By Diane V. McLoughlin, mcloughlinpost.com
August 6, 2010: This year marks both the 65th anniversary of the nuclear destruction of Hiroshima, and renewed negotiations between Russia and the United States to drastically reduce the number of launch-ready nuclear weapons between the two most heavily nuclear-armed countries in the world; an act of sane world stewardship.
New START (strategic arms reduction treaty), which was signed by U.S. President Barack Obama and Russian Federation President Demitri Medvedev, on April 8, 2010, is to be roundly praised and applauded. (1)
It is bordering on a psychotic break with reality that Republican obstructionism and cheap electioneering could find the U.S. side scuttling a golden opportunity to drastically reduce the number of deployed nuclear warheads in the world - potentially increasing the odds of an eventual nuclear Armageddon. Republican partisanship by extreme-right ideologues such as Mitt Romney is now beneath contempt. (2)
Why shouldn't U.S. law makers ratify the nuclear weapons reduction treaty? Some of the obvious arguments that need to be addressed:
We can't trust them; what about China (and Pakistan, India, North Korea, Iran and Israel?); and 'first-strike' capability concerns.
Trust is something we build. It doesn't magically spring up from out of the ground, folks. In order to pull back from possible confrontation, to avoid misunderstanding, we must take measures to build trust.
China and other countries: If we step back a distance from total world nuclear destruction, as with New START, even if measured in inches, it's a statement. And in New START, the proposal is to reduce the total number of U.S. and Russian deployed strategic nuclear warheads to 1,550 - a whopping reduction by two-thirds from 1991 levels, and a thirty percent reduction from 2002. One negative with this nuclear warhead reduction treaty is that the number of nuclear warheads that are 'operationally inactive' (stockpiled) will continue to be counted in the thousands.
So there is still more to do. I cannot imagine that a single city or town would be left standing, either in the United States or in Russia, in a full-on nuclear confrontation with 1,550 nuclear warheads at the ready. (3) But a step back is not either nothing - or a step forward toward the abyss. New START is aptly named; it would encourage more inches away from the edge of mankind's destruction. Should we invite other nuclear-armed states to the arms-reduction party? Uh...yes?
A NYT editorial alludes to a crucial point: We should not use this New START as a cover to initiate development of even bigger and more lethal nuclear weapons to replace those we dismantle. (4)
It doesn't get much more weird than to say that there are some businesses that are in the nuclear weapons manufacture and maintenance business. And anyone in a business wants to stay in business.
Wherever businesses are located they are, guaranteed, to be located in some politician's backyard who has to look somewhere for money to husk for votes in order to stay in power.
Lead, persuade or follow: the politician's perennial choice. While weighing the options, the new movie,
'The Road' (5) should be compulsory viewing for, come to think of it, every single one of the world's politicians - and citizens. It's a good refresher on just how bad a post-nuclear apocalyptic world will be. I would throw in this clip 'Nuclear Nightmare' (6) from the movie, 'Terminator II', as well as this YouTube clip from 'The Day After':
The truth of it is that if anyone, anywhere, pushes the button, it's MAD: Mutually Assured Destruction - game over - where you are over there, and where I am, over here, as illustrated in the Matthew Broderick movie, 'War Games'. In the movie, it was feared that the Pentagon supercomputer confused a war game with the real thing. The computer illustrates the trajectory of nuclear weapons that would be deployed; the computer concludes that no one can win:
The longer time stretches out without nuclear incident, without the world's complete nuclear disarmament, I fear the more complacent our false sense of security will become.
One of the biggest nuclear war building blocks of trust the world had, the Bush II administration destroyed, actually. It is impossible to overstate what a dangerous move this is. Before, it was American policy that we would never be first to reach for the nuclear button. Post 9-11, Bush changed that. He said that from henceforth we reserved the right to strike preemptively. As an emotional reaction, understandable; nevertheless, that was a bad, bad move. What did W's administration think opponents would do with their own nuclear strategy other than adopt preemption themselves?
At roughly 900 military installations around the globe, one gets a strong feeling that the U.S. can only push things so far without fear of blowback. Logically, fear of blowback must be a tremendous source of inertia inhibiting American pullback.
In the end, there are only a few ways to deal with who we perceive as our enemies: Ignore them, destroy them or befriend them. The most revered of American Presidents, Abraham Lincoln, famously disclosed that to him the latter is the preferred course - eliminate our enemies by making them our friends. To achieve critical MAS - Mutually Assured Survival - it is the only course open to us that will sustain the human race.
With ever-increasing pressures threatening to destabilize peace and human security, from global population growth causing all of us to scramble for fewer and fewer natural resources, to global warming and, conversely, depleting fossil fuel sources, mankind is imminently capable of creative problem solving - that's the positive - but we have got to get it together.
The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty is a welcome ray of hope in these politically unstable and troubled times.
Republicans, Democrats: Embrace New START. It may be the most important vote you ever make.
- Writer, Diane V. McLoughlin
*There are thousands of nuclear bombs in existence in the world today. The average size (destructive force) of one bomb is approximately 300 kilotons (kT) which is equal to 600 million pounds of dynamite. A cursory Google search finds that the largest U.S. nuclear bomb is the Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), at 335 kT.
A nuclear weapon of this size causes destruction 10 - 15 times greater than that of the nuclear blast at Hiroshima, and creates a mass fire radius outward from the blast's center of approximately 65 miles. Destruction: Total. Radiation contamination downwind would render hundreds of square miles of land uninhabitable. (For more, please see: 'The effects of a 300 kiloton nuclear warhead detonated above Washington D.C.'; by Steven Starr; Nov. 2005. wagingpeace.org)
Even a minor nuclear conflict between two lesser states could blast and burn so much particulate matter into the atmosphere that the world's protective ozone layer would be severely damaged, and catastrophic cooling would affect our ability to grow food.
A major nuclear war is capable of creating what is referred to as a global 'nuclear winter'; possibly plunging the temperature even to below freezing in summer over much of the world's agricultural production zones. The ability to grow crops would be destroyed for most, it is feared, with obvious and catastrophic results.
(1) Treaty Between the United States of America and the
Russian Federation on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms; initial signing, April 8, 2010, ratification yet pending. http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/140035.pdf
(2) See: 'John F. Kerry: How New START Will Improve Our Nation's Security'; Washington Post; July 7, 2010; http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/07/06/AR2010070603942.html?sub=AR ;
(3) Key Facts about the New START Treaty
(4) NYT editorial, 'Ratify the Treaty'; Aug. 1, 2010; http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/02/opinion/02mon1.html?_r=1 ;
(5) YouTube clip, movie, 'The Road'; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8CwJHxEQ0WA&feature=related ;
(6) YouTube clip of the 'Nuclear Nightmare scene', from the movie, 'Terminator II'
[CAUTION: Extremely disturbing; Not suitable for young viewers]