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DECEMBER 10, 2010 8:09PM

The Importance of New START

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Gordian KnotIf the bombardment [of London by V-bombs] really becomes a serious nuisance and great rockets with far-reaching and devastating effect fall on many centres . . . I may certainly have to ask you to support me in using poison gas. We could drench the cities of the Ruhr and many other cities in Germany in such a way that most of the population would be requiring constant medical attention.

            Winston Churchill to the Chiefs of Staff Committee, July 1944

The rain of large sparks, blowing down the street, were each as large as a five-mark piece. I struggled to run against the wind but could only reach a house on the corner of the Sorbenstrasse . . . .[We] couldn’t go on across the Eiffestrasse because the asphalt road had melted. There were people on the roadway, some already dead, some still lying alive but stuck in the asphalt. They must have rushed onto the roadway without thinking. Their feet had got stuck and then they had put out their hands to try to get out again. They were on their hands and knees screaming.

            Kate Hoffmeister, then nineteen, on the firestorm in Hamburg in 1943

History tells us that when the first atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima, some 70,000 lives were snuffed out in a single explosion. What is not commmonly considered, however, is that even before the first nuclear weapon was used, one million people were dying each month during World War II.  In Tokyo, 220 thousand died in only two bombing raids using conventional bombs. The air over Tokyo, Hamburg, and Dresden literally caught fire. 

The question is this:  Is all-out global war, along the lines of 70 years ago a thing of the past?  Perhaps. But it is an equally debatable question as to whether or not the same results - massive global destruction and loss of life - is possible, or even likely as we get further into the 21st century; whether the meme, the behavior of making war, has changed in 5,000 years of recorded history. 

I contend that the massive, global mobilization of armies is probably something that is in truth no longer useful.  Modern weapons of mass destruction are so efficient, so certain to do the job of killing the enemy, that armies are a losing proposition in global warfare. They have been made obsolete. It is a certainty that if the major atomic powers went to war, using all the means at their disposal to inflict death, one million people could die each minute that such a war raged. 

Nevertheless, it is also  just as certain that humanity's propensity to make war  upon itself is as real as it was when it was when Rome salted the earth at Carthage. We need not look far to see the proof of it. 

Our nuclear-equipped enemies, real or percieved,  are no less afraid of us as we are of them. Thousands of atomic and hydrogen warheads  are aimed at both the United States and Russia and for that reason, the leaders of both countries have negotiated a way to untie the Gordian Knot of endless numbers of atomic weapons threatening each country.

The Strategic Arms  Treaty (New START) recently negotiated between President Obama's administration and the Russians aims to verifiably reduce nuclear weapons inventories, with the goal of dispensing with them altogether at some point.

But once again, the hawkish (and largely civilian) voices within the halls of Congress are raising the red flag, asserting that any bargaining with the rest of the world must be done from a position of strength, which strength emanates from the possession of enough destructive power to incinerate the planet. Whether the Senate will constitutionally ratify the New START treaty is very questionable, given the near total gridlock within that body. 

It may be that we Americans will be the ones who prevent a more secure peace among the major powers from breaking out. The writers of histories will not be very kind to us. Worse, the continued existence of these horrific weapons will shade our foreign policy thinking for years to come, should the world somehow figure out a way to keep from blowing itself up.

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You get it just right, like Steve K said.
A lot of generals support the treaty, and they are not pinko-commies, and I am the biggest critic around of Putin, but it is a smart deal.

I'm sure the bell shaped curve applies equally to members of congress as it does in everything else. You suggest that MOC's are "malleable" and indeed some surely are, but I've known more than a few MOC's and some of them were very sharp cookies.

A good MOC will hire high level staff which can climb into their heads and convert their politics into actionable work. In that sense, you have a point indeed, but getting good staff is a very important part of doing the job.

In a general sense, I respectfully disagree that a senator operates entirely at the advice of his staff. I think that the cart (staff) follows the horse in most cases. The member has a point of view and the staff fleshes that POV out.
I appreciate your writing on this difficult subject.
I completely agree with you that we are a great hindrance to peace in the world.

With that said, I don't think WWII or the Cold War really ended. Instead of being in direct gridlock with Russia, we are now in gridlock with countries that are aligned with them: i.e. Iran & North Korea. Did you see in the news today that Nth Korea has sent one of its diplomats to Russia? ...
Great Post. It will be a shame if all he work done all these years just because tehy don't want to give Obama a second term, they've as much said so. We also need to quit building Star War weapons while fighting an insurgant enemy that are using weapons from the war they had with the Soviet Union! (love that avatar)
Yes, it's important. I'm more than a little bit of the opinion that the START and other treaties governing nuclear arms only move through the generations in their development according to an implicit recognition of an across-the-board increase in lethality. So when we moved from first strike mobile to partially mobile forces, us and the Russians (the Soviets way back then) cut a deal to reduce the number of warheads. But the lethality of our arsenals went up. When we moved to a fully mobile, tactical capability, we had to wait for the Russians (now) to catch up, and sign a new round of reductions. There were intermediate plateaus in there too. But the lethality is still quite great, reduced from where it was before, but then the weapons are more accurate and arrayed to hit different targets depending on altered scenarios (like a multiple warhead terrorist attack, I'm sure, despite the unlikelihood of that--those consultants are thorough...and well paid). So this makes the reduction game, based as it is on number of warheads and not lethality or tactical advancements, seem a lot less impressive. We can still blow each other to kingdom come, and get there a lot faster, and be more certain of our arrival, today than we were 30 or 40 years ago. But yeah, we should sign the damn treaty.
START is a good deal and fewer weapons in Russia is a really good idea. You know where the Chechens got their arms at the beginning of their fight for independence? From the Russians, the army they were fighting.
No, START is not important , because it does very little to reduce the possiblity of "A million casualties a minute". It is simply a fraudulent charade to convince the sheep that "Something Is Being Done", while it is in fact not. I rember a discussion with a knowledgable Physicist in the 1960s telling me about how the US had the power to totally annihilate the Soviets 4000 times over, while they, poor incomptents that they were, merely had the power to totally annihilate the US a paltry 1000 times over. What we have to work on is to get acceptance for the idea that murder should be illegal for anyone at all. However unpopular such an idea is, it is really the only way: making it illegal, period.
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