FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Overwhelmed Peace Movement

by WINSLOW MYERS

There was a major story in Time magazine this week that military personnel were cheating on competency tests relating to the command and control of American nuclear missiles. This was one more confirmation of what we already know in our hearts but prefer not to examine too closely: humans are too human, too small, too fallible, to be in charge of the unfathomable destructive power of nuclear weapons.

Activists, frustrated by a Congress in the pocket of military-industrial corporations, have rightly shifted their focus to building local coalitions that emphasize bottom-up renewal. The peace movement is still hard at work, but overwhelmed by the size of the powers arrayed against it.

Maybe it’s the top military brass of the nuclear nations who ought to be leading the charge toward reciprocal disarmament, because their political masters have laid upon them an impossible task: to make zero mistakes when interpreting the behavior of other nations, to keep these weapons and the people who handle them in a state of hair-trigger readiness without tipping over the edge into accidents, and to avoid nuclear winter should, God forbid, the weapons be used.

A tall order indeed, because our experience with technologically complex systems designed not to fail is that sometimes they all fail—not a Rumsfeldian unknown unknown. Just as the occasional crash of a passenger plane or a space shuttle has proven inevitable, or a Chernobyl or Fukushima or Three Mile Island meltdown is unlikely but nevertheless has also proven inescapable, so too it is inevitable that, unless we change direction as a species, there will be a fatal incident involving nuclear weapons.

Some analysts claim that we are actually in a more risky time than during the Cold War. As we see in the cheating scandal, people in charge of the weapons, because their mission has been rendered obsolete by the change from the cold war to the “war on terror,” are tempted by laziness and corner-cutting.

The United States, even while a signatory to international treaties that enjoin it to reduce its nuclear weapons and cooperate with other states to reduce theirs, is poised to spend untold billions, money needed desperately for, say, transitioning to clean, sustainable sources of energy, to renew its nuclear weapons systems. The tail of corporate profit wags the dog of nuclear policy, but neither the cost nor the danger of nuclear weapons appears to be a high priority for most Americans.

Terrorism naturally gets more focus today. Avoiding nuclear terrorism may actually be easier to accomplish than to guarantee in perpetuity those impossible conditions attached to “legitimate” state-controlled nuclear weapons. In the case of terrorists, the objective is to secure and keep separate the parts and ingredients of weapons. The vast majority of nations are in agreement with this goal and willing to cooperate to reach it.  Meanwhile the far greater danger may be the relentless momentum engendered by the in-place weapons systems of the nuclear club, motivating more states to want to join, resulting in more command and control complexity, and more probability of misinterpretation.

In his famous poem “September 1, 1939,” W.H. Auden wrote, “We must love one another or die.” Auden came to dislike the poem for its preachiness. In 1955 he allowed it to be reprinted in an anthology with the line altered to “We must love one another and die.”  Though the two lines obviously have different meanings, both versions are true.  It is inevitable that we will all die, whether we learn to love each other or not. Is it also inevitable that we will die in nuclear fire or under gray skies of nuclear ash? Not if nuclear nations begin to have a conversation based in the common recognition that nuclear weapons are not useful to planetary security.

Creative acts of love, truth-telling, and inclusion are always open to us, as Nelson Mandela demonstrated. When the Nazis occupied Denmark in April, 1940, 17-year-old Danish schoolboy Arne Sejr wrote his “Ten Commandments” that were creative ways to nonviolently slow, sabotage, and stymie Nazi goals in his country. In the dark days of 1943 the people of Denmark, at great risk, not only spirited 7,800 Jews into neutral Sweden to shield them from the invading Nazis, but also interceded on behalf of the 5 percent who were already on their way to Theresienstadt, with the result that 99 percent of Danish Jews were spared the Holocaust.

