Archive for the ‘Nuclear abolition’ Category

Ed Markey’s career-long fight against nuclear weapons

In Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Nuclear powere, Peace, Politics, War on February 21, 2018 at 1:38 am

By Joshua Miller, BOSTON GLOBE, FEBRUARY 17, 2018
Radioactive isotopes were making their way into the country’s milk supply, and Edward J. Markey, the son of a milkman, was sounding the alarm.

He delivered his appeal to the biggest audience he could find: students, parents, and staff gathered for the Malden Catholic High School science fair.

The year was 1962. Markey was 15.

Twenty years later, he was a congressman calling for a freeze of nuclear weapons before almost a million protesters in Central Park. “This is just the beginning,” he pledged.

Now, more than three decades after that, Markey is still warning of our shared nuclear peril — only this time from his perch in the US Senate.

No elected official on the national scene has been banging the drum about the nuclear menace as loudly and for as long as the 71-year-old Malden Democrat.

And with President Trump’s nuclear saber rattling and fervent embrace of a new arms race, Markey’s decades-long efforts have again gained relevance.

“I work on this issue because I think it is the most important issue that faces the planet,” he said in an interview in his Boston office. “We are slipping very quickly into an era where nuclear weapons are becoming more contemplatable, more likely to be used.”

Trump has embraced a muscular nuclear posture, saying in 2016 after the election, “Let it be an arms race. We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”

One month later, Markey introduced a bill that would prohibit the president from launching a nuclear first strike without a declaration of war by Congress. At a Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing that included discussion of the bill, he warned that “Donald Trump can launch nuclear codes just as easily as he can use his Twitter account.”

In January, the president called for plowing money into nuclear weapon modernization to make the arsenal “so strong and powerful” it would deter any acts of aggression.

Markey expressed dismay at the push, saying it would increase the risk of nuclear war.

And the Trump administration’s nuclear posture review released this month contemplates using nuclear weapons in response to “significant non-nuclear strategic attacks.”

Markey responded by saying, in part: “The Cold War is over.”

‘I work on this issue because I think it is the most important issue that faces the planet.’
Through his 41-year career in Washington as a congressman and a senator, Markey has seen the nation’s fear of thermonuclear annihilation, and attention to efforts to limit the menace, ebb and flow.

All the while, he’s made the case that the proliferation of nuclear power is directly tied to the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

In the 1970s, Markey toured the Pilgrim nuclear power station in Plymouth and the still-being-built reactor in Seabrook, N.H., with concern. In 1979, he fought a public but unsuccessful battle for a half-year ban on the construction of new nuclear reactors.

During the Reagan era, when the president was leading the largest peacetime military buildup in history, Markey stayed in the limelight. In his Central Park appearance, he pushed for the United States and Soviet Union to freeze the buildup of nuclear weapons. His photo graced the front page of New York Times the day after the House of Representatives passed a temporary test ban of most atomic weapons, premised on the Soviets doing the same. He published a book on his broader anti-proliferation efforts entitled “Nuclear Peril.”

After the Soviet Union’s collapse, he pressed for greater oversight of power plants — including those in Massachusetts and New Hampshire — by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. He expressed worry about the development of “mini nukes” in the years after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

And, even as he’s passed laws on everything from telecommunications to the environment to the opioid crisis, fighting nuclear catastrophe has remained his lodestar.

“Markey is one of the real congressional stalwarts on this,“ said David S. Meyer, a University of California, Irvine professor, who had lunch with the then-congressman about the effort to freeze the development of nuclear weapons in 1982, and has been following his career ever since. “I can’t think of somebody who has been doing it longer and more consistently than he has.”

In the Globe interview, Markey underscored his long-held belief that no country can win a nuclear war, because such a fight will have no victor.

He pointed to an errant inbound ballistic missile alert blasted to people’s phones in Hawaii last month as evidence. After the message went out, there was much panic, but the vast majority of people did not have anywhere to go.

“There is no place to run in the event of a nuclear war,” he said. “That’s my message. You cannot fight. You cannot survive a ‘winnable’ nuclear war. That is insanity. That’s part of the old nuclear war-fighting paradigm that we worked very hard to end when military strategists used to talk about the tens of millions of deaths that we could survive, as long as we inflicted far greater damage upon the Soviet Union.”

Markey paused for a moment, his arms crossed across his chest.

“That’s why I work on these issues, because there are people out there who still think in those terms. And, unless we’re very careful right now, we’re getting closer to that day —”

He left the thought unfinished.

Joshua Miller can be reached at joshua.miller@globe.com.


US Nuclear Posture Review gives strong arguments for a prohibition of all nuclear weapons

In Climate change, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on February 14, 2018 at 11:01 am

FEBRUARY 13, 2018

by Gunnar Westberg, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War
This is how I would summarize the new US Nuclear Posture Review, issued last week by the Trump administration:

We can fight and win a nuclear exchange
We are prepared to use nuclear weapons against a conventional attack, e.g. a cyberattack
We may consider using nuclear weapons against a nuclear-weapons-free country
We care not to mention our obligations under NPT Art VI
We have never heard of the climate effects of nuclear war

In Jan. 2017 President Donald Trump ordered a new Nuclear Posture Review (NPR). The report is now available. It is 75 pages long. Most the material repeats earlier NPRs. I will here concentrate on the new aspects.

“Escalate to de-escalate”

Russian military writers have discussed the possibility of using “small” nuclear weapons if the country is attacked by an adversary with considerable conventional superiority. These “small”—Hiroshima-sized?—nukes would serve as a warning: we are prepared to defend ourselves with nuclear weapons. Such a discussion is to be expected considering the inferiority of Russia in conventional weapons. President Putin has hinted at such possibilities. However, no change in deployment, activation, upgrading, or maintenance of the “tactical” nuclear weapons in storage has been done, as far as we know, and no evidence is given in the NPR.

A major problem is that there are frequent allegations in the NPR about the strategy of Russia, the main enemy, with no references—you do not know if the NPR relies on explicit statements by Russian military leaders or just refers to discussions in Russian publications, or other unnamed sources. The use of small nukes to “escalate to deescalate” now seems to be a US, instead of a Russian, proposal. This is an unnecessary and irresponsible development. The superior US conventional arsenal should make the use of “small” nukes unnecessary, and it is, in any case, very dangerous.

“Small nukes” for submarines are also considered, both a missile and a cruise missile. This is a dangerous development as the target country will not know that a “small” weapon is coming, and massive retaliation may seem to be the choice. You have no time to evaluate, you cannot wait for the impact.

Development of such a bomb—the B61-12—has already been under way for several years. This is going to be a bomb with a dial, which can be set anywhere from 50 kt to less than 1 kt. The weapon is going to be targetable, probably earth-penetrating, suitable for attack on protected command centers, intended for use in Europe. B61-12 is a new weapon, and thus, like the submarine-based new nukes, breaks the US pledge not to develop any new nuclear weapons.

It is interesting that apart from the new B61-12, no production plans for these new warheads are mentioned. We can hope that the development of these weapons will not start for several years, preferably never.

Use against conventional targets

There are several statements in the NPR that nuclear weapons can be actively used, as deterrent against or retaliation for a non-nuclear attack. Thus, serious damage to US civilian infrastructure could be a reason for nuclear retaliation. This is possibly the most irresponsible and irrational part of the new policy. The USA would then use nuclear weapons against a country which—supposedly—has launched a cyber-attack. Such a policy should be unthinkable. That it is illegal is obvious.

The enormous superiority of the USA in conventional warfare against any possible adversary should make the use of nuclear weapons unwarranted, both against non-nuclear-weapon states or against nuclear-weapon states who have not used their nukes against the USA. Why else have this superiority?

