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The Madness of Nuclear Deterrence

In Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on May 2, 2019 at 9:00 am

The dangers have only become more acute in the decades since I tried to convince Thatcher.

‘Deterrence cannot protect the world from a nuclear blunder or nuclear terrorism,” George Shultz, William Perry and Sam Nunn recently wrote. “Both become more likely when there is no sustained, meaningful dialogue between Washington and Moscow.” I agree with them about the urgent need for strategic engagement between the U.S. and Russia. I am also convinced that nuclear deterrence, instead of protecting the world, is keeping it in constant jeopardy.

I asked her: “Are you really comfortable sitting on a nuclear powder keg?” I showed her a diagram representing the world’s nuclear arsenals, grouped into hundreds of squares. Each square, I told her, is enough to eliminate human civilization as we know it. I was unable to persuade Margaret Thatcher. We hear the same arguments today, including in the U.S. and Russia.

Yet nuclear weapons are like a rifle hanging on the wall in a play written and staged by a person unknown. We do not know the playwright’s intent. Nuclear weapons could go off because of a technical failure, human error or computer error. The last alarms me the most. Computer systems are now used everywhere. And how many times have computers and electronics failed—in aviation, in industry, in various control systems?

Nuclear weapons might also be launched in response to a false alarm. If the flight time of the missiles is reduced, leaving less time to detect a false alarm, the probability of a mistaken retaliatory launch is bound to rise.

Nuclear weapons could fall into the hands of terrorists. And who knows what other “surprises” these weapons have in store for us?

Those who believe nuclear weapons can save the world from war should recall the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. A dispute over the placement of Soviet nuclear weapons put the world on the brink of war. Recently published documents show how close the world came to the fateful line. It was not nuclear weapons that saved the world, but the sobering up of the two countries’ leaders, John F. Kennedy and Nikita Khrushchev. I am sure they thought long and hard, then and afterward, and their perception of nuclear weapons changed a great deal.

What’s more, they reached agreement on ending nuclear tests in the atmosphere, in outer space and under water, thus slowing the qualitative weapons race as well as protecting the air from the deadly products of nuclear explosions.

The opportunity to continue progress in nuclear arms control was then squandered. The military-industrial complex won out over common sense. Only much later, toward the end of the 1980s, were we able to stop the arms race. Today, the U.S. and Russia are at a perilous crossroads. They must stop and think. The veterans of the Cold War have spoken. It is now up to our nations’ leaders to act.

Mr. Gorbachev is former president of the Soviet Union.

The Threat of Nuclear War Is Still With Us: The U.S. must re-engage with Russia to ensure the ultimate weapon doesn’t spread and is never used.

In Environment, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on April 12, 2019 at 7:33 am
Wall Street Journal

 
 

The U.S., its allies and Russia are caught in a dangerous policy paralysis that could lead—most likely by mistake or miscalculation—to a military confrontation and potentially the use of nuclear weapons for the first time in nearly 74 years. A bold policy shift is needed to support a strategic re-engagement with Russia and walk back from this perilous precipice. Otherwise, our nations may soon be entrenched in a nuclear standoff more precarious, disorienting and economically costly than the Cold War. The most difficult task facing the U.S. is also the most important—to refocus on America’s most vital interests even as we respond firmly to Russia’s aggressions. 

The three of us experienced the low points of U.S. relations with the Soviet Union, and the nuclear dangers that arose. The 1962 Cuban missile crisis, the 1973 Arab-Israeli War, the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the 1981-83 confrontation over intermediate-range nuclear missiles were periods of increased tensions, reduced trust and rising nuclear risks. With Henry Kissinger, we wrote in 2007 that although the world escaped the nuclear knife’s edge of the Cold War through a combination of diligence, professionalism and good luck, reliance on nuclear weapons for deterrence is becoming increasingly hazardous and decreasingly effective as more states gain nukes of their own. The U.S. and other nuclear states have yet to take decisive steps toward the goal of a world without nuclear weapons, and the dangers continue to mount.

Deterrence cannot protect the world from a nuclear blunder or nuclear terrorism. Both become more likely when there is no sustained, meaningful dialogue between Washington and Moscow. The risks are compounded by the rising possibility that cyberattacks could target nuclear warning and command-and-control systems, as well as the continuing expansion of global terrorist networks. Since the crises broke out in Ukraine and Syria in the past few years, U.S. and Russian forces have again been operating in proximity, increasing the risk that an act of aggression, followed by an accident or miscalculation, will lead to catastrophe.

A new comprehensive approach is required to decrease the risks of conflict and increase cooperation, transparency, and security. This will require a united effort in Washington and with U.S. allies on a Russia policy that reduces the unnecessary nuclear danger we are currently courting, while maintaining our values and protecting our vital interests.

The U.S. must first address its own dysfunctional Russia policy, and Congress must lead the way. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell should convene a new bipartisan liaison group of legislative leaders and committee chairmen to work with senior administration officials on strengthening the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and renewing dialogue with Russia. This model was used in the arms-control observer group led by Sens. Robert Byrd and Bob Dole in the 1980s. The group was able to build bipartisan consensus for a defense modernization program that strengthened America’s defenses and bolstered NATO’s deterrence, as well as a Russia policy that led to negotiations eliminating missiles in Europe. These policies helped end the Cold War.

Second, Presidents Trump and Vladimir Putin should announce a joint declaration reaffirming that a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought. This would renew the 1985 Reagan-Gorbachev statement that Americans and Russians received positively as the beginning of an effort to reduce risk and improve mutual security. A joint statement today would clearly communicate that despite current tensions, leaders of the two countries possessing more than 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons recognize their responsibility to work together to prevent catastrophe. This could also lead other nuclear states to take further steps to reduce nuclear risk. The timing of such a statement would also signal Washington and Moscow’s commitment to build on past progress toward disarmament, as next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.

Third, the U.S. and Russia must discuss a broad framework for strategic stability—including increasing decision time for leaders—in a period of global destabilization and emerging military technologies. In a positive step, Presidents Trump and Putin apparently agreed in Helsinki last summer to open a dialogue on strategic stability, focused on nuclear dangers that threaten both nations. Yet their inability to follow up by empowering their military and civilian professionals to follow through underlines how dangerously dysfunctional relations have become.

This effort must begin now. America’s leaders cannot call a “time out” to wait for the aftermath of the Robert Mueller investigation or other issues to play out in Congress or the courts. Nor is there time to await a new U.S. administration, a new leader in the Kremlin, or the gradual resolution of current international disputes. The risks are simply too grave to put America’s vital interests on hold.

The U.S. and Russia should work toward a mutual vision for a more stable security architecture in the next five to 10 years, and identify the tools and policy initiatives necessary to get there. Our nations have a shared responsibility to communicate about crisis management, including between our armed forces, and to maintain our agreements on arms control and transparency. Where treaties are not likely or feasible, understandings and red lines are imperative.

The U.S. and Russia, joined by other nuclear states, must decisively confront the problems that threaten global security. It is essential that we re-engage with Russia in areas of common fundamental interest to both nations, including reducing reliance on nuclear weapons, keeping them out of unstable hands, preventing their use and ultimately ending them as a threat to the world.

Mr. Shultz served as secretary of state, 1982-89. Mr. Perry served as defense secretary, 1994-97. Mr. Nunn, a Democrat, was a U.S. senator from Georgia, 1972-97, and was chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

Appeared in the April 11, 2019, print edition.


														

Nuclear age: Humanity is flirting with extinction

In Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on April 5, 2019 at 12:57 am

Nuclear age: Humanity is flirting with extinction
© Getty Images

The most stunning and frightening truth about the nuclear age is this: Nuclear weapons are capable of destroying civilization and most complex life on the planet, yet next to nothing is being done about it. Humanity is flirting with extinction and is experiencing the “frog’s malaise.” It is as though the human species has been placed into a pot of tepid water — metaphorically with regard to nuclear dangers and literally with regard to climate change — and appears to be calmly treading water while the temperature rises toward the boiling point. In this piece, I focus on the metaphorical pot of heating water, heading toward a boil, representing the increasing nuclear dangers confronting all humanity.

