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.

Friday, February 26, 2010

L.A.'s Navy

This month the City of Los Angeles commissioned a ship equipped to screen entire incoming ships for weapons of mass destruction materials while they are underway and before they enter the L.A. and Long Beach ports. (Global Security Newswire, February 12, 2010, quoting CBS News Feb. 10) The City’s Sheriff’s Department also will work with the Coast Guard to board and search incoming ships after they have docked.

Now we are talking - a targeted population acting like a potential victim - ducking and weaving. Not leaving security exclusively to its nation. Law enforcement. Next thing you know Angelenos will be talking about how their city might help drive the world toward progressive, verified arms reductions and peace enforcement. Then, maybe, about the global democracy that must precede effective law enforcement.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Citizenship Two Ways

Now and then one wants to shout some message to the world. If I had that power, I would scream, “You have to be two citizens at once.”

People everywhere are enmeshed in preoccupation with military security. No end in sight of escalating violence except eventual nuclear ruin. As world events and political reality bind allegiance in every country to military security, though, our survival instinct prompts us to ask, how might we substitute non-violent security?

We all are citizens of some town or city as well as a nation. That is how we are targeted, by other nations and by terrorists, as municipal populations. If we exercised a rational dual citizenship role, even as our nations jostle for security through force, we would erect authentic security through enforced law.

Consider one day’s news (New York Times, February 24, 2010) for evidence that nation-wise, Americans, powerful as our Super State status makes us feel, are bound on the track to destruction.

1. In “The Washington Area Primps and Northrop Grumman Shops for a New Home”Eugene L. Meyer reports the competition between the District of Columbia, Northern Virginia, and Southern Maryland to offer tax and other inducements to military contractors to locate their corporate headquarters in the D.C. area, “close to the Pentagon, Capitol, and White House.” The closer the vested interests in war are to the decision makers, the farther advocates of enforced law find themselves.

2. In “Gates Sees Danger in Europe’s Anti-Military Views” Brian Knowlton quotes Defense Secretary Robert Gates, speaking to NATO officers and officials at National Defense University. Gates bemoaned that demilitarization leanings in Europe, “where large swaths of the general public and political class are averse to military force and the risks that go with it - has gone from a blessing in the 20th century to an impediment to achieving real security and lasting peace in the 21st.” Is seeking peace really mutually exclusive of waging just wars (assuming that is what we wage)?

3. In “Fearing Limits, States Weaken Gun Regulation” Ian Urbina describes how states are making it easier to buy and carry weapons, surely the poorest security resource that Americans could aspire to unless they take for granted their incapacity to head off the chaos that will accompany nuclear strikes resulting from either terrorism or national miscalculation.

4. In his architectural review,“A New Fort, er, Embassy, for London,” Nicolai Ouroussoff calls the winning design for America’s newest embassy, a “bland glass cube” meant to serve “when you know it may become the next terrorist target.” The design shows how to retain a “welcoming, democratic image while under the constant threat of attack.” The present embassy, it seems, already has abandoned efforts to reflect a civilized way of life, closing its public library and art gallery and building a “maze of bollards and fences.” The new embassy will sit in a mini-park of “camouflaged security barriers,” with a pond that is a “reflecting pool - but also a castle moat.”

These four stories are accompanied by the usual complement of pieces, some ten in number today, of war and almost-war news from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, and other places around the world. Not a word in the paper about any effort by anyone to achieve security through any means but violence.

If all we do as citizens is seek violence, that is all that we shall find, and in the nuclear age it will prove fatal to everything that our citizenship stands for and hopes for.

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Not-Good-Enough Speech

Vice President Biden gave a widely noted speech this week at the National Defense University, aimed to promote support in the military community for the U.S.-Russian START negotiations. More power to him, but the speech shows how hamstrung national leaders are when it comes to arms control.

Instead of getting right to the heart of it - the immense, compelling danger, he thought he had to buy the audience’s attention by describing the Administration’s arming initiatives, the interest shown by some Republicans in arms control, and stirring in patriotic blather.

Dr. Barry Blechman, co-founder of the Stimson Center, reviewed the speech in the New York Times today. He called the speech an example of piecemeal control efforts and demanded that we “think more boldly if we are to achieve global nuclear disarmament.” He offered a plan, proposing that all of the nuclear states make cuts, the U.S. and Russia first, and the others at specified dates and levels. If one state bogged down the others would halt the process. If international verification revealed a serious violation, a collective force would destroy offending sites and even dislodge the ruling regime.

Trouble is, the nations will never do this. Hiroshima was sixty-five years ago. The nations have accommodated to the permanence of these horrible weapons. Consider, it is probably for a brief time only that we have a President who even wants to restructure the security system.

Arms control strategists need to broaden their scope and bring new agencies into play, new power centers through which the strangle hold on national policies, by militarists, weapons industries, and mutually hostile ideologists, might be broken.

Monday, February 8, 2010

President Obama and Nuclear Abolition

      President Obama has linked two indispensable components of a safer world. He says that nuclear weapons must be abolished and he says that it may require his entire lifetime to accomplish. He is 48, so let us prepare for a forty year effort.

      The trouble with long term goals is that we can’t imagine all the steps that might prove necessary. This is especially true in an era of lightning technological change and tectonic environmental change. We cannot forecast what a particular course of action will lead to, what sacrifices are worth while, what expenditures will pay off, or what tomorrow will bring for other nations and peoples, never mind ourselves.

      A President who understands that nuclear abolition is the most important topic that he could address, and is willing to work toward the goal even though its time frame vastly exceeds his term of office, must be assisted. Here is how to do that. Think forty years ahead and imagine a secure world, one requisite of which would be the abolition of nuclear weapons. What would be the components of that world? List every condition and make that our agenda, no matter how unlikely some of the conditions might seem. Here is a starter list.

     1. The world order must prohibit and prevent war, having in mind that war and the capacity for war inevitably put nuclear weapons into play. Nations and non-national antagonists like today’s terrorists will always reach for the most destructive weapons.
      2. To prevent war will necessitate comprehensive law enforcement by regional and global agencies.
      3. The empowerment of such agencies requires that they be held accountable, i.e., that their budgets, leadership, and policies are controlled by individuals answerable to the public. As these must be supra-national agencies, the democratic means of keeping them accountable must be supra-national.
      4. Supra-national, cross-border democracy means local election of representatives to global and regional bodies, and it may mean election districts that cross national borders.

      Though we are speaking of a forty or fifty year program, the smallest first steps will pay dividends. The safest approach, and politically, the only feasible approach, must be by small steps, experimental because no imagined finished product would suit the changed circumstances that passing decades will introduce. We are not talking about world government, because our subject matter is only security. We are not talking about holding a world constitutional convention because the components must emerge through trial and error.

      What are the building blocks? How can citizens experiment with cross border democracy? Where can initiatives be taken that do not require national elected and other governmental officials to take impossible political risks, or the risk of experimenting and, inevitably, getting some of it wrong? The answer is that people in large numbers must use their cities and towns to reach counterpart municipalities in other countries. The must share political initiatives, elect representatives to common security conferences and, over time get to know one another well enough to make common cause, pressure their nations, and collaborate in peace enforcement.

      The process will be as simple and easy to begin as it will be complex and difficult to grow to maturity. A few activists, or neighborhoods, or NGOs in a few cities and towns, in a handful of countries could have a first municipal security conference going in a year. The support that would give to President Obama’s ambition for abolition would be inestimable, though the aim would be far broader than supporting a particular national endeavor. The aim would be to invent global democracy, global law enforcement, and the end of war. These are the requisites of security. Given the nature of weapons of mass destruction, the survival of civilization depends on them.