In Dark Times


Joseph Gerson


One doesn’t have to be a
Naderite to know that even with the Democratic Party having recaptured control
of the Senate and the Bush administration in disarray, these remain dark and
dangerous times. The Bush-Cheney administration’s assaults on the environment,
the judiciary, and economic security have been widely reported and analyzed.
Less well understood is the integrated fast track campaign to consolidate U.S.
military hegemony for the first decades of the 21st century: the race to
deploy so-called “missile defenses,” to scrap or mangle the Anti-Ballistic
Missile Treaty (ABM) beyond recognition, to transform China into the new
“enemy,” and to begin the weaponization of space.

As President
Bush’s first trip to Europe and meeting with President Putin demonstrated, his
Administration remains adamant in its campaign to abrogate or de-fang the ABM
Treaty. They are desperate to have the initial, if incredible, “missile
defense” deployments in place for the 2004 election campaign.  Vice-President
Cheney was recently asked if there is a main organizing event or dynamic at
work in the world today. He answered that “the arrangement [for] the
twenty-first century is most assuredly being shaped right now,” that “the
United States will continue to be the dominant political, economic and
military power in the world.”

The principle
vehicles involved in shaping Cheney’s “arrangement” are the revolution in
Military Affairs and related changes in U.S. military doctrine signaled in
President Bush’s May 1 Star Wars speech and the many leaked reports about the
recommendations of a second Marshall Plan. (Andrew W. Marshall is the
79-year-old Pentagon analyst who is conducting Secretary of War Rumsfeld’s
strategic review.) To the degree that Marshall’s plan is actually implemented,
the new doctrine will shift the focus of U.S. military planning and war
preparations from Europe to the Asia-Pacific region, away from the Army’s
ground forces toward the Navy, Air Force, and weaponization of space. Instead
of ostensibly preparing to fight two near-simultaneous wars in different
regions of the planet, the plan asserts that the “U.S. must have the military
capability to act at any time, anywhere, in defense of what it sees as its
global interests.”


The fine print
of the Marshall-Rumsfeld plan gives lie to the Bush rhetoric that “missile
defenses” are needed to deter attacks by so-called outlaw nations such as Iraq
and North Korea. Instead, Marshall is explicit that Washington’s primary
concern is Chinese military modernization and the belief that in the not too
distant future Beijing will have missile forces capable of intimidating and
destroying the hundreds of U.S. military bases and the 100,000 forward
deployed U.S. troops in East Asia and the Pacific. If they can ever make
missile defenses work—and the U.S. is much closer to being able to deploy
so-called Theater Missile Defenses (TMD) than Reagan’s grand vision National
Missile Defenses (NMD)—their primary military mission will be to neutralize
China’s relatively small nuclear deterrent force (now, an estimated 18-20
ICBMs with the theoretical capability of reaching the United States) and to
destroy Chinese satellites needed for missile guidance.

The accelerated
Star Wars campaign, which Daschle, Levin, and many other Senate Democrats say
they will support with “robust” multi-billion dollar research and development
funding, serves many “interests,” and its target list extends far beyond
China. But, dominance—not defense—is its strategic purpose.

 

Nuclear War
and Missile Defenses


Secretary of Defense
(War) Rumsfeld was not being entirely illogical when he urged “missile
defenses” “need not be 100 percent perfect” to be deployed. The Bush
administration may be clumsy, immoral, and dangerous, but it is clear on its
priorities. Their agendas include fattening corporate profits, subsidizing
high-tech research, and providing a cover for the weaponization of space.
Hearkening back to the Reagan-era vision of successful nuclear warfighting,
these right-wing Republicans believe that even if it takes decades, they can
eventually make the world safe for U.S. first-strike nuclear and high-tech
warfighting.

Since the end
of the Cold War, the words “nuclear weapons” and “nuclear war” have become
disembodied from their cataclysmic meanings. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were
decimated half a century ago, and since the collapse of the Berlin Wall there
has been little public debate about the dangers of nuclear weapons and war.
For many, nuclear weapons are abstract and dated.