Disconcertingly, there is virtually no political will on the part of nations in possession of nuclear arsenals to alter this dangerous situation; and, despite legal obligations to negotiate in good faith for an end to the nuclear arms race and for nuclear disarmament, there is no major effort among the nuclear-armed and umbrella countries to achieve nuclear zero. While the non-nuclear-armed countries have negotiated a Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) and are working to bring this treaty into force, those countries that possess the weapons and those sheltering under their nuclear umbrella have not supported the new treaty.

All nine nuclear-armed countries boycotted international negotiations on banning and eliminating nuclear weapons. In addition, each of these countries is in the process of modernizing its nuclear arsenal, thereby wasting valuable resources on weapons that must never be used, and doing so while basic human needs for billions of people globally go unmet and unattended. Despite this unjust and deplorable situation, most of the 7 billion people on the planet are complacent about nuclear weapons. This only adds fuel to the fire under the frogs.

In the nuclear age, humanity is challenged as never before. Our technology, and particularly our nuclear weapons, can destroy us and all that we hold dear. But before we can respond to the profound dangers, we must first awaken to these dangers. Complacency is rooted in apathy, conformity, ignorance and denial — a recipe for disaster. If we want to prevail over our technologies, we must move from apathy to empathy; from conformity to critical thinking; from ignorance to wisdom; and from denial to recognition of the danger. But how are we to do this?

The key is education — education that promotes engagement; education that forces individuals and nations to face the truth about the dangers of the nuclear age. We need education that leads to action that will allow humanity to get out of the metaphorical pot of heating water before it is too late.

Education can take many forms, but it must begin with solid analysis of current dangers and critiques of the lack of progress in stemming the dangers of the nuclear age. We need education that is rooted in the common good. We need education that provides a platform for the voices of the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. We need education that makes clear the instability and dangerous nature of nuclear deterrence. We need education that challenges the extreme hubris of leaders who believe the global nuclear status quo can survive indefinitely in the face of human fallibility and malevolence.

We need education that can break through the bonds of nuclear insanity and move the world to action. We need the public to speak out and demand far more of their leaders if we are to leap from the pot of heating water, avert disaster and reach the safe haven of nuclear zero.

David Krieger is a founder of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, and has served as its president since 1982. He is the author and editor of many books on nuclear dangers, including “ZERO: The Case for Nuclear Weapons Abolition.”

Capitalism and Managerialism

In Democracy, Human rights, Politics on April 3, 2019 at 1:23 am

By Tom Mayer

 

I have been a Marxist socialist for at least six decades since my undergraduate years at Oberlin College.  For much of that time I expected the power of the capitalist class to decline and the power of the working class to increase leading to the dramatic advance of socialism.  I also expected the Communist societies – the Soviet Union and China in particular – to retain economic planning but reject their authoritarian political regimes.  None of these things happened, and hence I am compelled to question whether these discordant developments can be reconciled with a Marxist theoretical framework.

The most impressive effort to reconcile Marxist theory with the dire course of recent history is made in a series of books and articles by two sophisticated French Marxist economists, Gérard Duménil and Dominique Levy.  Duménil and Levy accept the general Marxist theory of history – that development of productive forces is the basic dynamic of human history, and that class struggle provides the active power moving history forward – but they reject the sequence of production modes postulated by Marx.  In particular, they do not think that capitalism is the last class divided mode of production, and that capitalism will be followed by a classless society called socialism.  Duménil and Levy argue that capitalism is “pregnant”, not with socialism, but with a new class divided society they call managerialism (Managerial Capitalism: Ownership, Management, and the Coming New Mode of Production, 2018).

Managerialism differs from capitalism in several ways.  (1) The managers of the major economic and political organizations of society, not the owners of capital, are the ruling class.  (2) Economic surplus is distributed to the ruling class via enormous salaries rather than by profits from the ownership of capital.  (3) Meritocracy rather than private ownership is the ruling ideology of the managerial mode of production.  (4) Markets can occur, but are not essential in the managerial mode of production.  The progress of technology, the process of institutional rationalization, and the drive for economic efficiency are the forces that undermine capitalism and lead to managerialism.  A capitalist class can exist under managerialism, but it is no longer politically or economically dominant.

Duménil and Levy provide ample evidence that the transition from capitalism to managerialism is well under way in the United States and other advanced societies.  In the United States, for example, the richest one percent currently receive 80% of their total income from wages and only 20% from property earnings (as predicted by managerialism).

Managerial societies can take several different forms depending on the class alliance that undergirds the economic system.  Neoliberal capitalism can be considered a reactionary form of managerialism based upon an alliance between financial managers and finance capitalists.  Scandinavian social democracy, on the other hand, is a more progressive variety of managerialism founded upon an alliance between economic managers and the working class.  Communist societies set out to build socialism, but actually established what Duménil and Levy call “bureaucratic managerialism”, a system without capitalists but sustained by a coalition between economic and political managers.

Duménil and Levy’s interpretation of Marxism has crucial political consequences.  It implies that a direct transition from capitalism to socialism (a classless society) is not sustainable.  Even the most revolutionary socialist initiatives will eventually revert to some form of managerialism, possibly after enormous suffering.  In the current historical context, the best radical progressives can hope for is a superior form of managerial social democracy.  Such a system could deal with climate change, reduce inequality, eliminate poverty, lessen the danger of nuclear war, and provide extensive social welfare; but it would not be fully egalitarian.  According to Duménil and Levy, the creation of a classless society is simply not in the historical cards for the foreseeable future.

As a lifelong socialist, this conclusion is exceedingly unwelcome to me.  But the evidence of history requires that honest progressives give Duménil and Levy’s iconoclastic analysis very serious consideration.

 

Changes in Latin America

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Peace, Politics on February 22, 2019 at 3:57 am

By Dave Anderson – February 21, 2019

While Venezuela’s alarming humanitarian and political crisis has
rightly grabbed our attention, another disturbing event in Latin
America has been forgotten. That event was the New Year’s Day
inauguration in Brazil of former Army captain Jair Bolsonaro as
president. His ascension marked the most drastic political change in
the country since military rule ended more than three decades ago.
Bolsonaro is a fervent supporter of the “glorious” military
dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985. It was “20 years of
order and progress,” he said.

He is enthusiastic about torture and has threatened to murder and
imprison his opponents. He is known for bigoted comments about the
poor, minorities, the LGBT community and assertive women. He told a
female legislator that she was too ugly to rape. He also said he would
rather find out that his son had died in a car crash than learn that
his son is gay.

Bolsonaro told his inaugural crowd, “I come before the nation today, a
day in which the people have rid themselves of socialism, the
inversion of values, statism and political correctness.” He said
Brazil is like “a patient whose … whole body needs amputating.” He
could reverse a generation of progress instituted by the Workers’
Party.

Bolsonaro wants to open up protected indigenous territories in the
Amazon rainforest to mining, cattle ranching and farming.
Environmentalists warn that this will speed up global climate change.
But his foreign minister Ernesto Araujo has said climate change is a
“cultural Marxist” hoax created by the Chinese.

The global financial community was giddy about Bolsonaro’s election.
In an investor call, Timothy Hassinger, chief executive officer of
Lindsay Corp., the Nebraska-based farming equipment manufacturer,
referred to Bolsonaro as “strongly pro-ag,” calling his election a
“bullish opportunity for us.”

