“Four Ways The Ukraine Crisis Could Escalate To Use Of Nuclear Weapons” Loren Thompson


"In 1983, the ABC television network broadcast a movie called The Day After about how a superpower nuclear exchange devastated the lives of typical Americans in two midwestern cities. The conflict began with a Russian troop buildup in Eastern Europe (which Moscow initially claimed to be a military exercise), and then gradually escalated to a point where both sides launched their nuclear missiles for fear of losing them in a preemptive attack. Coming as it did during a period of U.S.-Soviet tensions and controversy surrounding Reagan Administration nuclear policies, the broadcast attracted a huge audience of over 100 million viewers; it is still the highest rated made-for-television movie in U.S. history. Americans haven’t thought much about such scenarios since the Cold War ended, because the Soviet Union dissolved and the ideological rivalry between Washington and Moscow ceased. However, this year’s crisis over Ukraine is a reminder that Russia remains a nuclear superpower, and that the geopolitical sources of its security concerns have not vanished. In fact, Moscow may have greater reason for worrying today, because it has lost the buffer of allies that insulated it from Western attack during the Cold War, and now finds its capital only a few minutes from the eastern border of Ukraine by jet (less by missile). If you know the history of the region, then it is easy to see why Moscow might fear aggression."  Forbes


There is  a lot of news today, news that stirs the loins of the MSM:

– An aged rancher in Nevada is exposed as a fool who threw away right wing support for his non-payment of grazing fees on federal lands by saying that he thought blacks might have been better off as slaves.  As a lifelong student of nineteenth century America I can assure him that they were NOT better off.   The Hillary enthralled press has, of course, seized on this and is running with the ball.  What a splendid way to "sell" their thematic material on the subject of conservative awfulness.


– And then there is the "break-down" in Kerry's Holy Land pursuit of the Nobel Peace Prize.  This is laughable since everyone in Israel and Palestine knew from the beginning that there was not and is not any appetite for a peace there that does not wound and disadvantage one's opponents.  Nevertheless, this is a splendid chance to blame the Palestinians for failure in this Quixotic effort.

– Natanyahu!   What a mensch!  Always quick on his feet, Bibi has risen to this occasion by lecturing the US as to what it must and must not do abut the Fatah-Hamas agreement.  And, of course, he has every right to do that.  As Simon Shama relentlessy implies in his excellent TV series "The Story of the Jews,"  why did not the US, USSR, and Britain prevent the slaughter of European Jewry during WW2?  Our failure to do that is thought by Shama/Bibi to have placed a debt of servitude on us all that creates a "moral necessity" to obey the dictates of Israeli nationalism.

-  CNN continues its search for the vanished airliner.  What can I say about this?  Nothing.

At the same time it is sadly clear that the American public and their newsies are oblivious of  the possibility of nuclear war created by the determination of the US to force Russia to "blink."  Actually, Americans do not seem to have any idea what nuclear war would be like or indeed the continued existence of nuclear armed forces in the the US and Russia that could simply make the earth uninhabitable and perhaps exterminate mankind. I will abstain from writing of the nuclear forces of the UK, France, China and Pakistan.  Leslie Stahl of "60 Minutes" was taken out to a Minuteman silo site in Wyoming to be shown the beast.  She commented on how old the helicopter was that she rode in and asked a USAF colonel who was her escort if the ICBM in the hole really had a nuclear warhead that could be fired,  He assured her that the missile was armed and waiting for orders.  She asked how many of these the Air Force has.  450 was the answer.  She looked surprised.  The colonel then reminded her of the other two "legs" of the Strategic Triad; the Boomer submarines (SLBM), and the bombers (B-52, B-1, B-2 and various other flying things) that are kept ready to fire nuclear cruise missiles into Russia or anywhere else that the commander-in-chief may direct.  Once at the little base, situated in a vast plain dotted with farmsteads, she was introduced to the two officer crew of launch controllers who sit endlessly in their subterranean place of duty waiting for an order they hope will never come.  She looked stunned.   On set, Norah O'Donnell later asked her who the two "guards" were in the silo.  She evidently had no idea that these two young people were launch officers and not security guards.  Another journalist on the  program's set, an African-American woman, piously  stated that although she hoped that these missiles will not be used she felt comforted that they exist.  Really?  I don't feel comforted at all.  Somehow the concept of the unusability of nuclear weapons for anything but deterrence has leaked away, gone like sand running between our fingers.  The idea is growing that these are war-fighting weapons.  At the same time, political control of them is in the hands of people who, as David Habakkuk wrote, do not have a firm grip on reality.  pl


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57 Responses to “Four Ways The Ukraine Crisis Could Escalate To Use Of Nuclear Weapons” Loren Thompson

  1. Matthew says:

    Col: Very powerful.

  2. dsrcwt says:

    Colonel, I wonder if you have an opinion about when economic sanctions rise to the level of an act of war? It seems to me that the threats to lock Russia out of the global financial system, the “financial neutron bomb” could justifiably provoke a military response. The fact that Iran, Iraq and Syria have not treated sanctions as such (due to their inability to respond in a sufficiently potent manner) seems to have lulled our elites into a false sense of security about sanctions. I practically yell at the screen when I see a pundit talk about the Russian stock market decline as proof that Russia is paying a price. It seems that we have forgotten that there are national interests that transcend the stock market.

  3. The Twisted Genius says:

    I remember the furor over that movie. The Reagan Administration did not want it to be aired fearing it would lessen our resolve to wage nuclear war. They preferred that we unhinge our doors and grab our shovels and revel in the mushroom clouds. I still don’t know whether they believed that crap or were just trying to “send a message” to the Soviets that we were crazier than they were.
    The naiveté of that “60 Minutes” you described is shocking. Cluelessness is so in vogue. I wish ABC would have the stones to rebroadcast “The Day After” again. They should allow all networks to broadcast it simultaneously. Maybe that would slap some sense and outrage into the American public. The neocons and R2Pers will, of course, brand such a broadcast as un-American cowardice. Screw all those sons of bitches

  4. samuelburke says:

    “The Hillary enthralled press” does not care what “it” does to society in general. “It” just dogmatically serve their party/lobby of sympathy.