But, nuclear
weapons—some 1,000 times more powerful than the Hiroshima and Nagasaki
bombs—are not abstractions. They are built and deployed to be used, and
despite arms control agreements, an estimated 32,000 fission and fusion
warheads remain deployed or in the nuclear power’s stockpiles. Only one
nation—the United States—has ever crossed the moral and legal boundary of
launching a nuclear attack against human beings. Yet, on more than 20
occasions since the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, and at least 5 times since the
end of the Cold War, U.S. presidents have prepared and threatened to initiate
nuclear war during international crises and wars.

So-called
“missile defenses” have been conceived to make it safe to threaten or initiate
nuclear war. The plan is to develop and deploy technologies and weapons that
can detect and destroy enemy missiles in their boost, flight, and re-entry
phases, and to knock out the satellites that missiles rely on for in-flight
guidance. In the tradition of Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative, what were
formerly called “National” Missile Defenses (NMD) are being developed to
shield all of the United States from missile attacks, while shorter range
weapons which were formerly called “Theater” Missile Defenses (TMD) are
designed to raise a protective umbrella over smaller “theaters” of conflict,
East Asia and Israel for example. Nations targeted by credible missile
defenses will, at least theoretically, be unable to rely on their retaliatory
and deterrent second-strike arsenals. As a result, their range of options
during crises and confrontations with Washington will be limited and stark:
accede to Washington’s demands or suffer cataclysmic nuclear war.

“Missile
defense” architecture includes interceptor missiles, airborne lasers,
ballistic missile early- warning radars, and multi-purpose satellites. These
are to be deployed on the ground, at sea, in the air, and in outer space—an
approach that is based on politics as well as on anticipated technological
requirements. With this strategy, the Army, Navy, and Air Force, and their
political and corporate allies, each get a share in Star Wars’ spoils and
power.


The
Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld approach to Star Wars may be reckless, but it is also
consistent with important strains of U.S. Cold War and Post-Cold War strategic
thinking and action. Fifty years after European and Japanese post-war
reconstruction, Bill Clinton put it this way: “We have 4 percent of the
world’s population, and we want to keep 22 percent of the world’s wealth.
There is also recent precedent for the Bush team’s disregard for the ABM
Treaty. Shortly after he returned to academia, Clinton’s first CIA Director,
John Deutch, said the United States “never intended, nor does it now intend,
to implement” its Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty commitment to complete
nuclear disarmament.” That, he explained, ‘was just one of those things you
have to say to get what you want out of a conference.”

 

The Agendas


George W. Bush is famous
for being inarticulate, but it is becoming increasingly clear that his words
have little integrity. In his May 1 speech, he again insisted that “missile
defenses” are necessary to defend the U.S. against attacks by so-called rogue
states and against accidental missile launches. But, for most of the past
decade North Korea has been anxious to normalize relations with Washington. It
was the Bush administration, not Kim Jong Il, who earlier this year derailed
the Korean peace process. Moreover, Richard Butler, who oversaw the UN’s
dismantling of Iraq’s nuclear weapons infrastructure, has reconfirmed that
dangers of Iraqi missile attacks are “remote.” Even Thomas Friedman, of the
New York Times
‘ op-ed page, has been clear that Osama Bin Laden, similar
forces, and their allies are “rational actors.” They don’t attack the U.S. and
the West with missiles because they know the U.S. response will be
devastating. Instead, they resist U.S. hegemony through a form of guerrilla
warfare.

Senator Levin
was correct when he pointed to the bombing of the World Trade Center in New
York and the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen as being more typical of
U.S. vulnerabilities to attack. These post-modern guerrillas rely on
secretive, cheap, and if possible, untraceable methods. As Ian Fleming, the
creator of James Bond, and the American Friends Service Committee pointed out
in the early 1960s, if such “rogue” forces had the means to attack a U.S. city
with a nuclear weapon, they would likely smuggle it into New York or Los
Angeles in a suitcase or aboard a luxury liner. The fear of accidental
launches is also largely manufactured. As former CIA Director Stansfield
Turner and others explain, this potential danger can be prevented by the
cheaper and more effective method of “de-alerting” the world’s nuclear
arsenals, separating nuclear warheads from the missiles designed to carry
them. They don’t need to be on hair-trigger alert.


