"The decisive assaults upon
mankind now proceed from the drawing boards and the laboratory."
Alfred Doblin - October 1919
It certainly surpasses the imagination of anyone to
survey the consequences of the project in years to come, where, in the
long run, the enormous energy sources which will be available may be
expected to revolutionize industry and transport. The fact of
immediate preponderance is, however, that a weapon of an unparalleled
power is being created which will completely change all future
conditions of warfare.
Quite apart from the question of how soon the weapon
will be ready for use and what role it may play in the present war,
this situation raises a number of problems which call for the most
urgent attention. Unless, indeed, some agreement about the
control of the use of the new active materials can be obtained in due
time, any temporary advantage, however great, may be outweighed by a
perpetual menace to human security.
Ever since the possibilities of releasing atomic
energy on a vast scale came in sight, much thought has naturally been
given to the question of control, but the further the exploration of
the scientific problems concerned is proceeding, the clearer it
becomes that no kind of customary measures will suffice for this
purpose, and that the terrifying prospect of a future competition
between nations about a weapon of such formidable character can only
be avoided through a universal agreement in true confidence.
In this connection it is particularly significant
that the enterprise, immense as it is, has still proved far smaller
than might have been anticipated, and that the progress of the work
has continually revealed new possibilities for facilitating the
production of the active materials and of intensifying their efforts.
The prevention of a competition prepared in secrecy
will therefore demand such concessions regarding exchange of
information and openness about industrial efforts, including military
preparations, as would hardly be conceivable unless all partners were
assured of a compensating guarantee of common security against dangers
of unprecedented acuteness.
The establishment of effective control measures will
of course involve intricate technical and administrative problems, but
the main point of the argument is that the accomplishment of the
project would not only seem to necessitate but should also, due to the
urgency of mutual confidence, facilitate a new approach to the
problems of international relationship.
The present moment where almost all nations are
entangled in a deadly struggle for freedom and humanity might, at
first sight, seem most unsuited for any committing arrangement
concerning the project. Not only have the aggressive powers
still great military strength, although their original plans of world
domination have been frustrated and it seems certain that they must
ultimately surrender, but even when this happens, the nations united
against aggression may face grave causes of disagreement due to
conflicting attitudes toward social and economic problems.
A closer consideration, however, would indicate that
the potentialities of the project as a means of inspiring confidence
under these very circumstances acquire real importance.
Moreover, the present situation affords unique possibilities which
might be forfeited by a postponement awaiting the further development
of the war situation and the final completion of the new weapon.
In view of these eventualities the present situation
appears to offer a most favorable opportunity for an early initiative
from the side which by good fortune has achieved a lead in the efforts
of mastering mighty forces of nature hitherto beyond human reach.
Without impeding the immediate military objectives,
an initiative, aiming at forestalling a fateful competition, should
serve to uproot any cause of distrust between the powers on whose
harmonious collaboration the fate of coming generations will depend.
Indeed, it would appear that only when the question
is raised among the united nations as to what concessions the various
powers are prepared to make as their contribution to an adequate
control arrangement, will it be possible for any one of the partners
to assure himself of the sincerity of the intentions of the others.
Of course, the responsible statesmen alone can have
insight as to the actual political possibilities. It would,
however, seem most fortunate that the expectations for a future
harmonious international co-operation, which have found unanimous
expressions from all sides within the united nations, so remarkably
correspond to the unique opportunities which, unknown to the public,
have been created by the advancement of science.
Many reasons, indeed, would seem to justify the
conviction that an approach with the object of establishing common
security from ominous menaces, without excluding any nation from
participating in the promising industrial development which the
accomplishment of the project entails, will be welcomed, and be met
with loyal co-operation in the enforcement of the necessary
far-reaching control measures.
It is in such respects that helpful support may
perhaps be afforded by the world-wide scientific collaboration which
for years has embodied such bright promises for common human
striving. Personal connections between scientists of different
nations might even offer means of establishing preliminary and
It need hardly be added that any such remark or
suggestion implies no underrating of the difficulty and delicacy of
the steps to be taken by the statesmen in order to obtain an
arrangement satisfactory to all concerned, but aims only at pointing
to some aspects of the situation which might facilitate endeavors to
turn the project to the lasting benefit of the common cause.
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