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, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day

Memorial Day would be a fine time to pledge the end of war. Such an effort has always been the moral thing to do, as well as the most intelligent and humane step that might be imagined. Today’s generations have witnessed two additional factors, that make it nothing short of madness to tolerate the institution of war.

One factor is weapons of mass destruction, that multiply war’s horror and destruction to the point of species suicide. The other is the availability of communication and transportation that could permit law enforcement to disable and prevent the endeavors and conditions that lead to war, while providing the conditions of the global democracy that is a pre-condition to the empowerment of global law enforcement.

Nations engage in arms races in the name of security. Today dozens of nations are racing to acquire anti ballistic missiles and drones. Every arms race is a precursor of war, and tomorrow’s war may prove the end war. As General Tasker Bliss, World War I Army Chief of Staff observed, “Has the time come, or is it near at hand, when great international wars must of necessity destroy more than they save? If so, then every such war means a step backwards toward the extinction of what we want to save.”

Nations prepare for war in the name of security. Along the way, though, camp followers are acquired who sully every noble intention and defeat the ultimate security of the populations on behalf of whose security wars are waged. Those camp followers are weapons profiteers, political opportunists, and ideological fanatics, who, together, capture the policy controls of the nations. As the result, to prevent war, as contrasted, with the illusory security of balancing power with military alliances and arms races, would be too radical a goal for any President to champion, as well as too lengthy an endeavor for the scope of any President’s four or eight year term of office.

The human race must work its way around the nation system into which it has divided itself. Some number of persons in some number of countries must self select themselves to create alternative power centers that can begin a decades long move toward global democracy and global law enforcement. With today’s means of communication and travel, and the power centers that modern cities have become, all the essentials are available. And, that our cities are the targets of the war planners of the nations, perfectly justifies demanding an alternate route to the security that armies can no longer assure us, if they ever could.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Accidents Happen

Rand Paul says that British Petroleum ought not be harshly judged over the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, because “accidents happen.” Another fatal accident that he says “happened” was at Kentucky’s Dotiki Mine, often cited for safety violations. (Huffington Post, 5/21/10, byline Kimberly Freeman Brown). Paul has done the country a favor by voicing Libertarian beliefs so clearly. Libertarians prefer the rules of chance to rules of law. Oil drilling and coal mining ought not be the subject of safety regulations, they think, whether imposed to protect the employees, the public, or the environment.

Criticisms of nuclear disarmament efforts are analogous. Two former Defense Department officials now with the Hudson Institute, excoriate President Obama for championing the goal of Zero Nuclear, suggesting that enforcement of a Zero Nuclear regime would constitute world government (Douglas J. Feith and Abram N. Shulsky,WSJ, 5/21/10) Enforcement - here we go again - more rules and regulations. Better everyone stays armed and we pray that no accidents, like, say, nuclear war, will happen.

These folks are out of date. They have missed a couple of revolutions: the Industrial Revolution and the Technology Revolution. All right, they might say, maybe we need some speed limits, at least on city streets, and maybe a little food and drug testing, and possibly even a few criminal laws to discourage bank robbers and certainly, illegal immigrants. But, no one will misuse firearms, from pistols to ICBMs, unless an accident happens. Freedom from rules and regulations comes ahead of security.

Folks who think like this are winning elections, which means acquiring power, which in the nuclear age means endangering every one of us and centuries of human progress. What do our survival instincts prompt the rest of us to do - wait until the next presidential election then maybe go to the polls? We got a pretty good President last time, but clearly security, whether from war, terrorism, safety violations, or accidents, takes more than a President.

Monday, May 10, 2010

David Hoffman's The Dead Hand

The most chilling thread of David Hoffman’s book The Dead Hand is the plea of Soviet WMD inventors that they were sucked into their careers unwittingly and kept there with lies about American counterpart efforts. Talented humans becoming agents of their own destruction, in many variations, is where we all still are today.

