Sherman Kent on Proliferation

A friend pointed out “this Sherman Kent piece”: to me recently.

The whole thing is really worth reading….this is one of my favorite parts:

bq.. How fertile the human mind in devising ways of delaying if not avoiding the moment of decision! How rich the spoken language in its vocabulary of issue-ducking! “I have a sneaker that . . . ,” “I’d drop dead of surprise if . . .”–expressions with sound but upon reflection almost without meaning. How much conviction, for example, do you have to have before you become possessed of a sneaker; *how much of the unexpected does it take to cause your heart to fail?*

p. This passage is perhaps the most relevant to proliferation:

bq.. Some years back we were obliged by force majeur to compose some tables *setting forth how the Blanks might divide up an all-but-undreamed-of stockpile of fissionable material among an as-yet-unborn family of weapons.* There were of course the appropriate passages of verbal warning, and then, on the chance that the numerical tables should become physically separated from the warning, the tables were overprinted in red, “This table is based on assumptions stated in . . . . Moreover, it should not be used for any purpose whatever without inclusion, in full, of the cautionary material in . . . .” More recently we have issued a document which not only began with a fulsome caveat but was set off by a format and color of paper that were new departures.

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