Archive for the ‘Nuclear weapons’ Category

Revisiting Hiroshima in Iran

What Americans Really Think about Using Nuclear Weapons and Killing Noncombatants

By Gunnar Westberg
TFF Board member

“Revisiting Hiroshima in Iran: What Americans Really Think about Using Nuclear Weapons and Killing Noncombatants”
Scott D. Sagan and Benjamin A. Valentino
International Security, August 2017

This is a summary and a few reflections upon reading a very comprehensive academic study recently published in International Security. See it’s full text here.


The nuclear taboo is no longer strong

In this extensive and scholarly report of 67 pages the authors report on several opinion polls they have conducted in order to learn about the attitudes of Americans to the use of nuclear weapons compared to conventional weapons.

They also review the field extensively comparing with other studies.

Shortly after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki the Americans strongly supported the use of nuclear weapons in that situation. The approval rate decreased to a large degree over the years.

However, when questions were asked regarding the possibility of using nuclear weapons in a contemporary conflict, such as that between USA and Iran, the attitude to the use of nuclear weapons was still surprisingly positive. The “nuclear taboo” is no longer strong.

An attack with nuclear weapons on a major city is accepted by a not much lower percentage of respondents than is a conventional attack.

A clear majority of Americans would approve of using nuclear weapons against the civilian population of an adversary that does not possess nuclear weapons.

It was seen as acceptable by the respondents to kill 2 million civilian Iranian if they believed that such a nuclear strike would save the lives of 20,000 U.S. soldiers fighting in Iran.

About 60% of the American people support this opinion.

In contrast, a 2010 Chicago Council on Global Affairs survey found that 57 per cent of the public agreed that “the U.S. should only use nuclear weapons in response to a nuclear attack by another nation” and that 20 per cent agreed that “the U.S. should never use nuclear weapons under any circumstances”.

The principle of “non-combatant immunity”, a central principle in international humanitarian law, requires that the military activities should avoid as far as possible damage to the civilian population, compared to the combatant soldiers.

This principle had no strong support by the public opinion in these studies.

It was found that women support nuclear weapons use and violations of noncombatant immunity no less (and in some cases more) than male respondents.

The authors were not surprised by the finding that most Americans place a higher value on the life of an American soldier than the life of a foreign noncombatant.

What was surprising, however, was the radical extent to which they adhered to that preference.

The experiments suggest that the majority of Americans find a 1:100 risk ratio to be morally acceptable.

It should be strongly emphasized that no comparable study has been found for any other population in any other country. It is not known if attitudes in other countries differ from those in the USA.

The Abstract of the study

Numerous polls demonstrate that U.S. public approval of President Harry Truman’s decision to drop the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki has declined significantly since 1945.

Many scholars and political figures argue that this decline constitutes compelling evidence of the emergence of a “nuclear taboo” or that the principle of noncombatant immunity has become a deeply held norm.

An original survey experiment, recreating the situation that the United States faced in 1945 using a hypothetical U.S. war with Iran today, provides little support for the nuclear taboo thesis.

In addition, it suggests that the U.S. public’s support for the principle of noncombatant immunity is shallow and easily overcome by the pressures of war.

When considering the use of nuclear weapons, the majority of Americans prioritize protecting U.S. troops and achieving American war aims, even when doing so would result in the deliberate killing of millions of foreign noncombatants.

A number of individual-level traits – Republican Party identification, older age, and approval of the death penalty for convicted murderers – significantly increase support for using nuclear weapons against Iran.

Women are no less willing (and, in some scenarios, more willing) than men to support nuclear weapons use.

These findings highlight the limited extent to which the U.S. public has accepted the principles of just war doctrine and suggest that public opinion is unlikely to be a serious constraint on any president contemplating the use of nuclear weapons in the crucible of war.

The full text here.

Trump as war criminal?

By Jonathan Power

September 26th 2017

Out of the blue the war in Vietnam is in the news. Yet it is not the fiftieth anniversary of America’s defeat in Vietnam when North Vietnam caused it to flee. It’s only the forty second.