The book is powerful also as to the forward inertia of doomsday arming in both the U.S. and U.S.S.R., perpetuated by self interested beneficiaries of the military/industrial complex.

There ought to be a law, though, that makes authors give equal time to solutions and remedies when they describe dangers. For example, unless they are told, readers will not deduce that they have a duty to champion verification when their country takes an important step like Nixon’s renunciation of biological weapons in 1969, and joining the Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention of 1972. In the absence of verification, these steps provided little assurance, and the Soviets proceeded full blast to violate the Convention and make the weapons.

A subsequent chapter, or a footnote or citation to another work, for example, should tell the reader, that without verification, the Soviets could not depend on such announcements, that verification has to be backed by international enforcement, and that without democratic accountability the power to enforce cannot be delegated.

Americans are told endlessly what is wrong in the world and what the President should do. It seldom occurs to complacent citizens that anything drastic that the President has to do, citizens must do first, failing which it will be politically infeasible for the President. Verification is an example of a security prerequisite that necessitates a public demand for a different way of conducting international relations.

Americans are afflicted by the absence of action ideas. Even the very best current affairs publications, of which The Dead Hand is an example, serve more as entertainment than inspiration, because they do not link facts with the requisites of democratic action.

Hoffman’s exciting account of the Reagan/Gorbachev dance during 1985-6, culminating with their meeting at Reykjavik when drastic disarmament steps were defeated by Reagan’s starry eyed Star Wars plans, fails to tell the reader that targeted cities in both countries were exchanging delegations during those very months to encourage their national leaders to stop the arms race. City, Save Thyself! describes these efforts, and I have it from good source that they were instrumental in persuading Gorbachev to take unilateral steps like banning nuclear tests. Even the Reagan Administration encouraged the city initiatives.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Newsweek For Sale

The Washington Post is trying to sell Newsweek Magazine because it lost $28 million last year, with circulation down more than a third since 2000. A journalism professor explains that a mass circulation publication is “just not going to cut it in this highly niched, politically polarized, media-stratified environment that we live in today.” (NYT, 5-6-10)

The Times writer, Stephanie Clifford, comments, “The notion of a cultural common ground that Americans could all share was changing.” Newsweek Editor Jon Meacham observed that “national coherence was still a worthwhile goal...There are not that many common denominators left.”

You said it! We had better figure what we have in common, speaking of Americans and of the rest of humanity as well. May I suggest security as the common ground - security from war, from terrorism, from Weapons of Mass Destruction, from environmental disaster. Plenty of people would agree - question is, do they have enough civic, political spirit and gumption to act on it, to get beyond the supplication of sign holding and marching and reach for power that can counter the vested interests in mayhem.

On display at this very moment are ratification of START and progress on non-proliferation. The nuclear targeted populations have projected no effective voice about Senate ratification or about the NPT five year review conference, though lives by the million, and civilization itself hangs in the balance.

If targeted populations exercised the survival instincts that they would exercise if they were hunted animals in a forest, which they are beginning to resemble, their clamor would batter down every political, monetary, ideological, and historical block to replacing the world of war with a world of enforced law. They might even discover they still needed common sources of news instead of clicking away separately at their favorite web feeds.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Getting To The Promised Land

No one in his right mind would start for the Promised Land unless the trip was imperative and he had a travel plan. Our counterpart to the Red Sea and Pharaoh’s army is nuclear holocaust - we have to leave the Egypt of nuclear holocaust behind us. Our counterpart to Moses’ Ten Commandments, though, has yet to be drafted.

President Obama, Sam Nunn and others who advocate getting to Zero Nuclear put off describing a plan, not unreasonably, by saying that it will take decades to reach Zero. Not in my lifetime, says the President; the mountain must be scaled in stages, says Nunn. They hope that evidence of progress like the START Treaty, and improvements under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, will evidence progress enough to keep momentum.

