Hillary Clinton’s irresponsible hawkishness on nukes

Hillary Clinton yesterday outdid herself in trying to appear “tough” on foreign affairs when she refused to rule out the use of nuclear weapons against Osama Bin Laden or other terrorist leaders in Afghanistan or Pakistan.
The WaPo’s Anne Kornblut wrote there that,

    Clinton’s comments came in response to Obama’s remarks earlier in the day that nuclear weapons are “not on the table” in dealing with ungoverned territories in the two countries, and they continued a steady tug of war among the Democratic presidential candidates over foreign policy.
    “I think it would be a profound mistake for us to use nuclear weapons in any circumstance” in Afghanistan or Pakistan, Obama said. He then added that he would not use such weapons in situations “involving civilians.”
    “Let me scratch that,” he said. “There’s been no discussion of nuclear weapons. That’s not on the table.”
    Obama (Ill.) was responding to a question by the Associated Press about whether there was any circumstance in which he would be prepared or willing to use nuclear weapons in Afghanistan and Pakistan to defeat terrorism and bin Laden.
    “There’s been no discussion of using nuclear weapons, and that’s not a hypothetical that I’m going to discuss,” Obama said. When asked whether his answer also applied to the possible use of tactical nuclear weapons, he said it did.
    By the afternoon, Clinton (N.Y.) had responded with an implicit rebuke. “Presidents should be careful at all times in discussing the use and nonuse of nuclear weapons,” she said, adding that she would not answer hypothetical questions about the use of nuclear force.
    “Presidents since the Cold War have used nuclear deterrents to keep the peace, and I don’t believe any president should make blanket statements with the regard to use or nonuse,” Clinton said.

It is well known that– ever since the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, almost exactly 62 years ago today– the US has never been prepared to state openly that it would “not be the first to use” nuclear weapons. Russia, and before that the Soviet Union, did have an explicit “no first use” stance.
The US’s stance therefore leaves open– or, as US pols like to say, “on the table”– the possibility that the US might use nuclear weapons in response to somebody else’s non-nuclear attack.
But to leave “on the table” the possibility that the US might use nuclear weapons against terrorists??? This is even more shocking, and seems to reveal that neither Hillary Clinton nor any of the other pols who adopt the same, striving-to-be-tough stance, basically have no idea about the nature of nuclear weapons or the consequences of their use.
The use of even what the US calls “tactical” nuclear weapons would be devastating for a wide area around the detonation site. And upon using any nuclear weapon in such circumstances, the US would also immediately lose just about all credibility as a leader of any moral standing in the world.
Barrack Obama is quite right to say that the use of nukes should not be on the table in the discussion of combating Al-Qaeda or other terrorists.

54 thoughts on “Hillary Clinton’s irresponsible hawkishness on nukes

  1. Assisi Asobie

    Has the American body politic lost its collective mind? 10 years ago even talk of using tactical nuclear weapons was not on the table. And now in these febrile times we have MSM journalists asking presidential candidates about the wisdom of using nuclear weapons against terrorists!/?
    What has become the USA? Off the rails it looks to me and a hazard to us all.
    Someone, somewhere called it the Israelification of US foreign policy (at least with respect to ME). And with similar results so far.

  2. Joshua

    “Someone, somewhere called it the Israelification of US foreign policy”
    Where, at a White Aryan Resistance conference? Or maybe an ISM meeting?
    Israel has never threatened anyone with nuclear weapons.

  3. Truesdell

    campaign posturing in the YouTube age…the scourge of any State Department.
    Obama inexperienced? He trys to show that he’s not a prisoner of old rigidities, like meeting only with your friends.
    Obama weak on terrorism? He’s prepared to target the real perpetrators of 9/11…hiding in the mountains of Pakistan planning their next attack.
    Obama sounding more like Bush/Cheney? He would be cautious…for example, would rule out the first use of nuclear weapons.
    Reminiscent of JFK blaming that old softie Richard Nixon in the 1960 campaign for the “missile gap.”
    As Billy Shakespeare would put it, Much Ado…

  4. Helena

    “Someone, somewhere called it the Israelification of US foreign policy”
    I know that Tony Judt has written about this. He is not any kind of a white supremacist.
    As for Israel’s nuclear posture: coyness reigns! It would of course be tremendously reassuring for everyone in the ME and the world if the Israeli government said it wanted to “come clean”, White South Africa-style, and find a way to verifiably dismantle its nuclear-weapons program– most likely in the context of participating in creating a NWFZ in the region… and thus to join the civilized world.
    Truesdell: to some extent I think you’re right. Obama did go overboard in his comments about going into Pakistan… and there is a very jejune kind of toughness-outbidding going on in this election period. It would be great if one or more candidates and members of the generally complicitous press corps could step clear outside the “out-toughnessing” paradigm and say, “But how are we really going to solve these problems in a way that offers fair inclusion and dignity to all the countries concerned, and thereby de-escalates tensions, rather than by coming back again and again with military threats?”
    I think you’re wrong, though, to judge that this rhetorical sparring signifies nothing. Unfortunately, it does. Including by showing everyone else in the world just how wacky and belligerent so many of our pols are… which will then have its own knock-on effects.

  5. Frank al Irlandi

    Havent we all missed the point chaps?
    Here are two people who might get to utter the codeword talking about a nuclear attack on the sovereign territory of a nuclear armed ally not a long way from the Chinese frontier.
    Come back John McCain all is forgiven. At least you know what you are doing when talking about starting world war three by accident.

