Peace or more war in 2023?

Bob Sheak, January 5, 2023

The point

The central point of this post is that, in the U.S. there is a divided government and political system. However, when it comes to increasing the Pentagon budget and support for a militaristic foreign policy, most Democrats in the U.S. Congress join their Republican peers in supporting such legislation.

I have tried to document this point in recent months in several posts. For example, in the introduction to a post sent out through WordPress and Linkedin on Oct. 13, 2021, entitled “U.S. militarism: Some evidence,” I wrote:

“In this post, I review evidence establishing that the U.S. is a militaristic society and power. It is one of a number of major problems besetting the society, but it is among those that have existential implications. Militarism is not only the result of a military-industrial complex, but also of citizens who tend to glorify the armed services and who have little concern for the destruction and civilian deaths and casualties that accompany U.S. wars. At the same time, millions of U.S. troops have suffered the physical, mental, and moral injuries of ill-fated wars initiated by political and military leaders (see, for example, David Wood, What We Have Done: The Moral Injury of Our Longest Wars, or Dina Rasor and Robert Bauman, Betraying Our Troops). With some pauses and despite anti-war movements, militarism and its damaging effects have grown since WWII.

“This analysis doesn’t call for the end of our military services. Rather, it calls for a reduction in military spending; independent audits of the military budget and spending; more effective congressional oversight; a reevaluation of whether the U.S. really needs over 800 foreign bases in 70 countries to ensure the safety and security of the U.S.; stopping the revolving door between the weapons makers and military officers; giving more focus to building up the State Department with the goal of enhancing U.S. diplomatic assets; ending the space force; joining with other countries to phase out nuclear weapons; and finding ways to better educate American citizens about the history of the country’s wars, the options to war, and generally about the limits of military power. By recognizing such limits and rethinking the country’s priorities, resources can then be made available to address the non-military crises that beset the U.S.”

Bipartisan support for increases in military spending

When it comes to military spending, there is – and has long been – a bipartisan consensus. Back in 1960, then president Dwight Eisenhower warned of the problem of “the military-industrial complex,” and the consensus among lawmakers that made it feasible. Here’s some of what I wrote in post on WordPress and Linkedin, “Biden and the Military-Industrial Complex.”

“Three days before President Eisenhower left office on January 17, 1961, he addressed the “American people” by radio and television. One of the most notable and memorable parts of the speech is when the president talks about the political and economic concerns he had about the growth of the military-industrial complex. Here is what he said (http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=12086).

“Until the latest world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.

“The conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American Experience. The total influence – economic, political, even spiritual – is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society.

“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

“We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense without peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together”

The speech was given in a troubled and somewhat unique historical time, at  the height of the Cold War. Eisenhower was concerned about how we would, as a country, achieve some reasonable balance between national defense, the domestic economy, the material well-being of citizens, and democracy. One thing is clear. He was not saying that the military-industrial complex had to be curtailed. Indeed, he emphasized the country would have to maintain strong military forces and the industrial capacity to ensure their strength. The implication was that this emergent military-industrial complex was going to be a permanent fixture in American society. But citizens must remain vigilant to keep it from going too far.

Presently, there are significant problems associated with U.S. military policies and spending. It has encouraged a foreign policy that relies significantly on military force or the threat of such force. It has proven ineffective in achieving military objectives and generally done little to advance peaceful outcomes. It has caused considerable death and destruction, particularly from aircraft, drones, and missiles.

U.S. support for Ukraine against Russia is laudable but probably unsustainable and, so far, unable to prevent the widespread death and destruction wrought by Russia’s attacks. In the final analysis, the end of this war will depend on a negotiated settlement, which is not yet in sight.

Calls for peace and diplomacy from the UN chief Antonio Guterres, have been ignored. Scientists concerned about the prevention of nuclear war have had little effect on U.S. nuclear policies. While there are continuous efforts to pursue peace, they have yet to change the militaristic thrust of US government spending and foreign policies.   

Part 1: On the Peace front

#1 – UN Chief calls for peace

Brett Wilkins reports on the U.N. chief’s New Year’s Address, in which Antonio Guterres says ‘We Need Peace, Now More Than Ever” (https://commondreams.org/news/antonio-gutterez-new-year).

“United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres on Wednesday beseeched humanity to ‘make 2023 a year when peace is restored to our lives, our homes, and our world,’ a message that came as dozens of wars and armed conflicts rage around the world.

“‘Every new year is a moment of rebirth. We sweep out the ashes of the old year and prepare for a brighter day,’ Guterres said in his speech. ‘In 2022, millions of people around the world literally swept out ashes. From Ukraine to Afghanistan to the Democratic Republic of the Congo and beyond, people left the ruins of their homes and lives in search of something better.’”

“In 2023, we need peace, now more than ever,” he insisted. “Peace with one another, through dialogue to end conflict. Peace with nature and our climate, to build a more sustainable world. Peace in the home, so women and girls can live in dignity and safety. Peace on the streets and in our communities, with the full protection of all human rights. Peace in our places of worship, with respect for each other’s beliefs. And peace online, free from hate speech and abuse.”

“In 2023, let’s put peace at the heart of our words and actions,” Guterres added.

In a speech earlier this month [December, 2022], Guterres noted that “geopolitical divides have made global problem-solving ever more difficult—sometimes impossible.”

At the same time, Guterres saw some reasons to be hopeful.

“In Ethiopia, efforts by the African Union to broker peace are a reason for hope. A cessation of hostilities and implementation agreements are in place. A pathway to assistance in the northern part of the country is emerging.

“In the Democratic Republic of Congo, diplomatic efforts led by Angola and the East African Community have created a framework for political dialogue to resolve the crisis in the eastern region of the country.

“The truce in Yemen has delivered real dividends for people. Since then, even if very fragile, there have been no major military operations in a conflict where innocent people have been paying the highest price. Civilian flights have resumed from Sanaa. Vital supplies are finally getting through the port of Hudaydah.
And even in the brutal war in Ukraine, we have seen the power of determined, discreet diplomacy to help people and tackle unprecedented levels of global food insecurity. Despite ongoing challenges, the Black Sea Grain Initiative to facilitate exports of food and fertilizers from Ukraine—and a memorandum of understanding for unimpeded exports of Russian food and fertilizers to global markets—are making a difference.”

#2 – Stop war profiteering

Kathy Kelly decries the “merchants of death” in an article published on Counter Punch and comments on upcoming events in the amorphous peace movement (https://counterpunch.org/2023/01/02/decry-the-merchants-of-death). Here is some of what she writes.

“How can we in the United States prevent the killing that goes on, in our name, in multiple wars, exacerbated by weapons made in the U.S.A? How can we resist the growing potential, acute scourge of a nuclear exchange as warring parties continue issuing nuclear threats in Ukraine and Russia?

“One step we can take involves both political and humanitarian efforts to hold accountable the corporations profiting from the U.S. military budget. Drawing on Phil Berrigan’s steadfastness, activists worldwide are planning the Merchants of Death War Crimes Tribunal scheduled to be held November 10 to 13, 2023. The Tribunal intends to collect evidence about crimes against humanity committed by those who develop, store, sell, and use weapons to commit crimes against humanity. Testimony is being sought from people who’ve borne the brunt of modern wars, the survivors of wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Gaza, and Somalia, to name but a few of the places where U.S. weapons have terrified people who’ve meant us no harm.

“‘We render you, corporations obsessed with war profiteering, accountable; answerable!’ declares the Reverend Dr. Cornel West on the Tribunal’s website.

On November 10, 2022, organizers of the Merchants of Death War Crimes Tribunal and their supporters served a “subpoena” to the directors and corporate offices of weapons manufacturers Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon United, and General Atomics. The subpoena, which will expire on February 10, 2023, compels them to provide to the Tribunal all documents revealing their complicity in aiding and abetting the United States government in committing war crimes, crimes against humanity, bribery, and theft.”

#3 – An anti-nuke movement or movements

H. Patricia Hynes writes on “Envisioning a World Without Nuclear Weapons” and refers to evidence of groups that want to ban nuclear weapons (https://commondreams.org/opinion/us-nuclear-weapons).

