Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Posts Tagged ‘MAD’

Enough Is Enough: My Speech for the Rage Against the War Machine Rally – Original

Posted by M. C. on February 17, 2023

I know because I’ve been to doomsday mountain. I’ve witnessed nuclear war, if only during an exercise. I’ve walked in a desert where an atomic blast obliterated and irradiated most everything in its path. And that’s not a future I want. That’s not a future any sane person wants. That way lies madness.

by William J. Astore

February 19th is the Rage Against the War Machine rally in DC. It just so happens to be my dad’s birthday as well. He was born on that date in 1917, endured the Great Depression, worked in the Civilian Conservation Corps and in factories until being drafted in 1942, and after the war became a firefighter, serving for more than thirty years until retiring. With my dad in mind, here’s the speech I’d give if I was invited on the stage. (The rally already has 27 speakers, but hopefully I can add a bit of rage and inspiration of my own.)

Hello everyone. Today would have been my dad’s 106th birthday. Happy Birthday, Dad!

In the late 1930s, when my dad was working hard for low pay in a factory, he tried to enlist in the U.S. Navy. The Navy recruiter rejected him because he was roughly a half inch too short. After Pearl Harbor, and remembering his rejection, my dad didn’t join the eager volunteers. He waited to be drafted and reported to the Army. He served in an armored headquarters group but never went overseas to fight. That fact, and his earlier rejection by the Navy, is perhaps why I’m alive today to add my voice of rage against the military-industrial complex and America’s permanent state of undeclared war.

Dad and Mom raised me during the Cold War. I was conceived around the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis and was in diapers when John F. Kennedy was shot and killed in Dallas. As a boy, I embraced military things, played with toy soldiers, GI Joes, imitation M-16s, and similar toys of war. I built model tanks, model warplanes, model warships. I blew them up with firecrackers, imagining heroic battles.

As a teenager in the 1970s, I believed the Soviet Union was an insidious threat to American democracy. We faced the prospect of nuclear destruction. My dad was philosophical about this. Even if Americans and Russians killed each other in mutual assured destruction, known appropriately as MAD, a billion Chinese would survive to kickstart humanity, he quipped.

But there were two harsh realities my dad and I didn’t know back then. Nuclear winter was one. Any major exchange between nuclear powers, we now know, wouldn’t just kill the people in those countries. The soot and ash thrown into the atmosphere from thermonuclear war would likely lead to mass starvation globally. (Let’s not forget global radioactivity, sickness, and death as well.) The second one was that America’s nuclear plans, known as the SIOPs, envisioned not just massive attacks on the USSR but China as well, even if China hadn’t attacked the United States.

Sorry, Dad: In case of a major nuclear war, China’s goose was cooked, as was most other forms of life on our planet.

When I graduated from college in 1985, a brand-new 2nd lieutenant in the US Air Force, my first assignment took me to Colorado Springs and Cheyenne Mountain, America’s very own Mount Doomsday. Cheyenne Mountain was America’s nuclear command and control center, literally blasted and tunneled out of a mountain, protected by 2000 feet of solid granite above it. Giant blast doors and buildings mounted on immense springs theoretically enabled us to ride out a nuclear war. But we few under the mountain knew that if DEFCON 1 came to pass, we’d likely be among the first to die in a nuclear war, even with all that rock over our heads.

You might say I’ve been to the mountain, Cheyenne Mountain, that is, both inside and outside. I much preferred the outside, hiking in the cool crisp Colorado air.

Once, when I was inside the mountain, the “battle staff” ran a wargame that ended with a nuclear attack on US cities. In a sense, then, I’ve seen the missiles fly, I’ve seen their tracks end at American cities, if only on a monochrome monitor. Even that low-tech video screen convinced me that I never, ever, want to see the real thing.

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A MAD Heist

Posted by M. C. on July 6, 2022

The reasonable path forward, as both realists and idealists have observed, is to encourage the leaders of Ukraine and Russia to sit down and negotiate terms. Anyone who understands the logic of MAD should condemn the United States’ reckless approach of risking not only self-destruction but also the end of civilization as we know it.

by Laurie Calhoun

Wars are fought by leaders who intend to win, one way or another, using any and all means available to them. The Cold War was a decades-long series of proxy battles between the two nuclear-armed superpowers, the Soviet Union and the United States, during which the communist and capitalist arch enemies engaged in conflict on the terrain of lesser states, to the detriment of millions of civilians living in those places. But the dissolution of the U.S.S.R. and the fall of the Berlin Wall ushered in neither a period of world peace nor a dramatically reduced U.S. military budget. Instead, U.S. foreign policy elites, emboldened by a newfound sense of impunity, suddenly realized that they could wage war and impose their will wherever and whenever they pleased. Who, after all, was going to stop them?

