There ARE Alternatives to War (A Personal Commitment to the World Beyond War Initiative)

by Joe Scarry

The present confrontation between “the West” (i.e. the US/NATO military alliance) and Russia over Ukraine is a case in point that illustrates what the thousands of people who have committed themselves to the World Beyond War movement are committed to.

WorldBeyondWar.org @WorldBeyondWar
THERE *ARE* ALTERNATIVES to #war:

“#Ukraine ceasefire deal agreed at Belarus talks”

There is no denying that there is conflict within Ukraine and there is no question that Russia is involved.

There is also no denying that Ukraine now sticks out like a sore thumb as a remaining contested space in a process of Western power creep that has been taking place in Eastern Europe since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

NATO’s eastward expansion — 1990 vs. 2009

The news in the US is full of Russia and Ukraine and Putin and Crimea, and I recognize in myself a curiosity and thrill at learning about this new, exotic part of the world. Unfortunately, this is a movie I’ve seen a growing number of times in the last decade — the U.S. dazzles the public with “foreign-conflict-as-entertainment,” and the public loses sight of the big picture.

The big picture — the forest for the trees — is that we have to de-escalate conflict, not engage in one-upsmanship. This is particularly true in the US-Russia relationship, where job #1 is theelimination of the two countries respective nuclear arsenals.

The World Beyond War initiative is aimed at encouraging everyone to stay focused on the key point: there ARE alternatives to war, and when we are able to proceed with those alternatives, we CAN succeed in achieving peace.

Four people who discovered the truth of this statement are François Hollande, Angela Merkel, Petro Poroshenko, and Vladimir Putin. When they met in Minsk and talked, they were able to achieve a ceasefire in Ukraine.

Peace is not a one-shot deal. It involves a continuous process. A process of choosing the alternatives to war.

There are already an AMAZING number of people around the US and around the world who have committed themselves to choosing these alternatives — and they’re doing so in more ways than you can imagine.  Over the days and weeks ahead, World Beyond War will be lifting up these alternatives and the way people are pursuing them, and encouraging everyone to #choosepeace.

TAKE ACTION
Sign up at  worldbeyondwar.org and tell others.

Like World Beyond War on  Facebook and join the conversation.Follow @WorldBeyondWar on Twitter and #choosepeace

 

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Poem: The Nuclear Nine

They are The Nuclear Nine–the ones with the Bomb.
They can trigger The End
at any time.
A mad leader, a mistake, miscalculation
buttons are pushed, and well,
there it isn’t. Gone.

Fast death for some,
slow for others.
Those with money might go underground
or maybe New Zealand if the wind
hasn’t shifted. Hoping against hope.

Those in the cities have a few minutes to panic
and melt.
In the hinterlands long struggles
with a slower demise,
poisoned milk, nuclear winters
where crops will not grow.
oh what a deed these mushrooms will do.

Kids under desks won’t be saved
in their schools,
nor will they be saved by
fast running moms.

The Nuclear Nine find comfort from silos
loaded with missiles, not maize.
Great security for them
until, of course, the A Bombs strike them too.

Our species is headed there,
fools and madmen we are.
As the Nuclear Nine cling to their bombs
the spark to ignite them will come
sooner or later- unless we wiseup, riseup
And save ourselves.

Richard Greve (c) February, 2015


 

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IT’S A START: U.S. Ambassador: “The P-5 have a responsibility to do more”

by Joe Scarry

As more and more people grew aware that the confrontation between the US/NATO and Russia over Ukraine could grow to world-threatening proportions, representatives of the nuclear weapons states (the so-called P-5 – US, Russia, UK, France, China) met in London.

This led to a very interesting exchange on Twitter:

Robert Wood @USAmbCD *
London Conference demonstrated P-5 commitment to their Article VI
obligations. Good exchange between P-5 and NPDI reps.Joe Scarry @Scarry
.@USAmbCD – Thanks – that “demonstrated P-5 commitment to their
Article VI obligations”? Could we see more? @napf @Cirincione

Robert Wood @USAmbCD
@Scarry @napf @Cirincione The P-5 have a responsibility to do more.

*U.S. Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament and Special
Representative for Biological and Toxin Weapons (BWC) Convention Issues.

U.S. Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament and Special Representative for Biological and Toxin Weapons (BWC) Convention Issues says “The P-5 have a responsibility to do more [with respect to the P-5’s Article VI obligations]”?

This is significant because, as the most powerful nation in the P-5, the US has the ability to make the P-5 “do more” if it wants to.

And it’s also significant because the nations of the world meet in New York City at the UN starting in just over two months for the once-every-5-years review conference of the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (the NPT). People around the world are clamoring for progress on the main pillar of the NPT — the total elimination of nuclear arsenals by those who already have them. This is the “Article VI” of the NPT that all signatories (most notably US, Russia, UK, France, China) have signed on to:

“Each of the Parties to the Treaty undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament, and on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” (emphasis added)(See “THE TREATY ON THE NON-PROLIFERATION OF NUCLEAR WEAPONS( NPT ) (text of the treaty) on the UN website.)

The NPT is based on a quid pro quo: nuclear “have-nots” agree to not acquire nuclear weapons, and nuclear “haves” agree to disarm. (See A DEAL’S A DEAL! (What part of “nuclear disarmament” doesn’t the US understand?) )

The rest of the world is getting sick of waiting for the P-5 to honor their obligation.

Equally as important, AMERICANS are demanding action.

The clock is ticking . . . .

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The Lesson of Reykjavik: TALK About Nuclear Disarmament (You Never Know)

by Joe Scarry

On the day the nuclear weapons states are meeting in London, it seems like an appropriate time for a reality check.

Just such a reality check comes from reading Reagan at Reykjavik: Forty-Eight Hours That Ended the Cold Warby Ken Adelman. Three hundred and forty-two pages of this book are a depressing depiction of lots ofapparatchiks (U.S. and Soviet) hovering around the two most powerful people in the world, trying to convince themselves (and us) that they are adding value, while the whole time it’s quite clear that that’s pretty hard to do when you don’t know what Ronald Reagan is gonna say next . . . .

The payoff comes on pp. 167-168, where Reagan and Gorbachev get down to brass tacks.  Gorbachev begins by chasing down some specific language about laboratory testing, which seems limiting, evoking this response:

Reagan: I’m ready to include all the nuclear weapons we can.

Then this:

Gorbachev: Then we should include the whole triad.
Reagan: Okay, let’s take out ‘strategic.’ Then all ballistic missiles would be eliminated.

Holy smokes!

“It would be fine with me if we eliminated all nuclear weapons,” was a bold move that then popped in Reagan’s mind. Saying this aloud may have even startled himself, as he then scribbled on a piece of paper, “George [Schultz, Secretary of State], am I right?” and passed it to his left. Schultz leaned over and whispered in the good left ear: “Absolutely, yes.”

So we have:

Reagan: It would be fine with me if we eliminated all nuclear weapons.
Gorbachev: We can do that. We can eliminate them.
Schultz: Let’s do it!
Reagan: If we can agree to eliminate all nuclear weapons, I think we can turn this over to our Geneva folks with that understanding, fro them to draft up an agreement. Then you can come to the U.S. and sign it.
Gorbachev:Well, all right. Here we have a chance for an agreement.

All of this proves one thing: you never know what might happen.

It can all happen very fast.

No one really knows ahead of time what will happen.

That’s why it’s so important for people to get together and talk.

*   *   *   *   *

A Reflection on You Never Know!

Philadelphia: 10 Strawberry Street, with U.S. Customs 
House visible in the background.

When I was in my 20s, I worked in an import-export company, doing business throughout China and other countries in Asia. This was in the 1980s, overlapping with the time that Reagan was in office.

I worked for a man named Howard, one of the smartest and most humane people I’ve ever known. The main thing that our work involved was going to faraway places and talking to people.

Given that it took a lot of time and effort to go halfway around the world and talk to people, Howard and I used to spend a lot of time researching and talking about upcoming meetings.

We would estimate and imagine and forecast possibilities, all in the hopes of working efficiently and not going off on wild goose chases.

But one problem with this was that we sometimes fooled ourselves into thinking we knew what to expect before we even talked to people. It was usually Howard who remembered these words of wisdom:

“You never know!”

And, in fact, there were so many times that “You never know!” proved to be acutely true, that I once proposed to Howard that we should make it the company motto. We came very close to having the words “You never know!” embroidered on a large banner and hung outside our building at 10 Strawberry Street in the Old City neighborhood of Philadelphia.

*   *   *   *   *
TIME magazine, October 20, 1986:
NO DEAL
Star Wars Sinks the Summit

The Lesson of Reykjavik

The conventional wisdom is that Reykjavik was a fiasco: Reagan refused to back down on the Strategic Defense Inititive (“Star Wars”), and as a result the deal on total disarmament wasn’t completed.

On the other hand, Reykjavich was the start of a spectacular process of arms reductions.

When Reagan came into office, U.S. nuclear warheads totaled over 25,000. By the end of the George H.W. Bush administration, that total had been cut in half. By the end of the two terms of the second Bush, the total had been halved again.

The infographic below illustrates this dramatic change:

The American Nuclear Stockpile
Click to view full size on The New York Times website.

There remain over 16,000 nuclear weapons in the world today, so the job is not yet done. And we certainly can’t tolerate a situation in which the world is subject to the whim of one or two people. But what Reykjavich does tell us is: Obama and Putin need to sit down together and talk total nuclear disarmament.

Will the very next conversation be the one that results in eliminating nuclear weapons?

You never know . . . .

Related posts

The nuclear “haves” are meeting in London today and tomorrow. Everyone in the world should be doing everything possible to drive them towards an agreement on nuclear disarmament. It’s more important than ISIS. More important than Iran, Bibi, or Boehner. And certainly more important than the top ten things trending on Twitter or coming up in your Facebook feed.

(See Job #1 Vis-a-vis Russia: NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT)

Call me a demanding citizen, but I think the President should get off his butt and go talk to the leader of Russia.  (Yes, Putin.)  It’s his job.

(See Obama: Go to Moscow!)

Elaine Scarry demonstrates that the power of one leader to obliterate millions of people with a nuclear weapon – a possibility that remains very real even in the wake of the Cold War – deeply violates our constitutional rights, undermines the social contract, and is fundamentally at odds with the deliberative principles of democracy.

(See Reviews of “Thermonuclear Monarchy: Choosing Between Democracy and Doom” by Elaine Scarry )

There are three centers of power that will impact nuclear disarmament: the President, the Congress, and the people. One of them will have to make nuclear disarmament happen.

(See Countdown to U.S. Nuclear Disarmament (With or Without the Politicians) )

Continue reading

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Job #1 Vis-a-vis Russia: NUCLEAR DISARMAMENT

by Joe Scarry

So many exist, ready to be used . . . .
The world’s nuclear weapon count (August, 2014):
16,400
(Source: peaceandplanet.org)

The story yesterday was the last straw.

A bunch of U.S. NGOs are lobbying the government to send more weapons to Ukraine, and they’re being heard: “U.S. Considers Supplying Arms to Ukraine Forces, Officials Say” reportsThe New York Times (February 1, 2015).

For people in Chicago, it’s personal: one of the signatories is Ivo Daalder, current head of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and former U.S. ambassador to NATO.

Recently, another highly influential NGO-leader — the financier George Soros, the money man behind the Open Society Foundations — came out with a call for muscular financial sanctions to bring Russia to its knees and “save” Ukraine. (“A New Policy to Rescue Ukraine,” New York Review of Books, February 7, 2015 issue)

The struggle in the Ukraine is becoming the latest “permawar” pretext — whatever we do, let’s not focus on the real earth-threatening problem, the unresolved US and Russia nuclear arsenals! (“Oh, look! Here’s a new hot conflict for us to pay attention to . . . “)

Look: I’m not an expert on Russia, Ukraine, and the history of the last 600 years in that part of the world. I say Ukraine — not to mention Transdniestria, Abkhazia or South Ossetia — is a red herring. I contend that you don’t have to be a specialist in European and Russian affairs in order to demand that our first priority is nuclear disarmament.

“5 nuclear weapons states are meeting in London February 4th and 5th”
#ActNowDisarmNow
(Source:Nuclear Age Peace Foundation)

The nuclear “haves” are meeting in London today and tomorrow. Everyone in the world should be doing everything possible to drive them towards an agreement on nuclear disarmament. It’s more important than ISIS. More important than Iran, Bibi, or Boehner. And certainly more important than the top ten things trending on Twitter or coming up in your Facebook feed.

Moreover, the whole world will be meeting in New York City in April/May at the UN to determine the fate of the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The major threat to the NPT is the failure of the nuclear “haves” to finish disarming.

TAKE ACTION

Work for nuclear disarmament every week:

Related posts

There are three centers of power that will impact nuclear disarmament: the President, the Congress, and the people. One of them will have to make nuclear disarmament happen.

(See Countdown to U.S. Nuclear Disarmament (With or Without the Politicians) )

Far too many people think that the NPT is about freezing the status quo, and preventing additional states from obtaining nuclear weapons. This is a fundamental misunderstanding. The NPT is based on a quid pro quo: nuclear “have-nots” agree to not acquire nuclear weapons, and nuclear “haves” agree to disarm.

(See A DEAL’S A DEAL! (What part of “nuclear disarmament” doesn’t the US understand?) )

Conveniently, a large military alliance — NATO — bristling with weapons, has announced itself ready to step in and contest annexations of territories by Russia. For NATO, the measure of resolvability of conflict is firepower.

(See Crimean War? Crimean Showdown? or Crimean Mediation? It’s Time for Americans to Get Some New Vocabulary )

Call me a demanding citizen, but I think the President should get off his butt and go talk to the leader of Russia.  (Yes, Putin.)  It’s his job.

(See Obama: Go to Moscow!)

