Nuclear Hubris

Richard Alan Leach

After the Soviet system
imploded, the U.S. reveled in its role as the world’s sole superpower, giving
many indications that the consequences for the inhabitants of the periphery were
a matter of imperial indifference. Among the hard lessons learned from September
11 is that, on this polarized planet, no unbreachable fortresses can be built,
not even a Fortress America. It should come as no surprise, however, that
entrenched special interests still support military boondoggles—such as the
misnamed “missile defense” system—and still refuse to admit that throwing $100
billion at unworkable missile shields will be economically wasteful and
strategically destabilizing. Unless the ambitions of this influential minority
of far rightists is constrained, a self-defeating focus on remote, high-end
threats such as ballistic missile attacks may also be inimical to

Everybody agrees
that we now live in a new world, but it is important to recall the old one. The
pre-September climate of opinion already feels like ancient history: the world’s
most powerful nation had the luxury of exaggerating ballistic missile threats
solely to divert public funds into a massive welfare program for aerospace and
related industries, and to pave the way for the weaponization of outer space
(note: space is already “militarized”). Long before the Bush inauguration in
January, analysts pointed out that no designated “rogue state” has the
technology to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) against the
U.S., which would leave a signature and invite the destruction of their
countries. From its inception, the actual motivation behind what the
Administration (misleadingly) terms “missile defense” has been to pursue a
costly program of offensive preparations against possible later challenges from
“strategic competitors” like China, even as China and Russia, along with the
majority of U.S. allies, continue to argue for preserving the Anti-Ballistic
Missile Treaty (ABM), while strenuously objecting to national missile defense

The need to shore
up the nonproliferation regime is now more urgent than ever, but an influential
number of would-be nuclear hegemonists are steadfast in their obsession with
building shields to augment the nuclear sword—and they now exploit September 11
to justify the scheme. Despite the likelihood that a shift to
misnamed “defenses” will lead to a new arms race, it is a calculated risk that
policymakers remain willing to run. The U.S. is still pressuring allies to
withdraw objections to the U.S. plan to scrap the ABM Treaty. Both national and
global security will be knowingly jeopardized so that the U.S. can break out of
established norms, such as the Outer Space Treaty (1967).

Before September
11, the terms “security” and “defense” were largely employed as Orwellisms to
justify a buildup in offensive capabilities. The interregnum between the end of
the Cold War and the “new war” sparked by the terrorist attacks provided
Americans with a short-lived window of opportunity (now firmly shut) to
recognize the inherent dynamic of the U.S. military towards ever-greater
expansion—enemies or no enemies—with the initial promise of a post-Cold War
“peace dividend” long forgotten. Previously, the menace (or mirage) of “rogue
states” loomed large in our consciousness: they have since been supplanted by
terrorist warlords. Yet this more credible threat will now be used to justify
weapons systems that would be useless against them. Meanwhile, President Bush’s
showing in the polls over the next eight months will continue to be better than
his advisors ever dreamed, with Washington capitalizing on the September tragedy
to fight an open-ended “new war.” The new GOP agenda will skewer the Social
Security budget to combine a new “homeland defense” with the same useless
“defense” system proposed in the pre-September climate of nuclear unilateralism.

Instead of
heeding the advice of its allies and abandoning the national missile defense
scheme, advocates now try to capitalize on public fears to sell their agendas.
Formerly, the main argument of pro-nuclear extremists was that a radical shift
to “defenses” was necessary to defend the United States against “unreliable
nations” or “rogues” like North Korea: they now add that missile defenses were
not intended to defend against commercial airliners. True: nor can NMD defend
against nuclear, biological, or chemical (NBC) weapons, deliverable in a
suitcase or a crop-duster. Given the entrenched interests represented by
Eisenhower’s military-industrial complex (MIC), actual security or “defense”
considerations still represent only a secondary or tertiary consideration.
Pro-nuclear forces now expect to receive carte blanche for every “defensive”
project from space bombers to unworkable missile shields, and employ every
sophistry at their command to stay the course.

sanitized reportage in the newspaper of record continues to hinder Americans
from understanding the issues. The assumption that “security” considerations
were always the paramount consideration behind missile defenses remains
unquestioned by the media. Today, given the unprecedented siege mentality
prevailing in the United States (with skyrocketing sales of flags and shotguns),
an agenda that provoked partisan flak before the advent of a “united front”
against terror is being shamelessly exploited. To avoid handing the Defense
Department a blank check for military boondoggles, it is revealing to review
New York Times (NYT)
coverage of the missile defense issue in the months
leading up to September, when threats were invented or exaggerated to sell a
scheme which knowingly imperils U.S. national security, but to which the
administration remains committed (for other reasons).

On September 2,
the NYT reported that U.S. policymakers, recognizing the inadequacy of
China’s 18-20 ICBMs as an effective deterrent against the proposed system,
planned to inform China that they no longer opposed a Chinese buildup—if this
would overcome their opposition to NMD (David E. Sanger, “US To Tell China It
Will Not Object To Missile Buildup,” NYT, September 2, 2001). Because the
October summit was imminent, the Administration was forced by the calendar to
reveal what it could no longer conceal: that, for hawks in the State Department
and the White House, a halt to the development of missile defenses represented a
worst-case scenario—even worse than a new arms race in Asia, spurred by a
Chinese buildup.

The piece
implicitly revealed the intention of the Bush administration to rely on “peace
through strength, rather than peace through paper,” in the memorable sound-bite
of Arizona Senator John Kyl. Abrogating its responsibility to shore up the
nonproliferation regime, the White House implicitly acknowledged its willingness
to initiate an open-ended arms race, telling China, in effect, “catch me if you
can.” This news surprised many, including many who should have known better. All
along, the clear pattern has been to postpone such forthright admissions until
the eleventh hour. The Bush administration expected to provoke widespread
protest against its dangerous shift in nuclear posture, so the strategy has been
to release information in stages, and slowly bring its allies on board—along
with a bewildered and frightened planet.

immediately attempted to downplay the report. A “restatement” appeared on
September 5, with the Administration’s denial, stating that they would “not
acquiesce” in a Chinese buildup, while conceding on background that the effect
of “not acquiescing” would be much the same, since the U.S. “understands”
China’s need to test their weapons for safety and reliability (David E. Sanger,
“US Restates Its Stand on Missiles in China,” NYT, September 5, 2001).
Such an obliging collusion between press and state is hardly reassuring.

In the first half
of 2001, many slanted editorials informed us that China and Cuba were against
missile defenses: if they are against it, of course, it must be “a good idea.”
Long before September, the prerogatives of power ensured that a “zero sum”
mentality percolated throughout the political culture. However, this radical
shift in nuclear strategy alarms U.S. allies as much as China and Cuba.
Throughout the year, the mainstream continued to relay the absurd
misrepresentation by hawks that the acquisition of a shield to augment the sword
is merely a “defensive” maneuver that should threaten no one.

In stark
contrast, China echoed the typical world reaction in a written statement by
Jiang Zemin: “To reduce the armaments of others while keeping one’s own intact,
to reduce the obsolete while developing state of the art, to require other
countries to scrupulously abide by treaties while giving oneself freedom of
action, all these acts make a mockery of international efforts and run counter
to the fundamental objective of disarmament” (Jiang Zemin, “The Way to Get On
With Nuclear Disarmament,” Los Angeles Times, June 16, 1999). U.S. policy
is to side-step such accusations, while depicting China as moving forward to new
and threatening heights with research and modernization, even as the U.S.
ignores Chinese calls to preserve the ABM Treaty. China signed the Comprehensive
Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in 1986, conducting no explosive nuclear tests since that
time. During the Cold War, the Defense Department employed the same ruse: even
funding for Reagan’s Star Wars was procured by arguing that, otherwise, the
Russians would get there first.

On August 24, the
NYT readership must have breathed a collective sigh of relief to see an
article (penned by David E. Sanger) titled: “Bush Flatly States US Will Pull Out
of Missile Treaty.” The sigh of relief would be generated not by the news, which
was bad, but because of finally hearing White House intentions flatly stated.
Despite being a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the new
policy is for the U.S. to upgrade and extend its strategic force advantage,
rather than work towards eventual disarmament, as pledged. As a result, other
nations will be compelled to acquire or enhance stocks of nuclear, biological,
or chemical weapons (NBC), for protection against the planet’s sole superpower.

