Mission Statement

This blog is dedicated to tracking current events and developments that exemplify, support or discredit the
themes of City, Save Thyself! Nuclear Terror and the Urban Ballot.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Beware the Provoked War

     Defense Secretary Robert Gates visited India and Pakistan last week. He warned that extremists are trying to destabilize the border between the two nuclear powers and start war. He praised Indian restraint following the Mumbai terrorist attack in 2008, but observed that it would be difficult to sustain restraint a second time. The two countries experience continuous friction with one another in their competition for Kashmir and their relations with Afghanistan.

     Gates’ visit to India appeared to center on expanding American weapons sales to India, “rapidly emerging as one of the biggest purchasers of American-made weapons,” according to the Wall Street Journal (January 21, 2010, byline Yochi J. Dreazen). Gates is quoted to the effect that the U.S. has made “significant strides in developing a stable defense trade.” We also have given Pakistan some $3 billion in military aid to suppress the Taliban’s harboring of Al Qaeda, as well as $7.5 billion in non-military aid over five years.

      Consider the interwoven policy considerations:

- The United States is threatened by Al Qaeda’s efforts to obtain weapons of mass destruction and continuing terrorist attack attempts. Pakistan, with Yemen, is Al Qaeda’s base of operations. If the Pakistan military will work to reduce this threat, we want to assist.

- Pakistan and India are enemies, stemming from competition to control Kashmir, religious rivalry, long hostility and mutual terrorist attacks. They have fought three wars since British colonial rule ended.. The long border between them is militarized and fortified. Arming one threatens the other. Arming both raises the ante.

- American arms makers have a huge profit stake in selling and/or giving weapons to both nations. Because weapons makers have spread arms manufacture into every Congressional District, American jobs and profits necessitate maximizing these sales. The Supreme Court has legalized corporate financing of political campaigns, so that opposition to a weapons based economy is futile.

- The United States supplies nuclear technology and fuel to India despite India’s unwillingness to join the Non-Proliferation Treaty or assure that weapons grade material will not be created. Global Security Newswire (January 27, 2010) quotes former Australian Foreign Minister Garth Evans saying that the U.S. “Did not demand enough of the Indian government in terms of issues such as nonproduction of fissile material or even nonresumption of [nuclear] testing.”

- India has aggressively staked out economic and diplomatic interests in Afghanistan where the United States is engaged in war, and Pakistan is convinced that India’s motivation is to gain leverage on Pakistan’s western border.

- The United States wants at all costs to avoid invading Pakistan, but uses drones that kill Pakistan civilians to attack Al Qaeda bases in Pakistan.

     Without trying to out-think military strategists, it is time for civilian populations to put their own survival first. Populations are, after all, the ultimate thing of value. It may be time to ask what citizens around the world can do for their own safety that their nations cannot or will not do, because they are too profit centered, religiously fixated, or politically snarled. The agency that is within citizen political reach and power, in all countries to a greater or lesser extent, is cities and towns. Municipal cooperation across borders to influence their nations’ policies, may prove the last resort.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission

      The Supreme Court’s decision to permit corporations to fund political campaigns is certain to narrow the possibility for fair elections based on issues and on candidate qualifications. It also furnishes a telling example of why the nations of the world, left to themselves, never will take the steps to end the nuclear arms race and prevent war.

      Weapons makers for years have allocated parts procurement, weapon by weapon, throughout the fifty states. Complex systems, like airplanes, are assembled from bits and pieces made in hundreds of separate Congressional districts. What such inefficiency adds to the cost can only be imagined, but the purpose is clear, to ensure that every Member of Congress will be vulnerable to pressure from constituents with either a job or a profit stake in each and every weapon.

     The Supreme Court now has made it harder yet to influence arms policies through election campaigns. No matter how cautious and multilateral a Congressional candidate’s proposal might be to enter into mutual, proportionate, verified arms control agreements, there never will be enough campaign money to match the infinite resources of the arms makers.

     As awful as 20th Century wars were, the nation structure, democracy, and most of civilization’s achievements pulled through. 21st Century wars, sooner or later, will be nuclear wars. Civilization, democracy, and the nations, including the United States, will not survive as we know them. If non-deterrable terrorists succeed in going nuclear, it could happen soon.

     The last political resource that threatened populations might yet command, and the last means by which populations might make common cause across national boundaries, is the cities and towns where the populations live. With effort, political influence remains available at that level. As the intended targets of wars and of terrorists, no voice in opposition to war could be more justified than the municipal voice. If Americans, through their cities, and Russians through their cities, and Chinese through their cities, all insisted at once that their nations cooperate to substitute enforced law for war, progress might follow that citizens could not make trying separately to influence their national policies.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Terror Response - What’s Missing

        It looks as though the technology of travel, communication, and weaponry may lend themselves more readily to disruption and cruelty than to order and peace. It is fine to seek safety in watch lists and body scanners. In the long run, though, defensive measures will not be enough to avoid the worst results of a nuclear arms race overlaid with non deterrable terrorism. To achieve order and peace we had better make greater effort to employ the ease of communication and travel to reaching a closer knit world.

       The worst delusion that might beset our generation is that humans unavoidably and irrevocably must split into warring tribes. If we join Samuel Huntington and his legion of professors and generals who settle for perpetual war, end-time nuclear disaster will prove inevitable. The alternative is to bring people together, reduce grounds for cross-cultural hatred, and restrict weaponry to law enforcement that governs all nations and peoples and regulates the creation and ownership of weapons.

       A ready-made medium exists for starting the long process to achieve this - the cities and towns of the world. Their populations are the ultimate targets, both of terrorism and war. They house the achievements of civilization. Their politics and governments, unlike most of the national governments including our own, are within the political reach of ordinary citizens. And, a huge amount of cross border relationships between cities and towns already exists, through trade, tourism, cultural and educational exchanges, and organizations like Sister Cities International and Mayors for Peace.

       Targeted citizens, which in the nuclear age is all of us, world-wide, should emulate the courageous airliner passengers who have attacked suicide bombers hand-to-hand. They should move across borders with ballots, organization, communication, and travel. If a dozen citizens in three or four cities and towns in each of a few countries took a simple step, the effort could be underway within a year. That step would be to put a slot on the municipal ballot to directly elect a local representative to an international municipal security congress.

        A global security congress, empowered by the ballot, with a single assignment, the security of populations, would quickly insist upon the essentials of security, which are enforced global law kept accountable by cross border democracy. Fully realized, it might take fifty years, but the impact on the roots of terrorism would start right away. And, compared to the sixty-five years since Hiroshima that have brought us to this perilous time, it is not long at all.

       High on the agenda would be pressure on national governments to eliminate nuclear weapons. Sixty-five years without effective action reflects the fact that people who run national governments have more on their minds than the safety of populations, which, in the end, is all that matters. National governments answer to the stockholders and employees of their missile makers, to generals and admirals, to economic, ideological, and ethnic voting blocks, to excitable media. World order under law is not even close to the top of the list.

        A global security congress of elected city representatives could make national governments put first things first - war prevention ahead of war fighting, enforced law ahead of profits, security ahead of sovereignty, cooperation ahead of tribalism, communicating and understanding ahead of competing patriotisms.