Part of this must be fearful parallels with the moral and strategic blindness of President Donald Trump who seems to believe in uttering his life and death rhetoric, akin to President Richard Nixon’s on Vietnam, he can frighten the enemy into submission – in his case North Korea.

Many people are worried that Trump is ready to fight America’s biggest war since Vietnam. As did Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s National Security Advisor, he appears to be considering the use of nuclear weapons.

The second reason for Vietnam-consciousness are the rave reviews that are being given to Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s 10 part documentary on the Vietnam War.

It is being mentioned all over the place.

To my mind one of the big questions is, is Trump ready to be branded a war criminal by present and future generations? Read the rest of this entry »

Unwinding the Iran nuclear deal

By Jonathan Power

September 5th 2017

The big mistake, apparently about to be made by President Trump, in undoing the nuclear agreement made by President Barack Obama with Iran is not just that he intends to go backwards, it is that he doesn’t intend to go forwards. (To be fair, neither did Obama.)

What the Iranians negotiated about was not so much the “bomb” – to be or not to be – but about their pride and their position in the world and their right to become a thriving economic and political power inured from sanctions or military threats. (Sanctions were imposed before the nuclear issue came to the fore.)

The nuclear program was first and foremost about creating leverage so that Iran could regain the sort of respect that the offspring of the Persian Empire once was given. Second, it was about making sure that Iran is not found short when its oil reserves start to shrink. (Iran also has heavily invested in solar energy.)

For Iran, negotiations were a suggestive game of hide and seek, played in front of all-angled, reflecting mirrors. They were not about actually building a bomb or, as we used to say in Pakistan’s pre-bomb days, of being “a screwdriver away from completing a bomb”.

I don’t actually believe that Iran ever had the intention of building a nuclear bomb. But it was not unhappy that the West thought it was. It did want to frighten the West. It did want to forestall what it believes is the Americans’ true ambition – to bring about “regime change”.

Ayatollah Ali Hosseini Khamenei, Iran’s Supreme Leader, has spoken a number of times about how nuclear weapons go against the principles of Islam. Islam is a language of love and brotherhood, not of a nuclear holocaust. I believe him, not out of naivety, but because I know Iran is a deeply religious society and that the ayatollahs take Islamic teaching earnestly. Children are brought up to take values seriously, to love not hate, and to take care of the poor and widowed. War is a last resort. Reading the Koran, nuclear weapons could never be justified.

Iran doesn’t go easily to war. Saddam Hussein inflicted war on Iran for no good reason, other than to demonstrate the muscle of a dictator. Iran had never tried to build up a deterrent against Iraq. (The US and the UK supported Saddam and provided him with weapons.) Read the rest of this entry »

Lessons from the North Korea crisis: Nuclear weapons cause war even when not used

By Gunnar Westberg
Board member of TFF

August 20, 2017

The author has been twice to North Korea and maintains contacts with physicians in the North Korean branch of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War in that country.

”If your country continues to develop nuclear weapons, you will be attacked, maybe with nuclear weapons”. This what we have told our colleagues from North Korea, at visits to Pyongyang or at international meetings. “Oh no,” they said. “Look at Saddam Hussein and Mohamad Ghadafi. They gave up their plans for nuclear weapons, and they were attacked”.

“Nuclear weapons development is not the only reason for the USA to attack. Oil is the other”, we said.

It turns out we were right. North Korea – DPRK – continued on the path to nuclear weapons and the President of the USA threatens to attack. The crisis is, for the moment fading, but is likely to increase when DPRK makes its next move. It should be emphasized that a misunderstanding on either side may provide the spark causing a devastating war.

Nuclear weapons cause wars. Read the rest of this entry »

Can the US and North Korea move from threats to negotiations?

By Gareth Porter

For months, the Trump administration and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un have each made a series of moves that have appeared to take them ever closer to the brink of war.