Two days earlier,
on August 22, the NYT revealed that an official in the Bush
administration had given Russia an unofficial deadline of November to accede to
stipulated U.S. changes in the ABM treaty or “face a unilateral American
withdrawal.” The piece is euphemistically titled, “U.S. Sets Deadline for
Settlement of ABM Argument.” The implicit framework for addressing the issue of
missile defense is one that genuflects to power and rejects any such principle
as “one nation, one vote.” Further, if the U.S. disagrees with the rest of the
world, it is world opinion that is presented as suspect. Throughout the Cold
War, Americans were constantly assured that only “they” break treaties—or
abrogate, annul, scuttle, or violate them. So today, we amend, go beyond, exceed
the constraints of, and now make arguments for—jettisoning a treaty that served
as the linchpin of international security for the last 30 years of the nuclear

An historic
moment of candor occurred on May 1, 2001. After months of disclaimers, George W.
Bush, in his first major speech on defense, first conceded the Administration’s
intention to “go beyond” the ABM Treaty. This candid admission, however, was
marred by alarmist rhetoric updated from the Cold War, as Bush cited numerous
(and unmentioned) rogue states that might (at some future date) seek to acquire
nuclear weapons. The President warned of an inevitable arms race, which we must
“win” (since negotiated multilateral reductions are out of the question): “More
nations have nuclear weapons and still more have nuclear aspirations… Most
troubling of all the list of these countries includes some of the world’s
least-responsible states. Unlike the Cold War, today’s most urgent threat stems
not from thousands of ballistic missiles in the Soviet hands, but from a small
number of missiles in the hands of these states…”

North Korea, a
failed communist state that cannot even feed its own people, is a threat? The
most urgent threat to the United States is a ballistic missile launch? Numerous
security analysts attempted (in vain) to convince the hawks that it would be
easier for a terrorist to smuggle a chemical weapon into the United States in a
suitcase. For balanced minds, the means wrought by terrorists on September 11
provided definitive evidence of the futility of constructing missile shields.
Yet, proponents of NMD now twist logic to the breaking point, using the
terrorist attacks as an absurd justification for implementing, not abandoning,
missile defenses. Such chicanery, of course, was inevitable, since the latter
term is a euphemism for the long-term project of weaponizing the “ultimate high
ground” of outer space.

The day after
Bush’s speech, the NYT described the radical shift from deterrence to
destabilizing “defenses” as an innocuous “strategy overhaul” (David E. Sanger
and Steven Lee Myers, “In Strategy Overhaul, Bush Seeks A Missile Shield,”
, May 2, 2001). The euphemism masks the most irresponsible strategic
gamble since Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars speech of 1983. As Bush expected, the
more the public learned about missile defense, the less they liked it. So the
new Administration resorted to standard practice for pitching the scheme: it
changed its arguments, depending on its audience. While in Europe, the NYT
reported that Defense Secretary Rumsfeld “presented several arguments. He
suggested that antimissile defenses could be reconciled with some arms control
treaties, avoiding the bluntness of comments he made in Congressional
hearings—and even on the plane flying to the conference—that the ABM treaty was
an anachronism” (Michael R. Gordon, “US Tries Defusing Allies’ Opposition to
Missile Defense,” NYT, February 4, 2001). As noted, only when concealment
became impossible did the Bush administration resort to plain talk. Until the
May 1 defense speech, the policy was to counter perceptions of unilateralism and
to hedge when the subject of space weapons was brought up. As the NYT
reported in May, “Mr. Rumsfeld repeatedly side-stepped questions from reporters
about whether his efforts to give space operations a higher profile in the
Pentagon would inevitably lead to building anti-satellite weapons or other types
of space-based military hardware. ‘These proposals have nothing to do with
that,’ he said” (James Dao, “Rumsfeld Plan Skirts Call for Stationing Arms in
Space,” NYT, May 9, 2001). To finesse both public opinion and allied
opposition to its designs, Bush released information in stages, always careful
to avoid acknowledging the long-term strategy to weaponize space. Planning
documents are more candid, but are ignored by the mainstream, on the principle
that the Pentagon would never stoop so low as to mislead the media or the
American people.

In the preceding
months, the President and Defense Secretary Rumsfeld met with foreign leaders
more to inform them of the U.S. commitment to NMD than to consult with them
concerning the wisdom of this fundamental shift in nuclear strategy. Soon
thereafter, worldwide complaints of U.S. unilateralism (and bad manners)
prompted Bush’s handlers to begin paying lip service to the notion of
“consultation with our allies”—which became the President’s week-long mantra in
Europe in June, 2001. The shift to conciliatory rhetoric was another
manifestation of damage control, a mere bid to alter perceptions—before
proceeding exactly as planned.

Washington is
also circumspect regarding its long-range plans to jettison other arms control
agreements, although in July it signaled its intention to resume nuclear
testing, in clear violation of the unratified comprehensive test-ban treaty
(CTBT). Recently, arms control expert Richard Butler warned, “If the United
States now destroys the test ban treaty and moves to resume nuclear testing,
other nuclear-weapons states will follow suit, and still other states will
consider acquiring nuclear weapons. The nonproliferation regime will perish.”
(Richard Butler, “Nuclear Testing and National Honor,” NYT, July 13,
2001). The 1967 Outer Space Treaty, which forbids the weaponization of space,
must also be scrapped because it interferes with “new thinking”—where outer
space is regarded as the next American “frontier.”

In elite circles,
debates are confined to pragmatic considerations (cost-benefit analyses), while
a sycophantic media frames the debate according to the principle that all
decisions made by Washington must be “well-intentioned.” When stated openly, the
axiom produces comical effects, such as in this editorial: “If his missile
defense plan makes new missiles and generates nuclear turmoil in Asia, it will
not succeed despite the President’s good intentions” (Business Week, May
14, 2001). The standard picture of a security policy guided by “good intentions”
is marred by a refusal to acknowledge the vested interests behind military
appropriations. In keeping with this myth, some classic Orwellisms frequently
appear, such as the title of this editorial: “Bush Decides Discarding Treaties
Aids Peace” (Walter Shapiro, Detroit Times, May 4, 2001).

The U.S. plan to
eventually scrap the Outer Space Treaty (1967) and to “dominate” planet Earth is
still presented by the U.S. media as defensive, although the new justification
is the threat of terrorist warlords. At least this threat did not have to be
invented: today, we hear almost nothing about the former menace of “rogue
states” like North Korea: East Asia has been replaced by the Middle East. Prior
to September 11, the irresponsible scheme to erect missile shields required
demonizing anemic enemies and diplomatic gridlock to keep North Korea out in the
cold. Today, a real threat (domestic terrorism) is cited to justify an
antimissile scheme that would be useless against it.

Until September,
the newspaper of record was largely a forum for nuclear hawks to employ
sophistical arguments urgently calling for ballistic missile defenses. NYT
bias has consistently favored far rightists who present little evidence,
rather than left-liberals who present a lot of evidence. In the early 1980s,
former Pentagon official Frank Gaffney was kicked out of the Reagan
administration because he became apoplectic when his boss began talking to the
Russians. Gaffney’s Center For Security Policy (CSP) is less a think tank than
the leading Star Wars lobby. Gaffney’s group has received over $2 million in
donations since CSP began operation, mostly from Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The
media monitoring group FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) noted the
tactic: “In a New York Times article, Gaffney is quoted calling ads from
the disarmament group Peace Action ‘misleading.’ But it seems far more
misleading that the article failed to mention that Gaffney’s CSP receives more
than 15 percent of its annual revenue from corporate sponsors, including Boeing
and Lockheed Martin”—Michelle Ciarrocca, “Holes in The Coverage: What’s Left Out
of Reporting on Missile Defense,” FAIR, November/December 2000).

It should be
added that nowhere did Gaffney provide evidence for his dismissive reaction, nor
was he asked for any. His skeptical snort sufficed.

The “false
balance” tactic frequently recurs. Another NYT article featured the
dissenting viewpoint of Senator Carl Levin, who, in mid-2001, called for a
review of technical requirements before making a deployment decision. To achieve
a spurious “balance,” the NYT again consulted Gaffney, describing him as
the president of a conservative defense analysis group…” They failed to
add that this analyst advocates nuclear-armed weapons in space (that is,
detonating nuclear bombs in space as part of a missile defense strategy, among
other Strangelovian fantasies). Gaffney used his NYT forum to denounce
the Senator’s prudent advice as “a delaying action” (Thom Shanker, “Missile
Defenses Need More Tests, Key Senator Says,” NYT, June 1, 2001).
Characteristically, Gaffney was not asked to offer evidence for his
diametrically opposed position: that the U.S. should proceed to develop and
deploy an unworkable system, despite the fact that it will most likely lead to a
strategic cul-de-sac.

Gaffney’s Center
For Security Policy is less interested in “security” than in implementing Star
Wars II by any conceivable rationale and its opportunistic arguments show how
desperately logic will be contorted to pursue ends undertaken for other reasons.
His corporate-sponsored lobby masquerades as a think tank, hosting conferences
and writing speeches for proponents of missile defense. In 1999, Gaffney’s
alarmist rhetoric was primarily aimed at Northeast Asia, not the Middle East:
“We must not only worry about rogue states like North Korea that are now
acquiring the means to attack their enemies with such weapons of mass
destruction. Russia and China already have significant numbers of these
long-range missiles”—conveniently omitting that both have been consistently
clamoring for the United States to agree to multilateral reductions of nuclear
weapons. For opponents of arms control, the standard ruse is to accept that the
race is on, and that the United States has no other choice but to “win.”