Clearly,
Washington’s “missile defense’ and Star Wars advocates have other agendas,
some of which have been alluded to but will not be discussed here in detail: a
unilateralist U.S. foreign and military policy; harvesting votes at election
time; profits for Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and other munitions and
high tech industries; and creating a vehicle to reinforce the bureaucratic and
political fiefdoms of the U.S. military’s competing military services.

 

Targeting
China


The Administration’s
rhetoric is consciously designed to obscure Washington’s most immediate
“missile defense”/Star Wars targets: China, and to a lesser degree, Russia.
This is a bi-partisan preoccupation. Joe Nye, currently Dean of Harvard
University’s Kennedy School of Government, is perhaps the leading imperial and
strategic thinker associated with the Democratic Party. As Under Secretary of
Defense (War) in the first Clinton administration, he was the principle
architect of Clinton-era U.S. Asia-Pacific policy, and the “Armitage Report,”
which provided the initial blueprints for the Bush administration’s Asia
policy, is actually the Armitage-Nye Report.

Since returning
to Harvard, Nye has repeatedly been clear in his description of the greatest
strategic challenge facing the United States. Twice in the 20th century, he
tells audiences, the failure of the status quo powers to integrate rising
powers—Germany and Japan—into the prevailing global order resulted in
catastrophic world wars. Pointing to China, he urges the U.S. not repeat this
calamity.

China is a poor
nation. Its annual per capita income is $800, and Nye concedes that at its
current pace of military modernization, in 20 years Beijing will achieve the
military power of a mid-level U.S. NATO ally of 40 years ago. But, having
already transformed itself with an annual 8 percent growth rate for the past
20 years, with no end to such growth in sight, and given the Middle Kingdom’s
place in Asian and world history, China is clearly a rising, if still quite
limited and highly vulnerable, force in Asia and in global economic and
diplomatic considerations.

Closely related
to Nye’s analysis is a “missile defense” strategy that his colleague Ezra
Vogel has advanced and which has been described by Center for Defense
Information analyst Nicholas Berry. In pursuit of “a grand bargain with
China,” that would integrate China into the Asia-Pacific and global disorders
on U.S. terms, the Clinton and Bush administrations have pursued “theater”
missile deployments which could theoretically neutralize all of Beijing’s
missiles. That would leave China completely vulnerable to a U.S. first strike
attack. As the U.S. moves closer to these deployments, China is being offered
a deal: If it will agree to forego adopting more aggressive military doctrines
and agree not to deploy weapons that increase its aggressive capabilities,
Washington will call off or limit its missile deployments in East Asia.

Of course, this
would leave in place the U.S. nuclear-capable 7th Fleet, hundreds of U.S.
forward deployed military bases and installations, 100,000 troops and their
advanced weapons surrounding China, and future U.S. weapons in space. China’s
power and role in Asia would be circumscribed, with the U.S. continuing to
dominate China and the Asia-Pacific region.

Since the late
1990s, Chinese officials and strategic analysts have been preoccupied with the
threat of U.S. East Asian “missile defense” deployments. From the perspective
of this nation which built its relatively small nuclear arsenal in response to
U.S. and Soviet nuclear threats, “missile defenses” are being designed to
serve as a shield to reinforce the United States’ first-strike nuclear sword.
Chinese officials and scholars are forceful and unanimous that China will not
be intimidated. “Missile defenses,” they repeat, mean a new arms race. China
will build as many missiles as necessary to overwhelm these new systems.

Meanwhile Joe
Nye and Democratic vice-presidential candidate Senator Joe Lieberman have
joined Bush and Rumsfeld in saying that it is not a question of whether the
U.S. will deploy missile defenses, but of what their characteristics will be.

Here it needs
to be stressed that too many U.S. peace movement leaders who focus exclusively
on National Missile Defenses are making a dangerous mistake. What have been,
until recently, termed TMD weapons and technologies most immediately threaten
China and threaten to spark “the second nuclear age.” TMD and NMD are no
longer in the Pentagon’s lexicon. Rumsfeld has conflated the concepts and he
is urging that the next phase of Star Wars research and deployment be based on
expanding the limits of what were formerly termed TMD technologies. This
strategy is designed to calm U.S. allies in Europe who are being promised that
“missile defenses” can also protect them. It also permits the Bush
administration to argue that it is building more credible TMD rather than
failed NMD technologies.

