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The Latest: Kim 1st NKorean ruler to directly address world

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on September 25, 2017 at 2:02 am

SEPTEMBER 21, 2017 11:01 PM

SEOUL, SOUTH KOREA
The Latest on North Korea’s nuclear program (all times local):

11:40 a.m.

South Korea says Kim Jong Un’s rebuke against U.S. President Donald Trump marked the first time a North Korean leader directly issued a statement to the international community under his name.

Seoul’s Unification Ministry said Friday neither of the two men who ruled North Korea before Kim Jong Un — his father, Kim Jong Il, and his grandfather and national founder Kim Il Sung — issued any similar statement.

 

Ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun says North Korea should stop provocations that would “lead to its own isolation and demise.”

___

11:20 a.m.

South Korea calls North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s direct rebuke of President Donald Trump a “reckless provocation” that would deepen his country’s international isolation and lead to its demise.

South Korea’s Unification Ministry spokesman Baik Tae-hyun told reporters Friday that North Korea must immediately stop such a provocation and return to talks on its nuclear disarmament.

Earlier Friday, Kim issued a rare statement calling Trump “deranged” and said he will “pay dearly” for his threats to destroy North Korea.

During his speech before the U.N. General Assembly earlier this week, Trump vowed to “totally destroy North Korea” if provoked.

___

10:15 a.m.

South Korean media report North Korea’s top diplomat says his country may test a hydrogen bomb in the Pacific Ocean to fulfill leader Kim Jong Un’s vow to take the “highest-level” action against the United States.

Foreign Minister Ri Yong Ho comments Thursday on the sidelines of a United Nations gathering followed an extraordinary direct statement by Kim in response to President Donald Trump’s threat to “totally destroy” North Korea.

South Korea’s Yonhap news agency reports that Ri told reporters in New York that a response “could be the most powerful detonation of an H-bomb in the Pacific.”

Ri reportedly added that “We have no idea about what actions could be taken as it will be ordered by leader Kim Jong Un.”

Such a test would be considered a major provocation by Washington and its allies.

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Threats of Total Destruction Are Unlawful and Extremely Dangerous; Direct Diplomacy between the United States and North Korea Is Essential to Avert Disaster

In Democracy, Nonviolence, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on September 23, 2017 at 9:45 am

Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy and Western States Legal Foundation
September 22, 2017

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”
– President Donald Trump, speech at United Nations, September 19, 2017

President Trump’s threat of total destruction of North Korea is utterly unacceptable. Also unacceptable are similarly threatening statements made in pieces carried by North Korea’s state-owned news agency. Instead of making apocalyptic threats, the two governments should agree on a non-aggression pact as a step toward finally concluding a peace treaty formally ending the 1950s Korean War and permanently denuclearizing the Korean peninsula.

The U.S. and North Korean threats are wrong as a matter of morality and common sense. They are also completely contrary to bedrock requirements of international law – law which is part of the law of the land under the U.S. Constitution. Both countries, by engaging in a cycle of threats and military posturing, violate prohibitions on the threat of force to resolve disputes and on threats to use force outside the bounds of the law of armed conflict. Trump’s threats carry more weight because the armed forces of the United States, capped by its immense nuclear arsenal, could accomplish the destruction of North Korea in short order.

Threats of total destruction negate the fundamental principle that the right to choose methods and means of warfare is not unlimited:
Under the law of armed conflict, military operations must be necessary for and proportionate to the achievement of legitimate military objectives, and must not be indiscriminate or cause unnecessary suffering. Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions prohibits threatening an adversary that there will be no survivors or conducting hostilities on that basis. The Nuremberg Tribunal found the Nazi concept of “total war” to be unlawful because it runs contrary to all the rules of warfare and the moral principles underlying them, creating a climate in which “rules, regulations, assurances, and treaties all alike are of no moment” and “everything is made subordinate to the overmastering dictates of war.”
Conducting a war with the intention of destroying an entire country would contravene the Genocide Convention, which prohibits killing “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group ….”
Limits on the conduct of warfare apply to both aggressor and defender states. Thus Trump’s statement that total destruction would be inflicted in defense of the United States and its allies is no justification. Moreover, the U.S. doctrine permitting preventive war, carried out in the illegal 2003 invasion of Iraq, means that Trump’s reference to “defense” does not necessarily rule out U.S. military action in the absence of a North Korean attack or imminent attack.
North Korea has explicitly threatened use of nuclear weapons. While the United States likely would not use nuclear weapons first in the Korean setting, it remains true that Trump’s references to “fire and fury” and “total destruction” raise the specter of U.S. employment of nuclear weapons. Nuclear weapons cannot be used in compliance with the law of armed conflict, above all the requirement of discrimination, as the recently adopted Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons recognizes. Threats of use of nuclear weapons are likewise unlawful. The illegal character of the threat or use of nuclear weapons is especially egregious where the express intent is to “totally destroy” an adversary, a purpose that from the outset rules out limiting use of force to the proportionate and necessary.
U.S. and North Korean threats of war are also unlawful because military action of any kind is not justified. The UN Charter prohibits the threat or use of force except in self-defense against an armed attack or subject to UN Security Council authorization:
Article 51 of the UN Charter permits the use of force as a matter of self-defense only in response to an armed attack. No armed attack by either side has occurred or is imminent.
The Security Council is addressing the matter and has not authorized use of force. Its most recent resolution imposing further sanctions on North Korea was adopted pursuant to UN Charter Article 41, which provides for measures not involving the use of force. There is no indication whatever in that and preceding resolutions of an authorization of use of force. Moreover, the resolution emphasizes the need for a peaceful resolution of the dispute with North Korea. That approach is mandated by the UN Charter, whose Article 2(3) requires all members to “settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.”
It is urgent that diplomatic overtures replace threats. In the nuclear age, the first principle of diplomacy should be that adversaries talk to each other to the maximum possible extent, and in moments of crisis directly and unconditionally. We learned during the Cold War that even when the prospects for any tangible progress seem dim, negotiations between nuclear-armed adversaries have other positive results. They allow the military and political leaderships of the adversaries to better understand each other’s intentions, and their fears. They build broader channels of communication between military and government bureaucracies that can be of tremendous value when tensions rise.

Accordingly, the United States should declare itself ready and willing to engage in direct talks with North Korea, and a commitment to denuclearization should not be a precondition for such talks. To facilitate negotiations, the United States and South Korea should immediately cease large-scale military exercises in the region, providing North Korea with an opportunity to reciprocate by freezing its nuclear-related testing activities. The immediate aim of negotiations should be a non-aggression pact, as a step toward a comprehensive peace treaty bringing permanent closure to the Korean War and providing for a nuclear-weapon-free Korean peninsula. Success in denuclearizing the Korean peninsula will be much more likely if the United States, Russia, China and other nuclear-armed states also engage, as they are obligated to do, in negotiations for a world free of nuclear weapons.

51 countries line up to sign UN treaty outlawing nuclear weapons

In Democracy, Drones, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on September 22, 2017 at 6:02 am

Channel News Asia, September 21, 2017

UNITED NATIONS: With the North Korean nuclear crisis looming large, 51 countries on Wednesday (Sep 20) lined up to sign a new treaty outlawing nuclear weapons that has been fiercely opposed by the United States and other nuclear powers.

The treaty was adopted by 122 countries at the United Nations in July following negotiations led by Austria, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa and New Zealand.

None of the nine countries that possess nuclear weapons – the United States, Russia, Britain, China, France, India, Pakistan, North Korea and Israel – took part in the negotiations.

NATO condemned the treaty, saying that it may in fact be counter-productive by creating divisions.

