Skip to content


The Current U.S. Approach to Nuclear Weapons Can Only Lead to Armageddon — Arms Control Provides the Only Path to Peace via Portside

January 12, 2020 Prabir Purkayastha  MONTHLY REVIEW

After the fall of the Soviet Union, the U.S. is returning to its post-World War II U.S. vision of a Pax Americana. This is embedded in its nuclear doctrine, its strategic vision of controlling all theaters of war.

The decade ends with two major threats to humanity: global warming leading to a climate catastrophe and the threat of a nuclear war extinguishing our civilization. The U.S. has pulled out of the Paris Agreement and is wrecker-in-chief of the weak climate change agreement that all the countries had signed to limit the emission of greenhouse gases. It is also leading the charge for a nuclear armageddon, dismantling all nuclear arms control treaties. Expectedly, there has been a Russian response, but not by matching the U.S. efforts but by asymmetric measures designed to defeat the U.S. attempts of gaining nuclear dominance. Such an asymmetric response does not reduce the threat of a nuclear exchange but only ensures that there will be no winner in such a nuclear war.

What are the threats that could cause a nuclear exchange between the U.S. and Russia? There were three nuclear arms control treaties that were reached between the U.S. and Russia in the ’70s and ’80s, all of which were based on the understanding that nuclear war was not winnable; each side had enough weapons to destroy not only each other but also the entire globe. The three treaties are: the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, and the Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty, which has now metamorphosed into the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START).

All these treaties were based on what is called mutually assured destruction (MAD) doctrine, that if each side had enough nuclear weapons to destroy the other after receiving a first strike, there would be a balance of terror and therefore less likelihood of a nuclear war. Two of them—the ABM Treaty and the INF Treaty—have been formally abandoned by the U.S., while the fate of the third, START, which expires in 2021, hangs in balance.

To add to nuclear dangers, India and Pakistan have stepped up the rhetoric of war, with India withdrawing from its no-first-use policy. A nuclear exchange in South Asia would have global consequences including a nuclear winter. The U.S. withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal could also start a nuclear race in West Asia, with Iran looking to acquire nuclear weapons as its only defense against the U.S.—a Samson option—and Saudi Arabia following suit.

The U.S. actions stem from a strategic view that nuclear weapons are like just any other weapon, only bigger, and not that they have qualitatively changed war into an option that surely would—not could—destroy all civilization, and perhaps human life itself. While MAD looks indeed mad compared to nuclear disarmament, it is certainly preferable to a view of winnable nuclear wars.

Summarizing the Trump administration’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review first-strike policy, Nation editor Katrina vanden Heuvel writes in the Washington Post:

“the United States is building a new generation of nuclear weapons and delivery systems, will deploy more usable nuclear weapons in ‘forward’ areas, remains committed to possible ‘first use’ of nuclear weapons even against non-nuclear attacks in defense of 30 countries, retains missiles on active alert ready to launch, is skeptical of the possibility of any progress in arms control and is hostile to the global movement to make nuclear weapons illegal.”

This is not a defensive, but an offensive vision of enhancing first-strike capabilities and a winnable nuclear war. This vision is also a part of the document titled Nuclear Operations dated June 11, 2019, drafted by the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the United States. It was published and then hurriedly withdrawn from the U.S. government’s websites, and is now only available from the Federation of American Scientists website.

[…]

Read more.

Posted in *English.

Tagged with .


0 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.



Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.