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Home > Noam Chomsky: How Close the World s to Nu!lear War

"e#en "tories Press / By Noam Chomsky [1], Laray Polk [2]

Noam Chomsky: How Close the World Is to Nuclear War
April 17, 2013 $ The follo in! is an e"#erpt from the ne $ook N%#lear &ar an' (n)ironmental Catastrophe [3], $y Noam Chomsky an' Laray Polk, hi#h takes the form of a series of inter)ie s ith *+T Professor Noam Chomsky ,-e)en -tories, 2013./ Laray Polk:What immediate tensions do you per!ei#e that !ould lead to nu!lear war% How !lose are we% Noam Chomsky:&!tually' nu!lear war has !ome unpleasantly !lose many times sin!e ()*+. ,here are literally do-ens o. o!!asions in whi!h there was a signi.i!ant threat o. nu!lear war. ,here was one time in ()/0 when it was #ery !lose' and .urthermore' it1s not 2ust the 3nited "tates. ndia and Pakistan ha#e !ome !lose to nu!lear war se#eral times' and the issues remain. 4oth ndia and Pakistan are e5panding their nu!lear arsenals with 3" support. ,here are serious possibilities in#ol#ed with ran6not ranian nu!lear weapons' but 2ust atta!king ran6and other things !an 2ust go wrong. t1s a #ery tense system' always has been. ,here are plenty o. times when automated systems in the 3nited "tates6 and in 7ussia'it1s probably worse6ha#e warned o. a nu!lear atta!k whi!h would set o.. an automati! response e5!ept that human inter#ention happened to take pla!e in time' and sometimes in a matter o. minutes. ,hat1s playing with .ire. ,hat1s a low8probability e#ent' but with low8 probability e#ents o#er a long period' the probability is not low. ,here is another possibility that' think' is not to be dismissed: nu!lear terror. 9ike a dirty bomb in New :ork City' let1s say. t wouldn1t take tremendous

.a!ility to do that. know 3" intelligen!e or people like ;raham &llison at Har#ard who works on this' they regard it as #ery likely in the !oming years6 and who knows what kind o. rea!tion there would be to that. "o' think there are plenty o. possibilities. think it is getting worse. <ust like the proli.eration problem is getting worse. ,ake a !ouple o. !ases: n "eptember 0==)' the "e!urity Coun!il did pass a resolution' "/7>"/(??@' whi!h was interpreted here as a resolution against ran. n part it was' but it also !alled on all states to 2oin the Non8Proli.eration ,reaty. ,hat1s three states: ndia' Pakistan' and srael. ,he Abama administration immediately in.ormed ndia that this didn1t apply to themB it in.ormed srael that it doesn1t apply to them. . ndia e5pands its nu!lear !apa!ity' Pakistan almost has toB it !an1t !ompete with ndia with !on#entional .or!es. Not surprisingly' Pakistan de#eloped its nu!lear weapons with indire!t 3" support. ,he 7eagan administration pretended they didn1t know anything about it' whi!h o. !ourse they did. ndia rea!ted to resolution (??@ by announ!ing that they !ould now produ!e nu!lear weapons with the same yield as the superpowers. & year be.ore' the 3nited "tates had signed a deal with ndia' whi!h broke the pre8e5isting regime and enabled the 3" to pro#ide them with nu!lear te!hnology6though they hadn1t signed the Non8Proli.eration ,reaty. ,hat1s in #iolation o. !ongressional legislation going ba!k to ndia1s .irst bomb' suppose around ()@* or so. ,he 3nited "tates kind o. rammed it through the Nu!lear "uppliers ;roup' and that opens a lot o. doors. China rea!ted by sending nu!lear te!hnology to Pakistan. &nd though the !laim is that the te!hnology .or ndia is .or !i#ilian use' that doesn1t mean mu!h e#en i. ndia doesn1t that to nu!lear weapons. t means they1re .ree to what they would ha#e spent on !i#ilian use to nu!lear weapons. &nd then !omes this announ!ement in 0==) that the nternational &tomi! >nergy &gen!y has been repeatedly trying to get srael to open its .a!ilities to inspe!tion. ,he 3" along with >urope usually has been able to blo!k it. &nd more signi.i!ant is the e..ort in the international agen!ies to try to mo#e toward a nu!lear8weapon8.ree -one in the Ciddle >ast' whi!h would be Duite signi.i!ant./ t wouldn1t sol#e all the problems' but whate#er threat ran may be assumed to pose6and that1s a #ery interesting Duestion in itsel.' but let1s suppose .or the moment that there is a threat6it would !ertainly be mitigated and might be ended by a nu!lear8weapon8.ree -one' but the 3" is blo!king it e#ery step o. the way. Laray Polk: Now that ran1s rea!tor at 4ushehr is running' the !urrent .ear is that they1re going to use the plutonium produ!ed .rom the .uel !y!le to make