Bolsonaro’s chief economic adviser, Paulo Guedes, is a right-wing
banker, who has promised to deregulate the economy, cut the public
pension system, revise the tax code to favor business and privatize
state-owned firms. This is the cruel neo-liberal playbook used by
University of Chicago-trained economists of the Chilean dictatorship
of Augusto Pinochet. It caused a great deal of suffering for the
majority of Chileans but it was successfully carried out because
political opposition and the labor movement were crushed. Guedes is a
“Chicago boy” alumnus who taught economics in Chile during the
Pinochet era.

Bolsonaro was the keynote speaker at the World Economic Forum in Davos
in January. At this shindig for the planet’s economic elite, Reuters
reported that the Brazilian president “threw out the welcome mat for
big business and foreign investors.” He got a warm reception.

This is a big change. It was only a few years ago that progressive
governments were in power throughout Latin America. Beginning in the
1990s, there was a “Pink Tide” of self-proclaimed socialist and
democratically elected governments in Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil,
Chile, Ecuador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Uruguay, Venezuela and
Peru. They weren’t communist (or red) but a more moderate version of
the left (therefore pink).

Last October, the democratic socialist magazine Dissent hosted a
conference entitled “The Future of the Left in the Americas.”
Historian Patrick Iber writes that the “Pink Tide” governments were
quite diverse. He says, “One point of debate at the conference was how
to define the left, given that some governments that describe
themselves as on the left engage in authoritarian practices, are
overseeing large increases in poverty rates, or have incorporated
criminal enterprises into the state.”

Iber notes, “To many international observers, there seemed to be a
more radical, self-described ‘Bolivarian’ wing represented by
Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Nicaragua and possibly Argentina, with a
more social democratic left in Brazil, Uruguay and Chile.” He says
that division is somewhat simplistic and that it can be confusing to
categorize one of the groups as more left-wing.

“…(W)hat mattered more,” he stresses, “was that in most of the
Bolivarian countries the old party systems had collapsed, leading to
the quick creation of new hegemonic parties that used charismatic
leadership to hold coalitions together. This more confrontational
style polarized electorates. It put a primacy on loyalty, and often on
lashing out at enemies, many real and some imagined. The social
democratic countries operated within more conventional limits of
democratic politics, with all of the inevitable roadblocks and
disappointments that come with sharing power.”

All of the left-wing governments benefited from one of the biggest
commodities booms in modern times. Latin America exports primary
products and imports finished products. Iber says, “In the early
2000s, rapid growth in India and China drove up the price of primary
products, from oil to lithium to soybeans. This gave governments the
ability to spend money on social welfare and development, satisfying —
at least in part — the needs of their political bases without making
fundamental structural changes to their economies or their position in
the global system of trade.”

In 2012, the commodities boom ended, mostly due to a slowdown in the
Chinese economy. The governments had to cut social spending and had a
hard time staying in power. There was a right-wing backlash by the
economic elite. Now with the rise of far-rightists such as Bolsonaro
and Trump, Latin America faces the possi

War With China? It’s Already Under Way

In Climate change, Environment, Peace, Politics, War on February 19, 2019 at 8:40 am
 

In his highly acclaimed 2017 book, Destined for War, Harvard professor Graham Allison assessed the likelihood that the United States and China would one day find themselves at war. Comparing the U.S.-Chinese relationship to great-power rivalries all the way back to the Peloponnesian War of the fifth century BC, he concluded that the future risk of a conflagration was substantial. Like much current analysis of U.S.-Chinese relations, however, he missed a crucial point: for all intents and purposes, the United States and China are already at war with one another. Even if their present slow-burn conflict may not produce the immediate devastation of a conventional hot war, its long-term consequences could prove no less dire.

To suggest this means reassessing our understanding of what constitutes war. From Allison’s perspective (and that of so many others in Washington and elsewhere), “peace” and “war” stand as polar opposites. One day, our soldiers are in their garrisons being trained and cleaning their weapons; the next, they are called into action and sent onto a battlefield. War, in this model, begins when the first shots are fired.

Well, think again in this new era of growing great-power struggle and competition. Today, war means so much more than military combat and can take place even as the leaders of the warring powers meet to negotiate and share dry-aged steak and whipped potatoes (as Donald Trump and Xi Jinping did at Mar-a-Lago in 2017). That is exactly where we are when it comes to Sino-American relations. Consider it war by another name, or perhaps, to bring back a long-retired term, a burning new version of a cold war.

Even before Donald Trump entered the Oval Office, the U.S. military and other branches of government were already gearing up for a long-term quasi-war, involving both growing economic and diplomatic pressure on China and a buildup of military forces along that country’s periphery. Since his arrival, such initiatives have escalated into Cold War-style combat by another name, with his administration committed to defeating China in a struggle for global economic, technological, and military supremacy.

This includes the president’s much-publicized “trade war” with China, aimed at hobbling that country’s future growth; a techno-war designed to prevent it from overtaking the U.S. in key breakthrough areas of technology; a diplomatic war intended to isolate Beijing and frustrate its grandiose plans for global outreach; a cyber war (largely hidden from public scrutiny); and a range of military measures as well. This may not be war in the traditional sense of the term, but for leaders on both sides, it has the feel of one.

Why China?

The media and many politicians continue to focus on U.S.-Russian relations, in large part because of revelations of Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 American presidential election and the ongoing Mueller investigation. Behind the scenes, however, most senior military and foreign policy officials in Washington view China, not Russia, as the country’s principal adversary. In eastern Ukraine, the Balkans, Syria, cyberspace, and in the area of nuclear weaponry, Russia does indeed pose a variety of threats to Washington’s goals and desires. Still, as an economically hobbled petro-state, it lacks the kind of might that would allow it to truly challenge this country’s status as the world’s dominant power. China is another story altogether. With its vast economy, growing technological prowess, intercontinental “Belt and Road” infrastructure project, and rapidly modernizing military, an emboldened China could someday match or even exceed U.S. power on a global scale, an outcome American elites are determined to prevent at any cost.

Washington’s fears of a rising China were on full display in January with the release of the 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community, a synthesis of the views of the Central Intelligence Agency and other members of that “community.” Its conclusion: “We assess that China’s leaders will try to extend the country’s global economic, political, and military reach while using China’s military capabilities and overseas infrastructure and energy investments under the Belt and Road Initiative to diminish U.S. influence.”

To counter such efforts, every branch of government is now expected to mobilize its capabilities to bolster American — and diminish Chinese — power. In Pentagon documents, this stance is summed up by the term “overmatch,” which translates as the eternal preservation of American global superiority vis-à-vis China (and all other potential rivals). “The United States must retain overmatch,” the administration’s National Security Strategy insists, and preserve a “combination of capabilities in sufficient scale to prevent enemy success,” while continuing to “shape the international environment to protect our interests.”

In other words, there can never be parity between the two countries. The only acceptable status for China is as a distinctly lesser power. To ensure such an outcome, administration officials insist, the U.S. must take action on a daily basis to contain or impede its rise.

In previous epochs, as Allison makes clear in his book, this equation — a prevailing power seeking to retain its dominant status and a rising power seeking to overcome its subordinate one — has almost always resulted in conventional conflict. In today’s world, however, where great-power armed combat could possibly end in a nuclear exchange and mutual annihilation, direct military conflict is a distinctly unappealing option for all parties. Instead, governing elites have developed other means of warfare — economic, technological, and covert — to achieve such strategic objectives. Viewed this way, the United States is already in close to full combat mode with respect to China.

Trade War

When it comes to the economy, the language betrays the reality all too clearly. The Trump administration’s economic struggle with China is regularly described, openly and without qualification, as a “war.” And there’s no doubt that senior White House officials, beginning with the president and his chief trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, see it just that way: as a means of pulverizing the Chinese economy and so curtailing that country’s ability to compete with the United States in all other measures of power.

Ostensibly, the aim of President Trump’s May 2018 decision to impose $60 billion in tariffs on Chinese imports (increased in September to $200 billion) was to rectify a trade imbalance between the two countries, while protecting the American economy against what is described as China’s malign behavior. Its trade practices “plainly constitute a grave threat to the long-term health and prosperity of the United States economy,” as the president put it when announcing the second round of tariffs.

