November 28, 2007
Written for and © by IPS
We seem to live in an age in which spin and deliberately distorted information threaten to replace knowledge. Politicians, journalists and many people, including left-wingers and peace activists, talk about the Ballistic Missile Defence (BMD) as if it were mainly about defence. It is not.
BMD is based on the perverse wish that the United States shall be able to start, conduct and win a nuclear war - a Nuclear Use Theory (NUT). BMD is a fundamental break with the logic of nuclear deterrence, or Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) that the world has lived with since 1945. Undoubtedly a provocative statement, here is the philosophy of MAD and NUT.
Imagine two nuclear parties, A and B, pitted against each other. They have their arsenal of nuclear weapons in silos on the ground, under the wings of planes and on submarines in the oceans, the “Triad”. Suppose A makes a First Strike with nuclear weapons. Even if A uses many at once, it cannot count on hitting every and each of B’s nukes. It must take the calculated risk that B will have some left somewhere and retaliate with a Second Strike that they could well kill millions of A’s citizens and command centres. Whether or not they continue to Third and Fourth strike, it totally absurd and amounts already in the First Strike Omnicid – an attempt to kill all living creatures.
Thus, MAD’s psycho-political and philosophical assumption was this: A will be deterred from starting a nuclear war because it will – with certainty! – provoke B’s mass-killing retaliation, even by automated launch should the political decision-making centres have been incapacitated. Although it is not suicide in a literal sense, it would amount to the same to even throw one nuclear weapon on the other side. MAD was also called the Balance of Terror. The Anti-Ballistic Treaty, ABM, was abut Russia and the U.S. agreeing to only protect their capitals but let their territories remain vulnerable. That was the deterring fact!
You may notice three things here: MAD built around a series of assumptions about human psychology, existence and technical capabilities that were both logical but also highly debatable. Their validity could only be tested if nuclear war happened. Secondly, it was terror in the essential sense of that word: taking innocent people as hostages, harm or kill them. Thirdly, after September 11, 2001, no one uses the word terror about nuclear weapons although they dwarf the threats (pretended or real) of today’s “terrorism.”
Every state that has nuclear weapons is, by definition, a terrorist state. That’s why even the UN definition of “terrorism” and all others define terrorism as what small groups do against society or the state but not what states do to their citizens and to other states. If there were a real war against terror, it would have nuclear abolition as it top priority.
Now, why is BMD a break with deterrence?
The BMD aims to prevent B from achieving successful retaliation on A’s people and territory. If A has both the capacity to destroy B and the capacity to protect itself against the incoming missiles in B’s Second, retaliatory strike it can assume that it can fight and win a nuclear war without any harm to itself.
What does this “NUTty” BMD mean psychologically?
One, A will feel less deterred from starting a nuclear war if it believes that it will not be harmed by B; this lowers the deterrence threshold. Secondly, it may even be encouraged to start one and “finish” – exterminate – the other side prematurely or “pre-emptively”, again because the cost to itself looks smaller than under the assumptions of MAD.
Third, it is likely to stimulate a new arms race. B and other adverse nuclear powers will all try to get many more nuclear weapons to secure that at least some would get through A’s “shield” in their efforts to retaliate A’s First Strike.
Party A in this theoretical exposé is, of course, the United States. It is the only country in human history that relies on such a NUT theory, develops the technology for it and has an official doctrine about using nuclear weapons even on non-nuclear countries.
This is a terrorist policy worse than millions of bin Ladens, should the US ever practise it. It’s mega-terrorism. Most people around the world do not know all this.
It must therefore command a lot of understanding when citizens and governments around the world protest the BMD as we see in the case of Russia, Poland and the Czech Republic. Greenland is part of it (Thule) but the Greenlanders were not informed. Japan is too, but it is a non-issue because Japan isn’t a sovereign state when it comes to foreign policy.
These public protests come in spite of the majority of media which, knowingly or not, support the offensiveness and cruelty of the Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex (MIMAC) that wants nothing of a much needed critical debate about BMD.
Humanity’s problem is not nuclear proliferation and, thus, not Iraq and Iran. The real problem is the very existence of nuclear weapons. What the binding Non-Proliferation Treaty, NPT, actually says is that proliferation to non-haves shall stop as quid pro quo for nuclear abolition by the nuclear haves. The US, Russia, France, China, Israel, Pakistan, India, the UK are the problem, not Iran or Iraq or North Korea.
In conclusion, the only ethical and sustainable response to BMD and every new nuclear weapons system is nuclear abolition now. Mainstream media and the scholarly community, both professing to rely on freedom, must take up that challenge before it is too late.