  6. kdj

    Well stated, H. What is frightening about this election thus far is how few are talking about winning hearts and minds in the region, versus inflaming the region with these veiled threats-Clinton and Obama are offering the world how to facilitate a defensive posture in a region already plagued with violent, radical extremism 101 (which is what this is, and the left and anti-war people who refuse to acknowledge that these strains of radicals exist are so reckless and naive).
    Just terrible. Let’s hope that John Edwards will take the high road here.

  7. Shirin

    Let’s see now….
    Hillary intends to keep an unspecified number of troops in Iraq for an unspecified time for an unspecified purpose.
    Obama ditto.
    Hillary has indicated that nuclear weapons are “on the table” in the case of Iran. (Nevermind the fact that the “Iran crisis” is manufactured, just as the “Iraq crisis” was, only moreso, since unlike Saddam Iran has no history of aggression.)
    Obama ditto.
    Hillary thinks its a fine idea to nuke Afghanistan and Pakistan (an ally).
    Obama thinks its a fine idea to bomb Pakistan (an ally), though he recently sorta said nuking might be an option, and then kinda, sorta retracted that.
    And Obama wants to do a Bush-style high priced P.R. blitz in the Muslim world because the REAL problem is that the only people they hear about America from are those who hate us, and if he sets up “America Houses” throughout the Muslim world, shows people how blissfully happy “America’s Muslims” are, and sends herds of fresh-faced young Americans to tell Muslims how America really, really IS the shining city on the hill, he just knows that will convince Muslims that all those bombs he is dropping on them are really bouquets of flowers.
    Would someone please remind me how a Democratic president is supposed to save the day?

  8. Frank al Irlandi

    I don’t count because I am not among the world’s anointed and don’t get to vote, but would one of you voters please ask the candidates if they have read “The Guns of August” and Bethman Hollweg’s Memoirs that talk about his horror at realising that having started mobilisation, he couldn’t stop it.
    Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain is also instructive. Despite Castorp’s soujourn in suspended animation he gets dragged off to war and death. Which of his companions were watching what the generals were doing?

  9. Joshua

    Tony Judt may not be a white supremacist. He has, however, called for the abolition of Israel. Whether that makes him racist or just a foe of peace, I’ll let others decide. In any event, the fact that he uses such a term just underlines that their usage is not a particularly useful descriptive term but rather jejeune name calling.
    “As for Israel’s nuclear posture: coyness reigns! It would of course be tremendously reassuring for everyone in the ME and the world if the Israeli government said it wanted to “come clean”, White South Africa-style, and find a way to verifiably dismantle its nuclear-weapons program– most likely in the context of participating in creating a NWFZ in the region… and thus to join the civilized world.”
    What would be tremendously assuring would be if the Arab and Muslim states that did NOT have territorial claims against Israel (i.e., almost all), would immediately and unconditionally grant recognition to Israel, post ambassadors to Israel, and partake in economic and cultural cooperation with Israel.
    It’s called peacemaking Helena, maybe you should actually advocate for it once.
    And are you claiming that Israel is not part of the “civilized world?” Your formulation is remarkably patronizing and racist.

  10. Helena

    Joshua, my friend, Tony Judt knows (and has published) more about Jewish life and the history of Israel, Europe, and the world than you can even imagine knowing. What on earth are your credentials to pronounce any judgment at all on him, let alone the faux-haughty judgment you express here?
    People interested in reading a bit more about Judt’s views on Israel and the controversy they stirred here in the US can do so here or here or here. Or in many other places. Because of his lengthy record as a very broad thinker, historian, and engaged public intellectual, his pieces are always thoughtful, thought-provoking, and well worth reading.
    For some reason Joshua, based on his ever-undisclosed credentials and life experience, seems to hold to the idea that anyone– even a Jewish person like Judt– who even entertains the idea of a unitary binational state solution in Israel and Palestine is “either a racist or a foe of peace.” So I guess Martin Buber and Judah Magnes would have had be damned in that way, too, eh, Joshua?
    Well, I’m just reporting the facts here, folks. You decide. (What do you mean, that line is not original?)

  11. John C.

    To insist on “leaving all options on the table” means not making any progress on anything. It is just preservation of the status quo. Americans should be asking if they are still satisfied with that.

  12. Frank al Irlandi

    Just for fun, why not suggest the use of chemical weapons too.
    A persistent nerve agent would be ideal for interdiction of the routes in the “lawless territories of the Northwestern Frontier”
    Good old Bomber Harris tried mustard gas on the tribes in Iraq.
    I expect the Attorney General can find a way round the “quaint” conditions in any inconvenient treaties and conventions.
    As John C says “All options are on the table”

  13. Helena

    Actually, Frank, you raise a very good point. At the level of political/electoral rhetoric here in the US, I truly don’t think any pol would feel it wd be a popular or winning position to come out openly and say “we have to keep our chemical-weapon deterrent alive and ready” (if “all options” truly are on the table… )
    This is interesting. There seems to be a degree of restraint in making CW threats that there isn’t in making NW threats? Why? Probably not just because of the “international law” ban on CW, to which the US is a full participant… But somehow, using the hawkish rhetoric on nuclear weapons seems acceptable.
    But you raise a good point. The next time any pol says “all options are on the table”, it wd be great if journos could come swiftly back with the follow-up question of “So does that include chemical weapons and weaponized anthrax, then?” Because if not (as one would hope), then “All options are on the table” is visibly not true, and there is indeed the possibility of taking some things OFF the table without the whole world coming down around our ears…

  14. Frank al Irlandi

    The problem with the conceptual use of nuclear weapons is that people think of them as bigger better bangs and just bigger artillery.
    They omit the other effects of fall out if the fireball touches the ground, radiation, EMP, increase in background count etc.
    If you haven’t been trained to estimate the casualty count at various distances from the target point over a period of a couple of weeks you can’t conceive of the 1000 men wiped out in two minutes and the thousands more who die slowly over the next week or ten days.
    I am going to propose something unconventional now.
    I am going to propose that we impose a moratorium on discussion of the use of WMD against identified targets in public because of the effect on young minds in places like Leeds or Bradford Yorkshire and becasue we are accustoming people to thinking the unthinkable.
    If I were a young man listening to the theoretical discussion of attacking my cousins in Pakistan with overwhelming force, or as Juan Cole reports today some Barking Mad Lunatic Congressman proposing to target Mecca and Medina, then I might feel inclined to think about striking back at civilian infrastructure in any way I could.
    As I might have died in London two years ago if the bombs had gone off on Saturday when I go to SOAS for lessons instead of Wednesday, I am not going to gratuitously offend peoples religeous, national, family and ethnic sensibilities. I used to get off at Russell Square where 21 died and we all spent the day trying to find out if our friends and teachers were still in one piece.
    There is a place for discussion of these issues but I suspect that you need to have read some basic texts on the concepts of deterrence and the effects and persistence of the weapons before making sweeping statements about using them.
    Gruinard Island was uninhabitable for fifty years and you might have died rather horribly if you landed.

  15. some_foreigner

    You know, what is funny about all of those discussions?
    To somebody outside (like me) this not only sounds like madness (clinical madness, like in need of several strong medicaments and a place with white softy walls) but it’s also funny for the fact, that US-Americans always ask why they’re hated.
    Stuff like this (and all the other wars you’ve waged) really make it sometimes hard to distinguish the contempt normal people have against your government and political system and contempts against US-Americans per se.
    I mean, if the USA would really use nuclear weapons a second time, you would have created about a billion of terrorists who would like nothing more then damaging you. I mean, there are still people around (quite some) here, that still loathe the USA because of the use of nuclear weapons in the second world war. And this was fifty years ago in a war full of atrocities like that.
    How, do you think, would those people think of you if you used those weapons a second time?
    Really, sometimes I’m still surprised about your political culture, and this one really surprises me a big time.

  16. Truesdell

    campaign rhetoric is just that…campaign rhetoric…the central fact in all of this is that Hillary has begun pulling away from Obama in the polls of potential Democrat primary voters…she is adroitly playing the “experience” card…that is, Obama’s purported lack of same…this is the prism to understand the recent posturing.
    She reminds voters that experienced USA Presidents do not deign to meet pariah leaders (like Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong II, Chavez, Castro), at least not without preconditions…that Presidents do no spell out in advance which options may be off the table…but rather keep potential adversaries guessing.
    As I pointed out above, this did not begin with the present slate of candidates. Famously, in the 1960 debate JFK used a phony “missile gap” claim to paint Richard Nixon as soft on communism…yes, that Nixon.
    I’m not defending American political culture in this regard, but rather explaining it to our foreign friends here.

  17. some_foreigner

    You may very well be right Truesdell (I’m not that well informed in American politics before the nineties) but still, how then does this work with the American public?
    Do they accept such extremist rhetoric? (Threatening to use nuclear weapons is extremist rhetoric to me.)
    Don’t they think that talking is always better then nuking?
    Or am I wrong about the majority sentiment in the USA?

  18. Shirin

    I just LOVE this “oh, it’s just campaign rhetoric” nonsense. Just relax, folks, they don’t mean a word of anything they are saying, so what’s to worry about.
    – When Hillary says she intends to maintain troops in Iraq indefinitely (thus realizing the neocon dream of a permanent military presence in Iraq)…
    – When Obama says the same….
    – When Hillary says bombing Iran is a fine idea (thus continuing the neocon’s agenda for them – well, why not, her husband did a great job with eight years of horrific sanctions, and bombings a couple of times a week, of “prepping” Iraq for the neocons to deliver the coup de grace)…
    – When Obama says the same…
    – When Hillary suggests that nuking Iran, Afghanistan, or Pakistan is quite OK if “necessary” (outdoing the neocons this time)…
    – When Obama says bombing U.S. ally, Pakistan, is really a great idea even if Pakistan’s government doesn’t agree (which I do not believe even the neocons have suggested – yet)…
    – When Obama states that the REAL problem is not U.S. policy and actions, but lack of effective P.R. in the Muslim world, and proposes a multi-million-dollar VERY Bushesque P.R. blitz simultaneous with a major increase in the military, various bombing campaigns, including against allies, and continuing the neocon agenda in Iraq (thus only slightly changing the neocon line by suggesting that they “hate us” not for “our” policies and actions, not for “our” freedom and way of life, but because they just don’t understand us)…
    there are two possibilities. Either they are speaking truthfully, or they are speaking untruthfully.
    If they are speaking truthfully, then we should all be very afraid. We should also recognize that if they are speaking truthfully, then electing one of them will not make much difference in foreign policy or practice – the ultimate solution to every problem, real, perceived, or manufactured (as the Iraq “problem” was manufactured, and as the Iran and Syria “problems” are being manufactured now in front of our eyes) will be to bomb, invade, conquer, occupy, and continue to build the empire by imposing U.S. political and economic will on unwilling countries by military might. And if H. Clinton and Obama are speaking truthfully, they are just fine with extending that “solution” even to U.S. allies. That does not look like an improvement to me. That looks instead like just more of the same neocon agenda.
    If they are speaking untruthfully, then there is absolutely no reason to ever believe a word either one of them says, either before or after they take office. (And therefore, one would be better off ignoring it all, and basing one’s vote on something real, like whether or not the candidate looks good on TV, or how they dress, or whether one likes their hair-do.)
    In short, either they are speaking truthfully or untruthfully, and either way it is very bad.
    And finally, both H. Clinton and Obama have stated that they will invest lots and lots of taxpayer money to significantly enlarge and expand the military (how – do they think Americans are suddenly going to start volunteering as soon as THEY are the ones who are rampaging around the world starting wars of choice? Or…a draft, perhaps?).
    Benjamin Friedman of the MIT Center for International Studies points out in this article that expanding the military is only necessary if the goal is to continue the policy of invasion and occupation of unwilling countries. Is this the “change” the U.S. – and the world – needs?
    Ah, but then maybe this, too, is just campaign rhetoric, in which case just sit back, turn your mind to Paris Hilton and Lindsay whatsername’s latest escapades, secure in the knowledge that you can’t believe a word any of them are saying anyway.

  19. Frank al Irlandi

    re your question as to why people are comfortable with the concept of using nuclear weapons (Christus How did we get to the point of casual acceptance of massacre?) but not with chemical or biological weapons.
    I suspect but don’t know that it has to do with the widespread use of shoot em up video games and popular literature by authors like Dale Brown and others.
    Video games allow characters to drop when zapped and the concept of the role playing games where you get to posess more and more powerful weapons in order to be come king of the hill lets you eliminate the ethical aspect of what you are doing. Once you get the biggie you can devastate to order.
    I confess I can spend hours playing Age of Empires and will massacre villagers with great gusto to remove the opponents ability to mine gold or grow food.
    Dale Brown was a B-52 pilot who got downsized when USSR went out of business and who has written a series of fantasies about an upgraded B-52 equipped with standoff smart weapons called The Old Dog.
    Chemical weapons dont act quite immediately and so are no use in shootem up games. Biologicals are even less use.
    Hence Nuclear Weapons appeal to tactical thinkers who want instant results against the Untermensch. The result is shown here

  20. Inkan1969

    What’s wrong with that, Shirin? After all, whenever Hezbollah or Hamas makes statements for the destruction of Israel we always say, “oh that’s just rhetoric”…

  21. Christiane

    I’m not defending American political culture in this regard, but rather explaining it to our foreign friends here.
    You see Truesdell, it’s not that we don’t understand what is campaign rethoric, guess what, we also have electoral campaigns here in the rest of the world and also know what demagoguery means. What we can’t admit is that any candidate dare play with the idea of using the atomic bomb another time to kill terrorists.. (what about the civilians ?) and to hear such hawkish discourse in the mouth of democrats.. well we are just stunned.
    Nuclear weapons are a taboo IMO and I’m very surprised by Helena’s remark concerning the fact that in the US chemical and biological weapons are considered worse than the atomic bomb. May be it’s because only a handfull of US friend have the atomic bomb, while many other countries opposed to the US can easily get chimical or biological weapons of mass destruction. May be it’s a result of all the “Saddam has WMD” spinning which preceeded the Iraq invasion ?

  22. Shirin

    So, Inkan, to you the rhetorical utterances of Hezbullah and Hamas people have the same significance as claims made by candidates for the most powerful position in the history of the planet regarding what they will do if all that power is in their hands? You don’t find any real distinction there?
    Well, I do, and I see it on any number of levels. Do I really need to spell them out for you?

  23. Inkan1969

    Shirin, no, I don’t. You seem to be trivializing Hezbollah and Hamas in your statement; like they don’t matter. And I’m not interested in having dogma spelled out to me.

  24. Shirin

    I am neither trivializing anything nor dogmatizing. You, on the other hand, appear determined to dismiss legitimate concerns about the statements of serious candidates for the most powerful position in the history of humankind regarding their intentions to attack, bomb, and even nuke other countries, including allies. That is, of course, your absolute prerogative.

  25. vadim

    regarding their intentions to attack, bomb, and even nuke other countries, including allies
    None of them including Hillary has stated any such intentions. Refusing to rule out carpet bombing Canada doesn’t imply an intent to do so. Obviously chemical weapons and nuclear weapons are all “on the table” so long as they remain part of the US arsenal. And yet a nuclear (or even conventional) attack on Iran remains extremely unlikely. Last I checked Michael Ledeen isn’t running for office.
    Whereas HAMAS has directly called for the eradication of Israel and ethnic cleansing of Jews.

  26. Frank al Irlandi

    Overlooked Anniversaries
    August 6th just for added poignancy is Hiroshima Day. Perhaps Helena might suggest something appropriate.
    It is also the 25th Anniversary of Mahmoud Darwish marvellous 22 page first cup of coffee in a life in the day of a city under siege; Beirut.
    Two extracts from the translation and a link to the complete text online are here
    Coffee should not be drunk in a hurry. It is the sister of time, and should be sipped slowly, slowly. Coffee is the sound of taste, a sound for the aroma. It is a meditation and a plunge into memories and the soul. And coffee is a habit which, along with the cigarette, must be joined with another habit—the newspaper.

  27. Joshua

    Ah yes, the attack of the desperate. “What expertise do YOU have?!?!”
    Easy Helena, I am a citizen. Like the other participants here who do not have professional training (almost everyone), we nevertheless have a concern and values that lead us to participate in discourse. You know, the thing you say is always being stifled. It’s a shame you try to do the same.