There is a fairly large amount of loose talk about new strategies, new weapons, new principles in the NPR. Much talk, less workshop. Let us hope that Russia and China agree with this interpretation and do not start an arms race. Loose talk from the Pentagon, just as from President Putin, is dangerous. One day your enemy may take you at your word.

Nowhere in the NPR is the vast conventional military superiority of the USA and NATO over Russia mentioned. Nowhere is there a report that the Russian military spending at present is only about one eighth of that of the US, and has been rapidly decreasing for two years.

Nowhere in this document are climate effects of nuclear war considered! President Reagan had said that “a nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.” The victor in a large nuclear war is committing suicide, starving to death with the rest of humanity.

This document is dangerous, irresponsible, and naïve.

It pretends that we should prepare for a “nuclear exchange,” a small scale nuclear war that could be contained;
It treats nuclear weapons and nuclear war as just weapons and war, not as means of genocide and omnicide and the possible extermination of humankind.
This document and this policy are the responsibility of the administration of Donald Trump, but are the product of the military-industrial system of the USA. This thinking was there before Trump and will remain after him.

This NPR shows that the prohibition of all nuclear weapons is even more important than we knew a few months ago. The nuclear threshold is getting lower, the risk of a large nuclear war is increasing.

Immanuel Kunt’s Vision Of Life Beyond Guns And God

In Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Peace, Politics, War on February 7, 2018 at 2:47 am

(A tribute to a great idea; ‘The Coalition Against US Foreign Military Bases’@ University of Baltimore)

Immanuel Kunt…living in Ballarat, a provincial Australian city with a population of 100,000 plus…felt inspired when readingabout the activities of a new organisation of concerned world-wide citizens called The Coalition Against U.S. Military Bases.From the hidden cryptographic depths of his mind, a valued item of stored wisdom crystallised; its’ got to be what Immanuel what’s-his-name believed, he thought… “Act that your principle of action might safely be made a law for the whole world”.

Immanuel was an experienced organizer of public events. The Ballarat Begonia Festival, which attracts more than 60,0000 spectators annually, owed much to his organisational skills. This three- day event—held on the Victorian (State) Labour Day long weekend in Ballarat had something for everyone. Flowers, celebrity gardener’s displaying their skills, markets, entertainment, kids’ activities and a community parade.

The more Immanuel thought about the issues ‘The Coalition Against U.S. Military Bases’ were fulminating against, the more he became convinced that he could do something in his own right that could support their cause. They believed, as he did, that “The United States cannot be a moral or ethical country until it faces up to the realities of the U.S. Empire and the destruction it causes around the world. The U.S. undermines governments…including democratic ones…kills millions of people, causes mass migrations of people fleeing their homes, communities and countries and produces vast environmental damage.”

Immanuel Kunt believed that nature was a spectrum of ideas, projecting forms amidst light and colour phenomena that required a certain balanced conditionality to achieve health wellbeing and sustain order. Begonias had been his path to enlightenment. He had come to associate the skills of the more talented gardeners he encountered, withthose who possessed an understanding of the subject-object nexusthat was normally associatedwith people of a scientific bent of mind. When he walked among the begonias in the Ballarat Conservatory, he perceived the role of science as one which could function asanauxiliaryforce, benevolently reaching out to assist all living things captive to nature’s survival of the fittest gambit, soa more equitable outcome could be achieved.

Only the day before…Immanuel Kunt, after reading what The Coalition Against Military Bases had to say about America’s exceptional hi-tech military creep across the globe, encountered a very different example of exceptionalism in a delicatessen in Ballarat. While standing in a queue waiting for a take-away roastchicken, he fell into conversation with the elderly man next to him: “They do a great chicken here, and most Sundays I buy one to take to Buninyong to have lunch with my sister”, he said to Immanuel. As Buninyong was 11km from Ballarat, Immanuel replied, “You’re managing to stay mobile then, and obviously doing something right?”. “I’m 93 and the doctors can’t find anything wrong with me…I’ve lead a free and natural life, avoiding the guns and god call-to-arms” he said,befo readding somewhat wryly, “a civilized life confronts one’s instinctive urge to resort to force”.

Immanuel left the deli wondering if it was the philosopher Immanuel-what’s-his name who wrote“Science is organised knowledge, wisdom is organised life, and health is a randomly allocated affair in the hands of impersonal forces”. Stopping to reflect a moment, he wondered if time had played tricks upon his ability to retain information? The choice of the word ‘confront’,used by the old man, awakened something in him. Over the following week, his thoughts kept going back to the deli and his chance encounter with the 93-year old.

While observing the multifarious splendours of the begonias assembled for the upcoming Labour Day holiday weekend, Immanuel suddenly became profoundly aware that people were prone to be led astray by false doctrines. A call-to-arms, he mused, is a call to defend or make ready for confrontation and is understood as a call-to-arms to defend against a take-over. Instead it seems to act more as the fiery torch that keeps the impressionable…who only cheer for the ‘good’ guys…ready for the call-to-arms.The more Immanuel thought about the old man’s parting words, “a civilised life confronts one’s instinctive urge to resort to force”, the more his mind went back to The Coalition Against U.S. Military Bases and their questioning of the merits of a hyped-up military,recklessly investing the nation’s treasure in perpetual warfare.

Immanuel wondered how long it would take for the American public to free itself from the tendentious voices of the ruling elites…the military juggernaut…who sold them the proposition that their form of exceptionality confers righteousness upon their quest to straddle the globe with military bases, bythe hundreds…800 maybe…where they then could resortto force, strangling anything and everything that resisted the American way of doing business…business validated by god and gun.

Early in the morning of the day the Begonia Festival was to commence, Immanuel was standing some distance apart from the entrance to the Conservatory admiring the flower arrangements when, to his utter amazement, he saw an old man in jogging apparel slowly move into view and recognized the figure to be that of the old man he had encountered in the deli. The force of his ‘good-morning’ greeting was loud enough to get the jogger’s attention, whereupon he immediately veered towards Immanuel. Stopping in front of Immanuel, he peered at the identity tag connecting the bearer to the events taking place within the Conservatory and exclaimed, “Ah! … so, you’re ‘that’ Kunt!

Over the course of the next half-hour, Immanuel learnt the old man’s name and the name of his older sister who lived in Buninyong. It transpired that Errol Flynn and his 95-year-old sister Peg were committed activists concerned about the corruption of language …especially the propagandistic tactics used to conceal the poisoning effect militarism has had on the health of entire communities.

They were part of a group known as the ‘Buninyong Salon’ who met Sundays to discuss the devious reasons behind the U.S. Empire’s reasons for having bases in Australia. By the end of the half-hour encounter with Errol…much of it covering the tawdry reasons the U.S. gave for being in Australia or elsewhere…Immanuel found himself in receipt of an invitation to attend the group’s bring-your-own style of Sunday luncheon, held from noon onwards every week at Buninyong Salon. Watching the figure of Errol fade from view and disappear behind distant foliage, he was astounded by the magnitude of recent chance encounters that seemed to sign-post a path toward something that requiredhis attention.

Immanuel brought a home baked pizza and a vibrant begonia plant on his very first visit to Buninyong Salon. To his great surprise, the seventeen people who had come together, were all above 90 years of age.A second surprise was to follow when he discovered that none of the people there behaved like ‘old people’ in the least. They were the most lucid, alert, frisky and fun-loving people he had ever encountered. Realising that he had been conditioned to believe that old people belonged in retirement homes once they lost interest in worldly affairs, he took note of the fact that this latest chance encounter had opened a door for him, one enabling his entry into their brave new world. When he was introduced to Peg, he was challenged by her appetite for knowledge when she said without preamble, “interesting name you’ve got there Kunt…how’s it spelt?”

Immanuel was intrigued to discover that even in provincial Australia,in spite of the cant coming from the American propaganda machine and its’ supplicant media, the establishment view of things was now being questioned more openly.It was high time for a greater awareness of the danger of nuclear warheads to percolate through the collective consciousness, he reflected.The propaganda that projected the notion that the U.S. was motivatedby good intentions, and was there to protect smaller states seeking freedom, was now perceived to be fallacious. The very myths that had launched America as the guardian of freedom,were now regarded by millions of people throughout the world as nothing more than hollow jingoism…the policies of the U.S. empire didn’t float allboats…instead, the world witnessed a gung-ho US sheriff repeatedly blow them out of the water.

The military narrative that promotes the U.S. empire as just,is finally beginning to evaporate.As a result, America’s abhorrent foreign policy is being subjected to evergreater critical attention across the globe. Under the weight of evidence showing the frequency of U.S.military powerusing its’ might torepeatedly inflict misery on so many parts of the world… especially in the Middle East…more peoplehave discovered that truth tends to prevail over propaganda in the longer term.

As America’s reputation and stature in the world now rests at the bottom ofa cesspoolof its’ own making, the fundamentals of democracy are once more being revisited. Reprising thethreat of the ‘other’ no longer works. The parasites that now occupy the so-called democratic system have American voices, and they know how to lie. But now, a new era may be approaching, where civilized means may prevail over the urge to use primal methodologies…sane thinking may finally beready to call an evil bluff.

Immanuel was intrigued to be in a situation where the collective wisdom of 17 people, whose primary interest was eliminating U.S. Bases from Australian soil, confirmed what Immanuel what-was-his-name had said, “reason is the source of morality”.

Errol and Peg Flynn had inherited Buninyong Castle…now a heritage site…upon the passing of their parents. Neither could agree on how many rooms were in the castle, or the number of acres it stood upon.During the afternoon,Immanuel was left flabbergasted when he discovered that Buninyong Salon had a plan that would host an expected 300 guests.Some were arriving from as far afield as Hong Kong, California, Singapore and New Zealand. But flabbergast soon gave way to admiration when he realised that the Buninyong Salon was where the denizens of WWW awareness came to stand up and be counted. The festival would have its’ day in the sun and go by the name of ‘Confront’.

All throughout the Begonia Festival weekend, Immanuel Kunt’s mind remained apart from the flow of events at ground level. He dreamed of extending invitations to everybody across the world interested in curtailing the ravishes of U.S. Imperialism. That’s when he got the idea forBegonias Against Imperialism. He was convinced that if he could give Begonia Day the status of Poppy Day in Australia, the symbol of the begonia would, in time, come to represent the people’s concern for the future, as does the Poppy represent people’s concern for remembering the past. It would require people to focus on the dangers of nuclear war and the attendant weapons of mass destruction that throw so dark a shadow over everyone.

Addressing his friends at the Buninyong Salon the following Sunday, Immanuel pitched the following ideas to them;

“The red remembrance poppy has become a familiar emblem of Remembrance Day due to the poem “In Flanders Fields” written by Canadian physician Lieutenant-Colonel John McCray. After reading the poem, Moina Michael, a professor at The University of Georgia wrote the poem, “We Shall Keep the Fate”, and swore to wear a red poppy on the anniversary. The custom spread to Europe and the countries of the British Empire and Commonwealth within three years.”

Continuing his speech, he went on to say; “We need to use these actions as a template for our own purposes so that, with the right means,we can proceed to storm the barricades of apathy by marshalling support for all the groups militating against U.S. military bases throughout the world.We wish Ballaratto be the first region to celebrate the begonia as the emblem of resistance to nuclear-madness. Our hope is that our beloved flower will acquire, over time, an emblematic status equal to that of the red poppy. Our first project will involve producing some thousands of badges bearing the word ‘CONFRONT’ under an image of our beloved flower”.

Immanuel received the reaction to his pitch with a mixture of gratitude and astonishment. The consensus was that three years was a reasonable time in which to make the idea work, and the group also advanced the belief that time was on their side. Adeline Armani, a member of the ‘salon’ knew of someone capable of writing a poem dealing with the dangers of nuclear missiles…tarrying with the devil…were her words for describing the potency of The Pentagon and its’ ability to take us all to the edge of the precipice, and beyond. Joel Harris believed that Australians were now past the point where they would uncritically enter alliances that mightopen Pandora’s Box. Referring to the American base in Darwin he vouched “Aussies are no longer the gullible servants of empires they once believed to be true blue commodities”.

So, time passed,and the ‘oldies’ remained firmly on the perch to observe Immanuel Kunts’ efforts now steadily bearingfruit. From many quarters of the globe, hundreds, then thousands of enquiries arrived in Buninyong,attesting to the need for solidarity in the face of a military culture perceived be extremely toxic. Immanuel Kunt, given over to musing, believed that if all the people from around the world who empathised with the ‘Confront’ cause came to Ballarat, their number would exceed those attending the Begonia Festival by a magnitude of 00000’s.

Something has to be done and something has to start somewhere, he mused!

Denis A. Conroy, Freelance writer, Australia

Trump Nuke Plan Resets the Doomsday Clock

In Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on February 2, 2018 at 12:46 am

Stunning new strategy calls for more tactical weapons and nuclear retaliation against cyber threats.
By SCOTT RITTER • February 1, 2018, The American Conservative

In 1947, a group of scientists who participated in the Manhattan Project—America’s crash wartime effort to manufacture an atom bomb during the Second World War—unveiled what it called the “Doomsday Clock” to graphically convey their concern over the danger posed by nuclear weapons to the survival of humanity.

In the intervening years, this organization, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, has seen its iconic timepiece fluctuate from its starting position—seven minutes to midnight (when the world will end)—to a low of two minutes (in 1953, when the United States and the Soviet Union were racing ahead with the testing and deployment of massive thermonuclear weapons) and a high of 17 minutes (in 1991, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union).

Recently, the Bulletin reset the clock, returning it to the two-minute mark. The threat posed to the world by nuclear weapons, the group believes, is now as great as it has ever been.

The most current time change is derived from an analysis of the state of global nuclear affairs, with an emphasis on the nuclear weapons policy and posture of the United States, the crisis with North Korea, and growing tensions between Washington and Moscow (including efforts by Russia to use technology to interfere in democratic elections around the world). While the Bulletin labels itself non-partisan, its message has historically been embraced by the progressive wing of American politics. The decision by the Bulletin to factor in the threats posed by technology and climate change has only strengthened this perception, especially among American conservatives. However, an examination of the issues underpinning its decision to adjust the Doomsday Clock show that, in this case, the warning issued by the Bulletin is sound and worthy of consideration.

The Bulletin’s reset of the Doomsday Clock comes in advance of the publication by the Trump administration of the 2018 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR), the first such document since the Obama administration published its NPR in April 2010. (A draft of the 2018 NPR has been published by the Huffington Post.) The report gives voice to a strategic vision of the Trump administration when it comes to nuclear policy and posture that had been hinted at over the course of the past year. Some aspects of the NPR should come as no surprise—for instance, the $1.2 trillion modernization of the nuclear TRIAD, the manned strategic bombers, land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) that serve as the heart of America’s nuclear deterrent. An aging deterrent is no deterrent at all if it is not able to function as intended.

Other aspects of the 2018 NPR, however, are disconcerting, and more than justify what would seem to be the prescient resetting of the Doomsday Clock. On the surface, the principles of deterrence outlined in the 2018 NPR are modeled on past policy pronouncements by previous administrations: “[T]o acquire and maintain the full range of capabilities to ensure that nuclear or non-nuclear aggression against the United States, allies and partners will fail to achieve its objectives and carry with it the credible risk of intolerable consequences for the adversary.” However, whereas the 2010 NPR sought to de-emphasize the role of nuclear weapons in deterring a non-nuclear attack (citing improvements in American conventional and anti-missile capabilities) and pointedly embraced Article IV of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty (NPT), which places the onus on states to eventually rid themselves of nuclear weapons, the 2018 NPR makes no mention of Article IV. Instead, it eschews traditional nuclear disarmament pathways in favor of a more aggressive posture that seeks to make nuclear weapons more accessible to American policymakers when formulating deterrence.