As leaders formally signed on the sidelines of the annual UN General Assembly, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres hailed as historic the first multilateral disarmament treaty in more than two decades.

But Guterres acknowledged that much work was needed to rid the world of its stockpile of 15,000 atomic warheads.

“Today we rightfully celebrate a milestone. Now we must continue along the hard road towards the elimination of nuclear arsenals,” said Guterres.

The treaty will enter into force when 50 countries have signed and ratified it, a process that could take months or years.

“At a time when the world needs to remain united in the face of growing threats, in particular the grave threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear programme, the treaty fails to take into account these urgent security challenges,” the 29-nation Western alliance said.

It added: “Seeking to ban nuclear weapons through a treaty that will not engage any state actually possessing nuclear weapons will not be effective, will not reduce nuclear arsenals, and will neither enhance any country’s security, nor international peace and stability.

REJECTING NEED FOR NUCLEAR WEAPONS

Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz of Austria, one of the few Western European nations that is not in NATO, rejected the idea that nuclear weapons were indispensable for security.

“If you look at the world’s current challenges, this narrative is not only false, it is dangerous,” he told AFP.

“The new treaty on the prohibition on nuclear weapons provides a real alternative for security: a world without any nuclear weapons, where everyone is safer, where no one needs to possess these weapons,” he said.

Brazilian President Michel Temer was the first to sign the treaty. Others included South African President Jacob Zuma and representatives from Indonesia, Ireland and Malaysia as well as the Palestinian Authority and the Vatican.

But even Japan, the only nation to have suffered atomic attack and a longstanding advocate of abolishing nuclear weapons, boycotted the treaty negotiations.

Japan is a top target of North Korea, which has triggered global alarm over its rapidly progressing drive to develop nuclear weapons, following its sixth and most powerful nuclear test and the firing of two intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The signing ceremony came a day after President Donald Trump threatened to “totally destroy North Korea” if the United States is forced to defend itself or its allies Japan and South Korea.

Nuclear powers argue their arsenals serve as a deterrent against a nuclear attack and say they remain committed to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

That decades-old treaty seeks to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons. It recognises the right of five nations – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – to maintain them, while encouraging them to reduce their stockpiles.

Read more at http://www.channelnewsasia.com/news/world/51-countries-line-up-to-sign-un-treaty-outlawing-nuclear-weapons-9234648

A new hope for a nuclear free world – but where is the UK?

In Democracy, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on September 21, 2017 at 10:43 pm

REBECCA JOHNSON 21 September 2017
A new UN treaty could make nuclear sabre-rattling and boasts of a willingness to incinerate cities, as unacceptable as threats to use chemical and biological weapons.

Yesterday the UN Secretary-General António Guterres opened the 2017 Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) in New York. Heads of state and senior officials from over 40 countries lined up to sign the ground-breaking treaty on its first day. They represent billions of people from across the world, from Europe, Africa, Latin America and Asia-Pacific, including large countries that have given up nuclear weapons programmes, such as Brazil and South Africa.

More are listed to sign in the coming days. But not the UK – at least not yet!

The 2017 Nuclear Prohibition Treaty is the product of years of campaigning by thousands of civil society activists, scientists, doctors, diplomats, parliamentarians, and most of all from the courageous Hibakusha who survived the use and testing of nuclear weapons and have spent their lives raising awareness of the horrors and dangers.

This was not an arms control measure with counting rules, but a disarmament treaty driven by the imperative to prohibit and eliminate nuclear weapons because they are inhumane, abhorrent and unacceptable.

This treaty is the collective – and effective – revolt of nuclear have-nots, who overturned diplomatic assumptions and brought it to conclusion despite boycotts and opposition from nine heavily armed nuclear haves.

With nuclear free governments in the driving seat, this was also a treaty dreamed up and significantly led by women, including Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the Hiroshima bomb, and Costa Rica’s Ambassador Elayne Whyte Gomez, who steered the negotiations to fruition on 7 July.

As the governments began signing in New York, campaigners around the world organised celebrations of their own and called on their elected representatives to sign the Parliamentary Pledge for the Treaty, promoted by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), comprising over 460 organisations in 101 countries.

Theresa May didn’t put her name on the Treaty, but campaigners, MPs and MSPs in Edinburgh, London and Leeds met and read and put their own names and commitments to bring this UN disarmament Treaty into force.

Never say never

Every new disarmament treaty has been initially greeted with reluctance and opposition by the UK and others who possess, deploy and profit from the weapons that the majority of UN members have decided to ban.

Why? A combination of vested military-commercial interests and their tentacles in parliament and certain ministries, and – even more so – ‘business as usual’ establishment inertia.

Unsurprisingly, then, as soon as UN Member States concluded and adopted the treaty text on 7 July, the UK, France, and USA issued a joint declaration that they did “not intend to sign, ratify or ever become party” to it.

Once upon a time, such opposition from three permanent members of the UN Security Council might have deterred others from signing, but those days are gone. UN diplomats – who asked not to be named – called the “P-3” statement “pathetic”, pointing out that declaring a lifelong rejection of the UN’s multilateral nuclear disarmament treaty violates the legal commitment these three have made to pursue nuclear disarmament “in good faith”, as contained in Article 6 of the 1968 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

To date no other nuclear-armed state has issued this kind of public rejection of the 2017 Treaty. Moreover, history teaches that most if not all the states that oppose negotiations at the start will sign once a treaty is on the books.

Britain is a case in point, having opposed and then backed the 1993 Chemical Weapons Convention, the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty and the 2008 Cluster Munitions Convention.

Treaties like this stigmatise previously accepted weapons, removing any kind of legitimacy. Few nations want the pariah status that attaches to illegal and inhumane weapons and those who wield them.

So never say never in politics and diplomacy. Getting this treaty is the first step towards abolishing nuclear weapons. The challenge now is to make it work.

Time to stop holding the world to nuclear ransom

The treaty’s legitimacy is already established by the fact that it was multilaterally negotiated under UN rules that ensured equal rights of participation for all 193 Member states. It was the choice of Britain and a handful of nuclear armed states and their allies to boycott the process. Having wilfully stayed away, they haven’t got a leg to stand on now if they complain about the outcome.

The negotiating process was carefully considered. As with any treaty, this is a product of compromise, give and take. Overall, it has the potential to change the world and lift the nuclear sword of damocles from our heads.

This is a strong treaty, overwhelmingly adopted by 122 of those who negotiated, with only NATO member The Netherlands voting against. Singapore abstained. Judging from the list of leaders who have signed their countries up to the treaty his week, it should have no difficulty entering into force in the next few years.

It will carry on working for our security long after the UK, France and US have replaced their current leaders, signed the Treaty, and set themselves on the path to eliminating the dangerous and morally abhorrent arsenals of the nine remaining states holding the world to nuclear ransom.

What the 2017 Treaty says

The TPNW establishes prohibitions and obligations that are applicable to all. It outlaws the use, threat of use and possession of nuclear weapons. And it goes further, making it illegal for states parties to develop, test, manufacture, produce, stockpile and deploy nuclear weapons.

Member states are not permitted to station or install nuclear weapons on their territory, or to “assist, encourage or induce in any way, anyone to engage in any activity prohibited to a state party under this treaty”.

Other provisions lay out basic principles and pathways for how states that currently possess nuclear weapons or engage in nuclear alliances, policies and practices can join and implement the treaty. Essentially there are two routes: join and then implement, or implement first and then join. The UK and most of NATO would probably take route (a), in which they can sign or indicate their intention to join and then get agreement from the Treaty parties on the steps and timetable for complying fully, including eliminating existing weapons and programmes. By contrast, Israel is likely to prefer Route (b) when the time comes, as this is what South Africa did before it signed the NPT in 1992.

