What policies a society should adopt for its nuclear weapons is a profoundly moral question. But it is not the same sort of moral question that confronts an individual who must make particular choices in the decisions in his daily life. What is right and wrong for a society constitutes a different inquiry from the questions of right and wrong for the individual. Few of us deny that to preserve its national security in a war, a society may legitimately destroy enemy targets in the course of which it will kill unarmed persons; indeed that society may authorize individuals to do the killing who, were they acting simply on their own behalf, it would try for murder. In a democracy, the citizen faces two questions: what ought I authorize my society to do on its behalf (which includes, but is scarcely limited to, its responsibility to protect me)? What ought Ito do-or refuse to do-to discharge my own responsibilities (which are not limited to considerations on my own behalf but which include my duty to protect my society)? What these questions have in common in any particular instance is that they demand that we understand the factual context of such choices. For there is no moral question of any significance that is not fact-drenched and no ‘facts’ of any importance that are not inextricably embedded in particular ways of looking at the world.


Nuclear Weapon Extended Theatre Moral Question Nuclear Deterrence Nuclear Threat 
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Notes and References

  1. 2.
    Earl C. Ravenal, ‘Counterforce and Alliance: The Ultimate Connection,’ International Security 6 (Spring 1982), pp. 26–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 3.
    D. J. Alberts, The Role of Conventional Air Power, Adelphi Paper no. 193 (London: The International Institute for Strategic Studies, 1984), p. 1.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Flora Lewis, ‘Strategy Analysts and The Common Man,’ International Herald Tribune, 15 September 1982.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Stanley Hoffmann, ‘NATO and Nuclear Weapons: Reasons and Unreason,’ Foreign Affairs 60 (Winter 1981–2), pp. 333–4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Philip Bobbitt 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip Bobbitt
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.University of TexasUSA
  2. 2.OxfordUK

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