We all are already quite familiar with usable lying. We call these ‘white lies’.
“No, darling, you don’t look fat.”
“Sorry I didn’t call. I lost your phone number.”
“Your kids are so doggone cute.”
And thank goodness! Right? We’ve all avoided the harsh consequences of total honesty, smoothed over awkward situations, dodged uncomfortable truths and admissions. We’ve rescued others from hurt feelings, skirted revealing our true but disparaging feelings, swapped good vibes for possible resentment or retaliation, garnered undeserved affection by saying one thing while thinking another.
Unfortunately, usable lying and other well-intended “adjustments” of the truth have opened up the door for many further troubling innovations . . .
Usable spouse abuse.
Usable police brutality.
Usable wealth inequality.
Usable ecological chaos.
Usable political corruption.
Thus we now drown in a tsunami of blue pill misinformation, disinformation, fantasy, manipulated data, fake news, rumor, speculation, conjecture. It’s a 24/7 circus celebrating and mourning realities which have no relation to actual reality, no means of discovering what that is, no one we can trust to point us to it, including ourselves.
There’s been some fallout.
The dichotomy between rationality and rationalization has been erased. Science has become another way of massaging facts to arrive at a pre-designated “truth”. Morality and ethics are more PR used to justify amoral, psychopathic agendas. What was once a slippery slope is now a free-fall plunge into free-for-all relativism.
Where does this cognitive entropy end?
Well . . .
How about the ending to end all endings? Doesn’t that sound inviting?
No more suspense, wondering, uncertainty, ambivalence. No more waiting for the other shoe.
The ending to end all endings. AAH! . . . it’s like poetry.
But let’s take stock. This actually is no joke. Or more feel good balm for our crippled expectations.
Unfortunately and tragically, folks, I am the bearer of some bad news . . .
Now leading the charge in the stampede toward ‘usability’ are . . . usable nuclear weapons.
Yes, you read that correctly. USABLE NUCLEAR WEAPONS!
Before this really sinks in, let’s trace the whole flawed logic that preceded humankind taking up residence on Death Row.
The U.S. took the lead in the 1940s by being the first to develop an atomic bomb, then the first and only nation to use it to incinerate tens of thousands of mostly innocent people. This was an awesome, if frighteningly cruel display of technological prowess. The Axis Powers were already defeated, their nations in ruins. But at least now we knew the damn thing worked. Most importantly, it posted a warning label for the whole world to see: The United States of America is not a country anyone should mess with. We have THE BOMB and we’ll use it. See for yourself: Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Most honest historians report that the carnage and destruction of those two cities were not about winning the war with Japan. The war was effectively won. The Japanese were trying to surrender. Those atomic bombs were a clear and unambiguous warning to the only country capable of challenging the U.S. after the destructive horrors of WWII. That was the USSR.
The Soviet Union got the message loud and clear. And Stalin, already betrayed by the West several times during the war, was not going to submit to more bullying and subterfuge, designed to undermine and destroy his country. He had to act. And the only way to counter such nuclear blackmail was to develop a sufficient counter-threat such that the U.S. would not dare use or even threaten to use nuclear weapons against the USSR.
The nuclear arms race had begun.
It started slowly but quickly escalated. The U.S. kept the lead at first. That’s what the actual numbers show, now that we have access to the Soviet military archives for that period. It should be noted that at the time, the number of nuclear weapons the USSR supposedly had — what our military was telling the public and reporting to the highest levels of our government leadership — was sometimes wildly off the mark. According to Daniel Ellsberg, in the early 60s when the Pentagon was screaming about the U.S. falling behind the Soviets, claiming the Russkies had hundreds of battle-ready nuclear bombs, the truth was they only had six and no reliable way to deliver them, lacking both capable long-range bombers and ICBMs.
In any case, going by the more reliable stats available now, the U.S. maintained a substantial lead until the two countries reached parity in the late 70s. At that point, each side had about 25,000 nuclear bombs.
