Hiroshima and Recent Nuclear Policies by Joseph C. Kunkel

Kunkel, Joseph C., “Hiroshima and Recent Nuclear Policies,” Newsletter of the Concerned Philosophers for Peace, Vol. 26 (Spring – Summer 2006).

August 6 is a day to remember the 100,000 innocent victims of the U.S. bombing of Hiroshima in 1945. Three days later the U.S. bombed Nagasaki. I believe we best pay homage to these victims by examining where we have been and where we are going toward eliminating the scourge of nuclear war. When I first examined the data in 1980, the United States and the USSR each had over 25,000 nuclear weapons that averaged more than the destructive capacity of the Hiroshima bomb. How many plausible enemy targets existed to absorb such destructive capacity? Still, Ronald Reagan in 1980 campaigned for more nuclear weapons.

Over the years since Hiroshima, a number of nuclear treaties have been negotiated to curtail this threat to humanity. Among the most important are the START reduction treaties, the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty, and the multi-nation Non-Proliferation Treaty. These treaties aimed at reducing nuclear arsenals, halting national efforts at defending against such weapons, and stopping the spread of nuclear weapons to have-not nations.

A few years into office, Reagan did an about-face and began talking about reducing nuclear weapons. He concluded in 1987, with a willing Mikhail Gorbachev of the USSR, the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces or INF Treaty. This treaty eliminated, with full verification, superpower intermediate-range ground-launched ballistic and cruise missiles from the European theater and elsewhere. Such weapons represented about two percent of these nations’ nuclear arsenals. In the wake of this treaty George H.W. Bush concluded the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty or START I in 1991. This treaty, again with full verification, placed a cap on the number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons in both the United States and the USSR/Russia at 6,000 to 9,000. This treaty is in effect until December 5, 2009.

These reductions were reached under the umbrella of the ABM treaty, concluded by Richard M. Nixon in 1972. This treaty proscribed either superpower from experimenting with or deploying a defensive missile system. The rationale was that neither superpower would make deep cuts in its offensive nuclear arsenals if the other side was fielding a defensive missile shield. To counter a nation with a defensive system, an opponent first needs to take out or override that system; hence more, not fewer nuclear weapons are needed for national security. The genuine fear remains today that one nation will become an invincible world empire, having both defensive weapons to defend and nuclear missiles to attack according to its own reasons. Reagan, when he first started campaigning for defensive missiles, claimed the United States would eliminate its offensive missiles after it got a defensive shield, but no foreign leader believes that angle.

The international Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) was formulated in 1968 while Lyndon B. Johnson was president. NPT separated nations possessing nuclear weapons from those not possessing nuclear weapons, with the idea of stopping the spread of nuclear nations. This set up a double standard, which antagonized the have-not nations that wished to be treated equally. Under NPT, the five nuclear nations in 1968 promised to provide the know-how for have-not nations to produce nuclear power for energy, if those have-not nations would submit to nuclear inspections of their acquired peaceful energy facilities. The nuclear powers, of course, would not undergo such inspections. In return, the nuclear nations agreed to seek an end to the nuclear arms race; thus in the long-run removing the two-tier system. Treaty signatories also agreed to an extensive public review of the working of the NPT, every five years starting in 1975.

The major stumbling block of this treaty has historically been Israel, which among a few other significant nations has not been a treaty signatory. The problem is that over the years Israel has acquired (with help) a large arsenal of nuclear weapons, but has been protected from sanctions by the United States who denies that Israel has these weapons. Even after photographs of Israeli facilities appeared in the London Times, the United States allowed Israel to prosecute and jail the whistle-blower without any sanctions being placed on Israel. The United States still covers up Israel’s nuclear weapons, and its negative ramifications for peace in the Middle East.

By contrast in the Middle East, when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, it was understandably pushed back. Afterwards, however, nuclear inspectors were sent in and discovered that Iraq was within a year of building its first nuclear weapon. The team of inspectors in Iraq destroyed the nuclear labs, and the missiles that could target Israel’s nuclear arsenal, while searching for and destroying chemical and biological weapons. By the fall of 1998, the international committee reported to the United Nations that all nuclear weapons had been removed from Iraq. This was viewed worldwide as a victory for weapons inspections; serious inspections do work. But the United States misrepresented these and subsequent 2003 findings, and invaded Iraq and overthrew its government to pre-empt the use of a nuclear arsenal that did not exist. So, Israel can have nuclear weapons for its security but Iraq cannot. Today, Iran may be seeking such weapons, and we are seeing how it is handled.

The USSR dissolved in 1991, and the superpower nuclear arms race came to an end. So what has happened in the past fourteen years since the United States emerged as the only superpower? Since the USSR had placed its nuclear weapons not only within the territory of Russia but also in three other former republics, the United States agreed to assist an economically weak Russia to finance the transfer of all Soviet nuclear weapons into Russia. This action allowed the number of nuclear nations to remain at six, rather than increase to nine. South Africa also announced in 1993 that it had built, under its apartheid government, six nuclear weapons, but had dismantled them and joined the NPT before turning the reins of government over to the African majority.

At this time too the United States and Russia began taking the aforementioned START talks seriously. START I, which was signed by George H.W. Bush in 1991, went into force in 1994. William J. Clinton worked on bringing START II into force, which would have reduced the number of deployed nuclear weapons in Russia and the United States from 6,000-plus to around 3,500. Talk of START III also circulated.

