Another Dangerous Racket

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Ain’t government grand? Fifty years ago, it looted the taxpayer to build a monstrous bombing contraption that is impossible to use in a way that doesn’t harm civilians, which is to say that it is impossible to use morally. On those grounds alone, nuclear weapons are a great evil, perhaps the greatest evil ever built and possessed by government in the history of the world. It gives government the power to play God, or, rather, the Devil, by constantly threatening the prospect of mass incineration.

After building the bomb, the government couldn’t resist the chance to try it out, not once but twice, and after the victim country had already made official peace overtures. But, hey, use it or lose it. That Nagasaki and Hiroshima constituted a new standard in war crimes is to be overlooked on grounds that it is necessary to break a few eggs in the form of civilian lives in order to make the omelet of unconditional surrender.

After the US made the bomb, the nuclear escalation began. Once other countries got in the act, taxpayers had to be looted year after year so that ever more bombs could be made ready for deployment. For fifty years, the government held us hostage in this game of nuclear proliferation, even as the US would periodically punish countries without the bomb by invading them or otherwise managing their affairs. Even since the end of the Cold War, the countries the US has bullied are those without the bomb. And we wonder why nuclear proliferation persists?

Finally, after decades of this nonsense, the US has yet another brilliant idea, also proposed in the name of peace. Having built the first nuclear weapon, and having been the only government ever use it in the real world against civilians, the US now proposes to be the first country to deploy a full-scale shield against nuclear attack. What’s more, the US proposes that a treaty the US signed to prevent such shields be scrapped. And we wonder why so many people are skeptical?

Now, there is nothing wrong with defense as such; the notion that government should provide it is in the Constitution. The problem with George Bush’s idea for a nuclear defense relates to the historical context and the role of the US in the world. Think of it this way. If the most bullying and violent gang in town also proposes to have the highest walls, the thickest bullet-proof vests, and the biggest shields, would you regard this as defense, or provocation?

It turns out that the world’s most peaceful countries regard it as a provocation. Sweden and New Zealand, for example, countries that mind their own business in world affairs, regard this shield as a real threat precisely because they understand it represents not a defensive move but a big step-up in the world role of the US empire. The system would require a permanent stationing of troops all over the world. If it goes up, it means that our troops will never come home. Naval cruisers would float the high seas looking for falling bombs from now until the end of time.

Do we really think George Washington or Thomas Jefferson would approve?

China and Russia meanwhile regard the shield as an attempt to limit their deterrent capabilities. Deter against what? They don’t say for fear of the diplomatic repercussions, but the answer should be obvious: they fear what the US would do with all this nuclear capacity mixed with a nuclear shield. Americans find it inconceivable, but it is nonetheless true that these countries believe that the US is fully capable of dropping nuclear bombs on them!

Is it really so crazy? Bush seems sane and not murderous, but the shield won’t be in place until 2004. No one knows who will be president after that. What if it’s John McCain, who seems to be nursing some kind of grudge? Maybe it will be someone even nuttier. Do we really want some guy with all the power of the presidency to believe that he can drop nuclear bombs on the world while remaining protected against retaliation?

There’s also the fiscal problem. Everyone knows that the estimated cost of $60 billion is far too low. It will be double or triple that, maybe more. The money comes straight out of your pocketbook, picked by a government that is doing its best to prevent you from defending your own home and property with your own guns. A government that steals your money and guns in the name of defending you isn’t one you should trust with a nuclear arsenal and a protective shield.

Will it work? Does the Osprey work? Does the Post Office work? Does a single program that the government has ever erected work properly and as promised, within budget?

The best part of Bush’s plan is that he holds out the prospect of unilateral reductions in active warheads. In fact, his plan is far-reaching in this regard, more so than anyone might have imagined ten years ago. This part of the plan should be implemented immediately in the cause of bringing about a safer world. As for the shield, let’s talk about that when the US ceases to be a threat to so many other countries.

Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. [send him mail], is president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama. He also edits a daily news site,

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