by Spencer Graves

DISCLAIMER:  PeaceWorks Kansas City is officially encouraging its supporters to follow two events March 14 and 26 discussed below. However, the PeaceWorks Board has NOT endorsed the following description of those events nor other comments in this article.  Those are my own personal opinions.

I’m Spencer Graves, and I claim that we, the people of the United States of America, are more than 300 million 3-year olds playing with matches in a pyrotechnics factory without a thought that we might get burned.

This is, of course, hyperbole but only a modest extrapolation from available evidence, as discussed below.  

Every country in the world needs a strong, effective national defense. They do not need governments that routinely exaggerate the threats nor engage in provocative actions or even war when demands for rule of law would most likely be more effective and less risky. They need media systems that support broadly shared peace and prosperity for the long term. Sadly, most of the money for the media everywhere are controlled by people whose social status might be threatened by measures to strengthen equal rights under the law.

PeaceWorks Kansas City is endorsing two presentations in March that discuss questionable government actions, especially some involving violations of US law conducted in secret, even lying to Congress.

1. March 14, Tuesday, 6-6:30 PM, Matthew Connelly is scheduled to discuss his new book on The Declassification Engine: What History Reveals About America’s Top Secrets:

Connelly is a History Professor at Columbia University with a substantial record based on other previous widely acclaimed publications. He says,

“a lot of secret intelligence is not actually secret,

and what is secret is often not intelligent”.1

He cites documents indicating that much of what has been done in the US in secret have been either stupid or criminal or secretly provocative, hoping to convince foreign powers to do something that the President can then denounce as “unprovoked” to stampede the US Congress into authorizing ill-advised uses of military force.

Examples include Pearl Harbor, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, the War on Terror, and the 1991 and 2003 Gulf Wars. The current “nuclear renovation” programs of the US, Russia and China provide another example: These could lead to nuclear war by accident, miscalculation, or a malfunction of nuclear command, control and communications. Publicly available documents describe multiple incidents that came close to triggering a nuclear war and nuclear Armageddon. It is impossible to know how many others such incidents have occurred but are not publicly documented. It seems foolish to assume that the probability of a nuclear war, whether by accident or design, is negligible. It seems even less credible to claim that the current “nuclear renovation” programs do NOT increase these risks. Former US Secretary of Defense William Perry has claimed that these risks may be increasing.2 Prior to the current war in Ukraine, a “Superforecasting” methodology that outperformed intelligence analysts with access to classified information, estimated a 2 percent chance of a nuclear war in the next 3 years. If that probability is constant for 70 years, less than the life expectancy of a child born today, that translates into a 40 percent chance of a nuclear war in that period.3 However, that seems unrealistically conservative.  Both the current “nuclear renovation” programs and the current war in Ukraine substantially increase those risks.4

2. March 26, Sunday, 9:30 – 10:30 AM Central,5 All Souls Forum is scheduled to hear John Mueller discuss, “The Stupidity of War and the Exaggeration of Threat”. Mueller is a prolific author and political scientist at Ohio State University and the Cato Institute. He will discuss his 2021 book, The Stupidity of War: American Foreign Policy and the Case for Complacency. He will describe the historic decline of international war and the tendency nonetheless to exaggerate national security threats. In particular, his book documents that the most effective thing the US did to win the Cold War was — nothing: Between the Fall of Saigon in 1975 and the inauguration of Ronal Reagan as President of the US in 1981, the US mostly stopped sending the US military into foreign countries. This encouraged the Soviet Union to intervene in Afghanistan, where they bled to death in the 1980s and collapsed in 1989-1991.

3. Foreign threats that cannot be attributed to either exaggerations or provocative actions by the US can be handled much more effectively by recourse to rule of law. The entire “War on Terror” falls in this category.

4. We are the media we consume. And the major media everywhere are managed to increase political polarization to make it easier for the people who control the money for the media to get special favors from government with minimal citizen input.

I repeat: We, the people of the United States of America, are more than 300 million 3-year olds playing with matches in a pyrotechnics factory without a thought that we might get burned.


1 Connelly (2023) The Declassification Engine: What History Reveals About America’s Top Secrets (Harvard U. Pr., p 392).

2 Perry and Collina (2020) The Button: The new nuclear arms race and presidential power from Truman to Trump (BenBella Books).

3 Wikiversity, “Time to nuclear Armageddon“, accessed 2023-02-28.

4Xia et al. estimate that “more than 2 billion people [25% of humanity] could die from nuclear war between India and Pakistan, and more than 5 billion [over 60% of humanity] could die from a war between the United States and Russia”. Xia, et al. (2022-08) “Global food insecurity and famine … due to … nuclear war soot injection“, Nature Food, vol. 3.

copyright 2023 Spencer Graves Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA) 4.0 International license