An examination of the demands submitted to Chinese negotiators by the U.S. trade delegation last May suggests, however, that Washington’s primary intent hasn’t been to rectify that trade imbalance but to impede China’s economic growth. Among the stipulations Beijing must acquiesce to before receiving tariff relief, according to leaked documents from U.S. negotiators that were spread on Chinese social media:

  • halting all government subsidies to advanced manufacturing industries in its Made in China 2025 program, an endeavor that covers 10 key economic sectors, including aircraft manufacturing, electric cars, robotics, computer microchips, and artificial intelligence;
  • accepting American restrictions on investments in sensitive technologies without retaliating;
  • opening up its service and agricultural sectors — areas where Chinese firms have an inherent advantage — to full American competition.

In fact, this should be considered a straightforward declaration of economic war. Acquiescing to such demands would mean accepting a permanent subordinate status vis-à-vis the United States in hopes of continuing a profitable trade relationship with this country. “The list reads like the terms for a surrender rather than a basis for negotiation,” was the way Eswar Prasad, an economics professor at Cornell University, accurately described these developments.

Technological Warfare

As suggested by America’s trade demands, Washington’s intent is not only to hobble China’s economy today and tomorrow but for decades to come. This has led to an intense, far-ranging campaign to deprive it of access to advanced technologies and to cripple its leading technology firms.

Chinese leaders have long realized that, for their country to achieve economic and military parity with the United States, they must master the cutting-edge technologies that will dominate the twenty-first-century global economy, including artificial intelligence (AI), fifth-generation (5G) telecommunications, electric vehicles, and nanotechnology. Not surprisingly then, the government has invested in a major way in science and technology education, subsidized research in pathbreaking fields, and helped launch promising startups, among other such endeavors — all in the very fashion that the Internet and other American computer and aerospace innovations were originally financed and encouraged by the Department of Defense.

Chinese companies have also demanded technology transfers when investing in or forging industrial partnerships with foreign firms, a common practice in international development. India, to cite a recent example of this phenomenon, expects that significant technology transfers from American firms will be one outcome of its agreed-upon purchases of advanced American weaponry.

In addition, Chinese firms have been accused of stealing American technology through cybertheft, provoking widespread outrage in this country. Realistically speaking, it’s difficult for outside observers to determine to what degree China’s recent technological advances are the product of commonplace and legitimate investments in science and technology and to what degree they’re due to cyberespionage. Given Beijing’s massive investment in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education at the graduate and post-graduate level, however, it’s safe to assume that most of that country’s advances are the result of domestic efforts.

Certainly, given what’s publicly known about Chinese cybertheft activities, it’s reasonable for American officials to apply pressure on Beijing to curb the practice. However, the Trump administration’s drive to blunt that country’s technological progress is also aimed at perfectly legitimate activities. For example, the White House seeks to ban Beijing’s government subsidies for progress on artificial intelligence at the same time that the Department of Defense is pouring billions of dollars into AI research at home. The administration is also acting to block the Chinese acquisition of U.S. technology firms and of exports of advanced components and know-how.

In an example of this technology war that’s made the headlines lately, Washington has been actively seeking to sabotage the efforts of Huawei, one of China’s most prominent telecom firms, to gain leadership in the global deployment of 5G wireless communications. Such wireless systems are important in part because they will transmit colossal amounts of electronic data at far faster rates than now conceivable, facilitating the introduction of self-driving cars, widespread roboticization, and the universal application of AI.

Second only to Apple as the world’s supplier of smartphones and a major producer of telecommunications equipment, Huawei has sought to take the lead in the race for 5G adaptation around the world. Fearing that this might give China an enormous advantage in the coming decades, the Trump administration has tried to prevent that. In what is widely described as a “tech Cold War,” it has put enormous pressure on both its Asian and European allies to bar the company from conducting business in their countries, even as it sought the arrest in Canada of Huawei’s chief financial officer, Meng Wanzhou, and her extradition to the U.S. on charges of tricking American banks into aiding Iranian firms (in violation of Washington’s sanctions on that country). Other attacks on Huawei are in the works, including a potential ban on the sales of its products in this country. Such moves are regularly described as focused on boosting the security of both the United States and its allies by preventing the Chinese government from using Huawei’s telecom networks to steal military secrets. The real reason — barely disguised — is simply to block China from gaining technological parity with the United States.

Cyberwarfare

There would be much to write on this subject, if only it weren’t still hidden in the shadows of the growing conflict between the two countries. Not surprisingly, however, little information is available on U.S.-Chinese cyberwarfare. All that can be said with confidence is that an intense war is now being waged between the two countries in cyberspace. American officials accuse China of engaging in a broad-based cyber-assault on this country, involving both outright cyberespionage to obtain military as well as corporate secrets and widespread political meddling. “What the Russians are doing pales in comparison to what China is doing,” said Vice President Mike Pence last October in a speech at the Hudson Institute, though — typically on the subject — he provided not a shred of evidence for his claim.

Not disclosed is what this country is doing to combat China in cyberspace. All that can be known from available information is that this is a two-sided war in which the U.S. is conducting its own assaults. “­The United States will impose swift and costly consequences on foreign governments, criminals, and other actors who undertake significant malicious cyber activities,” the 2017 National Security Strategy affirmed. What form these “consequences” have taken has yet to be revealed, but there’s little doubt that America’s cyber warriors have been active in this domain.

Diplomatic and Military Coercion

Completing the picture of America’s ongoing war with China are the fierce pressures being exerted on the diplomatic and military fronts to frustrate Beijing’s geopolitical ambitions. To advance those aspirations, China’s leadership is relying heavily on a much-touted Belt and Road Initiative, a trillion-dollar plan to help fund and encourage the construction of a vast new network of road, rail, port, and pipeline infrastructure across Eurasia and into the Middle East and Africa. By financing — and, in many cases, actually building — such infrastructure, Beijing hopes to bind the economies of a host of far-flung nations ever closer to its own, while increasing its political influence across the Eurasian mainland and Africa. As Beijing’s leadership sees it, at least in terms of orienting the planet’s future economics, its role would be similar to that of the Marshall Plan that cemented U.S. influence in Europe after World War II.

And given exactly that possibility, Washington has begun to actively seek to undermine the Belt and Road wherever it can — discouraging allies from participating, while stirring up unease in countries like Malaysia and Uganda over the enormous debts to China they may end up with and the heavy-handed manner in which that country’s firms often carry out such overseas construction projects. (For example, they typically bring in Chinese laborers to do most of the work, rather than hiring and training locals.)

“China uses bribes, opaque agreements, and the strategic use of debt to hold states in Africa captive to Beijing’s wishes and demands,” National Security Advisor John Bolton claimed in a December speech on U.S. policy on that continent. “Its investment ventures are riddled with corruption,” he added, “and do not meet the same environmental or ethical standards as U.S. developmental programs.” Bolton promised that the Trump administration would provide a superior alternative for African nations seeking development funds, but — and this is something of a pattern as well — no such assistance has yet materialized.

In addition to diplomatic pushback, the administration has undertaken a series of initiatives intended to isolate China militarily and limit its strategic options. In South Asia, for example, Washington has abandoned its past position of maintaining rough parity in its relations with India and Pakistan. In recent years, it’s swung sharply towards a strategic alliance with New Dehli, attempting to enlist it fully in America’s efforts to contain China and, presumably, in the process punishing Pakistan for its increasingly enthusiastic role in the Belt and Road Initiative.

In the Western Pacific, the U.S. has stepped up its naval patrols and forged new basing arrangements with local powers — all with the aim of confining the Chinese military to areas close to the mainland. In response, Beijing has sought to escape the grip of American power by establishing miniature bases on Chinese-claimed islands in the South China Sea (or even constructing artificial islands to house bases there) — moves widely condemned by the hawks in Washington.

