Indefensible Weapons
by Robert Jay Lifton and Richard Falk

Essentially two books or essays: the first appeals to female minds, the second to men. The first, by Lifton, is about the psychological effects of the threat of nuclear weapons. It is mostly psychobabble. The one by Falk is a political and moral case against nuclear weapons and the arms race.

Since a nuclear war could turn everything into nothing, it should be a Buddhist goal.

Nuclear weapons for national security is the reductio ad absurdum of the idea of the state.

The nuclear weapons defense strategy requires centralization of power in the executive branch of the state and secrecy that makes public and even congressional oversight futile.

Liberals opposed development of anti-missile missiles because such defensive weapons would destabilize the balance of threats between the super-powers and might encourage the Soviets to initiate an attack before the defensive shield could be implemented or might encourage American war planners to initiate an attack in the belief that America could win WW III.

Richard Falk Quotations

The junior personnel at SAC "seemed to be virtual extensions of the computer terminals they were seated at, as close to robots as I have seen. ... The personnel chosen to operate sensitive equipment associated with nuclear weapons were supposed to be selected, in part, on the basis of their absence of moral scruple. The express idea was that individuals with an active conscience might hesitate in a crisis to follow orders leading to nuclear war, that such soldiers would, in this decisive military sense, be unreliable." (130)

... what passes for peace in the nuclear age is entrusted to human beings who are certainly fallible and may quite possibly be clinically disturbed but who are shielded from the scrutiny of citizens by unchallengeable bureaucratic arrangements. (132)

... the drift toward nuclearism has gone virtually unchallenged in the inner counsels of government. Those few experts who did not share the nuclearist consensus were kept out of the corridors of power (136)

The United States Government at the time seized and suppressed films and other evidence of atomic horrors. Even more revealingly, families of several American citizens who were in Hiroshima and killed by the bomb were never told about the place or circumstances of death. Even back in 1945 it was difficult for a democratic government to acknowledge the reality of what was "achieved," but by refusing to acknowledge what had occurred to its own citizens, it was at the outset of the nuclear age entering into and adversary relationship with the public on the most crucial issue of policy facing the nation and thereby undermining the democratic relationship. (137)

Many social forces have conspired through the decades to make our presidents into kings when it comes to war making (140)

In 1982 Ronald Reagan, referring to himself in the position of President said, "only in this position do you have all the facts necessary to base decisions upon action" (146)

... only the president "reads the cables" and, hence, knows enough to act prudently to defend vital interests, including the avoidance of nuclear war. (147)

Occasionally we get glimpses of a vicious type of nuclear-age paternalism in which the state discloses its resolve to act as it deems appropriate regardless of what the citizenry may deem desirable. (147)

It is a sign of cultural and moral decadence that out war thinkers continue to vindicate relative force levels by arguing about the effects of civil defense programs, relative dispersion of population and industry, and comparative times to recover from nuclear attack. To suppose that any political result could possibly be worth relying on such "advantage" is to treat an extreme absurdity as if it were a rational basis for government policy. (148—149)

To the extent that "security" is associated with a discretionary option to threaten or even to use nuclear weapons, a government embraces a policy of terror on the largest imaginable scale. (152)

In effect, nuclearizing security breeds acute insecurity among nations and their population. To move toward genuine security will require us to find intelligent and effective ways to denuclearize security. (169)

To a large extent, the defense strategy is designed to keep the weapons rather than the people secure: "Money is wasted, anxiety created, and a false consciousness shaped by accepting the essential thinking that underlies keeping the TRIAD (rather than the country) secure."

(The TRIAD is: (1) long-range bombers, (2) submarines, and (3) ground-launched missiles.)
We now possess strong documentation for the assertion that every president going back to Truman and up through Nixon has actually threatened, usually in a secret communication, the use of nuclear weapons so as to control the behavior of adversaries. A partial list of instances includes Truman's threats to use nuclear weapons in Iran (1946) and Korea (1950); Eisenhower's nuclear threats or preparations in Korea and China (1953), offering the French three atomic bombs for use in Indochina (1954), preparation and threats in relation to the landing of marines in Lebanon (1958), and the defense of the off-shore Chinese islands of Quemoy/Matsu (1958): Kennedy's consideration and threat of nuclear weapons in relation to Laos (1961), Berlin (1961), and Cuba (1962); Johnson's consideration at the time of the Khe Sanh siege in Vietnam (1968); and Nixon's repeated threats to Vietnamese negotiators (1969—1972). (179)

Whereas the standard atomic bombs of World War II variety has an explosive magnitude of 20,000 tons of TNT, the Super could (and would) attain magnitudes of 1 to 35 million tons, with even larger capabilities possible. Put differently, a Super would have an explosive yield of 50 to 1750 Hiroshima Equivalents. On such a scale, the terroristic character of warfare could no longer be doubted. (202)

Another persisting feature of the nuclear national security state also was exhibited by the momentous decision to build the H-bomb. The citizenry and, even, Congress were effectively denied any voice or role, despite the absence of any pressing emergency or a circumstance of war. (205)

The end of war implies, in effect, the displacement of Machiavellianism by a holistic world picture. (245)

The nuclear national security state is a new, as yet largely unanalyzed, phenomenon in the long history of political forms. Being constantly ready to commit the nation (and the planet!) to a devastating war of annihilation in a matter of minutes on the basis of possibly incorrect computer-processed information or pathological traits among leaders creates a variety of structural necessities that contradict the spirit and substance of democratic governance: secrecy, lack of accountability, permanent emergency, concentration of authority, peacetime militarism, extensive apparatus of state intelligence and police. No King ever concentrated in his being such absolute authority over human destiny, not just in relation to his own people but for humanity as a whole. (262)

The unconditional claim by finite, fallible human beings to inflict holocaustal devastation on an unlimited scale for the sake of national interests and on behalf of any particular state is an acute variety of idolatry—treating the limited and conditional as if it were unlimited and unconditional. (262)

Year Read: 1997


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