Regarding nuclear weapons, the current administration is continuing policies of the previous one as did recent administrations before it: don’t work towards disarmament and pretend we aren’t upgrading our nuclear weapons or designing new ones. Despite his undeserved Nobel Peace Prize–his should be rescinded before Aung San Suu Kyi’s–and one over-played speech in Prague he never intended to honor, Obama’s nuclear legacy is one of delivery system upgrades, nuclear infrastructure growth and recalcitrant hypocrisy toward non-nuclear weapon states especially Iran. Yes, hhe did oversee the Iran nuclear deal, but that also is a noose around Iran’s neck, so that isn’t exactly a win for disarmament either.
Still, Trump and the Republicans are changing the rules on the ground, legalizing their thievery, making it legal for them to hide all their cards from any oversight or public awareness. The unfortunate lies of the Democrats are referenced to bolster their own, even more extreme lies and power grabs. International law, the laws of armed combat, international human rights conventions and treaties, the mandate of the International Committee of the Red Cross (and Red Crescent) have failed to make warfare less injurious to civilians over the last century, but they at least displayed an awareness that the concepts of war crimes and crimes against humanity should exist, and enforcement mechanisms should exist too. Shaming world leaders didn’t work really well, but now that ideas are threatened in their entirety by Donald Trump’s violent braggadocio.
Trump and General Mattis have said they want to make smaller nukes, ones that they have deemed usable. I didn’t think that anything could make me argue for deterrence! The logic of deterrence is a bit convoluted, but internally consistent. The presumption is that a nuclear armed state won’t attack a non-nuclear armed state out of fear that a retaliation will ensue. No defense against nuclear attack could be so fool-proof as to allow someone to launch a “first-strike.” A small nuke would probably leave the attacked state able to retaliate with its own surviving ones. Should they launch on warning? Do they wait and maybe not be able to retaliate? And then there is the question of what will the other nuclear armed states do in response even if they aren’t the ones attacked to begin with?
The Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty that George W. Bush pulled us out of, kept countries from trying to design shields. For deterrence, countries need to think their missiles and command and control systems will survive a first-strike. Attacking countries need to think that too, so they don’t risk starting a nuclear exchange, afraid that a retaliation would destroy its cities. Small nukes and delivery systems that may or may not have nukes on them confuse countries under attack, making them unsure if they are being nuked or not.
Maybe the nuclear states need to say to one another, if you launch against anyone, we all will launch against you. I can’t believe I just said that! On some level, stepped up deterrence against the United States seems necessary to me. That is shocking and depressing. I still pledge to work tirelessly for total nuclear disarmament, even unilateral nuclear disarmament. The rest of the world needs to unite against us and Trump, or I fear war–even nuclear war–is on a near horizon.
Trump even has ordered the Department of Energy (which oversees nuclear weapons production) to be ready to restart nuclear testing which was suspended by the elder Bush in 1992. Bill Clinton’s “Stockpile Stewardship” program extended testing in other, less radioactive forms, and kept nuclear weapons “alive.” That Clinton creation provides the basis for Trump’s order to the DOE. Barack Obama quadrupled the capacity of the nuclear weapons complex to upgrade and make new weapons. The illegal upgrade of the B61 to the B61-12 gravity bomb was a program Obama embraced, and it is now full speed ahead, making them very targetable and hence capable of being used as a first-strike weapon. I think the United States could have led the world towards disarmament by renouncing first strike weapons years ago, but now, such a gesture is even further from the table than it was.
Threatening to use nukes on a non-nuclear country is illegal under international law, but the USA has done this many times, and of course, we did nuke the people of Japan, the Marshall Islands, Nevada and elsewhere.
How can militarists get away with arguing that the United States military and its nuclear component are a laughing stock around the world? We may seem unwise, ignorant and arrogant, but still, our military budget and sales are taken very seriously, with relish, by tyrants the world over. The Koreans know how devastatingly we’re willing to use it. So do the Japanese. The world sees us arm Saudi Arabia to kill Yemenis and Israelis to try to subjugate Palestinians. The United States has upwards of 800 military bases in over 1 in 3 countries. For comparison, Russia has nine foreign military bases. Trump and others like John McCain and Lindsay Graham shouldn’t be able to assert with so little challenge, that our military is shrinking and falling behind. And they want freer rein to use those weapons, bases and personnel.
They are pushing back against any scrutiny or self-disclosure. In the past I would have said “almost any scrutiny” and been pleasantly surprised at some of their own reports. Now, they don’t want ANY, and they’ll just say “national security” until we’re blue in the face screaming in protest or maybe until we’re blue because we’re all dead. Republicans and the leadership of the Democratic Party seem to be okay with that. Sadly, most rank and file Dems and even radical environmentalists don’t seem to grock the extremely dangerous changes Trump’s swamp is making to the international lay-of-the-warfare land. If they kill you, you were by definition, the enemy, and if we destroy a village or a city, it was necessary to save it. And if he and his spokespeople claim that actually, the people are grateful for the intervention and thriving, well, that is good enough, that they say it, and time to move on…
Military actions are suppose to target military targets, not civilian ones. A cynic might say that such strictures will never be honored by one’s mortal enemies and can’t be trusted and we can’t fight with our hands tied behind our back. But it was war-like parties that agreed to such things to begin with. That negotiations could lead to such agreements despite all the bad blood in the world is amazing, and a testament to something in the human spirit that strives for the common good over individual greed. Even despots knew that it was wrong to go too far, even if they then justified it to themselves. Armies were more aware that they were supposed to treat civilians differently, and saw them as different than armed enemies. That knowledge sometimes has made a life and death difference for someone, a family, a village even though in the past 100 years, civilians began to face the overwhelming brunt of military violence. That sense of shame, or at least the not wanting to get caught, actually meant something on the ground in a war zone.
Trump is undoing even such minimal humanitarian efforts. Others started it, but Trump is pushing militarism so hard that despots around the world feel no shame, guilt or event expedient qualms about killing anyone they want, be they journalists, opposition candidates, labor leaders, environmentalists, or any random person someone in trouble might name to get the spotlight off of themselves. Attacking opponents isn’t new, but limits did help mitigate harm, and that being the norm did foster a more civil society which allowed lives, structures and routines to continue amidst fighting.
Now, we seem hell-bent towards massive destruction, and it is hard to take hope in the pushback that is actually growing, but is also casting about all over the place, diffused and often at odds with itself as much as with the forces of wanton cruelty. Movements for the sake of the environment, racial justice, gender equality and economic opportunity are often led by people who don’t include one of the largest contributors to their problems: militarism and especially The Pentagon. Perchlorate from rocket motors is in every women’s breast milk in the planet. The Pentagon uses more petroleum than any other institution in the world even though it has/d been developing alternative fuels. Most of the oil goes to the air force for airplanes and other transportation excesses among the different branches of the military.
The idea that using a nuclear weapon could be done in a way that doesn’t harm and kill civilians is murderously crazy and ignorant, indifferent to facts and fallout. Maybe other leaders will be more grounded than expected, and they won’t retaliate with their own nukes. I hope so, because Trump seems like the most unglued of the lot, but somehow, the world needs to unite against Trump and Trump-ism, or there is little cause for hope.
I take solace in every glimmer of hope that rises. Having children is a sign of hope. Good people having kids and raising them with loving, sharing values instead of some Ayn Randian “me first, me always” ethic gives me great hope! Radical parents give me hope. Seeing any signs of loving and friendship give me hope. Sharing and generosity are in abundance, and they give me hope. New configurations of activism give me hope. Black women running for office give me hope. Groups like Bay Peace, the Afghan Peace Volunteers, Youth Against Settlements, and Movement Generation give me hope. The Water Protectors give me hope. Jewish Voice for Peace and the Sogorea Te’ Land Trust give me hope. Environmentalists and journalists give me hope. The amazing young adults I have seen grow up in the Reclaiming Tradition give me great hope!
My friends and lovers give me hope. You are amazing. I thank you all for instilling and nurturing hope in me and people around you wherever you are. Thank you!