But a closer review of the escalation of the conflict reveals that both sides are consciously maneuvering for what they know will be extended serious negotiations on a new framework for peace on the Korean peninsula. The Trump administration is well aware that it has no real military option against the North, and the Kim Jong-un regime seems to have sought to use missile launches as signals to the Trump administration to convey not only North Korea’s determination not to give in to pressure, but also its hopes to stabilize the situation and avoid further escalation in US-North Korea military relations.

Continue reading here at TruthOut…

Nuclear sabre rattling with North Korea

By Jonathan Power

Does President Donald Trump (aka “Fire and Fury”) know what a nuclear war would be like?

I ask the question because President Roland Reagan confessed he did not until he decided to look at some movies (once an actor, he was a cinema man), like “On the Beach” that depicted a nuclear war. The exercise changed his thinking and he became an anti-nuclear weapons militant. Together with Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev they cut their nuclear stockpiles sharply.

They also came near an agreement to destroy all their nuclear weapons.

The blasts at the end of the Second World War in Hiroshima and Nagasaki can now be repeated hundreds of thousand times. The remains would not just be the broken arches of the Caesars, the abandoned viaducts and moss-covered temples of the Incas, the desolation of one of the pulsating hearts of Europe, Dresden, but millions of square miles of uninhabitable desolation and a suffering which would incorporate more agony than the sum of past history.

It would be a time when the living would envy the dead and it would be a world which might well have destroyed the legacy of law, order and love that successive generations have handed over the centuries to one another. Read the rest of this entry »

End of Nuclearism or the End of the World: Utopian Dreams, Dystopian Nightmares

By Richard Falk

We are living amid contradictions whether we like it or not, driving expectations about the future toward opposite extremes.

Increasingly plausible are fears that the ‘sixth extinction’ will encompass the human species, or at least, throw human society back to a technology of sticks and stones, with a habitat limited to caves and forests.

This dark vision is countered by gene-editing designer promises of virtual immortality and super-wise beings programming super-intelligent machines, enabling a life of leisure, luxury, and security for all.

Whether the reality of such a scientistic future would be also dark is a matter of conjecture, but from a survival perspective, it offers an optimistic scenario.

On political levels, a similar set of polar scenarios are gaining ground in the moral imagination, producing national leaders who seem comfortable embracing an apocalyptic telos without a second thought.

The peoples of the world, entrapped in a predatory phase of global capitalism, are using their democratic prerogative to shut down dissent, rationality, and science. Read the rest of this entry »

Living in Dystopian Times

By Richard Falk

Prefatory Note
The text below is drawn from a talk given at the Spring Festival of the Arts in Beirut, Lebanon on 15 June 2017. Comments welcome.

How can we understand the present unfolding world order, with special reference to its relevance for developments in the Middle East? In my view a fundamental reversal of political expectations has taken place that calls for a new assessment of what is going on, and where the region and the world seem to be heading.

Twenty-five years ago there were three widely held beliefs about future trends on a global level: the assured preeminence of the United States; the continuing globalization of the world economy; and the expanding democratization of national governance arrangements.

It was also assumed that these trends were more or less descriptive of regional realities, including the Middle East.

Each of these trends that seemed so descriptive 25 years ago now seems to be completely out of touch with what is happening around us that is very disappointing when compared with earlier expectations, no where more so than in the Middle East.

These disillusioning changes of perception are contributing to a growing anxiety about what the future portends for all of us.

In addition to these changes of expectation as to international behavioral patterns, there exist a cluster of deeper tensions that concern the very nature of the human condition, extending to challenges directed at the sustainability and quality of life on the planet.

One unfortunate consequence of the preoccupation with these disturbing recent international political realities is that much needed attention is diverted away from these more fundamental issues of an ecological, technological, and cultural character.

As an American, I am especially conscious of the enormous and costly diversionary impact that the Trump presidency is having in weakening the understanding and planning needed if humanity is to have any realistic chance of coping with these emerging threats of great magnitude that have never been confronted in the past.

The most serious menace posed by Donald Trump, who is most accurately regarded as the first right-wing populist tweeting demagogue of the digital age, is his extraordinary talent to shift the conversation from the awkwardly significant to the banal trivial.

