Friday, January 25, 2008

Unintended Consequences? The West May be Getting Over Hiroshima

I've been wondering how long this would take.

"Pre-emptive nuclear strike a key option, Nato told" "The Guardian," January 22, 2008.

For over six decades, ever since August 6, 1945, the west in general and America in particular have been on a sort of guilt trip over the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The period of self-flagellation may be nearly over. We've got quite a few outfits to thank for this change in attitude:
  • Al Qaeda
  • the Taliban
  • Other Islamic activists
  • Iran and its "civilian" nuclear program
  • Russia
  • North Korea
The Islamic contribution should be obvious, after that little series of incidents on September 11, 2001.

What Islamic terrorists may have thought would be a crippling blow to the decadent west didn't do much more than:
  1. Kill several thousand innocent people
    (Professor Churchill's views notwithstanding)
  2. Close the New York Stock Exchange for about a week
  3. Put a crimp in airline industry growth for a while, and
  4. Encourage American and other Western leaders to take a fresh look at how they deal with lethal threats
Including Russia in that list may seem like an atavistic reversion to America's McCarthy era. However, the world may have been safer with the Soviet Union's comparatively civilized nuclear doctrine. The current regime has made it quite clear that they'll use nukes if they think they're threatened. Considering how little it takes to convince Russian commanders that they're threatened 1, everyone dealing with Russia should be concerned.

About North Korea: I'd like to believe that Kim Jong Il's on-again/off-again nuclear program is simply a tool for extorting goods and services from western nations. It's hardly unthinkable, though, that "Dear Leader" might decide to use or export nuclear weapons.

We're living in a world where Islamic warriors, jittery Russians, and a lobster-chomping dictator are jostling for first place in the 'who scares us most' race.

Five very senior western military officers and strategists put their heads together:
  • General John Shalikashvili
    • Former chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff
    • Nato's ex-supreme commander in Europe
  • General Klaus Naumann
    • Former top soldier
    • Ex-chairman of NATO's military committee
  • General Henk van den Breemen
    The Netherlands:
    • Former Dutch chief of staff
  • Admiral Jacques Lanxade
    • Former French chief of staff
  • Lord Inge
    The United Kingdom
    • Field marshal
    • Ex-chief of the general staff and the defense staff
They say that there is "simply no realistic prospect of a nuclear-free world". Because of this, a "first strike" nuclear option remains an "indispensable instrument" for NATO, the European Union, and America.

This reminds me of the time, about seven centuries back, when gunpowder was a cutting-edge military technology in Europe. There were well-meaning efforts to ban or at least contain the spread of this new weapon: but they failed. Switching cultural gears, once a genie is out of the bottle, it's hard to get the critter back in.

I applaud that committee of five for taking a hard look at an unpleasant situation. And, for publicly saying something that's not very popular.

Eventually there will be a choice between using nuclear weapons to stop an attack, or accepting horrendous losses - on all sides. My guess is that an Islamic group with nuclear weapons and America will be the two major players.

My hope is that whoever is leading the west when that happens will have the guts to make the same decision that America's President Truman made, back in 1945.

What happened to those two cities was terrible. But the policies of the Empire of Japan could not be tolerated - and ending the war by a conventional invasion would have involved massive losses on both sides, along with much more widespread destruction than the obliteration of two cities.

I'm one of the people who is alive today because of Truman's decision. My guess is that quite a few people in Japan also are aware of forebears who would not have survived to be their grandparents and parents, if Truman had taken a 'no nukes' approach. And, all of us owe much of our current prosperity to the way that World War II ended.

So: I think it's long past time for the west and America to stop apologizing for saving thousands (tens of thousands?) of lives - Japanese, American, and other - and get on with dealing with the problems of the 21st century.
1 Korean Air's Flight 902 in 1978 and Flight 007 in 1983 are rather dramatic examples of Russia's response to threats real and imagined in the days of the Soviet Union. I'm not convinced that much has changed since then.

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Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.