The TPNW establishes obligations to help victims of weapons use or testing and to carry out environmental remediation. It breaks new ground in arms control and disarmament by recognising the disproportionate harm nuclear weapons and testing have caused to indigenous people, especially women and girls.

Concerns about costs meant that the negotiators left many aspects of implementing the treaty to be decided at future meetings once the treaty has been ratified by at least 50 states and has therefore entered into full legal force.

Why the TPNW makes us safer

Nuclear threats and sabre rattling by Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un continue to drive fear, instability and proliferation. This reversion to cold war ‘deterrence’ doctrines is reviving fears that nuclear weapons could be used again. Nuclear deterrence is not some magical property attached to nuclear weapons. It is an inherently dangerous and unstable theory that requires the military capability, political will and overt “signalling” (threats) of a readiness to use nuclear weapons.

If exercises or signals that are meant to ramp up the message “I’m prepared, so don’t mess with me” go wrong, the consequences could be devastating. History shows us the risks – from the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis to the 1983 Able Archer miscalculation, with at least 13 such incidents exposed in a recent Chatham House report.

These dangers are inherent in nuclear deterrence, and exacerbated by weak or unstable leaders. The idea that someone could incinerate a whole city is terrifying. But as long as we legitimise the use of nuclear weapons for deterrence, we sustain the production, possession, deployment, threats and boasts that could far too easily lead to nuclear bombs being detonated again.

No-one is suggesting that the TPNW will bring about nuclear disarmament overnight. But the Treaty’s clear prohibitions on both the use and threat of use of nuclear weapons, as well as production, deployment, testing, and assisting in such acts will, however, consign these to pariah status, robbing them of status, funding and legitimacy in the world.

Last year, during the 18 July parliamentary debate on Trident, Theresa May felt it necessary to present herself as the kind of leader who is willing to launch nuclear missiles in the knowledge that hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians would be killed. In a few years, thanks to our Treaty, that kind of declaration would be as unthinkable as a British leader threatening or using chemical or biological weapons.

For most of the rest of the world, deterrence is incorporated into defence policies without requiring the capability or pathology to incinerate cities full of people. By making such threats illegal as well as morally abhorrent, the Treaty will reinforce a long-standing taboo that seems to have weakened in recent years.

For many years Britain and others have got away with proclaiming their commitment to multilateral disarmament and a world free of nuclear weapons while unilaterally modernising weapons in their arsenals. This treaty has called their bluff.

As many in the defence services already know, Trident is an expensive vanity project that has no credible role in British security or deterrence. But the politicians wanted it, so they went along with this expensive charade.

The Treaty makes nuclear weapons illegal. Even for states that don’t sign, this changes the legal and normative status of nuclear weapons and will make it harder for any government to get political and financial backing for their continued production, possession and deployment.

Lawyers will no doubt pore over every word, but it was clear from the negotiating record that relevant prohibitions in the treaty were intended to cover activities by people and institutions as well as governments. These will not only affect governments that give support through nuclear sharing and hosting arrangements among allies, but also companies that manufacture components for nuclear weapons. These prohibitions will undoubtedly make manufacturers and banks more nervous about continuing to invest in any aspect of nuclear weapons for fear of commercial and legal repercussions.

The 2017 Nuclear Prohibition Treaty now exists. Ignoring it won’t make it go away. Whether the UK likes it or not, its impact on UK nuclear and defence policy is likely to be profound.

Cancelling Trident is now question of when, not if. The sooner our politicians recognise this reality the sooner they can stop squandering billions of our money on four unnecessary “Dreadnought” submarines.

Donald Trump told the UN General Assembly on Tuesday: “If the righteous many don’t confront the wicked few, then evil will triumph.”

This was an unintended truth perhaps, but his words summed up how the 2017 Nuclear Prohibition Treaty was achieved – by the many nuclear free nations who confronted the nine governments that still want to retain the ability to threaten nuclear annihilation, and with this Treaty took responsibility to stop evil from triumphing.

About the author
Rebecca Johnson is director of the Acronym Institute for Disarmament Diplomacy, and a feminist peace activist. She is the Green Party spokesperson on security, peace and defence and serves with various nuclear and humanitarian organisations.

Stanislav Petrov, Soviet Officer Who Helped Avert Nuclear War, Is Dead at 77

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on September 19, 2017 at 12:59 am

By Sewell Chan, New York Times, Sept. 18, 2017

Early on the morning of Sept. 26, 1983, Stanislav Petrov helped prevent the outbreak of nuclear war.

A 44-year-old lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Air Defense Forces, he had begun his shift as the duty officer at Serpukhov-15, the secret command center outside Moscow where the Soviet military monitored its early-warning satellites over the United States, when alarms went off.

Computers warned that five Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles had been launched from an American base.

“For 15 seconds, we were in a state of shock,” he later recalled. “We needed to understand, ‘What’s next?’ ”

The alarm sounded during one of the tensest periods in the Cold War. Three weeks earlier, the Soviets had shot down a Korean Air Lines commercial flight after it crossed into Soviet airspace, killing all 269 people on board, including a congressman from Georgia. President Ronald Reagan had rejected calls for freezing the arms race, declaring the Soviet Union an “evil empire.” The Soviet leader, Yuri V. Andropov, was obsessed by fears of an American attack.

Colonel Petrov was at a pivotal point in the decision-making chain. His superiors at the warning-system headquarters reported to the general staff of the Soviet military, which would consult with Mr. Andropov on launching a retaliatory attack.

After five nerve-racking minutes — electronic maps and screens were flashing as he held a phone in one hand and an intercom in the other, trying to absorb streams of incoming information — Colonel Petrov decided that the launch reports were probably a false alarm.

As he later explained, it was a gut decision, at best a “50-50” guess, based on his distrust of the early-warning system and the relative paucity of missiles that were launched.

Colonel Petrov died at 77 on May 19 in Fryazino, a Moscow suburb, where he lived alone on a pension. At the time, his death was not widely reported. It was confirmed by his son, Dmitri, according to Karl Schumacher, a political activist who, after learning in 1998 of Colonel Petrov’s Cold War role, traveled to Russia to meet him and remained a friend. A cause was not announced.

Stanislav Yevgrafovich Petrov was born on Sept. 7, 1939, near Vladivostok, Russia. His father had been a fighter pilot during World War II. He studied at the Kiev Higher Engineering Radio-Technical College of the Soviet Air Force.

After joining the Air Defense Forces, he rose quickly through the ranks; he was assigned to the early-warning system at its inception in the early 1970s.

Historians who have analyzed the episode say that Colonel Petrov’s calm analysis helped avert catastrophe.

As the computer systems in front of him changed their alert from “launch” to “missile strike,” and insisted that the reliability of the information was at the “highest” level, Colonel Petrov had to figure out what to do.

The estimate was that only 25 minutes would elapse between launch and detonation.

“There was no rule about how long we were allowed to think before we reported a strike,” he told the BBC. “But we knew that every second of procrastination took away valuable time, that the Soviet Union’s military and political leadership needed to be informed without delay. All I had to do was to reach for the phone; to raise the direct line to our top commanders — but I couldn’t move. I felt like I was sitting on a hot frying pan.”

A younger Mr. Petrov in an image from a family album. Credit Via Statement Film
As the tension in the command center rose — as many as 200 pairs of eyes were trained on Colonel Petrov — he made the decision to report the alert as a system malfunction.

“I had a funny feeling in my gut,” he told The Washington Post. “I didn’t want to make a mistake. I made a decision, and that was it.”

Colonel Petrov attributed his judgment to both his training and his intuition. He had been told that a nuclear first strike by the Americans would come in the form of an overwhelming onslaught.

