Indefensible Weapons: The Political and Psychological Case against Nuclearism


301 pages
ISBN 0-88794-108-7





Reviewed by E.T. Sharp

E.T. Sharp specialized in military history and disarmament and lived in Toronto.


Indefensible Weapons is an attempt to show that the dangers of the nuclear arms race go beyond the threat of racial extinction. Robert Jay Lifton, a prominent American psychiatrist, and Richard Falk, a Princeton law professor, describe the political and emotional cost of deterrence, a cost almost as destructive as the physical damage of the war it prevents. Lifton’s section of the book is an expanded version of the 1982 Massey Lectures in which he examines the price we pay by repressing the knowledge of nuclear weapons. Lifton worked extensively with survivors of Hiroshima and from their experiences he has developed a larger model of the human reaction to extreme but intangible danger.

Falk attempts to trace the political cost of nuclearism, both internationally and domestically. He sees the present nuclear dilemma as being rooted in the earliest developments of nuclear weapons. The American government felt, and to a certain extent still feels, that its nuclear superiority was a tangible strategic asset that could be and was used to further American policy. This sense of nuclear weapons as a legitimate alternative remains a part of American strategic thought to this day. The corollary to use of weapons abroad was increased security and secrecy in the domestic establishment, undermining the democratic political system of the country. This book offers a lucid and thought-provoking view of the price that nuclearism has exacted from our society.


Lifton, Robert Jay, and Richard Falk, “Indefensible Weapons: The Political and Psychological Case against Nuclearism,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 19, 2024,