Leon Wieseltier’s little book, Nuclear War, Nuclear Peace: “is an expanded and slightly altered version of an essay published in The New Republic magazine” (publisher’s note) in January 1983. A historian of medieval Jewish history, Wieseltier has tried to understand the nuclear debate and to argue for a reasonable nuclear policy. His very thoughtful essay combines a realistic view of the Soviet threat with a profound sense of our moral responsibility to avoid nuclear destruction. He follows no ideology but tries to make sense of the arguments from both the right and the left to find a middle ground consistent with careful thought and a high sense of ethics. He argues that “there is no contradiction between anti-communism rightly considered and arms control rightly considered.” He attempts to discuss what such) “right considerations” must be, dealing with the “relationship of national security policy to foreign policy, of the military strategy of the United States to its moral and political ends” (x).
Wieseltier begins, after a short introduction, by discussing the peace movement in the United States and Europe. His exposition of the philosophical weaknesses of its extreme positions is especially lucid and cogent. He argues that “the hatred of all things military is finally a sign that you do not believe in what you are, that you do not believe that you have something to lose” (27). “To be antinuclear, then, is not to be antimilitary. Nor is it to be anti-American” (28).