'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Genocide Option 

Amazing. Generals from five NATO countries advocate the use of nuclear weapons and the mass slaughter of civilians to prevent the proliferation nuclear weapons:

The west must be ready to resort to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to try to halt the "imminent" spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, according to a radical manifesto for a new Nato by five of the west's most senior military officers and strategists.

Calling for root-and-branch reform of Nato and a new pact drawing the US, Nato and the European Union together in a "grand strategy" to tackle the challenges of an increasingly brutal world, the former armed forces chiefs from the US, Britain, Germany, France and the Netherlands insist that a "first strike" nuclear option remains an "indispensable instrument" since there is "simply no realistic prospect of a nuclear-free world".

The manifesto has been written following discussions with active commanders and policymakers, many of whom are unable or unwilling to publicly air their views. It has been presented to the Pentagon in Washington and to Nato's secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, over the past 10 days. The proposals are likely to be discussed at a Nato summit in Bucharest in April.

"The risk of further [nuclear] proliferation is imminent and, with it, the danger that nuclear war fighting, albeit limited in scope, might become possible," the authors argued in the 150-page blueprint for urgent reform of western military strategy and structures. "The first use of nuclear weapons must remain in the quiver of escalation as the ultimate instrument to prevent the use of weapons of mass destruction."

The morality of such a proposal is, of course, appalling. The existing nuclear powers abrogating to themselves the right to use nuclear weapons against the peoples of other countries to stop them from obtaining nuclear weapons themselves. Of course, as has been recently demonstrated with Iran, a country doesn't actually have to be attempting to develop nuclear weapons, or obtaining them from elsewhere, but merely accused of doing so. Strangely, the article describes such a policy as part of a larger root and branch reform of NATO. Sort of like, I guess, how Hindenburg and the Nazis, with some behind the scenes help from the Soviets, reformed the defensive Reichswehr into the first strike capability of the Wehrmacht.

It is essentially the genocide option. Bin Laden and al Qaeda are maligned, and justifiably so, for launching attacks upon the US that resulted in the deaths of about 3,000 people, and yet US and European military strategists are now proposing the right to kill tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, to enforce nuclear non-proliferation. Predictably, the authors of the report fail to mention that one of the primary reasons that there is no realistic prospect of a nuclear free world is because countries with such a capability have displayed no willingness to reduce their arsenals, much less eliminate them.

Furthermore, they, again, quite predictably, refuse to acknowledge that US threats against countries without nuclear weapons, such as Iran and North Korea, are leading countries to conclude that the only deterrent to US conventional military force is a nuclear one. US insistence that countries around the world acquiesce to US military and economic coercion is a major source of global instability that contributes to nuclear proliferation, and an alternative that advises US policymakers to stop using the war on terror to facilitate imperial expansion is not even recognized.

If one engages in the morally dubious enterprise of engaging the policy on its merits, it quickly reveals itself as ridiculous. A nuclear first strike upon any country would result in tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of deaths, initiate an open-ended conflict with the likelihood of killling many thousands more, and present the country who initiated the strike with the necessity of killing millions more in the country that it attacked through more nuclear and conventional attacks in an effort to bring the conflict to a conclusion, assuming, of course, that other countries did not intervene.

Or, to describe it in less alarmist language, the policy assumes that the country engaged in the first use of nuclear weapons possesses the power to decide when to initiate the conflict, and when to bring it to a conclusion. One need not know very much history to immediately perceive that such arrogance is without any factual foundation whatsoever.

Basically, as noted by Jorge Hirsch, any country launching a first strike will be immediately elevated to the status of global pariah. Domestically, any country engaged in such a strike will confront significant social unrest to the extent that the ability to maintain public order would be lost for quite awhile, if not permanently. The emergence of underground domestic groups, organized around the principle of violent resistance (one hesitates to call them terrorist in this context), is highly probable.

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