Post-Nuclear Blues

Defense analyst and critic questions whether we're safe from nuclear weapons Is it the loaded handgun on the coffee table in a home f...

Defense analyst and critic questions whether we're safe from nuclear weapons
Is it the loaded handgun on the coffee table in a home full of toddlers?

By Michael Monasky | August 6, 2015

Today is the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan. Tens of thousands died in the mushroom cloud, and hundreds of thousands perished in the ensuing months and years from radiation poisoning.

The US and Russia have the most nuclear weapons, sharing over eight-thousand warheads. The US has twelve nuclear submarines that can carry 80 to 100 warheads each. A handful of other countries possess nuclear weapons, such as China, Israel, India, France, Germany, and Japan; their inventories are in the low one-hundreds of warheads.

Should any country, including the US, launch as few as 100 warheads in an exchange of nuclear weapons, a ten year disruption of global climate would ensue, killing about two billion people due to food losses. The Bush defense doctrine called for pre-emption of military strikes by other countries; the Obama administration perpetuates that policy by maintaining what Andrew Lichterman [senior research analyst at the Western States Legal Foundation] calls “prompt global strike systems” which are capable of hitting a target within one hour.

The Obama administration has pursued the Trans Pacific Partnership trade agreement with the nations of the Far East, which fits hand-in-glove with the president's US-Pacific “pivot” of military forces from the Middle East. This means bomber sales to India, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea, Australia, the Philippines, and Japan will enrich aerospace manufacturers and arms dealers.

But there's more to the nuclear threats than those from China and North Korea. Russian military movements of bombers into Crimea have established Ukraine as a staging ground for a violent proxy war that could easily go nuclear.

Lichterman reports that there are “new rounds of arms-racing” mostly due to “the impoverished character of our political discourse. Elites loot domestic economies...resulting in austerity regimes.” He argues that Sandra Halperin's [University of London historian] descriptions of the social, economic, and political scene in 1914 Europe presaged today's geopolitical situation of austerity, polarizing wealth and poverty, and political unrest. Lichterman calls today's journalism “disinformation campaigns” similar to what novelist George Orwell critiqued in his analysis of media reporting on the Spanish Civil War. And a use of nuclear weapons will most likely be the result of a “miscalculation” by global leaders, not, as is conjectured in the mainstream press, a response to any planned attack.

Lichterman finds fault on both sides of the political aisle, even with the Left that lays blame only at the feet of Western capitalist governments. It's not so that “only Russia can stop the US,” he says; “the klepto-capitalism of Eastern oligarchies” contribute to this insane race, since “US imperialists are not the only ones” engaged in “exterminism,” a term he attributes to the historian E. P. Thompson. He cites the fast-growing BRICS nations as liable for imposing austerity measures, economic inequality, regional unrest, and global warming [Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa; three of which possess nuclear weapons.]

Exterminism, Lichterman says, reasserts ideological controls; governments engage in “superexploitation of their working classes as the engine of economic growth...Internationalism must be conscientiously anti-exterminist” to turn this global crisis into an act of hope, to give peace and ensure safety to humankind. “Nationalism...mobilizes us for war,” Lichterman declared, and it doesn't help that the West is suffering “stagnation and decay of the neoliberal world order” [think: the “third way” economic doctrine of UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and US President Bill Clinton.]
So, are we safe now that nuclear weapon stockpiles have been reduced? The US plans to spend about $350 Billion over the next ten years updating and replacing submarines, bombers, and Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles. That represents ten per cent of the US military budget. With “prompt global strike systems” which can hit targets within one hour, and with more powerfully dense warheads carried in multiples on subs and bombers, the world has taken a very significant step backwards since the explosion of the uranium-based Little Boy at Hiroshima, and the plutonium-based Fat Man at Nagasaki, just 70 years ago.

An important lesson was penned in 1959 by Nobel Prize-winning chemist LinusPauling, called The Hiroshima Appeal. In it, he and his Nobel Laureate colleagues and scientists, two thousand in all, declared that they had already petitioned the United Nations to put an end to atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons, and to abolish their manufacture and use. The Hiroshima Appeal was a rational effort to stop Japan from becoming armed again, and to repeat the warning from scientists to the world that these weapons will only doom humankind.

Of course, no good deed should go unpunished, and soon thereafter Pauling was subpoenaed to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee [HUAC], where he refused to name colleagues who might be affiliated with the US Communist Party; for these efforts, Pauling won his second Nobel Prize, this time for Peace [for which he credited his wife, Ava, an ardent peace activist.] Such was his brilliance and his reputation, the only person to have ever won two, unshared Nobel prizes.  [It was said that Linus Pauling could have won three Nobels, as he contributed the helical hypothesis for DNA to Watson and Crick in his correspondence to them.]            

Such is the world in which we live; geopolitical uncertainty, global warming, government austerity policies, an ever-widening rift between the super-rich and everyone else. Nuclear weapons are the loaded handgun on the coffee table in a home full of toddlers. The world has grown smaller with the rapid growth of technology, transportation, food, industrialization, and communications. It would behoove us all to work towards the elimination and abolition of manufacture and use of nuclear weapons. We should behave as good neighbors, and study war no more.

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