The Nature of the Scare

  • Philip A. G. Sabin


In the early 1970s, little seems to have been further from people’s minds than the possibility of a Third World War. The few opinion polls which were taken on the subject reveal a lower level of anxiety than at any time since 1945.1 This complacency was understandable. The Vietnam conflict was drawing to a close, and President Nixon went so far as to say that, ‘I seriously doubt if we will ever have another war. This is probably the very last one.’2 Negotiations between East and West flourished, producing major deals such as the 1972 Strategic Arms Limitation Agreement and the 1975 Helsinki Accords on European Security. Britain’s Prime Minister spoke of a halcyon era in overseas relations, and strategic commentator Alastair Buchan drew parallels with ‘la belle epoque’ and with the Peace of Westphalia.3 The prevailing optimism was well expressed in the following passage by Michael Howard:

Today we are living in an age of peace which is quite unprecedented, first in the length of time it has lasted — some 20 years or more — and secondly in intensity; in the degree to which people feel that there will not be another major war. The existence of nuclear weapons, the perception that any major conflict will be nuclear and therefore inconceivable and intolerable, and the determination not to conceive of it or tolerate it — this is something almost totally new in intellectual history.4


Nuclear Weapon Opinion Poll Civil Defence Strategic Situation Defence Establishment 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Notes and References

  1. 14.
    J. Hackett, ‘Defining the True Purpose of NATO: What should be understood’, The Times, 6 February 1968.Google Scholar
  2. 19.
    Lord Chalfont, ‘Obsolete Strategy that keeps five million men under arms’, The Times, 19 August 1974.Google Scholar
  3. 22.
    See, for example, E. F. Gueritz, ‘Don’t put off until tomorrow’, RUSI Journal, December 1978.Google Scholar
  4. 26.
    See P. Wright, ‘Why does nobody recognize the growing nuclear peril?’, The Times, 6 August 1975.Google Scholar
  5. 27.
    See B. T. Feld, ‘The hands move closer to midnight’, BOAS, January 1980.Google Scholar
  6. 52.
    See Marshall (1982) and D. L. Tucker, Will your Pet survive?, Protect and Survive Monthly, May 1982.Google Scholar
  7. 66.
    B. T. Feld, The Times, 24 October 1974.Google Scholar
  8. 122.
    R. Butt, ‘Will the Russians win without a shot?’, The Times, 29 January 1976.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Philip A. G. Sabin 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip A. G. Sabin
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.King’s CollegeLondonUK
  2. 2.International Institute for StrategicLondonUK

Personalised recommendations