The USSR then pulled ahead. By 1986, the stockpiling of these apocalyptic weapons of annihilation peaked at around 62,000 nuclear bombs! Then in October of that year, Mikhail Gorbachev and Ronald Reagan met in Reykjavik, Iceland and agreed that the arms race had gone far too far. In fact over the next few months, they actually discussed eliminating nuclear weapons completely. While this didn’t happen, a few treaties over the next two decades brought the total down dramatically. The fall of the Berlin Wall and subsequent collapse of the Soviet Union likewise lowered the level of tension between the U.S. and Russia. Even so, both countries maintained powerful arsenals, each afraid to allow the other to achieve an advantage in numbers or total destructive power. That has continued until the present. Three decades after the dissolution of the USSR, we’re currently at around 6,500 nuclear bombs each. The world is still hostage to nuclear Armageddon.
It was quite obvious over the four decades of the Cold War that the USSR was taking the nuclear threat very seriously and the U.S. was serious about mounting as big a threat as it could manage. It was exactly what we have today: the U.S. wouldn’t back off and the USSR wasn’t going to back down.
Basically, this sort of arms race is driven by the code of the Wild West: The man with the biggest gun, the straightest barrel, the best aim, and the quickest draw wins. Which probably made sense and worked quite nicely back in the days when the streets were full of horse poop and the literacy rate was in the single digits. However, if we were to update the cowboy code for the present, have it embrace the realities of a planet home to over 14,000 nuclear weapons among nine nuclear powers, with the collective destructive power to destroy civilization and its inhabitants 25 time over, the gunslinger dictum would read like this:
If anyone fires a gun, everybody dies!
In point of fact, this was the operating principle of MAD — Mutual Assured Destruction — the standoff created by two sides arming themselves with so much firepower, such effective delivery systems, and such efficient monitoring capabilities, that anyone attempting a nuclear attack would be immediately detected and this would result in the nation attacked responding by unleashing a volley of thousands of nuclear weapons which would wipe the attacking country off the face of the earth. Of course, the attacking nation before it was totally destroyed would get off as many bombers and missiles as it could before complete annihilation set in, which would assure the thorough destruction of the attacked nation as well, finishing the job attempted in the first place. The victor would be the nation whose remaining citizens took the longest to die of radiation sickness or starvation.
It would only take one bomb to set off this chain of events. So with tens of thousands of nuclear weapons pointed at one another, MAD ironically was a guarantee of peace. Neither the U.S. or Russia would dare initiate an attack. I hope you’re truly grasping both how brilliant and how completely deranged this concept is. MAD is certainly the perfect acronym. There was one slight problem, one still with us today: this strategic standoff assumes that there’s no possibility of technical mishaps, ghosts in the machines, glitches, bad software code, human error, or dissociation from reality by those in the chain of command — flawed judgment prompted by misunderstanding, stupidity, paranoia, arrogance, hubris, fanaticism, lethal levels of self-righteousness, or a wrong dosage of meds. The reality is that MAD on many occasions almost resulted in the conflagration it was supposed to avoid. It’s a miracle I’m here to write this and you’re here to read it.
So . . .
How does a “usable nuclear weapon” fit into this scenario?
The short answer is: IT DOESN’T.
Let’s try to get into the minds of the geniuses who came up with this mutant idea. We start by referring back to the conflation of rationality and rationalization alluded to earlier in this article. Then we factor in the emotions that are always in play, focusing on those of people in power.
Just picture yourself at the best bakery in town, peering through the front window at the most delicious cakes, cookies, pies, delectable pastries to die for. But the bakery is closed. Family emergency. No telling when it’ll be open again for business. Talk about frustration. Your mouth is watering, you want to dive into these delicious treats, stuff your face like there’s no tomorrow!
That’s a military man looking at all those beautiful bombs THAT HE CAN’T USE!
It’s pure torture. His mind gets working. Maybe . . . maybe . . .