  28. vadim

    Shirin, do you seriously think Hillary Clinton is poised to attack Iran with nuclear weapons? Seems like a stretch. I like your alternative better (that politicians are full of it) even if is a truism.

  29. Salah

    George Santayana once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

  30. JP

    As far as I can make out from Joshua’s one-dimensional comments and the alacrity and relentlessness with which he posts them here whenever his cause is maligned, it is not expertise but rather the Megaphone software installed on his computer that he is bludgeoning us with.
    No doubt Joshua is citizen but of what country who can know? In a previous thread boasted of his juggling skills. Curious.

  31. Shirin

    Vadim, Hillary is not in any position at the moment to be “poised” to do anything. As a candidate, her bellicose approach to foreign relations, and especially her willingness to entertain the possibility of using nuclear weapons at all is not encouraging, and does not look like an improvement over the Bush regime. In fact, her willingness to so readily grab and run with the whole Iran manufactured crisis is not encouraging.
    Nor is her insistence upon maintaining a significant troop presence in Iraq indefinitely.
    And the main differences between her and Obama are that Obama has not – as far as I know – been quite as explicit about his willingness to entertain a nuclear option, and his ridiculous notion that a massive P.R. blitz to go along with bombing campaigns in the Muslim world will make everything just fine. After all, the real problem, according to him, is that Muslims are hearing about America from the wrong people. It can’t possibly be that Muslims’ negative views of the United States are based on anything real – like the United States’ actual policies and actions. And of course, Obama also appears oblivious of the fact that the Muslim world is hardly the only place you will find an overwhelmingly negative view of the United States.
    And politicians may be “full of it”, but when they talk about bombing and nuking and attacking and invading, I find it very important to take them seriously. In fact, it seems to me that whether they mean it or not, if they think it will help them to say it, that alone is cause for serious concern.

  32. Frank al Irlandi

    Ellen Knickmeyer in todays Washington Post has a nice piece on the Turkish Army’s agreement with the new Government that it is time to do something about those pesky Kurds.
    So far they have only fired 155 mm but this final warning before crossing the frontier mirrors Obamas rhetoric.PKK are offically listed card carrying “terrorists”
    There is some footage of how effective 155 mm can be at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWyj5-IKl-k&mode=related&search=

  33. Helena

    Joshua, I’m happy that you’re a citizen. But as such, you surely have an obligation to try to be informed and reflective. And when you say of a thinker of the depth and reach of Tony Judt that he may not be a white supremacist. He has, however, called for the abolition of Israel. Whether that makes him racist or just a foe of peace, I’ll let others decide it strikes me that you really are neither of these things.
    (Just what kind of a “racist” were you suggesting that Judt might be? It must have been a little embarrassing when you found out– rather late in the day, perhaps?– that the guy is himself proudly Jewish.)
    No, I am not arguing that only “experts” should participate in the public discussion. (Though our country– and Iraq– would be in a far, far better position now if the judgments of the hundreds of Americans with real, lengthy expertise in current Middle East politics had been given considerably more weight prior to the invasion of Iraq– rather than having been shut out almost completely, displaced in the public square by fact-ignorant neocon and pro-Israeli ideologues and the occasional Ottoman medievalist like Bernard Lewis…)
    I do think, though, that people who sound off here with harsh and accusatory judgments about others should at least demonstrate some basic familiarity with the facts of the matter, including those about the people they are accusing. So when you made that ridiculous claim about Tony Judt, of course it was important to point out that you didn’t have a clue what you were talking about…
    But now, let’s get back to the topic of this post: the propensity of US politicians to stake out highly belligerent and irresponsible positions regarding the possibility of nuclear weapons being used, in a horrendously broad and permissive array of circumstances.
    Well, actually, the prospect of them being used at all– and of anyone still talking about that as a serious policy option– is quite horrendous enough.
    In 2000, I went to Hiroshima, and saw something of the effects that a 12 KT bomb (airburst over the city at 200 m. height, for maximum dispersive effect) had on the people of the city. .. I should write more about that on the blog. Today’s weapons are many orders of magnititude more powerful than those two were.
    Personally, I think all candidates for the US presidency should visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki so that they can get an inkling of what it is they are “sounding off” about. Maybe that would be a good question for journos or citizens to ask the candidates as they make their rounds of the country. “Are you prepared to go visit Hiroshima and Nagasaki between now and January 2009?”

  34. Frank al Irlandi

    Dear Helena
    saw something of the effects that a 12 KT bomb (airburst over the city at 200 m. height,….. Today’s weapons are many orders of magnititude more powerful than those two were.
    The development of precision guided sub- Kiloton weapons alluded to here
    and here
    http://www.defencejournal.com/jul99/bombing-stoneage.htm among others
    are equally worrying.
    Sub-kiloton nuclear weapons, mounted on anti-ship missiles and torpedoes, could be effectively used against aircraft carriers and warships of higher tonnage. In the absence of sufficient numbers of precision guided munitions (PGMs) – ‘Smart weapons’, the temptation would be to use tactical nuclear weapons in order to destroy important tactical and strategic – high risk targets, which would otherwise require high intensity bombardment by conventional weapons. Bridges, powerhouses, gridstations, water pumping stations, TV radio transmitting stations, airfields, oil refineries, ammunition/POL dumps, high value industries and many other important, economic and military targets, could be easily destroyed. The temptation to use sub-kiloton weapons would be irresistible.
    PGMs are essentially cruise missiles.
    Now think what this does to security of shipping in the Persian Gulf and other congested waters.
    The admiral on the carrier has 120 seconds to decide whether the inbound missile (or which of the hundred inbound missiles) has a 500 ton warhead and what the effect of its detonation 1km away at 500 metres height might be and take action. He can expect to loose all the aircraft on his deck and the ship itself might capsize. The three 500,000 tonne tankers and the Marine Expedionary Force caught in the blast go with him and done properly block the sea lanes for months. I supect the effect on the world’s economy is quite severe.
    For a little fantasy expedition into what might happen with the use of a nuclear tipped torpedo try http://www.amazon.com/Nimitz-Class-Patrick-Robinson/dp/006109594X
    Minefields get an extra element of spice added.
    This makes the manouvering in the coming struggle for naval supremacy in the Indian Ocean quite an interesting problem and a naval incursion into the Black Sea a non runner.
    For an introduction to Non Proliferation people might try reading Olivia Bosch and Peter van Ham http://www.amazon.com/Global-Non-Proliferation-Counter-Terrorism-Impact-UNSCR/dp/0815710178/ref=sr_1_1/105-5354605-4085258?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1186411631&sr=1-1
    I hope this provides a few useful questions for the candidates debates.

  35. Frank al Irlandi

    Hi Joshua (and Helena)
    The discussion has drifted away from the use of different types of weapons to a dialogue of the deaf about the intractable problem of …. Oh lets call it the Holy Land because the place names are as badly loaded as Derry or Londonderry in Ireland. (just as there are arguments about whether the Caspian is a lake or a sea, the Sea of Galillee has become Lake Kinneret.
    I don’t know how to solve the problems in that part of the world.
    I spent a pleasant flight to Germany chatting with an intelligent and vivacious young lady who introduced herself as Jewish. I kept thinking as the conversation went on that this was the kind of person who got herded into gas chambers or massacred in pogroms or might be driven into the sea at gunpoint if the defensive lines around Tel Aviv ever collapse and the airlift and sealift is delayed as it was in Lebanon. (by the way the British have some good gory pogroms in their history in York and Winchester)
    But the idea of a Jewish land for Jewish people sounds awfully reminiscent of a “Protestant Parliament for a Protestant People”.
    One of my teachers is the granddaughter of a lady who left her home for a week or two in 1948. I don’t know what to say when she tells me “There needed to be a safe place to take the survivors in 1945, but why us?”
    Darwish poem Identity Card rings so many bells with me in terms of the Penal Laws and Expropriation of Land and Cromwells “To Hell or Connaught” that I agree with Salah and Charlie Marx History repeats itself first as tragedy and then as farce”
    I am an Arab
    And my identity card is number fifty thousand
    I have eight children
    And the nineth is coming after a summer
    Will you be angry?
    I am an Arab
    Employed with fellow workers at a quarry
    I have eight children
    I get them bread
    Garments and books
    from the rocks..
    I do not supplicate charity at your doors
    Nor do I belittle myself at the footsteps of your chamber
    So will you be angry?
    I am an Arab
    I have a name without a title
    Patient in a country
    Where people are enraged
    My roots
    Were entrenched before the birth of time
    And before the opening of the eras
    Before the pines, and the olive trees
    And before the grass grew
    My father.. descends from the family of the plow
    Not from a privileged class
    And my grandfather..was a farmer
    Neither well-bred, nor well-born!
    Teaches me the pride of the sun
    Before teaching me how to read
    And my house is like a watchman’s hut
    Made of branches and cane
    Are you satisfied with my status?
    I have a name without a title!
    I am an Arab
    You have stolen the orchards of my ancestors
    And the land which I cultivated
    Along with my children
    And you left nothing for us
    Except for these rocks..
    So will the State take them
    As it has been said?!
    Record on the top of the first page:
    I do not hate poeple
    Nor do I encroach
    But if I become hungry
    The usurper’s flesh will be my food
    Of my hunger
    And my anger!

    To get back to the use of weapons. I visit what must be a target, the fascinating and lovely city of Damascus, contributing to economic developement. If I am then when an airstrike flattens the place then I die.
    I suspect that what I would like to see is the end of the supremacist, aggressive, and insecure state armed with 250 nuclear warheads. Just as Northern Ireland hasn’t actually disappeared Israel doesn’t need to disappear. (which might be Tony Judt’s point, I havent actually read any of his writing)
    I was entranced by Shimon Peres talk at Chatham House which he dedicated to Jean Monnet and after reading his autobiography find that he is man whose ideas often come to fruition.
    He said that they find themselves outmanned outgunned and alone I know it’s very difficult, and I do believe that Israel from our very first day of existence to this day we fight when we don’t have any other choice, but out choice is to have peace. We’re not looking for a military victory. The only victory that we are
    looking for is peace. We don’t have any intention to govern another people: it stands against everything we stand for. We didn’t leave the house of slaves in Egypt to build
    a house of masters in Israel,
    and one must understand that being Jewish is not

    Just for the record I was equally impressed by President Khatami when he said that they are “sick and tired of being underdeveloped”
    By now Joshua I expect I have said enough to generate a torrent of criticism from both sides. That probably means I have got it about right.
    If you would like to make a constructive contribution to the subject of use or non use of weapons on Hiroshima Day perhaps you might suggest how on earth we persuade the few million people living in an arid corner of the Mediterranean that they don’t need 250 warheads and plans to target everybody in range including the Vatican. (see Martin van Crefeld)

