Monday, February 25, 2008

Time for a non-military America

Despite the fact that the United States is one of the 189 nations that signed the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, which was opened for signature in 1968, the Bush administration has relentlessly pursued the building of new nuclear warheads. The current aim is to replace all existing nuclear warheads by “improved” versions by the year 2030. There are several reasons why this program, often called the 2030 Bombplex, should be discarded.

  • The principal rationale for having nuclear weapons in the first place was to provide a disincentive to other nation states and empires who also had nuclear weapons from using them. If this strategy ever had validity and effectiveness, it was during the Cold War era. That era has now long since passed. All the countries that currently have nuclear weapons are considered allies and friendly trading partners of the United States. The United States no longer has national enemies that have shown any intent of harming it. The time for having a nuclear arsenal has past.
  • The only entities that have shown an intent of harming the United States in any way are not nations but essentially guerrilla organizations against whom nuclear weaponry is utterly useless. The most effective way to make peace with these organizations is to stop interferring in their territories. The United States could achieve peace instantly by closing all military bases on foreign soil and by abandoning all policies that consist in meddling in the affairs of other sovereign nations and sub-national tribal groups. There is absolutely nothing to be gained by military means in the world as it now exists, let alone by nuclear weapons.
  • Building and stockpiling nuclear weapons by the United States completely undermines the credibility of appeals to other nations to abandon their programs of developing nuclear weapons. It will always be seen as hypocritical for the United States to demand that Iran and North Korea desist from testing nuclear capabilities as long as the United States has an arsenal capable of destroying the entire earth several times over. (People who have not yet seen it should treat themselves to Ben Cohen's Nuclear BB demo.)
  • The United States spends a staggering amount of money to maintain its nuclear arsenal and to pay legal settlements to workers whose health has been compromised by working with nuclear materials. It was estimated that in 1998 the United States spent $35,100,000,000 on nuclear weapons and weapons-related programs. (See the fact sheet put out by the Brookings Institution.) This figure has increased during the years of the Bush administration along with the base military budget, which has increased by 70% during the Bush years, and this figure does not include special funds set aside for the illegal invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. The current military budget is more than $1,000,000,000,000 (one million million) per annum.
  • Much of the cost of maintaining a nuclear arsenal is keeping it from falling into “the wrong hands.” (It could be argued that it is already in the wrong hands by being in the hands of the United States military, but let us leave that aside for the moment.) If any of the materials that are or have been part of the US nuclear arsenal were to be commandeered by guerrilla organizations, the results could be disastrous. This may have happened already; the Brookings Institution reports that eleven warheads have been lost in accidents and never recovered. In other words, they are known to be missing, but it is unknown into whose hands they have fallen.

Interestingly enough, none of the leading candidates in the current presidential campaign have made their positions on the future of nuclear weaponry known. Journalists have shown no apparent interest in asking candidates about this issue.

A question worth asking oneself is whether any man or woman who believes in maintaining the conventional and nuclear military prowess of the United States is sane and competent enough to deserve your vote. It may be time to consider writing in a candidate such as Dennis Kucinich, Ron Paul or voting for the Green Party. Only those candidates show any signs of promising a change we can believe in.