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Quotes and Notes

Jonathan Schell (“Speak Loudly, Carry a Small Stick”, Harper’s, March, 1989):

History rarely provides direct, unequivocal answers to our questions, but in this case it has provided them. We live in the future about which the credibility theorists made their predictions. The disaster they strove so adamantly to prevent — the fall of the Saigon regime — occurred. Worse, that fall was accompanied by the fall of two American presidents — events that, if the theory was right, could only hugely magnify the damaging consequences of Saigon’s fall. After all, if the American public forced out presidents who sought to “protect” countries against attack, then how could other countries place their confidence in the United States? However, the dire consequences predicted by the theory failed to occur. India and Pakistan did not fall. Countries around the world did not fall. The Soviet Union and China retained their “respect” for the United States and even increased it. “Free institutions” all over the world remained standing. The free world did not collapse. The credibility theory was tested, and it was wrong. It might be logically compelling and it might be historically sound and it might prove right in some future place or time. But in this place and in this time it was wrong.

A Reuters report (“India near H-bomb test, report says”, Globe and Mail, May 22) claims that:

“India and Pakistan are much deeper into a nuclear arms race than previously thought, with India poised to test a hydrogen bomb and Pakistan developing an atomic bomb for use with F-16 attack aircraft, researchers reported yesterday.” “If either country tests or deploys weapons …the other will follow, posing a danger to the security of South Asia and perhaps undermining efforts to keep other countries such as Argentina and Brazil from joining the nuclear club …” “Pakistan will have produced enough weapon-grade uranium to make eight to 16 bombs by the end of 1990 while India already has enough plutonium for at least 40 to 50 nuclear weapons.” “…Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi and Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto of Pakistan ‘appear unwilling or unable to constrain their nuclear weapons programs,’ resulting in a nuclear stand-off between the two nations …” “Wars are not caused by nations having armies … wars are caused by political conflicts that create crises that spin out of control. Now, the Soviets are not going to wake up one morning and say, ‘Let’s invade Europe today’ …But their being in Europe prevents the natural political evolution of the Eastern European countries. Thus political tensions within those countries fester — they have no safety valve. Sooner or later, under these conditions, an explosion will happen; popular unrest will break out. What will the Soviets do then? Will they sit back and watch their empire disintegrate, or will they be tempted to launch a war against the West to save the empire?” Remarks by Christopher Lane (adviser to the Bush Campaign), quoted by Jack Beatty (“The Exorbitant Anachronism”, The Atlantic Monthly, June 1989).

From a letter by Eric Cox, Field Director, World Federalist Association in The Nation, June 5:

in the late 1940s and in the 1950s much American foreign policy, however narrowly focused, nevertheless was directed through the United Nations and was supported by both major political parties …When the pressure was put on President Eisenhower to intervene in the Congo, he had the good sense to opt for the United Nations’ dealing with the troubles there. In later years bipartisan support for the United Nations waned, and unilateral actions replaced multilateral diplomacy. Not coincidentally, what followed was a series of U.S. failures in Vietnam, Lebanon, Nicaragua and elsewhere.

Bruce Van Voorst (“Will Star Wars ever fly?”, Time, June 26):

“Bush decided not to relax US insistence on the ultimate right to install (SDI). He acted in part to avoid irritating his conservative supporters. But the Soviets say they will not agree to START without continuing constraints on SDI.” On “Brilliant Pebbles”: “The new SDI director, Lieut. General George Monahan, has cautiously embraced the concept as ‘doable’, but warns that it is still an experimental approach.” “When inspected closely …Pebbles appears less than brilliant. Much of the sensing technology remains unproved, and the difficulties of retaining human control of thousands of semi-autonomous weapons hurtling through space are immense. Moreover, claims that pebbles would cost as little as $500,000 each are overly optimistic. Even if such difficulties can be overcome, it is unlikely that the American public would ever warm to the idea of cluttering the heavens with a swarm of rockets outnumbering existing satellites by a factor of six.”

Let us hope Bruce Van Voorst’s confidence in US public perceptiveness is justified …

Paul Lewis (“Military Buildup in Canada Falls Victim to Budget Cuts”, New York Times, June 30); excerpts:

“The percentage of its economic output that Canada spent on the military was 2.2 percent in 1986, according to the International Institute for Strategic Studies. Ten allies devoted a greater share of their gross national product to the military, led by the United States at 6.7 percent.” “Many analysts say the Conservatives’ reversal on military buildup came about because of a clash between the country’s traditional desire to assert its independence of the United States, and a deep aversion to military spending.”

Bill O’Neill (“Life in the exclusion zone”, New Scientist, July 1):

“Kombinat is “the authority that now governs the 50-kilometre exclusion zone around Chernobyl’s infamous nuclear power station.” “Kombinat pays people four times the going rate to work in the territory from which about 135,000 residents were evacuated soon after the accident. Workers do 15 days on and then 15 days off, many returning to their families ensconced in Kiev about 130 kilometres to the south. Their health is regularly monitored as part of the agreement, though some of them say they have never felt better.” “Employees of Kombinat collect and bury contaminated property in lined tombs in the ground, and rebury the waste that was discarded quickly and perhaps ineptly — no one knows for sure — in the immediate aftermath of the accident. They scrape off topsoil and bury that, too; and they sprinkle the roads with water, which keeps down the radioactive dust but does little to ease the accumulating contamination of the soil. They also run the three working reactors at the power station, and they look after the scientists and technologists who have turned the zone into a vast research laboratory. You see them driving round in vehicles with huge numbers on the doors instead of licence plates. Vehicles designated in this way were abandoned after the accident and will now never leave the exclusion zone.”

Paul Brown and Michael Duncan (“Blunders give Russia missiles secrets”, Manchester Guardian Weekly, July 9):

“Furnaces worth Sterling 7 million to make a secret substance which can give ballistic missiles pinpoint accuracy have been exported free to the Soviet Union because of blunders by the CIA and the Department of Trade and Industry.” “The technology on which the process is based has been regarded as giving the US the edge in the cold war. The technology has now been mastered by the Russians who are producing a surplus of the secret material, known as carbon carbon. It has offered to sell the material to the Ministry of Defence for use in Trident missiles at less than the price Britain can produce it.” “The furnaces were manufactured in Scotland and subsidised by the taxpayer.” “The blunders by the CIA and the Department of Trade and Industry failed to stop the export and a regulation preventing completion of the contract was made after the order had been shipped.” “The carbon carbon is placed as a nose cone shield on intercontinental ballistic missiles to give them pinpoint accuracy, increasing first strike capacity to knock out enemy missile silos.”

From “A European street of easy neighbours” (Manchester Guardian Weekly, July 16, 1989):

All things are possible with Mikhail Gorbachev. But not all things to all men, all together. And that is both the fascination of, and the trouble with, his Strasbourg address last week. It sketched countless possibilities for the future of Europe. But is was not the long-awaited definition of ‘our European home.’ It is not a European home that we need, but a European street of relaxed neighbours. Put us all together — different clout, different systems — under one roof, and there would be domestic strife. That is the history of the old, bad, warring Europe. Set us side by side along an avenue and who knows what, in the end, may appear? Martin Walker (“Strapped for cash, stumped for solutions”, Manchester Guardian Weekly, July 23):
“…the US can no longer afford its pretensions to leadership of the Free World.” “Like so many militarist systems, the American superpower has proved so good at fighting the last war that it is not terribly well equipped for the challenge of the next one.” “The US has done a stunning job of building up all kinds of weaponry needed for every possible kind of Cold War, nuclear or conventional, desert or arctic, outer space or under the icecap. But it is embarrassingly short of the ready cash that is clearly now the main sinew of the Great Game of the 1990’s.” “To make a virtue out of this necessity, President Bush convened a symposium of business leaders at the White House to ask them what private industry could do for Eastern Europe, consistent with the interests of the shareholders. The answer was not a great deal more than modest investments already under way, for the obvious reason that if such ventures made commercial sense, banks and businessmen would be making them.”

John C. Polanyi (“Controlling the cancer of war”, Globe and Mail, July 28):

“The subtext of the conventional force reduction in Europe is that nuclear powers and their close allies must be barred even from conventional armed conflict, since the danger of the escalation to nuclear war is intolerable.” “The real world is hearing a message that is still only whispered within the confines of Pugwash — namely, that nuclear weapons are in the process of relegating not only nuclear war but war itself to the junk heap of history.”

(John Polanyi, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, recently delivered the closing address at the Pugwash International Conference in the United States.)

From article by Charlotte Montgomery (“Open-skies conference called feather in Canada’s cap,” Globe and Mail, September 2):

“It is a tribute to Canada that both superpowers have quickly accepted its offer to hold an international open-skies conference, a Canadian disarmament expert says.” “Usually the big powers like to keep these to themselves,’ Alex Morrison, executive director of the Toronto-based Canadian Institute of Strategic Studies, said of the proposed conference on surveillance flights.” “In the arms control field, it’s a significant development, and it’s a tribute to Canada’s work in the verification field and … to our.objectivity.” “The conference is intended to bring together members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Warsaw Pact to draw up an agreement allowing surveillance flights over each other’s territory at short notice. This so-called open-skies concept has been approved in general terms by both the United States and the Soviet Union after decades of intermittent discussion.” “Prime Minister Brian Mulroney offered Sept. 24 to hold the conference in Canada, an offer that Soviet Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze accepted Wednesday in a meeting with External Affairs Minister Joe Clark. A date and location remain to be chosen.”

From the editorial “Diverting energies from defence” (Globe and Mail, September 28):

“There is a view espoused today by many Marxists (who yesterday claimed that capitalism was on the brink of collapse) that socialist and capitalist economies are compatible in a single, global marketplace. Mr. Gorbachev’s vision of Greater Europe is founded on the conviction that the hostile competition of the past can be transformed into cooperation in the future.”


“An opportunity has arisen for both sides to divert a substantial portion of their mammoth annual expenditure on defence into more productive investment. Such savings will be easily absorbed by emerging environmental problems and the need to get new aid to the deeply indebted nations of the south.”

From The Toronto Star, Sept. 29:

“Ottawa has told Moscow that it may allow the presence in Canada of Soviet aircraft to inspect military bases here and in the United States.” “The Mulroney government made the informal offer while sending to the Soviets and our NATO allies a detailed plan for opening European and North American skies to unrestricted aerial surveillance of sensitive military facilities.” “One possibility is that the Soviet inspection planes would use Gander, Nfld., where the Soviet airline Aeroflot already has refueling rights, sources told Southam News.” “A copy of the Canadian document was distributed to all NATO and Warsaw Pact governments last week.” “The move is the latest by Canada in its efforts to act as a catalyst for new East-West peace talks.” “‘Open skies’ is a concept first put forward by former US president Dwight Eisenhower during a 1955 Geneva summit with Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev, who instantly dismissed it as an espionage plot.” “But last May Bush revived the Eisenhower plan. Two weeks later, it was endorsed in principle by all 16 NATO members and last week by the Soviets.”

Disarmers will regret that the British Labor Party has abandoned its disarmament policy (Reuters, Globe and Mail, October 3). The reason appears to have been that “Labor’s old unilateralist defence posture was attacked (at Labor’s annual conference) as a major factor in the 1983 and 1987 general election losses …”

Gordon Barthos (“Palestinians, Israelis headed for nuclear war, Hussein fears”, Sunday Star, October 8) quotes King Hussein of Jordan:

“Israel is a nuclear power. Israel possesses weapons of destruction.” “If there is no progress towards a solution (to the Palestinian demand for a homeland) very, very soon, then I think the possibilities are very frightening.”

Hussein claimed that radicals in both Israel and Palestine camps “have been working very hard to destroy any chances for peace.”