  • “At their 40th reunion in Los Alamos, New Mexico, 70 of 110 physicists who worked on the atomic bomb signed a statement supporting nuclear disarmament. When have the brightest scientists of their day ever admitted that their most notable work was a colossal mistake?”
  • “On February 2, 1998 retired General George Butler, former commander of U.S. Strategic Air Command, addressed the National Press Club: “The likely consequences of nuclear weapons have no… justification. They hold in their sway not just the fate of nations but the very meaning of civilization.” Sixty other retired generals and admirals joined him in calling for nuclear weapons abolition.”
  • “Against immense pressure from nuclear-armed states, most aggressively the United States, 122 countries agreed in July 2017 to ban nuclear weapons. At the heart of the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) is an explicit ethical goal: to protect the world’s peoples from the humanitarian catastrophe that would ensue were nuclear weapons employed.”
  • “By the end of 2022, 68 countries ratified the treaty and 23 more are in the process.”
  • “At least 30 more countries have promised to join the treaty.”
  • “Since 2007, ICAN, an international organization with partners in over 100 countries, has mobilized people throughout the world to convince their governments to support a ban on nuclear weapons.”
  • Mayors for Peace from over 8,000 global cities call for the abolition of nuclear weapons.”
  • “The new U.N. treaty prohibiting nuclear weapons bolsters the hope that the United States and the eight other nuclear giants will grow up into pragmatic, if not ethical, adult governments and eliminate forever their genocidal weapons. One nation did so: South Africa developed nuclear weapons capability and then voluntarily dismantled its entire program in 1989.”

#4 – Some Democratic legislative successes, even with large increases in Pentagon budget and a militaristic thrust in foreign policy

Paul Waldman writes on Democratic successes in the U.S. Congress and gives the following examples (https://washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/12/2/1biden-industrial-policy-economic-revolution).

“With the passage of four large spending bills over his first two years — the American Rescue Plan, the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Chips and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act — President Biden has inaugurated something of an economic policy revolution. Their near 2,000 pages of programs and initiatives contain a profound shift in how the federal government intervenes in the economy. We now have the closest thing the United States has had to a real industrial policy in decades,” a prospect most Republicans oppose.

The Omnibus spending bill

In an article for The Hill on December 23, 2022, Aris Folley considers highlights from the $1.7 trillion, 4,000-page, omnibus spending bill Congress just passed by Congress and soon to be signed by President Biden. (https://thehill.com/policy/finance/3786614-five-highlights-from-the-1-7-trillion-omnibus-spending-bill-congress-just-passed). This is the budget of the federal government for 2023. It took some Republican support in addition to the Democratic votes in the House and Senate to pass the federal government budget, but the positive vote came mostly from Democrats. It reflects minimal bi-partisan support, except for increases in military spending. The legislation includes $885 billion for “defense,” 45 billion for support of Ukraine, reform of the Electoral Count Act, and provisions to support various health care programs and initiatives.

The Senate passed the measure on Thursday, December 22, in a 68-29 vote and the House on Friday passed it 225-201-1. All 29 negative votes in the Senate came from Republicans, while 206 Republicans in the House voted “no.” Michael Schnell reports that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) was the only House Democrat to vote against a $1.7 trillion omnibus spending package on Friday, voting “no” on the measure because of increased funding for defense and federal agencies that oversee immigration (https://thehill.com/homenews/house/3786827-ocasio-cortez-only-democrat-to-vote-no-on-spending-package).

#5 – Americans are split on the issue of increased military spending

Karl Friedhoff reports on evidence from Global Affairs on September 28, 2022, supporting this statement (https://globalaffairs.org/research/public-opinion-survey/americans-split-increasing-defense-spending). He points out that, in his 2023 budget, “US President Joe Biden sought a record $813 billion for national defense. The House of Representatives then piled another $45 billion on top of that. The American public, however, is split on increasing defense spending. And there are deep differences between Republicans and Democrats.”

Here are the key findings.

  • A plurality of Americans (38%) want to keep defense spending about the same with nearly equal numbers wanting to either expand (29%) or cut back (26%).
  • A majority of Americans (51%) say that maintaining US military superiority is a very effective way to achieve US foreign policy goals. Only maintaining existing alliances (54%) is higher.
  • Just 16 percent say military aid to other countries is a very effective way to achieve US foreign policy goals. Another 59 percent say it is somewhat effective.
  • Even so, large majorities support sending additional arms and military supplies to Ukraine (72%) and if needed, to Taiwan (65%).

#6 – A path to peace in Russia’s war on Ukraine

The Russian war against Ukraine has become another extended war. Some call it a proxy war, pitting Russia against the U.S. and NATO. Without a negotiated settlement, it seems to have the making of a new cold war in which even nuclear weapons become usable.

The Russian leader Putin has put the blame for the Ukraine war on the U.S. and NATO policies of militarily encircling Russia with, he says, the goal of dominating his country. M.E. Sarotte has written a book documenting this view, Not One Inch: American, Russia, and the Making of Post-Cold War Stalemate. Others point to Putin’s dubious belief that Ukraine has always been a part of Russia and he wants to force it to be so again.

According to the latter view, the Russian President views the entirety of Ukraine as an historical and integral part of Russia and wants to reclaim it all. And, if total Russian control of Ukraine is not achieved, Putin wants to make sure that Ukraine never joins NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization), a concern that grows out of the expansion of NATO membership to include countries in Eastern Europe on the border of Russia.

Jen Kirby and Jonathan Guyer quote Putin on the first point saying,

“Ukraine is not just a neighboring country for us. It is an inalienable part of our own history, culture and spiritual space,” he said, per the Kremlin’s official translation. “Since time immemorial, the people living in the south-west of what has historically been Russian land have called themselves Russians” (https://vox.com/2022/2/23/22948534/russia-ukraine-war-putin-explosives-invasion-explained).

A path to peace in Ukraine

Stephen Eric Bronner, Co-Director of the International Council for Diplomacy and Dialogue (www.icdd.info) and Board of Governors Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Rutgers University, calls for diplomacy in Ukraine (https://commondreams.org/opinion/ukraine-negotiations-diplomacy).

  • Security guarantees are necessary for both nations: Ukraine must agree to become a neutral and non-nuclear state, and agree to remain outside NATO in exchange for permission join the EU. Sanctions on Russia would be lifted in accordance with its de-escalation of the conflict.
  • Monitoring the implementation of peace and investigating human rights violations must involve independent international agencies. For example, the UN High Commissioner on Refugees (UNHCR) will need to oversee plans to deal with refugees, exchange of prisoners, collection of corpses, and elimination of land-mines.
  • Creating an international “fund, similar perhaps to the global climate fund, is necessary for the reconstruction of Ukraine.
  • Continuing support for Ukraine is vital, but it must come with conditions. Even speculative suggestions for peace are necessary when there is only talk of war. The humanitarian catastrophe is worsening and the global community must prioritize the material needs of everyday citizens (and soldiers) over those of governments. Not to talk about peace is to perpetuate war—pure and simple—and that is something the people of Russia and Ukraine cannot afford. Negotiate now!

#7 – A multi-polar world

Medea Benjamin considers “Ten Surprisingly Good Things That Happened in 2022 (https://commondreams.org/views/2022/12/21/ten -surprisingly-good-things-happened-2022”).  Here’s one of her examples.

“A multi-polar world is here. China’s enormously ambitious Belt and Road Initiative now encompasses over 80 countries. And with the U.S. abusing its economic power by imposing extraterritorial sanctions against countries all over the globe, the push for alternatives to the dollar has exploded. Over a dozen countries have asked to join BRICS (the alliance of the powerful economies of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa), whose countries account for 40 percent of the global population and 25 percent of the world’s GDP. BRICS members are already transacting their bilateral trade in local currencies. And new or strengthened non-aligned movements have emerged in Latin America and Africa. A multi-polar world is already a reality for much of the world, and this is actually better for people everywhere–even for Americans–than one where the U.S. keeps using war, militarism and coercive financial sanctions to try to prolong its post-Cold War unipolar moment into our new century.” 

Part 2: On War and war preparation

#1 – U.S. increases its already large military budget

Majorities in the U.S. Congress and the Biden Administration have supported large increases in the 2023 Pentagon’s budget, further inflating the already unprecedented and growing national debt and diverting resources away from dealing with such critical issues of poverty, inequality, and environmental sustainability.

Bryant Harris reports for Defense News that the U.S. Congress has authorized a large increase in the 2023 “defense” budget ((https://defensenews.com/congsress-budget/2022/12/16/congress-authorizes-8-defense-budget-increase). Here are the highlights of his report.

“The Senate voted 83-11 on Friday, December 16, to authorize an 8% defense budget increase over fiscal 2022 levels. The FY 2023 National Defense Authorization Act [NDAA] adds $45 billion to what the White House requested in its defense budget proposal.

“The $858 billion NDAA — which includes roughly $817 billion in Defense Department spending — also includes a 4.6% pay raise for troops as well as billions of dollars in additional funding to help the Pentagon cope with inflation, expand capacity for the defense industrial base to produce major weapons systems and continue certain programs the Biden administration had sought to cancel.”

The presumed threat of China is highlighted in justifications for the increase. Harris quotes Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “China is actively, actively trying to undercut American interests and partnerships everywhere from Asia itself to the Middle East, to Africa and beyond,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck., said on the floor ahead of the vote. “This NDAA will strengthen our hand. It prioritizes crucial partnerships in the Indo-Pacific.”

The House passed the NDAA 350-80 last week with a veto-proof majority. Harris identifies some highlights of the legislation.

