"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
- North Korea
What Islamic terrorists may have thought would be a crippling blow to the decadent west didn't do much more than:
- Kill several thousand innocent people
(Professor Churchill's views notwithstanding)
- Close the New York Stock Exchange for about a week
- Put a crimp in airline industry growth for a while, and
- Encourage American and other Western leaders to take a fresh look at how they deal with lethal threats
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
- 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
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.