Gaffney goes on
to remark that “Nevada and other parts of the western United States will shortly
be in the cross-hairs of one of the most brutal and irrational totalitarian
regimes on the planet” (Frank Gaffney Jr., “Nevada: Defended or in North Korean
Crosshairs?” Nevada Journal, 1999). However, that was before September
11, which provided him with “proof” of America’s vulnerability to terrorist
attacks: the well-worn pretense being that opponents of missile defenses were
soft on defense. Shaping facts to suit their commitments, CSP promptly averted
its eyes to the Middle East: “Does anyone think for a moment that if those
waging holy war on this country, people fully prepared to die in the process of
doing so, had access to [weapons of mass destruction] they would refrain from
using them?” The straw person argument caricatures arms controllers with their
heads in the sand: a ridiculous claim never backed up with quotations, because
none exist. What proponents of the missile defense scheme argue against is the
futility of wasting $100 billion on a fundamentally flawed system which cannot
protect the United States against the far greater threat of domestic terrorism.

If Washington
places politics above laws of physics, it is not for the NYT to reason
why. On the contrary, the “false balance” ploy is used to discredit the views of
dissenting critics. Last year, when a group of 50 Nobel Laureates wrote an open
letter to the White House to denounce missile defenses as “wasteful and
dangerous,” the final “balance” line of the NYT piece was a classic in
the Trust Big Brother genre: “A spokesman for the Pentagon said that the group,
while prestigious, had no access to secret information about the proposed
system’s feasibility or to intelligence on global missile threats.” The message
is marred by this tactic, as the last line leaves the reader with a more
“optimistic” assessment, courtesy of a Pentagon spin doctor. Fortunately for
Americans, the Defense Department has information which will always be used for
their benefit, but which will be kept secret from them (also for their benefit).
(William J. Broad, “Nobel Winners Urge Halt to Missile Plan,” NYT, July
6, 2000.)

On July 18, the
NYT uncritically relayed another attempt at misrepresentation, when
Assistant Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz dismissed concerns by claiming that
NMD is merely a “defensive” system, which threatens no one (James Dao,
“Democrats Are Warned on Missile Stance,” NYT, July 18, 2001). Such
pronouncements, of course, are intended for the benefit of a credulous and
uninformed public. Because of shared (bipartisan) disdain for public
participation and open discussion, such rhetoric is not challenged by liberal
opponents of the missile defense scheme, who realize that it will “play well in
Peoria.” Abroad, the reassuring and misleading pronouncements offered by
Assistant Secretary Wolfowitz fell on deaf ears: the attempt to acquire a shield
to complement the sword was recognized worldwide as an attempt to achieve a
first-strike capability, to break out of the condition of mutual vulnerability
which characterizes deterrence. Lacking the tender mercies of the U.S. media
(towards the powerful) the rest of the world received information and
perspectives that made clear that the U.S. is instigating a new arms race.

A sterling
example of rhetorical innocence was provided by Massachusetts Senator John Kerry
in an article critical of Bush policy towards North Korea. Rather than pointing
out the obvious, he argues with feigned naivete: “The Bush administration points
to the North Korean missile threat as a major reason why we need to proceed with
such a defensive system. This makes its hesitant approach on missile talks with
Pyongyang all the more puzzling. If we can reduce or eliminate the threat posed
by North Korea’s missile program, why wouldn’t we push ahead?” (John F. Kerry,
“Engage North Korea,” Washington Post, March 30, 2001.)

rhetorical pose of “puzzlement” at this seeming contradiction is based on the
pretense that policymakers always present forthright explanations to the
American people, rather than inventing ballistic missile threats to bamboozle
them—on behalf of Boeing.

Among numerous
journalistic shortcomings on this issue, the most irresponsible is the
widespread assumption that the missile defense scheme, given sufficient time and
money, can “eventually” work. This untenable presupposition was noted in the
excellent article by Michelle Ciarrocca quoted earlier, and underlies most
commentary and analysis. The misleading frame asks: do we have the political
will to “go beyond” treaty obligations in order to “defend America”? If so, a
viable and reliable “shield” can result: or so the shoddy thinking goes.
Meanwhile, rigged tests should continue to help alter perceptions, with a
compliant media reporting a “successful” test with great fanfare, while
downplaying subsequent revelations that it was rigged.

