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Which Rogue State is Destroying Global Arms Control?

by Marko Beljac Saturday, Feb. 08, 2003 at 10:04 PM

The US is offering humanity a choice: extinction or hegemony.

Which Rogue State is Destroying Global Arms Control?

Marko Beljac.

It is interesting to observe that as war fever over Iraq is reaching a climax, the Bush administration is launching a wide ranging assault on arms control. It should be remembered that Washington is proposing to wage a war in the name of arms control. The whole basis of the argument for war essentially rests on one premise (ignoring fantasies such as the Saddam-Osama link): that "rogue states" must be prevented from acquiring weapons of mass destruction (WMD), if necessary through the pre-emptive use of military force.

This is known as the "Bush doctrine". This Doctrine states that the US or

the "international community" has the right to wage offensive war against WMD arming rogue states because traditional deterrence cannot work with such states. It is supposed that these states are irrational, that they will not abide by the rational calculus of opportunity cost. The old nuclear "war fighters", grouped around conservative "think tanks" such as the National Institute of Public Policy (NIPP) set the framework through a number of publications drawn up during the Clinton administration. The Pentagon's recent report on US strategy and WMD proliferation basically reflects their thinking.

Central to their argument, reflected in the administration’s “Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction” strategy report, is the observation that the irrationality of rogue states is to be contrasted with that of the previous enemy, the Soviet Union. According to the Pentagon report, the Soviet Union was a rational, risk averse and status quo power. Hence deterrence supposedly worked during the cold war. Notice that this amounts to an official acknowledgement that Washington was lying for 45 years, for Washington told us quite the opposite, the Soviet Union was an expansionist international menace. This is interesting given that the Bush administration consists of re-cycled Reaganites, the sought of people who in the late 1970s and early 1980s used a menacing "Soviet threat" to wage a massive assault on arms control, coupled with a mad zeal to pursue nuclear policies that supposedly made nuclear war a thinkable proposition.

It is these same people who today have renewed their full scale assault on

arms control. Consider for instance the Anti Ballistic Missile (ABM) Treaty

of 1972, the foundation of strategic arms control. The Bush administration has

thrown this foundational treaty out the window because it seeks to weaponise space. One reason for this is that as the US becomes ever more dependent on space for its offensive conventional operations around the world, the demands of unilateral strategic superiority, long standing US policy known as "escalation" or "full spectrum" dominance, compel Washington to pursue “space control". This means that, according to a report written under the leadership of Donald Rumsfeld, "in the coming period the US will conduct operations to, from, in and through space" which includes "power projection in, from and through space". Toward this end Washington has resisted efforts in the UN to create an arms control regime for space. As a result, over time, the arms race will be extended into space.

The militarisation of space is intimately linked with US strategic nuclear forces, for the previous command covering space known as space command has merged with the command responsible for nuclear forces, strategic command. Upon merger, the commander of strategic command stated, "United States strategic command provides a single war fighting combatant command with a global perspective, focused on exploiting the strong and growing synergy between the domain of space and strategic

capabilities." The chairman of the Joints Chief’s of Staff added, "this new command is going to have all the responsibilities of its predecessors, but an entirely new mission focus, greatly expanded forces and you might even say several infinite areas of responsibility."

In other words we are witnessing the integration of strategic conventional, nuclear and space planning into the command responsible for overseeing US nuclear forces. In turn these forces become an ordinary facet of US strategic planning, severing the break between conventional and nuclear war.

The Rapid Nuclear Earth Penetrator

One particularly dangerous facet of contemporary US nuclear policy is the

desired development of what was known during the Clinton administration as the

low yield earth penetrating nuclear weapon. The Bush administration refers to it as the Rapid Nuclear Earth Penetrator (RNEP). The logic here is that a low yield earth penetrating nuclear weapon would be "useable". For instance a report by a senior official at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, Stephen Younger, asserts that low yield nuclear weapons will serve to eliminate "self deterrence". Self deterrence has been the standard problem faced by all nuclear war fighters throughout the nuclear age. Essentially, the war fighters consider nuclear weapons to be useable weapons on a par with conventional weapons. Self deterrence is a problem because the American people are not enthusiastic about the prospect of nuclear war, or of a highly nuclearised world order. For instance the dangerous nuclear war fighting rhetoric of Washington during the Reagan era led to a huge anti nuclear movement in the US and Europe in the early 1980s.

It should be emphasised that these weapons would not just apply to third world crises, as is commonly asserted. Central to any understanding of US nuclear planning is the concept of "damage expectancy". The target categories for nuclear planners are legislated by broad policy guidance issued by the President, currently known as PDD 60. This broad guidance leads to the drawing up of a detailed list of specific targets, with weapons allocated to those targets in the US nuclear war plan, called the Single Integrated Operational Plan (SIOP). Each target set has a damage expectancy level, which basically refers to the desired probability that this target will be destroyed by a given number of weapons of a given yield. Therefore the more effective the penetrator, the lower the yield needed to meet the damage expectancy requirements of the SIOP. Such strategic reforms are meant to make nuclear war a more viable policy option. This is known as the lowering of the threshold of nuclear war. The development of rapid earth penetrators draws us closer to the prospect of nuclear war, including accidental nuclear war, because lower yields will lower the threshold between conventional and nuclear war.

