In Dark Times
The politics and geopolitics of missile "defenses"
by Joseph Gerson
Z magazine, July/August 2001
One doesn't have to be a Naderite to know that even with the
Democratic Party having recaptured control of the Senate and the
Bush administration in disarray, these remain dark and dangerous
times. The Bush-Cheney administration's assaults on the environment,
the judiciary, and economic security have been widely reported
and analyzed. Less well understood is the integrated fast track
campaign to consolidate U.S. military hegemony for the first decades
of the 21st century: the race to deploy so-called "missile
defenses," to scrap or mangle the Anti-Ballistic Missile
Treaty (ABM) beyond recognition, to transform China into the new
"enemy," and to begin the weaponization of space.
As President Bush's first trip to Europe and meeting with
President Putin demonstrated, his Administration remains adamant
in its campaign to abrogate or de-fang the ABM Treaty. They are
desperate to have the initial, if incredible, "missile defense"
deployments in place for the 2004 election campaign. Vice-President
Cheney was recently asked if there is a main organizing event
or dynamic at work in the world today. He answered that "the
arrangement [for] the twenty-first century is most assuredly being
shaped right now," that "the United States will continue
to be the dominant political, economic and military power in the
The principle vehicles involved in shaping Cheney's "arrangement"
are the revolution in Military Affairs and related changes in
U.S. military doctrine signaled in President Bush's May 1 Star
Wars speech and the many leaked reports about the recommendations
of a second Marshall Plan. (Andrew W. Marshall is the 79-year-old
Pentagon analyst who is conducting Secretary of War Rumsfeld's
strategic review.) To the degree that Marshall's plan is actually
implemented, the new doctrine will shift the focus of U.S. military
planning and war preparations from Europe to the Asia-Pacific
region, away from the Army's ground forces toward the Navy, Air
Force, and weaponization of space. Instead of ostensibly preparing
to fight two near-simultaneous wars in different regions of the
planet, the plan asserts that the "U.S. must have the military
capability to act at any time, anywhere, in defense of what it
sees as its global interests."
The fine print of the Marshall-Rumsfeld plan gives lie to
the Bush rhetoric that "missile defenses" are needed
to deter attacks by so-called outlaw nations such as Iraq and
North Korea. Instead, Marshall is explicit that Washington's primary
concern is Chinese military modernization and the belief that
in the not too distant future Beijing will have missile forces
capable of intimidating and destroying the hundreds of U.S. military
bases and the 100,000 forward deployed U.S. troops in East Asia
and the Pacific. If they can ever make missile defenses work-and
the U.S. is much closer to being able to deploy so-called Theater
Missile Defenses (TMD) than Reagan's grand vision National Missile
Defenses (NMD)-their primary military mission will be to neutralize
China's relatively small nuclear deterrent force (now, an estimated
18-20 ICBMs with the theoretical capability of reaching the United
States) and to destroy Chinese satellites needed for missile guidance.
The accelerated Star Wars campaign, which Daschle, Levin,
and many other Senate Democrats say they will support with "robust"
multi-billion dollar research and development funding, serves
many "interests," and its target list extends far beyond
China. But, dominance-not defense-is its strategic purpose.
Nuclear War and Missile Defenses
Secretary of Defense (War) Rumsfeld was not being entirely
illogical when he urged "missile defenses" "need
not be 100 percent perfect" to be deployed. The Bush administration
may be clumsy, immoral, and dangerous, but it is clear on its
priorities. Their agendas include fattening corporate profits,
subsidizing high-tech research, and providing a cover for the
weaponization of space. Hearkening back to the Reagan-era vision
of successful nuclear warfighting, these right-wing Republicans
believe that even if it takes decades, they can eventually make
the world safe for U.S. first-strike nuclear and high-tech warfighting.
Since the end of the Cold War, the words "nuclear weapons"
and "nuclear war" have become disembodied from their
cataclysmic meanings. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were decimated half
a century ago, and since the collapse of the Berlin Wall there
has been little public debate about the dangers of nuclear weapons
and war. For many, nuclear weapons are abstract and dated.
