According to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Russia today is estimated to have 7,800 operational nuclear warheads in its arsenal. I emphasize "estimated" because Russia, like all the nuclear powers, remains quite secretive about its nuclear arsenal. Altogether, Russia's nuclear arsenal of intact warheads is put at 17,000. The difference is classified as being in an "indeterminate" status.
The point is that the administration of George W. Bush has restarted the nuclear arms race. It did so by abandoning the START II treaty, by withdrawing from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and by expanding NATO to the borders of Russia.
If you were a Russian, none of those acts could be considered friendly. They can be viewed as unfriendly, especially in light of the president's new doctrine of "pre-emptive wars" that was not only announced but actually put into practice; his decision to deploy a virtually untested anti-ballistic missile system; and his decision to pursue the development of new types of nuclear weapons.
All of this makes up potentially the most catastrophic of Bush's blunders, but for some reason, it can't compete in the news media with the Laci Peterson trial or Kobe Bryant or the latest poll numbers on the presidential horse race.
The threat of nuclear war still exists. It could happen by accident or by a series of stupid blunders, such as those that caused World War I. Someone observed long ago that science would produce weapons of complexity that would far exceed the capacity of the simpletons who ended up in positions of political power to control them. History is a record of human stupidity writ in blood. I have often said that history is a lot scarier than Stephen King's horror stories. I get scared every time I hear Bush talk — or try to talk.
If the Boy Emperor wishes to exercise his ego by attacking practically defenseless Third World countries, that's one thing. To put the matter in brutally frank terms, the overwhelming majority of Americans have no loved ones in the U.S. military. The more than 800 Americans killed so far is less than the murder rate in some of our more badly governed cities. Since Mr. Bush is fighting his imperial war on credit, the general public is not even asked to sacrifice so much as a minor convenience.
Nuclear war, however, is another matter entirely. Such a catastrophe puts at risk the lives of all Americans, not to mention the rest of the world. Nothing any American president can do is more important than pursuing nuclear disarmament.
The collapse of the Soviet Union presented us with an almost miraculous opportunity to build a peaceful world, and Mr. Bush and the Clinton administration have blown it. We should have disbanded the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, just as the Russians disbanded the Warsaw Pact. We should have welcomed the Russians into the West like a long-lost brother. Instead, American politicians exploited Russia's temporary weakness and scorned it.
NATO is an organization without a legitimate purpose. It was created to beat back a Soviet invasion of Western Europe. There is no Soviet Union. There is no one even tempted to invade Western Europe. Yet the United States has not only kept NATO alive, but expanded it and misused it in a way that any sensible Russian leader must view with suspicion. It's no wonder the Russians have started to rebuild their strategic nuclear forces.
The major threat to Americans lives is not terrorism, but stupid leaders who don't have the sense to recognize that the equivalent of mental children should not be allowed to play with nuclear weapons.
Since the politicians refuse to do it, the American people will have to put nuclear disarmament back on the agenda. Your life and the lives of your children and grandchildren might depend on it.
June 26, 2004
Charley Reese [send him mail] has been a journalist for 49 years, reporting on everything from sports to politics. From 1969—71, he worked as a campaign staffer for gubernatorial, senatorial and congressional races in several states. He was an editor, assistant to the publisher, and columnist for the Orlando Sentinel from 1971 to 2001. He now writes a syndicated column which is carried on LewRockwell.com. Reese served two years active duty in the U.S. Army as a tank gunner. Write to Charley Reese at P.O. Box 2446, Orlando, FL 32802.
© 2004 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.