This, as they say, is pretty huge.

The Obama administration had continued the Bush-era policy of “open ocean” targeting of ICBMs and SLBMs, ensuring that any accidental launch of a missile would deliver its nuclear payload to the middle of the ocean, thereby reducing the chances of miscalculation of intent. The 2018 NPR, however, allows for “open ocean” targeting for ICBMs only—SLBMs will be exempted. This exemption is part of an overall trend that reverses the Obama-era policy of de-emphasizing the role of nuclear weapons in American military planning and operations. “The United States,” the 2018 NPR declares, “will apply a tailored approach to effectively deter across a spectrum of adversaries, threats and contexts.” This “tailored approach” is reflective of the NPR’s contention that, when it comes to nuclear deterrence, there is no “one size fits all” policy. Rather, the United States will now employ an “expanding range of limited and graduated options” that threaten “intolerable damage” in order to deter nuclear and non-nuclear attacks. Moreover, the NPR states that “combatant commands and service components will be organized and resourced for this mission, and will plan, train to integrate U.S. and non-nuclear forces and operate in the face of adversary nuclear threats and attacks”—in short, the U.S. military will be actively preparing for nuclear war.

The 2018 NPR has a vision of nuclear conflict that goes far beyond the traditional imagery of mass missile launches. While ICBMs and manned bombers will be maintained on a day-to-day alert, the tip of the nuclear spear is now what the NPR calls “supplemental” nuclear forces—dual-use aircraft such as the F-35 fighter armed with B-61 gravity bombs capable of delivering a low-yield nuclear payload, a new generation of nuclear-tipped submarine-launched cruise missiles, and submarine-launched ballistic missiles tipped with a new generation of low-yield nuclear warheads. The danger inherent with the integration of these kinds of tactical nuclear weapons into an overall strategy of deterrence is that it fundamentally lowers the threshold for their use. A recent study done by MIT provides a comparison between an attack on five North Korean nuclear infrastructure targets using ten 450-kiloton warheads delivered by American ICBMs, and an attack against the same target set using 20 .3 kiloton B-61 bombs. The ICBM attack destroys all targets and kills 2 to 3 million North Koreans; the B-61 strike does the same, while limiting casualties to a few hundred deaths at each target. According to press reports, American B-2 bombers are flying practice bombing missions against North Korea, using B-61 bombs as their payload.

Most Americans are familiar, at least in passing, with the possibility of scenarios involving nuclear weapons use against North Korea. Even though the 2018 NPR downplays the possibility, the same holds true with scenarios involving Russia and China. The nuclear deterrence policy laid out in the 2018 NPR, however, uses a much broader brush. Noting that the United States has never adopted a “no first use” policy, the 2018 NPR states that “it remains the policy of the United States to retain some ambiguity regarding the precise circumstances that might lead to a U.S. nuclear response.” In this regard, the NPR states that America could employ nuclear weapons under “extreme circumstances that could include significant non-nuclear strategic attacks.” Moreover, the NPR walked back from previous assurances made by the United States not to use nuclear weapons against signatory nations of the NPR who were in good standing with the provisions of that treaty, promulgating declaratory policy that states that “given the potential of significant non-nuclear strategic attacks, the United States reserves the right to make adjustments in the assurance that may be warranted by the evolution and proliferation of non-nuclear strategic attack technologies and U.S. capabilities to counter that threat.”

The issue of “non-nuclear strategic attack technologies” as a potential precursor for nuclear war is a new factor that previously did not exist in American policy. The United States has long held that chemical and biological weapons represent a strategic threat for which America’s nuclear deterrence capability serves as a viable counter. But the threat from cyber attacks is different. If for no other reason than the potential for miscalculation and error in terms of attribution and intent, the nexus of cyber and nuclear weapons should be disconcerting for everyone. According to the parameters outlined in the 2018 NPR, a nuclear strike could be considered in cases where a nation, like Iran, that has been subjected to a cyberattack initially perpetrated by the United States or its allies, decides to repurpose the malware and counterattack.

Even more disturbing is the notion that a cyber intrusion such as the one perpetrated against the Democratic National Committee and attributed to Russia could serve as a trigger for nuclear war. This is not as far-fetched as it sounds. The DNC event has been characterized by influential American politicians, such as the Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain, as “an act of war.” Moreover, former vice president Joe Biden hinted that, in the aftermath of the DNC breach, the United States was launching a retaliatory cyberattack of its own, targeting Russia. The possibility of a tit-for-tat exchange of cyberattacks that escalates into a nuclear conflict would previously have been dismissed out of hand; today, thanks to the 2018 NPR, it has entered the realm of the possible.

The 2018 NPR speaks of an “expanding range of limited and graduated responses” available to American commanders as if this is a new concept. The fact is, American nuclear planners have always sought to provide the decision makers with as broad a range of options as possible when it came to the employment of nuclear weapons. The difference today is that the United States is actively considering the use of nuclear weapons in a first-strike capacity involving non-nuclear threats. It is this posture that represents the game changer—any potential nuclear-armed adversary must now factor in the probability, during times of crisis, of an American nuclear first strike. The logical response is for these potential adversaries to be prepared to launch a preemptive first strike of their own against the United States.

General Lee Butler, the last Cold War-era commander of Strategic Command, which is responsible for America’s nuclear forces, has said that, when faced with the threat of imminent simulated nuclear attack, the national command authority always opted for Massive Attack Option-4—a full-scale nuclear counterattack, which would condemn more than 200 million people to death. Butler, like many of his Cold War-era colleagues and counterparts who lived under the constant reality of nuclear brinksmanship, has become a proponent of the “Global Zero” movement, seeking the worldwide abolition of nuclear weapons. The 2018 NPR, while applauding that goal, has noted that before any movement toward that objective can occur, a “fundamental transformation of the world political order needs to occur.”

The Obama administration had tried to take steps toward such a transformation, an effort that was reflected in the 2010 NPR. The 2018 NPR has propelled the United States in the opposite direction, embracing a nuclear posture that lowers the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons while ignoring altogether the framework of disarmament, founded in the bedrock commitment made by all nuclear powers under Article IV of the NPT. Only the United States can provide the leadership to achieve the “fundamental transformation of the world political order” necessary to affect nuclear abolition. The Bulletin of American Scientists has set the nuclear Doomsday Clock to two minutes until midnight; the fundamental question facing America today is whether its leaders can affect the needed transformation before time runs out.

Scott Ritter is a former Marine Corps intelligence officer who served in the former Soviet Union implementing arms control treaties, in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm, and in Iraq overseeing the disarmament of WMD. He is the author of Deal of the Century: How Iran Blocked the West’s Road to War (Clarity Press, 2017).

We’re as close to Doomsday today as we were during the Cold War

In Environment, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on January 26, 2018 at 3:01 am

By Lawrence Krauss and Robert Rosner, Washington Post, January 25, 2018
Lawrence Krauss, chair of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Board of Sponsors, is director of the Origins Project and foundation professor of the School of Earth and Space Exploration and Physics Department at Arizona State University. Robert Rosner, chair of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists Science and Security Board, is a distinguished service professor in the Departments of Astronomy & Astrophysics and Physics at the University of Chicago.

Days after Donald Trump took the oath of office, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists reset the Doomsday Clock to 2½ minutes to midnight, in part because of destabilizing comments and threats from America’s new commander in chief. One year later, we are moving the clock forward again by 30 seconds, due to the failure of President Trump and other world leaders to deal with looming threats of nuclear war and climate change.

The Science and Security Board for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists assesses that the world is not only more dangerous now than it was a year ago; it is as threatening as it has been since World War II. In fact, the Doomsday Clock is as close to midnight today as it was in 1953, when Cold War fears perhaps reached their highest levels.