But, nuclear weapons-some 1,000 times more powerful than the
Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs-are not abstractions. They are built
and deployed to be used, and despite arms control agreements,
an estimated 32,000 fission and fusion warheads remain deployed
or in the nuclear power's stockpiles. Only one nation-the United
States-has ever crossed the moral and legal boundary of launching
a nuclear attack against human beings. Yet, on more than 20 occasions
since the atomic bombing of Nagasaki, and at least 5 times since
the end of the Cold War, U.S. presidents have prepared and threatened
to initiate nuclear war during international crises and wars.
So-called "missile defenses" have been conceived
to make it safe to threaten or initiate nuclear war. The plan
is to develop and deploy technologies and weapons that can detect
and destroy enemy missiles in their boost, flight, and re-entry
phases, and to knock out the satellites that missiles rely on
for in-flight guidance. In the tradition of Reagan's Strategic
Defense Initiative, what were formerly called "National"
Missile Defenses (NMD) are being developed to shield all of the
United States from missile attacks, while shorter range weapons
which were formerly called "Theater" Missile Defenses
(TMD) are designed to raise a protective umbrella over smaller
"theaters" of conflict, East Asia and Israel for example.
Nations targeted by credible missile defenses will, at least theoretically,
be unable to rely on their retaliatory and deterrent second-strike
arsenals. As a result, their range of options during crises and
confrontations with Washington will be limited and stark: accede
to Washington's demands or suffer cataclysmic nuclear war.
"Missile defense" architecture includes interceptor
missiles, airborne lasers, ballistic missile earlywarning radars,
and multi-purpose satellites. These are to be deployed on the
ground, at sea, in the air, and in outer space-an approach that
is based on politics as well as on anticipated technological requirements.
With this strategy, the Army, Navy, and Air Force, and their political
and corporate allies, each get a share in Star Wars' spoils and
The Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld approach to Star Wars may be reckless,
but it is also consistent with important strains of U.S. Cold
War and Post-Cold War strategic thinking and action. Fifty years
after European and Japanese post-war reconstruction, Bill Clinton
put it this way: "We have 4 percent of the world's population,
and we want to keep 22 percent of the world's wealth. There is
also recent precedent for the Bush team's disregard for the ABM
Treaty. Shortly after he returned to academia, Clinton's first
CIA Director, John Deutch, said the United States "never
intended, nor does it now intend, to implement" its Nuclear
Nonproliferation Treaty commitment to complete nuclear disarmament."
That, he explained, 'was just one of those things you have to
say to get what you want out of a conference."
George W. Bush is famous for being inarticulate, but it is
becoming increasingly clear that his words have little integrity.
In his May 1 speech, he again insisted that "missile defenses"
are necessary to defend the U. S. against attacks by so-called
rogue states and against accidental missile launches. But, for
most of the past decade North Korea has been anxious to normalize
relations with Washington. It was the Bush administration, not
Kim Jong II, who earlier this year derailed the Korean peace process.
Moreover, Richard Butler, who oversaw the UN's dismantling of
Iraq's nuclear weapons infrastructure, has reconfirmed that dangers
of Iraqi missile attacks are "remote." Even Thomas Friedman,
of the New York Times' op-ed page, has been clear that Osama Bin
Laden, similar forces, and their allies are "rational actors."
They don't attack the U.S. and the West with missiles because
they know the U.S. response will be devastating. Instead, they
resist U.S. hegemony through a form of guerrilla warfare.
Senator Levin was correct when he pointed to the bombing of
the World Trade Center in New York and the attack on the USS Cole
in Yemen as being more typical of U.S. vulnerabilities to attack.
These post-modern guerrillas rely on secretive, cheap, and if
possible, untraceable methods. As Ian Fleming, the creator of
James Bond, and the American Friends Service Committee pointed
out in the early 1960s, if such "rogue" forces had the
means to attack a U.S. city with a nuclear weapon, they would
likely smuggle it into New York or Los Angeles in a suitcase or
aboard a luxury liner. The fear of accidental launches is also
largely manufactured. As former CIA Director Stansfield Turner
and others explain, this potential danger can be prevented by
the cheaper and more effective method of "de-alerting"
the world's nuclear arsenals, separating nuclear warheads from
the missiles designed to carry them. They don't need to be on
Clearly, Washington's "missile defense' and Star Wars
advocates have other agendas, some of which have been alluded
to but will not be discussed here in detail: a unilateralist U.S.
foreign and military policy; harvesting votes at election time;
profits for Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and other munitions
and high tech industries; and creating a vehicle to reinforce
the bureaucratic and political fiefdoms of the U.S. military's
competing military services.