Yet the most
likely possibility is that no amount of money can change laws of physics, and
that the “umbrella” fancied by ideologues will be a mere “scarecrow.” This view
prevails in the scientific community, but is scandalously absent from media
coverage, obscured by a commonplace journalistic reflex, illustrated by this one
sentence: “Formidable technical difficulties remain before Son of Star Wars can
become a reality, but the main legal obstacle to the plan is the ABM Treaty
banning national missile defense systems” (Marcus Warren, The Daily Telegraph,
July 28, 2001). The casual reader could be forgiven for inferring that the main
obstacle is legal, and that the technical difficulties, while formidable, can be

While the Defense
Department continues its course towards a bid for global omnipotence (“full
spectrum dominance”), terrorist acts undertaken by committed cadres of suicidal
fanatics revealed the limitations of relying primarily on high technology to
achieve security. “Technolatry” (blind worship of technology) is a factor, which
underlies American unilateralism and its tendency to “go it alone.” Such nuclear
hubris led to Reagan’s Star Wars speech (1983) and continues in its current
incarnation, NMD. Earlier, I mentioned that strategic security was actually a
secondary or tertiary consideration for the MIC. The scheme to weaponize space
with lasers and ASAT (Anti-Satellite) weapons, and to blanket the planet with
sea-, land- and space-based interceptors was not concocted to “protect
Americans” but to protect profits for aerospace and related industries. The Big
Four (Boeing, Lockheed Martin, TRW, and Raytheon) are still poised for payback
after multi-million dollar contributions to both parties, along with more than
$10 million political action committee (PAC) money to the Republicans. For
beneficiaries, a new arms race sparked by a U.S. imposition of this
fundamentally flawed and risk-fraught system is “worth it.” To knowingly embrace
the risk of a catastrophic nuclear weapons launch (by accident or design) in
order for the U.S. to retain the luxury of projecting power can hardly be called
a “defensive” strategy. To create a multi-billion dollar scarecrow, and the
perception of nuclear invulnerability (in order to issue ultimatums to
recalcitrant middle powers) is a reckless and irresponsible gamble, which must
be firmly opposed by Americans who recognize the need to direct resources to
actual security measures.

Throughout 2001,
even staunch U.S. allies opposed this dangerous bid for nuclear supremacy and
its underlying obsession with preparation for future wars (which hawks like
Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz regard as “inevitable,” thus ensuring their
inevitability). Meanwhile, the mainstream media reported only that the Bush
administration has formulated a new strategy overhaul, nothing more than a
modest proposal to provide for the common defense. Judging from numerous letters
to the editor of the NYT, many Americans prior to September were nodding
in assent, grateful that the leadership was doing its job to “protect
Americans”—from the remote threat of ballistic missile attack. Ironically, even
as Americans approve of what is presented as an attempt to shore up defenses,
the U.S. has undermined its security with its willingness to scotch the
nonproliferation regime for the sake of deploying this unworkable and
destabilizing missile defense system. Embracing unacceptable risks to achieve a
nuclear force advantage, U.S. policy has resulted in a sharp diminution in both
U.S. and global security, which, as noted, runs counter to commitments made
under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which remains the best
agreement to prevent nuclear-weapons grade material from being acquired by
“non-state actors,” i.e., terrorist groups.

In this new
atmosphere of heightened international insecurity, Washington has conceded that
uni- lateralism is counterproductive, but has yet to listen to the rational
objections of its allies, including Canada, which counsels abandoning this
perilous pro-nuclear policy. Avoiding this outcome must entail a progressive
shift towards a reinvigorated arms control and disarmament policy, as Russia,
China, and traditional U.S. allies have strenuously advocated. In order to help
defend the continental United States from real, not invented, threats, Americans
can no longer afford to leave crucial decisions concerning U.S. security to the
vested interests of an enlarging state apparatus. As hawkish reactionaries
pursue punitive wars without and enhanced police state tactics within, only
growing protest can divert the current Administration from its irresponsible
conflation of real security needs with the hubristic pursuit of nuclear
hegemony.                          Z

Richard Alan Leach is an English instructor and editor at the Pohang University
of Science and Technology (POSTECH) in Pohang, a major research university in
South Korea.