As we enter the 21st century, recent trends in technological development make the problems of nuclear weapons a pressing issue requiring greater attention and a more serious response.
Technology for guiding missiles or bombs to their intended targets with precision has made great strides, and integrating that technology into nuclear weapons systems will increase the danger of making the nuclear weapons usable weapons, contradictory to the doctrine that nuclear weapons are for deterring the enemy, with their actual use excluded — a doctrine used as a justification for possession of nuclear weapons.
Over the several last decades, information technology has reached remarkable levels of development. The main driving force has been military R&D born in the course of nuclear weapons development. Among many byproducts, laser beam communications and global positioning systems are particularly relevant to the present argument.
Concerning the nature of military R&D, it is worthwhile to recall the lucid explanation given by Mary Acland Hood several years ago (SIPRI Yearbook 1983, p. 129):
“Military research and development (R&D) is the effort to extend knowledge and technical expertise wherever there are thought to be military applications, existing or potential, in order to create more effective weapons, more effective means of using them and more effective ways of making these same weapons (when used by the other side) ineffective.”
This definition points to an intrinsic dilemma or contradiction: Creating more effective weapons and making them more ineffective are mutually incompatible. Logically, one has to assume some time lag between the two. Thus, the game is inevitably unstable in character, leading easily to a spiral escalation. Despite the prevailing notion that the arms race is basically a two-state problem, it is essentially a self-accelerating one-state problem. This has been openly demonstrated by the United States’ recent giant project to deploy National Missile Defense (NMD).
Even after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the U.S. has continued to develop sophisticated weapons systems, including NMD. The military R&D in the U.S. is essentially supported and sponsored by the military-industrial-academic complex and has never been substantially influenced by a potential adversary. None other than the U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower earnestly warned against the military-industrial complex of his day in his famous Farewell Radio and Television Address to the American People on Jan. 11, 1961.
To overcome the ominous situation we face and to ensure human survival, we should face the facts as truthfully as possible.
Indeed, the main advance has been seen in the development of precision-strike capabilities, even protecting bombing pilots against the enemy’s firing. In his last Editor’s Note in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (BAS May/June 2000), Mike Moore referred to “The notion of ‘precision warfare,’ a persistent dream of American and British aviators since the 1920s.”
During the Gulf War in 1991, the U.S. used precision-strike bombs to attack Iraq. Since then, the U.S., under the umbrella of joint bombing with Britain (1998) and of NATO bombing (1999), has employed highly modernized weapons systems. Because the newly developed weapons are capable of hitting their targets with pin-point precision, advocates have come to speak loudly of the weapons’ ability to minimize damage against civilians.
As Sen. James William Fulbright remarked in 1967, the U.S. military-industrial complex has become a military-industrial-academic complex that is energetically carrying out R&D with strong financial and political support. In parallel with the modernization of nuclear weapons systems including nuclear warheads, a broad range of conventional and electronic weapons systems has also been drastically improved.
The full utilization of laser beams and satellite-based communications systems has created a “growing U.S. arsenal of unmatched, super-fast, super-accurate new weapons.” (Andrew F. Krepinevich & Steven M. Kosiak, ‘Smarter bombs, Fewer nukes,’ The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, November/December 1998).
This article appeared a few months before the incessant air raids on Yugoslavia by U.S. and NATO air forces, which started on March 24, 1999, and continued for 78 days without interruption.
Krepinevich & Steven Kosiak wrote: “The implications for strategic strike operations and for how militaries view nuclear weapons are profound. The emerging military revolution strongly suggests that the conventional ‘tortoise’ has, after some 50 years, finally begun to catch up the nuclear ‘hare,’ due in large measure to radical advances in the effectiveness of precision-guided munitions, and of stealth and electronic means of cloaking aircraft and missiles from enemy detection.
“A new form of strategic strike? If . . . a conventional precision-strike capability can be employed with the same speed, and with effectiveness approaching that of a nuclear strike, it may constitute an irresistible option for any military organization that can afford to develop such forces.
“In fact, the U.S. military plans to field an integrated group of networked systems (‘architectures’) that could rapidly execute conventional precision strikes against an adversary.”
Moore wrote in his last message in the BAS May/June 2000 issue: “If the 20th century taught us anything, many of us have argued, it is that ‘modern’ war kills, maims, and brutalizes large numbers of innocent civilians. Given that, one should not engage in war except in the most extreme and clear-cut circumstances.
“But the 21st century may tell a different story. In postmodern war, it may be possible to achieve victory while largely sparing civilians. That’s both heartening and troubling. If it is possible to engage in relatively antiseptic war, would that eventually encourage the more frequent use of force? Would it lead to a cartel of technologically advanced nations who police the world with precision weapon? If so, what would be the implications of that? Those are not easy questions with reflexively simple answers.” (Emphasis is mine.)