The nuclear Gordian knot is in equal need of heroes who can cut into it with the sharp blade of truth, and spirit our species into a new paradigm beyond our present false sense of security. Is it possible such heroes might emerge from within the military-industrial complex itself? We need more high-ranking Ellsbergs, Snowdens and Mannings, not only to reveal secret data or expose competency breakdown, but to also assert that security via nukes overall is a futile project—not only for the U.S. but for all nations who possess or want nuclear weapons. Generals and weapons designers have hearts and love their grandchildren like all of us. If a few of them spoke out, the world would owe them a priceless debt of gratitude.

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

February 22, 2017
Mike Whitney
Liberals Beware: Lie Down With Dogs, Get Up With Fleas
John Grant
On Killers and Bullshitters*
Peter Linebaugh
Catherine Despard, Abolitionist
Patrick Cockburn
The Bitter Battle for Mosul
Ted Rall
Sue the Bastards? It’s Harder Than You Think
Yoav Litvin
The Emergence of the Just Jew
Kim Scipes
Strategic Thinking and Organizing Resistance
Norman Pollack
Mar-a-Lago, Ideological Refuge: Berchtesgaden, II
Fred Donner
Nixon and the Chennault Affair: From Vietnam to Watergate
Carl Kandutsch
Podesta vs. Trump
Ike Nahem
To the Memory of Malcolm X: Fifty Years After His Assassination
Jesse Jackson
Trump’s Tough Talk Won’t Fix Chicago
Paul Donnelly
Betsy DeVos and the War on Public Education
Ebony Slaughter-Johnson
The End of an Alliance for Police Reform
Richard Lawless
Wall Street Demanded the Nuclear Option and the Congress Delivered
Liaquat Ali Khan
Yes, Real Donald Trump is a Muslim!
Ryan LaMothe
“Fire” and Free Speech
February 21, 2017
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Finance as Warfare: the IMF Lent to Greece Knowing It Could Never Pay Back Debt
CJ Hopkins
Goose-stepping Our Way Toward Pink Revolution
John Wight
Firestarter: the Unwelcome Return of Tony Blair
Roger Harris
Lenin Wins: Pink Tide Surges in Ecuador…For Now
Shepherd Bliss
Japanese American Internment Remembered, as Trump Rounds Up Immigrants
Boris Kagarlitsky
Trump and the Contradictions of Capitalism
Robert Fisk
The Perils of Trump Addiction
Deepak Tripathi
Theresa May: Walking the Kingdom Down a Dark Alley
Sarah Anderson
To Save Main Street, Tax Wall Street
Howard Lisnoff
Those Who Plan and Enjoy Murder
Franklin Lamb
The Life and Death Struggle of the Children of Syria
Binoy Kampmark
A Tale of Two Realities: Trump and Israel
Kim C. Domenico
Body and Soul: Becoming Men & Women in a Post-Gender Age
Mel Gurtov
Trump, Europe, and Chaos
Stephen Cooper
Steinbeck’s Road Map For Resisting Donald Trump
February 20, 2017
Bruce E. Levine
Humiliation Porn: Trump’s Gift to His Faithful…and Now the Blowback
Melvin Goodman
“Wag the Dog,” Revisited
Robert Hunziker
Fukushima: a Lurking Global Catastrophe?
David Smith-Ferri
Resistance and Resolve in Russia: Memorial HRC
Kenneth Surin
Global India?
Norman Pollack
Fascistization Crashing Down: Driving the Cleaver into Social Welfare
Patrick Cockburn
Trump v. the Media: a Fight to the Death
Susan Babbitt
Shooting Arrows at Heaven: Why is There Debate About Battle Imagery in Health?
Matt Peppe
New York Times Openly Promotes Formal Apartheid Regime By Israel
David Swanson
Understanding Robert E. Lee Supporters
Michael Brenner
The Narcissism of Donald Trump
Martin Billheimer
Capital of Pain
Thomas Knapp
Florida’s Shenanigans Make a Great Case for (Re-)Separation of Ballot and State
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail