Biden’s MacArthur Moment

Photograph Source: Matt Johnson – CC BY 2.0

Joe Biden has his own Douglas MacArthur moment, and should replace the head of US Strategic Command, Adm. Charles A. Richard, just as Harry Truman fired the insubordinate commander of the US war in Korea.

Truman biographer David McCullough reports that in November 1950, Gen. “MacArthur called on the administration to recognize the ‘state of war’ imposed by the Chinese, then to drop 30 to 50 atomic bombs on Manchuria and the mainland cities of China.”

MacArthur then urged that the US “‘sever’ Korea from Manchuria by laying down a field of radioactive wastes, ‘the by-products of atomic manufacture,’ all along the Yalu River.” In April 1951, President Truman fired MacArthur, replacing him with Gen. Matt Ridgeway.

Adm. Richard wrote in the US Naval Institute journal Proceedings that the US must, “consider the possibility of great power competition, crisis, or direct armed conflict with a nuclear-capable peer.” The language is more nuanced than MacArthur’s, but just as genocidal. “We’ve assumed strategic deterrence will hold in the future, but as the threat environment changes, this may not be the case,” he said in an interview, as if discussing the strength of a dike and not the death of millions. This terror-mongering must not be allowed to grow deeper roots at StratCom.

The Omaha, Nebraska-based organization is nominally in control of all US nuclear weapons systems. StratCom says its “responsibilities include” overall US nuclear weapons “operations”, “global strike”, and “targeting”. Its day-to-day business is nuclear attack planning, and Adm. Richard is familiar with these preparations as he previously was commander of Submarine Forces, commander of Submarine Force Atlantic, and commander of Allied Submarine Command.

Adm. Richard wants us to join him in demonizing China which says intends be a “strategic peer” of the US, and that China is “aggressively challenging international norms and global peace using instruments of power and threats of force…,” according to Bill Gertz, in the Washington Times. Yet China’s “near peer” nuclear arsenal totals 350 warheads, while the Pentagon’s stock of 3,800 warheads is 10 times its size. The recent report by Simone Chun points out the Elephant in the Room here, counting 290 US military bases surrounding China in the Asia-Pacific region alone, and the Pentagon’s request for an astounding $27 billion budget increase in its military buildup there.

The admiral’s psychological projection regarding “instruments of power and threats of force” shows an willful (or imbalanced) blindness to the millions that are being or have been devastated, displaced, maimed, dismembered, or killed by US warfare in Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia, Libya, and Syria. China hasn’t crossed another state’s border since its 1951 crushing, 300-mile push-back against MacArthur’s forces in North Korea.

“While [China] has maintained a ‘no first-use’ policy since the 1960s — contending it will never use a nuclear weapon first … This policy could change in the blink of an eye,” Adm. Richard says. But why would it? China’s no first-use policy absolutely reduces tensions of all kinds. This is a goal that Mr. Biden the Strategic Command, and NATO could pursue, and an accomplishment they could share with China by making the same pledge — now a bill in Congress.

Like with Gen. MacArthur before him, there is a madness in Adm. Richard’s speech. There is no reason whatsoever for China to reverse its no first-use pledge, except in the minds of the irrationally paranoid. US Strategic Command used to be run by Gen. George L. Butler who since retiring speaks more sanely about the Bomb. In Sept. 1999 Gen. Butler said, “Nuclear weapons are not weapons at all. They are insanely destructive agents of physical and genetic terror” that are “morally indefensible.” This is a description that now applies to Adm. Richard himself, whom the president should relieve of duty.

John LaForge is a Co-director of Nukewatch, a peace and environmental justice group in Wisconsin, and edits its newsletter.

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