If you go on with this nuclear arms race, all you are going to do is make the rubble bounce.Winston Churchill
When is the truth not the truth? The first time it is tested.
We have had our eyes opened to perceived truths twice in less than three years. Truth #1: Advances in medical science make global pandemics things of the past. Truth #2: The sacred cornerstone of American democracy is the peaceful transfer of power.
This week we have been exposed to a third, the idea that massive stockpiles of nuclear weapons by the world’s superpowers and the threat of mutual guaranteed destruction (MGD) would keep the peace. A brief history of the concept via BRITANNICA.COM.
To many Western strategists, the development of the hydrogen bomb with its incredible killing potential spelled the end of conventional ground warfare. Despite the example of Korea, the next war, they reasoned, would be fought by the thermonuclear giants, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. Such a holocaust could only be avoided by a strategy of nuclear deterrence, and the development of a sizable nuclear arsenal would provide the cornerstone of U.S. Pres. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s “New Look” defense policy.
Faith in this theory grew over time based on the absence over seven decades of armed conflicts approaching the last two world wars. However, just as manufacturers put consumers on notice guarantees are voided if they do not follow specified service terms (e.g. taking the item to an authorized repair provider), the same is true of geopolitics. A guarantee is only as good as the willingness of the buyers to follow the instructions which come with their purchase.
Which of course brings us to Vladimir Putin and his threat to use weapons of mass destruction if the United States and NATO directly intervene in Ukraine. Under the tenets of MGD, U.S. and NATO nuclear capability should have deterred Putin from thinking about, much less launching, an invasion on a sovereign nation. When tested by someone who chose to void the guarantee, MGD proved to be exactly what it was. Just a theory.
Putin had a theory of his own. Nuclear weapons cannot deter aggression. But they can deter opponents from intervening in my aggression. And in a wisp of irony, the justification for spending billions, if not trillions of dollars, on the design and delivery of more and more lethal weapons of mass destruction vanished as quickly as the predicted end of the world if they were ever deployed.
POST SCRIPT: Scarlett O’Liynik
This morning, my on-line news briefing included a picture of Kira Rudik, a member of the Ukrainian parliament who tweeted this image with the following message.
I learn to use #Kalashnikov and prepare to bear arms. It sounds surreal as just a few days ago it would never come to my mind. Our #women will protect our soil the same way as our #men. Go #Ukraine!
Where had I seen this before? Of course, Scarlett O’Hara’s confrontation with a Yankee soldier in “Gone With the Wind.” From the screen directions in Sidney Howard’s movie script:
Leisurely riding up the driveway toward the front door is a Yankee cavalryman. He dismounts, tosses the bridal reins over the hitching post, takes his pistol from its holster and glancing to the right and left, starts toward the front door of the house.
CLOSE SHOT – BUREAU DRAWER
Scarlett’s hands quickly open the drawer and take a pistol from it – the one Rhett had given her on McDonough Road. Scarlett stands still, her heart pounding. She drops her arm to her side and hides the pistol she holds slightly behind her.
It is not hard to imagine a similar scene being repeated again and again in the coming days by women like Kira Rudik. Why does she take this risk? What is really at stake in Ukraine? I again turn to Sidney Howard and paraphrase the opening lines of his screenplay.
There was a land of brave fighters and budding democracy called Ukraine…
Here in this foreign land the promise of the post-Cold War order took its last bow..
Here was the last ever to be seen of outmatched warriors and steeled fair ladies, of former slaves of the Soviet empire saying no to their master..
Look for it only in books, for it is no more than a dream remembered, a civilization gone with the wind…
For what it’s worth.