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.

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Policy We Don't Have

Defense Secretary Robert Gates has been in the news the last two days because he wrote a secret three page memorandum admitting that the United States does not have an effective long-range policy on Iran. (NYT, April 18, 19)

The policy that we don’t have as to Iran’s presumptive quest for nuclear weapons is the same policy that we don’t have as to the long term aim to reach zero nuclear weapons world-wide. The missing policy is a policy to replace force based security with security through enforced law. President Obama champions the goal of nuclear zero, but does not dare assert that it cannot be reached by arms reductions and non-proliferation treaties alone, as essential as they may be to assist the process.

Dependable security requires not just nuclear zero but war zero. Before Iran and a good many other nations including the United States will substitute security through enforced law in place of weapons superiority, an alternative security mechanism must exist. This will necessitate the same components as all nations depend on for domestic security - administrative, judicial, and police resources, but on an international scale. And, before it will be safe to empower international law enforcement institutions, global democracy must be erected adequate to make the power holders accountable.

In 1949, just before the Cold War began, Democrats and Republicans alike anticipated the United Nations evolving into such an institution. 111 co-sponsors in the House and 21 in the Senate favored concurrent resolutions stating that it should be a “fundamental objective” of U.S. foreign policy to develop the U.N. into a “world federation, open to all nations, with defined and limited powers adequate to preserve peace and prevent aggression through the enactment, interpretation, and enforcement of world law.”

The co-sponsors included Republicans Jacob Javits, Christian Herter, Gerald Ford, Henry Cabot Lodge, Jr., and Democrats John F. Kennedy, Henry Jackson, Abraham Ribicoff, Mike Mansfield, Hubert Humphrey, John Sparkman, Lister Hill, and Russell Long.

Frantic preoccupation with military force will not permit even the best of today’s Congress Members to offer such leadership. They would be vilified and lose their seats at the next election. This is why the initiative must come from another power base. The only power base in sight unless one controls a media empire or has a billion dollars, is our cities and towns. As the targets of WMD attack by terrorists on in the event of war, they have the right to be heard. They also are within the political reach of citizens world-wide, as national governments are not. Gates is right - we have no policy for Iran. Iran does however have cities and towns that cities and towns in other nations might reach.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Two Things At Once

The politics of ratification and the military’s strategic judgement will exact a price for such comfort as we can draw from the Nuclear Posture Review, the Nuclear Security Summit, and hopefully, the Non Proliferation Treaty Five Year Review in May. Part of the cost is to spend huge amounts that, according to many experts, is unnecessary, to “extend” the life of the nuclear arsenal that is not scheduled for discard. Another is to continue huge conventional arms budgets so as to make credible the promise of non-nuclear retaliation in the event of attack with chemical or biological weapons on the U.S. or its “nuclear umbrella” protectees. A third is to join enthusiastically in the current world-wide missile race, both defensive and attack missiles.

To arm while disarming is to perform two contrary tasks at once. Doing two things at once is hard - for people and for countries. Do I concentrate on two sets of facts and goals or attack them one at a time? There is my emotional commitment - hard to split, or spread. There is my credibility - how to communicate security and conviction about more than one subject at a time? There are resources - from hours in the day to money to manpower. With countries, there is political opportunism - if one goal is slighted, the opposition will champion it, and claim that the other goal must not be pursued simultaneously. There are unshakeable devotees, emotionally, irretrievably committed to, or advantaged by, one goal and opposed to the other, even if the two are in fact compatible.

A nation that must be prepared for war while trying to keep peace is faced with all this and more. War usually wins, because to prepare for peace seems inconsistent. To remove causes of war and enforce peace would weaken the nation. War always is there first, commanding money and emotion, enlisting war veterans, the business establishment, the misinformed and uninformed, arousing excitement, dreams of glory, and entertaining the populace.

You hear about peace mostly after peace has been lost. Peace necessitates law creation, adjudication, enforcement, and the politics that will deliver the power to create them. It is easier to build missiles, planes and tanks. They cost more but create profits and jobs and provide spectacle.

This argues for mounting peace efforts through some other vehicle than nations. Yes, peace must be between nations, more or less by definition. But let us stop expecting nations to carry the peace burden. Let us design peace and enlist the citizens of the nations to demand peace, through the cities and towns of the world, which, after all are the targeted, terminal victims of the next war, whether started with missiles or suitcase terrorist devices.

It would be relatively simple for a few cities and towns in a handful of countries to hold a security conference every year. They could legitimize the effort by putting a slot on their municipal ballots to elect representatives to the conference.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Disarmament as a Pejorative

The problem with President Obama’s vision of a nuclear free world is that he refrains from identifying its components. The political far right, simple minded and militaristic, reflexively characterizes all arms reduction efforts as disarmament, always meaning unilateral disarmament.

The Wall Street Journal’s lead editorial on April 8, “Dreams of Disarmament,” applied the disarmament opprobrium first to the Nuclear Posture Review, then to the forty year old Nuclear Proliferation Treaty, and finally to the New START Treaty. WSJ winds up by asserting that arms control is “more theological than practical.”

Charles Krauthammer writes in Investor’s Business Daily (April 12) that what the President is trying to do is insane, morally bizarre, naive, and strategically loopy, all his terms.

The President concentrates on today’s primary danger, which is terrorist efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. Right wing fear mongers, ironically, ignore this threat, because they have no answer for it and their political success is based on the child-speak with which they have marshaled voters ever since World War II.

To reach Zero nuclear weapons necessitates many steps, and this month’s and next month’s efforts are only two of them - arms reductions and preventing weapons spread. The President would be well advised to describe more of the future steps, including the substitution of international law enforcement for superpower peace keeping. He knows, though, that to enlarge public comprehension, necessary as it is, will invite further accusations of loopy unilateral disarmament.

The missing voice is that of the threatened populations. They have no voice but their nations’ and nations serve a variety of masters. Nations serve the interests that control them, the interests of the individuals who from time to time comprise the national governments. Those interests are financial, political, and ideological. Another voice is needed, one that is authentic, non-political, and free to invent, one that can tell the potential victims of nuclear holocaust how security must be achieved. NGOs are helpful, but lack the authenticity of a public voice.

The missing link is cities. Were they organized to speak up for their residents, President Obama would find a potent ally when a serious effort arises, as it apparently will, to defeat START’s Senate ratification. He could use cities during the NPT Review next month, recalling how John Bolton and the Bush minions defeated the last five year Review. He could use them even more when he gets ready to discuss the further steps that must precede Zero, steps toward global law enforcement and global democracy that must accompany enforcement.