For these
reasons, it was hardly a surprise that Assistant Secretary of State James
Kelley was met with “scathing accusations of anti-China “provocations” when he
traveled to China in mid-May as part of the Bush administration’s diplomatic
“charm offensive.” Kelly “left Beijing with China’s opposition to missile
defenses unchanged.” As China’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson restated,
missile defenses will “destroy the global strategic balance…upset
international stability” and “strengthen U.S. military alliances in Asia
beyond legitimate defence needs.”

 


Technology &
Resource Wars


As Princeton physicist
Zia Mian critically observes, leading U.S. planners appear to be deliberately
“giving supremacy to the cult of U.S. technological supremacy” in order to
communicate that “there is no point in even thinking about putting up a fight
[with the U.S.] because the U.S. is so technologically far ahead of everyone
else.” This perspective illuminates at least four additional goals of the
accelerated Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld “missile defense”/Star Wars campaign:

  • (1) to subsidize
    development of new weapons related technologies, regardless of whether
    “missile defenses” work or are deployed
  • (2) to subsidize military
    related research and development that can lead to new commercial
    technologies to compete in (or dominate) the world market
  • (3) to fatten corporate
    profits
  • (4) to help ensure
    continued U.S. privileged access to the world’s limited resources

Washington used
the wars against Iraq and Serbia to demonstrate its lead in, and the
capabilities of, high-tech warfare. In the 1980s Reagan’s Star Wars’ spending
helped U.S.-based corporations win the super computer race.

There’s also
the mercantile theory of history, which was a part of the ideology that fueled
European, and later U.S. and Japanese, conquest and colonialism. This theory
holds that the world’s material resources are limited, and that the country
controlling the largest share of essential resources will be the world’s most
powerful nation. Reality is somewhat more complicated than this, but it is
also true that World War I was largely fought to defend British (and to a
lesser extent French) control of Middle East oil reserves against the German
challenge. Since the passing of the British Empire “political axiom number
one” of U.S. foreign and military policy has been to ensure that neither its
enemies nor its allies gain independent access to those Middle Eastern oil
reserves. President Kennedy’s chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff termed Middle
East oil the “jugular vein of Western capitalism.” Things have changed over 40
years and those reserves now also serve as the “jugular vein” of East Asian
capitalism. It is no mere coincidence that, in the course of at least eight
wars and crises that challenged U.S. Middle East hegemony, Washington prepared
or threatened to initiate nuclear war. “Missile defenses” are designed to
reinforce ultimate U.S. control on the flow of oil that fuels the world’s
economies.

 

Russia and
the Trilateral Allies


Washington’s “missile
defense” agendas for Russia, the European Union, and Japan are complex. Putin
understands that the current program differs from Reagan’s fantasy of an
invisible shield protecting the U.S. from thousands of Soviet ICBMs. Moscow
has reason to fear Bush’s “missile defense” project, but its opposition may in
part also emanate from a well considered negotiating strategy.

Russia is not
the Soviet Union. Its annual gross domestic product now roughly equals
Holland’s. Much of its nuclear arsenal and infrastructure is inoperative and
Moscow will not long be able to afford the costs of maintaining the 3,500
strategic weapons permitted under the START II Treaty. Even if Putin and
company succeed in revitalizing Russia’s economy, within a generation (roughly
the period of time the U.S. Space Command believes it will take to begin the
serious weaponization of space), Moscow’s nuclear arsenal is likely to atrophy
to the point that it no longer poses a credible second-strike deterrent threat
against a “missile defenses”-reinforced U.S. first strike nuclear arsenal.
Like China, Russia does not want to be dictated to by U.S. first strike
threats.

One
particularly interesting element in Bush’s May Day speech and his
administration’s subsequent diplomacy has been the olive branch proffered to
Moscow. They are building on the U.S.-Soviet tradition of using “arms-control”
negotiations to set the terms for the next arms race and on Clinton-era
negotiations with Russia to modify the ABM-Treaty. Bush has hinted at an
openness to possible Russian collaboration in “missile defense” research,
development, and deployments. If an agreement can be reached, Russia would
become Washington’s junior partner and its tacit ally against China.

