Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Nuclear Threshold

Little Bundles of Instant Sunshine

During the height of the Cold War a lot of attention was paid to the "Nuclear Threshold", the point at which the actions of one side would cause the other side to resort to its nuclear arsenal, the point of MAD or "mutually assured destruction", the end of everything.

Back then it was recognized that even tinkering with the nuclear arsenal could destabilize the balance of terror. During his term, Jimmy Carter considered the neutron bomb, a bomb designed to be very heavy on radiation and very light on blast. The idea was that you could use it on an advancing Soviet army, for example, without causing massive destruction and radioactive contamination of the site. The same thing for civilian targets. You could effectively depopulate a city but leave the buildings undamaged.

The neutron bomb was feasible but it was wisely rejected. Saner minds realized it would make nuclear weapons more tempting to use which would cause the other side (the Soviets) to be even more paranoid about an American first-strike.

That's what can happen when you tinker with a nuclear arsenal. It causes everyone else to speculate on what you're up to. It can also cause them to begin building up their own nuclear muscle just in case their worst suspicions become reality. The simple point is we don't need to get Russia or China acting on their worst suspicions.

Now George W. Bush is doing it up real fine. He's doing it up on foreign policy. He's doing it up on defensive systems. He's doing it up on offensive systems too. Let's see - we've got a guy who seems to be unstable staring us in the face and he's brandishing a new shield and a big, new sword. What could he be up to?

It's not what George Bush is up to, it's the perception he gives that is the greatest danger. He's gone unilateral, withdrawn from the nuclear treaty, begun deploying a missile defence system worldwide, and is about to begin production on a new generation of nukes. Add to this his proven willingness to conquer other countries on flimsy pretexts and that he has proclaimed a doctrine of unprovoked, preventative war to ensure that his country enjoys, in perpetuity, "strength beyond challenge."

Now I don't like math any more than the next guy but, pretend you're Moscow or Beijing, and run those six factors through an equation and see what you come out with. Hell, they've even talked about first strike being a valid option. They've talked about using nuclear weapons against Iran's bunkers.

This is the most bellicose president, possibly since 1812, certainly in the past half-century of American history. He's also deceitful, naive, impulsive and ill-informed - putty in the hands of others. Now, factor that into your equation.

Somebody has to pull this clown back from the edge. That has to start by derailing Bush's plan for a new generation of nukes. There's nothing wrong with the existing arsenal. They're reliable and devastating as ever. The new nukes Bush is after would simply make them easier and tidier to use, one warhead at a time. The rest of the world isn't fooled by this. Why should the American Congress allow themselves to be drawn into this lunacy? Why should we all be plunged into another Cold War?

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