“We hope that they will not win.” “One can only hope that reasonable, responsible elements will have their say now — before it is too late.” “Despite the very dark picture …people of good will and farsightedness can hopefully emerge to save the situation.” “We have really come to the point now where the core of the problem has to be addressed: the Palestinian problem and Palestinian rights over Palestinian soil.” “The Palestinians are ready (to talk peace). Somehow the Israelis have got to get their act together and make their contribution, too.” “The interests of Israel, the interests of her neighbours, the interests of the world and of the Palestinians are not being served by a totally negative attitude and a reliance purely on force.”

The B-2 Stealth Bomber Strategic Absurdity

The B-2 Stealth bomber, ten years in development at a cost of $22 billion, flew for the first time on July 18, 1989. If — as seems extremely doubtful even to its advocates — the full programme survives Congressional opposition, 132 of the flying-wing planes will be built by the mid-1990s at a programme cost exceeding $70 billion.

According to General Larry C. Welch, chief of staff of the US Air Force, 132 B-2s will be needed to hold enough strategic targets in the Soviet Union at risk in the late 1990s if a START agreement is negotiated under the current US-Soviet consensus on weapon ceilings Under this agreement, each superpower will be limited to 6,000 strategic weapons, of which 1,100 will be “bomber weapons” — air-launched cruise missiles, gravity bombs, and short-range attack missiles. Air-launched cruise missiles will be counted individually within the ceiling, but the B-2, which will carry no cruise missiles, will be counted as a single weapon even though it will carry about 20 gravity bombs and/or short-range attack missiles. This will increase the total warheads available to about 9,500, of which some 4,600 will be on 230 B-1B and B-2 bombers. The counting rules favouring bombers are a good example of how well-intentioned arms control efforts often promote weapons development.

The B-2, designed to elude radar and other sensors, is intended to penetrate Soviet air defences and attack mobile missiles held in reserve during a protracted nuclear war. This is most likely a cover for the real purpose of the programme, which is to maintain the manned bombers on which the US Air Force relies for its claim to independence and preeminence among the military services. This claim, which originally justified the independence of both the Royal Air Force (in 1918) and the US Air Force (in 1947), has been stretched to absurdity in this $530 million disturber of nuclear rubble.

Will the B-2 pose a destabilizing first-strike threat to the Soviet Union? No, and to the contrary, says General John D. Chain, USAF, commander of Strategic Air Command. It will be not faster than a commercial airliner, and its 6,000-mile unrefuelled range will leave it dependent on tanker support. Although individually very difficult to track and shoot down, it will not be completely invisible to radar, and an attacking force would face a very high probability of detection. Its virtue will be the ability to penetrate highly defended areas in which even the B-1B will not be able to survive in the future. In the logic and jargon of nuclear deterrence, the B-2 would be stabilizing.

Opponents of the programme argue that the B-2 is too costly, that it is not required, that it is unlikely to meet its performance goals, and that planning to fight and win a protracted nuclear war by attacking mobile missiles doesn’t make sense, especially after several thousand nuclear warheads have already been expended by both sides. A cheaper alternative to the B-2 is available in the conversion of the B-1B to advanced cruise missile carrier, the cost of which would be only about 10% of the cost of the B-2. Unfortunately for the air force, the START counting rules would permit only about 50 cruise missile carriers and almost any old bomber would do.

Although reluctant to kill the B-2 outright at this stage, the US Congress has reduced its funding and will insist that the bomber meet its performance goals before authorizing production. The B-70 programme of the 1960s was cancelled, as was the B1 of the 1970s, only to be resurrected as the B-1B in Ronald Reagan’s military spending binge of the 1980s. There are even more serious doubts about the B-2 than there were about those earlier attempts to replace the aging B-52, and it seems likely that wisdom will prevail against the parochial interests of the US Air Force. For the present at least, the B-2 should not worry anyone but the Americans, whose political problem it is.

Major-General (Ret) Leonard V. Johnson

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