In his Sept. 3 letter, “Rightwing hawks an easy target,” Dean Geoff says I went to excess in criticizing “rightwing hawks” in my Aug. 26 article (“First ban the hawks, then the bomb“), in which I argue that people who want to get rid of nuclear weapons need first to get rid of the hawks and hardliners responsible for the global conflicts that encourage nuclear weapons.

If Geoff had ever worked in a Western policymaking bureaucracy, he would understand my point. Whether over China, Indonesia, Vietnam, East Timor, Iraq or Afghanistan, he would have seen, time and time again, how our policy hawks are able to dismiss moral and common-sense policies as wimpish, leftwing, Munich-style appeasement, a national interest sellout, and so on. Millions have died as a result. East Timor had to have one-fifth of its population wiped out simply to satisfy hawkish anti-China fantasies in Washington and Canberra.

Then there are the military hawks keen to test new weapons, expand budgets and earn more medals. Often the threat of a nuclear response is the only way to restrain these ambitions.

Over North Korea, Geoff sees Tokyo as justified in raising the abductee issue as a condition for progress in the six-party talks. But there is much to suspect in the way that Japan’s powerful rightwing has used this issue to fan anti-North Korea sentiment and discourage a continuation of the very successful conciliatory approach used by then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in 2002.

gregory clark