Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Nuclear Annihilation Gambit

One of the most frequently retailed "truths" during the presidential campaign was that Mrs. Clinton would surely get us into a nuclear war with Russia -- and Mr. Trump would save us from it.

I find that this "truth" is still being widely retailed as a defense of Trump. Some commenters maintain that this "truth" alone was sufficient reason to vote for him and to cleave loyally to him, come what may.

It's completely irrational. It's still being promoted as if it were established fact, but there never was any truth to it. It is no more true that Mrs. Clinton would get us into a nuclear war with Russia than Mr. Trump  saved us from it.

I've tried to briefly explain why that is so in other fora, but it's not an easy concept for some people to grasp. They are so convinced of the "truth" they've been fed about the certainty of Mrs. Clinton's nuclear warmongering and the salvation of Mr. Trump's lack of belligerence toward Russia  that they  simply can't wrap their minds around the idea that neither of them were advocating or trying to start nuclear war with Russia, and that there is a constant and inherent risk of nuclear war regardless of who is in the White House. It's simply a fact that the United States and Russia are not the only nuclear players on the face of the earth.

It is particularly difficult for those who didn't live through the Cold War to recognize what was going on with all the Putin-bashing and Russia blaming from the Clinton campaign. Its devolution since the election is frankly bizarre.

First: based on their campaign rhetoric, neither Mrs. Clinton nor Mr. Trump was likely to launch a nuclear first strike against Russia.

Second: there was no sign whatever that anyone in the Kremlin, least of all Tovarich Putin, was in any way inclined to launch a nuclear attack against the US.

Third: the anti-Russia/anti-Putin campaign rhetoric and propaganda used by Mrs. Clinton and her surrogates was transparent, often ridiculous, over the top, ill-advised and potentially very dangerous.

Fourth: on the other hand, it was a tried and true tactic directly out of the Cold War play book. It's called Brinkmanship. Dr. Kissinger was one of its chief practitioners back in the day. Dr. Kissinger and Mrs. Clinton were/are buddies.

Fifth: Brinkmanship was practiced throughout the Cold War. The threat of instant incineration and mutually assured destruction over both the Soviet Union and the United States was used as a negotiating tactic in order to establish and sustain a certain dynamic tension and world order. So long as the Soviet Union was able to project strength and wisdom as a counter to US imperialism and greed, neither side was able to fully dominate the other. It was in the interests of both to find accommodation. They did so, over and over again.

Sixth: Mrs. Clinton was not about to launch a nuclear first strike against anyone; Mr. Trump showed no interest in launching a nuclear first strike against Russia.

Seventh: if there is a nuclear first strike, it would more likely be launched by Israel or Pakistan, both of which are under increasing social, political, economic and emotional strain and both of which have governments that perceive an existential threat to their national existence -- from both internal and external forces.

Eighth: if a nuclear attack is launched by one of the other nuclear armed states, it would present a clear and present danger and an almost insoluble dilemma for both the US and Russia. I'm sure it's all been gamed out by both governments, but what would be done in the actual event is an open question.

Ninth: a US president does not have independent authority to launch a nuclear first strike. It would be incumbent for anyone receiving such an order to disobey. Mrs. Clinton could not launch a nuclear first strike on her own, and she knows it. Mr. Trump may or may not know it. He may not care.

Tenth: Brinkmanship as practiced by the Clinton campaign and as is still being retailed by neocons, parts of the government intelligence community and the media is stupid, counter productive, and borderline insane. But it never meant that Mrs. Clinton would launch a nuclear attack or that Mr. Trump would prevent one.

The idea that she would and he wouldn't is an article of faith. It has no basis in reality or truth.

Here's part  of the reason why:

Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Trump and I all grew up during the Cold War. Mr. Trump is two years older than Mrs. Clinton and I, and his educational and social experience during the 50s and 60s particular is very different than those of us who were students in public school -- like Mrs. Clinton and I were.

Public school students all over the country were conditioned to fear and loathe the Soviet Union and Communism and to anticipate nuclear annihilation at any time. Because the Soviets were Evil, we were told to believe that they wanted to conquer and exterminate us. Were it not for the strength and resolve of our leaders in Washington and our firm belief in our system of capitalism and democracy, they would win.

Of course this was all propaganda. My fifth grade teacher essentially said as much after we were exposed to yet another anti-Soviet propaganda film in the cafetorium. He was, of course, investigated for Communist sympathies and other purported crimes... that's the way things were then.

We weren't told and we weren't supposed to know what was actually going on in the world. But as we got older, we learned more and more of what lay behind the curtain.

Our rulers were playing a game with the Soviet Union, a game which the Soviets were playing as well. It was a game of dominance, but the intent was stalemate. In other words, the point was to keep a certain level of threat and tension between the two superpowers without leading to nuclear holocaust.

When the Soviet Union dissolved, that game of necessity stopped. Without a Soviet threat, without a Communist enemy, the US governmental premise itself came close to collapsing. There was no purpose to much of the US government anymore.

It took the designation of Iraq and Iran and ultimately most of the Muslim Middle East, South Asia and North Africa as Enemies du Jour to restore in confidence in the intelligence and military sectors that they had some purpose and meaning.

And it's been a shit - show ever since.

When the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia were sufficiently wrecked, attention turned to Russia as the next target for the wrecking crews. There have long been plans in the MIC/Intelligence community to dismantle the Russian Federation and loot whatever remains of state and private wealth, in order -- they say -- to prevent the rise of any rival to US hegemony. I understand that China is also on the list for dismantlement.

Supposedly any potential rival will face the same treatment in the by and bye.

While some of our ruling clique are convinced that a nuclear war is desirable and survivable, most clearly are not. Mr Trump and Mrs Clinton both have nuclear survivalists in their policy shops, but there never was any sign that those men and women were in charge of policy.

A complicating factor with Russia is Edward Snowden's asylum there. Until that happened, Russia and Putin were at least nominal "partners" with the US in world affairs. Maybe it was at arms length, maybe it was a tense relationship, but it was not overtly hostile most of the time.

When Snowden was granted asylum and provided a highly public internet platform by his hosts, all that changed.

And so here we are.

If the Ukrainian Nazis had access to nuclear weapons, I have little doubt they would have glassed Moscow and Leningrad long ago. Provided of course that Kiev hadn't been turned into a radioactive ruin first.

The danger of nuclear annihilation is a constant. We are not free of it no matter who is in the White House, but the likelihood of either Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton launching a nuclear first strike against Russia -- or provoking the Kremlin into launching a first strike against the US -- has always been next to nil.

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