Part of the U.S. response to the end of the cold war was a feeling that nuclear weapons no longer served a needed military function. In this spirit, the U.S. congress in 1992 placed a temporary moratorium on U.S. nuclear testing that would become permanent in 1996. The idea was that if nations no longer tested nuclear weapons, then such weapons would slowly be removed from military fighting options. In this time-span the United Nations entered into discussions of an international Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty. The treaty includes the emplacement of 321 monitoring stations worldwide to assure that no nuclear weapons are secretly tested. These work like earthquake monitoring stations, except they are searching for nuclear explosion markings. These stations are today in place, despite what has become of the treaty itself.

In 1995 the Non-Proliferation Treaty came up for renewal after twenty-five years. The cold war with its military buildup in Europe was over; the major powers were significantly reducing their nuclear arsenals; and a comprehensive test ban, applicable equally to both have and have-not nations, appeared imminent. So, the nations of the world voted to extend indefinitely this non-proliferation pact. The peace community was elated, and began looking for non-nuclear issues to address.

After the U.N. General Assembly approved the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty in 1996 by a vote of 158-3, Clinton signed the treaty for the U.S. Then the anti-nuclear climate worldwide and in the United States began to change. In 1998, first India and then Pakistan tested nuclear weapons, becoming the seventh and eighth nations to possess nuclear arms. In 1999, a Republican controlled U.S. senate voted against ratifying the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

In 2001, George W. Bush assumed the presidency, with a more aggressive view of the use of nuclear weapons. He refused to re-submit the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty to the senate for ratification. This action killed the treaty since all of the 44 advanced nuclear nations, either with nuclear weapons or on the threshold, had to ratify the treaty in order for it to go into effect.

In December, following the awful 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center, Bush, citing the need to protect the security of the U.S., withdrew the U.S. from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The U.S. wants offensive and defensive weapons. This was the first such withdrawal of a signatory to a nuclear treaty. As a result of Bush’s action, Russia, feeling it had to reconsider its security needs, pulled out of START II, ending the START string of reduction treaties with START I, which expires on December 5, 2009. This was followed in 2003 by North Korea for its security reasons pulling out of the NPT. The situation is bleak for the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. Indeed for four weeks this past May, 150 nation representatives met in New York at the 2005 NPT review; the delegate distrust was so bad that the first three weeks were spent on approval of the agenda. The United States demanded that the review focus on North Korea and Iran, while most other nations wished first to discuss the new U.S. policies on nuclear weapons. The review ended in disarray.

In May 2002, Bush and Vladimir Putin signed the Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty (SORT) as a weak substitute for the lost START II treaty. This less-than-500-word treaty calls for a reduction of “deployed” (the word does not appear in the treaty) nuclear weapons in both the U.S. and Russian arsenals to a maximum of 2,200 weapons by December 31, 2012. However, SORT does not call for the destruction of weapons or delivery vehicles that are not deployed. Additional nuclear weapons may be retained as reserves. Neither does SORT include any verification method, nor any interim stages in reducing weapons to the 2,200 maximum. Lastly the treaty expires on December 31, 2012, which incredibly is the same day for both parties to have their deployed weapons reduced to 2,200. Similarly a clause allows either party to withdraw from the treaty upon three months written notice. As I said, the treaty is extremely weak and is viewed that way by most nations. It is a treaty of a “sort.”

Bush also announced that in addition to defensive missiles the U.S. would research and deploy two new offensive missiles. (The U.S. would become world empire.) One new weapon would be a large nuclear warhead fitted onto an earth penetrating missile that can obliterate mountainous caves. The second new weapon would have a small nuclear warhead – a fraction of the Hiroshima power – that could be used by conventional forces. These new nuclear weapons would allow the U.S. to use such weapons of mass destruction as though they were conventional weapons that did not emit radiation. Bush appears to believe that the threat of nuclear arms can only be removed by military force, a position that places the entire world in danger. We have our work cut out for us, if peace is to prevail.

Joseph C. Kunkel is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the University of Dayton where he teaches a course in ethics and modern war. He is an associate editor of the Value Inquiry Book Series (VIBS) and, within VIBS, past editor of the special series Philosophy of Peace (1994–2003). He has coedited two books and written a number of essays that examine various aspects of power, militarism, and peace. He has been a member of Concerned Philosophers for Peace since its inception in 1981 and has served as executive secretary from 1989–1995, and as president in 1997.

Editor’s Note

As this newsletter goes to press, the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) on March 15 released a report outlining a chronological shift in USA military policy toward “Global Strike” capabilities that include offensive nuclear “conflict.”

By December 2006 says the FAS report, “The U.S. Department of Defense is scheduled to award a contract for the Integrated Strategic Planning and Analysis Network (ISPAN) which is used to develop, verify, and produce OPLAN 8044, CONPLAN 8022, and theater support plans.”

“It is important to understand,” writes FAS report author Hans M. Kristensen, “that the Global Strike mission and CONPLAN 8022 are different than previous missions and plans both in their intent and capabilities. Although promoted as a way of increasing the President’s options for deterring lesser adversaries, Global Strike is first and foremost offensive and preemptive in nature and deeply rooted in the expectation that deterrence ‘will’ fail sooner or later. Rather than waiting for the mushroom cloud to appear, a phrase used several times by the Bush administration, the Global Strike mission is focused on defeating the threat before it is unleashed. In its most extreme sense, Global Strike seeks to create near-invulnerability for the United States by forcing utter vulnerability upon any potential adversary. As a result, Global Strike is principally about warfighting rather than deterrence.”

See: Global Strike: A Chronology of the Pentagon’s New Offensive Strike Plan, by Hans M. Kristensen and the Federation of American Scientists (March 2006) http://www.fas.org/ssp/docs/GlobalStrikeReport.pdf –gm

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