Is there a way to effectively deter a Soviet attack without the threat of retribution? As we see in Dr. Strangelove and the circumstances of the Cold War, it appears that if either party discontinued its pursuit of arms or renounced forceful retaliation plans the opponent would immediately have an advantage and an incentive to attack. In the article “Nuclear Arms as a Philosophical and Moral Issue” author Robert Churchill addresses that issue, closely examining the ethical implications of retaliation and alternatives. Harming the innocent, including not protecting them if an attack is suspect, is central to the morality issue, according to Churchill. While considering whether to abandon retributive plans a country must also contemplate whether doing so would invite an attack upon its civilians by the other country. Here arise questions of human nature.
As evidenced by the Cold War, the common mentality is to assume that countries will not cooperate. Immediately individuals assume that the other nation is an opponent or adversary and means harm. In Dr. Strangelove the deranged general, certain the Russians plotted to fluoridate US drinking water, embodied the paranoid mindset. Such suspicious attitudes only strengthen the distrust between countries. The situation is essentially a catch 22. Once one country starts amassing weapons the other must do so to avoid attack, and if one stops producing weapons it risks being attacked. Both countries would benefit from abandoning their programs, but neither can.
The issue seems to rest on the perception of human nature. Through cooperation both countries could direct resources elsewhere and avoid the anxiety of nuclear competition. The success of disarmament lies in the balance of whether the two could successful exist without challenging each other.