  5. VietnamVet says:

    Thanks for your great post. What is frightening about the Ukraine Crisis is that it will escalate out of control unless some adults intervene and Finlandize Western Ukraine. But, who are they?
    The omission of the possibility of a nuclear war in the Russian NATO confrontation is proof that corporate media broadcasts propaganda and that a small cabal of rich ideologues have seized control of Washington DC. 1914 is repeating itself, all over again; except, a century later, when one side or the other realizes that the war could be lost they will ignite their hydrogen bombs in a desperate attempt to win.
    Anyone who ducked and covered in grade school and lived through the Cold War and watched “The Day After” knows that your world can disappear in a flash and that those incinerated are the lucky ones. This is as true today as it was 30 years ago.

  6. Babak Makkinejad says:

    R2Pers, Neo-cons, and other such do-gooders are new manifestations of the “White Man Burden” and “Mission Civilizatrix” of former European Colonial Empires.
    That the time for such a posture was gone by 1914 and died by 1948 does not seem to be bothering such people.
    I expect nothing but disaster as the non-White people would put up resistance to this – yet again.

  7. steve g says:

    I also watched the CBS Morning News piece.
    My first reaction was not the “take” of the
    launch officer testing scandal. It was the
    part where it was revealed older era computer
    and technology was still being used. The reason
    given is nothing is connected to the internet
    therefore no cyber attack. Is this a CBS/US
    government message to the Russians,if they were
    not already aware, especially after the USS
    Cooke was supposedly jammed? War games?

  8. patrick lang says:

    dsrcwt there certainly is such a point, but I do not know what it is in this case. The Japanese decision to go to war against us is such an example. pl

  9. Basilisk says:

    TTG, do you recall that the Chief of Air Force Intelligence came home from a perhaps bibulous evening to see the part where Soviet forces were beginning to roll across the inter-German border? He called the op center in a state of high dudgeon, “Why the hell didn’t someone call me?”
    We all laughed…but it wasn’t really funny.

  10. Imagine says:

    “What can be done for you, can be done to you.” The U.S. has proved that it is not responsible enough to maintain custody of the world’s system of currency, turning the guns of financial lockout on the enemy du jour. We narcissistically assume that the rest of the world are stupid and powerless. But there is always something that can be done. “The wheels of justice turn slowly, but grind exceedingly fine.”
    Thus, however the latest grand adventure turns out, we are in the process of losing the petrodollar to a BRIC basket. Whether this in turn will cause the magical 0% interest rate of US borrowing to evaporate or not, triggering widespread devastation, is going to be interesting to watch.
    (really, the US seems to be shooting itself in the foot with deploying financial weapons.)

  11. seydlitz89 says:

    Col. Lang-
    Thanks for this post sir. I remember that particular TV program back in 1983, and the controversy surrounding it, although being on active duty at the time there wasn’t so much that was surprising for us.
    Later, when I was in Berlin but still during the Cold War, my brother-in-law was with the 508th SMS as a launch officer . . . so we were on both “ends” so to speak.
    What I find incomprehensible today is how oblivious our “leadership” is to the disaster that they court. Shouldn’t there be something like “National Strategy 101” . . . or is that asking too much?

  12. Robert Kenneth Chatel says:

    I was among the generation that experienced air-raid drills in elementary schools and had the AM CONELRAD stations on our car radios: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CONELRAD, built fallout shelters or was encouraged to. My father was at the Japanese surrender and finished college under the GI Bill. He became a high-school chemistry teacher and attended several summers of courses to upgrade his skills in the 1950s at MIT and Tufts. He showed us youngsters (I was six or so) photos of the devastation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that were distributed in his graduate courses. He also used the material in his chemistry classes.
    I find the current ignorance or indifference to these stakes appalling, sand thank you, Colonel, for reminding readers that we are playing “Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Russian Roulette,” to cite a song title from the early 1980s by Moving Hearts: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iT_RGgFSN3M
    Sometimes music can make a difference. “Grandola” launched the Carnation Revolution in Portugal with only one dead due to a heart attack: http://blog.nationmultimedia.com/print.php?id=8773
    I can only wonder what they are singing in Russia, Kiev, and Washington and what pied pipers they are listening to.

  13. ISL says:

    It has been noted in a few odd places that Russia maintains significant cyber capabilities, which I would imagine would be deployed (perhaps a test demo, taking down the easter seaboard power grid) that would be an appropriate response to the financial n-bomb. Could that then escalate – oh yeah, particularly since the only response would be to disconnect the internet, and then the entire global economy would melt down.
    Col: Your soliquoy really strikes a nerve. Loren’s point about resorting to tactical in case of a looming defeat makes me think that a very effective barrier for Russia against NATO would be a radioactive (west) Ukrainian wasteland.

  14. Fred says:

    “And because Ukraine is so close to the Russian heartland (about 250 miles from Moscow) ”
    Why is the President of the United States deploying forces 250 miles from Moscow? We really need our army 4,500 miles from our own capital? To defend the unelected government of Pravy Sektor and Svoboda?