GOT IT! The problem with these big E=mc2 boom-booms is they’re just too damn powerful. Of course, the Russkies — and Chinks if it comes to that — are going to get their panties in a wad if we take out a whole city. But . . . but . . . if we could just “dial them down” a bit, make them a little less powerful and a little more . . . usable . . . that’s it . . . more usable!
Guess what? This turned out to not just be idle daydreaming. There are now several “low yield” and “variable yield” nuclear weapons in our arsenal, most notably the W80, B83, and the truly awesome B61-12. These can be dropped from a stealth aircraft like the B-2 advanced technology bomber or F-35A, or mounted on a number of highly advanced cruise missiles. They are specifically intended for use on hardened targets, like missile silos, or other military command and control centers and seats of government power — that latter use being termed a decapitation strike.
It is the surgical strike capability of these weapons which makes them actually more of a threat to human survival than their humongous big brothers, which can vaporize an entire city center and scatter rubble for hundreds of kilometers. By definition, their “usability” makes them exponentially more tempting to use. If for whatever reason, the goal is to take out a base, a radar defense complex, or the summer vacation home of an uncooperative head of state, limiting the destruction to a relatively small chunk of real estate, these usable nukes are ideal.
Which magnifies their prospects for starting a nuclear war. It’s one thing to drop a nuke in a wheat field. A perceived threat of a different order of magnitude is in play when it TARGETS A MILITARY ASSET, foreign minister, or supreme leader.
Frankly, the logic of smaller, smarter, friendlier nuclear bombs even breaks down at the outset.
Because it’s not the quantitative factor that is determinative. It is the fact of them being nuclear that crosses a line that shouldn’t and can’t ever be crossed — the very fact that a nuke is being used at all.
It’s kind of like being stabbed. A person might come up to you, yelling, threatening you, bullying you. He might give you a shove. Or poke you in the chest. None of this is very promising. It’s certainly agitating, maybe frightening or infuriating. You’ve got your guard up, but you’re still wondering where it’s actually heading. Unless you’re itching for a fight, you’re looking for a way out of this ugly situation. BUT . . . if he cuts you with a knife, even if it’s just a shallow flesh wound, painful but not life-threatening, THAT’S IT! One drop of blood or twenty or a hundred makes no difference. HE CUT YOU! That threshold is everything. You now have a total war for your survival on your hands! He crossed a huge red line! HE CUT YOU! THIS MANIAC IS A TOTAL THREAT!
It’s the same with a nuclear bomb, even a nuclear device supposedly “dialed down” to what is believed to be an acceptable level. It’s not the size of the mushroom cloud or the blast area. It’s the simple fact that IT’S A NUCLEAR BOMB! ANYONE WHO USES A NUCLEAR BOMB IS A TOTAL EXISTENTIAL THREAT! Because even just using one unequivocally says you’ll stop at nothing to prevail.
How do these military types think Russia is going to respond to a low or variable yield weapon set on ‘Kill Gently’ or ‘Limited Devastation’? Do these military knuckleheads actually think if they fine-tune a nuclear attack, Russia is going to say, “Okay, it was a nuclear bomb. But we’re cool. They had it set at only 1.2 kilotons, so we only lost 150 or 200 soldiers . . . give or take . . . and a military base. Call the U.S. ambassador and tell him we want to lodge a formal complaint.”
I’m not a geopolitical strategist or a military expert. But I can say unequivocally that if the U.S. launched or dropped any kind of fissile device into Russia’s territory, used even one of these usable bombs anywhere on Russian soil for any purpose whatever, 20 minutes later, our NATO allies would all be turned into radioactive wastelands, and the U.S. would cease to exist within an hour.
I keep hoping upon hope, believing despite all evidence to the contrary, that there are a few sane people at the helm of our sprawling, lethal, suicidal military establishment, our myopic State Department, our warmongering Congress, and power-drunk Executive Branch. It’s exhausting. I’m running out of energy. And the planet is running out of time.