Social Scientist. v 10, no. 105 (Feb 1982) p. 18.

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Neutron Bomb: The American Dream and Global Nightmare

THE Reagan Administration decided in August 1981 to start the production of the neutron bomb. The weapon would soon be ready for deployment in Europe. It was perhaps meaningful that the announcement coincided with the anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima. The decision, which makes a nuclear war more likely, has caused consternation and outrage in Europe and roused the fears of a "Euroshima". And the debate on the neutron bomb has been renewed. In 1977-78, President Carter had mooted the idea of placing neutron weapons in Western Europe. The upsurge of popular protest against these weapons forced Carter to retreat by ordering a deferment of the production of the bomb. He, however, allowed the production of neutron bomb components from October 1978! Thus the bomb has been in production for three years and Reagan's decision is only the latest phase in the long history of its development.

However, Reagan's decision acquires a sinister significance, given the rapid deterioration in the world political situation resulting mainly from the aggressive and conforntationist US global policy. This move towards a revival of cold war hysterics began in the latter part of Carter's reign. The United States sought to project that it was the Soviet intervention in Afghanistan which marked the erosion of detente and the rise in tensions. But the roots of the new cold war are deeper and precede the Afghanistan crisis. The deepening economic crisis in the West, the growth of militarism in Western economies, the resurgence of the "new right" in the US, the Westren perception of their decline in the post-Vietnam and post-oil crisis eraŚ all these were before Afghanistan became an isssue in international politics. The American failure to ratify SALT-11 (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty-11), its decision to introduce a new generation of nuclear weapons in Europe, the "three percent" solution (of increasing NATO countries' defence expenditures annually by 3 per cent in real terms), the creation of a Rapid Deployment Force for intervention

* Research Associate at the National Institute of Science, Technology and Development Studies (NISTADS), Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), New Delhi.

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