  15. crf says:

    Russia has been acting as if it were extremely scared. Because it is.
    This initial irrational reaction by the US in firstly advocating, and then not controlling the outcome of the coup (for example, by insisting that nothing hugely political be done by the interim government, like an EU-association agreement, which is good for the West Ukraine, but, as it is, bad for the East) resulted in the counter-reaction in Crimea, and massive unrest which has made reconciliation between east and western Ukraine next to impossible. And we still have further escalation by the US.
    Russia doesn’t want to annex Eastern Ukraine. It has areas of majority to sizeable minority Russian speakers, but it also has a large, or majority, populations of Ukrainians, who don’t want annexation, which would result in an unlivable situation should that occur. So this has been made clear by Putin and Lavrov: that more autonomy in political and economic matters between East and West would be wise. But the Western press and the Ukrainians are all still shouting about “annexation” in the East. Eastern Ukraine isn’t Crimea (which is sacred and symbolic for Russians, and populated by people who (mainly) considered themselves Russian). So the same dynamics are not in play. (It’s also a simple fact that if they were the same dynamics, then Putin would already have invaded.)
    Kerry needs to spell out what he expects Russia to do. Russia can’t tell Eastern Ukrainians fearful of their political and economic future to just hide under their beds and let this current government “take care” of them. There’s zero trust in the East that this won’t involve massive violence and political repression by the current Ukrainian government. It isn’t clear that Russia is directing all this unrest, and that it can just “order” it to go away. (What does Kerry expect: for Putin to invade in order to tell barricaded Russian-Ukrainians to stop?). There is no exit or end-game for Putin if he were to invade the East.
    The stupidity of the West and NATO in managing this escalatable conflict is making be mentally ill. And I don’t think my ill feelings about it are irrational.

  16. jerseycityjoan says:

    Why Not?
    He’s been assuring allies all over the place that they can continue to rely on us. I assume just McCain or Romney would have done the same. We continue to keep up obligations that we cannot afford and in some cases, should never had made at all.
    As I have said here before, I find it very understandable that the former Soviet countries turned away from Russia.
    But that doesn’t mean we were obliged to let them into NATO or that Europe should have added them to the EU. Over time, a lopsided alliance with drain resources from the relatively few countries that are in better shape.

  17. All,
    The year 1983 also saw the ‘Able Archer’ war scare. I have just come across three invaluable briefing books on this which the National Security Archive posted last year.
    A passage from the first of these appears of particular relevance to current dilemmas:
    ‘The late Mark Palmer, a top Kremlinologist in the State Department (and U.S. ambassador to Hungary from 1986 to 1990), retrospectively summarized the Reagan administration’s internal “argument” about “what the Soviet view of the West is,” in an unpublished interview with The Washington Post’s Don Oberdorfer.
    “Paul [Nitze’s and others] view is that they [the Soviets] never really felt threatened …And most Western analysts – or many, particularly the political-military type analysts feel that way, because they have a hard time, I think, psychologically seeing, as most people do, seeing themselves as possibly being a bad guy in anyone else’s eyes….
    “I, on the other hand, think that what Gordievsky [whom he met] reported in ’81 and etc. – that he’s reporting accurately the mood in Moscow. That the Soviets have felt surrounded, that they are paranoid, that they have seen us as being unpredictable and irresponsible from their point of view in doing all sorts of things – invading communist countries, etc, all sorts of stuff. Therefore, I find this entirely credible that they could have, during [what was] a very tense period anyway, [] saw the INF deployments as a threat to them. These were missiles that could hit the Soviet Union. Their [analogous] missiles – the SS 20s – could not hit the United States.”’
    The reference to ‘Gordievsky’ is to Oleg Gordievsky, who became an MI6 ‘mole’ in the KGB and was ‘exfiltrated’ in 1985.
    As was already apparent from the 1995 BDM Corporation study, on which the account in the ‘briefing books’ draws, KGB concerns with a ‘bolt from the blue’ attack were not shared by the General Staff. However, that point is of limited relevance to the validity of the concerns expressed by Andropov about a war arising through miscalculation.
    Such concerns were actually widely shared among Soviet military thinkers, and were central to their scepticism about academic Western theorising about ‘deterrence.’ They were also shared by some of the best Western experts on Soviet military strategy, and on command and control systems – notably Raymond Garthoff, Michael MccGwire, and Bruce Blair, all then at Brookings.
    Two observations seem worth making. One is that, as an old-style ‘perfidious Albionian’, I am inclined to think that if one really has ‘a hard time’ seeing oneself as ‘possibly being a bad guy in anyone else’s eyes’, one shouldn’t be in the intelligence business, or indeed have anything much to do with planning foreign policy.
    A second point is that what was happening in the background at the time of ‘Able Archer’ was actually a realisation among key sections of the Soviet elite – including elements in the KGB – that in one fundamental sense the United States had been in the right: that the American political-economic model worked, and the Soviet didn’t.
    A question this realisation raised was whether the threats which so preoccupied the Soviet leadership had been essentially self-created – or whether ideological animosity on the part of the West was underpinned by forms of animosity largely unrelated to the nature of the regime in power in Moscow.
    At the end of the Eighties, a very widespread view among the Soviet elite was that their country’s security problems had indeed been largely self-created. It was this assumption that provided the basis of Russian foreign policy, not simply in the Yeltsin years, but in the early years of Putin’s period of power.
    The significance of his reference to the ‘infamous policy of containment’ as a feature of the ‘18th, 19th and 20th centuries’ in the address he gave following the Crimean referendum may well be that he has concluded that animosity towards Russia as such, rather than communism, was the driving force behind Western policy in the Cold War.
    It seems to me reasonably clear from Putin’s speech that he acted as he did in Crimea in part through emotion reasons, but essentially because he had concluded that unless a stand was made, Russia would face an ongoing process of coercion aimed essentially at its destruction as an independent polity.
    It seems clear from Western responses that most policymakers in Washington, and also London, are still in the grips of the assumption of self-evident Western innocence that – as the NSC briefing books make clear – caused Paul Nitze completely to misunderstand the Cold War.
    If Robert Gates is to be believed, the briefing books suggest, the same assumption almost caused Zbigniew Brzezinski to tell President Carter that the Soviets had launched an all-out missile attack, in response to a false alarm generating by someone having ‘mistakenly put military exercise tapes into the computer system.’
    Whether Brzezinski would have recommended to Carter an all-out missile attack, had the error not been corrected at the last minute, seems unclear.
    What we have are elites who are still fervently committed to a vision of a global order based upon unilateral American hegemony, but who repeatedly demonstrate that they are unfit to pretend to any such hegemony. It is not a happy spectacle.
    The three NSC briefing books are at
    http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB426/ ;http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB427/ ;http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB428/
    The full text of the Putin speech, which bears close reading, is at http://eng.kremlin.ru/news/6889