 

Moreover, Soviet ground-based radar installations — which search for missiles rising above the horizon — did not detect an attack, although they would not have done so for several minutes after launch.

Colonel Petrov was at first praised for his calm, but in an investigation that followed, he was asked why he had failed to record everything in his logbook. “Because I had a phone in one hand and the intercom in the other, and I don’t have a third hand,” he replied.

He received a reprimand.

The false alarm was apparently triggered when the satellite mistook the sun’s reflection off the tops of clouds for a missile launch. The computer program that was supposed to filter out such information had to be rewritten.

Colonel Petrov said the system had been rushed into service in response to the United States’ introduction of a similar system. He said he knew it was not 100 percent reliable.

“We are wiser than the computers,” he said in a 2010 interview with the German magazine Der Spiegel. “We created them.”

Cold War tensions persisted. In November 1983, NATO carried out Able Archer 83, a big military exercise simulating a coordinated nuclear attack. The exercise, alongside the arrival in Europe of Pershing II nuclear missiles, led some in the Soviet leadership to believe that the United States was using it as a cover for war; the Soviets placed air units in East Germany and Poland on alert. (Able Archer is the backdrop for the recent television series “Deutschland ’83.”)

Colonel Petrov retired from the military in 1984. He got a job as a senior engineer at the research institute that had created the early-warning system, but retired to care for his wife, Raisa, who had cancer. She died in 1997. In addition to his son, Dmitri, Colonel Petrov is survived by a daughter, Yelena.

Colonel Petrov had largely faded into obscurity — at one point he had been reduced to growing potatoes to feed himself — when his role in averting nuclear Armageddon came to light in 1998 with the publication of the memoir of Gen. Yuriy V. Votintsev, the retired commander of Soviet missile defense.

The book brought Colonel Petrov a measure of prominence. In 2006, he traveled to the United States to receive an award from the Association of World Citizens, and in 2013 he was awarded the Dresden Peace Prize. He was the subject of a 2014 hybrid documentary-drama, “The Man Who Saved the World.”

Jakob Staberg, the producer of the film, said in a phone interview on Monday that he had tried to contact Colonel Petrov by phone and email for the last several weeks, hoping to discuss the film’s Russia release, scheduled for February. He said he had not thought much of the delay because Colonel Petrov often traveled.

Colonel Petrov’s role in the film brought him into contact with American celebrities like the actors Kevin Costner and Robert De Niro, but he did not embrace the spotlight. “I was just at the right place at the right time,” he says in the film.

The American Military: Out Everywhere and Winning Nowhere

In Democracy, Peace, Politics, War on September 13, 2017 at 8:50 am

The superpower that fought itself… and lost
by William Astore, TomDispatch, Sept. 12, 2017
Incessant warfare represents the end of democracy. I didn’t say that, James Madison did.
‘Incessant warfare represents the end of democracy.’ “I didn’t say that,” says Astore, “James Madison did.” (Credit: US Air Force by Master Sgt. Benjamin Bloker)
When it comes to the “world’s greatest military,” the news has been shocking. Two fast U.S. Navy ships colliding with slow-moving commercial vessels with tragic loss of life. An Air Force that has been in the air continuously for years and yet doesn’t have enough pilots to fly its combat jets. Ground troops who find themselves fighting “rebels” in Syria previously armed and trained by the CIA. Already overstretched Special Operations forces facing growing demands as their rates of mental distress and suicide rise. Proxy armies in Iraq and Afghanistan that are unreliable, often delivering American-provided weaponry to black markets and into the hands of various enemies. All of this and more coming at a time when defense spending is once again soaring and the national security state is awash in funds to the tune of nearly a trillion dollars a year.

What gives? Why are highly maneuverable and sophisticated naval ships colliding with lumbering cargo vessels? Why is an Air Force that exists to fly and fight short 1,200 pilots? Why are U.S. Special Operations forces deployed everywhere and winning nowhere? Why, in short, is the U.S. military fighting itself — and losing?

 

It’s the Ops Tempo, Stupid

After 16 years of a never-ending, ever-spreading global war on terror, alarms are going off in Asia from the Koreas and Afghanistan to the Philippines, while across the Greater Middle East and Africa the globe’s “last superpower” is in a never-ending set of conflicts with a range of minor enemies few can even keep straight. As a result, America’s can-do military, committed piecemeal to a bewildering array of missions, has increasingly become a can’t-do one.

Too few ships are being deployed for too long. Too few pilots are being worn out by incessant patrols and mushrooming drone and bombing missions. Special Operations forces (the “commandos of everywhere,” as Nick Turse calls them) are being deployed to far too many countries — more than two-thirds of the nations on the planet already this year — and are involved in conflicts that hold little promise of ending on terms favorable to Washington. Meanwhile, insiders like retired General David Petraeus speak calmly about “generational struggles” that will essentially never end. To paraphrase an old slogan from ABC’s “Wide World of Sports,” as the U.S. military spans the globe, it’s regularly experiencing the agony of defeat rather than the thrill of victory.

To President Donald Trump (and so many other politicians in Washington), this unsavory reality suggests an obvious solution: boost military funding; build more navy ships; train more pilots and give them more incentive pay to stay in the military; rely more on drones and other technological “force multipliers” to compensate for tired troops; cajole allies like the Germans and Japanese to spend more on their militaries; and pressure proxy armies like the Iraqi and Afghan security forces to cut corruption and improve combat performance.

One option — the most logical — is never seriously considered in Washington: to make deep cuts in the military’s operational tempo by decreasing defense spending and downsizing the global mission, by bringing troops home and keeping them there. This is not an isolationist plea. The United States certainly faces challenges, notably from Russia (still a major nuclear power) and China (a global economic power bolstering its regional militarily strength). North Korea is, as ever, posturing with missile and nuclear tests in provocative ways. Terrorist organizations strive to destabilize American allies and cause trouble even in “the homeland.”

Such challenges require vigilance. What they don’t require is more ships in the sea-lanes, pilots in the air, and boots on the ground. Indeed, 16 years after the 9/11 attacks it should be obvious that more of the same is likely to produce yet more of what we’ve grown all too accustomed to: increasing instability across significant swaths of the planet, as well as the rise of new terror groups or new iterations of older ones, which means yet more opportunities for failed U.S. military interventions.

Once upon a time, when there were still two superpowers on Planet Earth, Washington’s worldwide military posture had a clear rationale: the containment of communism. Soon after the Soviet Union imploded in 1991 to much triumphalist self-congratulation in Washington, the scholar and former CIA consultant Chalmers Johnson had an epiphany. What he would come to call “the American Raj,” a global imperial structure ostensibly built to corral the menace of communism, wasn’t going away just because that menace had evaporated, leaving not a superpower nor even a major power as an opponent anywhere on the horizon. Quite the opposite, Washington — and its globe-spanning “empire” of military bases — was only digging in deeper and for the long haul. At that moment, with a certain shock, Johnson realized that the U.S. was itself an empire and, with its mirror-image-enemy gone, risked turning on itself and becoming its own nemesis.

The U.S., it turned out, hadn’t just contained the Soviets; they had contained us, too. Once their empire collapsed, our leaders imbibed the old dream of Woodrow Wilson, even if in a newly militarized fashion: to remake the world in one’s own image (if need be at the point of a sword).

Since the early 1990s, largely unconstrained by peer rivals, America’s leaders have acted as if there were nothing to stop them from doing as they pleased on the planet, which, as it turned out, meant there was nothing to stop them from their own folly. We witness the results today. Prolonged and disastrous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Interventions throughout the Greater Middle East (Libya, Syria, Yemen, and beyond) that spread chaos and destruction. Attacks against terrorism that have given new impetus to jihadists everywhere. And recently calls to arm Ukraine against Russia. All of this is consistent with a hubristic strategic vision that, in these years, has spoken in an all-encompassing fashion and without irony of global reach, global power, and full-spectrum dominance.