He is exerting a great influence on public discourse not only in America but in the world, especially by diluting our perceptions of crucial issues affecting the human species as a whole, including climate change as connected to the related decline of biodiversity, automation, robotics, artificial intelligence, and the destabilizing effects of these technologies of the digital age especially when applied to security arrangements and the broad spectrum of societal policies bearing on individual and collective human wellbeing.

Under the weight of these threats it is not surprising that a dystopian moment is beginning to dominate the cultural imagination.

It discloses itself through a fascination with post-apocalyptic films and an interest in older literary dystopias such as Huxley’s Brave New World, Orwell’s 1984, and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaiden’s Tale. These books that imagined a future that is in some respects our present are being widely read and discussed as if guidebooks to a set on conditions that were not anticipated.

Within the American political space the fragility of American democracy was prefigured in Sinclair Lewis’s It Can’t Happen Here as well in scary premonitions of the imminence of digital age fascism put forward in the recent radical feminist post-apocalyptic novel, The Book of Joan (2017) by Lidia Yuknavitch.

Also indicative of the foreboding quality of the prevailing Zeitgeist is a bestselling booklet that is a collection of identifying markers of tyranny by the prominent historian, Timothy Snyder, with a deliberately provocative title and a pedagogical rationale, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century (2017).

This ‘dystopian moment’ is reinforced by the absence of positive scenarios of the future, and the dismissal of the utopian imagination as worse than irrelevant because it allegedly created receptivity to promises that when translated into political reality produce totalitarian nightmares.

In effect, utopias, correctly understood, have themselves become in these dark times a disguised form of dystopia.

A recovery of societal confidence is a key precondition of envisioning a better future. Its loss is one dimension of the crisis confronting humanity at this time, and these days such failures of moral and political imagination are generally overlooked in the public sphere that is obsessively focused on the latest daily episode in the Trump political soap opera.

Naomi Klein reminds us in a recent interview, “Trump is not the crisis but the symptom of the crisis.” The point is that we must make the effort to grasp the social and political forces that gave rise to Trump and Trumpism. Klein also insisted that the negativity of progressive thinking in recent decades has had little political traction because it fails to present a positive alternative to the angry negativity of right-wing populism that targets the established order.

Klein’s new book has the title No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need.

Her text impressively couples a necessary critique of Trump’s pernicious leadership with an affirmative vision of how to move the political process in emancipatory directions. Read the rest of this entry »

Hiroshimadagen 2017

Av Gunnar Westberg

Kärnvapenhotet ökar. I det läget blir det nyligen träffade avtalet som förbjuder kärnvapen ännu viktigare, menar Gunnar Westberg, Svenska Läkare mot Kärnvapen och TFF styrelsemedlem

Varför har det inte blivit något kärnvapenkrig sedan bomberna föll över Hiroshima och Nagasaki år 1945? Varför använde inte Sovjet atomvapen i Afghanistan, inte USA i Vietnam eller Irak? Jo, därför att alla inser att kärnvapen är en särskild klass av vapen, med alltför förfärande humanitära konsekvenser, som inte kan jämföras med några andra. ”Jag förlorar hellre kriget i Vietnam än tar till atomvapen” sade president Lyndon Johnson. Man menade under det kalla kriget att kärnvapen inte är till för att användas utan enbart för avskräckning.

”Vi har lärt oss leva med bomben och måste fortsätta med den”– det är en föreställning som har blivit en självklarhet för många, särskilt i kärnvapenstaterna. Dessvärre grundar sig denna uppfattning på okunnighet. Man är inte medveten om att världen under det kalla kriget vid flera tillfällen var nära ett globalt kärnvapenkrig som kunde ha ödelagt hela den mänskliga civilisationen.

Risken består även idag. Ett kärnvapenkrig kan startas av misstag och missförstånd, men också genom angrepp på internet av ”hackers”. Är vi säkra på att inte en desperat ledare kan komma att ”trycka på knappen”? Under Watergate-skandalen yrade en berusad president Nixon om att han hade den möjligheten. Så länge kärnvapnen finns kvar finns risken att de används.

