Newsletter No. 18
Can Superman save us? Superman is beaten 2 minute fun watch.
When we compare the fervour with which NZ approached the threat of nuclear weapons in the 1980’s, with the almost total lack of concern shown today, one realises that there must no longer be a nuclear threat hanging over us!
One of my subscriptions is to the journal of the NZ Institute of International Affairs. In the last issue, Gerald Hensley, who was Bolger and Shipley’s Secretary of Defence throughout the 1990s, wrote an article in praise of the security offered by the US alliance. In it, he remarked “…nuclear war and the fears it gave rise to are now much less likely.” While it is pleasant to hear from a defence pundit, who is not paranoid – this one has perhaps gone too far in his complacency?
Currently three major risks face human society. A future pandemic could wipe out say 50% of the human population. Unaddressed, climate change will (as could a fully-escalated nuclear war) albeit over a much longer period, wipe out 80 – 100%. A nuclear war would immediately change the climate and cause more deaths than the worst imaginable pandemic. Even were it ‘a low possibility’ the precautionary principle would demand a full effort to avoid such a disaster.
The present event of a relatively low-mortality and low-morbidity pandemic has demonstrated the knock-on potential of such disruptions to instigate conflict. If a ‘mild dose of flu’ can so set the wheels of a putative war between the USA and China whirring, what will be the effect of climate change, when it starts to make major inroads on the economies of nuclear powers? Nuclear war, given that a nuclear mistake could happen next week, is the most urgent of the three threats facing humanity. It is also, the one that happens to be the lowermost in the public mind. I am not alone in my estimation of the risk:
The Doomsday Clock was initiated at seven minutes to midnight in 1947 by the scientists responsible for the first nuclear weapons. According to Wikipedia, “the clock was set at two minutes to midnight in January 2018, and left unchanged in 2019 due to the twin threats of nuclear weapons and the increasing effects of global warming. On 23 January 2020, it was moved forward to 100 seconds (1 minute 40 seconds) before midnight, based on the increased threats to global stability posed by “a nuclear blunder”, exacerbated by the rate of climate change.” These are factors for consideration. 8 minute read
Firstly, we are entering a period in which the theory of the Thucydides Trap has gained dominance in the US defence community. This argument, based on historical precedent, claims that conflict between the hegemonic power (the USA) and the incoming, wannabe power (China) is almost inevitable. It could well prove to be a self-fulfilling prophesy. In such time of rapidly rising international instability, the likelihood of nuclear accident or strategic misjudgment is heightened. 18 minute watch
Secondly, obsessed (as well it might be) with containing China’s growing superiority across all competitive fields (technology, economy, currency, education, social system, etc.) the USA seems determined to retrofit China into the former global arms-control architecture that was erected with the Russian nuclear armoury in mind. In its attempt to achieve this, the USA, while talking of resuming its own nuclear testing and boosting its expenditure on upgrading its already vast nuclear arsenal, seems to have embarked on the unilateral dismantling of all existing arms control agreements. arms control
It appears that the aim is to so frighten China that it will feel forced to enter a new tripartite agreement with the USA and Russia, in which China will be placed at a permanent strategic disadvantage.
China’s position is that it won’t discuss such a deal until the USA and Russia have reduced their nuclear armouries to the same level as China’s relatively modest arsenal. It seems inevitable that there will now be an interim, just as the capacity to wage nuclear war is being expanded, during which nuclear controls and confidence building machinery will be much reduced. Confidence? It is hard to argue that nuclear war is less likely under these circumstances.
The problems facing disarmament advocates were revealed in detail during the great power negotiations between 1919 and 1939. Can you have disarmament before the nations feel they have security? It was only through a League of Nations that had enforcement teeth that the requisite security could be had – and Britain and the USA were never going to allow that. 5 minute read.
Thirdly, as elephants fight, smaller powers feel less secure about the outcome and the chances of nuclear proliferation increase. Proliferation North Korea, Israel, India and Pakistan have already gone there. Japan, Australia, Iran and Saudi Arabia are actively debating the possibility. The more fingers on nuclear buttons, the greater the danger of a nuclear weapon being detonated accidentally or intentionally. 4 minute read
Fourthly, under pressure of climate change, of pandemics, and of the USA’s regime change efforts and abuse of the global monetary system to reduce the life prospects of around 40% of the global population, increasing numbers will resort to terrorism, or Millianarianism It’s nutty stuff; I wouldn’t bother to go there 20 minute read
Looking at some of the unscientific belief systems held by some senior officials in the US government, there is no guarantee that personnel, high in the US defence establishment, will not see it as their duty to bring forward the rapture!
Now is not the time to be playing down nuclear dangers. It is the time for lesser nations like New Zealand, to disentangle themselves from nuclear alliances and throw their full diplomatic strength behind the effort to strengthen the mechanisms of global governance and international law.
Environment & Climate Change
Biodegradable bottles A start? 2 minute read
Earth Protection Get inspired! 1 – 6 minute read
Jane Goodall eating habits 3 minute read
Human Rights & Justice
Antifa What is ‘Antifa’ that Trump is now targeting? 4 minute read
American poverty At the back of Black Lives Matter – so does everyone else’s! 3 minute read.
War & Conflict Resolution
A great competition Comparative defence expenditure over the years. 2 minute watch.
CAFCA & the national interest I don’t know how to categorise this, which is clearly a matter of the national interest. 1 minute read