  18. William Herschel says:

    crf, I believe there is an interpretation of the events you accurately describe that will relieve yours and my mental illness and, as a by-product, show that the threat of nuclear war is zero.
    Remember that there are many mansions in my Father’s house. Let us stipulate that the “neo-cons” and the CIA are effectively one and the same and that the “Ukrainian crisis” is a CIA operation from start to whatever finish comes to pass.
    If we also stipulate that the “Ukrainian crisis” is entirely and completely for the consumption of the American people, then we can see that for the neo-con/CIA it is win-win.
    A conventional war with Russia in Ukraine (under the NATO flag)? Wow, what a win that would be. Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Kosovo, you name it, all rolled into one. It is very unlikely, and Putin is doing everything in his power to show how catastrophic it would be, but for the neo-cons it would be Christmas all year long.
    Capitulation to Russian influence in Eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea, i.e. the likely outcome? The Jimmy Carterization of Barack Obama. Why, Brooks is already saying that Obama has a “manhood problem”. And as a bonus guess who is going to have to prop up Western Ukraine financially? Well, Victoria Nuland has an answer for that, “F*** the EU.”
    In the meantime, TV screens are filled with images of John Kerry. That’s a win no matter what happens. Not only does it change the subject from issues that might actually concern the American people, but it does it in a way that has slightly less intellectual content than Miley Cyrus.

  19. Fred says:

    “Why Not”
    To keep these from going ‘boom’ to keep foreign fascists in power in Ukraine, to whom were have zero treaty obligation to:
    This will be the strategic response:
    Strategic nuclear forces of Russia include:[11]
    Land based Strategic Rocket Forces: 489 missiles carrying up to 1,788 warheads; they employ immobile (silos), like SS-18 Satan, and mobile delivery systems, like SS-27 Topol M.
    Sea based Strategic Fleet: 12 submarines carrying up to 609 warheads; they should be able to employ, in a near future, delivery systems like SS-N-30 Bulava.
    Strategic Aviation: 79 bombers carrying up to 884 cruise missiles.
    As of July 2009, Russia’s strategic arsenal reportedly shrunk to 2,723 warheads, including: 367 ICBMs with 1,248 warheads, 13 SSBNs with 591 warheads and 76 bombers with 884 warheads.[14]

  20. Madhu says:

    If the Thompson article or Col Lang’s posts on the subject were posted in comments under every Yahoo article on the Ukraine, or as a reddit link, or any other place one could think, I wonder how far the educating and conversationthe could go? Or would this be shouting into the void? Make things worse? I wonder.

  21. jonst says:

    Babak wrote: “R2Pers, Neo-cons, and other such do-gooders are new manifestations of the “White Man Burden” and “Mission Civilizatrix” of former European Colonial Empires”.
    I think what you write is true, to a very limited extent. However, I think career building, and making money in DC, as a ‘political operative’ is the primary driving force of the R2P/Neocon, think tank types. It was a fertile and safe playground after the Soviets fell. The conflicts never rose to, or near, the level of an existential crisis like the Berlin Block aid or the Missile Crisis or the 1973 ME October War. But this kind of confrontation (Ukraine) was long forgotten and so think tank types and Nuland’s of the world walked deep into a deadly forest before they realized this time it is different. This is a nuclear armed foe you poking Victoria.
    Its about money and careerism, not in the Marxist traditional perspective of doing it all for corporate powers/capital. It is about personal advancement. That dynamic is God for the elite in the US. These kinds of crisis (the Balkans, Iraq, Libya, Syria and such) all for optimal personal marketing efforts. Careers (and multi-generational fortunes) were and are made during this time.

  22. zanzibar says:

    “What we have are elites who are still fervently committed to a vision of a global order based upon unilateral American hegemony, but who repeatedly demonstrate that they are unfit to pretend to any such hegemony.”
    This is an important point. The elites in the West have got to the point that they are now completely deluded by their own bullshit. They are convinced of their own “rightness” and their infallibility. As those that are on the other side of US led incoherence push back, we may reach a dangerous point when the ego of the Western elites gets bruised in the brawl. They may then lash out and act completely irrational out of petulance.
    The miscalculations and ego of the personalities that led to the Great War are instructive.

  23. turcopolier says:

    Personal ambition and the desire to be accepted as part of the Borg-like consensus is certainly a factor in the unfolding disaster but there is also a shared view of the nature of humanity and human society that informs the consensus. IMO if the shared view was something different there would be a lemming-like search for acceptance in that. pl

  24. Fred says:

    You make some very good points. How many careers at NED etc have spanned a couple decades where the risks were a ‘hardship’ posting for a couple of years to cities like Kiev, Riga, Warsaw, etc? – where the dollar went a long way. Followed by a promotion and raise in NYC or D.C. It’s not like these folks had to live in the West Bank, Gaza, Bangui, Mogadishu or elsewhere while they made their careers promoting ‘democracy’.

  25. Charles I says:

    I was going to mention that little episode of paranoia.
    Wasn’t it just last year or so that the world was on the brink of nuclear war over North Korea? Another faraway bit of someone else’s existential problem?

  26. zanzibar,
    There is an extraordinary disregard for the notion of objective truth. In today’s ‘Telegraph’, there is a report entitled ‘Syria: the children killed by Assad’s chlorine gas bombs’.
    (See http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/syria/10789298/Syria-the-children-killed-by-Assads-chlorine-gas-bombs.html .)
    To say that this report gives ground for suspicion that a disinformation operation might be at issue could perhaps be regarded as an understatement.
    My suspicion, moreover, is that those who disseminate these stories are at some level conscious of this. They have simply lost any awareness of the basic fact that believing what you want to believe can get you into serious trouble.

  27. Colonel Lang,
    I am not in general a great admirer of John Mearsheimer – particular as if he really believes, as Wikipedia suggests, that ‘states are rational actors, capable of coming up with sound strategies that maximize their prospects for survival’, I think he is in large measure living in a dream world.
    What states is he talking about? The Germany of Hitler, or indeed the Second Reich? The Soviet Union of Stalin or indeed of Brezhnev? Have Mearsheimer and his like simply ducked out of any serious attempt to confront the questions that twentieth-century history ought to pose for political scientists?
    (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Offensive_realism .)
    Ironically, however, in his 2011 article ‘Imperial by Design’, Mearsheimer quite rightly, in my view, pointed to the way that the assumptions set out in Fukayama’s 1989 ‘End of History’ have dominated American policy in the post-Cold War period. As Mearsheimer aptly summarised Fukayama’s argument, it involved the belief that ‘liberal democracy and peace would eventually come to the Third World as well, because the sands of time were pushing inexorably in that direction.’
    (For Mearsheimer’s article, see http://mearsheimer.uchicago.edu/pdfs/A0059.pdf .)
    The notion that any likely estimate of what is going to happen in the Third World, or indeed the First World, can be based upon an assessment of what the ‘sands of time’ are doing, is quite patently total BS. Indeed, it is BS very similar to that which made Soviet leaders believe that the ‘sands of time’ were pushing inexorably towards the global triumph of socialism.
    The moral should be quite clear – that the notion that the United States is a ‘rational actor’ is theoretically quite as indefensible as the notion that Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union were. If one wants to understand how states behave – and I am not suggesting that the British state is in any way more ‘rational’ than others – one needs at least partially to emancipate oneself from these ‘rationalist’ assumptions.

  28. Ken Roberts says:

    I’m surprised that no-one has yet mentioned the Cuban Missile Crisis in trying to understand motivations. It seems to me that Putin’s stance is much like that of Kennedy at the time of the CMC — ie, resolve that there is a red line, in that case, and in this one too in regard to the Cook-Aegis incident (and other ABM siting topics).
    One of the great strengths of the US in foreign relations, but in this instance perhaps a weakness, is the diversity of deciders and influencers. The President can agree to a treaty, or advocate a policy or relationship, but not be able to deliver — “because” of the crazy congressman from (state), the (such and such) lobby, etc. With the rise of the imperial presidency, this deniability escape clause has been reduced. It is clear that movements of agencies of the executive are under direction, or at least fall within attributable responsibility of chain of command.
    In which case, it becomes important to choose very capable people. The transition may be difficult. Recall earlier discussion of education. My brief experience watching the behaviour of recent journalism grads is not encouraging, and the reductions of diversity of influences on media coverage are also worrisome. One can only hope that the republic retains or recovers enough genuine diversity to be able to cope with challenges now and in future.

  29. Babak Makkinejad says:

    “What we have are elites who are still fervently committed to a vision of a global order based upon unilateral American hegemony, but who repeatedly demonstrate that they are unfit to pretend to any such hegemony. It is not a happy spectacle.”
    In other words, Masters should learn to act as Masters and slaves be content to remain slaves to the Utopia to be realized under the guide book called “The Republic” authored 2500 years ago by Plato.
    That was to a large extent the world just before 1914 and I doubt that the Beige, the Brown, and Yellow, the Black people of the world would countenance its reemergence.

  30. Babak Makkinejad says:

    That is what I have been saying.

  31. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I would like to draw your attention to 2 items:
    A speech by Tony Blair against “Islamic Extremism”:
    and a piece of so-called performance art here
    Am I reading this correctly: a religious war against Islam is being advocated by a former UK leader in defense of depravity and decadence?
    Where is Petronius the Arbiter to chronicle this madness?

  32. VietnamVet says:

    If you still have a job, advancement is easier if you believe in the ground rules. But, the awakening realization that western leadership is deluded and can lash out completely irrationally and start WWIII is enough to make one ill.
    In the Ukraine crisis besides neo-conservative delusions of winning a nuclear war with Russia, there are the wealthy aggressive NGOs seeking more wealth and power to exploit (less their whole house of cards collapse).
    In addition, there are also other forces in play:
    The complete break down for the rule of law for the wealthy,
    Forced austerity on the people to avoid restructuring the banks’ bad debt, and
    Debt Slavery for the young who will never afford the American Dream.
    This is all hard to accept because it is discussed on only a handful of blogs. Yet, income disparity and the plight of the young are seeping into media. (Spoiler Alert) The last episode of “Continuum” on the SyFy channel, the law enforcement heroine in the future, 2070, saved two children in a fire rather than two top floor executives whose lost income was tacked onto her lifetime total debt.

  33. Fred says:

    “‘liberal democracy and peace would eventually come to the Third World …”
    The US government can not find the political will to refinance Detroit or save pensioners incomes but the political appointee, a major Obama fundraiser, and new rubber stamp city council, could find $186,000,000 in tax revenue for one man – Michael Illych – to build a hockey arena over which he will have sole control. The Democratic delegation in Michigan – silent, right along with the Republicans. Our two senators, both democrats, silent. They did vote for a billion for citizens of ‘Ukraine’. This complicity is just part of what our ‘liberal democracy’ is doing to average citizens.
    Mearsheimer and Fukayama were only wrong in the details. We are busy replacing Godless Communism with Godless Democracy.

