Home > Uncategorized > C.P. Snow: Even if moral judgments are left out, it’s unthinkable to drop the bomb

C.P. Snow: Even if moral judgments are left out, it’s unthinkable to drop the bomb


Anti-war essays, poems, short stories and literary excerpts

C.P. Snow: Selections on war


C.P. Snow
From The New Men (1954)


The typescript was faded, in the margin were some corrections in a high, thin, Italian hand. Much of the argument was in mathematical symbols, but, after twenty pages of calculation, some conclusions were set out in double spacing, in the military jargon of the day, with phrases like ‘casualisation’, ‘ground zero’, severe destruction.

These conclusions meant that, in one explosion over the centre of a town, about 300,000 people would be killed instantly, and a similar number would later die of injuries…

Anyone who worked on the inside of scientific war saw such documents. And most men took it as part of the day-by-day routine, without emotion; it had to be done, if you were living in society, if you were one ant in the anthill…


“You can’t expect decency from any collection of people with power in their hands, but surely you can expect a modicum of sense.”

“Have we seen much of that?” I asked.

“They can’t drop the bomb.”

The car drove on, past the unshaded fields. Francis went on to say that, even if we left moral judgments out, even then it was unthinkable for a sensible man to drop the bomb. Non-scientists never understood, he said, for how short a time you could keep a technical lead. Within five years any major country could make these bombs for itself. If we dropped them first –

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