To demonstrate its ire at the effrontery of Beijing in the Pacific (once known as an “American lake”), the White House has ordered an increased pace of so-called freedom-of-navigation operations (FRONOPs). Navy warships regularly sail within shooting range of those very island bases, suggesting a U.S. willingness to employ military force to resist future Chinese moves in the region (and also creating situations in which a misstep could lead to a military incident that could lead… well, anywhere).

In Washington, the warnings about Chinese military encroachment in the region are already reaching a fever pitch. For instance, Admiral Philip Davidson, commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific, described the situation there in recent congressional testimony this way: “In short, China is now capable of controlling the South China Sea in all scenarios short of war with the United States.”

A Long War of Attrition

As Admiral Davidson suggests, one possible outcome of the ongoing cold war with China could be armed conflict of the traditional sort. Such an encounter, in turn, could escalate to the nuclear level, resulting in mutual annihilation. A war involving only “conventional” forces would itself undoubtedly be devastating and lead to widespread suffering, not to mention the collapse of the global economy.

Even if a shooting war doesn’t erupt, however, a long-term geopolitical war of attrition between the U.S. and China will, in the end, have debilitating and possibly catastrophic consequences for both sides. Take the trade war, for example. If that’s not resolved soon in a positive manner, continuing high U.S. tariffs on Chinese imports will severely curb Chinese economic growth and so weaken the world economy as a whole, punishing every nation on Earth, including this one. High tariffs will also increase costs for American consumers and endanger the prosperity and survival of many firms that rely on Chinese raw materials and components.

This new brand of war will also ensure that already sky-high defense expenditures will continue to rise, diverting funds from vital needs like education, health, infrastructure, and the environment.  Meanwhile, preparations for a future war with China have already become the number one priority at the Pentagon, crowding out all other considerations. “While we’re focused on ongoing operations,” acting Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan reportedly told his senior staff on his first day in office this January, “remember China, China, China.”

Perhaps the greatest victim of this ongoing conflict will be planet Earth itself and all the creatures, humans included, who inhabit it. As the world’s top two emitters of climate-altering greenhouse gases, the U.S. and China must work together to halt global warming or all of us are doomed to a hellish future. With a war under way, even a non-shooting one, the chance for such collaboration is essentially zero. The only way to save civilization is for the U.S. and China to declare peace and focus together on human salvation.

Michael T. Klare, a TomDispatch regular, is the five-college professor emeritus of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and a senior visiting fellow at the Arms Control Association. His most recent book is The Race for What’s Left. His next book, All Hell Breaking Loose: Climate Change, Global Chaos, and American National Security, will be published in 2019.

Mikhail Gorbachev: A Nuclear Arms Race Will Produce No Winners (Op-ed)

In Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on February 16, 2019 at 12:23 am

Despite everything, it is still in our power to avoid nuclear confrontation.

Mikhail Gorbachev

Mikhail Gorbachev

Kirill Zykov / Moskva News Agency, February 14, 2018

The fate of the INF treaty has politicians and ordinary people worried on every continent. I am also concerned, and not only because I signed that treaty with former U.S. President Ronald Reagan in Dec. 1987. These events are yet another manifestation of the dangerous and destructive trends in world politics facing us today.

The main idea guiding us on the path to signing the original treaty was expressed in a joint statement with the United States, adopted at our first meeting in Geneva: “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”

That INF Treaty was the first step, and it was followed by others — the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START I) and mutual steps towards eliminating a significant part of all tactical nuclear weapons. The two states revised their military doctrines to reduce their reliance on nuclear weapons, slashing their number by more than 80 percent from their highpoint during the Cold War.

The process started at that time had an affect beyond nuclear weapons alone. The Chemical Weapons Convention was signed in 1997 and the countries of Eastern and Western Europe agreed on a drastic reduction of their armed forces and weapons. This was the “peace dividend” from which everyone benefited — Europeans most of all — as a result of the end of the Cold War.

Ever since, the INF Treaty has served the security of our country, excluding the possibility of weapons capable of a “decapitation strike” being deploying near our borders.

I have to mention here that senior Russian officials sometimes criticized the treaty unfairly, lamenting the destruction of the missiles and claiming that they would still be useful to us. I always felt compelled to respond to such statements.

President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev signing the INF Treaty in the East Room of the White House

President Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev signing the INF Treaty in the East Room of the White House

Wikicommons

In recent years, however, Russia has taken an unequivocal position in favor of preserving the INF Treaty. I hope this position reflects a deeper understanding of it’s importance.

A great danger, however, now looms over all that we have achieved in the years since the end of the Cold War. The decision of the United States to withdraw from the INF Treaty threatens to reverse the progress made.

And this is not the first such step. The U.S. refused to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and the country’s unilateral decision in 2002 ended the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABMT).

Of the three pillars of global strategic stability — the ABMT, INFT, and START I — only one remains, the New START signed by former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and former U.S. President Barack Obama in 2010, and its fate is unclear. Judging by statements that representatives of the U.S. administration have made, that, too, could “become a thing of the past.”

What has happened? What threat is compelling the United States to dismantle a system for limiting nuclear arms that has served the world for decades?

According to the text in the INF Treaty, “Each party shall, in exercising its national sovereignty, have the right to withdraw from this Treaty if it decides that extraordinary events related to the subject matter of this Treaty have jeopardized its supreme interests. It shall give notice of its decision to withdraw to the other Party six months prior to withdrawal from this Treaty. Such notice shall include a statement of the extraordinary events the notifying Party regards as having jeopardized its supreme interests.”

That is, a country taking the step of leaving the treaty should explain to the world community what has compelled it walk away from it.

Where is this threat to the “supreme interests” of the security of the U.S. — a country whose military spending is at least three times greater than that of all of its potential rivals? Has the U.S. communicated that threat to the world community, the public, and the UN Security Council? No, it has not.

A Forced Decision: Why the U.S. Withdrew From the INF Treaty (Op-ed)

Instead, it has leveled complaints against Russia for alleged violations that even experienced specialists have difficulty understanding. And it has presented those claims in the form of an ultimatum.

The U.S. justifies its position by pointing to the fact that other countries — particularly China, Iran, and North Korea — possess medium-range missiles. This is not a convincing argument, however. The arsenals of the U.S. and Russia still account for more than 90% of the world’s nuclear weapons. In this sense, the two countries really are still “superpowers.”

It is possible to suggest that Washington’s decision to withdraw from the treaty is based not on the reasons cited by U.S. leaders, but on something very different: Washington’s desire to free itself from any limitations on its weapons and to achieve absolute military superiority.

“We have more money than anybody else by far,” President Trump recently proclaimed, “we’ll build it [the nuclear arsenal] up until they come to their senses.”

Presumably, the U.S. wants to re-arm in order to dictate its will to the world. What else could it be?

But this is an illusory goal, a vain hope. It is impossible for one country to achieve hegemony in the modern world. This destructive turn of events will lead to a very different result: The destabilization of the global strategic situation, a new arms race, and greater chaos and unpredictability in world politics.

The security of all countries, including the United States, will suffer. This is the nature of the uncontrollable process that this decision will set in motion.

The INF Treaty Has Been Nixed. What’s Next? (Op-ed)

Trump said that the U.S. hopes to conclude “a new treaty that would be much better.”

What sort of treaty does he mean — one catered for building up nuclear weapons perhaps? Nobody should be fooled by such a promise. The same is true of the statement by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said that “the U.S. has no plans for the immediate deployment of new missile weapons.”

It only means that the U.S. does not have such missiles yet. And these statements clearly failed to convince the Europeans, who were understandably alarmed. Everyone remembers the “missile crisis” of the early 1980s, when hundreds of Soviet SS-20 and U.S. Pershing missiles were deployed on this continent. And everyone understands that a new round of the missile race could be even more dangerous.