Why is the U.S. in a permanent state of war? More than anyone else, the beneficiaries of permawar are the politicians who thrive on the power to make and control wars.

(See J’ACCUSE: The Beneficiaries of Permawar)

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Bibi and Boehner’s Gift to the Nuclear Disarmament Movement

by Joe Scarry

 

House Majority Leader John Boehner and
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu

It may be counterintuitive, but House Majority Leader John Boehner has actually done a good thing by inviting Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address Congress.

The biggest problem we face in the nuclear disarmament movement is getting people to pay attention to the nuclear threat. Well . . . people are paying attention now!

And they’ll keep paying attention, day after day, for the next month, as the Bibi Brouhaha plays out.

We often complain about how the mainstream media doesn’t give attention to the issues that really matter. (Underinflated footballs, anyone?) Well, for better or worse, this Netanyahu story is guaranteed to be in everyone’s face for weeks. (Hey, John Boehner is not one to cut his losses when he finds himself in the midst of a fiasco. Expect escalation.)

Netanyhu is coming to talk about nuclear weapons. Iran and nuclear weapons.
Continue reading

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What Leo Strauss set in motion: from invading Cuba to efforts to bomb Iran

by Alan Gilbert

What Leo Strauss set in motion: from invading Cuba to Boehner/Netanyahu efforts to bomb Iran

Robert Howse has written a new book on Leo Strauss: Man of Peace. Rob acknowledges some of Strauss’s authoritarianism and imperialism, i.e. in the fortunately now infamous 1933 letter to Karl Loewith where Strauss defends “the principles of the Right – fascist, authoritarian imperial and not the pathetic and laughable imprescriptible rights of man.” See hereand here.  Strauss has achieved a certain odium – the word is from the Strauss and Schmitt devotee, Heinrich Meier – because of the role of political Straussians such as William Kristol, Paul Wolfowitz, Francis Fukuyama (who commendably, soon became a critic), Harvey Mansfield, Gary Schmitt, Walter Berns and others central among the neocons in and around the Bush administration in pressing for aggression in the Middle East.  Rob’s reading is an independent and livelier version of standard theses in a barrage of Straussian books, attempting to restore Strauss as a scholarly figure above politics, at least one who rarely dabbled in politics and whose views, in this respect, must not be taken too seriously, let alone as having premeditated reactionary consequences (Catharine and Michael Zuckert, Thomas Pangle, to some extent, Peter Minowitz).

***

My essay below  “Segregation, Aggression and Executive Power: Leo Strauss and ‘the Boys,’”   forthcoming this winter in Sanford Levinson and Melissa Williams, ed., American Conservativism, as a volume in Nomos – a book published annually by the American Society of Legal and Political Philosophy – is based on novel research in the Strauss archive in Regenstein Library at the University of Chicago.  After long guarding by Joseph Cropsey,  I was the first non-Straussian admitted to that archive.  The essay underlines some surprising facets of Leo’s own politics, for instance, his defense of segregation and calling for the US conquering Cuba.  This evidence reveals that the drumbeat about a supposedly apolitical or at least not harmfully political Strauss is a fantasy.

***

There is another important strand of Strauss’s influence, via Gary Schmitt and Herbert Storing, on the Minority Report on Iran Contrawhich I do not discuss here.  That report, written for Congressman Richard Cheney, especially stresses authoritarian “executive power,” based on interpretations by Strauss’s students – Schmitt among others – of the Federalists.  It perfumes President Ronald Reagan’s illegal – in opposition to a Congressional ban on running guns to the Contras – and murderous activities in Nicaragua and even aiding “the enemy,” Iran, in exchange for Iranian provision  of weapons to the Contras.

***

More importantly, the neocons, the center of whose intellectual life is provided by political Straussians such as Bill Kristol and Paul Wolfowitz,  are back in the news, both in the Ukraine and most notably this week, in John Boehner’s invitation to Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu of Israel to urge Congress, against the President and against normal diplomatic protocol or constitutional foreign policy making, to bomb Iran. These two efforts – Strauss’s memos to Charles Percy, a Republican politician, Senator and would be Presidential candidate from Illinois, that the US must take out Cuba as the USSR had taken out Hungary, and the demand that the US should start yet another war in the Middle East , widening what already exists, that is, bombing accompanied by only a small number privatized troops or the CIA, against ISIL in Iraq and Syria – strangely mirror each other.

***

Strauss died 40 years ago; the details of contemporary Imperial Quixotisms should not be attributed to him (it is always possible for a great power realist, even an authoritarian one like Strauss, to oppose dogmatic, unworldly, disgraceful and foolish enterprises; I do not say murderous here because murderousness is not something Mr. Strauss opposed).  Still, the parallel is striking.

*** Continue reading

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