weapons. ,he Duestions raised about ran1s possible nu!lear weapons program are similar to those asked o. srael88 Noam Chomsky:"in!e the ()/=s. &nd in .a!t' the Ni5on administration made an unwritten agreement with srael that it wouldn1t do anything to !ompel srael' or e#en indu!e them' to drop what they !all their ambiguity poli!y6not saying whether or not they ha#e them. ,hat1s now #ery ali#e be!ause there1s this regular .i#e8year Non8Proli.eration 7e#iew Con.eren!e. n ())+' under strong pressure .rom the &rab states' >gypt primarily' there was an agreement that they would mo#e toward a nu!lear8weapon8.ree -one and the Clinton administration signed on. t was reiterated in 0===. n 0==+ the 4ush administration 2ust essentially undermined the whole meeting. ,hey basi!ally said' EWhy do anything%F t !ame up again in Cay 0=(=. >gypt is now speaking .or the Non8&ligned Co#ement' ((? !ountries' they1re this year1s representati#e' and they pressed pretty hard .or a mo#e in that dire!tion. ,he pressure was so strong that the 3nited "tates a!!epted it in prin!iple and !laims to be !ommitted to it' but Hillary Clinton said the time1s Enot ripe .or establishing the -one.F &nd the administration 2ust endorsed srael1s position' essentially saying' E:es' but only a.ter a !omprehensi#e pea!e agreement in the region'F whi!h the 3" and srael !an delay inde.initely. "o' that1s basi!ally saying' Eit1s .ine' but it1s ne#er going to happen.F &nd this is barely e#er reported' so nobody knowsabout it. <ust as almost nobody knows about Abama in.orming ndia and srael that the resolutions don1t apply to them. &ll o. this 2ust in!reases the risk o. nu!lear war. t1s more than that a!tually. :ou know' the threats against ran are nontri#ial and that' o. !ourse' indu!e them to mo#e toward nu!lear weapons as a deterrent. Abama in parti!ular has strongly in!reased the o..ensi#e !apa!ity that the 3" has on the island o. Giego ;ar!ia' whi!h is a ma2or military base they use .or bombing the Ciddle >ast and Central &sia. n Ge!ember 0==)' the na#y dispat!hed a submarine tender .or nu!lear submarines in Giego ;ar!ia. Presumably they were already there' but this is going to e5pand their !apa!ity' and they !ertainly ha#e the !apa!ity to atta!k ran with nu!lear weapons. &nd he also sharply in!reased the de#elopment o. deep8penetration bombs' a program that mostly languished under the 4ush administration. &s soon as Abama !ame in' he a!!elerated it' and it was Duietly announ!ed6but think not reported here6that they put a !ouple o. hundred o. them in Giego ;ar!ia. ,hat1s all aimed at ran. ,hose are all pretty serious threats.

&!tually' the Duestion o. the ranian threat is Duite interesting. t1s dis!ussed as i. that1s the ma2or issue o. the !urrent era. &nd not 2ust in the 3nited "tates' 4ritain too. ,his is Ethe year o. ran'F ran is the ma2or threat' the ma2or poli!y issue. t does raise the Duestion: What1s the ranian threat% ,hat1s ne#er seriously dis!ussed' but there is an authoritati#e answer' whi!h isn1t reported. ,he authoritati#e answer was gi#en by the Pentagon and intelligen!e in &pril 0=(=B they ha#e an annual submission to Congress on the global se!urity system' and o. !ourse dis!ussed ran. ,hey made it #ery !lear that the threat is not military. ,hey said ran has #ery low military spending e#en by the standards o. the regionB their strategi! do!trine is !ompletely de.ensi#e' it1s designed to deter an in#asion long enough to allow diploma!y to begin to operateB they ha#e #ery little !apa!ity to deploy .or!e abroad. ,hey say i. ran were de#eloping nu!lear !apability' whi!h is not the same as weapons' it would be part o. the deterrent strategy'whi!h is what most strategi! analysts take .or granted' so there1s no military threat. Ne#ertheless' they say it1s the most signi.i!ant threat in the world. What is it% Well' that1s interesting. ,hey1re trying to e5tend their in.luen!e in neighboring !ountriesB that1s what1s !alled destabili-ing. "o i. we in#ade their neighbors and o!!upy them' that1s stabili-ing. Whi!h is a standard assumption. t basi!ally says' E9ook' we own the world.F &nd i. anybody doesn1t .ollow orders' they1re aggressi#e. n .a!t' that1s going on with China right now. t1s been a kind o. a hassle' also hasn1t been dis!ussed mu!h in the 3nited "tates6but is dis!ussed Duite a lot in China' about !ontrol o. the seas in China1s #i!inity. ,heir na#y is e5panding' and that1s dis!ussed here and des!ribed as a ma2or threat. What they1re trying to do is to be able to !ontrol the waters nearby China6the "outh China "ea':ellow "ea' and so on6and that1s des!ribed here as aggressi#e intent. ,he Pentagon 2ust released a report on the dangers o. China. ,heir military budget is in!reasingB it1s now what the 3" spends in raD and &.ghanistan' whi!h is o. !ourse a .ra!tion o. the military budget. Not long ago' the 3" was !ondu!ting na#al e5er!ises in the waters o.. China. China was protesting parti!ularly o#er the plans to send an ad#an!ed nu!lear8 powered air!ra.t !arrier' the 3"" ;eorge Washington' into those waters'whi!h' a!!ording to China' has the !apa!ity to hit 4ei2ing with nu!lear weapons6and they didn1t like it. &nd the 3" .ormally responded by saying that China is being aggressi#e be!ause they1re inter.ering with .reedom o. the seas. ,hen' i. you look at the strategi! analysis literature' they des!ribe it as a !lassi! se!urity dilemma where two sides are in a !on.rontation. >a!h regards what it1s doing as essential to its se!urity and regards the other side as threatening its se!urity' and we1re supposed to take the threat seriously. "o i. China is trying to !ontrol waters o.. its !oast' that1s aggression and it1s harming our se!urity.

,hat1s a !lassi! se!urity dilemma. :ou !ould 2ust imagine i. China were !arrying out na#al e5er!ises in the Caribbean6in .a!t' in the mid8Pa!i.i!6it would be !onsidered intolerable. ,hat1s #ery mu!h like ran. ,he basi! assumption is EWe own the world'F and any e5er!ise o. so#ereignty within our domains' whi!h is most o. the world' is aggression. Laray Polk: s there any type o. nu!lear ra!ism in#ol#ed in these issues% Noam Chomsky: think it would be the same i. there were no nu!lear weapons. mean' it goes ba!k to long8term planning assumptions' and don1t really think it1s ra!ism. 9et1s take a !on!rete !ase. We ha#e a lot o. internal do!uments now' some interesting ones .rom the Ni5on years. Ni5on and Hissinger' when they were planning to o#erthrow the go#ernment o. Chile in ()@I' their position was that this go#ernment1s intolerable' it1s e5er!ising its so#ereignty' it1s a threat to us' so it has to go.(* t1s what Hissinger !alled a #irus that might spread !ontagion elsewhere' maybe into southern >urope6 not that Chile would atta!k southern >urope6but that a su!!ess.ul' so!ial demo!rati! parliamentary system would send the wrong message to "pain and taly. ,hey might be in!lined to try the same' it would mean its !ontagion would spread and the system .alls apart. &nd they understood that' in .a!t stated that' i. we !an1t !ontrol 9atin &meri!a' how are we going to !ontrol the rest o. the world% We at least ha#e to !ontrol 9atin &meri!a. ,here was some !on!ern6whi!h was mostly meaningless' but it was there6about a "o#iet penetration into 9atin &meri!a' and they re!ogni-ed that i. >urope gets more in#ol#ed in 9atin &meri!a' that would tend to deter any "o#iet penetration' but they !on!luded the 3" !ouldn1t allow that be!ause it would inter.ere with 3" dominan!e o. the region. "o' it1s not ra!ist. t1s a matter o. dominan!e. n .a!t' the same is happening with N&,A. Why didn1t N&,A disappear a.ter the "o#iet 3nion !ollapsed% . anybody read the propaganda' they1d say' EWell' it should ha#e disappeared' it was supposed to prote!t >urope .rom the 7ussian hordes.F Akay' no more 7ussian hordes' so it should disappear. t e5panded in #iolation o. #erbal promises to ;orba!he#. &nd it e5panded' think' largely in order to keep >urope under !ontrol. Ane o. the purposes o. N&,A all along was to pre#ent >urope .rom mo#ing in an independent path' maybe a kind o. ;aullist path' and they had to e5pand N&,A to make sure that >urope stays a #assal. . you look ba!k to the planning re!ord during the "e!ond World War' it1s #ery instru!ti#e. t1s almost ne#er dis!ussed' but there were high8le#el meetings .rom ()I) to ()*+ under the 7oose#elt administration' whi!h sort o. planned .or the postwar years. ,hey knew the 3nited "tates would emerge .rom the war at least #ery well o.. and maybe