In this context, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the full scope of America’s military power. All the world is a stage — or a staging area — for U.S. troops. There are still approximately 800 U.S. military bases in foreign lands. America’s commandos deploy to more than 130 countries yearly. And even the world is not enough for the Pentagon as it seeks to dominate not just land, sea, and air but outer space, cyberspace, and even inner space, if you count efforts to achieve “total information awareness” through 17 intelligence agencies dedicated — at a cost of $80 billion a year — to sweeping up all data on Planet Earth.

In short, America’s troops are out everywhere and winning nowhere, a problem America’s “winningest” president, Donald Trump, is only exacerbating. Surrounded by “his” generals, Trump has — against his own instincts, he claimed recently — recommitted American troops and prestige to the Afghan War. He’s also significantly expanded U.S. drone strikes and bombing throughout the Greater Middle East, and threatened to bring fire and fury to North Korea, while pushing a program to boost military spending.

At a Pentagon awash in money, with promises of more to come, missions are rarely downsized. Meanwhile, what passes for original thinking in the Trump White House is the suggestion of Erik Prince, the founder of Blackwater, to privatize America’s war in Afghanistan (and possibly elsewhere). Mercenaries are the answer to Washington’s military problems, suggests Prince. And mercs, of course, have the added benefit of not being constrained by the rules of engagement that apply to America’s uniformed service members.

Indeed, Prince’s idea, though opposed by Trump’s generals, is compelling in one sense: If you accept the notion that America’s wars in these years have been fought largely for the corporate agendas of the military-industrial complex, why not turn warfighting itself over to the warrior corporations that now regularly accompany the military into battle, cutting out the middleman, that very military?

Hammering a Cloud of Gnats

Erik Prince’s mercenaries will, however, have to bide their time as the military high command continues to launch kinetic strikes against elusive foes around the globe. By its own admission, the force recent U.S. presidents have touted as the “finest” in history faces remarkably “asymmetrical” and protean enemies, including the roughly 20 terrorist organizations in the Afghanistan-Pakistan theater of operations. In striking at such relatively puny foes, the U.S. reminds me of the mighty Thor of superhero fame swinging his hammer violently against a cloud of gnats. In the process, some of those gnats will naturally die, but the result will still be an exhausted superhero and ever more gnats attracted by the heat and commotion of battle.

I first came across the phrase “using a sledgehammer to kill gnats” while looking at the history of U.S. airpower during the Vietnam War. B-52 “Arc Light” raids dropped record tons of bombs on parts of South Vietnam and Laos in largely failed efforts to kill dispersed guerrillas and interdict supply routes from North Vietnam. Half a century later, with its laser- and GPS-guided bombs, the Air Force regularly touts the far greater precision of American airpower. Yet in one country after another, using just that weaponry, the U.S. has engaged in serial acts of overkill. In Afghanistan, it was the recent use of MOAB, the “mother of all bombs,” the largest non-nuclear weapon the U.S. has ever used in combat, against a small concentration of ISIS fighters. In similar fashion, the U.S. air war in Syria has outpaced the Russians and even the Assad regime in its murderous effects on civilians, especially around Raqqa, the “capital” of the Islamic State. Such overkill is evident on the ground as well where special ops raids have, this year, left civilians dead from Yemen to Somalia. In other words, across the Greater Middle East, Washington’s profligate killing machine is also creating a desire for vengeance among civilian populations, staggering numbers of whom, when not killed, have been displaced or sent fleeing across borders asrefugees in these wars. It has played a significant role in unsettling whole regions, creating failed states, and providing yet more recruits for terror groups.

Leaving aside technological advances, little has changed since Vietnam. The U.S. military is still relying on enormous firepower to kill elusive enemies as a way of limiting (American) casualties. As an instrument of victory, it didn’t work in Vietnam, nor has it worked in Iraq or Afghanistan.

But never mind the history lessons. President Trump asserts that his “new” Afghan strategy — the details of which, according to a military spokesman, are “not there yet” — will lead to more terrorists (that is, gnats) being killed.

Since 9/11, America’s leaders, Trump included, have rarely sought ways to avoid those gnats, while efforts to “drain the swamp” in which the gnats thrive have served mainly to enlarge their breeding grounds. At the same time, efforts to enlist indigenous “gnats” — local proxy armies — to take over the fight have gone poorly indeed. As in Vietnam, the main U.S. focus has invariably been on developing better, more technologically advanced (which means more expensive) sledgehammers, while continuing to whale away at that cloud of gnats — a process as hopeless as it is counterproductive.

The Greatest Self-Defeating Force in History?

Incessant warfare represents the end of democracy. I didn’t say that, James Madison did.

I firmly believe, though, in words borrowed from President Dwight D. Eisenhower, that “only Americans can hurt America.” So how can we lessen the hurt? By beginning to rein in the military. A standing military exists — or rather should exist — to support and defend the Constitution and our country against immediate threats to our survival. Endless attacks against inchoate foes in the backlands of the planet hardly promote that mission. Indeed, the more such attacks wear on the military, the more they imperil national security.

A friend of mine, a captain in the Air Force, once quipped to me: you study long, you study wrong. It’s a sentiment that’s especially cutting when applied to war: you wage war long, you wage it wrong. Yet as debilitating as they may be to militaries, long wars are even more devastating to democracies. The longer our military wages war, the more our country is militarized, shedding its democratic values and ideals.

Back in the Cold War era, the regions in which the U.S. military is now slogging it out were once largely considered “the shadows” where John le Carré-style secret agents from the two superpowers matched wits in a set of shadowy conflicts. Post-9/11, “taking the gloves off” and seeking knockout blows, the U.S. military entered those same shadows in a big way and there, not surprisingly, it often couldn’t sort friend from foe.

A new strategy for America should involve getting out of those shadowy regions of no-win war. Instead, an expanding U.S. military establishment continues to compound the strategic mistakes of the last 16 years. Seeking to dominate everywhere but winning decisively nowhere, it may yet go down as the greatest self-defeating force in history.

William Astore
William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF), who has taught at the Air Force Academy and the Naval Postgraduate School, and now teaches History at the Pennsylvania College of Technology. He welcomes reader comments at wjastore@gmail.com.

 

End the 67-year war

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on September 13, 2017 at 4:56 am

Robert Alvarez, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientis, 11 September 2017

AlvarezAdjusted.jpg

 

It’s time to find a path to end the 67-year-long Korean war. As the threat of military conflict looms, the American public is largely unaware of the sobering facts about America’s longest unresolved war and one of the world’s bloodiest. The 1953 armistice agreement engineered by President Eisenhower—halting a three-year-long “police action” that resulted in two million to four million military and civilian deaths—is long forgotten. Struck by military leaders of North Korea, the United States, South Korea, and their United Nations allies to halt fighting, the armistice was never followed up by a formal peace agreement to end this conflict of the early Cold War.

A State Department official reminded me of this unsettled state of affairs before I traveled to the Youngbyon nuclear site in November 1994 to help secure plutonium-bearing spent reactor fuel as part of the Agreed Framework between the United States and North Korea. I had suggested that we take space heaters to the spent fuel pool storage area, to provide warmth for the North Koreans who would be working during winter to place highly radioactive spent fuel rods in containers, where they could be subject to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards. The State Department official became upset. Even 40 years after the end of hostilities, we were forbidden to provide any comfort to the enemy, regardless of the bitter cold interfering with their—and our—task.

How the Agreed Framework collapsed. In the spring and summer of 1994, the United States was on a collision course with North Korea over its efforts to produce the plutonium to fuel its first nuclear weapons. Thanks in large part to the diplomacy of former President Jimmy Carter, who met face-to-face with Kim Il Sung, the founder of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK), the world pulled away from the brink. Out of this effort sprang the general outlines of the Agreed Framework, signed on October 12, 1994. It remains the only government-to-government accord ever made between the United States and North Korea.

The Agreed Framework was a bilateral non-proliferation pact that that opened the door to a possible end of the Korean war. North Korea agreed to freeze its plutonium production program in exchange for heavy fuel oil, economic cooperation, and the construction of two modern light-water nuclear power plants. Eventually, North Korea’s existing nuclear facilities were to be dismantled and the spent reactor fuel taken out of the country. South Korea played an active role in helping prepare for the construction of the two reactors. During its second term in office, the Clinton administration was moving towards establishing a more normalized relationship with the North. Presidential advisor Wendy Sherman described an agreement with North Korea to eliminate its medium and long-range missiles as “tantalizingly close” before negotiations were overtaken by the 2000 presidential election.

But the framework was bitterly opposed by many Republicans, and when the GOP took control of Congress in 1995, it threw roadblocks in the way, interfering with fuel oil shipments to North Korea and the securing of the plutonium-bearing material located there. After George W. Bush was elected president, the Clinton administration’s efforts were replaced with an explicit policy of regime change. In his State of the Union address in January 2002, Bush declared North Korea a charter member of the “axis of evil.” In September, Bush expressly mentioned North Korea in a national security policy that called for preemptive attacks against countries developing weapons of mass destruction.

This set the stage for a bilateral meeting in October 2002, during which Assistant Secretary of State James Kelly demanded that North Korea cease a “secret” uranium enrichment program or face severe consequences. Although the Bush Administration asserted the enrichment program had not been disclosed, it was public knowledge—in the Congress and in the news media—by 1999. North Korea had strictly complied with the Agreed Framework, freezing plutonium production for eight years. Safeguards over uranium enrichment had been deferred in the agreement until sufficient progress was made in the development of the light water reactors; but if that delay was seen as dangerous, the agreement could have been amended. Shortly after Sullivan’s ultimatum, North Korea ended the safeguards program for its spent nuclear fuel and began to separate plutonium and produce nuclear weapons—igniting a full-blown crisis, just as the Bush administration was poised to invade Iraq.

In the end, the Bush administration’s efforts to resolve the impasse on North Korea’s nuclear program—aka the Six-Party Talks—failed, largely because of the United States’ adamant support for regime change in North Korea and persistent “all or nothing” demands for a complete dismantlement of the North’s nuclear program before serious negotiations could take place. Also, with the US presidential election nearing, the North Koreans had to have remembered how abruptly the plug had been pulled on the Agreed Framework after the 2000 election.

By the time President Obama took office, North Korea was well on its way to becoming a nuclear weapons state and was reaching the threshold of testing intercontinental ballistic missiles. Described as “strategic patience,” Obama’s policy was to a large extent influenced by the pace of nuclear and missile development, particularly as Kim Jong-un, the founder’s grandson, ascended to power. Under the Obama administration, economic sanctions and increased-duration joint military exercises were met with intensified North Korean provocations. Now, under the Trump administration, the joint military exercises by the United States, South Korea and Japan—intended to demonstrate the “fire and fury” that could destroy the DPRK regime—appear to have only accelerated the pace at which North Korea has stepped up its long-range missile testing and detonation of more powerful nuclear weapons.

Dealing with the nuclear weapons state of North Korea. The seeds for a nuclear-armed DPRK were planted when the United States shredded the 1953 Armistice Agreement. Beginning in 1957, the US violated a key provision of the agreement (paragraph 13d), which barred the introduction of more destructive armaments to the Korean peninsula, by ultimately deploying thousands of tactical nuclear weapons in South Korea, including atomic artillery shells, missile-launched warheads and gravity bombs, atomic “bazooka” rounds and demolition munitions (20 kiloton “back-pack” nukes). In 1991, then-President George H.W. Bush withdrew all the tactical nukes. In the 34 intervening years, however, the United States unleashed a nuclear arms race—among the branches of its own its own military on the Korean Peninsula! This massive nuclear buildup in the South provided a major impetus for North Korea to forward-deploy a massive conventional artillery force that can destroy Seoul.

Now, some South Korean military leaders are calling for the redeployment of US tactical nuclear weapons in the country, which would do nothing but exacerbate the problem of dealing with a nuclear North Korea. The presence of US nuclear weapons did not deter a surge in aggression by North Korea in the 1960s and 1970s, an era known as the “Second Korean War,” during which more than 1,000 South Korean and 75 American soldiers were killed. Among other actions, North Korean forces attacked and seized the Pueblo, a US Naval intelligence vessel, in 1968, killing a crew member and capturing 82 others. The ship was never returned.

North Korea has long pushed for bilateral talks that would lead to a non-aggression pact with the United States. The US government has routinely spurned its requests for a peace agreement because they are perceived as tricks designed to reduce the US military presence in South Korea, allowing for even more aggression by the North. The Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl echoed this sentiment recently, asserting that North Korea is not really interested in a peaceful resolution. While citing a statement by North Korean Deputy UN Ambassador Kim In Ryong that his country “will never place its self-defensive nuclear deterrence on the negotiating table,” Diehl conveniently omitted Ryong’s important caveat: “as long as the US continues to threaten it.”

Over the past 15 years, military exercises in preparation for war with North Korea have increased in extent and duration. Recently, Trevor Noah, host of Comedy Central’s much-watched The Daily Show, asked Christopher Hill, chief US negotiator for the Six-Party talks during the George W. Bush years, about the military exercises; Hill declared that “we never have planned to attack” North Korea. Hill was either ill-informed or dissembling. The Washington Post reported that a military exercise in March 2016 was based on a plan, agreed to by the United States and South Korea, that included “preemptive military operations” and “‘decapitation raids’ by special forces targeting the North’s leadership.” In the Washington Post article, a US military expert did not dispute the plan’s existence but said it has a very low probability of being implemented.

Regardless of how likely they are to ever be implemented, these annual wartime planning exercises help perpetuate and perhaps even strengthen the brutal coercion by the North Korean leadership of its people, who live in constant fear of an imminent war. During our visits to North Korea, we observed how the regime inundated its citizens with reminders about the carnage caused by napalm that US aircraft had dropped during the war. By 1953, US bombing had destroyed nearly all structures in North Korea. Dean Rusk, Secretary of State during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, said several years later that bombs were dropped on “everything that moved in North Korea, every brick standing on top of another.” Over the years, the North Korean regime has developed a vast system of underground tunnels used in frequent civil defense drills.

It’s probably too late to expect the DPRK to relinquish its nuclear arms. That bridge was destroyed when the Agreed Framework was discarded in the failed pursuit of regime change, a pursuit that not only provided a powerful incentive but also plenty of time for the DPRK to amass a nuclear arsenal. Secretary of State Tillerson recently stated that “we do not seek a regime change, we do not seek collapse of the regime.” Unfortunately, Tillerson has been drowned out by coverage of belligerent tweets by President Trump and sabre-rattling by former military and intelligence officials.

In the end, a peaceful resolution to the North Korean nuclear situation will involve direct negotiations and gestures of good faith by both sides, such as a reduction or a halt of military exercises by the United States, South Korea, and Japan, and a reciprocal moratorium on nuclear weapon and ballistic missile testing by the DPRK. Such steps will generate a great deal of opposition from US defense officials who believe that military might and sanctions are the only forms of leverage that will work against the North Korean regime. But the Agreed Framework and its collapse provide an important lesson about the pitfalls of the pursuit of regime change. Now, a nuclear arms control agreement may be the only way to bring this over-long chapter of the Cold War to a peaceful close. It’s difficult to persuade someone to make a deal, if he is certain you’re planning to kill him, no matter what he does

 

Time to Restrict the President’s Power to Wage Nuclear War

In Democracy, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on September 13, 2017 at 1:54 am

By JEFFREY BADER and JONATHAN D. POLLACK SEPT. 12, 2017
For the first time in a generation, there is widespread anxiety about the possibility of nuclear war, stimulated by the extreme tensions between North Korea and the United States. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has advised Americans that they can sleep safely at night, a reassurance that most people probably wish they did not need to hear.
Mr. Tillerson offered his soothing counsel to deflate media hype about recent threats and counterthreats exchanged between Pyongyang and Washington. His words also reflect profound unease about the temperament and judgment of the two leaders who could trigger inadvertent war: President Trump and Kim Jong-un.
Mr. Trump and Mr. Kim appear to believe that bombast serves their domestic needs. Both seem to think that they can dominate and intimidate through the direst of threats. However, words can easily have consequences that neither leader seems to grasp.
Should we be living in a world where two leaders can stumble into a nuclear holocaust? North Korea’s accelerated pursuit of nuclear weapons clearly requires a much-enhanced containment and deterrence policy by the United States and its allies to prevent Mr. Kim from undertaking ever-riskier options. But what can be done to constrain the actions of an American president whose stability is now openly questioned, even by the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker of Tennessee?
To limit the possibilities of an almost unimaginable conflict, there is a need to pursue a long overdue legislative remedy.
Under Article I of the Constitution, only Congress can declare war. Yet during America’s numerous wars since World War II, presidents have never sought such authorization. The major reason? Nuclear weapons. There was widespread agreement that the president needed maximum flexibility to respond to a Soviet attack and that involving Congress would cause undue delays in a moment of crisis. As a result, the president has had essentially unchecked power to wage war, including launching a nuclear strike.
However, strategic planners understood the risks of enabling a single officer in a silo in North Dakota, perhaps under the most stressful conditions imaginable, to initiate a nuclear strike. The nuclear command-and-control system therefore entailed a “two key” system requiring simultaneous actions by two officers to activate a launch.
The time is long overdue to introduce comparable checks at the highest levels of the executive branch. The strategic circumstances faced by the United States today are altogether different from those during the Cold War. Despite heightened tensions triggered by Russian revanchism in Ukraine and elsewhere in Central and Eastern Europe, the real risk of nuclear war emanates from a rogue actor, and North Korea heads the list. Almost casual presidential invocations of fire and fury have rendered circumstances far more dangerous.
The United States should in no way diminish its ability to respond to a nuclear or conventional attack by North Korea against United States territory or the territory of an ally. However, we should put in place a system of constraints to ensure that a preventive or pre-emptive nuclear strike by the United States must be evaluated through a careful, deliberative process.
Congress should therefore amend the War Powers Act to cover the possibility of preventive or pre-emptive nuclear strikes. This would ensure that the president could not simply provide the codes to his military aide carrying the nuclear “football” and launch such an attack on his own authority.
Legislation should provide for a small group of officials, possibly including the vice president, the secretary of defense, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the four leaders of the House and Senate, to give unanimous consent to any such nuclear strike. It would ensure that multiple sets of eyes, equipped with stable emotions and sound brains, would be able to prevent such a nuclear strike undertaken without appropriate deliberation.
This proposal would raise difficult constitutional questions. All presidential administrations have deemed the War Powers Act to be unconstitutional. Giving officers appointed by the president and subject to his direction formal veto power over military decisions could be problematic and precedent setting. If so, confining the veto power to the congressional leadership might be a preferable alternative.
Even during the Cold War, there was great risk in ceding to one person the ability to kill millions in a flash. There is no good reason to enable an American president to retain absolute authority in circumstances completely unlike those faced during the Cold War.
Assurances that nuclear weapons remain an option of absolute last resort, to be considered only after the concurrence of leaders from the executive branch and from the Congress, would also calm the nerves of United States allies deeply troubled by loose talk about the resort to nuclear weapons.
This is not to suggest that President Trump nurses some secret desire to launch a nuclear attack. However, the United States needs to act very prudently in dealing with an isolated and uniquely adversarial state. For its part, Congress has the power to prevent hair-trigger responses or impulsive actions that could lead to nuclear war.

Jeffrey Bader was a senior adviser to President Barack Obama on Asia from 2009 to 2011. Jonathan D. Pollack is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, specializing in Korea and China, and was a professor at the United States Naval War College.
A version of this op-ed appears in print on September 12, 2017, on Page A27 of the New York edition with the headline: Stumbling Toward A Nuclear Holocaust.

Trump review leans toward proposing mini-nuke

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on September 12, 2017 at 8:50 am

It would be a major reversal from the Obama administration, which sought to limit reliance on nuclear arms.

By BRYAN BENDER 09/09/2017

The Trump administration is considering proposing smaller, more tactical nuclear weapons that would cause less damage than traditional thermonuclear bombs — a move that would give military commanders more options but could also make the use of atomic arms more likely.

A high-level panel created by President Donald Trump to evaluate the nuclear arsenal is reviewing various options for adding a more modern “low-yield” bomb, according to sources involved in the review, to further deter Russia, North Korea or other potential nuclear adversaries.

Approval of such weapons — whether designed to be delivered by missile, aircraft or special forces — would mark a major reversal from the Obama administration, which sought to limit reliance on nuclear arms and prohibited any new weapons or military capabilities. And critics say it would only make the actual use of atomic arms more likely.

“This capability is very warranted,” said one government official familiar with the deliberations who was not authorized to speak publicly about the yearlong Nuclear Posture Review, which Trump established by executive order his first week in office.

“The [nuclear review] has to credibly ask the military what they need to deter enemies,” added another official who supports such a proposal, particularly to confront Russia, which has raised the prominence of tactical nuclear weapons in its battle plans in recent years, including as a first-strike weapon. “Are [current weapons] going to be useful in all the scenarios we see?”

The idea of introducing a smaller-scale warhead to serve a more limited purpose than an all-out nuclear Armageddon is not new — and the U.S. government still retains some Cold War-era weapons that fit the category, including several that that can be “dialed down” to a smaller blast.

Yet new support for adding a more modern version is likely to set off a fierce debate in Congress, which would ultimately have to fund it, and raises questions about whether it would require a resumption of explosive nuclear tests after a 25-year moratorium and how other nuclear powers might respond. The Senate is expected to debate the issue of new nuclear options next week when it takes up the National Defense Authorization Act.

The push is also almost sure to reignite concerns on the part of some lawmakers who say they already don’t trust Trump with the nuclear codes and believe he has dangerously elevated their prominence in U.S. national security by publicly dismissing arms control treaties and talking opening about unleashing “fire and fury” on North Korea.

“If the U.S. moves now to develop a new nuclear weapon, it will send exactly the wrong signal at a time when international efforts to discourage the spread of nuclear weapons are under severe challenge,” said Steven Andreasen, a State Department official in the administrations of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush who served as the director of arms control on the National Security Council in the Clinton administration. “If the world’s greatest conventional and nuclear military power decides it cannot defend itself without new nuclear weapons, we will undermine our ability to prevent other nations from developing or enhancing their own nuclear capabilities and we will further deepen the divisions between the U.S. and other responsible countries.”

The details of what is being considered are classified, and a National Security Council spokeswoman said “it is too early to discuss” the panel’s deliberations, which are expected to wrap up by the end of the year.