#2 – Criticisms of the U.S. Military

A – A hollow force?

Harlan Ullman argues that the “$858 billion defense budget will still produce a ‘hollow force’” (https://thehill.com/opinion/national-security/3770596-an-858-billion-defense-budget-will-still-produce-a-hollow-force). Here are his main points.

“First, the aims of the National Defense Strategy (NDS) are unachievable and thus cannot be executed. Second, uncontrolled, annual real cost growth of every item, from precision weapons to people to pencils, exacerbated by high levels of inflation, make the current and projected force unaffordable. Third, the current force of 1.4 million is not sustainable given the declining number of civilians who meet the standards for service and those who wish to serve in uniform.”

US military has not been very effective in war

Historian Andrew Bacevich has written extensively about the ineffectiveness of U.S. military forces in virtually all the wars in which it has been engaged since WWII (e.g., https://tomdispatch.com/russia-underperforming-military-and-ours). In a new collection of articles published in the book titled “On Shredding an Obsolete Past” (published in 2022), he writes,

“For decades, the United States has exerted itself to uphold and enhance the advantageous position it gained in 1945. Its tacit goal was not only to hold the communist world in check but to achieve ideological, economic, political, and military primacy on a global scale, with all but the most cynical American leaders genuinely persuaded that US supremacy served the interests of mankind.”

Bacevich continues that through these decades “the United States regularly doubled down on its quest for a global primacy that was to be achieved largely, though by no means entirely, through the use or threatened use of military power.”

The use of this military power was shaped by “a near total absence of competent political oversight; deficient generalship, with senior officers struggling to comprehend the nature of the wars they were charged with waging; unwarranted confidence in the utility of advanced military technology; an excessive reliance on firepower that killed, maimed, and displaced non-combatants, thereby alienating the local population; nation-building efforts that succeeded chiefly in spawning widespread corruption; an inability to inculcate in local militaries the capacity and motivation to defend their country; and, not least of all, determined enemies who made up for their material shortcomings by outpacing their adversaries in a willingness to fight and die for the cause” (p. 346).

B – Arms makers rake in undue profits

Eric Lipton, Michael Crowley and John Ismay make the case that the surge in military spending creates a “New Boom for Arms Makers” (https://nytimes.com/2022/12/18/us/politics/defense-contractors-ukraine-russia.html). Here’s some of what they write.

“Military spending next year is on track to reach its highest level in inflation-adjusted terms since the peaks in the costs of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars between 2008 and 2011, and the second highest in inflation-adjusted terms since World War II — a level that is more than the budgets for the next 10 largest cabinet agencies combined.

“Even more orders are coming in to military contractors from U.S. allies in Europe and Asia, as they too have concluded they must do more to arm themselves against rising global threats. Japan moved this month to double its spending on defense over the next five years, putting aside a pacifist stand it has largely maintained since 1945.

“The push by the United States to arm Ukraine in its war against Russia has already led to substantial new business for military contractors.

“And none of this counts an estimated $18 billion of planned but now delayed weapons deliveries by the United States to arm Taiwan against a possible future attack by China.

“The combination of the Ukraine war and the growing consensus about the emergence of a new era of superpower confrontation is prompting efforts to ensure the military industrial base can respond to surges in demand. The issue has become urgent in some cases as the U.S. and its NATO allies seek to keep weapons flowing to Ukraine without diminishing their own stocks to worrisome levels.”

Furthermore:

“The annual military authorization bill that passed the Senate on Thursday prevents the Air Force and Navy from retiring aging weapons systems that the military would like to take out of service, including certain C-130 transport planes or F-22 fighter jets. At the same time, it includes billions of dollars in extra money to build even more new ships and planes than the Pentagon itself asked for, including $2.2 billion alone for an extra Navy-guided missile destroyer, according to the Senate Armed Services Committee.”

C –The threat of nuclear weapons and war

William Astore,  a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF) and professor of history, is a TomDispatch regular and a senior fellow at the Eisenhower Media, is concerned about how U.S. nuclear strategy keeps the world on the edge of nuclear war (https://thenation.com/article/world/northrop-grumman-b21-radar-armageddon). Astore writes,

“It’s hard to think of a system more filthy or rotten than one that threatens to destroy most life on our planet, so that this country could in some fashion ‘win’ World War III.”

He gives the example of the B-21 Raider, the country’s latest “stealth bomber” that is made by Northrop Grumman and can carry nuclear bombs. Astore cites how Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin describes it as a weapon that will “fortify America’s ability to deter aggression, today and into the future.”

