Thursday, April 13, 2006

mushroom games

The Rise of U.S. Nuclear Primacy -- (hat tip past peak)
Hawks will undoubtedly see the advent of U.S. nuclear primacy as a positive development. For them, MAD was regrettable because it left the United States vulnerable to nuclear attack. With the passing of MAD, they argue, Washington will have what strategists refer to as "escalation dominance" -- the ability to win a war at any level of violence -- and will thus be better positioned to check the ambitions of dangerous states such as China, North Korea, and Iran. Doves, on the other hand, are fearful of a world in which the United States feels free to threaten -- and perhaps even use -- force in pursuit of its foreign policy goals. In their view, nuclear weapons can produce peace and stability only when all nuclear powers are equally vulnerable. Owls worry that nuclear primacy will cause destabilizing reactions on the part of other governments regardless of the United States' intentions. They assume that Russia and China will work furiously to reduce their vulnerability by building more missiles, submarines, and bombers; putting more warheads on each weapon; keeping their nuclear forces on higher peacetime levels of alert; and adopting hair-trigger retaliatory policies. If Russia and China take these steps, owls argue, the risk of accidental, unauthorized, or even intentional nuclear war -- especially during moments of crisis -- may climb to levels not seen for decades.

A disquieting article in the March Foriegn Affairs magazine discusses the goal of the United States to achieve nuclear primacy. In fact, the authors imply this has already happened.

United States nuclear primacy means in a flat military sense the American Military can launch a massive strike against Russian or Chinese nuclear assets, and completely wipe them out. This implies that it is possible for there to be a winner, instead of two losers, as during the Cold War era.

It is completely nuts. MAD is bad. Primacy is worse, in a nuclear proliferated world. Incredibly destabilizing. If China assumes they will be the eventual loser in a nuclear exchange, why should they wait for the gorilla to wipe them out? There will be pressure to enact the two losers scenario - - MAD realized -- as opposed to simply being nuked silly. The psychology will drive generals bonkers. Twitchy thumbs will jitter over the red button.

Whatever strategic advantage the United States military and civilian leadership might imagine it has, the possibility of a nuclear firestorm is a disaster. A disaster on par with, or greater than, the worst global warming scenarios.

Peak oil, in comparison, is a gentle lesson in humility and mortality for one generation. Our generation, as it happens.

The trigger to assert nuclear primacy is simple. Use nuclear weapons, and dare the world to say or do anything. "Bring it on." All that is needed is a suitable target. Like those Iranian rogues, with a long history of belligerant warfare over the last two hundred years - - the Mexican Persian war of 1812, the conquest of the Philippines, the bit of nastiness with Spain, their ill fated adventure in Vietnam, their ill fated adventure in Korea, their... oops, I've got my notes mixed up. Ah yes, says here that they went to war with Iraq. Is that is good or bad?

Iran: The Nuclear Option
According to New Yorker columnist Seymour Hersh, the Bush administration is contemplating "the use of a bunker-buster tactical nuclear weapon, such as the B61-11, against [Iran's] underground nuclear sites." Presumably, the B61-11 nuclear bomb can be configured with yields low enough to be categorized as a mini-nuke, i.e., sub- or only a few kilotons. Currently considered a "dumb bomb," theoretically, the B61-11 could be mated with GPS guidance to achieve the same precision as the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), which where used to great effect in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The Chinese is curse is famously "may you live in interesting times." The American corollary to this must be "may you live in a diseased tumor."

In my nightmare.

Israel soaks the first. Ten by a thousand years wisped into glittering, bloody glass. The United States gets the next two or three, and we know New York will suffer. Alas, Babylon. Then the bad guys run out of their tin plated, rust bucket cobble-bombs.

Leaving the feuding, oil hungry principles with nukes resting unused in their eggs, begging to blossom. Bounce the perps in their cradles, polished plutonium whispers. Maybe the US will take out Mecca. Thanks for teaching us McBarbarism! Thanks for chopping off the heads of a thousand westerners! What goes around.

In my nightmare, the single most oil hungry entity in the world, the United States armed forces, wastes more oil fighting wars than it locks up in oil territory in the next ten years. Imperial America becomes a singularity in world history - the most reviled, hated civilization of all time, forwards and back. No nation will ever rise higher, because the oil will be gone. The moon is gone. We went there once. You can't visit a place like that unless you are dripping energy wealth.

In my nightmare, five billion people starve to death. This will happen in your lifetime, if you live sixty more years and no replacement for oil is found. In my nightmare, a replacement for oil is found, and we finish off planet Earth and the other one billion.

In times of chaos, there is potential for foundational change - positive or negative. Look how 9/11 turned the United States towards fascism and unbridled militarism. Impressive, no?

We'll get our chance to achieve great change. Without sentiment, we need to prepare paths and possibilities for humanity that nurture the Earth as oil fades away. The population of humankind will shrink, and our ability to damage planet Earth will shrink with it. The lesson will be burned into every culture, a lesson of folly and hubris. A myth, a flood story. And balance will come like flowers through pavement.

In my dream.

And please, no nukes. They are ruin.

(c) Jon S., 2004


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