The formation of the military technological cartel among developed nations is the inevitable product of the wide proliferation of military-industrial-academic complexes in such countries.
Here we have to consider seriously one of the gravest issues confronting all humans, introduced at the end of World War II through the ominous means of the “annihilator,” or nuclear weapons.
As is well known, the so-called nuclear arms race started after World War II between the two big powers, the U.S. and the Soviet Union.
Due to the new weapons’ extraordinary capability to kill and cause mass destruction, which human beings had not experienced till then, most people, including military personnel, were perplexed over how to deal with them.
While conscientious scholars such as Bertrand Russell, Albert Einstein and Hideki Yukawa openly declared the need for abolition of nuclear weapons, calling them “absolute evils,” many people who insisted on the need for political realism shaped a new doctrine of “nuclear deterrence” in 1958.
The doctrine was born at the Second Pugwash Conference held at Lac Beauport in Canada from March 31 to April 11 that year. Although it was recorded that the notion of “minimum deterrence” was proposed by U.S. military officer R. S. Leghorn, the real initiator of the doctrine was L. Szilard, who played the most important role in persuading Einstein to write the historical petition urging President Franklin D. Roosevelt to start the atomic bomb project.
For the convenience of readers, let me quote a few relevant nuclear war terms and definitions from the Joint Chiefs of Staff Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms, 1974.
Deterrence: Preventing someone from attacking by threatening unacceptable destruction in response, thereby “deterring” war.
Mutual Assured Destruction: The situation when opposing sides can both destroy each other in second strikes; both thereby mutually assure destruction on the other, theoretically deterring war. Oftentimes called “MAD.”
Nuclear issues are literally global problems that should concern all of the Earth’s citizens. Nevertheless, they are not being addressed internationally at present because nuclear weapons are in the possession of individual nations. Nuclear-weapon states have been striving energetically to control or manipulate public sentiment to promote their national policy, particularly their nuclear strategy.
The following are some of their widely known nuclear strategies:
* Countervalue strategy: threatened destruction of enemy cities and resources and a major portion of the enemy’s people.
* Counterforce strategy: an attack against nuclear weapons and military forces of the adversary, rather than against life and property.
* Counterweapons: a major initiative in strategic war technologies — antiballistic missiles (ABMs), ballistic missile defense (BMD), laser and particle beams, antisubmarine weapons and a variety of other weapon designs including antisatellite weapons — to counter a strategic attack.
* Counterproliferation: a very active strategy to counter proliferation, proposed by a brain trust to the president from Harvard University, in which the U.S. would never hesitate to use nuclear weapons in any case. (see Paul L. Leventhal, BAS, March/April 1998, p. 46).
As lucidly and concretely explained above, with the advent of technology to guide missiles and bombs with high precision, made possible by remarkable advances in the field of information technology, one of the most aggressive doctrines of nuclear deterrence, the counterforce doctrine, has recently become very feasible.
Such an epoch-making innovation in warfare not only contradicts conventional military planning based on the doctrine of deterrence but also removes a psychological barrier to starting and waging war.
If the enemy’s military facilities can be destroyed without incinerating the enemy’s cities and towns and without killing the enemy’s civilians, then “war-fighting” scenario writers would feel free to use any of the sophisticated high-precision weapons systems.
The tremendous ease by which advanced precision bombing can be carried out would greatly tempt military planners of the big powers, who in the past were restrained by the concept of deterrence, into actually using the military technology.
To overcome such a dangerous global situation, what can we individual citizens do?
In my opinion, we should first make every effort to know what decision-makers are planning for a concrete means of national security. It seems to be nearly impossible for the layperson to get reliable information related to national security.
I was fortunate enough in August 1997 to receive a moving report on the U.S. nuclear weapons program by two American physicists, Christopher E. Paine and Matthew G. Mckinzie.
The report is titled “End Run — The U.S. Government’s Plan for Designing Nuclear Weapons and Simulating Nuclear Explosions Under the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty,” and was published by Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Washington.
According to the introduction of the report, they requested relevant information under the Freedom of Information Act of 1967. As a Japanese nuclear physicist, I am greatly encouraged by the bold and daring fight by the two American physicists who utilized the Freedom of Information Act.
At the beginning of 2001, I would like to emphasize the present and future importance of mutual collaboration worldwide among citizens in the following two fields: energetic dissemination of the notion and legislation of a freedom of information law and the development of information technology for building peace, absolutely not for “soft kill.”
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