  36. Frank al Irlandi

    And for those whodont have access to Paul Krugman’s wisdom in NYT here’s a taster.
    The Substance Thing
    Published: August 6, 2007
    Two presidential elections ago, the conventional wisdom said that George W. Bush was a likable, honest fellow. But those of us who actually analyzed what he was saying about policy came to a different conclusion — namely, that he was irresponsible and deeply dishonest. His numbers didn’t add up, and in his speeches he simply lied about the content of his own proposals.
    In the fifth year of the disastrous war Mr. Bush started on false pretenses, it’s clear who was right. What a candidate says about policy, not the supposedly revealing personal anecdotes political reporters love to dwell on, is the best way to judge his or her character.
    So what are the current presidential candidates saying about policy, and what does it tell us about them?
    Well, none of the leading Republican candidates have said anything substantive about policy. Go through their speeches and campaign materials and you’ll see a lot of posturing, especially about how tough they are on terrorists — but nothing at all about what they actually plan to do.

    Shirin is quite right!!

  37. Joshua

    Frank, it’s very simple. If you don’t want to see countries use nuclear weapons, then perhaps you should focus your efforts on those entities that are trying to eliminate those countries.
    At this time, with Israel successfully established, and, despite the racist neighbors, doing quite well on most fronts, I no longer see the need to AGAIN explain why Jews, like all other people, should have a state in their homeland if they so choose. To quote Louis Armstrong “If you have to ask you’ll never know.”
    So basically one can, like Helena, refuse to clearly and unequivocally acknowledge Israel’s right to exist. But that makes one a foe of peace.
    Or one can focus on reaching a resolution that accepts Israel’s presence as a legitimate one. To start, the most important thing would be for all states not with territorial claims against Israel to immediately normalize relations. Note: Helena’s Pavlonian reaction of “THE SAUDI INITIATIVE!” does not satisfy this goal. Although it is laudable that the Arab states have moved beyond the rejectionism of “no no no,” there still is no need for them to condition or delay recognition. Such delay only hurts both parties, but mainly the Palestinians.
    If we can get to that point, then I assure you that you have no need to worry about Israel using nuclear weapons (which it, in fact, has never threatened to do).

  38. Frank al Irlandi

    Thanks, I suspected that treating you as an adult might have useful effects.
    You have of course plunged into the really difficult problem of who is entitled to declare themselves a people and set up a homeland.
    Matti Attisari is trying to talk to the Kosovans and the Serbs about this tricky issue. Nobel Peace Prize if he pulls it off. The whole world refuses to recognise Nagorno Karabakh as a nation or a country. I have a list of three books I need to read before I take a view on it.
    Then there is the real mess brewing in northern Iraq.
    As I recall it was the Romans who finally, in a long list, disputed Israel’s right to exist.
    But sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander so I suspect you have recognised the Palestinian’s right to a state.
    I will let Helena answer for herself.
    Next we come to the tricky bit of where the borders lie and what sources to use as authority for setting those boundaries. But lets leave that for the time being shall we. (when they teach you negotiating they tell you to quit while you are ahead)
    Your point about Israel doing quite well is correct if you look at GDP per head. But as Ed Balls pointed out in a talk recently the GDP per head of the Palestinians is appalling.
    So how do the two states work together to bring the Palestinians up to the Israeli standard of living? It isn’t lack of intelligence or training because if you look at Laila al Haddad’s blog or her pal Heba’s they both have MBAs.
    How, if the Red Dead Peace Canal is built, as Shimon Peres proposes, does the water get equitably distributed? More water for irrigation might open up new land for farming, and it would be a tragedy if this became a new casus belli.

  39. Joshua

    “But sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander so I suspect you have recognised the Palestinian’s right to a state.”
    Yes I have. And I’ve said so repeatedly.
    I also agree that Palestinian GDP is not so low because of a lack of education or intelligence. The lower GDP and other indicators have to do with the conflict.
    Interestingly, after 1967, when Israel acquired administration of the territories from Jordan and Egypt, the standard of living, and all reliable economic indicators, in the territories, improved markedly. We went over some of these figures in the past, but Helena deleted some of the posts because it interfered with her narrative of “dedevelopment.”
    Since 2000, those gains have been completely eviscerated, which is unfortunate.
    Part of the problem is that Palestinian nationalism has all too often focused less on creating a state and more on negating the existence of the Israeli state.

  40. Frank al Irlandi

    A lot of the discussion of globalisation is about the obsolescence of the 18th and 19th century concept of the Nation State and one of the things I liked about Shimon Peres talk was his recognition of this fact.
    So perhaps we can put the issue of recognition of anybody’s right to exist on the back burner and continue exploring what we agree on. We had a similar problem in Ireland where the 1949 constitution said that the Irish State consisted of the whole Island of Ireland . The Potestants in the North of Ireland waved it like a red flag for 50 years and accused us of wanting to impose Rome rule on them. In the end prosperous membership of EU meant that the claim became irrelevant so the constitution was changed to accomodate the neighbour’s wishes. The Catholics are reconciled to the idea of majority rule in Northern Ireland because of the inevitable effect of demographics.
    Do we agree on roughly how many people should live between the Lebanese frontier and Aqaba-Eilat?
    If the Jordan River is drying up then one might suspect there are too many people there already or that their use of the water needs a radical rethink.

  41. bob h

    All this talk of nuclear weapons is so unfortunate; while you expect it from frightened little men like Bush and Cheney, Clinton and Obama should know better. Pakistan undoubtedly has the capability to produce suitcase weapons, and might well decide that the way to keep us at bay would be to pre-deploy them here as the
    Soviets did. And the day Pakistan produces such weapons will be the day that Israel’s future is forfeit.