After Hawaii’s false alarm of a nuclear attack from North Korea, were you left wondering what you should do when a nuclear bomb is dropped? You’re not alone. (Daron Taylor/The Washington Post)
To call the world nuclear situation dire is to understate the danger — and its immediacy. North Korea’s nuclear weapons program appeared to make remarkable progress in 2017, increasing risks for itself, other countries in the region and the United States.

The failure in 2017 to secure a temporary freeze on North Korea’s nuclear development was unsurprising to observers of the downward spiral of nuclear rhetoric between Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. But North Korea’s developing nuclear program will reverberate not just in the Asia-Pacific, as neighboring countries review their security options, but more widely, as all countries consider the costs and benefits of the international framework of nonproliferation treaties and agreements.

Global nuclear risks were compounded by U.S.-Russia relations that now feature more conflict than cooperation. The United States and Russia remained at odds, continuing military exercises along the borders of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, undermining the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, upgrading their nuclear arsenals and eschewing arms control negotiations.

Tensions over the South China Sea have increased. Pakistan and India have continued to build ever-larger arsenals of nuclear weapons. And in the Middle East, uncertainty about continued U.S. support for the landmark Iranian nuclear deal adds to a bleak overall picture. A related danger is the rise of cyberthreats targeting national infrastructure, including power grids, water supplies and military systems.

On the climate-change front, the danger may seem less immediate than risk of nuclear annihilation, but avoiding catastrophic temperature increases in the long run requires urgent attention now. Global carbon dioxide emissions have not yet shown the beginnings of the sustained decline toward zero that must occur if we are to avoid ever-greater warming. The nations of the world will have to significantly decrease their greenhouse-gas emissions to manage even the climate risk accepted in the Paris accord. So far, the global response has fallen far short of meeting this challenge.

The Trump administration’s decision essentially to turn a blind eye to climate change transpired against a backdrop of a worsening climate, including exceedingly powerful hurricanes in the Caribbean and other parts of North America and extreme heat waves in Australia, South America, Asia, Europe and California. The Arctic ice cap achieved its smallest-ever winter maximum in 2017. And last week, data from 2017 demonstrated a continued trend of exceptional global warmth.

We believe that the perilous world security situation described here would, in itself, justify moving the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock closer to midnight. But there also is a real threat posed by a fundamental breakdown in the international order that has been dangerously exacerbated by recent U.S. actions. In 2017, the United States backed away from its long-standing leadership role in the world, reducing its commitment to seek common ground and undermining the overall effort toward solving pressing global governance challenges. Neither allies nor adversaries have been able to reliably predict U.S. actions or discern between sincere U.S. pronouncements and mere rhetoric.

U.S. allies have needed reassurance about American intentions more than ever. Instead, they have been force to negotiate a thicket of conflicting policy statements from an administration weakened in its cadre of foreign policy professionals and suffering from turnover in senior leadership. Led by an undisciplined and disruptive president, the administration has failed to develop, coordinate and clearly communicate a coherent nuclear policy. This inconsistency constitutes a major challenge for deterrence, alliance management and global stability.

We hope this resetting of the clock will be interpreted exactly as it is meant: an urgent warning of global danger. The time for world leaders to address looming nuclear danger and the continuing march of climate change is long past. The time for the citizens of the world to demand such action is now. It is time to rewind the Doomsday Clock.

Even Pope Francis Is Worried About a Nuclear War Happening

In Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on January 18, 2018 at 7:37 am


As far as Popes go, Pope Francis is probably the chillest of them all. He’s auctioned off a Lamborghini for charity, hung out with Leonardo DiCaprio, and has also been blessed with the truly divine gift of sick burns. But the fact that he is such a down to Earth guy means that when he actually gets serious about some of the scarier parts of the world, it probably means we should listen and reflect. Take, for example, his statement about the increasing likelihood of a nuclear war. If the freakin’ Pope is worried about it, then maybe the Dotard-in-Chief will stop tweeting insane things at North Korea? (Well, a girl can hope.)

Pope Francis, who embarked on a trip to Chile and Peru on Monday, spoke about the dangers of nuclear war to reporters. TIME reports that the Pope was asked about the recently increasing geopolitical tensions between the U.S. and North Korea and whether or not nuclear war was on his mind.

“I think we are at the very limit,” he said. “I am really afraid of this. One accident is enough to precipitate things.”

The Pope is not exactly wrong to feel this way. Just this weekend, the entire state of Hawaii had to grapple with the possibility of a ballistic missile for a full 38 minutes before any relief. Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard has said that the “unacceptable” accidental alert highlights the need for urgent talks with North Korea. “We’ve got to get to the underlying issue here of why are the people of Hawaii and this country facing a nuclear threat coming from North Korea today, and what is this President doing urgently to eliminate that threat?” Gabbard, who is an Iraq War veteran, said.

The Pope did not explicitly discuss North Korea or Hawaii, but he has been an outspoken critic of nuclear war in the past. In December 2015, he called for total nuclear disarmament.

But today, reporters on board the Pope’s flight to Chile received something that made the nuclear threat even more striking: a photo of a Japanese child in 1945 carrying his dead brother after the U.S. nuclear bombing of Nagasaki, per TIME. The Pope had also circulated the same image earlier this year with the inscription: “The young boy’s sadness is expressed only in his gesture of biting his lips which are oozing blood.”

“I was moved when I saw this,” Francis said to the reporters on the plane. “The only thing I could think of adding were the words ‘the fruits of war.’”

The fact that even the Pope is worried about a possible nuclear war is indeed concerning.

Pope Warns World Is One Step Away From Nuclear War

In Human rights, Justice, Nonviolence, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on January 17, 2018 at 9:11 am

By Philip Pullella, Reuters

15 January 18

Pope Francis said on Monday he was really afraid about the danger of nuclear war and that the world now stood at “the very limit”.

His comment, made as he flew off for a visit to Chile and Peru, came after Hawaii issued a false missile alert that provoked panic in the U.S. state and highlighted the risk of possible unintended nuclear war with North Korea.

Asked if he was worried about the possibility of nuclear war, Pope Francis said: “I think we are at the very limit. I am really afraid of this. One accident is enough to precipitate things.”

He did not mention Hawaii or North Korea.

Pope Francis has often flagged the danger of nuclear warfare and in November he appeared to harden the Catholic Church’s teaching against nuclear weapons, saying countries should not stockpile them even for the purpose of deterrence.

As reporters boarded his plane bound for Chile, Vatican officials handed out a photograph taken in 1945 that shows a young Japanese boy carrying his dead brother on his shoulders following the U.S. nuclear attack on Nagasaki.

“I was moved when I saw this. The only thing I could think of adding were the words ‘the fruit of war’,” Francis said, referring to a caption put on the back of the image.

“I wanted to have it reprinted and distributed because an image like this can be more moving than a thousand words. That is why I wanted to share it with you,” he said.

Hawaii False Alarm Hints at Thin Line Between Mishap and Nuclear War

In Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on January 15, 2018 at 1:06 am

Nuclear experts are warning, using some of their most urgent language since President Trump took office, that Hawaii’s false alarm, in which state agencies alerted locals to a nonexistent missile attack, underscores a growing risk of unintended nuclear war with North Korea.

To understand the connection, which might not be obvious, you need to go back to the tragedy of Korean Air Lines Flight 007.

In 1983, a Korean airliner bound from Anchorage to Seoul, South Korea, strayed into Soviet airspace. Air defense officers, mistaking it for an American spy plane that had been loitering nearby, tried to establish contact. They fired warning shots. When no response came, they shot it down, killing all 269 people on board.

But the graver lesson may be what happened next. Though it was quickly evident that the downing had been a mistake, mutual distrust and the logic of nuclear deterrence — more so than the deaths themselves — set Washington and Moscow heading toward a conflict neither wanted.

The story illustrated how imperfect information, aggressive defense postures and minutes-long response times brought both sides hurtling toward possible nuclear war — a set of dynamics that can feel disconcertingly familiar today.


Ronald Reagan had taken office in 1981 pledging to confront the Soviet Union. Though he intended to deter Soviet aggression, Moscow read his threats and condemnations — he had declared its government an “evil empire” that must be brought to an end — as preludes to war.

Mr. Trump’s White House has issued its own threats against North Korea, suggesting that it might pursue war to halt the country’s nuclear weapons development.

The 1983 shooting down, on its own, might have passed as a terrible mistake. But the superpowers had only fragmentary understanding of something that had happened on the far fringes of Soviet territory. In an atmosphere of distrust, technical and bureaucratic snafus drove each to suspect the other of deception.

Moscow received contradictory reports as to whether its pilots had shot down an airliner or a spy plane, and Soviet leaders were biased toward trusting their own. So when they declared it a legal interception of an American military incursion, American leaders, who knew this to be false, assumed Soviet leaders were lying. Moscow had downed the airliner deliberately, some concluded, in an act of undeclared war.

At the same time, Washington made a nearly perfect mirror-image set of mistakes — suggesting that such misreadings are not just possible, but dangerously likely.

Mr. Reagan, furious at the loss of life, accused Moscow of deliberately targeting the civilian airliner. He denounced Soviet society itself as rotten and in pursuit of world domination.

In fact, a C.I.A. assessment, included in the president’s daily briefing that morning, had concluded the incident was likely an error. Mr. Reagan appeared to have simply missed it.

But Soviet leaders had never considered this; they assumed Mr. Reagan was lying about their intentions. Some concluded he had somehow lured the Soviet Union into downing the aircraft as cover for a massive pre-emptive attack, which they feared might come at any moment.

Each read the other’s blundering and dissembling as intentional, deepening suspicions among hard-liners that the other side was laying the groundwork for war. And if war was coming, the logic of nuclear deterrence all but required firing first.

Nuclear-armed missiles had recently achieved a level of speed and capability so that one power could completely disarm another in a matter of minutes. This created something called first-strike instability, in which firing first — even if you think you might be firing in error — is the only way to be sure of preventing your own obliteration.

The result was that the United States and the Soviet Union repeatedly went to the brink of war over provocations or even technical misreadings. Often, officials had mere minutes to decide whether to retaliate against seemingly real or impending attacks without being able to fully verify whether an attack was actually underway. In the logic of nuclear deterrence, firing would have been the rational choice.

That dynamic is heightened with North Korea, which is thought to have only a few dozen warheads and so must fire them immediately to prevent their destruction in the event of war.

“Today’s false alarm in Hawaii a reminder of the big risks we continue to run by relying on nuclear deterrence/prompt launch nuclear posture,” Kingston Reif, an analyst with the Arms Control Association, wrote on Twitter, referring to the strategy of firing quickly in a war. “And while deterring/containing North Korea is far preferable to preventive war, it’s not risk free. And it could fail.”

If similar misunderstandings seem implausible today, consider that an initial White House statement called Hawaii’s alert an exercise — though state officials say it was operator error. Consider that 38 minutes elapsed before emergency systems sent a second message announcing the mistake. If even Washington was misreading events, the confusion in Pyongyang must have been far greater.

Had the turmoil unfolded during a major crisis or period of heightened threats, North Korean leaders could have misread the Hawaiian warning as cover for an attack, much as the Soviets had done in 1983. American officials have been warning for weeks that they might attack North Korea. Though some analysts consider this a likely bluff, officials in Pyongyang have little room for error.

Vipin Narang, a nuclear scholar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, suggested another possible scenario, using shorthand terms to refer to the president and his nuclear command systems, which Mr. Trump has nearby at all times.

“POTUS sees alert on his phone about an incoming toward Hawaii, pulls out the biscuit, turns to his military aide with the football and issues a valid and authentic order to launch nuclear weapons at North Korea,” Mr. Narang wrote on Twitter, adding, “Think it can’t happen?”

Unlike in 1983, no one died in Hawaii’s false alarm. But deaths are not necessary for a mistake to lead to war. Just three months after the airliner was shot down, a Soviet early warning system falsely registered a massive American launch. Nuclear war may have only been averted because the Soviet officer in charge, operating purely on a hunch, reported it as an error.

North Korea is far more vulnerable than the Soviet Union was to a nuclear strike, giving its officers an even narrower window to judge events and even greater incentive to fire first. And, unlike the Soviets, who maintained global watch systems and spy networks, North Korea operates in relative blindness.

For all the power of nuclear weapons, scholars say their gravest dangers come from the uncertainty they create and the fallibility of human operators, who must read every signal perfectly for mutual deterrence to hold.

In 1983, Washington and Moscow took steps that heightened the uncertainty, darkly hinting at each other’s illegitimacy and threats of massive retaliation, in a contest for nuclear supremacy, and survival. Each was gambling they could go to the brink without human error pushing them over.

William J. Perry, a defense secretary under President Bill Clinton, called the false alarm in Hawaii a reminder that “the risk of accidental nuclear war is not hypothetical — accidents have happened in the past, and humans will err again.”

Mr. Reagan concluded the same, writing in his memoirs, “The KAL incident demonstrated how close the world had come to the nuclear precipice and how much we needed nuclear arms control.”

Mikhail Gorbachev, who soon after took over the Soviet Union, had the same response, later telling the journalist David Hoffman, “A war could start not because of a political decision, but just because of some technical failure.”

Mr. Gorbachev and Mr. Reagan reduced their country’s stockpiles and repeatedly sought, though never quite reached, an agreement to banish nuclear weapons from the world.

But Mr. Trump and North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un, remain locked in 1983, issuing provocations and threats of nuclear strikes on push-button alert, gambling that their luck, and ours, will continue to hold.

The Interpreter is a column by Max Fisher and Amanda Taub exploring the ideas and context behind major world events. Follow them on Twitter @Max_Fisher and @amandataub.


Nuclear Citizenship

In Democracy, Human rights, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, War on January 13, 2018 at 11:17 pm

By Elaine Scarry, Harper’s Magazine


A nuclear weapon, like any weapon, has two ends: the end from which it is fired and the end through which it inflicts injury. But in the case of nuclear weapons, there is a unique disproportion between the two ends. The injuring end has the capacity to kill hundreds of thousands of people instantly. The firing end, by contrast, requires only the will of a single person—or at most a set of persons whose numbers are infinitesimal compared with those who will be harmed.

In theory, laws are already in place to invalidate nuclear weapons. International laws explicitly restrict what happens at the injury end. The Geneva Protocol prohibits weapons that inflict disproportionate suffering. The Hague Conventions prohibit weapons whose lethal effects can spread to neutral regions and affect innocent populations. The UN Convention on Genocide prohibits acts committed with “the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.” Other treaties— such as the Rio Declaration and the Vienna Convention for the Protection of the Ozone Layer—name the earth itself, rather than people, as the injured party.

At the other end, the firing end, individual constitutions provide constraints that also ought to forbid the use of nuclear weapons. Some constitutions stipulate that the country cannot initiate war unless a large number of citizens agree that the putative enemy has done something to warrant it. Furthermore, they require that the demonstration of this consent be individually burdensome and costly, something more than the click of a mouse or an anonymous poll.

The Constitution of the United States is one such document. It places two impediments in the way of initiating war. The first is well known: the requirement for a declaration of war by Congress. The cost to lawmakers is the obligation to deliver open arguments, subject to rigorous testing, and climaxing in a roll-call vote that makes the yea voters responsible for whatever follows. The other impediment is less familiar but is implicit in the Second Amendment: confirmation by the population, which is given agency over the weapons. The cost to them is the risk of death if one agrees to fight, and the risk of ostracism or jail if one declines. Giving a voice to the citizenry as well as to legislators is key. In the debates surrounding the creation of the Constitution, the Founders repeatedly stressed that people of all ages, economic groups, and regions must be given authority over arms.

The US Constitution is not unique in stipulating such constraints. The constitutions of several other nuclear states—France, Russia, and India— assert that the legislature, not the executive, has responsibility for authorizing the country’s entry into war. And the Russian constitution includes a provision that is a close cousin of the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms: it states that all adult Russian citizens bear responsibility for defending the country.

Despite the international and domestic frameworks that would seem to outlaw the existence of nuclear weapons, a handful of individuals—Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, and Kim Jong-un among them—currently possess the ability to condemn entire populations to sudden extinction. How did this come to pass? Given the stark incompatibility of nuclear weapons and legislatures, citizens, constitutions, and international laws, how have such weapons persisted and flourished?

One usual answer is that nuclear weapons cannot be unmade. But that is obviously false. The nine nuclear states are confined to the Northern Hemisphere; the Southern Hemisphere is blanketed with treaties making those continents and countries free of nuclear weapons. It wouldn’t be difficult for nuclear armed nations to accomplish the same. A Scottish study, for instance, has established a concrete timetable for disassembling the United Kingdom’s nuclear arsenal. Some parts of this work (dismantling the nuclear triggers) would take hours, other parts (bringing the submarines into port), days, but the UK could ditch its nuclear weapons entirely in four years. Compared with global warming, unmaking these bombs is simple and straightforward.

Nuclear weapons have persisted not because they resist dismantling, but because they have infantilized and miniaturized our political institutions. Ever since the atomic bomb and its successors enabled leaders to wipe out millions instantly, US presidents have not bothered to seek a congressional declaration when initiating a conventional war (Korea, Vietnam, the former Yugoslavia, Iraq, Afghanistan) or carrying out an invasion (Panama, Haiti). Congress, when it acted at all, issued enfeebled forms of authorization or conditional declarations. Deprived of its single greatest constitutional duty (what Justice Joseph Story once called the cornerstone of the Constitution), Congress became irrelevant at best.

During the first three decades of the nuclear age, the citizenry remained more involved than Congress, simply because the population was still needed to carry the weapons onto the battlefield. But once conscription was eliminated after the Vietnam War, and a voluntary army could be supplemented by contractors who served as the president’s private military, the citizenry, too, forgot that it was responsible for authorizing the use of the country’s arms, and finally concluded that its only responsibility was to watch executive-ordered violence unfold on television.

When the Founders described the right to bear arms as the “palladium of liberty,” they were not speaking of our right to carry a gun into a drugstore or a university classroom. They were speaking about the population’s collective power to say yes or no to war. Similarly, when John Locke described the legislature as the “soul” of any democratic government, he was speaking frst and foremost about the constraints that the legislature imposed on the executive impulse to go to war.

Over this seven-decade affair with nuclear weapons, we’ve forgotten that we still have the constitutional tools to eliminate them. We have both the moral responsibility and the legal means to enable legislatures and citizens to recover their rightful stature, and to rid the world, finally, of these obscene instruments of devastation.

Why 3,000 Scientists Think Nuclear Arsenals Make Us Less Safe

In Environment, Justice, Nuclear abolition, Nuclear Guardianship, Nuclear Policy, Peace, Politics, War on January 6, 2018 at 8:40 am

Despite what you hear in the news, an atomic war between the superpowers is still the biggest threat
By Max Tegmark on May 26, 2017, Scientific American

Delegates from most United Nations member states are gathering in New York next month to negotiate a nuclear weapons ban, and 30 Nobel Laureates, a former U.S. Secretary of Defense and over 3,000 other scientists from 84 countries have signed an open letter in support. Why?
We scientists like to geek out about probabilities, megatons and impact calculations, so we see the nuclear situation differently than many politicians and pundits. From the public debate, one might think that the cold war threat is over and that the most likely way to be killed by a nuke is by being attacked by Iran, North Korea or terrorists, but that’s not what nerdy number crunching reveals. Those media-dominating scenarios could potentially kill millions of people—except that Iran has no nukes and North Korea lacks missiles capable of reliably delivering their dozen or so Hiroshima-scale bombs.
But scientific research has shown that a nuclear war between the superpowers might kill hundreds or potentially even thousands of times more people, and since it’s not a hundred times less likely to occur, the laws of statistics tell us that it’s the nuke scenario most likely to kill you.

Why is superpower nuclear war so risky? First of all, massive firepower: there are more than 14,000 nuclear weapons today, some of which are hundreds of times more powerful than North Korea’s and those dropped on Japan. Over 90 percent of these belong to Russia and the US, who keep thousands on hair-trigger alert, ready launch on minutes notice. A 1979 report by the US Government estimated that all-out war would kill 28-88 percent of Americans and 22-50 percent of Soviets (150-450 million people with today’s populations).
But this was before the risk of nuclear winter was discovered in the 1980’s.Researchers realized that regardless of whose cities burned, massive amounts of smoke could spread around the globe, blocking sunlight and transforming summers into winters, much like when asteroids or supervolcanoes caused mass extinctions in the past. A peer-reviewed analysis published by Robock et al (2007) showed cooling by about 20°C (36°F) in much of the core farming regions of the US, Europe, Russia and China (by 35°C in parts of Russia) for the first two summers, and about half that even a full decade later. Years of near-freezing summer temperatures would eliminate most of our food production. It is hard to predict exactly what would happen if thousands of Earth’s largest cities were reduced to rubble and global infrastructure collapsed, but whatever small fraction of all humans didn’t succumb to starvation, hypothermia or epidemics would probably need to cope with roving, armed gangs desperate for food.

Trinity Site fireball from the world’s first nuclear explosion. Credit: Berlyn Brixner/Los Alamos National Laboratory Wikimedia
There are large uncertainties in Nuclear Winter predictions. For example, how much smoke is produced and how high up it rises would determine its severity and longevity. Given this uncertainty, there is no guarantee that most people would survive. It has therefore been argued that the traditional nuclear doctrine of Mutual Assured Destruction (MAD) be replaced by Self-Assured Destruction (SAD): even if one of the two superpowers were able to launch its full nuclear arsenal against the other without any retaliation whatsoever, nuclear winter might still assure the attacking country’s self-destruction. Recent research has suggested that even a limited nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan could cause enough cooling and agricultural disruption to endanger up to 2 billion people, mostly outside the warring countries.
The fact that nuclear powers are taking the liberty to endanger everyone else without asking their permission has led to growing consternation in the world’s non-nuclear nations. This has been exacerbated by a seemingly endless series of near-misses in which nuclear war has come close to starting by accident, and leaders of many non-nuclear nations feel less than thrilled by the idea of being destroyed by something as banal as a malfunctioning early warning-system in a nation that they are not threatening.
Such concerns prompted 185 non-nuclear nations to sign the 1970 Non-Proliferation-Treaty (NPT), promising to remain nuke-free in return for the nuclear nations phasing out theirs in accordance with NPT Article VI, whereby each party “undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a Treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control”. Nearly 50 years later, many of these “have-nots” have concluded that they were tricked, and that the “haves” have no intention of ever keeping their end of the bargain. Rather than disarming, the U.S. and Russia have recently announced massive investments in novel nuclear weapons. Russia has recently touted a cobalt-encased doomsday bomb reminiscent of the dark comedy “Dr. Strangelove,” and the U.S. plans to spend a trillion dollars replacing most of its nuclear weapons with new ones that are more effective for a first strike.

