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Tuesday, September 13, 2005

A Lesson Learned; or, Every Mushroom Cloud Has a Plutonium Lining 

This weekend, while we were dozing and/or lolling (we forget which), Zemblan patriot J.D. sent us a link to a Walter Pincus article in the Sunday WaPo. Now that America is the sole remaining superpower, the nuclear doctrine known as MAD (for "Mutual Assured Destruction") is no longer operative; there is no single entity with the firepower to Assure our Destruction if we have a couple of beers too many and start feeling our oats. The Pentagon is therefore keen to establish a new policy with the rather less memorable acronym LAUFAWGAHOYA, for "Look at Us Funny and We'll Go All Hiroshima on Your Ass":
The Pentagon has drafted a revised doctrine for the use of nuclear weapons that envisions commanders requesting presidential approval to use them to preempt an attack by a nation or a terrorist group using weapons of mass destruction. The draft also includes the option of using nuclear arms to destroy known enemy stockpiles of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.

The document, written by the Pentagon's Joint Chiefs staff but not yet finally approved by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, would update rules and procedures governing use of nuclear weapons to reflect a preemption strategy first announced by the Bush White House in December 2002. The strategy was outlined in more detail at the time in classified national security directives.
The article, distressingly, makes no reference to a rogue cabal of psychopathic madmen within the Pentagon, racing to implement their nefarious plot before James Bond can arrive at their mountain redoubt with a squad of black-clad commandos to mow them all down and disable the launch mechanism. No, we are sad to report that, in this instance, the sinister masterminds who aim to achieve absolute global hegemony by plunging civilization-as-we-know-it into barbarity and chaos are the Joint Chiefs themselves, and they are not a bit afraid of James Bond, who after all works for Tony Blair. They are pretty much just sitting around waiting for Dandy Don Rumsfeld to scrawl his initials on the memo.

Several of our more eloquent colleagues (Shakespeare's Sister and Jeff Ford, to name two whose posts we came across in the last hour or so) have condemned this scheme on the grounds that it is morally abhorrent. Although we are instinctively drawn to the contrarian's viewpoint, we do not feel the policy is defensible on moral grounds; nor -- having read Robert Scheer's With Enough Shovels, and Jonathan Schell's The Fate of the Earth -- are we capable of imagining that an increased willingness to use tactical nuclear weapons can render our nation, or our world, safer in any meaningful way. But then the propaganda machine that is our government has very little interest in ensuring the safety of the populace; the chief function of power is to perpetuate itself, as Foucault has argued and Messrs. Bush and Rove have repeatedly proved, and with that in mind we have to admit the pre-emptive nuclear option has a lot going for it, in pragmatic political terms.

No need for "nation-building" afterward; no need to establish "security"; no need to feign interest in "humanitarian" considerations, or deal with the (often surprisingly vehement) ingratitude of the indigenous population. And best of all: if, by any chance, the rationale for a first strike happens to be based on an outright, self-serving lie, there will be very little physical evidence left behind to prove it.

And even if there were, who'd want to go looking for it?

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