This article was published in The Global Beat Syndicate on April 19, 2004.
So it’s not enough that George Bush is fighting a unilateral, illegal, and very unwise war in Southwest Asia, surely creating two enemies for every one we eliminate, and stranding tens of thousands of American young people in a firestorm with no end in sight. And it’s not enough that George Bush has surely motivated thousands of dispossessed teenage boys elsewhere to give up on making it as citizens of the world, and to head off instead down the dead end terrorist road. No – now George Bush appears on the verge of resurrecting the Cold War as well.
In February, Russian President Vladimir V. Putin said that his country had tested new intercontinental missiles with “deep maneuvering” capabilities. American defense planners, said Putin, “have themselves been actively developing their weapons,” leaving Russia with little choice but “to modernize our armed forces in the interest of ensuring the security of our own country.” The new missiles would be invulnerable to any conceivable U.S. missile defense system.
Then last month, Russian Defense Minister Sergei B. Ivanov published a major article on the eve of NATO’s latest eastward expansion. Ivanov complained about “the new practice of using armed forces by the decision of individual states,” “anti-Russian elements (in) the military plans and political declarations of (NATO) member states,” and “the possible reemergence of nuclear weapons as a real military instrument.” (In case anyone missed that last point, Moscow scholar Sergei Karaganov helpfully explained that the minister “first and foremost means that our American partners have begun … lowering the threshold for the actual use of nuclear weapons.”) These developments, if continued, forced Ivanov to conclude that “Russia will have to adequately revise its military planning and principles regarding the development of its armed forces, including its nuclear forces.”
And now we have the Russian parliament issuing a resolution warning that without certain security guarantees from the new NATO states, Russia would be forced to begin again to “emphasize (our) nuclear deterrent arsenals.”
So like a foolish carnival barker poking a bear in an unsturdy cage, George Bush is apparently prodding Moscow into resuming the great atomic arms race that so many hoped had been relegated in 1989 to the rubble heap of history. These new Russian initiatives come as a direct response to three central pillars of Bush Administration’s defense policy:
- Its insistence on pursuing the false promise of missile shields, its abrogation of the 1972 Antiballistic Missile Treaty, and its commencement of missile defense construction in Alaska.
- Its intent to develop new types of nuclear weapons and to broaden the scope of military scenarios in which they might be employed.
- Its deafening silence on abolishing nuclear weapons, a goal to which the U.S. unambiguously committed itself both in the 1970 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and at the 30-Year NPT Review Conference in 2000, where the declared nuclear states formally promised “an unequivocal undertaking — to accomplish the total elimination of their nuclear arsenals.”
The Bush Administration, far from moving in any way toward abolition, is instead pursuing perpetual possession. Its Strangelovian new nuclear war fighting plans include bunker busting ‘mini-nukes’ (an oxymoron if there ever was one), a host of new doctrinal scenarios where a U.S. nuclear first strike would be warranted, and new generations of strategic nuclear warheads in 2020, 2030, and 2040.
One of the grand ironies of the present geopolitical moment is that the country most insistent about retaining its thousands of nuclear warheads is the country that needs them the least. America’s conventional military superiority is utterly unchallengeable over any combination of adversaries — and will likely remain so for decades to come. The U.S. can threaten an overwhelming “massive retaliation” against anyone, anywhere, with our conventional capabilities alone.
Our nuclear weapons, in fact, are worse than useless for the real threats to the personal security of Americans at the dawn of the 21st Century. Our armies and air forces didn’t protect us on 9/11. Our 12 aircraft carrier battle groups (no other country has even one) didn’t protect us on 9/11. And the thing that protected us the least on 9/11 was our bloated arsenal of the apocalypse. Not only does that arsenal do nothing to defend us against the incalculably more horrifying threat of nuclear terrorism, it makes that terrorism more likely to eventually occur.
Sadly for both the principles of the Democratic Party and the prospects for American security, Senator John Kerry has not put forth any kind of plan for moving toward a nuclear weapon free world either. Want the Cold War to become permanently part of our past rather than yet another nightmare for our future? Then let’s urge the Democratic presidential nominee to announce that on his watch, our country will lead the world toward abolishing these abominations forever. Instead of building a shield in the sky, it’s time to get rid of the swords.