The Administration's rhetoric is consciously designed to obscure
Washington's most immediate "missile defense"/Star Wars
targets: China, and to a lesser degree, Russia. This is a bi-partisan
preoccupation. Joe Nye, currently Dean of Harvard University's
Kennedy School of Government, is perhaps the leading imperial
and strategic thinker associated with the Democratic Party. As
Under Secretary of Defense (War) in the first Clinton administration,
he was the principle architect of Clinton-era U. S. Asia-Pacific
policy, and the "Armitage Report," which provided the
initial blueprints for the Bush administration's Asia policy,
is actually the Armitage-Nye Report.
Since returning to Harvard, Nye has repeatedly been clear
in his description of the greatest strategic challenge facing
the United States. Twice in the 20th century, he tells audiences,
the failure of the status quo powers to integrate rising powers-Germany
and Japan-into the prevailing global order resulted in catastrophic
world wars. Pointing to China, he urges the U.S. not repeat this
China is a poor nation. Its annual per capita income is $800,
and Nye concedes that at its current pace of military modernization,
in 20 years Beijing will achieve the military power of a mid-level
U.S. NATO ally of 40 years ago. But, having already transformed
itself with an annual 8 percent growth rate for the past 20 years,
with no end to such growth in sight, and given the Middle Kingdom's
place in Asian and world history, China is clearly a rising, if
still quite limited and highly vulnerable, force in Asia and in
global economic and diplomatic considerations.
Closely related to Nye's analysis is a "missile defense"
strategy that his colleague Ezra Vogel has advanced and which
has been described by Center for Defense Information analyst Nicholas
Berry. In pursuit of "a grand bargain with China," that
would integrate China into the Asia-Pacific and global disorders
on U.S. terms, the Clinton and Bush administrations have pursued
"theater" missile deployments which could theoretically
neutralize all of Beijing's missiles. That would leave China completely
vulnerable to a U.S. first strike attack. As the U.S. moves closer
to these deployments, China is being offered a deal: If it will
agree to forego adopting more aggressive military doctrines and
agree not to deploy weapons that increase its aggressive capabilities,
Washington will call off or limit its missile deployments in East
Of course, this would leave in place the U.S. nuclear-capable
7th Fleet, hundreds of U.S. forward deployed military bases and
installations, 100,000 troops and their advanced weapons surrounding
China, and future U.S. weapons in space. China's power and role
in Asia would be circumscribed, with the U.S. continuing to dominate
China and the Asia-Pacific region.
Since the late l990s, Chinese officials and strategic analysts
have been preoccupied with the threat of U.S. East Asian "missile
defense" deployments. From the perspective of this nation
which built its relatively small nuclear arsenal in response to
U.S. and Soviet nuclear threats, "missile defenses"
are being designed to serve as a shield to reinforce the United
States' first-strike nuclear sword. Chinese officials and scholars
are forceful and unanimous that China will not be intimidated.
"Missile defenses," they repeat, mean a new arms race.
China will build as many missiles as necessary to overwhelm these
Meanwhile Joe Nye and Democratic vice-presidential candidate
Senator Joe Lieberman have joined Bush and Rumsfeld in saying
that it is not a question of whether the U.S. will deploy missile
defenses, but of what their characteristics will be.
Here it needs to be stressed that too many U.S. peace movement
leaders who focus exclusively on National Missile Defenses are
making a dangerous mistake. What have been, until recently, termed
TMD weapons and technologies most immediately threaten China and
threaten to spark "the second nuclear age." TMD and
NMD are no longer in the Pentagon's lexicon. Rumsfeld has conflated
the concepts and he is urging that the next phase of Star Wars
research and deployment be based on expanding the limits of what
were formerly termed TMD technologies. This strategy is designed
to calm U.S. allies in Europe who are being promised that "missile
defenses" can also protect them. It also permits the Bush
administration to argue that it is building more credible TMD
rather than failed NMD technologies.