“…the B-21 is advertised as a multi-role bomber that can carry ‘conventional’ or non-nuclear munitions as well as thermonuclear ones, but its main reason for being is its alleged ability to put nuclear bombs on target, even without Slim Pickens (‘Major Kong’ in Kubrick’s Dr. Strangeloveriding down on one of them.”

The bomber is part of a “nuclear triad,” the foundation of the U.S. nuclear policy. Astore comments on the triad.

“There’s nothing magical about the nuclear triad. It’s not the Holy ‘Trinity,’ as a congressman from Florida said long ago. Even so, it’s worshipped by the US military in its own all-too-expensive fashion. America’s triad consists of bombers capable of carrying nuclear weapons (B-52s, B-1s, B-2s, and someday B-21s), those land-based ICBMs, and that most survivable ‘leg,’ the US Navy’s Trident-missile-firing submarines. No other country has a triad quite as impressive (if that’s the word for it), nor is any other country planning to spend up to $2 trillion over the next three decades ‘modernizing’ it. The Air Force, of course, controls the first two legs of that triad and isn’t about to give them up just because they’re redundant to America’s ‘defense’ (given those submarines), while constituting a threat to life on this planet.”

Astore is skeptical about reversing the current military strategy.

“Collectively, it seems that we may be on the verge of returning to a nightmarish past, where we lived in fear of a nuclear war that would kill us all, the tall and the small, and especially the smallest among us, our children, who really are our future.

“My fear: that we’ve already become comfortably numb to it and no longer can take on that culture of mass death. I say this with great sadness, as an American citizen and a human being.”

D – Atomic scientists worry about “a global nuclear order in shambles”

François Diaz-Maurin reviews in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists on “A global nuclear order in shambles”(https://thebulletin.org/2022/12/the-2022-nuclear-year-in-review-a-global-nuclear-order-in-shambles). Here’s some of what Diaz-Maurin reports.

“Russia, losing on the ground, contemplated the use of nuclear weapons in its war against Ukraine—recklessly threatening the nuclear taboo, a 77-year tradition of non-use. Also in Ukraine, nuclear reactors and nuclear facilities became targets of military attacks. Elsewhere, North Korea test-launched more ballistic missiles than it ever had in a single year and even seems to be preparing for a nuclear test. Iran resumed construction of its underground nuclear complex, disconnected IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] surveillance cameras, and accelerated its uranium enrichment program, leaving it only months away from possibly testing a nuclear explosive or deploying a crude nuclear warhead on a ballistic missile, if it wishes to do so. In response, Saudi Arabia took further steps toward enriching uranium, also refusing IAEA inspections that would ensure the Kingdom does not conduct covert nuclear weapons-related activities.

“Despite all these concerns,” Diaz-Maurin continues, “efforts of nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament failed to achieve any meaningful result this year. Participants in the first meeting of states parties of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), also known as the ban treaty, could not agree on calling out Russia’s nuclear threats and rhetoric in its war against Ukraine. The long-awaited review conference of the parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) ended without an agreement after Russia refused to sign off on an outcome document that referred to the control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine. The international community, so far, seems incapable of finding ways to better protect nuclear facilities from attacks, even as the odds of a nuclear accident in Ukraine increase as the war drags on.

“In August, the EU-mediated talks between the United States and Iran failed to revive the 2015 agreement limiting Tehran’s nuclear program, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which former President Trump abandoned in 2018. In the United States, the much-anticipated Biden administration’s Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) was finally released in October, only to deceive experts. The NPR has been invariably accused, at best, of maintaining the nuclear status quo and of passing on its chance to reduce the role of nuclear weapons in the US security strategy, if not of being a major step backward.

“Finally, in late November, hopes that on-site inspections under the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START) could resume soon were cold-showered after Russia postponed a meeting of the Bilateral Consultative Commission (BCC), the treaty’s implementing body, planned to be held the next day in Cairo, Egypt. New START is the only bilateral nuclear arms control treaty between the United States and Russia, the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals. It is set to expire in 2026.”

—————————

Concluding thoughts

The U.S. government and both major political parties remain committed to the maintenance of the nation’s current military supremacy globally. But despite the enormous resources devoted to this goal, bipartisan U.S. military policies have done little to bring peace to the world or victories in war. There are indeed forces for peace in America, though they have yet to alter this military-oriented policy trajectory. We would do better than the U.S. has done in foreign policy by listening to Eisenhower’s 1960 warning on the military-industrial complex.

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