FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Half a Century Beyond the Cuban Missile Crisis

by WINSLOW MYERS

Albert Einstein, the full measure of whose prophetic stature still has not been taken, wrote in a telegram to President Roosevelt in 1946: “The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking, and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”

Einstein was implying that we need a new mode of thinking where we see clearly that a security program based in the possession of nuclear weapons leads nowhere—exactly the conclusion to which foreign policy establishment heavyweights Kissinger, Schultz, Nunn and Perry came in their famous 2007 Wall Street Journal editorial.

An authentic paradigm shift always requires time to accomplish itself, but the hour is getting late. The family of nations goes on insisting in its various ways that rational security goals can still be achieved with nuclear weapons. India and Pakistan have fought four wars over Kashmir, and each has made nuclear threats against the other as if one of the parties could “win.” Smaller nations assume that nuclear weapons will equalize their relations with their more powerful neighbors. Dictators hope to secure their political longevity with nukes. And non-state entities cling to the illusion that they could accomplish some redress of injustice if they could only get hold of one.

The reality that the murderous chaos in Syria has begun to spread over the border into Turkey reminds us not only that enemy-posing and vicious cycles of paranoia have always been with us independent of nuclear weapons, but also that small sparks have set off gigantic conflagrations in the past.

Nuclear weapons not only ratchet up the consequences of accident or misinterpretation; they distort and confuse our current “modes of thinking.” Mutual enemy-images become a dance of self-fulfilling paranoia that is stoked up to white heat by real or potential weapons. One nexus of distortion is the enemy dance between Iran, the U.S., and Israel.  The United States grossly interfered in Iran’s internal affairs in the 1950s to install the Shah, took sides with Iraq in the eight-year Iran-Iraq war, and more recently sabotaged Iranian computers attached to uranium enrichment centrifuges—and then it wonders why Iranian leaders remain hostile and suspicious. As Auden famously wrote, “those to whom evil is done, do evil in return.” Meanwhile, “enemy” is such a flexible thought-form. When the Iranian people went into the streets in massive numbers in the summer of 2009 to protest the corruption of their democratic process, were they our enemy?  Or an early, Persian manifestation of the Arab Spring?

No leader can remain in power by acting credulous, but nuclear paranoia has no limits. Fear, hate, and separation become the stock-in-trade of world leadership. The Iranian leaders, fearful of Israel’s presumed 300-plus nuclear weapons, mouth self-destructive anti-Semitic clichés on the international stage. Israel, possessing an overwhelming nuclear “advantage,” draws lines in the sand on the basis of Iran’s mere potential. The distinction between good guys who can be trusted with nuclear weapons and bad guys who cannot becomes futile when the combination of the weapons themselves, their fallible command and control systems, and the sleepy assumption that they will keep us safe are the real enemy.

When the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. came within a hair’s breadth of destroying the planet in 1962, who was the enemy? Wasn’t it war itself? If a Muslim extremist detonated a nuclear weapon in any large city on the planet, how many of their co-religionists would they obliterate? It’s not enough to argue that “they” don’t care who or how many they kill. If the U.S. ever used even a small portion of its arsenal, no matter against whom, the holocaust would be equally indiscriminate.

We forget that the cold war ended when Russians and Americans realized that they had a mutual interest in survival, and that this mutual interest is performatively universal—meaning it applies in every future case of nuclear confrontation around the globe. There are only two possible outcomes: eventual catastrophe, or the goals to which Einstein calls us on the other side of a radical shift in our modes of thinking: a nuclear-free Middle East and a nuclear-free planet.

Einstein also wrote that you cannot solve a problem on the same level of thinking that created the problem—another way of saying what he telegraphed to Roosevelt so long ago. We have arrived at an astonishing place in the history of our planet where it has become a matter of life and death to initiate not further cyberwar with our adversaries, but dialogue in a spirit of good will on the basis of what is best for Jewish, American, Iranian, and everyone else’s grandchildren.

Winslow Myers, the author of “Living Beyond War: A Citizen’s Guide,” serves on the Board of Beyond War (www.beyondwar.org), a non-profit educational foundation whose mission is to explore, model and promote the means for humanity to live without war.

Winslow Myers is author of “Living Beyond War: A Citizen’s Guide.” He serves on the Advisory Board of the War Preventive Initiative.

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

April 25, 2017
Russell Mokhiber
It’s Impossible to Support Single-Payer and Defend Obama-care
Nozomi Hayase
Prosecution of Assange is Persecution of Free Speech
Robert Fisk
The Madder Trump Gets, the More Seriously the World Takes Him
Giles Longley-Cook
Trump the Gardener
stclair
Major Challenges of New Orleans Charter Schools Exposed at NAACP Hearing
Jack Random
Little Fingers and Big Egos
Stanley L. Cohen
Dissent on the Lower East: the Post-Political Condition
Stephen Cooper
Conscientious Justice-Loving Alabamians, Speak Up!
David Swanson
The F-35 and the Incinerating Ski Slope
Binoy Kampmark
Mike Pence in Oz
Peter Paul Catterall
Green Nationalism? How the Far Right Could Learn to Love the Environment
George Wuerthner
Range Riders: Making Tom Sawyer Proud
Clancy Sigal
It’s the Pits: the Miner’s Blues
Robert K. Tan
Abe is Taking Japan Back to the Bad Old Fascism
April 24, 2017
Mike Whitney
Is Mad Dog Planning to Invade East Syria?    
John Steppling
Puritan Jackals
Robert Hunziker
America’s Tale of Two Cities, Redux
David Jaffe
The Republican Party and the ‘Lunatic Right’
John Davis
No Tomorrow or Fashion-Forward
Patrick Cockburn
Treating Mental Health Patients as Criminals
Jack Dresser
An Accelerating Palestine Rights Movement Faces Uncertain Direction
George Wuerthner
Diet for a Warming Planet
Lawrence Wittner
Why Is There So Little Popular Protest Against Today’s Threats of Nuclear War?
Colin Todhunter
From Earth Day to the Monsanto Tribunal, Capitalism on Trial
Paul Bentley
Teacher’s Out in Front
Franklin Lamb
A Post-Christian Middle East With or Without ISIS?
Kevin Martin
We Just Paid our Taxes — are They Making the U.S. and the World Safer?
Erik Mears
Education Reformers Lowered Teachers’ Salaries, While Promising to Raise Them
Binoy Kampmark
Fleeing the Ratpac: James Packer, Gambling and Hollywood
Weekend Edition
April 21, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Diana Johnstone
The Main Issue in the French Presidential Election: National Sovereignty
Paul Street
Donald Trump: Ruling Class President
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Dude, Where’s My War?
Andrew Levine
If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em
Paul Atwood
Why Does North Korea Want Nukes?
Robert Hunziker
Trump and Global Warming Destroy Rivers
Vijay Prashad
Turkey, After the Referendum
Binoy Kampmark
Trump, the DOJ and Julian Assange
CJ Hopkins
The President Formerly Known as Hitler
Steve Reyna
Replacing Lady Liberty: Trump and the American Way
Lucy Steigerwald
Stop Suggesting Mandatory National Service as a Fix for America’s Problems
Robert Fisk
It is Not Just Assad Who is “Responsible” for the Rise of ISIS
John Laforge
“Strike Two” Against Canadian Radioactive Waste Dumpsite Proposal
Norman Solomon
The Democratic Party’s Anti-Bernie Elites Have a Huge Stake in Blaming Russia
Andrew Stewart
Can We Finally Get Over Bernie Sanders?
Susan Babbitt
Don’t Raise Liberalism From the Dead (If It is Dead, Which It’s Not)
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail