Peace and the Nuclear Paradox

Whenever the topic is nuclear weapons, I remain in a state of disbelief that we can talk about them “strategically” – that language allows us to maintain such a distance from the reality of what they do, we can casually debate their use.

Consider, in the context of the sudden rush of alarming news that Donald Trump may trash the Iran nuclear agreement on May 12, on the false grounds that Iran is in violation of it, this piece of news from several months ago:

The latest Nuclear Posture Review, released in early February, “calls for the development of new, more usable nuclear weapons, and expanding the number of scenarios when the first use of nuclear weapons would be considered, including in response to a non-nuclear attack,” according Global Zero, an international movement to eliminate nuclear weapons.

“The plan renews the calls for massive spending to replace all legs of the nuclear triad, including new strategic bombers, new ballistic missile submarines and new land-based ballistic missile systems. The proposed approach will make America poorer and less secure, and could greatly increase the risk of nuclear war.”

It’s as though humankind has evolved to its own endpoint and doesn’t know it. And those in charge of our future wear uniforms. Or have orange hair.

And these holders of the future declare the need for new, more usable nuclear weapons – tactical nukes, as they say – belying the trillion-dollar paradox at the foundation of international unity: “The most powerful weapons ever devised serve no other purpose but to prevent their use by others,” as Steve Weintz put it in The National Interest.

Maybe the human race is so spiritually complex in its makeup that it requires the suicidal – excuse me, omnicidal – threat of nuclear war, or mutually assured destruction, in order to live in a semblance of peace with itself. I don’t believe this is the case, but that remains the default setting of international politics. The only problem is that military thinking is utterly consumed in the mindset of victory vs. defeat and obsessed by the enemy of the moment. And small-minded militarists are the ones in control.

So the temptation is always present, among the players at the highest level of national and international politics, to skirt around the paradox of MAD and use nuclear weapons to achieve “victory” over some perceived threat.

American generals pushed to use nukes in both the Korean and Vietnam wars, for instance. They were contained then by the forces of (slightly) higher sanity, but that doesn’t mean at some point they won’t get their way. Say a bully with the intellectual acumen of a 12-year-old manages to become president . . .

Read more at AntiWar.org

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