Letter from Joshua Sussman to Marshall W. Nirenberg
Nirenberg often received letters on subjects that were not directly related to his scientific expertise. In this letter,
Joshua Sussman, a 17 year old cadet at the Missouri Military Academy asks Nirenberg for his opinions on the necessity of war
and whether or not it is preventable. Sussman hopes that Nirenberg will be able to settle a dispute between he and his father.
He asks, "Is Dad right by saying there will always be wars or am I right by my conviction that animosities between countries
can be negotiated?"
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Nirenberg, Marshall W.
Reproduced with permission of Joshua Sussman.
Beyond the Laboratory: Professional, Personal, and Political Life, 1967-2002
I am a 17 year old cadet at the Missouri Military Academy in Mexico, Missouri.
I'm writing to you as a matter of great importance to both my dad and myself.
My dad is an ardent student of history. His being an invalid has created the need for other outlets. History is his primary
interest. Many evenings the two of us sit and discuss historical events. At times we disagree.
I know of Dad's admiration for you and I thought you might help settle an argument that we have pursued over a year now.
I am of the belief that wars have failed as an extension of national politics. I believe that differences between countries
can be solved by diplomacy. I believe that massive killings of armies and civilians has created a dangerous precedent that
may ultimately lead to the destruction of mankind! What is the answer when wars no longer work? How can we solve conflict
My dad feels that there will ALWAYS be wars because of historical differences in language, boundaries, religious beliefs,
population explosions, etc. He believes that strength comes from military preparedness. Yet, General Douglas McArthur,
one of our nation's greatest generals and strategists, in a speech given to the American Legion in St. Louis in 1955 said,
"The next great advance in the evolution of civilization cannot take place until war is abolished."
What are your thoughts? Is Dad right by saying there will always be wars or am I right by my conviction that animosities
between countries can be negotiated?
We both would value your opinion and would be most grateful for your kindest help!