  42. Joshua

    “So perhaps we can put the issue of recognition of anybody’s right to exist on the back burner and continue exploring what we agree on.”
    I suppose you and I can do that. But for the parties involved, it is a lot easier to explore areas of agreement when full diplomatic channels are open.
    Anyway, I think the region, like many parts of the world, may very well have to address issues of overpopulation and development. Although I would note that, in the past, there was talk of the land’s “absorbtive capacity” which failed to take into account new technologies, new methods of living, etc. The British justified their quotas on Jewish immigration because they said the land just couldn’t handle more than the small amount of people already there (interestingly, they only applied that quota to Jewish immigrants, not others).
    Similarly, when the wave of immigrants came from the former Soviet Union, there was concern that Israel couldn’t handle the influx. In fact, it handled it quite well.
    But it may very well be that water is the one issue that will ultimately limit growth in the area.

  43. Helena

    Reminder: The topic here is the alarming degree to which nuclear threats are so easily bandied about within the elite political discourse in the US.
    Please stay on it. Smaller proliferating countries elsewhere around the world all no doubt have their “reasons” to proliferate, that can certainly be examined and discussed. But please not here.

  44. Joshua

    If you want to eliminate threats of nuclear war. Then it is helpful to talk peace. If, for example, Israel’s neighbors immediately and unconditionally established full diplomatic and normalized relations, then the chance of Israel using nuclear weapons would be almost nil.
    So the discussion between Frank and I is quite relevant.

  45. Frank al Irlandi

    Mea culpa!
    However the discussion with Joshua about finding things we agree on (which I hope we can continue on another post) has led me to an interesting conclusion.
    We do actually need to distinguish between two situations; those involving state actors and those involving non state actors.
    Would we go to war over Georgia? Not the one between Alabama and the Carolinas, but the one that is complaining loudly that an aircraft fired a rocket at them yesterday. Georgia is not in NATO (thank God!) but is in Iraq so what level of threat needs to be issued to stop a couple of Motor Rifle Divisions rolling into Tiblisi to secure the flank of the new Black Sea Fleet base at Novo Rossisk.
    As I was wondering what might cause Israel to give up the 250 warheads that they have never admitted to having (or overtly threatened anyone with), I came to the conclusion that somebody else needs to have an ultimate threat so the nightmare scenario of some sort of Dunkirk like beachhead near Tel Aviv never arises.
    Talking about the use of weapons against non state actors is a different kettle of fish.
    First of all there is an added element of where they are because non state actors are globalised.
    If they are on the high seas it is simplest. A ship full of Blackwater up to no good or the container ship with the crude device welded to the bilges can be sunk with whatever weapon is appropriate to make sure it cannot be recovered, ever.
    If they are fifteen nautical miles off Nice the French might get very peeved if someone doesn’t tell them first.
    The appropriate action to use against the guys at 49 Accacia Gardens, Saidu Sharif, Swat who are cooking up a dirty bomb to be delivered to Las Vegas via Mexico is not at all clear.
    It becomes even more difficult if the targets are living in a cave with a blast proof door.
    On balance I would think that risk of war by accident by people launching a cruise missile at somewhere near the Chinese frontier is such that there needs to be a set of international rules of engagement to avoid a disaster.
    So I suspect I agree with you that the ambiguity that Senator Clinton maintained with her remark that everthing is on the table was inappropriate in the context of engaging the targets under discussion.

  46. vadim

    Smaller proliferating countries elsewhere around the world all no doubt have their “reasons” to proliferate
    Israel isn’t a ‘proliferator’ – its nuclear capability predates the NPT altogether and the quantity of warheads under its control has according to most estimates remained fairly constant. Unlike France or Russia it hasn’t transferred its nuclear technology to any other country.
    Assisi started in with the predictable boring anti-Israel rhetoric with his first ‘Israelification’ remark so its odd you’d object only just now. It is regrettable that every last discussion degenerates into a diversionary “two minutes hate.”
    the alarming degree to which nuclear threats are so easily bandied about within the elite political discourse in the US
    Sorry but I still don’t see any “nuclear threat” in any of Hillary’s coy non-statements. She hasn’t ruled out an attack on Iran, or the use of nuclear weapons, or an airborne invasion of Vatican City. That doesn’t mean any of these things have been ‘threatened’ — that’s just sloppy reading. Clearly this is a way for her to appear ‘tough’ without actually saying anything of substance or threatening anyone. Try parsing her non-statements for content & you’ll only end up filling the void with your own projected terror. It’s just what she wants and expects you to do: market her to the right wing as a warmonger WITHOUT compromising her appeal to the Democratic base.

  47. Crimson Ghost

    Amid all the lies spouted about the need to stop Iran getting nukes at some future date, no mention is made of Israel’s large nuclear arsenal.
    Does anyone doubt that Iran would forever renounce nukes if Israel does the same?
    And on the broader issue of foreign policy belligerence by both parties, this basically reflects the fact that APAC types dictate the foreign policy agenda of both the GOP and the Democrats.
    With the most right wing sectors of international Zionism pushing for war with with Iran the future of the human race depends to no small degree on slapping these thugs down right here in the USA.

  48. vadim

    Does anyone doubt that Iran would forever renounce nukes if Israel does the same?
    Yes CG, and with very good reason. You see, Iran as an NPT signatory has already “renounced nukes forever,” well after Israel (which never signed the NPT) was known to have nuclear weapons. Are you suggesting we ask them to renounce it again?

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