Många anser att faran av ett kärnvapenkrig ökar för närvarande. Den ryske presidenten Vladimir Putin har vid flera tillfällen sagt att om Nato anfaller ryskt intresseområde skulle han överväga att använda ”några kärnvapen” som varning.

USA rustar upp sina kärnvapen i Europa. För närvarande är dessa flygplansburna vapen av typen ”fritt fallande bomber”. Nu moderniseras de emellertid till styrbara kärnvapenmissiler med god precision. De har enligt tillverkaren en förmåga att tränga ner i marken några meter innan de detonerar. Därigenom blir de effektiva mot ledningscentraler och missil-silos och får en uppgift vid ett ”lokalt kärnvapenkrig på den europeiska teatern”.

Det förefaller alltså som om USA/Nato och Ryssland nu är på väg tillbaka till sextiotalets kärnvapenstrategi: Kärnvapnen är inte längre enbart avskräckande, utan kärnvapnen kan användas som ett vapen bland andra.

Insikten om detta problem präglar den nyligen utgivna rapporten från Försvarets forskningsinstitut ”Kärnvapen för slagfältsbruk och europeisk säkerhet”. Där tar man det ryska kärnvapenhotet på stort allvar. Man vill att Sverige skall förbereda sig med ett ”försvar” mot ett kärnvapenanfall. Detta är, menar jag, inte möjligt.

Även ett litet antal ”små” taktiska kärnvapen, kanske lika ”små” som bomben mot Hiroshima, skulle åstadkomma en ofantlig skada. Skyddsrum mot kärnvapen är värdelösa mot atomvapen, detta lärde vi oss redan på sextiotalet. Att sprida ut det svenska militära försvaret inför ett eventuellt kärnvapenanfall är också meningslöst; då skulle en angripare bara öka antalet kärnvapen. Tillgången är obegränsad.

I detta läge är det nyligen – 7 juli i år – träffade FN-avtalet som förbjuder kärnvapen synnerligen viktigt. Read the rest of this entry »

TFF PressInfo # 422: You’re invited to the Nuclear Denial Party!

By Jan Oberg

Lund, Sweden – Hiroshima Day, August 6, 2017





Welcome to the Nuclear Denial Party!!

Since marketing, omitted and fake news have – to a worrying extent – replaced knowledge and ethics, why not celebrate that the media have omitted every mention of Hiroshima Day today?

Why not celebrate that all the responsible NATO countries and all other (less responsible) nuclear powers refuse to work for a nuclear ban and abolition as well as for general and complete disarmament?  

Why not celebrate the decade-long self-deception that we can stop nuclear proliferation while being silent about nuclear possession?

Why not recognise with joy that there is an evil terrorism such as ISIS that we must fight and a good terrorism called ‘nuclear balance of terror’ that we must embrace – and that killing a few in the Middle East is much worse than planning to kill millions upon millions of innocent civilians worldwide and for a surely noble cause?

Why not laud the politico-media trick that the world’s attention is on non-nuclear Iran and not on nuclear Israel?

Why not appreciate the moral victory that we have – as civilisation – made slavery illegal, abolished absolute monarchy and put cannibalism behind us but – thank God! – haven’t given up the ultimate, death-and-destruction Omnicide weapons?

Why not feel good that Trump, Putin, Jinping, Macron, May etc. all play God and take the best care of the rest of us by deciding whether or not to continue project Humanity? They are all reliable, rational and moral leaders, so why not just be happy that we don’t have to worry!

Why not be grateful that there have been no more drunk commanders in nuclear facilities, panicking leaders, false nuclear warnings, technical failures, deficient floppy disk computers and no more nukes dropped inadvertently than we have heard of?

And why not, finally, see how fortunate it is that no referendum has ever been held by citizens in nuclear states. I mean, if the people had been allowed to say ‘No!’ we had hardly been so safe as we are today and instead had wasted trillions of dollars on making the world a better place for us all.

So, at the end of the day why should we not celebrate that – in spite of all this stupidity, immorality and nuclear dictatorship – 72 years into the Nuclear Age you and I are still alive?

 

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