For these reasons, it was hardly a surprise that Assistant
Secretary of State James Kelley was met with "scathing accusations
of anti-China "provocations" when he traveled to China
in mid-May as part of the Bush administration's diplomatic "charm
offensive." Kelly "left Beijing with China's opposition
to missile defenses unchanged." As China's Foreign Ministry
spokesperson restated, missile defenses will "destroy the
global strategic balance...upset international stability"
and "strengthen U.S. military alliances in Asia beyond legitimate
Technology & Resource Wars
As Princeton physicist Zia Mian critically observes, leading
U.S. planners appear to be deliberately "giving supremacy
to the cult of U.S. technological supremacy" in order to
communicate that "there is no point in even thinking about
putting up a fight [with the U.S.] because the U.S. is so technologically
far ahead of everyone else." This perspective illuminates
at least four additional goals of the accelerated Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld
"missile defense"/Star Wars campaign:
(1) to subsidize development of new weapons related technologies,
regardless of whether "missile defenses" work or are
(2) to subsidize military related research and development
that can lead to new commercial technologies to compete in (or
dominate) the world market
(3) to fatten corporate profits
(4) to help ensure continued U.S. privileged access to the
world's limited resources
Washington used the wars against Iraq and Serbia to demonstrate
its lead in, and the capabilities of, high-tech warfare. In the
1980s Reagan's Star Wars' spending helped U. S. -based corporations
win the super computer race.
There's also the mercantile theory of history, which was a
part of the ideology that fueled European, and later U.S. and
Japanese, conquest and colonialism. This theory holds that the
world's material resources are limited, and that the country controlling
the largest share of essential resources will be the world's most
powerful nation. Reality is somewhat more complicated than this,
but it is also true that World War I was largely fought to defend
British (and to a lesser extent French) control of Middle East
oil reserves against the German challenge. Since the passing of
the British Empire "political axiom number one" of U.S.
foreign and military policy has been to ensure that neither its
enemies nor its allies gain independent access to those Middle
Eastern oil reserves. President Kennedy's chair of the Joint Chiefs
of Staff termed Middle East oil the "jugular vein of Western
capitalism." Things have changed over 40 years and those
reserves now also serve as the "jugular vein" of East
Asian capitalism. It is no mere coincidence that, in the course
of at least eight wars and crises that challenged U.S. Middle
East hegemony, Washington prepared or threatened to initiate nuclear
war. "Missile defenses" are designed to reinforce ultimate
U.S. control on the flow of oil that fuels the world's economies.
Russia and the Trilateral Allies
Washington's "missile defense" agendas for Russia,
the European Union, and Japan are complex. Putin understands that
the current program differs from Reagan's fantasy of an invisible
shield protecting the U.S, from thousands of Soviet ICBMs. Moscow
has reason to fear Bush's "missile defense" project,
but its opposition may in part also emanate from a well considered
Russia is not the Soviet Union. Its annual gross domestic
product now roughly equals Holland's. Much of its nuclear arsenal
and infrastructure is inoperative and Moscow will not long be
able to afford the costs of maintaining the 3,500 strategic weapons
permitted under the START II Treaty. Even if Putin and company
succeed in revitalizing Russia's economy, within a generation
(roughly the period of time the U.S. Space Command believes it
will take to begin the serious weaponization of space), Moscow's
nuclear arsenal is likely to atrophy to the point that it no longer
poses a credible second-strike deterrent threat against a "missile
defenses"-reinforced U.S. first strike nuclear arsenal. Like
China, Russia does not want to be dictated to by U.S. first strike
One particularly interesting element in Bush's May Day speech
and his administration's subsequent diplomacy has been the olive
branch proffered to Moscow. They are building on the U.S.-Soviet
tradition of using "arms-control" negotiations to set
the terms for the next arms race and on Clinton-era negotiations
with Russia to modify the ABM-Treaty. Bush has hinted at an openness
to possible Russian collaboration in "missile defense"
research, development, and deployments. If an agreement can be
reached, Russia would become Washington's junior partner and its
tacit ally against China.
The outlines of such a "grand bargain" have been
widely reported. On the military and arms production fronts, in
exchange for modifying the ABM Treaty to legitimize "missile
defense" deployments, the U.S. and NATO would purchase a
range of Russian weapons, including S-300 missiles that could
be used as part of a European "missile defense" program.
The package would also include military aid to Russia and joint
"missile defense" exercises. The deal would likely involve
Russian scientists and engineers in U.S.-led "missile defense"
research and development, thus permitting the U.S. military industrial
complex to skim or integrate Russian scientific and technological
resources. Russian demands in negotiations for a tacit alliance
are likely to include recognition of greater Russian influence
in the former Soviet Republics, a privileged position in dividing
the spoils of the Caspian Sea oil fields, and limits to NATO expansion.
In recent years, Russia and China have established a weak
"strategic partnership" to counter Washington's increasingly
aggressive hegemony. However, because both nations are anxious
for U.S., European, and Japanese technologies and investments,
their quasi-alliance is tenuous. Indeed, since the establishment
of the People's Republic of China, Washington has sought to divide
Moscow from Beijing and to play one against the other. In an era
when Japanese leaders point to China and wonder aloud to their
Russian counterparts who will populate and control eastern Siberia
in the coming decades, it is no wonder that Russia's foreign minister
has been clear that his government is "ready to be constructive
in talks with the United States on missile defense."
In terms of Europe and Japan, it is important to remember
that since the last years of the Reagan era, U.S. military doctrines
have been clear that Washington's "first objective"
is to "prevent the re-emergence of a new rival" or "peer
competitor," including the "discouragement" of
"friendly nations....from challenging our leadership."
This includes Reagan's Discriminate Deterrence; the elder Bush's
1992 initial Pentagon Draft Defense Planning Guidance written
under Paul Wolfowitz's (now Assistant Secretary of Defense) direction,
and the Clinton Administration's Joint Vision 2020 which defined
the Pentagon's mission as worldwide "full spectrum dominance."
This helps explain the staggering (il)logic of U.S. military
spending that for most of the past decade has equaled that of
the world's nine next biggest military spenders combined.
The rogue state rhetoric reflects the tradition of most U.S.
wars being fought in and against Third World nations. But, it
is also true that NATO was created to contain Germany as well
as Russia, and the U.S.-Japan alliance was imposed to "cap"
and co-opt Japanese militarism in addition to "containing"
Russia and China. In addition to creating and preserving a "good
business climate" and stanching Third World rebellions, U.S.
strategic planners have learned from their studies of the British
and other empires. They want to be in a position to contain, and
if necessary defeat, inevitable challenges by emerging powers
to its hegemonic global dominance.
The European Union is an economic and potential military superpower.
Recently there have been tensions between the U.S. and the European
Union over trade, human rights, influence in Asia, and the proposed
creation of an independent European Rapid Deployment Force. These
developments point to the possibility that U.S. and EU elite interests
and ambitions may in time diverge substantially. The U.S. and
Europe could theoretically-but will not necessarily-become military
as well as economic "peer competitors." Similarly, although
Japan is now wracked by economic, political, and social turmoil,
Japanese power is such that U. S. officials have boasted that
one way they discipline China is by occasionally threatening to
spin Japan off as an independent power. This Asian nightmare has
been given new life by the nationalist and militarist commitments
of Prime Minister Koizumi and Foreign Minister Tanaka's vision
of Japan becoming a major power independent of the United States.
Japan is still the world's second richest nation and its economic
power continues to far exceed China's. Despite its peace constitution,
Japan is the world's third greatest military spender and a near-nuclear
The "missile defense"/Star Wars programs are, in
part, designed to remind the EU and Japan who is really in charge.
In the tradition of Joint Vision 2020, many in Washington believe
that "missile defenses" can serve as a hedge against
"uncertainty." At the same time, as with Russia, Washington
wants to further integrate European and Japanese science and technology
into U.S. dominated systems.
Finally, Star Wars research and development will be expensive.
Financial burden-sharing by Europe and Japan could ease the pain
and possibly increase U.S. taxpayers' and voters' patience and
support. Ambiguous policy statements now emanating from Berlin,
London, and Paris seem to reflect that European corporations,
scientific and military establishments, and politicians want their
multi-billion dollar share of the Star Wars' pie. Meanwhile, the
widely reported strife between Foreign Minister Tanaka and the
Ministry's bureaucracy is partly due to profound differences over
whether Japan should support the Bush administration's "missile
Weaponization Of Space
On May 8 Secretary Rumsfeld gave the world something else
to worry about. As senior Bush administration officials traveled
to Europe and Asia to calm global fears of the "missile defense"
program, Rumsfeld held a press conference to announce the reorganization
of the Pentagon's space programs. The heart of his announcement
was that "the Air Force will be assigned responsibility to
organize, train, and equip for prompt and sustained offensive
and defensive space operations." Three days later, Lt. General
Robert Foglesong, deputy chief of staff of air and space operations,
confirmed that the Air Force was prepared "to take our guns
into space" when given the order to do so.
Rumsfeld's press conference was surprising only in its timing-in
the midst of the Administration's high-powered "charm offensive."
In January, as chair of the Congressional Commission to Assess
United States National Security Space Management and Organization,
Rumsfeld had publicly announced the Commission's recommendations
which emphasized that it is time to move to weaponize space. The
U. S ., the Commission insisted, must "have the option to
deploy weapons in space to deter threats and, if necessary, defend
against attacks on U.S. interests. "
Secretary Rumsfeld's press conference was the first step in
institutionalizing his Commission's Report. The report was a rehash
of already published Space Command reports. Vision for 2020, for
example, is illustrated with pictures of space-based lasers eliminating
earth-bound targets and it describes the Space Command's role
as "dominating the space dimension of military operations
to protect U.S. interests and investments." Think in terms
of Middle East oil and U. S. automotive factories in China. Like
the anti-globalization movement, Vision for 2020 points to the
widening gulf between the haves and the have-nots. But, instead
of seeking to rectify the situation, it proposes preserving these
disparities, through the "control [ofl space" to "dominate"
China and Russia have more immediate concerns. They fear U.S.
"missile defense" systems may soon be able to destroy
their satellites, wiping out essential command, control, communication,
and intelligence functions for their missile and conventional
forces, leaving them completely vulnerable to U.S. first strike
attacks. With China in the lead, and with powerful support from
Canada and other U.S. allies, the world's nations have repeatedly
and overwhelmingly adopted resolutions opposing the weaponization
of space. The most recent General Assembly vote was 163 states
voting for the resolution and three abstaining: the U.S., Israel,
In the first depressing and arrogant months of the Bush-Cheney
presidency, ambiguous glimmers of hope have come from unexpected
sources: Beijing's refusal to kowtow to Washington's demands,
European and Third World nations unexpectedly joining to oust
the U.S. from two UN commissions, and Senator Jefford's short
walk across the Senate aisle. Despite the Bush administration's
charm offensive, few nations are openly backing "missile
defense" deployments. Fearing the destabilizing and dangerous
consequences of scrapping or mangling the ABM Treaty, close U.S.
allies including Japan, Canada, and most NATO nations continue
to express serious reservations. The Danes, bless them, who are
the " sovereign " colonizers of Greenland where the
U. S. hopes to build "missile defense"-related radars,
have said that such construction will not be permitted until Washington
and Beijing are working from the same script. But, people and
the power of our movements are the most reliable sources of light
As the protest demonstrations and civil disobedience that
greeted President Bush and his entourage in Europe highlighted,
European, Japanese, and Korean opposition to "missile defenses"
and Star Wars is growing. Here in the United States, the hundreds
of speeches given and the many resources developed by Bruce Gagnon,
Karl Grossman, Michio Kaku, Lisbeth Gronlund, and others have
laid the foundation for a potentially powerful movement. In the
most visible manifestation of popular U.S. opposition to "missile
defenses" and Star Wars thus far, hundreds of activists from
40 states journeyed to Washington in mid-June for a demonstration
and lobbying organized by Project Abolition. At the very least,
Congress was put on notice that an incipient movement intends
to transform the debate and the political terrain. The Washington
demonstration is being followed with a variety of community-based
education and mobilization efforts across the country this summer
and by worldwide forums and protests scheduled for October 12
and 13 which have been initiated by the Global Network Against
Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space.
