Cumulative risk and nuclear war
The precedent for nuclear confrontation is the Cuban Missile Crisis. Both sides settled for less than a win.
We will need a strong president to adjust to the current world reality, which will require us to back away from the forward containment strategy. Neither Joe Biden nor Donald Trump seem to be that type of president.
Lenconnect.com, James W. Pfister 7 May 23
A substantial nuclear strike against the United States would destroy cities and would result in untold deaths and misery. Yet, the United States’ foreign policy interferes with nuclear powers such as Russia in Ukraine and China in Taiwan. We don’t talk much about nuclear war, as if rational beings would never do such a thing. But who expects pure rationality into the unknown future? Humans will experience irrationality, mistakes and even pure evil, as we saw in 9/11.
My thesis is that even though there is a low probability of nuclear war at any given moment, a series of interactions in enmity with nuclear states leads to a cumulative risk over time, just as a dangerous driver will probably eventually experience a crash. We are on China’s and Russia’s borders, based on the old Cold War dynamics of containment. This is dangerous. We will need a strong president to adjust to the current world reality, which will require us to back away from the forward containment strategy. Neither Joe Biden nor Donald Trump seem to be that type of president.
………………………………… Arms control, which was a hope in the past to control nuclear weapons, seems to be weakened. Russia said it will not permit the inspections of the START Treaty. Any meaningful arms-control regime would require an agreement among China, Russia and the United States. Such agreement does not seem likely today.
What about a mistake, or cyber used by terrorists? There could be “faulty judgment, false warnings of attack, or other miscalculation … cyber attacks to disrupt the command and control of nuclear weapons and early warning systems … leaving governments only minutes to decide………………………..
There is no defense to a major nuclear attack. Recently, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yoel met with President Biden to assure that the United States will, in fact, use nuclear weapons against North Korea, even though the latter will have nuclear weapons that can reach the United States. Biden, in effect, said yes, we will risk an attack on Los Angeles, for instance. South Korea and Japan, which have begun to talk, should have their own nuclear deterrents.
The precedent for nuclear confrontation is the Cuban Missile Crisis. Both sides settled for less than a win. Instead of invading Cuba, as some advisers urged, President John F. Kennedy chose the more restrained blockade (“quarantine”). Chairman Nikita Khrushchev, realizing his gamble had failed, withdrew his missiles. Kennedy promised not to invade Cuba and to remove our offensive and provocative weapons from Turkey. Both leaders withdrew from the brink.
“Their prudence holds lessons for today, when so many commentators in Russia and in the West are calling for resolute victory of one side or the other in Ukraine.” (Sergey Radchenko and Vladislav Zubok, “Blundering on the Brink,” Foreign Affairs, April 3, 2023). Many around Putin say, “…Moscow should prefer nuclear Armageddon to defeat.” (Ibid.). Kennedy concluded: “…while defending our own vital interests, nuclear powers must avert those confrontations which bring an adversary to a choice of either a humiliating retreat or nuclear war.”
With the United States assertively involved in enmity with Russia and China, with NATO expansion, doing “saber-rattling” shows of force in Asia in military exercises, the chance of nuclear war increases with cumulative risk. …………
We need spheres of Influence among the three great nuclear powers, and prudence. The United States cannot aggressively be on their doorsteps without risking nuclear war. The United States must climb down from its unipolar role.
James W. Pfister, J.D. University of Toledo, Ph.D. University of Michigan (political science), retired after 46 years in the Political Science Department at Eastern Michigan University. He lives at Devils Lake and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. https://www.lenconnect.com/story/opinion/columns/2023/05/07/james-w-pfister-cumulative-risk-and-nuclear-war/70191242007/