I welcome efforts by European countries to save the INF Treaty. The European Union urged the U.S. to “consider the consequences of its possible withdrawal from the INF on its own security, on the security of its allies and of the whole world.”

German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas, who warned that “ending the treaty would have many negative consequences,” travelled to Moscow and Washington in an effort to find a solution to the problem. It is unfortunate that this attempt did not produce any results, but such efforts must continue — too much is at stake.

Those who would like to put the treaty to rest claim that the world has undergone major changes since it was concluded and that the agreement has simply become outdated as a result. The first half of that argument is certainly true, but the second is deeply mistaken. The subsequent changes in the world require not that we abandon the treaty — that laid the foundations of international security after the end of the Cold War — but that we take further steps towards the ultimate goal: The elimination of nuclear weapons.

This is where we should focus our efforts.

INF Is Just Another Unenforceable Treaty (Op-ed)

I would like to address all Americans, and particularly the Republican and Democratic members of Congress. It is unfortunate that the divisive domestic political situation in the U.S. in recent years has led to the breakdown of the entire U.S.-Russian dialogue, including on nuclear weapons. It is time to overcome inter-party disagreements and begin serious talks. I am confident that Russia is open for them.

With those relations at a standstill, we need new ideas capable of getting them moving again. The expert community can play a major role in this effort. In an article recently published by Rossiiskaya Gazeta and the Washington Post, former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz and I called for the creation of a nongovernmental forum of Russian and U.S. experts to discuss the changes that have occurred in security-related issues over the past decades and to develop proposals for our respective governments.

Most important now is for politicians to make a serious change in their thinking. Militarized mindsets have led to military campaigns in Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya, and other countries. Their effects will be felt for a long time to come.

Politics, not weapons is the key to solving security problems. Although the disturbing events of recent weeks leave no room for complacency, we should not panic yet. We need to understand the situation as it develops and, most importantly, take action to prevent the world from sliding into an arms race, confrontation, and ultimately hostility. Despite everything, I believe it is still in our power.

Mikhail Gorbachev was the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Soviet Union in 1985-1991 and President of the Soviet Union in 1990-1991. A Russian-language version of this article first appeared in Vedomosti. The views and opinions expressed in opinion pieces do not necessarily reflect the position of The Moscow Times.

World’s Most Dangerous Nuclear Weapon Rolls Off Assembly Line

In Environment, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Politics, War on February 13, 2019 at 10:30 am

Last month, the National Nuclear Security Administration (formerly the Atomic Energy Commission) announced that the first of a new generation of strategic nuclear weapons had rolled off the assembly line at its Pantex nuclear weapons plant in the panhandle of Texas. That warhead, the W76-2, is designed to be fitted to a submarine-launched Trident missile, a weapon with a range of more than 7,500 miles. By September, an undisclosed number of warheads will be delivered to the Navy for deployment.

What makes this particular nuke new is the fact that it carries a far smaller destructive payload than the thermonuclear monsters the Trident has been hosting for decades — not the equivalent of about 100 kilotons of TNT as previously, but of five kilotons. According to Stephen Young of the Union of Concerned Scientists, the W76-2 will yield “only” about one-third of the devastating power of the weapon that the Enola Gay, an American B-29 bomber, dropped on Hiroshima on August 6, 1945. Yet that very shrinkage of the power to devastate is precisely what makes this nuclear weapon potentially the most dangerous ever manufactured. Fulfilling the Trump administration’s quest for nuclear-war-fighting “flexibility,” it isn’t designed as a deterrent against another country launching its nukes; it’s designed to be used. This is the weapon that could make the previously “unthinkablethinkable.

There have long been “low-yield” nuclear weapons in the arsenals of the nuclear powers, including ones on cruise missiles, “air-drop bombs” (carried by planes), and even nuclear artillery shells — weapons designated as “tactical” and intended to be used in the confines of a specific battlefield or in a regional theater of war. The vast majority of them were, however, eliminated in the nuclear arms reductions that followed the end of the Cold War, a scaling-down by both the United States and Russia that would be quietly greeted with relief by battlefield commanders, those actually responsible for the potential use of such ordnance who understood its self-destructive absurdity.

Ranking some weapons as “low-yield” based on their destructive energy always depended on a distinction that reality made meaningless (once damage from radioactivity and atmospheric fallout was taken into account along with the unlikelihood that only one such weapon would be used). In fact, the elimination of tactical nukes represented a hard-boiled confrontation with the iron law of escalation, another commander’s insight — that any use of such a weapon against a similarly armed adversary would likely ignite an inevitable chain of nuclear escalation whose end point was barely imaginable. One side was never going to take a hit without responding in kind, launching a process that could rapidly spiral toward an apocalyptic exchange. “Limited nuclear war,” in other words, was a fool’s fantasy and gradually came to be universally acknowledged as such. No longer, unfortunately.

Unlike tactical weapons, intercontinental strategic nukes were designed to directly target the far-off homeland of an enemy. Until now, their extreme destructive power (so many times greater than that inflicted on Hiroshima) made it impossible to imagine genuine scenarios for their use that would be practically, not to mention morally, acceptable. It was exactly to remove that practical inhibition — the moral one seemed not to count — that the Trump administration recently began the process of withdrawing from the Cold War-era Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, while rolling a new “limited” weapon off the assembly line and so altering the Trident system. With these acts, there can be little question that humanity is entering a perilous second nuclear age.

That peril lies in the way a 70-year-old inhibition that undoubtedly saved the planet is potentially being shelved in a new world of supposedly “usable” nukes. Of course, a weapon with one-third the destructive power of the bomb dropped on Hiroshima, where as many as 150,000 died, might kill 50,000 people in a similar attack before escalation even began. Of such nukes, former Secretary of State George Shultz, who was at President Ronald Reagan’s elbow when Cold War-ending arms control negotiations climaxed, said, “A nuclear weapon is a nuclear weapon. You use a small one, then you go to a bigger one. I think nuclear weapons are nuclear weapons and we need to draw the line there.”

How Close to Midnight?

Until now, it’s been an anomaly of the nuclear age that some of the fiercest critics of such weaponry were drawn from among the very people who created it. The emblem of that is the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, a bimonthly journal founded after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by veteran scientists from the Manhattan Project, which created the first nuclear weapons. (Today, that magazine’s sponsors include 14 Nobel Laureates.) Beginning in 1947, the Bulletin’s cover has functioned annually as a kind of nuclear alarm, featuring a so-called Doomsday Clock, its minute hand always approaching “midnight” (defined as the moment of nuclear catastrophe).

In that first year, the hand was positioned at seven minutes to midnight. In 1949, after the Soviet Union acquired its first atomic bomb, it inched up to three minutes before midnight. Over the years, it has been reset every January to register waxing and waning levels of nuclear jeopardy. In 1991, after the end of the Cold War, it was set back to 17 minutes and then, for a few hope-filled years, the clock disappeared altogether.

It came back in 2005 at seven minutes to midnight. In 2007, the scientists began factoring climate degradation into the assessment and the hands moved inexorably forward. By 2018, after a year of Donald Trump, it clocked in at two minutes to midnight, a shrill alarm meant to signal a return to the greatest peril ever: the two-minute level reached only once before, 65 years earlier. Last month, within days of the announced manufacture of the first W76-2, the Bulletin’s cover for 2019 was unveiled, still at that desperate two-minute mark, aka the edge of doom.

To fully appreciate how precarious our situation is today, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists implicitly invites us to return to that other two-minutes-before-midnight moment. If the manufacture of a new low-yield nuclear weapon marks a decisive pivot back toward jeopardy, consider it an irony that the last such moment involved the manufacture of the extreme opposite sort of nuke: a “super” weapon, as it was then called, or a hydrogen bomb. That was in 1953 and what may have been the most fateful turn in the nuclear story until now had just occurred.