!ompletely triumphant. ,hey didn1t know how mu!h at .irst. ,he prin!iples that were established were #ery interesting and e5pli!it' and later implemented. ,hey de#ised the !on!ept o. what they !alled the ;rand &rea' whi!h the 3" must dominate. &nd within the ;rand &rea' there !an be no e5er!ise o. so#ereignty that inter.eres with 3" plans6e5pli!it' almost those words. What1s the ;rand &rea% Well' at a minimum' it was to in!lude the entire Western Hemisphere' the entire Jar >ast' and the whole 4ritish >mpire6 .ormer 4ritish >mpire6whi!h' o. !ourse' in!ludes the Ciddle >ast energy resour!es. &s one high8le#el ad#isor later put it: E . we !an !ontrol Ciddle >ast energy' we !an !ontrol the world.F Well' that1s the ;rand &rea. &s the 7ussians began to grind down the ;erman armies a.ter "talingrad' they re!ogni-ed that ;ermany was weakened6at .irst' they thought that ;ermany would emerge .rom the war as a ma2or power. "o the ;rand &rea planning was e5tended to as mu!h o. >urasia as possible' in!luding at least Western >urope' whi!h is the industrial8!ommer!ial !enter o. the region. ,hat1s the ;rand &rea' and within that area' there !an be no e5er!ise o. so#ereignty. A. !ourse' they !an1t !arry it o... Jor e5ample' China is too big to push around and they1re e5er!ising their so#ereignty. ran is trying' it1s small enough so you !an push them around6 they think so. >#en 9atin &meri!a is getting out o. !ontrol. 4ra-il was not .ollowing orders. &nd' in .a!t' a lot o. "outh &meri!a isn1t' and the whole thing is !ausing a lot o. desperation in Washington. :ou !an see it i. you look at the o..i!ial pronoun!ements. China is not paying attention to 3" san!tions on ran. 3" san!tions on ran ha#e absolutely no legitima!y. t1s 2ust that people are o. the 3nited "tates. &nd >urope more or less goes along with them' but China doesn1t. ,hey disregard them. ,hey obser#e the 3N san!tions' whi!h ha#e .ormal legitima!y but are toothless' so they1re happy to obser#e them. ,he ma2or e..e!t o. the 3N san!tions is to keep Western !ompetitors out o. ran' so they !an mo#e in and do what they .eel like. ,he 3" is pretty upset about it. n .a!t' the "tate Gepartment issued some #ery interesting statements' interesting be!ause o. their desperate tone. ,hey warned China that' this is almost a Duote' Ei. you want to be a!!epted into the international !ommunity' you ha#e to meet your international responsibilities' and the international responsibilities are to .ollow our orders.F :ou !an see both the desperation in 3" planning !ir!les and you !an kind o. imagine the rea!tion o. the Chinese .oreign o..i!e' they1re probably laughing' you know' why should they .ollow 3" orders% ,hey1ll do what they like.

,hey1re trying to re!o#er their position as a ma2or world power. Jor a long time they were the ma2or world power be.ore what they !all the E!entury o. humiliation.F ,hey are now !oming ba!k to a three8thousand8year tradition o. being the !enter o. the world and dismissing the barbarians. "o' okay' Ewe1ll 2ust go ba!k to that and the 3" !an1t do anything about it'F whi!h is !ausing enormous .rustration. ,hat1s why they get terribly upset when China doesn1t obser#e 3" san!tions on ran. 4y now it1s not China and ran that are isolated on ran san!tionsB it1s the 3nited "tates that1s isolated. ,he nonaligned !ountries6((? !ountries' most o. the world6ha#e always supported ran1s right to enri!h uranium' still do. ,urkey re!ently !onstru!ted a pipeline to ran' so has Pakistan. ,urkey1s trade with ran has been going way up' they1re planning to triple it the ne5t .ew years. n the &rab world' publi! opinion is so outraged at the 3nited "tates that a real ma2ority now .a#ors ran de#eloping nu!lear weapons' not 2ust nu!lear energy. ,he 3" doesn1t take that too seriously' they .igure that di!tatorships !an !ontrol the populations. 4ut when ,urkey1s in#ol#ed or' !ertainly' when China1s in#ol#ed' it be!omes a threat. ,hat1s why you get these desperate tones. &part .rom >urope' almost nobody1s a!!epting 3" orders on this. 4ra-il1s probably the most important !ountry in the "outh. Not long ago' 4ra-il and ,urkey made a deal with ran .or enri!hing a large part o. the uraniumB the 3" Dui!kly shot that down. ,hey don1t want it' but the world is 2ust hard to !ontrol. ,he ;rand &rea planning was okay at the end o. the "e!ond World War when the 3" was o#erwhelmingly dominant' but it has been kind o. .ra!tured e#er sin!e6and during the last .ew years' !onsiderably. &nd think this is related to the proli.eration issues. ,he 3" is strongly supporting ndia and srael' and the reason is they1#e now turned ndia into a !lose strategi! ally6 srael always was. ndia' on the other hand' is playing it pretty !ool. ,hey1re also impro#ing their relations with China. Laray Polk:President Abama re!ently se!ured military basing rights in &ustralia and .ormed a new .ree8trade pa!t' the ,rans8Pa!i.i! Partnership' whi!h e5!ludes China. s this mo#e related to the "outh China "ea% Noam Chomsky::es' in parti!ular that' but it1s more general. t has to do with the E!lassi! se!urity dilemmaF that mentioned be.ore' re.erring to the strategi! analysis literature. China1s e..orts to gain some measure o. !ontrol o#er nearby seas and its ma2or trade routes are in!onsistent with what the 3" !alls E.reedom o. the seasF6a term that doesn1t e5tend to Chinese military maneu#ers in the Caribbean or e#en most o. the world1s o!eans' but does in!lude the 3" right to !arry out military maneu#ers and establish na#al bases e#erywhere.Jor di..erent reasons' China1s neighbors are none too happy

about its a!tions' parti!ularly Kietnam and the Philippines' whi!h ha#e !ompeting !laims to these waters' but others as well. ,he .o!us o. 3" poli!y is slowly shi.ting .rom the Ciddle >ast6though that remains6to the Pa!i.i!' as openly announ!ed. ,hat in!ludes new bases .rom &ustralia to "outh Horea (and a !ontinuing and #ery signi.i!ant !!t o#er Akinawa)' and also e!onomi! agreements' !alled E.ree8trade agreements'F though the phrase is more propaganda than reality' as in other su!h !ases. Cu!h o. it is a system to E!ontain China.F Laray Polk:,o what degree are !urrent maritime so#ereignty disputes related to oil and gas reser#es% n part. ,here are underseas .ossil8.uel resour!es' and a good deal o. !ontention among regional states about rights to them. 4ut itLs more than that. ,he new 3" base on <e2u sland in "outh Horea' bitterly protested by islanders' is not primarily !on!erned with energy sour!es. Ather issues ha#e to do with Cala!!a "traits' ChinaLs main trade route' whi!h does in#ol#e oil and gas but also mu!h else. n the ba!kground is the more general !on!ern o#er parts o. the world es!aping .rom 3" !ontrol and in.luen!e' the !ontemporary #ariant o. ;rand &rea poli!ies. Cu!h o. this e5tends the pra!ti!e o. earlier hegemoni! powers' though the s!ale o. 3" post8World War planning and implementation has been in a !lass by itsel. be!ause o. its uniDue wealth and power. 0eprinte' ith permission from -e)en -tories Press/ Copyri!ht 2013 11 All 0i!hts 0eser)e'

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