Campaign to Reduce Nuclear Threat

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US Risks Nuclear War With Russia and China: What Everyone Deserves to Know

By John Lewallen.

The risk of “accidental” nuclear war involving the US, China and Russia suddenly became much greater when US President-elect Donald Trump “Tweeted” that he was going to greatly expand US nuclear forces, and later said on a television talk show that he welcomed a new nuclear arms race: “We will outlast them at every pass.”

These words are like throwing matches around in a room full of open gas cans.  Today the US has Russia and China encircled with an increasing number of “first-strike” weapons focused on destroying Russian and Chinese nuclear response systems, and a formal threat posture that the US may do a preemptive first-strike.

To make sure Chinese and Russian nuclear commanders get the point, every year the US Space Command “war games” such a preemptive first-strike against Russia and China, in an apparent effort to gain “nuclear primacy” over them.

I have studied this strategic nuclear confrontation involving China, Russia and the US for many years. It is actually a war of threat and counter-threat, both to achieve “deterrence” from attack, and “nuclear compellance” to force another nation to do or not do something, sometimes called “nuclear blackmail.”

It has been 71 years since the most recent detonation of a nuclear weapon in war. There seems to be universal understanding that avoidance is the only sane nuclear war strategy, so deep in the human race that nuclear strategist Thomas Schelling has called it a “taboo” on detonating a nuclear weapon.

However, the relentless escalation of nuclear threat by the US forces Russia and China to escalate counter-threat to deter an attack against them, and prevent the US from using overwhelming force to blackmail them. This both nations have done, very effectively. Both Russia and China are prepared to attack the US homeland with weapons, many secret, which could completely destroy the US with nuclear groundbursts, and/or destroy computer chips continent-wide with high-altitude nuclear electromagnetic pulse weapons.

Russian and Chinese nuclear commanders are focused on avoiding nuclear war. I believe the US has been following a suicidal, and potentially omnicidal (all-destroying), aggressive first-strike strategy. It seems urgent to de-escalate US nuclear confrontation with both Russia and China, by withdrawing first-strike weapons from their borders and announcing a nuclear strategy of deterrence only.

Nuclear Weapons: The Great Equalizer

For Russian and Chinese defense officials intent on deterring attack on their homelands, nuclear weapons are the great equalizer. No matter how much the US threatens and surrounds them, both have the ability to counterstrike with totally destructive effect on the US.

In addition to nuclear missiles, many on submarines, only one of which could devastate huge areas, both are prepared to use high-altitude nuclear electromagnetic pulse weapons, which could destroy computerized civilization throughout North America.

Anyone who wants to understand nuclear war could visit Wikipedia and look up “High-Altitude Nuclear Electromagnetic Pulse Weapons.” Weapons designers have been very secretly but intensively focused on nuclear weapons that enhance the electromagnetic pulse. Only one of these weapons, which can be placed in satellites orbiting the Earth, could emit an electromagnetic pulse that would destroy all unprotected computer chips in line of sight.  China and Russia claim to have “super-EMP weapons” that will overwhelm all attempts to protect computer chips, the very basis of modern civilization.

US Nuclear Posture: From “Mutually Assured Destruction” to Missile Defense

In 1999, the US Congress passed a one-sentence act stating that it is the policy of the US to develop a missile defense system, in an attempt to ward off nuclear attack. This story went almost unnoticed in the US, but the Chinese government named it the story of the year. The Chinese knew they would be forced to develop weapons to overcome “missile defense” systems in order to maintain a credible deterrent against US preemptive attack.

For years the US and the Soviet Union, and later Russia after the Soviet Union collapsed, observed the Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty. Recognizing that neither side could possibly achieve effective missile defense against the many thousands of nuclear weapons they had aimed at each other, both agreed that they would only start a futile and very dangerous nuclear arms race by attempting missile defense.

