Madmen Test MAD Theory on Nuke Weapons


We have always lived in fear of our greatest achievement. In 1139, Pope Innocent II convened a council which determined, among other things “29. We prohibit under anathema that murderous art of crossbowmen and archers, which is hateful to God, to be employed against Christians and Catholics from now on.”

It’s generally accepted that this applied to both the crossbow and the longbow, either of which could penetrate the armor of the period, allowing a peasant to kill a knight.

In the early 20th century, popular fiction, and the yellow press, were filled with stories of terrifying secret weapons, including death rays, invisible planes and aircraft carrier submarines, but the weapon that justified terror was a true one, the atomic bomb. After the bombs had been dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Emperor Hirohito announced to the people of Japan that he was accepting the Allies’ terms of surrender: “... the enemy has begun to employ a new and most cruel bomb, the power of which to do damage is, indeed, incalculable, taking the toll of many innocent lives. Should we continue to fight, it would not only result in an ultimate collapse and obliteration of the Japanese nation, but also it would lead to the total extinction of human civilization.”

According to legend, after the first test explosion of an atomic bomb, Robert Oppenheimer quoted from the Hindu holy book Bhagavad-gita “I have become Shiva, destroyer of worlds.”

The atomic bomb had the power to destroy the planet and, although we were not at war, Americans learned to listen for the siren alerts, and children hid under their school desks for protection from the radioactive fall-out. In time we stopped. In place of Civil Defense, which would have been of little or no value, we relied on the doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD), the assurance that any nuclear attack would be met with a nuclear response, and no nation could win.

It was a concept based on the assumption that national leaders would behave rationally, although there was no guarantee that was so. Politico magazine reported, “Defense Secretary James Schlesinger recalled years later that in the final days of the Nixon presidency he had issued an unprecedented set of orders: If the president gave any nuclear launch order, military commanders should check with either him or Secretary of State Henry Kissinger before executing them. Schlesinger feared that the president, who seemed depressed and was drinking heavily, might order Armageddon.” The article is titled “The Madman and the Bomb.”

In 2002, the Associated Press reported, “A few weeks before ordering an escalation of the Vietnam War, President Nixon matter-of-factly raised the idea of using a nuclear bomb. His national security adviser, Henry A. Kissinger, quickly dissuaded him.”

Now, it appears that North Korea has developed a bomb that can be delivered by a ballistic missile and may reach the American mainland. President Trump made a statement. “North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States,” Trump said during a meeting on opioids from his golf club in New Jersey. “They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen ... he (Kim Jung Un) has been very threatening beyond a normal state. They will be met with fire, fury and frankly power the likes of which this world has never seen before.”

Kim Jung Un reportedly has been briefed on a plan to test-fire missiles toward the US territory of Guam, but decided to watch the “reckless Yankees” a bit longer.

President Trump may indeed be reckless. If he boasts that his strong words terrified Mr. Kim, he may simply lead to resumption of the plans to fire a missile towards Guam, with the explanation, “he dared me.”

The Union of Concerned Scientists reported, “Nuclear weapons do not address today’s threats from rogue nations, such as North Korea or from terrorists that may seek to buy or steal a warhead. Any use of a nuclear weapon, whether deliberate or accidental, would cause unacceptable devastation. And, even if the rationale for nuclear weapons is solely to deter a nuclear attack on the United States and its allies, a much smaller arsenal would suffice.”

Of all the evils of the Trump administration, nuclear war is subject to the least checks and controls, and can never be undone. Our only hope is constant vigilance and an ongoing grassroots opposition to expansion or deployment of nuclear arms. Perhaps in time a better administration will deal with the problem, but for now we can only watch and pray.

Sam Uretsky is a writer and pharmacist living in New York. Email

From The Progressive Populist, September 15, 2017

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