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War planners put world at ‘unprecedented peril’

By Brian Terrell

Note: “There’s no longer a fear of mutually assured destruction (MAD). … That’s passé,” says Brian Terrell in this video by Ann Suellentrop from the Midwest Catholic Workers Faith and Resistance Retreat 3/24-27/23. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5nsyzhqA3Iw

The B61 free-fall nuclear bombs currently at US Air Force bases and at “nuclear sharing” bases in Europe are scheduled over the next months to be replaced with a new model being produced in part in Kansas City, the B61-12, with steerable tail fins intended to make them much more precise and deployable. The new bombs also have a dial-up facility with which the explosive force can be set from 1 to 50 kilotons, more than three times the power of the bomb that destroyed Hiroshima in 1945.

“More precise and deployable” is another way of saying more likely to be used, and with these new, more flexible weapons on hand, US war planners are thinking up more ways to use them. In a June 2019 report by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, “Nuclear Operations,” it is suggested that “using nuclear weapons could create conditions for decisive results and the restoration of strategic stability. … Specifically, the use of a nuclear weapon will fundamentally change the scope of a battle and create conditions that affect how commanders will prevail in conflict.”

The Cold War ended with the realization that there are no winners in a nuclear war and that with the destruction wrought in a nuclear exchange, no one will prevail in such a conflict. There is a growing consensus among military planners, however, that the Cold War was not the narrow escape from annihilation historians agree that it was. Some have even come to view those years with nostalgia and want to go back. Last November, Navy Adm. Charles A. Richard, then commander of StratCom (US Strategic Command in Omaha), the military command “responsible for strategic deterrence; nuclear operations; nuclear command, control, and communications,” suggested that the US should look to the 1950s to regain a “competitive edge.”

“This Ukraine crisis that we’re in right now, this is just the warmup,” Adm. Richard said.

Real peace can only be maintained by mutual trust. The doctrine of “mutually assured destruction,” MAD, the knowledge that the devastation wrought by a nuclear exchange would be total and horrible beyond imagination, did not bring the peace many hoped for, but it did forestall, for a time at least, a nuclear mass extinction over the last decades. The growing delusion among US war planners that a nuclear war can be won puts the world at unprecedented peril.

—Brian Terrell, outreach coordinator of the Nevada Desert Experience and a co-founder of the Strangers and Guests Catholic Worker Farm in Maloy, Iowa, shared some of these reflections at the 3/24-27 Midwest Catholic Worker Faith and Resistance Retreat in Madison, WI. © 2023, Brian Terrell, Ann Suellentrop, Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 4.0 International License.

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