By COURTENAY BARNETT
“If we have World War III, then World War IV will be fought with bows and arrows.”
( Attributed to a General – US Army Chief of Staff Gen. Omar Bradley – also to – Albert Einstein; Bertrand Russel)
I, like many other sentient homo sapiens, am not disconnected from an awareness of the destructive capacities which humankind now possess nor do I rationally think that such forces could be unleashed at full strength and humankind hope to survive.
Let me start with the relevant and applicable science. What is ‘science’? The best answer I have seen to date comes from Eric Blair ( nom de plume – George Orwell):-
“ Science is generally taken as meaning either (a) the exact sciences, such as chemistry, physics, etc., or (b) a method of thought which obtains verifiable results by reasoning logically from observed fact.”
Stated in another way, science is an unrelenting pursuit of accuracy which seeks clarification of material existence to such verifiable level as is humanly possible.
So, it is this mindset which I bring to bear on the topic at hand.
This essay, written in 2020, fully seventy-five (75) years after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atomic bombs, reflects on where we came from, and in a brief and selective manner, where, with applied scientific knowledge, we are heading to at present.
To facilitate such brevity, I confine references and examples mainly to America and Russia. Why so?
As best I have ascertained there are nine countries in the world possessing a total of 13, 355 nuclear weapons ( see link at 1 below). The US and Russia are hovering around the 6,000 mark, so these two countries as the two largest holders of these weapons of mass destruction are of particular interest.
Let us take a few steps back in time and then advance in a rational manner, as best we can.
It is 1945 and the Japanese are defeated and have been making overtures to the then US President Harry Truman’s administration. Their attempts at surrender are totally ignored by Truman and the decision is made to conduct an experiment on Japan. The two atomic bombs to be dropped are code-named “Fat man” and “Little Boy.”
These two atomic bombs were detonated over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, on August 6 and 9, 1945, respectively. The human lives claimed were somewhere between 129,000 and 226,000 and these were mostly civilians. To date that is the only use of such weapons in human history with that amount of destructive force.
Today, by reference to the figures previously citied, humankind has nuclear weapons with far more destructive force. So, how do we handle this situation some 75 years later? Permit me to reference George Kennan and then President Dwight D. Eisenhower in turn.
George Kennan was a diplomat and historian, post WWII, who served a brief period as the US Ambassador in Moscow ( then Soviet Union). He is credited as the chief US architect of the ‘Cold War’. I mention him to use a couple of famous quotes of his to support my thesis:-
“ Were the Soviet Union to sink tomorrow under the waters of the ocean, the American military-industrial establishment would have to go on, substantially unchanged, until some other adversary could be invented. Anything else would be an unacceptable shock to the American economy.”
And he had previously written:-
“ The Soviet government is already aware of the awful risk inherent in any use of these weapons, and there is no current or prospective Soviet ‘superiority’ that would tempt anyone in Moscow toward nuclear adventurism (All four of us are wholly unpersuaded by the argument advanced in recent years that the Soviet Union could ever rationally expect to gain from such a wild effort as a massive first strike on land-based American strategic missiles)”. (co-author, Foreign Affairs, 03.01.82)
I then go back to President Eisenhower’s farewell address ( see: 2 below).
From this leader and a US expert in the field of international relations one can now make some quick links from the 1945 bombings to the present day and raise some rational questions.
First, the nuclear situation in Iran, traced from the 1953 CIA led coup which brought the Shah of Iran to power as a US puppet. Mohammad Mossadgh was a pro-western democracy leader who lawfully had decided to nationalise Iranian oil to benefit the Iranian people. He took his country’s case to the then World Court and as a professor of international law argued and won his country’s case. Then the CIA coup. Interestingly, it was the US which persuaded the Shah to acquire nuclear technology. At first the Shah was sceptical for he was aware of the significant reserves of Iranian oil and so did not initially see the need to acquire nuclear power. The argument which persuaded him was that with nuclear power his country would be able to utilise such energy source domestically and then have an increased surplus of oil to sell on the international market. So, the US was central to introducing Iran to nuclear power. By, 1979 the people of Iran had had enough of the Shah’s dictatorial rule and rose up in a popular revolution and overthrew the Shah and established the Islamic Republic of Iran.
One might briefly reflect on the US led ventures in Iraq in 2003 and in Libya in 2011. By contrast to Iran, Libya had voluntarily relinquished any further attempts at developing a nuclear reactor or nuclear weapons.
Now to the issues and questions.
Question 1: America is the world’s richest and largest economy, then why so much domestic strife, and why the need for and expansion of an ever ballooning military budget? Why such a contrast to a much smaller country such as Norway? Norwegians are all well educated, housed and have fundamental human needs more than adequately met. Why not the same with the needs of the American people? It cannot be said that the resources are not available in abundance at the disposal of the US government – surely?
Question 2: Why not a global de-escalation of nuclear weaponry, for as Kennan accurately observed those several years ago there could be no rational deployment of such weapons. In modern terminology, such use would result in Mutually Assured Destruction ( MAD). Thus, what rational sense in expending resources to produce more of the same which cannot rationally be detonated?
Question 3: Are states such as America, Russia and maybe now China, locked in a cycle of production within their own military-industrial complexes such that there is a self-perpetuating demand for on-going useless over production of nuclear weaponry which cannot rationally be used?
Beyond this point, having laid a base for logical and rational reflection – I proceed to one final question – PEACE?
COURTENAY BARNETT is a graduate of London University. His areas of study were economics, political science and international law. He has been a practising lawyer for over thirty years, and has argued public interest and human rights cases. He has published several articles in the Effective Learning Report. He lives and works in the Caribbean.