Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Jerry Brown on nuclear proliferation

The defense industry is "the business of mass destruction," says California Gov. Jerry Brown.

It's in his review of former Defense Secretary William Perry's book My Journey at the Nuclear Brink A Stark Nuclear Warning New York Review of Books 07/14/2016 issue; accessed 06/28/2016. It's not the typical venue for a sitting governor.

He also observes that "presidents follow the political and highly dangerous path of sizing our nuclear force to achieve 'parity' with Russia. Such a competitive and mindless process always leads to escalation without end."

And he shares this story from the Cuban Missile Crisis:

... Perry writes [that] the Soviet ships approaching the blockade imposed by the US had submarine escorts that were armed with nuclear torpedoes. Because of the difficulty with communications, Moscow had authorized the submarine commanders to fire without further authorization. When an American destroyer tried to force a submarine to surface, both its captain and the political officer decided to fire a nuclear torpedo at the destroyer. A nuclear confrontation was avoided only because Vasili Arkhipov, the overall commander of the fleet, was also present on the submarine. He countermanded the order to launch, thereby preventing what might have started a nuclear war.
He also cites approvingly Perry's observation on how nuclear weapons don't provide real security:

Reflecting upon the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Perry says it was then that he first understood that the end of all of civilization was now possible, not merely the ruin of cities. He took to heart Einstein’s words that “the unleashed power of the atom has changed everything, save our modes of thinking.” He asserts that it is only “old thinking” that persuades our leaders that nuclear weapons provide security, instead of understanding the hard truth that “they now endanger it.”
He also mentions the notorious "missile gap" circa 1960: "He was also part of the team assembled in 1959 by Allen Dulles, the director of the CIA, to determine whether or not there was a 'missile gap' with the Soviet Union. In fact, there was no gap but the report Perry worked on was kept secret for decades, as he reveals in his book."

For more on the "missile gap," see: John Prados, Review of John F. Kennedy and the Missile Gap Journal of Cold War Studies 10:1 (Winter 2008)

Jerry also makes this comment about the lack of success in Dick Cheney's Iraq War, "Success unfortunately can lead to overconfidence and I wonder whether the success of the first Gulf War lulled George W. Bush into thinking that another war could be fought with similar results. We now know that technical prowess can’t necessarily overcome the human factors of ethnic division, historical enmity, and religious belief."

No comments: