With reports of yet another near-nuclear weapons disaster being averted, (This time a declassified report detailing when a nuclear warhead-200 times more powerful than the atomic bombs used against Hiroshima and Nagasaki-was accidentally dropped on an American city in 1961, with 3 of its 4 safety mechanisms failing.), it will be extremely difficult for Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to keep a straight face if and when he meets with U.S. President Barack Obama. Unlike the U.S., not only has Iran consistently offered direct talks and provided numerous opportunities for diplomacy over its nuclear enrichment program, but on numerous occasions it has reiterated a more ethical and sane nuclear doctrine.
During a NBC News interview, President Rouhani again declared: “We have never pursued or sought a nuclear bomb and we are not going to do so.” Reinforcing what Iran’s Supreme Religious Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has constantly maintained, President Rouhani continued to explain how such weapons of mass destruction contradict Islamic values and the sanctity of life. And despite continual threats of a military option against Iran, not to mention an ongoing boycott, he assured the U.S. that Iran would only use nuclear enrichment for civilian uses of energy in powering hospitals and universities. Iran’s morally sane nuclear doctrine is a marker for the standard of appropriate behavior, something the U.S. has failed to learn beginning with its revised MAD Doctrines.
The U.S.’s MAD Doctrine, “massive retaliation” and “mutual assured destruction,” was a belief in the 1950’s that nuclear weapons were so lethal that no nation would ever consider using them. But in one way, President Harry S. Truman and core military experts had already contradicted MAD when deciding to drop the atomic bombs on Japan. They were after all, Weapons of Mass (and civilian) Destruction. This deadly weapon also caused President Truman and the U.S. to be WMD bullies. Along with trying to dictate post-World War II policies, including pressuring Russia, the U.S. went so far as to sabotage a U.N. plan to completely eliminate future possibilities of others ever acquiring nuclear weapons. Unrealistically, it hoped to always monopolize nuclear weapons and war.
But with the eventual development of Russia’s nuclear weapons capabilities, U.S. policy makers had to scramble and revise their loss of a first-strike, and only, capability. The Eisenhower Administration sought to rationalize, through a “new look” concept, how the U.S. could still succeed in the nuclear weapons race because it possessed the “deterrent of massive retaliatory power.” In other words, Eisenhower’s administration believed it could either attack or retaliate with its nuclear arsenal “instantly, by means and at places of our choosing.”(1) The American press was less euphemistic, calling it “massive retaliation.” Europeans were also outraged, claiming “instantly” meant transforming any confrontation into all-out nuclear war without first consulting them.
Massive retaliation was revised again when political satirists labeled it as MAD, “mutually assured destruction.”(2) MAD meant neither the U.S. nor Russia could ever win a nuclear war. In order to maintain their trillion dollar nuclear weapons programs, though, the Pentagon and some political leaders claimed destruction did not have to be “assured.” After all, a country with overwhelming first-strike power would have to fear a retaliatory attack by nuclear missiles launched from submarines. They also started using the terms “deterrence” and “brinkmanship.” Whereas deterrence meant inspiring an opponent through either fear or deadly consequences, brinkmanship entailed “taking a chance for peace” even if it meant going to the edge, the brink, of nuclear war.(3)
All of the confusing policy terms, oxymoron’s, and acronyms-something that habitual criminals and serial killers also use in justifying their criminal and horrendous acts-reveals how the U.S. has been very inconsistent and dishonest in its nuclear weapons doctrine and policies. Recent reports being released, just like the 1961 one where an American town was one switch away from a nuclear detonation, are starting to reveal the numerous instances in which the U.S. was on the brink of war. (Regarding Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the U.S. went over the edge, did it not?) When considering the human, resource, and environmental costs of nuclear fall outs and pollutions, along with having to store and contain nuclear waste, any kind of nuclear weaponry is insane, MAD.
As Iran’s theo-democracy meets with its counterpart, or the U.S.’s illiberal-, worldly-democracy, it is obvious that Iran still has a moral compass, and that it still values the sanctity of the living. What does one say to a society that has a history of irrational thinking about nuclear war? How does one try and cooperate with a nation that has used faulty justifications in using nuclear weapons, of indiscriminately killing entire civilian populations? And what can President Rouhani say to assure a power-obsessed, money-oriented, technologically determined, egocentric, overly automated military, and ethnocentric collapsing superpower the futility of nuclear weaponry? Hopefully, the U.S. will learn from a more sane and moral nation, like Iran, taking away its consistency and mindfulness regarding the sanctity of life.
And sadly, with the existence of its nuclear arsenal, the U.S. is still only one switch away from a nuclear war.
(2) Ibid., p. 224.
(3) Ibid., p. 43.