Adding insult to injury, India, Pakistan and Israel have been allowed to join the nuclear club without major repercussions. “The probability of a nuclear calamity is higher today, I believe, that it was during the cold war,” said former U.S. Secretary of Defense William J. Perry, who signed the open letter.
This disillusionment from the “have-nots” prompted 123 of them to launch an initiative in the United Nations General Assembly, where the nuclear nations lack veto power. In late 2016, they voted to launch the aforementioned UN negotiations that may produce a nuclear weapons ban treaty this summer. But a ban obviously wouldn’t persuade the nuclear “haves” to eliminate their nukes the next morning, so what’s the point of it?
The way I see it, most governments are frustrated that a small group of countries with a minority of the world’s population insist on retaining the right to ruin life on Earth for everyone else with nuclear weapons. Such “might makes right” policy has precedent. In South Africa, for example, the minority in control of the unethical Apartheid system didn’t give it up spontaneously, but because they were pressured into doing so by the majority. Similarly, the minority in control of unethical nuclear weapons won’t give them up spontaneously on their own initiative, but only if they’re pressured into doing so by the majority of the world’s nations and citizens. The key point of the ban is to provide such pressure by stigmatizing nuclear weapons.
Nuclear ban supporters draw inspiration from the 1997 Ottawa treaty banning landmines. Although the superpowers still refuse to sign it, it created enough stigma that many people now associate mines not with national security, but with images of children who have had limbs blown off while playing in peace-time. This stigma caused leading arms manufactures to half production in response to investor pressure and dwindling demand. In 2014, the Pentagon announced that it was halting landmine use outside of the Korean peninsula. Today, the global landmine market has nearly collapsed, with merely a single manufacturer (South Korean Hanwa) remaining.
The “have-not” negotiators hope that a nuclear ban treaty will similarly stigmatize nuclear weapons, persuading us all that we’re less safe with more nukes—even if they are our own. If this happens, it will increase the likelihood that the “haves” trim their nuclear arsenals down to the minimum size needed for effective deterrence, reverting from SAD back to MAD and making us all safer.

Here is the text of the letter. A list of some of the notable signatories follows.

Nuclear arms are the only weapons of mass destruction not yet prohibited by an international convention, even though they are the most destructive and indiscriminate weapons ever created. We scientists bear a special responsibility for nuclear weapons, since it was scientists who invented them and discovered that their effects are even more horrific than first thought. Individual explosions can obliterate cities, radioactive fallout can contaminate regions, and a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse may cause mayhem by frying electrical grids and electronics across a continent. The most horrible hazard is a nuclear-induced winter, in which the fires and smoke from as few as a thousand detonations might darken the atmosphere enough to trigger a global mini ice age with year-round winter-like conditions. This could cause a complete collapse of the global food system and apocalyptic unrest, potentially killing most people on Earth – even if the nuclear war involved only a small fraction of the roughly 14,000 nuclear weapons that today’s nine nuclear powers control. As Ronald Reagan said: “A nuclear war cannot be won and must never be fought.”
Unfortunately, such a war is more likely than one may hope, because it can start by mistake, miscalculation or terrorist provocation. There is a steady stream of accidents and false alarms that could trigger all-out war, and relying on never-ending luck is not a sustainable strategy. Many nuclear powers have larger nuclear arsenals than needed for deterrence, yet prioritize making them more lethal over reducing them and the risk that they get used.
But there is also cause for optimism. On March 27 2017, an unprecedented process begins at the United Nations: most of the world’s nations convene to negotiate a ban on nuclear arms, to stigmatize them like biological and chemical weapons, with the ultimate goal of a world free of these weapons of mass destruction. We support this, and urge our national governments to do the same, because nuclear weapons threaten not merely those who have them, but all people on Earth.
William J. Perry, mathematician, US Secretary of Defense 1994-97, AAAS fellow

Peter Ware Higgs, University of Edinburgh, Emeritus Professor of Theoretical Physics, 2013 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Leon N. Cooper, Brown University, Professor of Science, 1972 Physics Nobel Laureate
Sheldon Glashow, Boston University, Professor of Physics & Mathematics, 1979 Physics Nobel Laureate
Wolfgang Ketterle, MIT, Professor of Physics, 2001 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Edvard I. Moser, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Professor of Neuroscience, 2014 Nobel Laureate in Physiology/Medicine

May-Britt Moser, Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Professor of Neuroscience, 2014 Nobel Laureate in Physiology/Medicine
David Gross, Kavil Institute For Theoretical Physics, Professor of Theoretical Physics, 2004 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Leland Hartwell, Arizona State University, Professor, 2001 Nobel Laureate in Physiology/Medicine
Jerome I. Friedman MIT, Emeritus Professor of Physics, 1990 Nobel Laureate in Physics 1990
Paul Greengard, The Rockefeller University, Professor of Neuroscience, 2000 Nobel Laureate Physiology/Medicine, Member, National Academy of Sciences
Roy J. Glauber, Harvard University, Professor of Physics, Emeritus, 2005 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Richard J. Roberts, New England Biolabs, Chief Scientific Officer, 1993 Nobel Laureate in Physiology/Medicine
David Politzer, Caltech, Professor of Physics, 2004 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Frank Wilczek, MIT, Professor of Physics, 2004 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Jack Steinberger, CERN, Physicist, 1988 Nobel Laureate in Physics
J. Michael Bishop, UCSF, Professor Emeritus of Microbiology and Immunology, 1989 Nobel Laureate in Physiology/Medicine
Eric Kandel, Columbia University, University Professor, 2000 Nobel Laureate in Physiology/Medicine
Martin Chalfie, Columbia University, University Professor, 2008 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
George F. Smoot, University of California at Berkeley, Professor of Physics, Director, 2006 Nobel Laureate in Physics
David J. Weinland, 2012 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Dudley Herschbach, Harvard, 1986 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, Emeritus Prof. of Chemistry, 1986 Chemistry Nobel Laureate
Joseph Hooton Taylor, Jr, Princeton University, James S McDonnell Distinguished University Professor of Physics, Emeritus, 1993 Nobel Laureate in Physics
H. Robert Horvitz, MIT, Professor of Biology, 2002 Nobel Prize in Medicine, 2002 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine
Serge Haroche, Collège de France, Paris, Professor Emeritus, Nobel Prize in Physics 2012, 2012 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, 1997 Physics Nobel Laureate, Professor of Physics
John C. Mather, Senior Astrophysicist, NASA 2006 Nobel Laureate in Physics
John L Hall, University of Colorado, Boulder CO USA, Professor, 2005 Nobel Laureate in Physics, Republic of France Légion d’Honneur (2004)
Robert W. Wilson, Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, Senior Scientist, 1978 Nobel Laureate in Physics
Klaus von Klitzing, Director, Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research, Stuttgart, Germany, Professor of Physics, Nobel Prize in Physics 1985
John Polanyi University of Toronto, Professor of Chemistry, 1986 Nobel Laureate in Chemistry
Stephen Hawking, Director of research at Dept. of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics at Cambridge, 2012 Fundamental Physics Prize Laureate for his work on quantum gravity
Edward Witten, Institute for Advanced Study, Professor of Physics, 1990 Fields Medalist, U.S. National Medal of Science, Kyoto Prize, Breakthrough Prize, NAS member
Sir Michael Atiyah, Edinburgh University & Trinity College Cambridge, Professor of Mathematics, 1966 Fields Medalist
Curtis T. McMullen, Harvard University, Cabot Professor of Mathematics, 1998 Fields Medalist, NAS Member

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Max Tegmark
Known as “Mad Max” for his unorthodox ideas and passion for adventure, Max Tegmark’s scientific interests range from precision cosmology to the ultimate nature of reality, all explored in his new popular book, “Our Mathematical Universe.” He is an MIT physics professor with more than 200 technical papers credit, and he has been featured in dozens of science documentaries. His work with the SDSS collaboration on galaxy clustering shared the first prize in Science magazine’s “Breakthrough of the Year: 2003.”