The Cepia Club Blog

The Cepia Club Blog: The Cepia Club believes individual awareness and activism can lead to a peaceful and prosperous world. This blog contains the pertinent literature, both creative and non-fiction, produced by the Cepiaclub Director and its associates.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Epochs, Conflict and Change

In the last two hundred years, four shifts form the birthing-panged process of human civilization as we have it. The first shift in question began at the end of French Revolution & Napoleonic Era. It consolidated mass industrial societies. A multipolar system of competing empires in Europe and Asia, along with America’s unique “republican” imperialism over the Western Hemisphere, governed international relations.
The second shift centered around the American Civil War (1861-1865) and America’s rise to Great Power status over the next fifty years, and an unwanted empire in the Pacific. In this epoch America prepared itself to pose its power to become THE key in the struggle between empires, old and crumbling (Russia, China, Ottoman, and Austro-Hungarian), new (Japan and Germany), the most powerful (Great Britain), and on the fence (France).
The third epoch, humanity’s insane civil war, was the long, interrupted conflict from 1914-1945, the First and Second World Wars. In this conflict, America and Russia under Bolshevism, emerged the most powerful, the other empires dead or dying. The World Wars were between racist superiority practicing slavery under totalitarian government and were opposed by constitutional liberal democracy and contractual markets.
The Cold War was the struggle was between America’s funny “democratic” imperialism and the Bolshevik/Soviet communist one. It was an often violent and financially costly “war” between systems and ideas of industrial government.
9/11/2001, the true end of the Cold War, was the beginning of the “Post-Historical Era,” to be a struggle between individuals and their liberty against elite classes ruling for the narrow interests of the few. The moral of this history is that the politics, economics, technology, and the very cultures changed. “Chicken and egg,” change and conflict entwine. Historians should witness this era as the defining moment whether humanity is enslaved for the benefit of the few, or whether the rights and laws of nature–life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness–shall endure, apply, and rule our future, for peace and prosperity.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Suicidal & Diplomacy: Bargaining Out of Armageddon

Review of: Rhodes, Richard. Arsenals of Folly: The Making of the Nuclear Arms Race. New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 2007.

Author Richard Rhodes clarifies the philosophical paradox of nuclear science: Discovering nuclear fission, splitting the atom to produce energy, was a fact of science bound to happen when rational, intelligent creatures pursued their curiosity about how things work. The process of discovering nature’s secret was inevitable. It was pursued, and a contribution to knowledge was made. On the other hand, turning nuclear science into a weapon of mass indiscriminate slaughter was a choice. In truth, though, creating atomic weapons in World War II, using them, and then developing thermonuclear weapons in 1954 stemmed from a cold political calculus of power governed by fear of enemies.
The political decision for the “Superbomb” occurred early in the Cold War, in 1950, when President Truman ordered the development of the hydrogen “fusion” bomb. Since the Soviets successfully tested a fission “atomic” bomb in late summer 1949, the United States, according to Truman’s logic, had to develop the Super because, logically, the Soviets would try to build one, too. Survival of the fittest in international politics became synonymous with the later-day term of “Mutual Assured Destruction” (MAD): If one nation was killed with nuclear weapons, the other side must die in a tit-for-tat “absurd reduction” of common suicide. From 1950 onward, the US and Soviet leaders, political and military, held themselves hostage to the up to, but never exceeding, the extinction of the entire world. The cost in money was in the tens of trillions over 45 years. The cost in what was never built in terms of schools, roads, and diverse energy is not calculable at all.
Thermonuclear bombs were themselves the next logical step for scientific inquiry, in that rather than splitting atoms to attain a finite amount of energy, fission was used to “fuse” atoms–to combine them; the leftover quantity of “free” unused atoms releasing energy on magnitudes of 1000 to 10,000 times greater than the energy used to destroy Hiroshima, the first victim of nuclear combat. The Hiroshima bomb had the power of 20,000 tons of TNT (hence, 20 Kilotons, or 20 kt.).The discovery of fission might have been a natural step in human civilization, which could have assisted human development through the production of massive amounts of cheaper electricity. The hydrogen “Superbomb,” which the Soviets at one point tested in excess of 100 million tons of exploding TNT (100 megatons), had little civilian-economic relevance: For 54 years, Superbombs had been only good to THREATEN destruction of life, liberty and property if ever used with hostile intent.
What could have happened in a nuclear war is best seen by the tragic results of Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, in the dead, the wounded, and those later dead or wounded from blast, fire, and radiation effects, some years or decades afterward, and on some born a generation later. The explosion, radiation pollution, long-term effects, and the political embarrassment of the Soviet Union’s Chernobyl accident in April 1986 further taught a newer generation the inherent dangers of nuclear science, even in relative peace. If such careless accidents in the peaceful use of nuclear science could cause such mayhem and damage to people and earth, what about political irrationality and carelessness involving the actual use of nuclear weapons in a hot war, by accident, or by terrorist elements?
Thus is the setting theme of Rhodes’ examination of the US-Soviet diplomacy in the 1980s for nuclear arms control and reduction, to make the world safer beyond the excessive reliance for national security on nuclear weapons and their latent threat of Armageddon. For in the end, with a weapon that could not ever be used, using them in the context of Superpower politics might exceed the basic line between life and extinction. What would be the odds of survival of anything, let alone humans?
Talking mostly about the diplomacy Ronald Reagan and his Messianic belief in being a peacemaker who stops biblical Armageddon on one side, and on the other side, Mikhail Gorbachev’s liberal reform of Soviet society to stop the money drain of the arms race, Rhodes in a readable pop-history style describes the tortuous people and the events to negotiate and end to the Cold War, and dismantling nuclear arsenals played a pivotal part in the end. The intensive exchange of proposals, negotiating formulas, and near-misses, including the October 1986 Reykjavik summit, Rhodes describes in non-technical, conversational detail. The Soviet Union in 1982 firmly believed the US was about to initiative a surprise nuclear first-strike against the Soviet Union. Soviet leaders also later believed Reagan’s “Star Wars” space-based anti-missile defenses were escalation in nuclear diplomacy, would result in more arms spending to counter-act, and led to political instability. Rhodes’ book leaves one wondering how the world survived humanity’s fear and greed distributed equally between capitalist and communist elites–without nuclear holocaust becoming a reality.
In startling theater, like Reagan’s B-movie-style walk out from the Reykjavik meeting, Rhodes adds an important perspective for average readers to understand the events, the protagonists, and the antagonists who kept nuclear weapons in our life, and the descriptions fit aptly why the weapons continue to hang over humanity like the sword of Damocles. Not surprisingly, certain individuals high in the American Government in the 1980s fought to keep the weapons around and use them in war if necessary. They returned to prominence in the early 21st Century to dominate Bush Administration policy in the new wave of national security through fear in the war on the terrorists, replacing old Armageddon’s with new armies of darkness.