History)

    In peace time arms posturing is just part of the process of international relations. To exclude arms controls from that process is to miss half the game. I submit the past 8 years as of Dec 2009 and 1983-1992 as counter examples of arm->negotiate->control-arms vs arm and let arms speak for themselves. The gap in outcomes is staggering.

  3. Matt Hoey (History)

    The Herbert York quote is absolutely brilliant. Thank you for sharing it Michael.

  4. David E. Hoffman

    I found some pretty interesting examples of what the Soviets thought in the research for my new book, “The Dead Hand: The Untold Story of the Cold War Arms Race and Its Dangerous Legacy” (Doubleday.) The Soviets willfully violated the BWC with its lack of enforcement mechanism, and created a secret offensive biological weapons program, but when the CWC was being negotiated, they took seriously the threat of onsite inspections that could reveal their BW program. I found the handwritten notes and other documents (attendance sheet, agenda) from a July, 1989 Kremlin meeting where Shevardnadze, Zaikov and others discussed the prospect of intrusive inspections—they feared their germ warfare labs could be found out if the CWC mandatory challenge inspections came about. At one point in the meeting, Shevardnadze, who had endorsed the surprise inspections provision at Geneva, warned his colleagues: “There will be a convention in a year’s time—any enterprise will be under verification.” The CWC didn’t come into force until a few years later, but this is interesting evidence of how they took inspections seriously, and it comes from original materials, the Katayev collection.

  5. John B. Sheldon (History)

    Michael, I always had you tagged as something of a hipster, but the Drive-By Truckers? I’m impressed! They are the best thing to come out of Alabama since … since … oh, I give up. Cheers from Alabammy.

  6. MK (History)

    Great to hear from you. Have you seen the movie Moon yet?
    I blog on nukes; our son blogs on indy bands. Without his timely intervention, I’d still be listening to Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.

  7. Azr@el (History)

    “The objective of nuclear-weapons policy should not be solely to decrease the number of weapons in the world, but to make the world safer – which is not necessarily the same thing. “

    -Herman Kahn

  8. Yale Simkin (History)

    This arms race is symbolic of a perverted world where the possession of nuclear weapons is taken as a sign that a country is important and should be listened to. Instead I believe we must create an international atmosphere where the possession of nuclear weapons is a cause for embarrassment and shame — rather than for power and prestige. – Herbert Scoville