The outlines of
such a “grand bargain” have been widely reported. On the military and arms
production fronts, in exchange for modifying the ABM Treaty to legitimize
“missile defense” deployments, the U.S. and NATO would purchase a range of
Russian weapons, including S-300 missiles that could be used as part of a
European “missile defense” program. The package would also include military
aid to Russia and joint “missile defense” exercises. The deal would likely
involve Russian scientists and engineers in U.S.-led “missile defense”
research and development, thus permitting the U.S. military industrial complex
to skim or integrate Russian scientific and technological resources. Russian
demands in negotiations for a tacit alliance are likely to include recognition
of greater Russian influence in the former Soviet Republics, a privileged
position in dividing the spoils of the Caspian Sea oil fields, and limits to
NATO expansion.


In recent
years, Russia and China have established a weak “strategic partnership” to
counter Washington’s increasingly aggressive hegemony. However, because both
nations are anxious for U.S., European, and Japanese technologies and
investments, their quasi-alliance is tenuous. Indeed, since the establishment
of the People’s Republic of China, Washington has sought to divide Moscow from
Beijing and to play one against the other. In an era when Japanese leaders
point to China and wonder aloud to their Russian counterparts who will
populate and control eastern Siberia in the coming decades, it is no wonder
that Russia’s foreign minister has been clear that his government is “ready to
be constructive in talks with the United States on missile defense.”

In terms of
Europe and Japan, it is important to remember that since the last years of the
Reagan era, U.S. military doctrines have been clear that Washington’s “first
objective” is to “prevent the re-emergence of a new rival” or “peer
competitor,” including the “discouragement” of “friendly nations….from
challenging our leadership.” This includes Reagan’s Discriminate Deterrence;
the elder Bush’s 1992 initial Pentagon Draft Defense Planning Guidance written
under Paul Wolfowitz’s (now Assistant Secretary of Defense) direction, and the
Clinton Administration’s Joint Vision 2020 which defined the Pentagon’s
mission as worldwide “full spectrum dominance.”

This helps
explain the staggering (il)logic of U.S. military spending that for most of
the past decade has equaled that of the world’s nine next biggest military
spenders combined.

The rogue state
rhetoric reflects the tradition of most U.S. wars being fought in and against
Third World nations. But, it is also true that NATO was created to contain
Germany as well as Russia, and the U.S.-Japan alliance was imposed to “cap”
and co-opt Japanese militarism in addition to “containing” Russia and China.
In addition to creating and preserving a “good business climate” and stanching
Third World rebellions, U.S. strategic planners have learned from their
studies of the British and other empires. They want to be in a position to
contain, and if necessary defeat, inevitable challenges by emerging powers to
its hegemonic global dominance.

The European
Union is an economic and potential military superpower. Recently there have
been tensions between the U.S. and the European Union over trade, human
rights, influence in Asia, and the proposed creation of an independent
European Rapid Deployment Force. These developments point to the possibility
that U.S. and EU elite interests and ambitions may in time diverge
substantially. The U.S. and Europe could theoretically—but will not
necessarily—become military as well as economic “peer competitors.” Similarly,
although Japan is now wracked by economic, political, and social turmoil,
Japanese power is such that U.S. officials have boasted that one way they
discipline China is by occasionally threatening to spin Japan off as an
independent power. This Asian nightmare has been given new life by the
nationalist and militarist commitments of Prime Minister Koizumi and Foreign
Minister Tanaka’s vision of Japan becoming a major power independent of the
United States. Japan is still the world’s second richest nation and its
economic power continues to far exceed China’s. Despite its peace
constitution, Japan is the world’s third greatest military spender and a
near-nuclear power.

The “missile
defense”/Star Wars programs are, in part, designed to remind the EU and Japan
who is really in charge. In the tradition of Joint Vision 2020, many in
Washington believe that “missile defenses” can serve as a hedge against
“uncertainty.” At the same time, as with Russia, Washington wants to further
integrate European and Japanese science and technology into U.S. dominated
systems.

