Monday, March 12, 2012

Nuclear Feasibility and the Insurgent Santorum/Electoral Revolt Strategy, Perhaps Maybe?

This week I chose the article…”Santorum Insurgent…” where the candidate, who has taken an extreme position on too many ideas to enumerate here, takes an extreme position regarding the importance of his campaign. For the purpose of this discussion, he is also quite vehemently for the use of US military force against Iran. Rhetorically.  He tied with Romney in Michigan; he apparently thought he was an underdog. Now, to be fair, I take his meaning at first glance to be “I won even though I’m an underdog,” but the dictionary definition is pretty clear:” 1: a person who revolts against civil authority or an established government; especially: a rebel not recognized as a belligerent” and “2. One who acts contrary to the policies and decisions of one's own political party.”  I see here a comparison I would like to make, especially given the growing harshness of the rhetoric and fear-politicking we know has historically appealed to our lower angels in times of severe economic instability.
To make the point that this is not the old “both parties” bull, I will point to the article “Nancy Pelosi Ridicules.” Passing a jobs bill, she is saying, is really just everyone lining to up to pledge to the same flag at the same time. “Woo-hoo! The “little king” is on parade! We need and deserve more than that. I believe Speaker John Boehner’s need to be publicly patted on the back for doing the right thing (the obvious right thing in my mind being massive, even excessive government spending so as to stimulate domestic consumer spending , which oughta free up recalcitrant and often near [ha!] criminal banks to do some lending)  so as to avoid the political cost of continuing outright obstruction shows a reality many Realists are loathe to recognize, but one that exists all the same: Governance is different than campaigning, in fact it Requires Revenue--and the current crop on the Right are, well, strengthening Iran, even perhaps increasing the likelihood America will be drawn into a “war of choice.”
Are we nearer a nuclear threat from Iran or any other nation this day from a previous one? Not hardly. No, really, who is telling you this? Because they know the facts, they know better, they avoid telling you, and that is messed up.
           Consider the coercion factor of nuclear weaponry—where no state can use one or all  states  will suffer—and see that this idea, the coercion utility of nuclear force is the sum of our problem. Each who seeks power must also accept the People’s responsibility to act Rationally.  MAD (mutual assured destruction, crazy as it sounds) and deterrence diplomacy work, have worked, do work, are expected to work in the near and far future, just as more government spending sooner in each of our Great Depressions would have pushed the nation forward sooner. This is a current reality—no rational actor will start a nuclear war. An independent non state actor or a government overthrown and run by extremists? Well, those are different stories. The utility of owning a nuclear weapon is the main draw for those who do not have one, but there is no feasible way for a state without one to get one without the United States knowing about it. Let’s focus first on what we are really scared of—an extremist government acting irrationally to nuke us.
 MIT  Professor Ted Postol,  interviewed for Boston Review (“What’s Wrong with Missile Defense”) ,nearly laughs at the Missile Defense scheme, the whole idea. I tried to follow it; his class would be immense in its reading alone, I presume. But this was well defined: the physics are nearly impossible, since you have to account for decoys and brightness and such, and the technology is prohibitively expensive to test-- and yet we have continued down this path for a number of years. We have been spending militarily for decades to prepare for a war we know will never come. All major states have nukes and the ones who want them can only come by them through illicit means. More Postol: “The ideological assumption of the extreme right of the Republican party is that there are weapons of mass destruction out there that can be delivered over intercontinental range by ballistic missiles, in the hands of people that just aren't rational like we are (polemically I guess), and that we need to be able to protect ourselves from these irrational people whom we cannot deter and are either out to get us or out to minimize our ability to do what we think we need to do in the world. That is the mindset that seems to me to be behind this push for defense.” He then makes clear that those lying about the current “threat “of nuclear” (let’s say……..Iran) are lying, saying those who push this fear are, and he uses this word liberally, “ridiculous”: “We attack their surface-to-air-missile sites daily when they turn on the radar, but when they put the ICBM out there, we don't attack it. We are afraid to do it. And then the net result is that they launch this ICBM and we are without a defense. That is the scenario. The scenario is ridiculous because it is unimaginable that we wouldn't attack this ICBM first.”
I refuse to be afraid of a virtually nonexistent threat, myself; I will not believe the lie. Truly then we see that Terror is a tool of the weak. So. There is no viable threat from a nuclear state, at the moment, but I would like to point to the “dark side to American populism.” (McCain as quoted in the movie Game Change). The main point we would be wise to take from this is that what we see as madness is not necessarily incompetence. It might be a threat to the legitimacy of our non-violent transfer of power. Imagine if the electoral college chooses to revolt?! Would an extremist government not then have nuclear deterrent power, if say, Santorum were the Republican nominee and the electors refused a second term from President Obama? An “insurgent” candidate? Really, Mr. Santorum?
          So, lies? Yeah, politicians lie, and some use fear to push their election. This is not exactly new ground, especially in a discussion centered around war and nuclear power. In fact, I am loathe to believe that there is New Ground—there is only ground we have been over before; there is only today we must survive. Thanks to 9-11 and the Patriot Act and drone technology, as Marc AmBinder in the GQ article assures us, we would know if the chemical composition of the soil in Iran were to change—so this is not Iraq. One thing we know about the current administration: they will not lie to get us into a war.
I am reminded of a fact from history (another class I am taking) –the annual budget of the US government at the beginning of the Great Depression (1929) was 2 billion. When the New Deal went through, that number rose to 9 billion. But the War Boom is what saved the economy, this excessive massive government spending. This appears to be the aim of the Right, to start a “just” war and blame the inevitable rise in taxes on that, not their legislation or political choices (they took an oath to never raise taxes, remember?) What they forget is that the budget went up to 100 billion dollars, as we collectively saw and solved for an  immediate need to build and repair infrastructure and put in place better safety nets so that the individual could no longer held accountable for the failings of society while all were paying to defend it. We have here, perhaps, some unique opportunity to address redress, and in the coming weeks we will go on to discuss many possible (if not short term) solutions.
 But a question: If there was a new war to break out, nuclear or more conventional-- one that required a draft even, given the state of our volunteer forces, how would we as a nation respond?  Do we have the infrastructure ready to mobilize the people? Are the people really willing? Willing? Ready? Really?

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Article Analysis Assignment

First, read a news story from the newspaper or the Internet.  Answer the following questions regarding your news story: 1) what is the main issue, who are the main actors being discussed; then, choose one of the assigned articles you read for this week.  Answer the following questions regarding the assigned article: 1) What are the basics of this article (who, what, when, how, why, etc.); 2) What is the overall main point the author is trying to convince you of?  3) Do you agree with the author’s argument?  Why?  Why not?   Finally, tie together your news story with what you learned from the assigned article, textbook readings, podcasts, videos, etc. for this week.  Type your answers in the box below using your own words, no outline or bullets, complete sentences and paragraphs, single-spaced, full-page. 

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