Lowering the threshold of nuclear war will enhance pressures for global nuclear proliferation. If the US is making its arsenal more useable by working towards achieving a first strike capability, then others such as Russia and China must react in order to enure the viability of their deterrents. Moreover, the potential third world targets of US attack would also have a greater incentive to ensure that they too have a

nuclear deterrent. This can only serve to further threaten the viability of the globe's nuclear proliferation regime. There exists therefore a "deadly connection" between WMD proliferation and US foreign policy, just as there was a "deadly connection" between dangerous nuclear war fighting postures and interventionist US foreign policy during the cold war. Mind you, this “deadly connection” still exists, and lowering the threshold of nuclear war makes this particular deadly connection ever more deadly, ever more real and ever more likely to result in calamity.

The Test Ban and the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

In 1995 the states party to the NPT regime voted to extend the treaty indefinitely, at US insistence. Many third world states such as Egypt pointed out that according to the NPT the established nuclear powers are obliged "in good faith" to pursue "nuclear disarmament". The US agreed to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) in exchange for indefinite extension of the treaty. The CTBT is designed to prevent nuclear testing, the rationale being that without nuclear testing no state would be able to develop nuclear weapons and no existing nuclear power would be able to develop new nuclear warheads, with existing warheads then having, without testing, a limited shelf life. In this way it was believed the nuclear powers would fulfil their obligations under the NPT.

However the present conservative assault on arms control actually began before the selection of the Bush administration. Conservative forces in the US Congress essentially scuttled the treaty, and the Bush administration has announced that it will not send the treaty again to the Congress for ratification. What lies behind this policy? Essentially, Washington seeks to guarantee the long term viability of its nuclear stockpile. Not only does this violate global arms control efforts to ban nuclear testing, it strikes at the heart of the global nuclear non proliferation regime. The whole point of the CTBT was to demonstrate the willingness of the existing nuclear powers to fulfil their end of the NPT bargain. By rejecting the CTBT, in order to ensure the indefinite viability of its nuclear stockpile, Washington undermines the NPT.

The Clinton administration, although it had signed the CTBT, itself had a programme to circumvent its impact on the long term durability of the US nuclear stockpile, known as the Stockpile Stewardship Programme. In fact as Clinton's national security adviser, Samuel Berger explained the CTBT was meant to "lock in" US strategic nuclear superiority. According to a report by the Pentagon under Clinton (Nuclear Weapons Sustainment Programs), the US needs to retain the ability to develop new nuclear warheads without conducting nuclear tests, a contravention of the rationale of the CTBT and a direct repudiation of Washington’s obligations under the global NPT regime, a fact noted by states such as India and Pakistan.

The difference between the Clinton and Bush administrations on the issue is

slight. That they both repudiate Washington's obligations under the NPT cannot be questioned. A good illustration of this is the controversy over the so called "negative security assurances", first announced in 1978 and re-affirmed in 1995 as a part of the deal to extend the NPT regime indefinitely. According to these assurances the US states that it would not use nuclear weapons against a state that does not posses nuclear weapons, or which is not allied with a nuclear power. As we have seen the Bush administration reserves the right to launch pre-emptive nuclear attacks against non-nuclear states. The "Bush doctrine" during the Clinton years was known as "counter-proliferation". There is no difference between the “Bush doctrine” and Clinton’s “counter-proliferation” doctrine. As Robert Bell, President Clinton's key National Security Council staffer on arms control stated nuclear counter-proliferation "would de-rail your non proliferation policy and your non proliferation agenda".

Yet the Clinton administration choose not to renounce its paper commitment to the negative security assurances. A senior official in the Bush administration has asserted that the White House may renounce these assurances, perhaps at the next NPT conference in 2005. The administration argued that it ought not put up with "theoretical" assurances from previous administrations. In denouncing Clinton's negative security assurance as a “theoretical" charade the Bush administration is at least being honest. Indeed it is reported that Bush’s National Security Presidential Directive 17 (NSDP 17) formally renounces these negative security assurances.

This policy has seen the Bush administration threaten nuclear war against Iraq. However, the Clinton administration also threatened nuclear war against Iraq.

Strategic Offensive Reduction Talks (SORT) Treaty and the Strategic Balance

The recent "arms control" agreement between Presidents Bush and Putin is the

paradigm example of a sham treaty.