Finally, Star
Wars research and development will be expensive. Financial burden-sharing by
Europe and Japan could ease the pain and possibly increase U.S. taxpayers’ and
voters’ patience and support. Ambiguous policy statements now emanating from
Berlin, London, and Paris seem to reflect that European corporations,
scientific and military establishments, and politicians want their
multi-billion dollar share of the Star Wars’ pie. Meanwhile, the widely
reported strife between Foreign Minister Tanaka and the Ministry’s bureaucracy
is partly due to profound differences over whether Japan should support the
Bush administration’s “missile defense” program.

 


Weaponization Of Space


On May 8 Secretary
Rumsfeld gave the world something else to worry about. As senior Bush
administration officials traveled to Europe and Asia to calm global fears of
the “missile defense” program, Rumsfeld held a press conference to announce
the reorganization of the Pentagon’s space programs. The heart of his
announcement was that “the Air Force will be assigned responsibility to
organize, train, and equip for prompt and sustained offensive and defensive
space operations.” Three days later, Lt. General Robert Foglesong, deputy
chief of staff of air and space operations, confirmed that the Air Force was
prepared “to take our guns into space” when given the order to do so.


Rumsfeld’s
press conference was surprising only in its timing—in the midst of the
Administration’s high-powered “charm offensive.” In January, as chair of the
Congressional Commission to Assess United States National Security Space
Management and Organization, Rumsfeld had publicly announced the Commission’s
recommendations which emphasized that it is time to move to weaponize space.
The U.S., the Commission insisted, must “have the option to deploy weapons in
space to deter threats and, if necessary, defend against attacks on U.S.
interests.”

Secretary
Rumsfeld’s press conference was the first step in institutionalizing his
Commission’s Report. The report was a rehash of already published Space
Command reports. Vision for 2020, for example, is illustrated with pictures of
space-based lasers eliminating earth-bound targets and it describes the Space
Command’s role as “dominating the space dimension of military operations to
protect U.S. interests and investments.” Think in terms of Middle East oil and
U.S. automotive factories in China. Like the anti-globalization movement,
Vision for 2020 points to the widening gulf between the haves and the
have-nots. But, instead of seeking to rectify the situation, it proposes
preserving these disparities, through the “control [of] space” to “dominate”
the earth.

China and
Russia have more immediate concerns. They fear U.S. “missile defense” systems
may soon be able to destroy their satellites, wiping out essential command,
control, communication, and intelligence functions for their missile and
conventional forces, leaving them completely vulnerable to U.S. first strike
attacks. With China in the lead, and with powerful support from Canada and
other U.S. allies, the world’s nations have repeatedly and overwhelmingly
adopted resolutions opposing the weaponization of space. The most recent
General Assembly vote was 163 states voting for the resolution and three
abstaining: the U.S., Israel, and Micronesia.

 

Resistance


In the first depressing
and arrogant months of the Bush-Cheney presidency, ambiguous glimmers of hope
have come from unexpected sources: Beijing’s refusal to kowtow to Washington’s
demands, European and Third World nations unexpectedly joining to oust the
U.S. from two UN commissions, and Senator Jefford’s short walk across the
Senate aisle. Despite the Bush administration’s charm offensive, few nations
are openly backing “missile defense” deployments. Fearing the destabilizing
and dangerous consequences of scrapping or mangling the ABM Treaty, close U.S.
allies including Japan, Canada, and most NATO nations continue to express
serious reservations. The Danes, bless them, who are the “sovereign”
colonizers of Greenland where the U.S. hopes to build “missile
defense”-related radars, have said that such construction will not be
permitted until Washington and Beijing are working from the same script. But,
people and the power of our movements are the most reliable sources of light
and hope.

As the protest
demonstrations and civil disobedience that greeted President Bush and his
entourage in Europe highlighted, European, Japanese,and Korean opposition to
“missile defenses” and Star Wars is growing. Here in the United States, the
hundreds of speeches given and the many resources developed by Bruce Gagnon,
Karl Grossman, Michio Kaku, Lisbeth Gronlund, and others have laid the
foundation for a potentially powerful movement. In the most visible
manifestation of popular U.S. opposition to “missile defenses” and Star Wars
thus far, hundreds of activists from 40 states journeyed to Washington in
mid-June for a demonstration and lobbying organized by Project Abolition. At
the very least, Congress was put on notice that an incipient movement intends
to transform the debate and the political terrain. The Washington
demonstration is being followed with a variety of community-based education
and mobilization efforts across the country this summer and by worldwide
forums and protests scheduled for October 12 and 13 which have been initiated
by the Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.