  34. Fred says:

    The liberal elite are not concerned about a war against Islam, it is a war against religion in general. Please see the articles below. The most religious part of the country has a ‘human rights’ problem. They are predominantly Christian and conservative. That means they must be against ‘human rights’ as liberals see them:
    Most Christian denominations teach that anal sex between men is a sin. How long do you think it will be before one church or another is labeled a hate group because of that?

  35. Ingolf says:

    Your “second point” seems to me crucially important. Everything the US gained through the long Cold War has been squandered in a brief two decades. And as you suggest so clearly, the opportunity at the time truly was historic.
    9/11 offered a reset. Had the US responded in a sane and modest fashion, most of the world (including Russia) was probably ready to re-extend the benefit of the doubt. Instead . . . well, we all know what followed.
    It’s a great tragedy. It’s also hard not to occasionally succumb to weeping or wailing at the banal stupidity that’s brought it about.

  36. jonst says:

    Agree Col, agree 100%. But how serendipitous, when a “shared” view of humanity is also, thee, or at minimum, a, most profitable view.

  37. jerseycityjoan says:

    I have had many unpleasant thoughts about nuclear weapons in the past few years. Some came from the tsunami-caused disaster in Japan. Some came from the various unfortunate revelations concerning Air Force personnel.
    The more I think about it, the less I can convince myself that our species is up to the job of handling nuclear weapons. We do not have the necessary level of consistent and rational behavior. I think that disqualifies us right there.
    Even worse, we are inherently imperfectible. And yet error with nuclear materials can be deadly and long lasting beyond our imaginations’ ability to recognize, process and admit to ourselves and others.
    Someone think wrong, assume wrong, do wrong with their nuclear weapons in a catastrophic way, eventually. If it’s not us who makes the first big mistake, it will be another nation.
    I know we will not eliminate these weapons anytime soon.
    But wouldn’t reducing the world’s supply of them be a good and doable thing?

  38. Babak Makkinejad,
    ‘In other words, Masters should learn to act as Masters and slaves be content to remain slaves to the Utopia to be realized under the guide book called “The Republic” authored 2500 years ago by Plato.’
    This is a tendentious reading of what I wrote.
    To say that American or British elites no longer display the characteristics of a half-way competent ruling class does not imply that, if they did display such characteristics, a unilateral American, or indeed more broadly Western, hegemony could be maintained.
    Indeed, I have thought for twenty-five years that such a unilateral hegemony – in particular, the kind of American hegemony over Eurasia advocated by Brzezinski – was a delusional fantasy, which was liable to end in nuclear war.
    An appropriate goal, it has seemed to me, was one where the United States would be something rather more than ‘primus inter pares’ in a kind of polycentric ‘peace of Dives.’ A corollary of this is that the suitable strategy for the United States seemed to involve taking a leaf out of the book of the British Empire, and relying to a significant extent on ‘offshore balancing.’
    To do this, however, it is necessary to be able to grasp that ‘appeasement’ is a key tool of imperial strategy – along with ‘deterrence’ and ‘compellence’. Indeed, commonly the different tools are appropriately used in conjunction.
    All that said, the old Roman principle – that you should not attempt to control others until you can control yourself – remains pertinent. Indeed, the pathological fear of appearing weak which seems to characterise contemporary American elites may reflect a fundamental inability to practice self-control.
    Reading Seymour Hersh’s description of Obama’s enthusiasm for bombing Syria, I could not help being reminded of Kipling’s phrase about ‘half-devil and half-child.’ And this is not a matter related to his skin colour or ethnic origins. The extraordinary op-ed by Anne-Marie Slaughter which Colonel Lang discusses in the next thread, or indeed the ghastly spectacle of Samantha Power weeping ‘with pain and emotion’ at the suggestion that she might harbour animus towards Israel provoke precisely the same reaction.
    (See http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-news/.premium-1.528263 )
    So also does the equally ghastly speech by Tony Blair on the need to combat Islamic extremism to which you link below.

  39. Babak Makkinejad,
    You are conflating different phenomena.
    1. Tony Blair is not a secularist. By origin, he was an Anglican Christian socialist. His wife is Catholic, being by background Liverpool Irish, and he eventually converted to her religion (‘poped’, as we say in Britain.) Whatever can be held against them, enthusiasm for scatological displays masquerading as ‘art’ is not as far as I am aware characteristic of either of the Blairs.
    2. What they are, however, are silly socialists who, following repeated trouncings by Thatcher, followed her in becoming neocons. Under her rule, the covert element in British foreign policy became significantly more salient than earlier. In particular, it involved a covert alliance with the Saudis and American neocons to use Islam as a force against the Soviets, and subsequently the Russians.
    3. When the assumption that the jihadists would not ‘bite the hand that fed’ them was proven wrong by the attack on the World Trade Center, the neoconservatives decided to appoint themselves ‘useful idiots’ of the IRGC – and, with Blair himself playing a not exactly trivial role, handed Iraq over to Shiite Islamists closely associated with Tehran.
    4. This spectacular display of shooting oneself in the foot triggered a revival of the covert alliance between Saudis and American neocons, particularly as Israel perceived the Shiite axis as an ‘existential threat’. Dreams of enlisting the enormous power of the United States in the project of destroying Shiite power have, however, so far been frustrated. In part this is because key elements in the American intelligence community are determined not to see a repeat of the manipulation of intelligence which led to the invasion of Iraq, and also because – so far at least – General Dempsey has given a virtuoso display of the art of keeping one’s finger in the dyke.
    5. What Blair’s speech actually represents is hardly advocacy of a ‘religious war against Islam’ – it would be better seen as a not very coherent attempt to make some sense of the contradictions which have devilled the neoconservative approach to the Middle East and have grown more and more glaringly apparent in recent years. Ironically, its most cogents part may be the justification of the toppling of Morsi by the Egyptian military, and the signs of concern about reining in Saudi enthusiasm for sponsoring jihadists.
    6. In relation to policy towards Syria, or towards Iran, or indeed relations between Israel and the Palestinians, or the possibilities and problems of cooperating with Russia and China against jihadists, Blair is quite patently failing to confront what the realistic alternatives are.

  40. Babak Makkinejad says:

    I stand by what I said; a military alliance of White people denigrates any and all non-White power centers in the international arena that oppose its policies.
    The posture against Russia is one that posits subjugation as the natural state of the Slav, like wise for Muslim powers etc.
    Significantly, a confrontation with the Yellow Emperor has not yet taken place but if I am right, it will – sooner or later.
    And all for what exactly; for naked young women to eject eggs out of the orifices of their bodies in public all over the world – say in Qum – and call it artistic Freedom?

  41. Ingolf,
    ‘It’s also hard not to occasionally succumb to weeping or wailing at the banal stupidity that’s brought it about.’
    In part, I am one of the ‘spoilt children’ of the ‘Pax Americana’ of which Dean Acheson has to be regarded as the principal architect.
    There are, I think, relevant questions which can be raised about the way in which Acheson and others handled the Soviet Union; and it is important that they should be raised.
    But that the hegemonic system Acheson and his associates set up both in Western Europe and East Asia was in very large measure extraordinarily benign for most of those incorporated in it seems to me palpably clear.
    It seems to me equally clear that a realisation of this fact on the part of those with functioning brains among Soviet elites was central to the — extraordinarily peaceful, if seen in any comparative context — dissolution of the Soviet system.
    That, on the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, American elites seem determined to repeat the mistakes which led Europe into catastrophe seems almost beyond belief.

  42. Fred,
    I am baffled by the fact that people who are supposed to be intelligent appear to be completely stupid.
    Traditionally, in Britain, we were fortunate to have elites that paid some attention to what those over whom they ruled thought and felt. Moreover, quite a few of them had a good deal of practical experience – be it in business, the military, as was common among Tories, or simply in running local authorities or indeed trades unions, as was common on the Labour side.
    Also relevant on the Labour side was the fact many key figures in the party in the post-war decades had serious military experience – Denis Healey, who ought to have led the party, and would have done so, had people like Blair not been dolts, had been a beachmaster at Anzio.
    The effect of the economic crisis, and the fatuous wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, has been to create a bizarre situation: a seething distrust and resentment of our elites, equally among crucial elements of those traditionally on the ‘right’ and among crucial elements of those traditionally on the ‘left’, together with an inability to see clearly any alternative.
    But people like Obama, and also Cameron and Hague, seem completely oblivious to what is happening. Ironically, the current Labour leader, Ed Miliband, who is a nice Jewish boy from North London, and actually a decent enough human being, has some inkling. But, like almost all of the current British political class, he has zilch practical experience of anything.

  43. turcopolier says:

    David Habakkuk
    I am struck by your point that the traditional elites in your country and mine have become dangerous because they lost their traditional purposes as class or classes and have been supplanted by uncultured new, commercial people like the nearly unlettered swine to be seen on “Sharktank,” chez vous et ches nous. Now the old elites are largely creatures who inhabit universities, think-tanks and the like, festering in a mutual ignorance of real life and aspiring to run our lives on the basis of Mutual Ignorant Imagining (MII). My wife continues to learn more and more of my ancestry and I am depressed to think what those people would have thought of these times. pl

  44. VietnamVet says:

    The Washington Post today published a 150th year commemorative of the American Civil War in 1864. That year, for the first time, industrial slaughter killed hundred thousand men from the Wilderness to Atlanta to Petersburg and introduced the horrors of trench warfare to mankind.
    This was a prelude of the millions killed in WWI and WWII. Since 1945 there has not been one war between nuclear armed states. The reason is Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD). All those who at one time served on the Fulda Gap in Germany are here today because they never faced waves of attacking Soviet Tanks, thanks to MAD.
    Washington DC is insane if it thinks NATO and Russia can fight a war and not end up destroying the world. Ukraine is proof that the West and Russia have been and will always be in conflict and it is in our genes to lord it over others. I am for anything if it will get through to the 0.01% and their ideological handmaidens and get them to realize they will all be dead unless they back down from destabilizing Russia. If not, 2014 will be the end of our time on earth.

  45. robt willmann says:

    Not long ago I got a video of a documentary called “Dark Circle”, made in 1982. It is about nuclear weapons and focuses on the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons plant in Colorado and nuclear testing, and some about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I think it is worth watching.
    They handled plutonium at Rocky Flats and also made the triggers for hydrogen bombs, and the trigger was made of plutonium. When I heard that, I wondered about the nuclear theft by Israel discussed on this site previously, including the issue of nuclear triggers and Hollywood producer Arnon Michan with Netanyahu; were the triggers at issue ones containing plutonium or a different type of nuclear trigger?
    I then became interested in the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings. There was some black and white film taken by Japanese after the bombings which was then confiscated by the U.S. and brought here. The Japanese government later got it or a copy back. A short film of about 15 minutes was made by Erik Barnouw of some of the footage, called Hiroshima Nagasaki August, 1945, and can be seen here–
    A Japanese man, Tsutomo Iwakura, made a film around 1982 about Hiroshima and Nagasaki that may have some original footage in it, called “Prophecy”. However, I have not been able to track it down. It may have been released only in Japan, though there may have been a public showing one time in the U.S.
    When General Douglas MacArthur became head of the occupation of Japan, he ordered that film be made of Japanese cities to show the effects of the various bombings. As fate would have it, Lt. Daniel McGovern had some Hollywood filming experience and was put in charge of the project, and another member of the film crew was Lt. Herbert Sussan. They filmed it all in color and ended up with about 90,000 feet of footage, which apparently is of quite good quality. All the film was then “classified” and locked away from the public and the world. Greg Mitchell, who has been editor of Editor and Publisher magazine, got interested in the story. He details some of it in an article–
    He also wrote a book about it, called “Atomic Cover-up: Two U.S. Soldiers, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Greatest Movie Ever Made”, which I have not yet read. He made a little video about the situation and his book with a tiny bit of the color footage here–
    All the color film seems to now be no longer marked secret and is sitting in the National Archives in College Park, Maryland.
    A more recent documentary about nuclear weapons called “Original Child Bomb” is said to have been made around 2005, and it may have some of the color footage in it. But I have also not been able to find that documentary.
    When the public starts to see what war really is, the propaganda of politicians, war profiteers, and war financiers has much less effect. This is of course why the films made of the atomic blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki were hidden for so long. And is why every effort was and has been made to prevent disclosure of photographs and film of the Iraq war beginning in 1990, the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq in 2003, the war in Afghanistan, and the attack on Yugoslavia and Serbia. The last war in which there was some film of soldiers from combat on television news was Vietnam.

  46. Ingolf says:

    It sure does, David.
    Thanks, by the way, for your wonderful contributions. For me, they greatly enrich what is already a superb site.

  47. Babak Makkinejad says:

    These “American elites” who “..seem determined to repeat the mistakes which led Europe into catastrophe” are not opposed by any one in EU; not PM of UK, not President of France, not PM of Sweden, not PM of Italy etc.
    Is there no sane political leader in EU that would oppose the insanity?
    If not, then why have these meaningless elections and government structures in EU; send pro-consuls from Washington DC to rule these European provinces.

  48. Anna-Marina says:

    “He’s been assuring allies all over the place that they can continue to rely on us.”
    After the US (via NATO) have been provoking Russia for years?
    “I find it very understandable that the former Soviet countries turned away from Russia.”
    You mean that the pro-Russian sentiments among the sizable portion of Easter Ukraine’ population are just an inconvenient illusion? There are between 26% and 70% of ethnic Russians in different parts of Eastern Ukraine. The behavior of the US cannot be qualified other than stirring a civil war there in Ukraine. Before going on grandiose projects to grab other peoples’ mineral resources, the State Dept. needs to do some homework, like studying the history of the country in question.
    And there is another minor addition: Please do not pretend to be oh-so-honorable because of “draining resources” in some distant lands. This draining is not altruistic. If Ukraine was not rich in natural resources and if Ukraine was not bordered with Russia that is becoming to threaten the unipolarity of the world, the US would care not to spend billions on the opposition in Kiev and the US would not send, shamelessly, the CIA’ highest representative to educate the Kievan junta about “proper” course of actions.
    This is not about obligations: this is about endangering the population of Europe by stirring another military conflict, this time a dangerously large one.

  49. Great comment! The NUCLEAR PRIESTHOOD survives in the USA only due to its secrecy and still cannot explain its utility for warfare.
    The firdst US President to announce a NO FIRST USE policy may undergoe imeachment but this must be done IMO!

  50. Charles I says:

    One of my strongest childhood memories is being up late as an 8 or 9 year old watching tv news at night, must of been around 1967 or 68. A white soldier was standing waist deep in a flooded crater, had a Asian man by the hair, kept forcing him under the water and then screaming at him over and over again.
    I grew up to be a big burly crazy guy, fairly antisocial, but not violent at all, and my default reactive sympathies are still almost always with the entity on the receiving end. Mostly because I was at the bottom of sibling order in a sick family, but this image I can feel it, see it still.

  51. Anna-Marina says:

    The lunatics-in-power cannot wait for another massive slaughter of human beings:

  52. Anna-Marina says:

    Brutal but true:
    “Washington is demanding that the Russian government pull the rug out from under the protesting populations in eastern and southern Ukraine and force the Russian populations in Ukraine to submit to Washington’s stooges in Kiev. Washington also demands that Russia renege on the reunification with Crimea and hand Crimea over to Washington so that the original plan of evicting Russia from its Black Sea naval base can go forward.
    In other words, Washington’s demand is that Russia put Humpty Dumpty back together again and hand him over to Washington:”

  53. Stephanie says:

    It might have been possible for the West and Russia to work together to fix Ukraine. Putin seemed to be open to that. But the EU decided to get cute and issue a them-or-us ultimatum to Yanukovych. There was always going to be tension but the present mess was entirely avoidable.
    Thank you for that link. As Meade wrote, it took some time for Grant to figure out that Lee wasn’t Braxton Bragg….

  54. Charels Dekle says:

    Col Lang,
    Thank you for MII. I used to perform an oversight function for MDAPs. When a program manager would spin their very best power point presentation for us, I used the term Faith Based Engineering or FBE. An excellent example was the Future Combat System. I think that I like MII better.

  55. turcopolier says:

    Spread the word. pl

  56. MS2 says:

    There is a link to interviews with a person named Tsygichko that are very interesting. He seems to have been simultaneously an outcast and in demand. The funniest part (it is pretty bleak) is that early in his career he was pressured to rescind some analysis, and decided he could afford to refuse because he already had received his doctorate. LOL. A more consequential gem is that Soviet planning held 7 psi overpressure as lethal, and this was supposedly based on Nazi data gathered on dogs; while the US used 40 psi. A recurring theme is the completely unhinged-from-reality nature of their planning. Also they were not targeting US silos, as their own testing had indicated that they were so vulnerable at US spacings, that obviously they were for first use and would be empty.

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