The thinking behind this type of "arms control" treaty was reflected in a

key NIPP planning document, drawn up by many of the people responsible for

US nuclear weapons policy under Bush. They essentially lambasted arms control,

arguing that the US ought to set the size and nature of its nuclear forces unilaterally. The so called SORT treaty, or the Moscow treaty, enables nuclear unilateralism. The Moscow treaty renounces START II, the treaty between Russia and the US that stipulates each side is to have no more than 3000-3500 warheads. START II was the treaty that eliminated the heavy ICBM especially the Russian SS-18 along with the elimination of multiple warheads on land based missiles. It also limited the number of multiple warheads on sea-based missiles. According to the Bush administration, under SORT, "prior to December 31 2012 each party is free to maintain whatever level of strategic warheads it deems appropriate, consistent with its obligations under the START treaty", that is START I. Now START I expires in December 2009, so between December 2009 and December 2012 there will exist no legal obligation setting the ultimate size of Moscow and Washington's nuclear forces. The SORT treaty itself comes into force on the exact same day that it expires, a sham treaty. As such ultimately the SORT treaty totally undermines the entire START strategic arms control processes of the immediate post cold war years.

For instance the commander of Russia's nuclear weapons, General-Colonel Nikolay Solovtsov , has stated that Russia may retain the SS-18 nuclear missile able to carry 10 nuclear warheads. Under START II these were to be eliminated. Given SORT and the US abandonment of the ABM treaty Russia may be forced to retain these weapons. This is interesting because these re-cycled Reaganites campaigned on the "Soviet threat" in the late1970s, a campaign which was centred on the SS-18. They argued that the SS-18 posed a grave danger to the continental United States which they called "the window of vulnerability". Today they have scuttled a treaty which banned this very weapon.

The Bush administration's pursuit of nuclear unilateralism not only serves to totally undermine the achievements of strategic arms control, it can only re-create the underlying dynamics needed for a new nuclear arms race. The expansion of the US military system into the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, and NATO's geographical but more importantly mission expansion, will serve to heighten the threats to international security posed by this assault on arms control.

They may also provide the spark that could set off a full scale accidental nuclear war.

Which State is an Irrational Nuclear Armed Power?

As noted, central to the logic of the Bush doctrine is the notion that rogue states are undeterreable because they are irrational. Consider a key post cold war nuclear planning document, produced during the Clinton administration, known as "Essentials of Post Cold War Deterrence". This document states that, "because of the value that comes from the ambiguity of what the US may do to an adversary if the acts we seek to deter are carried out, it hurts to portray ourselves as too fully rational and cool headed. The fact that some elements may appear to be potentially 'out of control' can be beneficial to creating and reinforcing doubts within the minds of an adversary's decision makers. This essential sense of fear is the working force of deterrence. That the US may become irrational and vindictive if its vital interests are attacked should be a part of the national persona we project to all adversaries". The US ought to be a crazy, irrational nuclear armed state according to this doctrine. The US then becomes a “rogue state” with global strategic nuclear superiority, asserting that humanity faces two options: US hegemony or extinction.

If we are moral agents, it is necessary to adhere to the standards of rationality. According to this conception, any stated moral principle must be a universal one. If we assert that murder is wrong, then it is wrong for everybody. It is not OK for you to murder but wrong for your neighbour to murder. Thus if it is right to invade Iraq because it is a rogue state, supposedly an undeterrable irrational state, armed with WMD then it immediately follows that according to ethical rationalism it is right for the international community to invade the US. The Pentagon ought to bomb the Pentagon. Notice however that not one single advocate for an invasion of Iraq argues that the US ought to be bombed, which they should if they were rational, moral, agents. Despite much pretence to the contrary no advocate of invasion is a rational let alone moral agent. They are the world’s most crass exemplars of moral relativism.

It is a sad reflection that centuries after the onset of the scientific revolution, and the rationalism of the Enlightenment, that the intellectual classes of what are supposedly the guardians of rational civilisation ("the war on terrorism", so we are told) fail to meet the most basic standards of rationality. The so called "liberal" theorists of "just war", according to the New York Times, are currently "agonising" over the Iraq issue. To be polite we may dismiss them by stating, paraphrasing Immanuel Kant, that they are "cold comforters" more to be pitied than despised. The mainstream opponents of war are not much better. They argue that war against Iraq would fail to meet the "pragmatic criterion"; it will cost us more than it would benefit. In this case, "the price isn't worth it".

Basic rationality stipulates that the rogue state posing the greatest threat to international security is the United States. It is up to the only rational people around, i.e. ordinary people, to do something about it. Our so called intellectual superiors won't do it for us. A rational and less militarised world order relies on greater popular involvement, ultimately a participatory democracy, in foreign policy making. They are two sides of the same coin.

The stakes are high. As Chomsky stated in his essay, "Force and Opinion", "by denying the instinct for freedom, we will only prove that humans are a lethal mutation, an evolutionary dead end: by nurturing it, if it is real, we may find ways to deal with dreadful human tragedies and problems that are awesome in scale." These problems are so grave that we are left, contrary to the options offered by Washington, with two fundamental choices; self induced extinction or emancipation from the forces of social domination.

Those drawing up strategic policy, and their apologists, in the world's dominant states have chosen to pursue their own narrow and short term interests, a result that can only achieve the former of our two choices. It’s up to us to achieve the latter.

Iraq is where we should begin.

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