Conceiving the
strategy needed to drive a stake through the heart of the “missile
defense”/Star Wars vampire has been described as the “24 million dollar
question” still to be answered. Yet, a number of its essential elements are
quite clear. First and foremost, traditional peace and justice organizations
must devote more of their energies and resources to “missile defense”/Star
Wars education and to grassroots organizing and mobilization.

There is
important linguistic and image work to be done. As the demonstrators who
gathered in Washington, DC learned, the focus on “National Missile Defenses”
needs to be replaced with the conflated “missile defense” language if the most
immediate dangers of deployment and a new arms race are to be prevented. On
the public image front, the language of “missile defenses” places the movement
and its potential allies in the awkward position of opposing the “defense” of
the U.S. people and of defending the MADness of mutual assured destruction.
New language needs to be found to identify the movement and to reframe the
debate. One approach being used is the broader language of Campaign Against
Star Wars.


If a broad and
powerful movement is to be built, the peace movement must also face and
overcome self-imposed race and class obstacles in order to build common cause
and alliances with social and economic justice activists, leading figures, and
organizations. U.S. disarmament activists tend to be overwhelmingly white,
middle-aged or older, and have been reluctant to confront the roles and
consequences of racism in U.S. society and in U.S. foreign and military
policy; the growing “guns or butter” trade off; workers’ need for jobs and the
military’s role in enforcing corporatized economic globalization; or the
“deadly connections” between U.S. preparations for nuclear war and more
“conventional” U.S. military interventions. At least as challenging, will be
developing credible alternatives and related resources to engage with
machinists and others in organized labor who are anxious for new military
contracts and the short-term economic security they bring.

    The task of
broadening the movement has been made substantially easier with the Bush
administration’s $1.35 trillion tax cut coup and by its frightening
confrontations and vilification of China. It didn’t take Republican strategist
Grover Norquist’s boasting for Congressional Democrats to figure out that the
tax cut will severely limit their ability to fund health, environmental,
education, social security, and other human needs programs for many years to
come. With a smaller government pie for guns and butter, Star Wars or housing,
“missile defenses” or health care (or the environment, or…) the choices have
become more immediate, stark, compelling, and individually “felt.” The words
Fund Human Needs must be added, on an equal basis, with the movement’s call
for no offensive “missile defense” or Star Wars deployments.

The movement
will also need to be prepared to respond to the confusion (including within
its own ranks) that will be inevitable when Bush moves to cut the size of the
United States deployed nuclear arsenal unilaterally or otherwise. These
reductions will be made to reduce the costs and possibilities of accidental
nuclear war, but they will not undermine the Bush administration’s need to
make the world safe for U.S. first-strike nuclear warfighting. To the argument
made by traditional allies such as Representative Tom Andrews that the U.S.
must deploy “missile defenses” to protect forward deployed forces in Korea,
Japan, Australia, and other nations, the response should be “Bring the troops
home.” To the appeal that the U.S. must protect its allies in Europe, Israel,
and other nations, the answer is that Europeans don’t want them, and Israel
must end the occupation. To warnings that increasingly integrated civilian and
military communications technologies must be protected, the movement should be
answering “This integration is not inevitable. It is dangerous on many levels.
Demilitarize our society.”

Finally, it is
not difficult to envision a world free of nuclear weapons, “missile defenses,”
and the weaponization of space. Such a world and the means of achieving it
have been described in many United Nations’ resolutions; in the Nuclear
Non-Proliferation, Anti-Ballistic Missile and Outer Space treaties; in the
Canberra Commission’s Report and the draft convention for nuclear weapons
abolition; and in the passionate appeals of the world’s nuclear weapons
victims, peace movements, countless scientists, retired generals and admirals
(including former commander of NATO and the U.S. Strategic Command), and even
the Vermont state legislature. In the end, what will be most needed, is
vision, imagination, and perhaps most of all commitment and will.       Z


Joseph Gerson is Director of Programs of the American Friends Service
Committee’s New England Regional Office. This article is based on hia talk at
the NGO 2001 Forum in Goteborg, Sweden as part of the popular education and
organizing work.