An Arms Race is a Hall of Mirrors

But [Enrico] Fermi and [Isidor Isaac] Rabi also condemned their friend Edward Teller’s Super [hydrogen bomb design] in the strongest language that appears anywhere in the nine pages of the GAC [General Advisory Committee] report. “Necessarily such a weapon goes far beyond any military objective and enters the range of the very great natural catastrophes. By its very nature it cannot be confined to a military objective but becomes a weapon which in practical effect is almost one of genocide. “It is clear that the use of such a weapon cannot be justified on any ethical ground which gives a …

The Traditional and Instinctive Russian Sense of Insecurity

There were few places on earth less pleasant in winter than the Soviet capital; [US Ambassador to the Soviet Union George] Kennan calls the time [spent sick] “these unhappy days,” and associates his five-part telegram with “an eighteenth-century Protestant sermon.” For a year and a half, he wrote thirty years later, still exasperated, “I had done little else but pluck people’s sleeves, trying to make them understand the nature of the phenomenon with which we in the Moscow embassy were daily confronted and which our government and people had to learn to understand if they were to have any chance …

Why Should He Presume He Could Fix the World?

If the atomic bomb had shocked the Japanese, it had also shocked America. Materializing from secrecy to such conquering effect, it seemed a mysterious and almost supernatural force. It was a new fact dropped into the world- “a new understanding of man, which man had acquired over nature,” as I. I. Rabi called the first explosion at Trinity- and no one at first knew quite what to do with it. The discovery of how to release nuclear energy was a technological revolution, most of all a revolution in war; like all revolutions, its meaning would not necessarily accord with hopes …