[ The Insanity of Our Nuclear Weapons Policy]
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 THE LOGIC OF THE NUCLEAR AGE  
[https://portside.org/2019-09-14/logic-nuclear-age] 

 

 E. Martin Schotz, MD 
 September 14, 2019
PeaceWorker
[http://peaceworker.org/2019/09/the-logic-of-the-nuclear-age-and-the-insanity-of-our-nuclear-weapons-policy/#sthash.aNJ6qWKJ.dpbs]


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 _ The Insanity of Our Nuclear Weapons Policy _ 

 , 

 

Let us begin by examining two moments from the media in the past
year.  The first occurred on Radio 360  during a segment exploring
under what conditions the United States might launch nuclear
weapons.  At one point the host exclaimed, “Well we wouldn’t want
to blow up the world, if we didn’t have a good reason to do so.” 
Put a check by that comment.  We will come back to it.  The second
moment was a question a reporter put to Senator Bernie Sanders as to
whether he would be willing to push the nuclear button.  The sense of
the question was that to be qualified to be President of the United
States you had to be willing to “push the button.”

How did we ever get into this situation, where we are planning to blow
up the world and need to make sure we have a “good reason” to do
so, and  in which in order to be considered competent to be President
of the United States, you have to be willing to blow up the world. 
This is literally the absurd criminal insanity in which we are living
with nuclear weapons.  How has this come about?  By what means have
we as otherwise sane human beings allowed ourselves to be put in such
a situation?  How can political representatives and military
officials who ordinarily appear sane participate in such a situation?

I want to suggest in this essay that one key to understanding this
insanity rests on our failure to grasp the irrationality of the
concept “nuclear deterrence.”  Albert Einstein at the dawn of the
nuclear age famously warned that “the splitting of the atom has
changed everything in the world except our mode of thinking, and thus
we drift toward unparalleled  catastrophe.”   

Deterrence is a word we have carried over from a earlier age.  It is
based on the idea that you are less likely to be attacked in war, if
the enemy that might attack you would be subjected to unacceptable
destruction.  It is  with this simple logic that nuclear weapons
have been developed, tested and deployed by the United States, by
Russia, and by other nuclear powers.  It is with this concept that
our policy makers developed the policy of”Mutually Assured
Destruction”  as a way of preventing nuclear war. 

At this point we have to notice another key concept which has been
carried over from the pre-nuclear age.  That concept is that “a war
begins when the weapons start going off.”   While one could argue
whether such a conception of war was correct even before the splitting
of the atom, the reality of the nuclear age completely nullifies the
validity of thinking about war this way.  Nuclear war does not begin
with the weapons going off.  It ends with the weapons going off. 
Thus the existence of nuclear weapons forces us to think of nuclear
war as beginning prior to their being exploded.  Nuclear war must be
seen as a process, a process in which the weapons are developed,
tested and deployed.  A process in which war propaganda conditions
the population to believe other countries are their enemies.  Looked
at from this vantage point we must recognize that we are in a nuclear
war right now. 

Returning to the notion of “deterring nuclear war with nuclear
weapons”, we can now see that this amounts to saying we are
deterring a nuclear war by initiating a nuclear war.  The concept of
deterrence has collapsed into its opposite.  In other words nuclear
war deterrence with nuclear weapons is nonsense. 

The other way in which the idea of nuclear deterrence comes in is
through the argument that nuclear weapons can deter conventional
war.  But having established that deploying nuclear weapons is part
of beginning a nuclear war, “deterring conventional war with nuclear
weapons”  amounts to saying that we will deter a conventional war
by starting a nuclear war.  What sense does that make?  

If it is correct to think of ourselves as in a nuclear war at this
very moment.  The question is not how to prevent a nuclear war, but
how to get out of the nuclear war we are already in.  And the answer
to that question is that only by a complete international  ban of
nuclear weapons can we get out of this war.  We must understand that
this is what is in our interest and we must help others see that it is
in their interest as well.

Having seen how these outmoded concepts have led us in our current
insane reality, what is the alternative?  If these concepts of
“nuclear deterrence” and “war is confined to the weapons going
off” — if these two concepts are completely outmoded in the
nuclear age, what concepts are appropriate?

Here it is important to see another new feature of nuclear age.  
Take the United States and Russia and the reality that has been
created by their mutual possession of nuclear weapons.   These two
nations posses by far the vast majority of nuclear weapons.  When it
comes to nuclear weapons, whatever the US does to Russia, Russia will
do to the US, and vice versa.  If the US threatens Russia, Russia
will threaten the US.  We cannot make ourselves more secure by trying
to make the other less secure.  Whatever we do to the other will be
done to us.  In other words, when it comes to nuclear weapons if we
want to be more secure we must see to the security of the other.  The
idea that the US and Russia are separate, is not operative, when it
comes to nuclear weapons.  Thus the age old moral adage – “Do
unto others as you would have them do unto you” — this moral adage
in the nuclear age has been turned into a practical necessity.  We
cannot afford to see Russia as an enemy and Russia cannot afford to
see us as an enemy.  We must see each other a partners in survival.
 

Once the  US and Russia see each other as partners in survival, they
would be in a position to work together to help other nations join in
the process.  This is the way an international ban on nuclear weapons
can eventually be achieved.

For those who find what has been written here unbelievable and say,
“There is no way our officials could be so irresponsible”, an
anecdote may be instructive.  Physicians for Social Responsibility,
one of the leading organizations in the US for nuclear abolition, was
begun in 1961, when a group of physicians decided to publish an
article in The New England Journal of Medicine detailing what would be
the result of a nuclear attack on Boston.  Following its publication
the source of the largest number of requests for copies of the article
came from the Pentagon.  It turned out that the Pentagon had
developed and deployed a massive arsenal of nuclear weapons without
taking the trouble to investigate what would happen if the arsenal was
used.

Finally I want to quote the words of Four Star General Lee Butler who
from 1991 to 1994 was commander of all US strategic nuclear forces. 
Within two years of retiring from the Air Force he began traveling the
world as an outspoken nuclear abolitionist.

_     For all my years as a nuclear
strategist, operational commander and public spokesman, I explained,
justified, and sustained America’s massive nuclear arsenal as a
function, a necessity and a consequence of deterrence.  Bound up in
this singular term, this familiar touchstone of security dating back
to antiquity was the intellectually comforting and deceptively
simple justification for taking the most extreme risks and the
expenditure of trillions of dollars.  It was our shield and by
extension our sword. The nuclear priesthood extolled its virtues and
bowed to its demands….  We ignored, discounted or dismissed its
flaws and cling still to the belief that it applies in a world whose
security architecture has been wholly transformed.  _

_     But now, I see it differently.  Not in some blinding
revelation, but at the end of a journey, in an age of deliverance from
the consuming tensions of the Cold War.  Now, with
the evidence more clear, the risks more sharply defined and the
costs more fully understood, I see deterrence in a very different
light.  Appropriated from the lexicon of conventional warfare, this
simple prescription for adequate military preparedness became in
the nuclear age a formula for unmitigated catastrophe.  It was
premised on a litany of unwarranted assumptions, unproven assertions
and logical contradictions.  It suspended rational thinking about
the ultimate aim of national security…_

_… We cannot at once keep sacred the miracle of existence and hold
sacrosanct the capacity to destroy it…..  We cannot sit in
silent acquiescence to the faded homilies of the nuclear
priesthood.  It is time to reassert the primacy of individual
conscience, the voice of reason and the rightful interests of
humanity.  (speech at the National Press Club, February 2, 1998)_

_Dr. E. Martin Schotz is a member of the Northampton Working Group to
Prevent Nuclear War and the Peace Taskforce of Franklin County
Continuing The Political Revolution._

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