After the Soviets exploded their first atomic bomb in 1949, the United States embarked on a crash program to build a far more powerful nuclear weapon. Having been decommissioned after World War II, the Pantex plant was reactivated and has been the main source of American nukes ever since.

The atomic bomb is a fission weapon, meaning the nuclei of atoms are split into parts whose sum total weighs less than the original atoms, the difference having been transformed into energy. A hydrogen bomb uses the intense heat generated by that “fission” (hence thermonuclear) as a trigger for a vastly more powerful “fusion,” or combining, of elements, which results in an even larger loss of mass being transformed into explosive energy of a previously unimagined sort. One H-bomb generates explosive force 100 to 1,000 times the destructive power of the Hiroshima bomb.

Given a kind of power that humans once only imagined in the hands of the gods, key former Manhattan Project scientists, including Enrico Fermi, James Conant, and J. Robert Oppenheimer, firmly opposed the development of such a new weapon as a potential threat to the human species. The Super Bomb would be, in Conant’s word, “genocidal.” Following the lead of those scientists, members of the Atomic Energy Commission recommended — by a vote of three to two — against developing such a fusion weapon, but President Truman ordered it done anyway.

In 1952, as the first H-bomb test approached, still-concerned atomic scientists proposed that the test be indefinitely postponed to avert a catastrophic “super” competition with the Soviets. They suggested that an approach be made to Moscow to mutually limit thermonuclear development only to research on, not actual testing of, such weaponry, especially since none of this could truly be done in secret. A fusion bomb’s test explosion would be readily detectable by the other side, which could then proceed with its own testing program. The scientists urged Moscow and Washington to draw just the sort of arms control line that the two nations would indeed agree to many years later.

At the time, the United States had the initiative. An out-of-control arms race with the potential accumulation of thousands of such weapons on both sides had not yet really begun. In 1952, the United States numbered its atomic arsenal in the low hundreds; the Soviet Union in the dozens. (Even those numbers, of course, already offered a vision of an Armageddon-like global war.) President Truman considered the proposal to indefinitely postpone the test. It was then backed by figures like Vannevar Bush, who headed the Office of Scientific Research and Development, which had overseen the wartime Manhattan Protect. Scientists like him already grasped the lesson that would only slowly dawn on policymakers — that every advance in the atomic capability of one of the superpowers would inexorably lead the other to match it, ad infinitum. The title of the bestselling James Jones novel of that moment caught the feeling perfectly: From Here to Eternity.

In the last days of his presidency, however, Truman decided against such an indefinite postponement of the test — against, that is, a break in the nuke-accumulation momentum that might well have changed history. On November 1, 1952, the first H-bomb — “Mike” — was detonated on an island in the Pacific. It had 500 times more lethal force than the bomb that obliterated Hiroshima. With a fireball more than three miles wide, not only did it destroy the three-story structure built to house it but also the entire island of Elugelab, as well as parts of several nearby islands.

In this way, the thermonuclear age began and the assembly line at that same Pantex plant really started to purr. Less than 10 years later, the United States had 20,000 nukes, mostly H-bombs; Moscow, fewer than 2,000. And three months after that first test, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists moved that hand on its still new clock to two minutes before midnight.

“A Madman-Theory Version of the World”

It may seem counterintuitive to compare the manufacture of what’s called a “mini-nuke” to the creation of the “super” almost six decades ago, but honestly, what meaning can “mini” really have when we’re talking about nuclear war? The point is that, as in 1952, so in 2019 another era-shaping threshold is being crossed at the very same weapons plant in the high plains country of the Texas Panhandle, where so many instruments of mayhem have been created. Ironically, because the H-bomb was eventually understood to be precisely what the dissenting scientists had claimed it was — a genocidal weapon — pressures against its use proved insurmountable during almost four decades of savage East-West hostility. Today, the Trident-mounted W76-2 could well have quite a different effect — its first act of destruction potentially being the obliteration of the long-standing, post-Hiroshima and Nagasaki taboo against nuclear use. In other words, so many years after the island of Elugelab was wiped from the face of the Earth, the “absolute weapon” is finally being normalized.

With President Trump expunging the theoretical from Richard Nixon’s “madman theory” — that former president’s conviction that an opponent should fear an American leader was so unstable he might actually push the nuclear button — what is to be done? Once again, nuke-skeptical scientists, who have grasped the essential problems in the nuclear conundrum with crystal clarity for three quarters of a century, are pointing the way. In 2017, the Union of Concerned Scientists, together with Physicians for Social Responsibility, launched Back from the Brink: The Call to Prevent Nuclear War, “a national grassroots initiative seeking to fundamentally change U.S. nuclear weapons policy and lead us away from the dangerous path we are on.”

Engaging a broad coalition of civic organizations, municipalities, religious groups, educators, and scientists, it aims to lobby government bodies at every level, to raise the nuclear issue in every forum, and to engage an ever-wider group of citizens in pressing for change in American nuclear policy. Back From the Brink makes five demands, much needed in a world in which the U.S. and Russia are withdrawing from a key Cold-War-era nuclear treaty with more potentially to come, including the New START pact that expires two years from now. The five demands are:

  • No to first use of nukes. (Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Adam Smith only recently introduced a No First Use Act in both houses of Congress to stop Trump and future presidents from launching a nuclear war.)
  • End the unchecked launch-authority of the president. (Last month, Senator Edward Markey and Representative Ted Lieu reintroduced a bill that would do just that.)
  • No to nuclear hair-triggers.
  • No to endlessly renewing and replacing the arsenal (as the U.S. is now doing to the tune of perhaps $1.6 trillion over three decades).
  • Yes to an abolition agreement among nuclear-armed states.

These demands range from the near-term achievable to the long-term hoped for, but as a group they define what clear-eyed realism should be in Donald Trump’s new version of our never-ending nuclear age.

In the upcoming season of presidential politics, the nuclear question belongs at the top of every candidate’s agenda. It belongs at the center of every forum and at the heart of every voter’s decision. Action is needed before the W76-2 and its successors teach a post-Hiroshima planet what nuclear war is truly all about.

The No First Use Act On Nuclear Weapons Is One Sentence Long — But Its Impact Could Be Hug

In Human rights, Jefferson Parkway, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on February 13, 2019 at 1:25 am

On Jan. 30, Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Rep. Adam Smith introduced a bill that was just one sentence long — but its importance shouldn’t be underestimated. Despite its length, the No First Use Act on nuclear weapons has big aims: to define, in blunt terms, the United States’ relationship to nuclear weaponry for the coming years. The sentence is 12 words long, but couldn’t be more specific: “It is the policy of the United States not to use nuclear weapons first.

“The bill was jointly introduced by Warren and Smith, who is the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. According to The Washington Post, the lawmakers introduced it by explaining that the bill aimed to confirm what “most Americans already believe — that the United States should never initiate a nuclear war.”

In a joint statement on the bill, as released by Warren on her website, the lawmakers said,

Our current nuclear strategy is not just outdated–it is dangerous. By making clear that deterrence is the sole purpose of our arsenal, this bill would reduce the chances of a nuclear miscalculation and help us maintain our moral and diplomatic leadership in the world.

Though the bill is shockingly short in length, the joint statement by Warren and Smith outlined three main goals for the piece of legislation; specifically, for how the legislation would strengthen national security

First, the two legislators believe the act would “[reduce] the risk of a nuclear miscalculation by an adversary during a crisis.” Second, they maintain that it would “[strengthen] our deterrence and increasing strategic stability by clarifying our declaratory policy.” And lastly, the lawmakers asserted that it would “[preserve] the U.S. second-strike capability to retaliate against any nuclear attack on the U.S. or its allies.”

This isn’t the first time the No First Use Act has been floated for consideration in recent history. During his presidency, Obama reviewed similar legislation, but many of his cabinet advisors were openly and starkly against the bill, so he eventually decided against it.

