The Enemy of Humanity
Der Feind der Menschlichkeit
freie Walldorfschule Wieblingen:
After 37 years in uniform I took early retirement in 1994. My last assignment was as Commander in Chief for all of America’s nuclear forces and my last task to limit them. The Cold War was over, we could begin to reduce the cost of nuclear modernization, we canceled 40 billion dollars of new programs and took nuclear bombers off alert after 30 years. That was my personal recommendation and it was accepted by the President.
|1) With a profound sense of relief I hung my uniform in the closet, determined to close the military chapter of my life and never again to speak publicly on military issues. Only two and a half years later, I changed my decision. I was prompted by an inner voice I could not still, by a concern I could not quiet. It had had a long time coming, but over time I developed a deeply held conviction — that a world free of the threat of nuclear weapons is necessarily a world devoid of nuclear weapons. ||1) ||2) I had retired with a fair amount of confidence that the process of disarming was well underway. Yet over the ensuing two years, I became increasingly dismayed by the way in which huge bureaucracies function, driven by hundreds of thousands of people who have a personal stake in things not changing. While this is human nature, in this setting the consequences are potential devastation of both humanity and nature. I had to share my professional experience and my conclusions.||2) ||3) Over the last 27 years of my military career, I had been involved in every aspect of American nuclear policymaking from advice to the government to military command centers, from cramped bomber cockpits to the suffocating confines of ballistic missile submarines. I certified hundreds of crews for their nuclear mission and I approved thousands of targets for potential nuclear destruction. I investigated a dismaying array of accidents and incidents involving strategic weapons and forces. I read a library of books and intelligence reports on the former Soviet Union and what we believed to be its capabilities and intentions. As an advisor to the President on the employment of nuclear weapons, I anguished over the complexities, the profound moral dilemmas and the mind-numbing consequences of decisions which would put the very survival of our planet at stake.||3) ||4) The first time I saw a film of the explosion of a nuclear weapon it had made an unforgettable impact on me. I could not forget it and my dismay grew as over the years I studied the devastating effects of nuclear weapons in great detail. Everyone knows the image of the nuclear mushroom, but it was part of my duty in developing war plans to understand and be intimately familiar with the precise effects on people, constructions and nature. ||4) ||5) I don’t think there has ever been a worse dilemma than the exchange of nuclear weapons. We found ourselves caught up in a situation where the rational response to a nuclear attack was to reply with nuclear weapons. There would be no winners in this exchange and we knew our reply would mean the death of a hundred million people. This is a logic without rationality, and the flaw lies already in the fatal idea of deterrence. The consequences are terrible even if deterrence with conventional weapons fails, but with nuclear weapons the failure of deterrence means that there is no hope of recovery or recuperation. It is totally final and therein lies the dilemma that I felt to the depth of my being.||5) ||6) In earlier years, I weighed the destructiveness of these weapons against the severity and urgency of the communist threat, and found that the latter clearly outweighed the former. Now at a comfortable distance from the Cold War we need to think more deeply about the costs and risks that were run and how this way of thinking could have ever been seen as rational. It is essential to analyze and apply the lessons of this frightful period.||6) ||7) Back in the late 60s, when I was teaching at the Air Force Academy, there was a lot of discussion around ABM, a system for defense against intercontinental missiles. The conclusion was that you couldn’t protect the nation properly against such missiles and out of this was born a strategy where we would respond by erasing the enemy nation, so-called Mutual Assured Destruction. For someone whose profession was the nation’s security, something was terribly wrong with this bargain. I could never be satisfied with this security concept, based on a far from infallible deterrence, knowing that a failure would mean the utter devastation of the nation.
8) From then on I began to struggle with what I now see clearly as a host of contradictions in nuclear deterrence. My internal struggle intensified in 1974 when I went to the Pentagon to work in the arms control business. I began to see nuclear deterrence as a large, complex puzzle with a number of big pieces of great complexity. I was introduced piece by piece to the puzzle. It took me from the late 1960s until late 80s to see them all. It took me 20 years to make that journey, from piece to piece to piece. At the end of the journey my conclusion was that not only did the puzzle itself not make sense, the individual pieces were themselves flawed. There was no way to put the puzzle together rationally. ||7) ||9) And it was precisely at this point where I ended up with responsibility for most of the pieces and the opportunity through bold action to clearly demonstrate our will to put the Cold War behind us.||8) ||10) It had, indeed, been a period of crazy risks. I was fully convinced that deterrence could go wrong. We acted like a player of Russian roulette, who pulls the trigger of the pistol ten times and then declares: Look, it isn’t dangerous at all. The roulette was excessively dangerous and arrogant. The Cuban crisis in 1962 was not the only case where the world was inches away from devastation; there were many similarly dangerous situations. One type was the recurrent malfunctioning of electronic detection and communication systems. It is a wonder that we got through alive. Nuclear deterrence is a gamble that some time will be lost.||9) ||11) The terrible truth is that none of us really understood the actual risks and consequences. Not the US presidents, who carried the burdening responsibility for decisions on war. The nuclear planning was so complex and the presentations so superficial that the presidents did not ask the right questions. Hardly anyone discovered the reality that the war planners were calculating explosive power only and not all the other enormous consequences of a nuclear attack. ||10) ||12) It should not be surprising that no one could have been more relieved than was I by the dramatic end to the Cold War. The democratization of Russia and the rapid acceleration of arms-control agreements were miraculous events- events that I never imagined would happen in my lifetime. I could see for the first time the prospect of restoring a world free of the apocalyptic threat of nuclear weapons. ||13) The sense of profound satisfaction with which I departed my military career was steadily eroded in the ensuing months and years. Time and human nature were wearing away at the sense of wonder and closing the window of opportunity. Options were being lost as urgent questions were marginalized, as out-moded routines perpetuate Cold-War habits and thinking and as a new generation of nuclear actors and aspirants lurch backward into the dark world we so narrowly escaped without a nuclear holocaust.||14) What then does the future hold? How do we proceed? Can a consensus be formed that nuclear weapons have no defensible role? That the political and human consequences of their employment transcends any assertive military utility? That as weapons of mass destruction, the case for their elimination is a thousand-fold stronger and more urgent than for deadly chemicals and viruses, already widely declared illegitimate? ||15) I would not have challenged prevailing policies if I did not believe that such a consensus is possible. That it is imperative and that it in fact grows daily. I see it in the reports issued from highly respected institutions. And in the expert report of the Canberra Commission on the Elimination of Nuclear Weapons, which Australia invited me to join, thereby spurring my views, to crystallize and to come out in the open with them. The possibility was also eloquently voiced by the Nobel Committee when the 1995 Peace Prize was awarded to Joseph Rotblat and the Pugwash Conferences. I believe that a swelling chorus of reason and resentment will eventually turn the tide.||16) But where do we begin? What steps can governments take, responsibly recognizing that policy makers must always balance a host of competing priorities and interests.||17) First and foremost, is for the declared nuclear states to accept that the Cold War is in fact over. To break free of the attitudes, the habits and the practices that perpetuate enormous inventories, nuclear forces still standing alert and targeting plans encompassing thousands of aim-points. ||18) Second, for the undeclared nuclear states to embrace the harsh lessons of the Cold War. That nuclear weapons are inherently dangerous, hugely expensive, militarily inefficient and morally indefensible. That nuclear war is a raging insatiable beast whose instincts and appetites we pretend to understand but cannot possibly control.||19) Third, given its crucial leadership role, it is imperative for the United States to undertake now a sweeping review, led by the White House, of nuclear policies and strategies. The Clinton administration’s 1993 nuclear posture review was essential, but far from sufficient, and purposely avoided the larger and more difficult policy questions. It sent an overt message of mistrust in an era when building a positive security relationship with Russia is arguably our single most important foreign-policy concern. It codified force levels and postures completely out of keeping with the profound transformation we have witnessed in world affairs and it perpetuated an unwillingness to proceed immediately toward negotiation of greatly reduced levels of strategic forces.||20) A first practical step of fundamental importance, which we set forth in the Canberra report, is taking nuclear weapons off of hair-trigger alert and separating their warheads into secure storage.
Steps must be taken now, which will reduce needless risks and terminate Cold-War practices with a whole world living under the fear of mutual assured destruction. Such a world was and is intolerable. We are not condemned to repeat 40 years at the nuclear brink. We can do better than condone nuclear weapons as the ultimate arbiter of conflict. The price already paid is too dear. The risks run too great. The nuclear beast must be chained; its sole expunged; its lair laid waste. The task is daunting, but we cannot shrink from it. The opportunity may not come again.|