But the review — which is led by the Pentagon and supported by the Department of Energy, which maintains the nation’s nuclear warheads — is undertaking a broad reassessment of the nation’s nuclear requirements — including its triad of land-based, sea-based and air-launched weapons.

The reassessment, the first of its kind since the one completed for President Barack Obama in 2010, is intended “to ensure that the United States’ nuclear deterrent is modern, robust, flexible, resilient, ready, and appropriately tailored to deter 21st-century threats and reassure our allies,” Trump directed.

The United States has long experience with lower-yield nuclear devices, or those on the lower range of kilotons. For example, the bombs the United States dropped on Japan in World War II were in the 15- to 20-kiloton range, while most modern nuclear weapons, like the W88 warhead that is mounted on submarine-launched missiles, are reportedly as large as 475 kilotons. The device tested by North Korea earlier this week was reportedly 140 kilotons.

So-called mini-nukes were a prominent element of the American arsenal during the early decades of the Cold War, when the Soviet Union’s conventional military capabilities far outstripped those of the United States and military commanders relied on battlefield nuclear weapons to make up for the vulnerability.

In the early 1950s, the Pentagon developed a nuclear artillery rocket known as the “Honest John” that was deployed to Europe as a means of deterring a massive Russian invasion. The Pentagon later introduced the so-called Davy Crockett, a bazooka with a nuclear munition in the range of 10 to 20 tons.

“We even had atomic demolition munitions,” said Philip Coyle, the Pentagon’s top weapons tester in the 1990s, who also managed nuclear weapons programs at the Department of Energy. “They were made small enough so that U.S. Army soldiers could carry them in a backpack. It was a very heavy backpack. You wouldn’t want to carry them very far.”

More recently, during the administration of George W. Bush, the Pentagon sought to modify one of its current warheads — the B61 — so it could be tailored to strike smaller targets such as underground bunkers, like the type used by North Korea and Iran to conceal illicit weapons programs. The so-called Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator was intended to rely on a modified version of the B61, a nuclear bomb dropped from aircraft. But that effort was nixed by Congress.

The nuclear review now reviving the issue is taking some of its cues from a relatively obscure Pentagon study that was published in December, at the tail end of the Obama administration, the officials with knowledge of the process said.

That report by the Defense Science Board, a Pentagon advisory panel, set off what one Pentagon official called a “dust-up” when it urged the military to consider “a more flexible nuclear enterprise that could produce, if needed, a rapid, tailored nuclear options for limited use should existing non-nuclear or nuclear options prove insufficient.”

But the finding “emerged from a serious rethinking about how future regional conflicts involving the United States and its allies could play out,” John Harvey, who served as adviser to the secretary of Defense for nuclear, chemical and biological programs between 2009 and 2013, recounted at a Capitol Hill event in June.

“There is increasing concern that, in a conventional conflict, an adversary could employ very limited nuclear use as part of a strategy to maximize gains or minimize losses,” he explained. Some call this an “‘escalate to win’ strategy.”

Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at an appearance before a defense industry group last month, described the rationale this way: “If the only options we have now are to go with high-yield weapons that create a level of indiscriminate killing that the president can’t accept, we haven’t provided him with an option.”

But critics question the logic of responding to Russian moves in kind.

“[Vladimir] Putin’s doctrine and some of his statements and those of his military officers are reckless,” said Andrew Weber, who served as assistant secretary of Defense responsible for nuclear policy in the Obama administration. “Does that mean we should ape and mimic his reckless doctrine?”

“The premise that our deterrent is not credible because we don’t have enough smaller options — or smaller nuclear weapons — is false,” he added in an interview. “We do have them.”

For example, he cited the B61, which recently underwent a refurbishment and can be as powerful as less than a kiloton up to 340 kilotons, and the W80, which is fitted to an air-launched cruise missile that can deliver a nuclear blast as low as five kilotons or as high as 80, according to public data.

A new, more modern version of a low-yield nuke, he added, would “increase reliance on nuclear weapons. It is an old Cold War idea.”

Joe Cirincione, president of Ploughshares Fund, a foundation that advocates reducing nuclear arms, also took issue with the argument for more nuclear options. “They decry the Russian argument,” he said of the proponents, “but it is is exactly the policy they are now favoring: advocating for use of a nuclear weapon early in a conflict.”

“It is difficult to imagine the circumstances under which we would need a military option in between our formidable conventional capabilities and our current low-yield nuclear weapons capabilities,” added Alexandra Bell, a former State Department arms control official. “Lawmakers should be very wary of any attempt to reduce the threshold for nuclear use. There is no such thing as a minor nuclear war.”

Others also express alarm that depending on what type of device the review might recommend, it might require the United States to restart nuclear tests to ensure its viability. The United States hasn’t detonated a nuclear weapon since 1992.

“If we actually started testing nuclear weapons, all hell would break loose,” said Coyle, who is now on the board of the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, a Washington think tank. “In today’s environment, if the U.S. were to test low-yield nuclear weapons, others might start testing. Russia, Iran, China, Pakistan, India. It would certainly give North Korea reason to test as often as they wanted.”

In Cirincione’s view, the idea is fueled by economic, not security reasons. “This is nuclear pork disguised as nuclear strategy,” he said. “This is a jobs program for a few government labs and a few contractors. This is an insane proposal. It would lower the threshold for nuclear use. It would make nuclear war more likely. It comes from the illusion that you could use a nuclear weapon and end a conflict on favorable terms. Once you cross the nuclear threshold, you are inviting a nuclear response.”

But others involved in the deliberations contend that if the administration seeks funding for a new tactical nuke, it might get a far more receptive audience in Congress.

Already Republicans are pushing to build a new cruise missile that some say would violate the 1987 Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty with Russia — a direct response to Moscow’s violations of the arms control pact. The Senate is expected to debate the issue next week when it takes up the defense policy bill, which includes a controversial provision similar to one already passed by the House.

 

Pope Francis: Causing Climate Change Is a “Sin”

In Climate change, Environment, Politics, Public Health on September 11, 2017 at 6:20 am

 

By TomP , Daily Kos, Wednesday May 21, 2014 · 11:17 AM MDT

I hope this has an impact on people. Pope Francis recently spoke about climate change. Yes, it’s real:

Pope Francis made the religious case for tackling climate change on Wednesday, calling on his fellow Christians to become “Custodians of Creation” and issuing a dire warning about the potentially catastrophic effects of global climate change.
Speaking to a massive crowd in Rome, the first Argentinian pope delivered a short address in which he argued that respect for the “beauty of nature and the grandeur of the cosmos” is a Christian value, noting that failure to care for the planet risks apocalyptic consequences.

“Safeguard Creation,” he said. “Because if we destroy Creation, Creation will destroy us! Never forget this!”

The pope centered his environmentalist theology around the biblical creation story in the book of Genesis, where God is said to have created the world, declared it “good,” and charged humanity with its care. Francis also made reference to his namesake, Saint Francis of Assisi, who was a famous lover of animals, and appeared to tie the ongoing environmental crisis to economic concerns — namely, instances where a wealthy minority exploits the planet at the expense of the poor.

“Creation is not a property, which we can rule over at will; or, even less, is the property of only a few: Creation is a gift, it is a wonderful gift that God has given us, so that we care for it and we use it for the benefit of all, always with great respect and gratitude,” Francis said.

Francis also said that humanity’s destruction of the planet is a sinful act, likening it to self-idolatry.

“But when we exploit Creation we destroy the sign of God’s love for us, in destroying Creation we are saying to God: ‘I don’t like it! This is not good!’ ‘So what do you like?’ ‘I like myself!’ – Here, this is sin! Do you see?”