There are multiple strains of reasoning held by opponents of the No First Use Act. One argument is that a statement like this by the United States could destabilize nuclear policy internationally, causing allies of the United States to feel nervous and enemies of the U.S. to disbelieve the compact. Vipin Narang, a professor of political science at MIT, said to Vox, “A declaration, without any attendant changes to the US’s ability to actually use nuclear weapons promptly, absent changes to the actual posture, alert levels, etc. — your adversaries won’t believe it.”

Narang continued, “There’s a real concern here that your allies might…And for our allies, at least, not declaring one way or another that we might use nuclear weapons in their defense in a conventional attack against them may help reassurance at the margins.”

The fate of the bill, for now, is unclear. In the release of its new nuclear weapons policy in early 2018, the Trump administration declared that a policy like the one Warren and Smith are proposing was unnecessary.

PERSONAL COMMENT: I support the bill, but only as a beginning. Our goal should be to abolish nuclear weapons — and war — forever. If we want humans and other life forms to re,win alive on this plant, we must end the violence. (LeRoy)

Can Elizabeth Warren and Adam Smith, Defying Trump, Persuade Americans to Get Serious About Nuclear-Arms Control?

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on February 4, 2019 at 11:05 pm

“It is the policy of the United States to not use nuclear weapons first.” This is the elegantly simple declamation of a bill, introduced on Wednesday by Representative Adam Smith, Democrat of Washington, the new chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, and Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democrat of Massachusetts, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. The proposed legislation would reverse the longstanding American policy of being theoretically prepared to initiate a nuclear conflict without first being subject to a nuclear attack.

Deterrence theory, which was adopted during the height of the Cold War, seemed to require that a country threaten its readiness to launch a preëmptive nuclear onslaught even before an enemy got to zero with its own countdown. Over the years, though, daylight fell between deterrence theory and strategic conduct. “No first use” became taken for granted as a matter of practice: the United States was not going to start a nuclear war. Barack Obama came close to turning that stance into policy late in his Presidency. Warned off by the national-security élite, including his own Secretaries of Defense, Energy, and State, who did not want to send softening signals to Russia and China, he declined to do so.

But the Trump Administration’s Nuclear Posture Review, issued a year ago this month, went fully the other way, openly declaring that the United States would launch nuclear strikes in response to “non-nuclear strategic attacks,” a vaguely characterized category that could be interpreted to include, say, cyber assaults on the American information infrastructure. Now, a readiness to use a nuclear weapon for the first time since the attack on Nagasaki is a central part of national-security doctrine, a perfect match to the Administration’s across-the-board bluster. First use is a readymade organizing principle for Donald Trump.

Smith and Warren are now openly defying that Trump doctrine. “No first use” can be understood as a kind of mantra, a symbol of a larger purpose—to move away from the decades-old paralysis of nuclear mania. That it could inhibit even a nuclear abolitionist such as Obama shows how multifaceted the problem remains.

Smith has introduced such a bill previously, but now he is joined by a colleague who stands at the pinnacle of the nation’s interest. Warren, who has all but announced a 2020 Presidential bid, embraced “no first use” in a major foreign-policy address at American University, in November, as one of what she called “three core nuclear-security principles.” The other two were “no new nuclear weapons” and “more international arms control, not less” —both of which point away from the road that the Trump Administration has taken. In renouncing the first-use doctrine, Warren joined an eminently practical concern—“To reduce the chances of a miscalculation or an accident”—to an ethical one. “To maintain our moral and diplomatic leadership in the world, we must be clear that deterrence is the sole purpose of our arsenal,” she said.

Introducing the No First Use Act marks a major move, for Warren, from the realm of rhetoric to actual lawmaking designed, at the very least, to prompt congressional consideration of a crucial national-security question. The Republican pushback came quickly. Senator Deb Fischer, of Nebraska, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee’s subcommittee on strategic forces, said that the proposal “betrays a naïve and disturbed world view.” Such dismissal will no doubt come from many quarters.

How the initiative plays out in the push and pull of Presidential politics will say less, perhaps, about campaign competitions and media preoccupations than about the general attitude of the American electorate toward the subject. When it comes to the dangers posed by nuclear arsenals, complacency reigns, even as the Trump Administration goes steadily about the business of opening up a new nuclear age. When Trump launched his “fire and fury like the world has never seen” tirade against North Korea, in August of 2017, there was a short-lived rush of nuclear anguish, with many people of a certain age recalling incidents of Cold War Armageddon dread. But, with Trump’s irrational about-face on North Korea, which seems based on what he has called the “love” between him and Kim Jong Un, and which his own intelligence chiefs discounted earlier this week, the broad fear of nuclear war resumed its place in the deep recesses of American denial.

Warren is not taking her cues on this question from the polls. If she were, she would, like most other politicians, likely leave it alone. For two generations, Americans have not known how to think about the nation’s nuclear policy, or its arsenal, and so, for the most part, it seems, they haven’t. The twenty-first century’s stalling of arms reduction, and the withering of the U.S. commitment to the arms-reduction-treaty regime, have ranked low on the scale of the nation’s problems, as perceived from across the political spectrum. Obama’s brief emergence as a globally celebrated nuclear eliminationist, and his inexorable fade from that stance when he was actually in power, says less about a leader’s fecklessness than about the deadly lock that nuclear weapons have had on one Congress after another, on the ever-burgeoning defense industry, and on the American mind

There was an exception, which came during the fraught period of the first term of the Reagan Administration, when a burst of nuclear-war anxiety swept across much of the world. In Europe, the deployment of American cruise and Pershing II missiles ignited unprecedented grassroots protests. In this country, that anxiety inspired the Nuclear Freeze Movement—which called for a freeze on the super-powers’ nuclear arsenals at their then current levels—with municipalities, civic and professional groups, religious institutions, and cohorts of educators, physicians, and scientists all banding together against what felt like an imminent nuclear catastrophe. By March of 1982, the grassroots had sprouted a forest, and the nuclear-freeze resolution, “A Call to Halt the Nuclear Arms Race,” inspired a bill in Congress by sponsors that included two Massachusetts Democrats: Senator Ted Kennedy and Representative Ed Markey, who is now Warren’s colleague in the Senate. (Markey, with Representative Ted Lieu, of California, reintroduced a similar bill of his own this week) Three months later, a million anti-nuke protesters gathered in New York City. A year after that, the nuclear-freeze resolution passed in the House.

The idea of the freeze then opened into the larger idea of nuclear reduction, and, over time, to a wide embrace of the goal of nuclear abolition. Members of the Pentagon’s nuclear priesthood, including General Lee Butler and Admiral Eugene Carroll, Jr., and civilian architects of the nuclear-security state, such as Paul Nitze and William Perry, began to speak out against nukes. For a time, liberation from the grip of the absolute weapon seemed possible. Even Reagan had been preparing to move past the idea of freezing nuclear-arms levels to reducing them. Then, Mikhail Gorbachev became the leader of the Soviet Union, a historic shift occurred, and, against all predictions, the Cold War ended, not with conflagration but with negotiation. (On Friday, the Trump Administration suspended the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, which came out of those negotiations, in 1987, following a long-running disagreement over Russia’s compliance.)

“No first use” is a simple idea, as the freeze was, and that is its strength. It is common-sensical, and harkens back to the informal moral consensus that America is not a nation to start a nuclear war. That consensus should be enshrined in law, but, even if all that comes of the Smith-Warren initiative is a renewed public debate, that will be more than salutary. Consideration of the No First Use Act not only in Congress but on the campaign trail can point forward to a new grappling with the unexamined set of nuclear questions, starting with Warren’s other two core principles: of no to new weapons and yes to arms control. More than her proposals for the recovery from income inequality, her effort to unbolt the nuclear lock on the American economy and culture can be historic.