President Reagan began the attempt to make a missile defense system, and it continues to this day, with a relentless encirclement of Russia and China with first-strike missiles the US claims are aimed at Iran and North Korea. The ABM Treaty has been abrogated by the US, although every sane person realizes it is physically impossible to develop effective defense against either a nuclear missile attack or a high-altitude nuclear EMP burst.

Nuclear Compellance: The Possibly Insane Commander

Now President-elect Donald Trump has Tweeted to the world that he will begin an intensified nuclear arms race. This seems to be a suicidally insane strategy, announced publicly in a way that terrifies the whole world. It’s a clear signal that the US is moving toward using its dominant nuclear forces for “nuclear compellance,” to force other nations to yield to its demands, despite the fact that the US population and environment are now a greater risk of being attacked by China, Russia with an all-destroying weapon.

Nuclear strategic thought is the province of a very small group of strategists. I believe it is urgent that more people study nuclear strategy, because the present strategy seems quite insane. Nuclear warfare probably is the greatest survival threat faced by the human race today.

Strategists realize that, because actual detonation of a nuclear weapon in war is so risky to the user as to be considered suicidally insane, that effective use of nuclear threat to blackmail another nuclear nation requires a nuclear commander who is crazy enough to risk the whole world. Enter Donald Trump, the nuclear commander who is scorning expert advice and flinging vain threats even before entering office. How will China and Russia react?

One of the most nerve-wracking facts about strategic nuclear confrontation is the “use it or lose it” syndrome. That is, if a nuclear power believes an opponent is about to attack, there is a tremendous compulsion to strike first with a pre-emptive nuclear or other strike which would essentially disable the potential attacker. In short, it’s certain that Russia and China have their nuclear forces on heightened alert.

Presently, the US and Russia have about 14,000 nuclear weapons aimed at each other, many on hair-trigger alert. The risk of “accidental” nuclear war, exacerbated by US weapons and Trump’s threats, has become so great that it almost can’t be considered “accidental” any more, but rather the result of an insanely threatening US posture.

China’s fascinating nuclear weapons strategy is informed by ancient Chinese strategic wisdom, laid out by Sun Tsu in “The Art of War.” The Chinese try to achieve “minimal deterrence” while possessing the most advanced nuclear weapons and missiles designed to neutralize US nuclear threats. The great danger is that China’s non-threatening posture may fool US commanders into thinking that the US now has “nuclear primacy” over China, and could launch an effective pre-emptive attack to destroy China’s strategic nuclear forces. I’m sure China is watching US nuclear moves very closely, and has prepared responses of all sorts, including cyber warfare.

Toward a Safe and Sane US Nuclear Weapons Strategy

The current catastrophically hazardous nuclear strategy of the US could be easily and rapidly converted into a safe and sane strategy by a US President focused on reducing the threat of nuclear war with China or Russia. Words and deeds of de-escalation could happen at the speed of a Tweet: withdraw first-strike missile systems from the borders of both nations, and announce a nuclear posture of deterrence only, abandoning the suicidal attempt to achieve missile defense and threaten first-strike.

Only a concerted demand from many individuals and groups in the US will, I believe, move us toward a safe and sane nuclear strategy. Presently there’s a “conspiracy of silence”: the US government doesn’t want the public to know the real dangers of current policy; and the public, weary of decades of nuclear terror during the “Cold War” era, doesn’t want to hear about threats of nuclear war, on top of the other threats we deal with every day.

Every child is born into a beautiful world where a war of nuclear weapons threats risks all life. Maybe it is time to start thinking about the risks of nuclear war again, not with mind-numbing terror, but with the wonderment of a child discovering the world.

Every day that dawns without nuclear war is a magnificent gift of beauty and hope. I honor and respect all who have worked to avoid nuclear war, though our approaches may sometimes seem diametrically opposed.  Here’s to avoiding nuclear war in 2017 and forevermore!

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One Comment

  1. Alton C Thompson says:

    Given that global warming is likely to “wipe out” our species some time between 2020 and 2040, the advantages of a thermonuclear war are that it would “put us out of our misery” (1) quickly, and (2) sooner. If that war is a “bigly” one, that is!

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