Despite the complete conversion of post-Soviet Russia to capitalism, the fear-driven antipathy used to promote and prolong the Cold War has been rehydrated among War Party duopolists, many of whom, perhaps addled by six years of mainstream media obsession with the Russiagate hoax, appear to have forgotten why the U.S.S.R. and the U.S.A. were enemies in the first place. Better dead than red! was the slogan which drove policymakers to attempt to stop the expansion of the Soviet empire by all means necessary. Better dead than red! concisely conveys the fervor which gave rise to both the massive development and stockpiling of nuclear warheads and the creation of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The current curious quest on the part of hawks to support nonnuclear-armed Ukraine as it fends off nuclear-armed Russia reflects a failure to understand the logic of not only war but also nuclear deterrence. The most glaring problem is that if, against all indicators, Ukraine were somehow to prevail in the conventional war against Russia, it would remain an option for Putin to deploy nuclear weapons, against which Ukraine would have no defense. Given that this conflict has morphed into a quasi-proxy war, with massive U.S. funding and CIA operatives on the ground in Ukraine, any use by Russia of nuclear weapons would likely trigger the use of the same by the United States.

Thinkers as diverse as Noam Chomsky and Henry Kissinger have spoken out about the danger of allowing the Ukraine-Russia conflict to continue on, yet the propaganda-pommeled populace persists in waving its Ukrainian flags. Antiwar intellectuals such as Chomsky have often been depicted by Pentagon propagandists and their associated pundits as “unrealistic,” but Kissinger is notorious (or renowned, depending on your perspective) as the consummate Realpolitik war games player. So how are we to understand the sudden concordance of such ideologically opposed figures on the ongoing conflict between Ukraine and Russia?

Kissinger is needless to say very familiar with the strategic cogitations of competent political leaders. He knows, for example, that leaders doomed to defeat by their limited military capacities vis-à-vis their adversaries do not as a general rule wage war against them. Correlatively, when there is no effective outside restraint on a superpower military such as that of the United States, then the sort of free-for-all of mass killing constitutive of the many misadventures in the Middle East (and beyond) since 1991 may well ensue. Kissinger also recognizes that a nation in possession of nuclear arms may in fact deploy them in exceptional circumstances, just as the United States did in 1945.

It is true that in 1945 there was only one nuclear-armed nation, and decades of political theorists have made careers out of arguing that in a war between two nations armed to the hilt with nukes, there could be only a Pyrrhic victory. That was the logic of MAD, Mutually Assured Destruction, given the likely domino/ricochet effect of any first strike use of nuclear warheads. Foreign policy elites such as Kissinger found the MAD argument compelling, and throughout much of the twentieth century, the continual development of ever-more-destructive nuclear arms was construed by high-level strategists as a form of deterrence. Looking back, it seems safe to say that either the MAD approach really worked, or else the species just got lucky that no one certifiably insane ever found himself in the position to initiate what could quite easily have escalated to a catastrophic nuclear holocaust. There were, however, close calls, perhaps the most famous of which was the Cuban Missile crisis. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed in that conflict.

Political leaders are human beings, first and foremost, who may be capricious and prickly, obstinate and vain, and these possibilities must be taken into consideration when attempting to predict their future actions. Two films which vividly underscore the human-all-too-human nature of political leaders and the consequent danger of resting the future of civilization on MAD deterrence are Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb and Sidney Lumet’s Fail Safe, both of which were released in 1964, at the height of the Cold War.

We all hope that Putin is not irrational, but as both Kissinger and Chomsky appreciate, the usual MAD premises may at some point cease serving as effective restraints in the present case. Paramount among those premises are, first, that the leader with his finger on the nuclear weapons launcher button is not suicidal (or terminally ill) and, second, that he does not believe that a purely Pyrrhic victory, culminating in the destruction of much of his own society, is acceptable—even if he himself has access to an impenetrable bunker located deep below the surface of the earth.

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