Conceiving the strategy needed to drive a stake through the
heart of the "missile defense"/Star Wars vampire has
been described as the "24 million dollar question" still
to be answered. Yet, a number of its essential elements are quite
clear. First and foremost, traditional peace and justice organizations
must devote more of their energies and resources to "missile
defense"/Star Wars education and to grassroots organizing
There is important linguistic and image work to be done. As
the demonstrators who gathered in Washington, DC learned, the
focus on "National Missile Defenses" needs to be replaced
with the conflated "missile defense" language if the
most immediate dangers of deployment and a new arms race are to
be prevented. On the public image front, the language of "missile
defenses" places the movement and its potential allies in
the awkward position of opposing the "defense" of the
U.S. people and of defending the madness of mutual assured destruction.
New language needs to be found to identify the movement and to
reframe the debate. One approach being used is the broader language
of Campaign Against Star Wars.
If a broad and powerful movement is to be built, the peace
movement must also face and overcome self-imposed race and class
obstacles in order to build common cause and alliances with social
and economic justice activists, leading figures, and organizations.
U. S. disarmament activists tend to be overwhelmingly white, middle-aged
or older, and have been reluctant to confront the roles and consequences
of racism in U.S. society and in U.S. foreign and military policy;
the growing "guns or butter" trade off; workers' need
for jobs and the military's role in enforcing corporatized economic
globalization; or the "deadly connections" between U.S.
preparations for nuclear war and more "conventional"
U.S. military interventions. At least as challenging, will be
developing credible alternatives and related resources to engage
with machinists and others in organized labor who are anxious
for new military contracts and the short-term economic security
The task of broadening the movement has been made substantially
easier with the Bush administration's $1.35 trillion tax cut coup
and by its frightening confrontations and vilification of China.
It didn't take Republican strategist Grover Norquist's boasting
for Congressional Democrats to figure out that the tax cut will
severely limit their ability to fund health, environmental, education,
social security, and other human needs programs for many years
to come. With a smaller government pie for guns and butter, Star
Wars or housing, "missile defenses" or health care (or
the environment, or...) the choices have become more immediate,
stark, compelling, and individually "felt." The words
Fund Human Needs must be added, on an equal basis, with the movement's
call for no offensive "missile defense" or Star Wars
The movement will also need to be prepared to respond to the
confusion (including within its own ranks) that will be inevitable
when Bush moves to cut the size of the United States deployed
nuclear arsenal unilaterally or otherwise. These reductions will
be made to reduce the costs and possibilities of accidental nuclear
war, but they will not undermine the Bush administration's need
to make the world safe for U.S. first-strike nuclear warfighting.
To the argument made by traditional allies such as Representative
Tom Andrews that the U.S. must deploy "missile defenses"
to protect forward deployed forces in Korea, Japan, Australia,
and other nations, the response should be "Bring the troops
home." To the appeal that the U.S. must protect its allies
in Europe, Israel, and other nations, the answer is that Europeans
don't want them, and Israel must end the occupation. To warnings
that increasingly integrated civilian and military communications
technologies must be protected, the movement should be answering
"This integration is not inevitable. It is dangerous on many
levels. Demilitarize our society."
Finally, it is not difficult to envision a world free of nuclear
weapons, "missile defenses," and the weaponization of
space. Such a world and the means of achieving it have been described
in many United Nations' resolutions; in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation,
Anti-Ballistic Missile and Outer Space treaties; in the Canberra
Commission's Report and the draft convention for nuclear weapons
abolition; and in the passionate appeals of the world's nuclear
weapons victims, peace movements, countless scientists, retired
generals and admirals (including former commander of NATO and
the U.S. Strategic Command), and even the Vermont state legislature.
In the end, what will be most needed, is vision, imagination,
and perhaps most of all commitment and will.
Joseph Gerson is Director of Programs of the American Friends
Service Committee's New England Regional Office. This article
is based on his talk at the NGO 2001 Forum in Goteborg, Sweden
as part of the popular education and organizing work.