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Alito Wrote About Nukes At Princeton

The opinions of Samuel Alito (search) on abortion, privacy and other contentious issues have been dissected for clues on how he might rule on the Supreme Court. But what do his views on nuclear weapons say?

During his college days at Princeton in the early 1970s, Alito wrote a 70-page report titled, "The MIRV Problem," that reflected the impressions of a student who grew up during the Cold War (search) fearing the devastating capability of the Soviet Union's nuclear arsenal.

"The continuation of 'peaceful co-existence' with all its anxieties and dangers is probably preferable to the loss of Moscow or New York City," Alito wrote.

The Ivy League student said the United States must continue to adhere to the doctrine of mutual assured destruction, the policy set forth by Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara (search) that says full-blown use of nuclear weapons by one side would result in the total destruction of both sides.

Alito expressed the hope that the danger and instability posed by the weapons would be reduced.

"Both nations have massive second-strike capabilities, i.e., they can absorb a surprise enemy attack and retaliate with sufficient force to destroy the attacking country. Neither side, therefore, has any incentive, even in times of crisis, to strike the other country first," he said.

One solution, he said, would be to limit the size of warheads to prevent "high-kill probability" ones from being developed. Alito also supported inspections to determine the size and number of an enemy's weapons, not very different from President Reagan's "trust, but verify" argument.

"Surely a paper bargain would not discourage a superpower hell-bent on developing a first strike," he wrote.

MIRV refers to multiple independently targetable re-entry vehicles, which are intercontinental ballistic missiles with several warheads, each of which could be directed to a different target.

Since Alito graduated from Princeton in 1972, the United States and the former Soviet Union (search) have signed arms control agreements that have reduced the number of nuclear weapons.