Staged progress without a plan will not be enough for some. Examples of what Obama, Nunn, et al are up against appeared in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal (“The NPT Illusion” by Brett Stephens) and Financial Times (“A Nuclear-Free World? No Thanks” by Gideon Rachman).

Rachman predicts that a nuclear free world would herald the return of war between big powers. He says that only an “implausibly powerful international inspectorate” could calm the fears that produce nuclear arming. These are reasonable observations if one makes no effort to describe the disarmed world.

Stephens offers a good guys - bad guys analysis - if bad ones arm, good ones cannot disarm. True enough, but he can’t imagine enforced mutuality. He hits the target, offering no solution, by concluding that in the “second nuclear age” deterrence won’t work and “we haven’t even begun to think seriously about how to navigate those waters.”

The problem with long-term thinking like Zero Nuclear is, first, if you suggest details about how it might work you  are discredited as time passes because so much gets revised. Second, you will be called idealist, and vilified for suggesting a different world, which upsets the non-visionary, non-imaginative folk, those most wary of change, i.e., conservatives, though I do not mean it pejoratively.

The solution for this dilemma of how much detail to hazard when you preach vision, is to describe a means to make the journey - how to travel, not what the destination will look like. Tell who will have a say, how will we experiment, how the rule of enforced law will be expanded in stages, how will we retain the security of armed might while developing the security of enforced law, how targeted populations of different kinds of nations can make common cause against the violence lovers in all nations.

Rachman’s “powerful international inspectorate” must be shorn of implausibility by showing the partial models that already work, the stages of enlargement, the assurances that militarized security need not be surrendered until a safer model is available, and the cross border democracy that must be invented and gradually expanded to keep delegation of enforcement powers accountable.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Complex or Neglected?

Today’s Sunday Times has a feature piece by David Segal asking whether society will collapse because it is too complex. Examples of complexity are drawn from the financial melt down, the BP oil spill, and the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. Seems some professors have been saying that the Romans and other historical has-beens declined and fell due to their complexities, and we will, too. Segal sums up, “There is no point in hoping for a new age of simplicity. The best we can do is hope the solutions are just complicated enough to work.”

I disagree with Segal’s conclusion. The modern public policy imbroglios that he cites are due to policies, laws, and rules being surrendered by the citizenry to private opportunists. The opportunists resort to complexity as they camouflage profits, political reward, ideological crusades, and so on. Instead of a rational system, the outcome is non-functional, jerry-built monstrosities that collapse, explode, leak, and all the rest.

My book, City, Save Thyself! Nuclear Terror and the Urban Ballot concentrates on a single public issue, the WMD threat, but my conclusions apply as well to the screw-ups that Segal cites. I offer three recommendations, and others that flow from these.

First, instead of trying to figure out what we should do today or this year to meet crises, we should think ahead fifty years, imagine a secure world, imagine the essential components of that world, and formulate policies for today and this year that will produce security. One inevitable conclusion will be to substitute enforced law for war as the route to security, after adopting some form of the global democracy that must precede the delegation of international enforcement powers.

Second, instead of playing one’s democratic hand solely in national and state elections, where outcomes are determined by money, media, and the gerrymander, or in lobbying power holders who answer to private interests, some number of concerned citizens, a large number but it would not require a majority, should self-select themselves to fight for their share of power, and to do so in the arena where power still is obtainable, in their cities and towns. Joining NGO peace groups, marching, and writing letters to editors is fine if one has time, but does not produce the power to simplify our security problems (or our financial, or energy, or other issues whose outcomes are in the hands of the self-interested).

Third, instead of serving as they have for sixty years as passive targets in a complex and civilization threatening web of ICBMs and nuclear armed submarines, the cities and towns of the world should form a global security congress of municipalities that would pressure their nations to transform the complex war system into a rational and therefore inherently simpler system of enforced law.

Contributing to our peril is the distrust that professors and media people have for democracy and citizens, which takes us back to self-selection and the necessity to contest for power.