The bright side of the USA-USSR nuclear arms race
This article was originally written at 1987 Dec 13 and published in the Physics discussion list. The only modification made to it was inclusion of reference to a Sci-Fi book which has a related theme.
Concerning the recent arms-limitation treaty between USA and USSR:
A point of view which could be adopted by a science fiction author (and a related point of view was indeed adopted by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle in their book "Footfall", published by Sphere Books Limited, Copyright © 1985, ISBN 0-7221-6339-8) is that it was very fortunate for Earth people to have had this kind of arms race.
If we assume that mankind is not alone in space, it is possible that there are warrior/enslaving races out in space. Should such a race have interest in conquering Earth, Earth would have been totally helpless against their presumably superior technology.
However, thanks to the arms race, mankind has in its disposal the materials and technology which allow Earth to be not-so-helpless against an invasion from space. Even technologically superior invasion force may find it hard to win against a planet which has tons and tons of plutonium in its inventories.
This stockpile wouldn't have been accumulated otherwise because of the shortsightedness of politicians who need to cater to the here and now rather than provide also for such remote possibilities as invasion from space.
As practical matter, I suggest that the American and Soviet sides consider converting their nuclear arsenal into one which is suitable for fighting invasion from space (the controversial star wars program fits in, too). It would probably require stronger rockets than the ones presently available. Such arsenal would be suitable also for mutual deterring, a function which is regrettably necessary and can't be done away with (lest we all would be in the mercy of a tyrant who manages to put his hand on nuclear weapons arsenal).